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John Drysdale Southern and Northern Rhodesia Pioneer 2 weeks 5 days ago #78893

  • David Grant
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Whilst I am on a roll & people are assisting with graves & photographs, here is another: North-Eastern Rhodesia pioneer, fighter of slavers & an assistant in Cecil J.Rhodes' great plan for a telegraph across Africa. He died on St.George's Day, 1898 of Blackwater Fever.
John Patrick Marshall “Jock” Drysdale
Pioneer Corps; Salisbury Horse; North-Eastern Rhodesia Constabulary

British South Africa Company Medal Reverse Matebeleland 1893 Serge. Drysdale Salisbury Horse

John Patrick Marshall “Jock” Drysdale
Served as Sergt. RA (1.); 7 Sergt Pioneer Corps 1890(1.2..3.) , Sergt Salisbury Horse(1.2.4..). Entered North-eastern Rhodesia 1895 from east.(5.) Stationed Nyala as Assistant Collector(1.5.11..) Died 23rd April, 1898 from Blackwater Fever.(1.5.)
I suspect Drysdale is the central figure but there were more than one John Drysdale in Rhodesia at the time.

Robert Drysdale and his wife, Katharine Duncan had a son, Robert Drysdale, John Drysdale's father, who was baptised at Bo’ness,(6.), Linlithgowshire, in Scotland on 23 April 1820.(7.)When the census of Scotland was taken in April 1871 he was described as 50 years old, a builder (employing nine men & two boys), living at Grange Cottages, Carriden in West Lothian (8.) with his wife and six children. Ten years later, in April 1881, he was described as a master builder (employing 18 men and two boys ), and quarry master (employing 14 men and a boy), and living in Grange Park Cottage in Carriden with five of his children, a niece and a visitor. Ten years later still, in April 1891, although still described as a builder, he was living with his married daughter Mrs. Charlotte Gowans and her five children at Deanfield House in Bo’ness. (8.)He was married to Christina Marshall (she was born in Boness in 1824/1825). They had, with other children, a son: John Patrick Marshall Drysdale born in Carriden on 20 July 1863.(10.)When the census of Scotland was taken in April 1881 he was described as 17 years old, an unemployed architect’s apprentice, living with his father at Grange Park Cottage in Carriden.

Drysdale served with Salisbury Horse during the Matebele Rebellion, Rhodesia, 1893 and took part in the Shangani and Bembesi engagements. (4.)

Major Patrick William Forbes, also formerly of the Inniskilling Dragoons, had served the British South Africa Company with distinction in Southern Rhodesia. In 1894 he was sent to Nyasaland to take charge of the Northern Section of the line being constructed by the Africa Trans-Continental Telegraph Company, another of Cecil Rhodes' projects. From this
some what humdrum post Major Forbes was appointed Deputy Administrator responsible for North-Eastern Rhodesia. He assumed this new appointment on 1st July, 1895, establishing his headquarters in Nyasaland. His escort, Sergeant Jock Drysdale and Troopers M.W.Barnard, “Slick” Smith Middleton, “Bobo”Young and H.T.Harrington, had been recruited in Southern Rhodesia and attested as “North-Eastern Rhodesia Police”.(1.) They started from Salisbury with a spring wagon, mules and carriers and took a direct line to Tete in the Zambezi-Portuguese Territory. The next march was to the Shire River at a point called Katunga where there was a ferry. From the crossing there was a forty mile march to Blantyre in Nyasaland and then after to Matope on the Upper Shire. At Matope Drysdale was taken sick and had to return to Blantyre(11.). At Karong Harrington had picked up a party of Makua Police who had been trained at Zomba. Drysdale being sick, Harrington was promoted sergeant and accompanied Forbes on a tour of inspection. He was placed in charge of Choma for a few months before moving to Kalungkwishi. The troopers and most of the Makua were left at Fife which was threatened by Mlozi. On recovering his health Drysdale also joined the administrative service.(1.) By December 1895, Drysdale and Young had established Nyala on a rather good site(11.).

The station was hardly occupied before Chiawali appealed for European aid, reporting that Kapandansaru, the head of the Arabs after Mulozi died had built a tembe close to his village in concert with Wemba headmen and warriors, and had ordered him on pain of death, to go with them to Mwamba and explain why he had encouraged the white man to build a station so near his village. Mr Young , though his force consisted of only ten police, promptly went to aid Chiwali entered the village and assisted in the defense. A graphic account of the brave resistance made by Mr Young is given in Mr Price's paper published by the African Society. Suffice it to say that after holding out for 5 days, Chwalis village was relieved by Mr McKinnon and Mr Drysdale, the assistant at Nyala. The Arab besiegers were promptly followed up; village after village was taken, and slaves liberated. Kapandansaru was captured but died before sentence of death passed upon him could be carried into effect. The expedition then persuade the Awemba, who had retreated bu another route, ousted them from a large village where they made a brave stand and drove them in flight across the Chambeshi.(13.)

John Drysdale, Assistant Collector at Nyala, and his police dispersed a caravan on 18th June, 1896 when he captured an Arab and freed 57 slaves(11..12..)

