Warder Patrick Tuohy of the Natal Police - A Convict Guard. 5 months 1 week ago #76932
Patrick Martin Tuohy
Warder, Natal Police – Bambatha Rebellion
- Natal Rebellion Medal with 1906 clasp to WDR. P. TUOHY, NATAL POLICE
Pat Tuohy, as he was universally known, was born on 14 September 1875 in Durban, the son of Peter Tuohy and his wife Catherine, born Crann. Peter was an Irish immigrant to Natal shores - a labourer by trade, he married Catherine in St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Pietermaritzburg on 17 April 1865 and, as is the way of all things, set about the making of a family. Patrick was the last-born being preceded by Mary Ann Tuohy (1866); Michael Bernard Tuohy (1868); Edward Peter Tuohy (1871) and John Justin Tuohy (1873).
At some point Mr Tuohy senior did what many men of his time did – he ventured into the hinterland in search of the elusive gold deposits said to be in abundance in the Barberton area of the Eastern Transvaal. It was here, at the nearby Sheba Gold Mining, that he succumbed to the ravages of dysentery and passed away in the Barberton Hospital on 23 February 1894 at the age of 55. He had been hospitalized on 16 February but had not recovered, despite Dr. Mitchell’s best efforts.
After receiving a modest education, Pat Tuohy, now without a father, was required to supplement the family income, along with his brothers, one of which, John, had accompanied their father to the Barberton Goldfields. Joining the employ of the Natal Government Railways, he completed his apprenticeship and was soon a qualified Machinist at their Durban workshops.
He does not appear to have succumbed to the temptation, felt by so many young men, of enlisting for service in the Boer War of 1899-1902. There was, however, time for romance and, at St. Stephen’s Church in Durban on 10 May 1902, he wed Helen Pahlke, a 24 year old spinster from the city. He was 25 at the time. The question as to why an avowed and devoted Catholic would wed in what was an Anglican Church is best answered when we look at the arrival dates of their children - the first-born child – Bernard Patrick Tuohy, later to become a celebrated soccer player who represented South Africa against English FA teams, was born on 6 March 1900; followed by Frances Isabella Evelyn Tuohy, known as Jenny, who was born on 13 December 1902 – Bernard had been born out of wedlock and Jenny, conceived in the same state, something frowned on by the Church.
Recognizing a need for more lucrative employment, Tuohy enlisted with the Natal Police on 1 February 1904 and, assigned no. 3326, was deployed as a Prison Guard of Warder. His service file indicates that he was posted to the Durban Gaol where he would have had to deal with the detritus of the city’s society. As a bustling sea port, there would have been a smattering of sailors working off their hangovers in the cells from time to time. His wife, of Pine Street West, Durban was recorded as his next of kin. His service was not without incident, on 4 January 1905 he was charged with being Absent Without Leave and Reprimanded by the Governor of the Gaol.
At the beginning of 1906 Natal was in a financial bind, the Anglo Boer War and all the attendant costs that came with it, had placed a severe strain on the Colony’s coffers and the government of the day was desperate to find additional sources of income. They pushed matters to a breaking point by imposing a poll tax on all unmarried males above the age of 18. Such a tax was imposed regardless of economic status. In January of the same year, the authorities began to collect the tax and met with resistance in certain areas. There is no doubt that Africans were infuriated by the tax, by the way it was announced, and by the manner in which the collection was implemented. The government struggled to contain and suppress the rebellion that ultimately followed.
This indeed happened on 8 February 1906, on a farm named Trewigie, near Richmond. Following a confrontation in which a group of policemen made some arrests, an altercation resulted in the deaths of two policemen. Martial law was declared the next day by the governor, Sir Henry McCallum. Twenty-four men were subsequently tried before a military court in Richmond between 12 and 19 March, twelve of whom were sentenced to death. Others received long prison sentences and floggings.
Although initially most attention was focussed on Richmond, there was also trouble in the Maphumulo district on the southern side of the Thukela river valley. The local magistrate had begun to collect the poll tax in January 1906 and had met with resistance. By March, the military mistakenly believed it had saved Natal from an uprising, but the rebellion had only just begun. A police patrol was subsequently attacked in the Mpanza valley and four policemen were killed. The attackers were led by a chief known as Bambatha kaMancinza Zondi.
After the attack, Bambatha moved to the protection of the forests of the Nkandla district. Over 4 000 colonial troops were mobilised and around half of these were dispatched to the Nkandla region. By the end of May, the conflict had reached a stalemate. On 13 June, however, troops investigated a report that the body of Bambatha was lying among the dead after a decisive massacre in the Mome Gorge. They cut off his head and took it to the military camp where it was identified by Zulu men who had known him.
The rebellion continued in Maphumulo, towards Stanger, and finally ended in July. The death of Bambatha was officially verified on 16 June 1906. As mentioned above, evidence of his death was presumptive, but it was now conclusive. Martial law was finally lifted on 2 September.
