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The Sad Story of a Major in the B.M.I. 8 years 3 months ago #17749

  • Rory
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John Maynard had quite an eventful life. An enigmatic man who went from being a teacher to a Rand Pioneer and who led a life from riches to rags; he fought on the British side in the Boer War and his friends never forgot it.

John Griffin Maynard

Major, Bethune’s Mounted Infantry – Anglo Boer War

- Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps Cape Colony, Tugela Heights, Orange Free State, Relief of Ladysmith, Transvaal and Laing’s Nek to Major J.G. Maynard
- Kings South Africa Medal with clasps South Africa 1901 & 1902 to Major J.G. Maynard

John Griffin Maynard was an enigmatic man as events which will unfold in this narrative will reveal. He was born in Leominster in the county of Herefordshire on 8 November 1840 to parents John and Mary Ann Maynard. John senior was a Currier by trade, an occupation which was to be passed on to many of his offspring.

The 1841 England census provides us with our first glimpse of Maynard. A tender babe in arms of six months he was joined in the family home in Draper Lane by siblings William (13), Joseph and his twin sister Sarah (5), and Edward (4). Servant girl, Eleanor Uper made up the balance of the family.

Nothing much exciting seems to have happened in rural Herefordshire in the ten years leading up to the 1851 England census. Maynard, now a sprightly boy of 11, was at home in Burgess Street, Leominster along with his parents and siblings, none of whom were yet old enough to “fly the coop”.

The dawn of 31 March 1861 saw further evidence of a family either close-knit or brought together by expediency. The census returns showing that the inhabitants of 83 Burgess Street had remained essentially unchanged. Elder brother William was still “at home” but now a Traveller by profession who had acquired a wife, Mary Ann, on his travels. Joseph, Edward and the subject of our story, 20 year old John, were all “Apprenticed to Currier” almost signalling their future lot in life.

John was, however, made of sterner stuff it seems. Quite when he decided that following in his father’s footsteps was not for him is not evident but we do know that he took ship to South Africa which is where we find him next. He had also, it would appear, acquired an almost classical education although from whence this was obtained is not known.

On December 12th 1865 Maynard wrote to the Colonial Secretary in Cape Town from Worcester in the Cape Colony as follows,

“Sir, understanding that there is a probability of several vacancies occurring shortly for the appointment of Clerks in Magistrates’ Offices, I humbly venture to hope, should such be the case, that my application of the 20th of July last may meet with your favourable consideration. I have the honour to be etc.”

This well worded appeal seems to have had the desired effect and the Colonial Secretary’s office duly appointed him as a Magistrate’s Clerk but not before the questions were posed - “Is applicant a son of that clergyman? What is his age? Has he undergone the usual examinations?

The response, in Maynard’s own hand, came in a letter addressed again from Worcester, on January 18th 1866.

“Dear Sir

In obedience to the request contained in your note of the 10th instant I beg to inform you that I am not a son of the Revd. J. Maynard, though collaterally related to him; I have just completed my 24th year, I have never passed any examination in the Colony, nor in England, any public examination, though I have passed several school examinations with tolerable credit, and have been more than once complimented by my teachers, on my Latin style.

I am not so well up in the Greek though, scarcely able to get through the testament. I am thoroughly conversant with the French language, know a little German, and I believe, I have mastered the pronunciation and idiomatic construction of the Dutch; which I teach in the school.

I was educated for the Law, but abandoned it on the death of the two gentlemen to whom I was articled.”

So there we have it! Quite a jump from the son of a humble Currier to swotting for the Law and being a teacher fluent in many languages. One can almost imagine a Dickensonian “Great Expectations” scenario had developed where the boy is plucked from obscurity and provided with a decent education by various sponsors interested in his well-being.

Now a fully fledged Colonial Government employee Maynard set about the more mundane pursuit of finding a wife and raising a family. In 1867 he married an Isabel Rens, from Worcester, and fathered the following children:

- Herbert St. John Maynard, born at Cape Town in 1871
- Claude St. John Maynard, born in the Cape in 1877
- Ethel Marion Maynard, born in Cape Town on 8 January 1878 and
- Lily Maynard born at Somerset West on 3 September 1880.

South Africa, like any new colony, was an exciting place in those days and the Cape Colony, staid and frumpish as it would have appeared to many was the place to be. That was, of course, until the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand hit the morning newspapers. Perhaps it was the stir of adventure that moved Maynard but, whatever the case may be, he appears to have joined the rush to what is now known as the City of Gold – Johannesburg – becoming, in the process, one of its pioneers.

The first mention of Maynard, outside of the Cape, came in 1886 when on the 19th October that year, Von Brandis (the man tasked with looking after Johannesburg) asked the government to publish a notice in Dutch and English in De Staatscourant (Government Gazette), notifying those concerned of the early election of the local Digger’s Committee. These elections were held on the 8th of November. Twenty five candidates put their names forward and when the results were declared Colonel Ferreira was found to have topped the polls. The other seats were taken by Bissett, Eloff, Fraser, ...and J.G. Maynard!

So what have we here? Maynard was one of the founding fathers of what was to become the wealthiest cities (for a period) in the world. The Diggers Committee was constituted to represent the interests of the prospectors who were flooding into Johannesburg from all corners of the globe pegging and staking their claims in what was, up until that point, a largely unregulated environment. These same individuals were the very people who, tolerated by Kruger and his government whilst they added to the tax base, were to become outcasts, shunned by the Boer government and denied the popular vote. They also formed the main body of the “uitlanders” as they came to be known – those who would leave the Transvaal in their droves and take up arms as Colonials against the government of the day. Maynard was such a man as we shall see.

Life meanwhile continued in the hustle and bustle of the largest shanty town in the world and Maynard seems to have rubbed shoulders with both the rich and famous of his day, forming associations which were to stand him in good stead in the not too distant future.

Further evidence of the exalted circles he found himself in came in the following extract from the “Johannesburg Saga” by John R. Shorten,

“The first serious effort to establish an organised stock exchange was undertaken... when the prospectus of the Witwatersrand Club and Exchange Company was advertised in the first issue of the Digger’s News....on Thursday, 24 February 1887. The capital of the proposed Exchange was £3 500 in debentures of £1 each.

