Sir David Harris is one of our best known and most popular men in South Africa, and a volume of his memories needs no introduction to South African readers. But with his usual modesty he has asked me to write a brief foreword to introduce his book to a wider public beyond our shores, and with perhaps less modesty, but in equal friendship, I respond most readily to his kind request.
For the last fifty years and more South Africa has been the happy or unhappy hunting-ground of distinguished men. Many of them were not African born, but were attracted by the lure of Africa—its mystery, the openings it offered for travel and discovery, its climate and scenery, its wonderful history, its gold and diamonds. Here they have had unusual opportunities, which have given them the chance in life which might have been denied them in older, more settled countries. The result has been a crop of outstanding men, rare for so young and primitive a community. Thus it has happened that South Africa has been even more distinguished for its human products than for its gold and diamonds.
Among these distinguished men whom we have produced or nourished during the last fifty years Sir David Harris occupies a place all his own. I am not going to anticipate the interesting record which will be set forth in this book, but this I may say, that the story of the boy who came to South Africa on the discovery of diamonds near the future Kimberley more than half a century ago, and who has since played a distinguished part in the industrial and public life of South Africa, is certain to prove of deep interest to a very wide circle of readers. Here is vivid first-hand experience, not written up for literary purposes, but written down in all directness and sincerity. Sir David Harris's account of the old mining days and conditions in South Africa, the story of his association with many of the important events during this half-century which have given South Africa its place in the sun, his reminiscences of the remarkable men who have dominated the South African scene during that period, his picture of the amazing developments in South Africa during his long lifetime, constitute a great record, as interesting to the general reader as it will be valuable to the historian of the future. It covers a wonderful era, full of drama and incident, which would require the pen of an ancient Greek rather than a modern South African to do justice to. Here is the real stuff of history, and the comment and the padding can be added by the scribes who will follow this generation of doers. Many of our actors are, alas! passing from the scene without leaving a written record behind, and the world is the poorer for the loss. All the greater, therefore, is our gratitude to find this septuagenarian, this Trojan of our immediate past, setting down his experiences in such an interesting and faithful manner as this book will reveal. There is a good deal of plain speaking, but not a trace of bitterness. Sir David has been a great friend, and here we have a book of friendship, in which good humour and sympathy play over the scenes of the past and bind the whole together in a story of deep human interest. It deserves and I am sure will find a large circle of interested readers not only in South Africa but far beyond.
A concluding word of tribute to my old friend and comrade in his long political association, first with General Botha and thereafter with me. He proved as stout a friend as he had been a redoubtable opponent in the far-off days of the Boer war. I never had or wished for a better comrade. His broad sympathies and wide experience made him a link between opposing leaders which proved invaluable on many a difficult occasion, and the service which he was thus, and in other ways,
able to render the country has been outstanding. With literally no enemy, and surrounded by the sympathy and goodwill of hosts of friends, he passes on to the reserve, where South Africa still has a call on his great fund of experience and wisdom. Our best wishes accompany him in his political retirement.