Reverend Francis McCleland: A Life in Port Elizabeth 1825 – 1853

A watercolour of Number 7 Castle Hill

At best the Irish Settlers in Clanwilliam eked out a precarious existence. The Settlement could not have been called a resounding success both for the Settlers generally and the McCleland household in particular. After a number of unseemly fracases, Francis was granted a transfer to the newly created hamlet named Port Elizabeth which was supposed to have been their original disembarkation point. 

It was here that Francis and Elizabeth would spend the rest of their lives. This episode, the final one, is the chronicle of that life. 

Main picture: Castle Hill in 1851 painted by engineer Henry Fancourt White of White’s Road fame. Number 7 Castle Hill is the commodious double storey house on the right on top of the hill

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Can there ever be somebody worse than Sheldon Cooper?

the-house

I daresay that some TV watchers have not yet viewed at least a few episodes of the award winning show “The Big Bang Theory.”  If not, they would not have had to wince, cringe or shake their heads in horror at the lead character, Sheldon Cooper, a complex mosaic of child prodigy with a genius level IQ, highly idiosyncratic behaviour, lack of humility, empathy or tolerance of weaknesses in lesser mortals. 

Coupled with a tenuous understanding of humour, he also exhibits extreme difficulty in recognising irony and sarcasm in other people. 

If not, I hereby usher in a whole host of similar infuriating geniuses except that they actual operate in the real world. 

Main picture: Technically correct, but why be condescending?

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No more walks in the Wood

An aboriginal woman perform the Woggan-ma-gule morning ceremony on Australia Day in Sydney, Friday, Jan. 26, 2007. Australia Day marks the arrival of the first European settlers in 1788. (AP Photo/Paul Miller)

With the world’s population growing at 200,000 per diem, the world’s children of the 2050s face the very real risk of never being afforded the opportunity of walking through a wood or even playing sport on a grassy field. In Gauteng, the towns of Pretoria, Joburg and Van der Bijl Park have already almost converged into one megacity within the past 30 years. 

Contrast this with early man. Was the impact of these peoples such as the Aborigines of Australia or the Maoris of New Zealand as benign as is supposed? Or is modern man with its industrial scale re-engineering of the topography, the proverbial poster boy of environmental destruction or despoilation? 

Main picture: An aboriginal woman performs the Woggan-ma-gule morning ceremony on Australia Day in Sydney, Friday, Jan. 26, 2007. Australia Day marks the arrival of the first European settlers in 1788. (AP Photo/Paul Miller)

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Reverend Francis McCleland per Theal’s “Records of the Cape Colony”

George McCall Theal

George McCall Theal was the most prolific and influential South African historian, archivist and genealogist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In his epic compendium Records of the Cape Colony, he records all the correspondence by and to the Colonial Office in Cape Town for the period 1793 to 1827. As the last seven years coincide with the arrival of the original batch of Settlers, this series of 35 books contains a rich vein of data to be mined. 

Before even landing in Saldanha Bay, Francis McCleland had already made a name for himself as a heavy drinker and troublesome priest. As well, William Parker – the Party Leader – and Francis McCleland were a volatile mix, ever on the brink of ignition. 

For these reasons, the McCleland name is often fairly and sometimes unfairly denigrated in these pages. For ease of reference, I have extracted all references to the irascible Irish clergyman however oblique. 

Main picture: George McCall Theal

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Rev Francis McCleland: An Interlude in Clanwilliam 1820 – 1825

Settler House at Klein Valley Clanwilliam

This, the fifth episode in the life of the Reverend Francis McCleland, deals with his arrival in Cape Town in early May 1820 and their disappointment at being redirected to settle in Clanwilliam instead of the Eastern Border. 

Not to put too fine a point on it but the five years spent at Clanwilliam were character forming with the man in the cassock not always cutting a fine figure. Casting a long shadow over this Party was the leader himself. Self-serving, megalomaniac and irascible, William Parker was to add to their woes. 

Beset by troubles from every quarter, acrimony and dissension descended on this disparate party. 

Main picture: A Settler House in Clanwilliam

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Were Adam & Eve Monogamous?

Adam & Eve

Amongst laymen, it is widely believed that Adam & Eve were monogamous? How did mankind arrive at this conclusion? Was it due to their religious upbringing or due to a general assumption that people in the “old days” were more moral or even prudish? 

Let us explore the possibility. 

Main picture: Adam & Eve in the quintessential fashion of the Stone Age Era or was this only one of the pieces that they displayed this day Continue reading

Did Man domesticate Plants or Vice Versa?

Results of domestication

 Before the advent of the domestication of plants, man led a carefree existence. They roamed in groups from location to location in search of food. If food was readily available in an area, they might settle for a while but, being itinerants, they carried little. Furthermore, they sought shelter rather than built shelter. 

What happened when they elected to settle permanently in an area and to domesticate plants and animals? Will another orthodoxy be overthrown in this debate? 

Main picture: The false idyll of domestication

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Can Medium Size Countries still afford Main Battle Tanks?

Stridsvagn 103

Given the fact that a modern Main Battle Tank such as the basic Abrams M1A2 now costs $10 million [R 150m], even a modest fleet of 300 tanks would today be prohibitively expensive at a cost of R 44 billion. 

If so, how can any self respecting nation with a pretence of having an army still afford them?

If not, what is the alternative?

Main picture:  Stridsvagn 103

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Did Neanderthals and Humans ever interbreed?

neanderthals

It is probably trite to question whether they could have but we must also enquire whether they would have. Stating the obvious, they could have subject to the caveat that they only would have if they were members of the same species as different specious refuse to mate. 

How and why did these other species of humans disappear? The answer to the “same species” question will determine which theory takes primacy: Interbreeding or Replacement? 

Main picture: Theoretically the DNA of the Neanderthals & Homo Sapiens should be so far apart that they never should be able to interbreed. However is that correct?

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