The provisional board of directors consisted of J.B. Robinson, Chairman, Cecil Rhodes, Captain J.G. Maynard, A.C Bailie, Dr. Hans Sauer etc.”

So there it was; Maynard serving on the same Board as Rand Lords like Cecil Rhodes and Abe Bailey, men of immense wealth and influence. Where the appellation “Captain” came from is unknown, there is certainly no record of Maynard in the London Gazette’s of the period.

No matter, Maynard was moving with the rich and famous! In point of fact, in court papers filed in a variety of actions against the Mining Commissioner and others from 1887 to 1897, it becomes apparent that Maynard had a number of claims of his own in what was to become Braamfontein (now the centre of Johannesburg) some of which he owned outright and others as part of various speculative alliances that were springing up all over the place. Fortunes were being won and lost with equal speed and regularity and he was no exception. One of the chaps sued by Maynard for the tidy sum of £1000 was a John Griffiths – a man who was to play a role in Maynard’s life at a later stage.

The actual date on which Johannesburg was founded was credited as the 20th September 1886 and a Public Subscription Ball was to be held to celebrate its First Anniversary, “.... on Saturday a Public Banquet, at which the President (Kruger) and some of the members of the Executive will be present. The Executive Committee who are responsible for the whole of the proceedings are Captain Maynard (chairman), Sir D. Dunbar, Col. Ferreira, Sir George Farrar etc.” Sir George Farrar, now that was a name to remember and someone we will encounter later.

What had become of Maynard’s wife and children in the interim? They had almost certainly gone to England where we shall meet some of them in the years to come. Johannesburg was, after all, not a fit place to bring one’s wife and children to; populated as it was by whores and beggars in the most unsanitary of conditions imaginable. What is known is that Maynard boarded the “Guelph” on 6 October 1894 at Southampton bound for the Cape – he sailed alone and it can only be imagined that he had left his family behind on his return to South Africa.

The next matter of import in Maynard’s life was the advent of the Anglo Boer War in October 1899. As has already been mentioned the “uitlanders” had done nothing to endear themselves to a crusty old warrior like Paul Kruger. Thwarted at every turn and burning with the realisation that, were it not for the income generated by the mines, his young Republic would be virtually bankrupt; Kruger finally decided that enough was enough and having delivered an ultimatum to the British which was never going to be honoured, he declared war on them and their interests. This led to a full-scale flight out of Johannesburg to parts south and Maynard was caught up in the rush. Already a Captain in rank he found himself the Paymaster with the rank of Major in Bethune’s Mounted Infantry.

Edward Cecil Bethune had raised the Corps at Durban on 19 October 1899 (the nominal roll shows that Maynard joined on this date at the age of 59) and, in order to follow Maynard’s movements at this time it would serve us well to follow that of the B.M.I. – The regiment was present at Willow Grange on the night of 22 November 1899 and did good service. They were also present at the Battle of Colenso on 15 December 1899, 500 in number, but were detailed as the baggage guard. When Buller attempted to turn the right of the Boer positions between himself and Ladysmith the largest portion of the B.M.I. went to Potgieter’s Drift, where they were attached to Gen. Lyttleton’s Brigade and had skirmishing on many occasions.

On 24 January 1900 when the wholesale slaughter was going on atop Spioenkop, two of the B.M.I. squadrons were sent to assist but were kept in reserve by General Talbot Coke, probably because the role of lining the trenches befitted the Infantry more so than Mounted troopers.

On 11 February Bethune was ordered to take his men to Greytown, in order to keep an eye on the Boer troops near the Zululand border, and also with the view of ultimately co-operating from Greytown in any movement made towards Dundee.

The Natal Army lay chiefly to the North of Ladysmith during March and April and Bethune was ordered by Buller to advance on that town to establish connection with his own force at Vermaak’s Kraal this was done and the B.M.I. seized the hills which commanded the southern sides of the pass during the night. The remaining Boers fled and Natal was cleared of the enemy. The remainder of 1900 was spent employed on patrol work in the south of the Transvaal and the Utrecht district. There was much skirmishing and the work was dangerous leading up to the occupation of Vryheid in September. In December 1900 the B.M.I. were taken to Lindley in the Orange Free State where they were frequently engaged as well as in other parts of the colony. On 19 May 1901 men of the B.M.I. were taken to the Cape Colony where, down to the close of the war, they were in everlasting pursuit of General Kritzinger, Myburg and other leaders. On 12th September they were heavily engaged against forces led by General Smuts at Stavelberg in the eastern part of the Cape there being further casualties at Maraisburg on 27 March 1902.

That Maynard was to be found present at all these actions is confirmed by the clasp entitlement to his medals. He was issued with the Queens and Kings South Africa Medals with clasps Cape Colony, Tugela Heights, Orange Free State, Relief of Ladysmith, Transvaal, Laing’s Nek, and South Africa 1901 & 1902.

Sadly, whilst in the field with Bethune another tragedy in Maynard’s life was playing out. Mention has been made of his two sons, Claude and Herbert. No doubt fired with patriotic fervour both of these chaps enrolled with various outfits for service in the Boer War. One can only imagine that neither of them wanted to be put to shame by their 60 year old father who was already in uniform!

Herbert enrolled in the 48th Company of the Imperial Yeomanry in Bath on 1 January 1900. Six months later he was dead, riddled with dysentery, at Springfontein Hospital in the Free State on 12 June 1900. Claude who had joined the Natal Police as a Trooper suffered the same fate dying of dysentery at Intombi Camp, Ladysmith where he was besieged on 3 March 1900; three days after the town had been liberated. His father would have been nearby, although oblivious to his son’s presence, when he breathed his last.

And what of the womenfolk of the family? They were, according to the 1901 England census, living at 50 Leighton Road, Bristol. Both daughters were teachers. Correspondence in Claude’s Masters File reveals that Mrs Maynard asked the authorities to contact her husband with a view to finalising their son’s estate. In a poignant note on the back of the letter from the Master’s office, Maynard wrote,

“Acting Master of the Supreme Court


In accordance with the request contained in your unsigned letter of the 2 January 1901 I hereby renounce in favour of my wife – Mrs Isabel Maynard, all right, title and interest in the estate of my late son Claude St. J. Maynard.”

This was signed “Major Maynard, B.M.I., Camp, Dundee.

