Ghosts of South Africa, by Pat Hopkins
In Ghosts of South Africa, Pat Hopkins tells where the places where spooks are apparently residing are to be found.
The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building still in use in South Africa. And the most haunted. Before Jan van Riebeeck took occupation of the Cape on behalf of the Dutch East India Company in 1652, the Dutch, British and Danes had built a number of fortifications to protect the fresh-water supply and the landing place in Table Bay. Van Riebeeck’s primary orders were to establish a garden to provide passing company ships with fresh fruit and vegetables, and strengthen the defences, and shortly after arriving he built an earthen-walled fort near the shore in the vicinity of what is now the Grand Parade. As trade rivalries between England and Holland in the mid-1660s flared into war, it became obvious to the Dutch East India Company that this fort would be inadequate to protect their passage to India, and they commissioned famous Dutch architect Menno van Coehoorn to design a large stone castle. A site was chosen and cleared in 1665, and construction under the super-vision of engineer Pieter Dombaer commenced on 2 January 1666. Even though it was only completed in 1679, the garrison took occupation in 1674. The Castle is designed in the shape of a pentagon, with bastions dedicated to the titles of the Prince of Orange at each point. Officers were accommodated in Buren; the kitchens, pay office and execution ground were in Leerdam; the arsenal, workshops and gunsmiths were housed in Oranje; the powder keg was situated in Nassau; and the garrison was barracked in Catzenellenbogen, which also contained the notorious Donker Gat (Dark Hole) - a dark underground prison complete with torture chamber.
The bastions were connected by thick stone walls, which were lined on the inside with residences, government offices, storerooms and stables. Originally a moat with three drawbridges was meant to surround the Castle, but when this proved impractical, the idea was abandoned and a single entrance was located on the seaward side. This also proved problematic, and Governor Simon van der Stel had the gateway moved to halfway between Buren and Leerdam in 1682. Planned to resemble the brick-and-stone town entrances common in Holland, it was topped by a belfry. In 1691 the internal courtyard was divided in two by a Kat, or defensive wall. On either side were built the official quarters of the governor and senior staff, as well as a great hall, which at first was used mainly for religious services.
Later an ornamental balcony, known as De Nieuwe Kat, was added to the facade of the Kat by the renowned captain of the engineers, Louis-Michel Thibault, and sculptor Anron Anreith. From here governors were sworn in and official proclamations read out. For over a century the Castle was the centre of life in the settlement. People gave birth and died here. There was pomp and ceremony, glittering balls and extravagant banquets. There was also disease, the horror of executions and despicable deeds committed in the Dark Hole. It is little wonder that it is crammed with apparitions - some dark, others flirtatious.
Pieter Gijsbert Noodt, the most hated of all Cape governors, took up the position in 1727 after a successful career in Java. Matters came to a head in 1729, when soldiers who had attempted to desert were rounded up and put on trial. Various punishments were handed down, with those who had resisted arrest being sentenced to death. Despite pleas for clemency from all levels of the settlement and administration, as two of the condemned were also theology students, Noodt held firm and the executions were scheduled for 23 April. On the gallows, one of the victims uttered a curse, and at that very moment, Noodt, who was busy in his office, suffered a heart attack and died. The following is the account of Captain Rudolf Siegfried Allemann.
‘The other prisoners who remained in the Doncle Gatt [Donker Gat] were tried and condemned by the Council of Justice to run the gauntlet ten times and then be sent to Batavia as sailors. This, however, did not please the Governor. Like Wallenstein he cried out: „They shall hang, the brutes! They shall hang! „ The Independent Fiscal and the whole Council protested against this. They pointed out that the men were not liable to the death sentence, since they had not actually deserted, and since, moreover, their plot to do so had been caused by the stopping of their pay. The Governor, however, broke out peremptorily: „Ik neem het op mij, „ and the Council had to be silent. The sentence was drawn up with the usual Dutch formalities, and the Governor immediately wrote his signature in the margin, together with the dreadful words, „Fiat execution”.
Early the next Friday, between eight and nine o’clock, the seven prisoners were informed of the sentence; the execution was to take place at nine o’clock the next day. The dungeon was now opened, but a double guard was stationed outside. As soon as the sentence had been read, the second Reformed Minister entered the dungeon to prepare the condemned men for death; but one of the Theological candidates begged him to return home again, saying he and his companions were all of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, so that he and the other candidate would console and prepare their comrades and each other. The minister reported this to the Governor, who, having never shown any interest in religion, was quite content to let the prisoners have their way. The condemned men were provided, according to custom, with food from the Governor’s kitchen, and they were allowed, moreover, to have anything they wanted; but they ate little, and spent most of their time in singing and prayer.
‘The next day at eight o’clock the entire garrison, including the Pasgangers, who had to wear uniform, was mustered on the parade ground. At nine o’clock they marched to the front of the Governors house; they were led, as is usual on such occasions, by one officer only. The prisoners were brought up from their dungeon under guard, and the sentence, together with an account of their offence, was read to them from the double flight of steps that led up to the Governor’s house. After this the garrison marched off to the place of execution [Leerdam], forming a circle round it, and the condemned men were led slowly to the spot. One of the Theological candidates took three, and the other two, of their comrades, comforting them and praying with them as they went along.
On such occasions a large tent is put up on the place of execution and the entire Council of Justice is escorted thereto by the Governor’s guard. First comes the sergeant with six grenadiers; then the Messenger of the Court, bearing in his hand a long wand made of thorn-bush and tipped with silver, and carrying his hat under his arm. Next come all the members of the Council of Justice, two by two; the Corporal of the guard with six grenadiers closes the procession. The Councillors seat themselves in chairs provided for them in the tent and remain there until the execution is finished. All these formalities were carried out just as usual; then the prisoners, having reached the place, knelt down and prayed with great feeling and edification, and they bade each other moving farewells as one after another they were led to the gallows. […]
This is an extract from the book: Ghosts of South Africa, by Pat Hopkins.
Book title: Ghosts of South Africa
Author: Pat Hopkins
Publisher: Zebra Press
Cape Town, South Africa 2006
Paperback, 15x23 cm, 272 pages
Hopkins, Pat im Namibiana-Buchangebot
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