The Cape and Natal News of 8 August 1870 concerning members of Slater’s party leaving for the diamond fields gives only the surname
Caithness – no forename
or title, no mention of ‘Captain’. This could suggest it may not have been George
Henry Caithness but his nephew James Ernest Caithness, at that point a fit
thirty-year old bachelor and more likely to be setting off for the fields than
would a fifty-something mariner such as George Henry.
However, it is certain that Captain Caithness made some trips by steamship from the Cape to
height of the diamond rush and that he presented ‘a collection of stones from
the diamond diggings’ to the Hartley Institution (the latter became today's Southampton University). England
and Natal News gives an idea of the freight carried by steamers, mentioning the Northam on which Captain Caithness was a passenger in 1872:
‘Diamonds were Trumps at the
Cape’ and the same newspaper published some verses – enthusiastic
if short on literary merit - by ‘a young Colonist’, entitled ‘Off to the
Diamond Diggings’, giving a fair idea of the prevailing mood.
The South African press was full of stories about the diamond fields, who was on their way there, what the conditions were like en route and who had had spectacular finds. There wasn’t quite as much information on the many spectacular failures.
Suddenly there was a dearth of ‘enterprising young men’ in the settled areas of the Colony: they were all off to the fields, wagons laden with stores and equipment, to rough it in tent-towns on the bare veld.
Even men who were not so young hoped to make their fortunes, as the report below reveals:
During the year 1870 there poured into the country a stream of fortune-seekers which would be equalled only when gold was found on the
twenty years later.
It was the remarkable discoveries of diamonds and gold which put
on the map and changed
the course of its history. Nothing would ever be the same again. South Africa
Holdings include: early travel and missionaries,
chronological, Directories and
Voters’ Lists, geological and archaeological. Local newspapers from 1870, when
diamonds were discovered, until present. 15 000 Photographs depicting the
Diamond Fields and its people, mining and the Siege of Kimberley. 760
collections of Manuscripts, dealing with Siege of Kimberley diaries, discovery
of diamonds etc. Ephemera: pamphlets, programs, invitation cards, medals, coins
etc. South African and Kimberley