Shortly afterwards, in October 1902, the Natal Authorities received an enquiry from the Cape Colonial Secretary asking “if anything was known of Mr Maynard in your office?” This was the gist of a letter which read as follows,


Enquiry has been made to this office by a Mr Edward Maynard of Kamloops, British Columbia, as to the whereabouts of one John Griffin Maynard and information has been obtained to the effect that a Captain Maynard was recently in the Bethune’s Mounted Infantry, holding rank as Major, and that enquiry at Durban would probably reveal his whereabouts.

Would you be so kind as to insert a notice in your Gazette and take such steps as you would deem fit to trace him etc.”

This generated the following reply, “With reference to your letter of the 3rd instant. I have the honour to inform you that Mr John Griffin Maynard is at present in Johannesburg, and is residing in the “Empress Victoria” (late Odeon) Hotel, at the corner of Marshall and West Streets.” A note from the Natal C.I.D. in the person of Sergt. Lees-Smith was attached which stated that, “Major Maynard is well known to me, was at one time a witness in a theft case, I have made enquiries in Johannesburg, his present address is – Empress Victoria Hotel, Room 54. He has been informed of the fact that his brother is looking for him”

Maynard’s war, one which had brought great heartbreak to him and his wife, was now over. What was he to do now? This phase of his life was now an uncertain one. 62 years old and with nothing to show for it; he had experienced great loss on the personal front but this was as nothing compared to the pecuniary losses he had sustained whilst waging war about various claims against the Z.A.R. Mining Commissioner. These decisions, all of them costly, had gone against him and now there were new kids on the block – his friends from years gone by and those who knew of him. Surely they could render assistance.

Finding himself unqualified for any work other than the languid life of a gentleman he set about writing from his temporary place of residence, the Rand Club in Johannesburg, to anyone whom he felt would champion or advance his cause.

The first indication that Maynard was in a battle for his very survival comes from a Minute entitled Major Maynard’s Claim addressed to the Secretary of the Law Department in Pretoria by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on 15 September 1903. It read as follows,

“I am directed by His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor to forward you the accompanying file No. 1932, in connection with the claim put forward by Major Maynard to certain Claims at Braamfontein. His Excellency will be glad of the Attorney General’s opinion. Please return these papers. (signed) Private Secretary.”

The Law Department answered as follows,

“With reference to your Minute No. 1932 of the 15th instant forwarding file of papers relative to Major Maynard’s claim to certain claims at Braamfontein the Attorney General states that it is quite clear that Major Maynard cannot now have the claim licences which he took out some years ago renewed; for the ground on which he pegged out his claims is now deproclaimed and used for other purposes. Major Maynard may have had an action for damages against the late government for this refusal to renew his licences but such an action will not lie against the present Government which cannot be held responsible for the torts of the previous Government – as a matter of fact Major Maynard appears to have brought two actions unsuccessfully against the late Government in respect of the matters for which he asks relief from the present Government. The Attorney General thinks Major Maynard should simply be told that the Government has carefully considered his case and regrets it can give him no relief.”

Undeterred Maynard again approached his friends in high places. Another Minute regarding “Mining Matters” and Major Maynard’s Claim was sent to the Law Department from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor on 13 June 1904 as follows,

“I beg to forward you a petition received by His Excellency from Major J.G. Maynard in regard to certain claims on the farm Braamfontein, District Heidelberg, for the attention of the Attorney General.”

The reply came on 12 June – “..... I beg to inform you that the Attorney General has read the petition which discloses a very hard case. I would refer you however to my Minute to you of 24 September last on the same subject to which Sir Richard Solomon adheres.

In the opinion of the Attorney General it is quite competent for the Executive Council to consider the case and grant Captain Maynard some compensation but it would of course be a precedent for relieving other persons who have suffered from the wrongful actions of the late Government.”

On 22 June 1904 the petition and the letter from the Law Department were circulated amongst the Executive Council. “P.D.” remarked that “this does not appear to me to be a matter in which the Government should recognise any claim for compensation”

“H.W.” remarked that “Major Maynard appears to have been very hardly dealt with but I agree that it is inadvisable to re-open a question of this nature which has already been dealt with under the late Administration.”

“G.W.L.” remarked “The opinion of the Attorney General on September 23rd 1903 seems conclusive.”

The Lieutenant Governor had kept up his end of the bargain and brought the matter before the Executive Council, all to no avail. An increasingly desperate Maynard was thwarted yet again in his efforts to get compensation for the shabby treatment old Kruger’s Government had meted out to him in matters of the law. What was he to do next? His resources, such as they were, were dwindling and there seemed to be no escape route from that dreaded foe of a Victorian gentleman – genteel poverty.

Calling in one of his markers Maynard turned to W. St. John Carr of the Municipal Offices in Johannesburg who wrote to the office of the Governor, none other than Lord Alfred Milner, on 2 September 1904 to which the following reply was received from Milner’s secretary,

“My dear Carr,

Lord Milner will be happy to see Major Maynard, but he must wait for a few days. I think it should be made clear to him that the Governor cannot interfere with the decision of the Transvaal Administration in the matter of the Vrededorp stands, and that he no longer makes appointments in the Civil Service. Otherwise he may found false hopes on the prospect of an interview.”

Frustrated with the delay Maynard wrote directly to Milner on 16 December 1904 from his “bunker” at the Rand Club,

“My Lord

I have a case against the Government which has already been submitted in the form of a petition to the Lieut. Governor, without my obtaining any redress. I have thus no alternative but to appeal to the Law Courts, but before doing so I should like to be permitted to lay my case before your Lordship and would therefore esteem it a very great favour if your Lordship would kindly favour me with an interview. It need not be a very lengthy one, for although a statement in writing of only the most salient features of the case may occupy whole sheets – the very voluminousness of which would probably endanger its favourable consideration, a vive voca explanation would occupy only a few minutes.

The only apology I can offer for the directness of this appeal is that for months past I have sought in vain through the usual channels this most desired interview. Major J.G. Maynard, late B.M.I.”