Most of the men accused of rebellion were tried by magistrates under martial law. They were convicted in batches and sentenced to two or three years' hard labour, often with flogging, and sent off to labour on government projects. An official estimate is that 4 700 of the "rank and file" received sentences lasting approximately two years' hard labour and flogging.
However, late in 1906, an official estimated that 7 000 were imprisoned. Of the 7 000 in gaol, a large number were hired out by the government to the Public Works Department, the Natal Harbour and Railway works, and to municipalities and collieries.
The influx of rebel prisoners captured during and after the rebellion into the prisons of the colony clearly created a major problem in terms of overcrowding. As a member of the Natal Police, albeit a Prison Warder, Tuohy and his comrades participated in the Bambatha Rebellion as custodians of those who were caught, taken prisoner or surrendered. For this he was awarded the Natal Rebellion Medal with 1906 clasp for more than 60 days of active service.
Following the rebellion, hundreds of rebels were also imprisoned at the Point. Initially, these men were temporarily held in municipal labourers' barracks at Bell Street, near the Point, which was declared a prison by government proclamation.
Essentially, the rebels were divided into four large gangs - the largest of which was stationed at the Point - and used as labour on various public works programmes. A second gang was situated at the concentration camp at Jacobs, south of Durban, and the remaining two gangs were "housed in wood and iron huts and compounds surrounded by barbed wire" elsewhere in the colony.
By August 1906, there were 370 rebels alongside 240 regular convicts and 896 contract workers on the Point and the Bluff. During 1906, an average of 1 477 worked at the Point, which resulted in a significant reduction in the number of contract workers. As the rebels were classed as political prisoners, no wages were paid by the Natal Harbour Department. From 1907, their numbers began to decrease although there were still 907 by the end of that year. In 1908, many of the remaining rebels were moved to Congella to work on the new wharfs being constructed at that site.
A decision was made to house the new prisoners at the Point. In August 1906, £30 000 was made available for the construction of the new Point Convict Station, other facilities and portable gaols in the colony. A year later, the Weekly Mercury reported that the foundation was being prepared for a new gaol for rebels at the Point, which was to be constructed from wood and iron and which would accommodate 1 500 prisoners.
The construction of the prisons was described in the Weekly Mercury as a Public Works Department "rush job". While gangs of rebel prisoners engaged in levelling reclaimed land at the end of the Point, a large number of artisans worked day and night in the erection of a series of wood and iron barracks. The site, near Durban's south beaches, was considered to be a healthy one for the prisoners. One of the main reasons why the prison was built was because the colonial government had received instructions to clear the compound situated at Jacob's as it was needed by the Transvaal Chamber of Mines to temporarily house Chinese labourers. The Point Prison consisted of four blocks to house the prisoners, with additional blocks for stores, offices, warders' quarters and kitchens. A large amount of "old harbour material" had been used in the construction to save costs.
The Natal Harbour Department workshops were well-equipped and the department assisted in the construction of the new prison. In 1907, there were reports that second-hand pine logs were sawed in preparation for the building of the prison and that the department provided "large amounts of timber, rubble, sand and binding for the prison". The new Convict Station was officially proclaimed as a central gaol in the Government Gazette on 24 August 1907. It was to this infamous house of incarceration that Tuohy was transferred, having been reengaged on 1 February 1907.
During the first two years of its operation, the prison held a total of 2 316 prisoners. The facility was designed to house 1 150 prisoners at a time in twenty-one cells. The daily average number of prisoners was 1 381 and the greatest number held on any one day was 1 691. Clearly, there was a problem with overcrowding from the earliest years of its operation. During the period when the prison housed rebels, 165 men died, many from old age and sickness, and two escaped. In 1906, the Department of Health noted a high incidence of tuberculosis among rebels in general and there was a special section in the prison for tuberculosis patients. The rebels held at the Point mainly worked on removing sand hills, on building roads and on assisting with the construction of stone retaining walls.
Possibly because of the political implications there are scarcely any official records of the Point Convict Station. A few references to the prison can be found in the Natal Police journal, Nongqai. It was reported in 1907 that Inspector Deane, who had been appointed governor of the new prison, was "converting the hitherto barren sandbanks into a really smart and clean gaol". As a large number of prisoners had not been convicted of any crime, the authorities decided to declare the new prison a branch court. It is likely that the environmental conditions were worse than those prevailing in the Durban gaol. Some rebels were still being held at the Point as late as 1908; this was confirmed in a sardonic statement by one of the warders stating that "[o]ur health resort is well patronised by a fairly representative gathering of the inhabitants of the districts in Natal and Zululand".
Were the health problems experienced by the prisoners mentioned above, the source of Tuohy’s own demise? The cause of his death at Addington Hospital on 27 January 1908 at the age of 30, was described as Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Asthenia, both ailments rife among the convicts he was required to mingle with at close quarters. Did he catch this from one of them?
Whatever the case may be, Tuohy was no more – he was survived by his wife and three children, all of them, as we have seen, still very young. His residence at the time of his death was 139 Gillespie Street, Durban
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