MacCarthy Page 34b.2

Great Canadian Portraits

Hamilton MacCarthy 2 - 1846-1939

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A very fine Boer War Memorial which famed Canadian sculptor Hamilton MacCarthy completed in honour of the three sons of the town that died in South Africa during the Boer War.

Hamilton added four large bronze plaques to the memorial, one for each battle where they died: Spion Kop, Belfast, and Hart's River, and another with cameos of the three men.

The monument sits at the most important intersection of the town, in front of the armouries, built in 1893, and in which the heroes had trained before leaving for South Africa for the last time...

No doubt many times they had strolled by this spot, smoking and laughing, in the carefree days before the war...

Boer War Memorial, Brantford, ON - Hamilton MacCarthy 1903
Orig. bronze memorial - Size - full
Found - Brantford, ON

Noh Canada! - The Boer War had no truck with hypocrisy. No pretense that Canada was under attack by the threat of insurgents in a far away country. No homilies on monuments that "He died for Canada," when none of them did, or even intended to!

Canadians signed up, and died, in service solely to the forces of imperial war against the "Fuzzy-wuzzies," those poverty-stricken, Third World tribesmen - though the poor Boer farmers happened to be white - so beloved by Queen Victoria's fighting machine. They were "Killed in Action" in a conflict specifically called the Anglo-Boer War, a race war, that pitted the Anglos against the Boers, at a time when it was popular for one race to impose supremacy over other "inferior" races. It was something, in print and practice, that the British race prided itself on being good at.

The monument is not a testament to great Canadians but great Victorian imperialists, a page in History that is part of all of us, but not one, one would have hoped, that we would care to repeat in modern times. Luckily Canadians have matured in a hundred years. Who would even dream that Canadians in our day in age would join an army of white crusaders in a campaign against non-white Fuzzy-wuzzies in a Third World backwater because they were - follow me on this - a clear and present danger to Brantford, the hometown of Osborne, Sherritt, and Builder?

Spion Kop

Hamilton does not really have the Battle of Spion Kop properly shown. The British did not fight up the hill but had snuck up at night and dug in on top before the Boers knew they were there. It was a bad hilltop because it exposed them to fire from several surrounding hills. Actually it was the Boers who stormed up the hill, guerilla style, and forced the British off it the following night. But that would hardly make a great panel.

Lt. Osborne, serving, like many Canadian officers during the Boer War, in a British regiment, the Scottish Rifles, was among the hundreds of British soldiers who died on top of Spion Kop, on January 23, 1900, during one of the British Army's horrific defeats in the early part of the war.

His name is inscribed on the pillar at the far end of the trench in which he fought and which became the grave where he lies among his regimental comrades.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

303 Cartridges, Battle of Spion Kop, Jan. 1900
Orig. shells - Size - 55mm
Found - London, UK
Prov: Raymond Stocker 1959

Some soldiers brought home souvenir shells of battles; other have dug them up over the years. See what more persistent diggers have found...

Go to Dave Gyles RSA Digger Extraordinaire
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure The trench in which Lt. Osborne died (then and now above.) It was later found that some 75 of the men lying here were shot through the right side of the head by Boer sharpshooters who were lying on Aloe Knoll, a height of land rising just below and back of this position.

Other men were just dragged in here as well and then covered with the same rocks the men had earlier excavated to protect themselves from Boer rifle and gun fire from below.

They did not know it, but they were digging their own graves.

British Dead, Battlefield of Spion Kop, Jan. 24, 1900
Orig. photo - Size - 17 x 22 cm
Found - Washington, CT
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Boer General Louis Botha at Spion Kop, Jan 20, 1900
Orig. photo - Size - 11 x 16 cm
Found - Archdale, NC
Back-stamped - R Sieger, Pretoria
The Man the Canadians Fought - Three fabulous original photos of Louis Botha, the brilliant commander who defeated the British at Colenso, and Spion Kop, taken by R Sieger at Spion Kop, a week before the famous battle cemented Louis Botha's fame as a Boer War general second to none. Beside him are his adjutants Parker and van Sandbergh. The plants still grow the same atop Spion Kop today.