The reply came on 18 December as follows,

“Lord Milner desires me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter and to say that he has not forgotten your desire for an interview, about which Mr. St. John Carr spoke to him some little time ago. Lord Milner has been exceedingly busy during the last few months, and the fact that your case is not one in which there is any possibility of his taking action personally has also caused him to postpone the interview from time to time. But he is quite ready to see you when an opportunity offers and will let you hear of an opportunity when he is at the Office and disengaged.”

Whether or not Maynard was ever afforded an interview is not known but two others now enter the picture, one previously referred to in the form of Sir George Farrar with whom Maynard had served on the Anniversary Committee, and the other a man who was to do his best for Maynard and who retained an interest in his doings for many years to come, Douglas Orme Malcolm (later Sir D.O. Malcolm) the Secretary to the High Commissioner, Johannesburg.

On 1 December 1905 Sir George Farrar wrote to Malcolm as follows,

"Dear Malcolm

I enclose you a letter from one Major J.G. Maynard, who has been here since the very early days of the Fields and has always been a loyal Englishman and assisted the Government materially during the war. His is a case of extreme hardship and when one gives £50 000 to Ex-Officials of the late Government, I think his is a case on the British side that should be considered. I have spoken to the Government in Pretoria about him and they should have found him some minor position of £25 per month, it would keep him going.

I think Lord Selbourne might have a talk with him one day, because his is a case which certainly should be looked into.

He is a gentleman and a very deserving man, who has done much good in the place since he has been here. I never trouble you but this is a case I should like you to look into.”

The enclosed letter referred to, in his own hand, was from Maynard,

“My dear Sir George

I thank you most sincerely for your very kind letter of yesterday’s date, and for all the trouble you have taken to help me out of my difficulties, and I humbly apologise for ever having even imagined that you hesitated or that my claims for consideration didn’t meet with your full support – though the full realisation of this fact forces upon me the disagreeable conviction that I must have an enemy at Court whose influence is but all too powerful! Or perhaps, it is only the effect of what has ever been the policy in South Africa – to discourage those who have loyally worked for British interests and ideals, and encourage those who openly or in secret are endeavouring to undermine British supremacy in the country.

I greatly appreciate your kind permission to use your name when seeking an interview with Lord Selbourne, which I shall take an early opportunity of doing, though I fear, it will only result in the matter being referred to Sir R. Solomon who, for some unexplained reason, seems to have been opposed to me from the beginning.

My only chance, it now appears to me, was to have taken my case into Court while I still possessed the necessary funds.

With sentiments of ever increasing gratitude and esteem, I have the honour to be etc. etc.”

This impassioned plea sparked a series of correspondence between various parties, all of them championing the cause of and exposing the plight of Maynard.

In a letter marked “Private” Malcolm addressed himself, on 13 December 1905, to Windham,

“My dear Windham

I enclose a letter from Sir George Farrar covering one from Major J.G. Maynard, in the faint hope that there might be some subordinate post in your department which you could offer Maynard, subject of course to the approval of the Acting Lieut. Governor, whom I haven’t written to on the subject.

Maynard appears to have been a good friend of the British cause all his life, and to have been scandalously treated by the Courts of the South African Republic. It would be very satisfactory if you could find him some minor post which would keep him from want, and it seems to me that there is more chance in your department than in any other. But I know it is not easy; Maynard is no longer young unfortunately – altogether I feel awfully sorry for him.

If you think that there is no chance for him in your department would you return me these letters?”

Windham, who was with the Department of Native Affairs, Transvaal, replied on 13 January 1906,

“Dear Malcolm

I am very sorry to say that I foresee no opportunity of finding any employment for Major Maynard. It is extremely difficult for us to place a man of his standing and age – All our vacancies are for young men under 25 with a good knowledge of native dialects. Very occasionally a special post becomes open, but vacancies of that kind are becoming so rare that I do not feel justified in encouraging Maynard to hope for anything from us.”

Whilst this letter was in circulation Maynard’s protagonist, Sir Richard Solomon was busy. On 3 January 1906 he wrote to Lord Selbourne in what is a related matter although not directly concerning Maynard as follows,

“Dear Lord Selbourne

I quite agree with what you say as to the consideration British subjects are entitled to, who served their country faithfully during the war. I shall always be glad myself to hear of such cases and to do what I can. It is difficult sometimes to find appointments for these in the Civil Service. A man may have done excellent work; but on the whole I think this Government has acted very fairly to such persons. If I could have the names of any such persons Your Excellency knows of I would put them on a list and when vacancies occurred their cases would have full consideration.”

Maynard’s financial position was becoming all the more precarious and on 22 January 1906 his new friend Malcolm, wrote to a certain Webber as follows,

“My dear Webber

Some time ago I asked Sir George Farrar if he could forward to me the names of any persons whose cases were similar to Major J.G. Maynard, about whom he wrote to me on 1 December, that is to say persons who have done good service to the British in the past but who are now out of employment.”

Maynard, on 28 February 1906, wrote again to Sir George Farrar,

“My dear Sir George

I only wanted to let you know that acting on the hint you kindly let fall when last I had the honour of an interview I got Mr Steytler in his return from England, to submit my case for further opinion, and now in addition to the opinion of Advocates Leonard and Ward I have that of Messrs. Cooper and Nathan the consensus of which is that though my title to the ground is indisputable, the Court will not consent to reopen my case! Sic transit spes mia sei – I also called on Mr Malcolm who very kindly promised to do what he could to find employment for me.

I called again while you were in Rhodesia and he informed me that he had not yet found an opening for me, but that the question of assigning some portion of the £50 000 to me was under discussion , and only awaited your return to assume definite form.

If such be the case I feel confident that you will do your best to procure for me as large a slice as the exercise of your powerful influence in my behalf will induce them to grant.

With feelings of the most profound gratitude for what you have already done and are still doing for me.”
Lord Selbourne took up the cudgels on Maynard’s behalf again writing to Sir Richard Solomon on 5 March 1906,

“My dear Sir Richard

You will remember that, in your private letter to me of 3 January, you said that you quite agreed with me that British subjects, who had served their country faithfully during the war, were entitled to consideration.