“On Thursday, 18th instant, I went to Fife to examine a road trace made by Trooper Young and remained overnight. When about to return the following day, a headman from a village west of Ikawa came to me with information about an Arab caravan leaving the Awemba country. I at once sent back for police to follow me and went on with Trooper Young to Nzwalo from whence I sent out men in several directions to obtain information. I expected that the caravan would try to cross near Chyunga, so next day I went there arriving at 4p.m. The headman of Lusindo then sent to tell me that the Arabs had left his village. At about 10p.m. some men whom I had posted in the bush came in and reported the approach of the caravan. I thought it possible that the Arabs would halt at the village for the night so I sent out Trooper Young with some police to get behind them and cut off any chance of retreat while I prepared to deal with them inside the village. Instead of entering the village, however, they passed round it close to the stockade and I was able to see each person clearly.
“I did not wish to tackle them in the night time as I had only a number of uncontrollable natives at my disposal who would surely have killed and wounded indiscriminately. I therefore allowed the caravan to file past and then sent out men to keep it in view. Calling all my people together, I left the village about midnight and followed the tracks of the caravan for a short distance . I then got news that it had made camp so I sheered off for a few miles into the bush and waited for daylight. Just at dawn we approached the Arab camp and were received with several shots, the Arabs having heard us coming through the bush close to them. We fired upon their camp which was quickly vacated and I then send out after fugitives. One white Arab was captured and a few coastal women. Fifty-seven slaves were also set at liberty and , if possible, I will send them top their homes soon. They are all women and children, some of them having been captured by Pondo when he raided Chitimbwa's village in Ulungu. I expect more slaves will be brought in in a day or two...”(14.)

And another on 26th July, 1896 when he scattered the slavers with a volley freeing 35 of their captives and seizing 1000lbs of ivory.(11. 12.)

“On the morning of 26th July,1896, two natives brought me information of a caravan having just crossed the Stevenson road the evening before. I started at once (2a.m.) and cut through the hills towards the Songwe River in hopes of stopping them. About 11a.m. I reached the village Mwinipenya on the Songwe having followed their spoor from near Mtumba's village in the hills. Just beyond Mtumba's I got one slave woman named Pingira who told me that she had been left behind as she could not walk any further.
“The Chief Mwinipenya informed me that the caravan had crossed the Songwe a short time before and had a great many slaves with them, also a lot of ivory. As both slaves and ivory had been taken from British South Africa Company's territory I decided to get them back; about one mile from the river I came up with them in camp. When they saw my party they ran off into the long grass with the exception of the white Arab and some of his leaders; the Arabs fired in my direction so I gave my police the order to fire a volley, at which they also ran. I then ordered my police to bring everybody they could find back to camp; they got sixteen women and nineteen children, altogether thirty-five slaves, also about 1,000lb. Weight of ivory.
“I went back to Mwinipenya's village and camped for the night, the slaves being unable to walk further having walked the whole night. I started next morning and got back to Nyala during the afternoon of the 27th.
“The Arab's name is Ferinse and they (the slaves) say he killed four children from the time of leaving Ponde's village till he reached Mwanga's, the last being killed there. The reason the children were murdered ,the slaves say, was because they were crying and the Arab was afraid they woul;d be heard going through the bush.”(14.)

On one occasion Drysdale followed a caravan into German territory and dispersed in seizing 106 tusks on which duty had not been paid.(1.15.)
A "Drysdale" report from the Lusaka Archives

The medal roll(2.) seems to imply that J. Drysdale of Salisbury Horse is synonymous with Trp. J. Drysdale of Raaths Column. However the later gained a 1896 Clasp to his medal with “L” Troop BFF while the former was in N-E Rhodesia at this time.




(1.)The History of the Northern Rhodesia Police Tim Wright (2001)
(2.)The British South Africa Company Medal Roll D.R Forsyth (1980)
(3.)British South Africa Coy. Medal 1890 and the Rhodesia Pioneers Roland A.Hill, M.B.E. ( O.M.R.S. Journal Vol 31)
(4.)Medal Roll
(5.)They Came to Northern Rhodesia Richard Sampson (1956)
(6.)“Bo'ness, properly Borrowstounness, is a town in the Falkirk council area of Scotland, lying on a hillside on the south bank of the Firth of Forth. Prior to 1975 it was in the former county of West Lothian” ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo'ness .)
(7.) IGI Individual Record FamilySearch™ International Genealogical Index (v5.0) (British Isles).
(8.) Carriden, a coast parish of Linlithgowshire, containing the villages of Blackness, Bridgeness, Grangepans, and Muirhouses. It approaches within 3 furlongs and 1 mile of the post-towns and railway stations of Borrowstouness [sic] and Linlithgow; and is bounded N by the Firth of Forth” (Groomes Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (c.1895).)
(9.)On 30 March 2008, a Billhead from Robert Drysdale, Builder of Grangepark, Bo'ness, West Lothian, dated May1884, was sold on eBay. Robert was not included in the Census taken in 1901.
(10.)GI Individual Record FamilySearch™ op. cit.
(11.)The Taming of North-Eastern Rhodesia H.T.Harrington (The Northern Rhodesia Journal Vol.2 1954)
(12.)The Story of the Northern Rhodesia Regiment Brelsford (1954)
(13.)The Great Plateau of Northern Rhodesia Gouldsbury and Sheane (1911)
(14)Slave -raiders in North-Eastern Rhodesia (The Northern Rhodesia Journal Vol.1 1953)
(15.)PRO CO417/363
British Central Africa Gazette 15th March, 1897
British South Africa Company . Report. Issue for 1896-97
Looking for Salutries, Salootries and Veterinary Duffadars.
I collect primarily QSAs to Indian Recipients.
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