Spion Kop is probably the bloodiest Boer War battlefield in South Africa. Everyone quarrels about the number of dead the British suffered. American experts who were there say they counted over a thousand bodies; the British say a couple of hundred.

Two years later, Louis Botha was one of those who pushed the Boers to quit their guerilla campaign and accept the British offer of peace. He became the first President of the Union of South Africa in 1910. In World War I he became a British general and fought some of his old comrades to impose the new order on rebellious old die hards like General de Wet.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Boer General Louis Botha at Spion Kop, Jan 20, 1900
Orig. photo - Size - 11 x 16 cm
Found - Archdale, NC
Back-stamped - R Sieger, Pretoria
A Giant at War & Peace - Louis Botha was honoured (along with General Jan Smuts) by being allowed to sit in on the victor's side after World War I, while the Treaty of Versailles and parallel Diktats were hammered into the heads of the vanquished Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, and Rumanians, and short-changed the Italians.

Both Boer War generals opposed the treaty as far too harsh on the Germans especially, warning of dire consequences in the future if their fellow Allies forced ruthless terms on the defeated foes, treating them, in effect, in Peace as they had in War, as an enemy to be crushed without mercy. They both urged - in vain - that a peace like the one Britain generously effected on the Boers in 1902, would be far superior in the interests of world peace.

History proved the two Boer generals both wise and right. But it would take millions more deaths for others to learn the lesson, with the same set of victors having to reconquer the same set of losers for a second time, shortly after...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure A fabulous original photo by R Sieger of Louis Botha reading the telegram from President Kruger, making him Commanding General of the Transvaal Army after the Battle of Colenso.

Botha had just routed the entire army of British Commander-in-Chief General Sir Redvers Buller VC, and prevented it from crossing the Tugela River and advancing on Ladysmith. When Buller tried to go around and cross at a different place, Louis Botha was there again, at Spion Kop, and threw him back again with even more fearful losses than before.

Boer General Louis Botha at Colenso Reading the Telegram from President Kruger, Dec. 17, 1899
Orig. photo - Size - 11 x 16 cm
Found - Archdale, NC
Back-stamped - R Sieger, Pretoria
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure After the British retreated from the hill, the Boers took several views that became famous, all destined to show the world that simple farmer guerillas, fighting with their hearts for their homeland, could wreak horrific defeats on the world's most powerful army.

The mounds of British dead impressed the world and shocked the British Empire.

This was the fourth major defeat the British Army had suffered in a row.

To the world it looked like the Boer insurgents could defeat the British and send them running.

British Dead, Battlefield of Spion Kop, Jan. 24, 1900
Orig. photo - Size - 17 x 22 cm
Found - Washington, CT


The master at his best on the Belfast panel for Nelson Builder, who is obviously taking centre stage, holding off the deadly Boer insurgents, at Belfast where the Canadians had their camp.

The gun is too huge, the horse too small but the heroics are wonderfully conveyed in fine artistic fashion. Hamilton has brought the metal to life with pulsing action.

Above Nelson Builder who was killed at Belfast.

Below the panel for Hart's River (Boschbult Farm) when 8 Canadians, including Cpl. A Sherritt from Brantford, were killed.

Hart's River

At Boschbult Farm only a few short weeks before the end of the war, on Mar. 31, 1902, Canadians had their second worst day of casualties during the war at a remote farm in the western Transvaal.

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Below the grave of Cpl. Sherritt who died among his comrades in the action.

Go to Brantford Monument Postcards

What a superb depiction of a great Canadian Victorian soldier, supremely fit and ready to take on anyone who threatens hearth and home... ah... we mean Queen and Empire... The muscles ripple under the cloth puttees and trousers with a grace worthy of the best work of Louis-Philippe Hébert. It couldn't possibly be metal, could it?

Below the Master's signature... Hamilton MacCarthy (1846-1938)

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