Now a case has been brought to my notice of a man whom I think the Government should help if it possibly can. This case, which was originally put before me by Sir George Farrar, is that of a Major J.G. Maynard, whose present address is the Rand Club, Johannesburg. I understand that Major Maynard is a man who brought a case before the Supreme Court of the late South African Republic which, if he had won it, would have secured him property which would have made him independent for life. It is stated that justice was denied him and a wrongful judgement given against him, really on account of his race and his pronounced British tendencies, but that it is impossible for the Supreme Court of the Transvaal to re-open the case at the present time. I further understand that Major Maynard served on the British side all through the war, and lost his two sons, who might now have been in a position to support their father, in action.

He is an elderly man and, I gather, not fit for Civil Service employment at his time of life. He has never held an official position and has consequently no claim for pension, but is not his a case in which some sum of money might be awarded to him from the fund the Government possesses for giving gratuities to deserving people, sufficient to relieve him from the necessity, in which I believe he now finds himself, of living on the charity of his friends? I have not heard of any case which struck me as being quite so hard as his, and the position, that we are unable to anything for him when we have provided £50 000 for ex-officials of the late Government, some of whom may have been responsible for the miscarriage of justice which has ruined him, seems a difficult one to defend. Might I ask you to look into the matter and advise.”

On 16 March 1906 Maynard wrote to a C.P. Marais Esq. as follows,

“Dear Sir

Kindly inform Sir George that both actions were instituted against the late Government, the last in May 1898, but as all the particulars of the case are fully set forth in the petition to Sir Arthur Lawley I have ventured to forward it herewith, as perhaps, Sir George might wish to refer thereto.”

Solomon, in his reply to Lord Selbourne’s letter, wrote to his secretary, Malcolm, on 23 March as follows,

“I have been considering the case of Maynard which is undoubtedly a very hard one. I cannot understand the judgement of the late High Court in his case. The difficulty is to know how to deal with him. If we give him compensation for the damages he sustained by reason of the wrongful acts of the late Government we are met with two difficulties:

1. That we have always consistently refused to be held liable for the torts of the late Government
2. The High Court gave judgement against Maynard in an action against the late Government for their alleged wrongful acts.

If we depart from the principle laid down in (1) we may have claims against us by other persons who have suffered from the wrongful acts of the late Government.

With regard to (2) it would be dangerous to impugn the judgement of the late High Court without getting all the facts which is very difficult.

If however compensation is to be paid in my opinion it should be limited to the amount Maynard was out of pocket, that is a refund of the money he paid for the claims and the licence moneys he paid out of his own pocket in respect of them.

I don’t know how to deal with Maynard’s case except on the basis of compensation and there is the danger I have pointed out in apparently recognising even in one case liability. I will bring the matter before the Executive Council and when I have the figures I have asked for and I think I ought also to discuss it with Lord Selbourne before I take it to the Executive Council.”

On 28 March Maynard again addressed himself to C.P. Marais (the flow of letters never seemed to cease);

"Dear Sir

In compliance with the request contained in your letter just to hand, I beg to forward herewith a copy of the notarial contract – the original is with Messrs. Rooth and Wessels I believe – From this document it will be seen that the original intention was to hand over to me the 38 claims of Coetzee and the 43 claims of Coran for disposal within a period of six months when Coetzee was to receive £600 in cash and Coran one-seventh in cash and shares of the amount realised. But in consideration of a cash payment of £35 and an increase of the purchase price to £800, Coetzee agreed to extend the period for payment – please see Coetzee’s receipt at end of document! There was really no necessity for this as, in spite of the clause in the contract providing for the transfer of the claims on payment of the purchase money, both Coetzee and Coran voluntarily transferred the licences into my name when I took over the claims. Duvenage transferred his 40 claims to me on the understanding that he was to be paid in like proportion to Coetzee. Donoghue transferred his 24 claims for £10 cash and on a similar understanding.

Thus the actual cash paid for the claims did not amount to more than £45, though I was morally if not legally bound to pay Coetzee £800; Duvenage £830 and Donoghue £505 which I should have done if the issue of the licences had not been stopped before the money became due.

I fear the statement that I acquired these claims by notarial contract, though strictly true, is rather misleading for the transaction simply amounted to my obtaining the Powers of Attorney held by these people at the rather high figures given above. And it was in that light that I regarded it, for a soon as the licences were transferred into my name I with the assistance of a Government Surveyor, pegged the whole of the claims.

The licences were paid in my name for a period of seven months from 1 July to 3 January 1890 when their further issue was stopped - £253.15.0

I presume I need not mention legal costs, Surveyor, Caretaker etc.? Of course you will see from the foregoing that I did not receive any money for the claims.”

It has already been mentioned that Maynard regarded Sir Richard Solomon as his foe. Quite why this is so is unknown but, there might have been some justification of his view, looking at the letter Solomon now wrote to Malcolm on 24 May 1906:

“Dear Malcolm

I regret that I quite forgot to let Lord Selbourne know that I had brought Maynard’s case before the Executive Council who were unanimously of opinion that the Government could do nothing. It was pointed out that if we gave him anything like compensation for the injury he received through an indefensible judgement of the late High Court there are others in the same position whom we could not treat differently.”

More than likely exhausted by the whole affair and drained by having his hopes dashed at every turn, Maynard decided to cut all ties with Johannesburg and the ponderous and seemingly intransigent administration upon whose mercy he had thrown himself.

Readers will recall that a John Griffith’s was earlier referred to – he was now to make a return to the scene as Maynard’s last chance for any type of decent employment. “Empire Jack” as he became known achieved fame long after the Boer War but, for our purposes John Norton Griffiths (to give him his correct moniker) was awarded contracts to carry out major engineering projects in Africa and South America after the Boer War. These included work on the first 197 km of the Benguela Railway in Angola between 1903 and 1908 and it was during the latter part of this period that Maynard and he crossed paths again.

On 18 June 1907 C Bradford, the owner of M.E. Stores Ltd. in Cape Town wrote to Maynard as follows,

“My dear Major Maynard

I saw Captain Griffiths soon after the “Kinfauns” came in to dock. He was very sympathetic but pointed out that he was not doing the work himself but letting it out to sub contractors. However I am to see him tomorrow morning (Wednesday) before he leaves for Lobito Bay with Sir J. Metcalfe. He has promised to think over the position and see if he can do anything; I told him that you were free on the 30th but could come at any moment.

Hoping to have something better to communicate tomorrow. With best wishes.”

