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Turner of the Camperdown D.R.A. 2 months 1 week ago #79726

  • Rory
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A recent post by QSAMike prompted me to go through my records. I discovered this chap whose story I thought I had related before.

William Buttle Turner

Trooper, Camperdown District Rifle Association.

- Queen’s South Africa Medal to TPR. W.B. TURNER, CAMPERDOWN DIST. R.A.– no clasp

William Turner was born at 1 Trinity Street in the Sub-district of Myton in the Hull area of East Riding, Yorkshire on 26 May 1865. From the outset his birth was clouded in controversy, his birth certificate revealing that his mother, Mary Jane Turner, carried the same family surname indicating that he was born out of wedlock. The 1881 reveals his father's identity to be David Woodhouse Turner, Mary Jane's younger brother. If this were true it would be incest of the worst kind. David would have been about 19 years of age at the time of his birth.

Together with who we know to be his father, William lived on his grandfather’s farm, Low Farm, in the Pocklington area of Allerthorpe, Yorkshire. The patriarch of the family, John Mainprize Turner was a successful farmer who, together with his wife Elizabeth, owned a farm of some 221 acres. According to the 1871 census they employed 3 general servants and 2 farm labourers.

Ten years on during the time of the 1881 census William, now aged 15, and his father were still staying with his grandparents. There is no sign of the mother.

In 1890 at the age of 25 William married Caroline Hart the daughter of a prosperous farmer in the Howden area of Yorkshire. It is uncertain as to when they decided to emigrate to South Africa but they made the move prior to the birth of their children one of which, Cecil Hart Turner, was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1893.

With the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War in October 1899 Turner, by now farming in the Umlaas Road area of Natal, enlisted for service with the Camperdown District Rifle Association. Not much is known about this little outfit other than that they were used in a “home guard” capacity and that there were 26 Queens South Africa Medals issued off their roll of which one was returned. Happily Turner was issued with his.

Post war Turner returned to the joys of farming on his Kingthorpe estate in the Umlaas Road district but not without labour problems it seems. A telegraph sent by him to the Secretary of the Colonial Trust Branch in April 1902 read as follows, “All coolies deserted on body have same arrested on arrival in Durban” This was clearly a request to have his labourers arrested when they were found.

On 15 April 1902 he followed this up with a letter to J.A. Polkinghorne Esq. as follows,

‘With reference to the enclosed, if you refer back to the time I forwarded the cheque for Instalment “annual” you will also find I forwarded the amount to cover the Medical Fees, vis £ 20.7.6. that was on April 2nd. I asked for the receipt of the same. The reason I did so was because it was not worth drawing a cheque for 7/6 so I enclosed the whole at once.

Re: the indentured Indians that I wired you, they were all arrested in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday morning and brought before the R.M. (Regional Magistrate) Umgeni Division and sent to jail for 7 days. Trusting you will find the above correct. I am …W.B. Turner.

1905 found Turner fully involved in community affairs and author of a petition dated 23 December directed at the Minister of Lands and Works for the Colony of Natal (Public Works Department) asking that the Government take over a By – road which ran off from the Maritzburg - Durban road for a distance of four miles. In the accompanying letter Turner says, ‘Please note that only land owners and renters along the said road and people who use it have been asked to sign, other residents of the diversion have not been approached.’ The plea would seem to have fallen on deaf ears as the Principal Assistant Engineer wrote back saying that, ‘as you aware there is no money available under the By roads vote.’

As the Secretary of the Camperdown Landowners Board, Turner took up the pen again with a letter dated 6 January 1908 to the Hon. Minister of Agriculture, Pietermaritzburg. On this occasion he wrote in respect of the Gate at Thornybush as follows,
‘This Board intends placing a Guard at the gate as soon as the fence is complete which will be the 1st February. The Board have already got a suitable native living close by to agree to take over the gate. The Board recommends that the one guard on the N.G.R. (Natal Government Railways) gate be given the key to the road gate and instructed to attend to the same when required. We shall feel obliged if you could arrange this for us.’

Later that year Turner turned his attention to the securing of a position for his son Cecil Hart Turner with the Administration. On October 16th 1908 he wrote from Kingthorpe to C. Bird, Principal Under Secretary as follows,

“I have the honour to make application on behalf of my son, Cecil Hart Turner, aged 17 now a student at the Pietermaritzburg College to a position in the service of Government in the Magisterial department. He is a fairly good Native linguist, he has been two years at the college and was prior to that a pupil at the Government Schools. Should you have an opening in the department will you kindly advise me as to what examinations he should pass.”

In response the authorities stipulated that Cecil should write and pass the Zulu language 3rd Class certificate. After a to and fro of letters Turners son sat the exam with, according to a letter sent to Turner on 5th March 1909, disastrous results, “I have the honour to inform you that the Chairman of the Board has reported that he then failed in the third class.”

Undeterred by this the indefatigable William Turner let the dust settle before renewing his attempts to get a placement for his son writing, on 27 June 1909, to C. Bird again wherein he attempts to convince the man that his son, despite failing the Zulu exam, has been hard at work studying and, were he write the paper again he would doubtless pass. He rounded off his letter as follows, “I am not particular for him to wait for an opening in the Magistrates Courts but should much prefer to get him a start instead of wasting time at home where he has no inclination to be a farmer.” Turner was rebuffed once more by a letter stating that “your son’s name has been noted for employment, but that there is at present no vacancy which could be offered to him.”

William Turner must have either tired of farming at some point or found it be unrewarding financially as, in 1926 at the age of 61 he took up a position as Deputy Messenger of the Court in Durban.

A letter penned by the Messenger of the Court, Durban to the Secretary for Justice in Pretoria on 19 January 1938 asks that the salaries of the Deputy Messengers be increased to £30. Mention is made that Mr. Turner last had an increase in salary on 1 February 1936. It was also noted that “although travelling by motor cycle in rainy weather (which is very frequently necessary in Durban) is very trying, it cannot be said that any portions of the district are unsuitable for the use of cycle transport necessitating the use of motor cars.”

On 8 May 1942 Mr. Fred. C. Mottram, Messenger of the Court, Durban, wrote to the Magistrate stating that, “Deputy Turner is 76 years of age, recently remarried and has been a Deputy since 1926. His salary is £32.10.0. per month. In any event would have had to ask for permission to retrench him as his memory is failing and he has become unfitted to carry on. He has been a good and honest Deputy. I understand his sons are well able, and, have stated they are willing to provide for him.”

(Having lost his wife, Caroline, on 4 October 1938, he remarried a Martha Harriet Sweetapple, born Fleming, at the Methodist Church in Greyville, Durban on 26 August 1939. They were both 74 years of age and widowed. He was resident at 302 Montpellier Road, Durban and she at 68 Windermere Road)

Turner was retrenched on 30 June 1942, a mere six weeks later he passed away on 19 September 1942 at Addington Hospital in Durban. He was 77 years and 4 months old and resident at 475 Berea Road, Durban at the time. He was survived by his second wife and six children all born of his first marriage.

On 30 March 1944 The Department of Justice awarded Turner a posthumous Gratuity of £100.

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Turner of the Camperdown D.R.A. 2 months 1 week ago #79736

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A great account, Rory. A fascinating insight into life in Natal at the time.
Dr David Biggins
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