What was this then? Maynard had commenced another angle in his pursuit of gainful employment. On 25 June 1907 he wrote to his new friend Malcolm,

“As you were good enough to express a wish to learn the result of my application to my “obedient” friend Griffiths, I have taken the liberty to enclose a letter which I received from the gentleman who kindly undertook to deliver my application (this was the letter from Bradford contained above) and to which it may be taken to be the answer, for Griffiths himself hasn’t deigned to reply in writing. His time must have been fully taken up with his own affairs as he had it appears, to leave almost immediately for Lobito Bay from which place he may probably write to me, but the remarks he has already let fall are sufficiently significant to dissipate all doubt in my mind as to what that answer will be.

Please do not trouble to acknowledge this, I have already absorbed so much of your valuable time, I feel quite ashamed of myself.

With kindest remembrances.”

It is now obvious that Maynard felt his prospects to be doomed with regards to securing a position with the Benguela Railway project. So much so that Malcolm must have picked this up from the tone of the correspondence and conferred with Lord Selbourne.

On 29 June Maynard wrote to Malcolm again,

“I am deeply touched – profoundly impressed – with your most kind and sympathetic letter of the 27th instant conveying Lord Selbourne’s generous offer. An offer which I would gladly and gratefully accept, did I not fear that I should be thereby running the risk of becoming a hindrance instead of a help to my dear ones in England! For though I feel as mentally and physically strong and capable as ever I did I have been so long away from England, that I fear I should be altogether out of the running were I to return thither as a candidate for any sort of employment.

I must ask you therefore, while conveying to His Lordship my most grateful appreciation and thanks for his most generous offer, to kindly explain how impossible it would be for me to accept the same.

I intend as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements, to leave for Cape Colony where I think I shall stand a better chance of getting something to do, moreover I am in hopes that Captain Griffiths may still find an opening for me on the Benguela Railway.

With my warmest thanks to you and His Lordship for all your kindness to me, for which I shall ever entertain a most profound sense of gratitude, believe me to be...”

In response to this Lord Selbourne directed a letter to Malcolm on 3 July 1907 as follows,

“My dear Malcolm

I am still much troubled about Major Maynard as I fear that he will be disappointed about employment at the Cape and will be in a worse position than ever. I will gladly provide funds for his employment for six months, and in the meantime it has occurred to me that if I wrote and put the case before certain people it is just possible that provision might be made for him in England. I have in my mind those to whom I should write; but then I must have from you a memorandum giving me the whole history of the case with full particulars. What do you think of it? If he insists upon going to the Cape, mind you get his Cape address from him.

Yours sincerely


Thus spurred into action Malcolm wrote to K.H.L. Gorges, Acting Assistant Colonial Secretary, on 6 July,

“My dear Gorges

Would you see if you could find among the records in your office a petition addressed to Sir Arthur Lawley by one Major J.G. Maynard which it appears from my records which I enclosed in a letter to Sir Richard Solomon on the 19th March 1906. The petition was done with so far as the Transvaal Government was concerned long ago; but if you can trace it I shall be very glad if you will let me have it for Lord Selbourne’s private use.”

In the interim Malcolm received the following letter from Maynard penned on 7 July 1907, possibly for the last time from the Rand Club of which he was a foundation member;

“My dear Sir

I experience considerable difficulty in replying to your letter of the 4th instant – conveying as it does, this further proof of His Lordship’s generous solicitude for my welfare and your most cheering and friendly sympathy – so delicately and feelingly expressed; for I fear I was not sufficiently explicit in my former letter, with regard to the circumstances which induced me to think that Captain Griffiths would still find an opening for me on the Benguella Railway.

I should have informed you that I had received a letter from another friend of mine, just before receipt of yours on the 27th instant, informing me that the writer had had half an hour’s conversation with Mr Griffiths just before the steamer left for Lobito Bay in the course of which Captain Griffiths had spoken of me very kindly and requested him to let me know that he had not forgotten me, but would look out for a suitable appointment for me, and of which I should be duly informed the moment he and Sir Charles Metcalfe had finished the inspection of the line.

Under these circumstances I considered it would have been inexcusable on my part to accept His Lordship’s generous offer, and for the same reason I am unable to accept the gracious offer now under acknowledgement, for so long as there is the slightest probability of my obtaining other employment, I cannot think of putting you or His Lordship to further trouble on my account.

Nevertheless I should esteem it a great favour if the consideration of His Lordship’s last gracious offer could be allowed to rest in obeyance until I hear from Mr Griffiths, with the results of which I would do myself the honour of immediately acquainting you.

With many apologies for the trouble I am causing you and my most grateful acknowledgements to you and His Lordship for all your kindness to me.”

On 9 July Gorges enclosed the petition earlier referred to for Malcolm’s attention which allowed him to compile the most comprehensive summary of Maynard’s travails that had yet seen the light of day. The summary read as follows;

‘The following is a brief summary of the case of Major J.G. Maynard

He has long been resident in South Africa, and has been in the Transvaal since the early days of the Gold Fields; he has always been a loyal Englishman and assisted the British Government materially during the late war. I understand from him that he has a wife and two daughters in poor circumstances in England, and I believe he lost his two sons in the late war, in which he took part along with them; had they not been killed they might be supporting their father now, but left alone as he is he finds it very difficult at his time of life – I should say that he is between 50 and 60 – to earn an adequate living. He is a gentleman and a very deserving man, and Sir George Farrar, who has known him for many years, tells me that he has done much good in Johannesburg since he has been there. Before the war he seems to have been a man of some importance; but I understand that he was engaged in certain unsuccessful financial ventures in West Africa, and elsewhere, in which he lost everything he possessed, I have never heard the least suggestion against his conduct.

One of his most serious losses was caused to him by an absolute denial of justice to him by the High Court of the late South African Republic, which denial of justice is believed to have been due to his pronounced British tendencies. The case in question was that of the Braamfontein Prospecting and Developing Syndicate vs. The State Secretary, tried on the 5th December 1891, judgement in which was given on the 1st August 1892. The essence of the matter was this: Major Maynard sought to obtain title to certain claims on behalf of a syndicate which he was forming to develop and work them; the judgement of the court was that he must sue, not in the name of the syndicate, but in his own name. He instituted a further action in May 1898 in his own name, but his suit was thrown out by the then Chief Justice of the late South African Republic apparently on the grounds that he ought to have sued not in his own name but in that of the syndicate! He lost a very considerable amount of money out of pocket in connection with these matters, and there is no doubt that the claims in question were, and are, very valuable, so that but for two utterly irreconcilable judgements of the same court, which taken together amount to a flat denial of justice, the probability is that he would have been a wealthy man today.

The Transvaal Government during the Crown Colony regime provided a sum of £50 000 for making payments to ex-officials of the late South African Republic who were in necessitous circumstances. It appeared to Lord Selbourne that the position of having provided money for these ex-officials, some of whom might have been responsible for the miscarriage of justice which ruined Major Maynard but of being unable to do anything for him, was an indefensible one. He therefore in the early part of 1906 invited the Executive Council to consider carefully whether from any fund in the possession of the government available for giving gratuities to deserving people some payment might be made to Major Maynard sufficient to relieve him from the necessity, in which he then found himself, of living on the charity of his friends. The Executive Council however, after carefully considering the case, found themselves unable to make any payment to Major Maynard. He had no claim as a right to any payment, and the Executive Council felt that to award anything to him ex gratia to make up to him for the denial of justice would be tantamount to admitting liability of the torts of the South African Republic Government. It was felt to be impossible to establish the precedent which such a payment would have involved as there were other claims which it would have been impossible to treat differently and the expenditure to which the Transvaal Government might have committed itself would have been impossible to face.

The result has been that Major Maynard has received no relief, and though it has been possible to provide him with temporary employment in the Governor’s Office at the starvation wage of £15 a month this temporary employment has now come to an end, and he is again thrown on his own resources as an elderly man with no means whatever of his own and very little chance of obtaining employment in times like the present. Not a word can be said against his character, and mentally and physically he is as vigorous as most men of his years and as well qualified for work not involving excessive physical strain.’
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The Sad Story of a Rand Pioneer and a Major in the B.M.I. 8 years 3 months ago #17750

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To what purpose this summary, complied as we have seen at Lord Selbourne’s request, was put to use is unknown but let us fast-forward now to a communication sent on a Contracto Do Caminho De Ferro Benguella letterhead from Maynard to his friend Malcolm. The letter is undated but must have been written around August of 1907, a month after the last correspondence above. Maynard’s circumstances, at least geographically, have changed but let him tell the story,

“My dear Sir

Agreeably to the request in your last most esteemed letter of the ... and my promise to answer thereto, I have the honour and pleasure to submit a brief outline of my movements since leaving Johannesburg, showing the position of my affairs up to the time of writing.

I left Cape Town in response to a cable from Capt. Griffiths, on the 20th July in the Portuguese mailboat “Lusitania” – a well appointed boat, with first class accommodation, on which a 1st Class deck cabin had been secured for me by my friends orders, and on board of which were a lot of Portuguese Officers and civil officials from the East Coast going home to Lisbon, with whom I soon struck an acquaintance, obtaining from them some useful hints on the pronunciation of the Portuguese language, and after a most pleasant voyage of some five days, I arrived at Lobito Bay, on the morning of the 25th, a very fine land-locked harbour with an anchorage, so I was told, of some ten fathoms to within a few feet of the shore, in fact, from the deck of the “Woermanhaus” a large German boat which was berthed on the other side of the jetty next the shore, one could have jumped into the sand on-shore.

Captain Griffiths was most cordial in his reception of me giving me as much of his time as his multitudinous duties permitted, for as he contemplates leaving again with the Crown Prince of Portugal after his visit on the 5th, he has scarcely a minute to call his own, and even while at meals has often to get up to attend to some telephonic message. The beautiful bay with the mangrove trees running quite into the water, were as smooth and calm as a Mill Pond.

It appeared that Mr. G. had cabled for me to leave by the boat of the 9th ultimo but the agents did not know my address and it was only after Mr Griffiths had cabled to Mr Bedford that he discovered where I was whereupon another cable was despatched in consequence of which I left in the “Santana” on the 20th ultimo. At Lobito Bay there are large stores, workshops, a hospital, the Company offices, very fine and lofty with a wide balcony running all round, an hotel, and on the land side of the bay, there are a few Portuguese houses. The hospital is built on an extreme tongue of land and is very fine and well appointed.

Mr Griffiths who is the..... of the place, everything being marked G & Co., is here, there, everywhere, showed me over the Locomotive department and the stores etc. I sat down to a very nice dinner with the Chief Engineer and Mr G’s manager whom he had invited to meet me, and while at dinner, a fine gramophone – one of the latest, dispensed all the most popular airs. We were soon joined by the Captain of the British gunboat “Dwarf” which was also lying in the bay, but drew up alongside the wharf soon after my arrival.

After an agreeable chat and exchange of civilities, we went on board the “Dwarf” for a few minutes, and then retired for the night – early to bed early to rise being the order of the day here. On the following day when I sat down to announce my arrival, there were such constant interruptions, so much to see and so much to talk about whenever my friend could spare the time.... his assuring me there would be no boat form a fortnight leaving for Cape Town I gave up the attempt, thus it happens that I am writing from Keystone, a station far up the line at an altitude of some thousands of feet above sea level.

On the second morning while we were sitting at breakfast, among the numerous letters, a message which my friend received and had to answer was one announcing the death of one of his officers up the line, and Mr G at once telephoned for the body to be brought down to Benguela, a town situated about 23 miles from Lobito – I accompanied Mr G in a special coach for the occasion, as he had intimated that if I liked to try it, I could take the deceased’s place which I then consented to do and after the funeral which took place at about 6 o’ clock in the evening, we started in the same special coach up to this place. Benguela is a square built Portuguese town some three hundred years old. I went into the town and made friends with the Vice Consul (British) and his wife, a Mr & Mrs. Tussell, also a Mrs Cohen, with whose residences I was quite charmed, especially Mrs Cohen’s which was as roomy and lofty and beautifully fitted up and they were so kind and made me most welcome.

We left Benguella at about 7 o’ clock, accompanied by some of the Engineers and officials who had come down for the funeral, and were returning to their respective stations along the line. We dined on board the train, the dinner being served by Mr. G’s servants. It was a beautiful moonlight night and I quite enjoyed myself, fanned by what seemed a breeze from the sea.

The first section of the Benguella/Katanga line which has been opened for traffic for some time was soon left behind and in our special coach we entered upon the 200 miles now under construction, including Keystone, my destination on Sunday morning. I had immediately to enter upon my duties as there was a slight congestion in consequence of my predecessor’s untimely death. I found some slight difficulty at first, not only with the language but also with the currency which is also Portuguese – 5000 Real = £1, but as all the accounts are kept in Portuguese, the money difficulty soon vanished, but as there are some 16 different languages spoken here in addition to the Portuguese, the latter difficulty is not easily overcome.

I am picking up the Portuguese very rapidly, having to translate the letters addressed to me and I was able to make myself understood by the Portuguese."

So what was the gist of all this? Maynard now at the age of 67 had employment! A further letter with an accompanying cover was sent, undated, from Maynard to his friend Malcolm,

“Head Office
Griffiths & Company Contractors Ltd.
Undated Lobito Bay

I am sure you will not be able to read one half of what I have written and I am sorry to have to send this wretched scrawl.

Please be so good as to convey to his Lordship my most grateful encumbrances, and accept the same for yourself.

Yours faithfully

JG Maynard”

The body of the accompanying letter stated,

“Lieut. Governor and staff who paid us a visit on Sunday returning from a tour of inspection of the Province of Angola. I got on particularly well with a Captain de Matto, the Benguela Fiscal or Attorney General, who also spoke a little “Ingliz”. After dinner H.E. & Staff were entertained with selections which H.E. made himself, from the gramophone, not quite as good as that at Lobito.

Mr Griffiths in his anxiety to push on the line and get to the goal – the rich mineral fields of Katanga, is sometimes somewhat exacting, and if I did not know him as well as I do, I should hesitate to undertake the responsibility which he has so precipitously devolved upon me. But now that I am here, I think I cannot do better than make the best of things to the advantage of his interests.

It is very warm here during the day – only about 10 degrees from the equator, but there is always a pleasant breeze blowing, which keeps us tolerably cool, as long as one is not exposed to the suns meridian heat. The nights are quite cold and I am glad to get under my sheepskin blanket after dinner in the evening.
The engineering and medical staffs are comprised of some very nice young gentlemanly fellows, and I quite enjoy a visit from any of them as they pass up and down the line. There is even a lady living with her husband far up the line, Dr. Woolencroft’s wife, whom I visited the other day and was quite pleased and surprised to find how comfortably situated she was. The Doctor has his hospital and dispensary, and in another part under the trees is Mrs W’s residence, where we sat under a sort of wide verandah made of bushes and trunks of trees. This is the winter solstice, how I shall stand the summer is a matter of conjecture. They all seem to think I shall get through it without difficulty but I have my doubts.

Mr Griffiths has returned to Lobito where the whole staff are very busy preparing for the reception of the Crown Prince of Portugal on the 25th. Even Mr Payne’s son is coming out from England to superintend the pyrotechnic display which is to be given on that occasion. Mr G says I must go in too, but I much prefer remaining here for the though I may manage to get on very well with Captain de Matto, I fear ......

I did not intend to send this rough draft of a letter but I am just informed that if I would catch the next steamer I must send it down by the construction train now starting, so if you will kindly pardon this long rigmarole and the slovenly way in which it is written, I will send it.”

The long search and the embarrassment of living from hand to mouth reliant on the charity of others was over! At least this was the case for a while. The history books tell us that the Benguella Railway Company ran into financial distress in 1908 and all work on the line ceased. Empire Jack, Maynard’s friend and erstwhile employer shut up shop and moved elsewhere. But what of Maynard? Gone from the official records are any further hints in the form of letters to Malcolm and back that have kept us up to date with his movements.

What we do know is this enigmatic man was next found on the shipping manifest of the “Goth” boarding at Lobito Bay for London where it docked on 12 July 1908. This makes perfect sense given the fact that the railway venture was no more. Maynard was now back in England for the first time in many years and, no doubt reconciled with his family. Both girls were now qualified trained teachers in their 30’s, what they must have thought of this stranger who called himself their father!

A publication called Bethune’s Mounted Infantry by Mostly Unsung, published in 1999 lists him as living in Bristol, UK, as an Inspector General WD with the rank of Major. Perhaps Lord Selbourne and others were able to “work their magic” and find employment for him.

Were this to be the case it must have been of a short-lived duration. The 1911 England census shows no sign of him save for the cryptic remark that Mrs Maynard was receiving an allowance “from her husband in Russia” – what could Maynard have been up to in Imperial Russia a few years before the outbreak of the Great War and the impending demise of the Czar and his family? Mrs Maynard and her two daughters were resident at 10 Portland Road, Hove, Brighton.

There are really only three postscripts to the life of this remarkable man, one so ill fitted for life in the raw and one so ill treated by a judicial system he was powerless, despite having powerful friends, to overcome.

The first is that he passed away at the age of 80 in Steyning, Sussex in March 1920. The second is that, now a widow, his wife and daughter Ethel, took to the high seas and emigrated to America aboard the “Adriatic” a year later sailing in May 1921 for New York perhaps to start a new life.

The last entry is that of the death notice of one Isabel Maynard, born Rens, resident at 4327 Oakenwald Avenue, Ward 3, Chicago, Illinois who passed away on 11 September 1924 at the age of 77. Having lived her life so long without the society of her husband could it be that once he was gone forever she couldn’t abide on earth for very much longer herself

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The Sad Story of a Major in the B.M.I. 8 years 3 months ago #17754

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I'm sure that an indication of a 'thank you' is wholly inadequate, Rory. That's magnificent.
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The Sad Story of a Major in the B.M.I. 8 years 3 months ago #17757

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The Sad Story of a Major in the B.M.I. 8 years 3 months ago #17762

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Good Afternoon Rory....

All I can also say is Double Ditto...... Wish I could find the information that you have.....

Fantastic, Fantastic Job.....

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The Sad Story of a Major in the B.M.I. 8 years 3 months ago #17771

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Many thanks for your affirmations gents!

Now and again a medal or a group of medals comes round where, more by luck than by design, one can unearth a veritable mountain of information on the recipient.

Maynard is such an example.

It was a joy to bring him back to prominence 100 + years after he was in the public eye.



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