The story of Jan Blanx

July 8th, 1652 an entry was made in Jan van Riebeeck’s diary concerning punishment meted out to one of the men under his command at the fledgling settlement at the Cape. “Today arquebusier [gunner or soldier] on the yacht Goede Hoope, for having wilfully and petulantly defied the captain, was condemned and sentenced by the Council to fall from the yard-arm and receive 50 lashes, as can be seen more fully in the sentence book under today’s date.” Two months later, on Wednesday 25th September 1652 our Jan together with a sailor and two soldiers “departed from the Cabo de boa Esperance in the evening and headed for Mozambique.”

They took with them 4 biscuits, fish, 4 swords, 2 pistols and a dog and set off on this epic journey which, alas, lasted all of 6 days. It is not surprising that things got a bit rough for these lads because within 7 miles of the Fort they were charged by two rhinoceroses and lost a sword. Before that their dog had chased a porcupine and was wounded in the neck. According to the journal kept by Jan Blanx and later copied into the journal of Jan van Riebeeck, the 4 deserters marched about 25 miles altogether, facing many dangers along the way, before reaching what is believed to be the Hottentots Holland mountains near Gordon’s Bay on the 29th September. Jan Blanx writes [we were] “intending to cross the mountains. When we did not meet with much success, the sailor and one the soldiers, gave up. Nevertheless on the 30th we continued until the afternoon, when Gerrit [the other soldier] also grew tired. I could not manage by myself, so decided to return to the Fort in the hope of receiving ”compassion and mercy’.

The entry for 10th October 1652 states that Jan Blanx, the guide is to be keelhauled. Also to receive one hundred and fifty lashes, and in addition, to work as a slave in fetters for 2 years doing the common and all other dirty work. The sentences were carried out the very next day.

Jan Blanx survived being keelhauled in the icy waters of the Cape, a truly unpleasant experience even for the most hardy of creatures. If one did not drown while being dragged underwater from one side of the ship to the other, one’s body would be scraped to pieces by the hundreds of barnacles clinging to the bottom of the hull. But our Jan was a stout fellow and he made it. He also made it through 150 lashes from the Cat-o’ nine Tails.

On New Year’s Day 1653, after only two and a half months in chains, they were all released “through the intercession of various persons and on promise of amending their conduct”. I would imagine that they would have promised anything to get out of those chains!

Just over a month later on February 21st 1653 he and his partner in crime from the previous misdemeanour, Willem Huijtjens were found to have slaughtered a calf belonging to the Company. They made a fire and braaied the meat “in the dunes behind the Lion Mountain” and according to reports this had happened a number of times before. As food was pretty scarce and Commander van Riebeeck was trying so hard to build up his herds, this latest escapade was not well received and they were clapped in irons once more. But this lasted only a few days “as we have so few men who are fit for the necessary work on the Company’s fortifications…it has been decided that these men, who are the most robust of them all, should be released upon trust on Monday next and be kept at work until the arrival of the Fleet from India, when their case can be taken in hand again and be settled.”

Jan was not going to wait for any Fleet from India. He, together with four others, decided to run off again, this time by stealing a galiot (a small boat) and some sheep but before they could carry out this ambitious plan they were ratted on by Jan van Leijen “who previously deserted but now behaves him better”. Blanx, Huijtjens and Dirckssen were caught and ‘confined’ probably in irons again. The other two escaped but handed themselves over later because they were starving. In the entry in Van Riebeeck’s diary for the 19th March 1653 the following sentence was passed:

“Today the Commander and Broad Council for the return of ships came ashore and the cow and sheep thieves were sentenced most mercifully by the same: three were to fall from the yard-arm with 100 lashes and 1 year in irons and 2 also to fall from the yard-arm with 60 lashes and for half a year to do the common labour, in chains.” The sentence was carried out on the 21st March. This time they would remain in irons until the 12th August 1653 “after numerous intercessions, and more particularly because they had acquitted themselves with diligence and willingness at the Company’s works.” *

As far as could I could find out, it is not certain if Jan Blanx mended his ways [it is doubtful] or whether there was other attempts to flee or whether he died soon after. This show unlike me, not all of the first settlers was excited and happy to make this beautiful part of the world their home, but then, I do not have Jan van Riebeeck as commander.

The story of Sybrand Mankadan

His father Jacobus, is considered one of the most important Friesian landscape painters of the Dutch Golden Age. He served as a government official from a young age and lived in Franeker where he served as mayor.

Sybrand studied theology but was not known for his piety. His love for drinking was only surpassed by his love for women. He had three marriages in Holland. We read that he was expelled from the ministry by a provincial synod in Friesland for “een langen treijn van menigvuldige dronkenschappen en andere grove misdrijven…” a long train of drunkenness and gross misdemeanors.

When Sybrand, appointed as a sick-comforter, took up his teaching duties in 1683 he soon provoked great annoyance and dissatisfaction among more sedate Stellenbosch burghers with his improper conduct of “a debauched and irregular lifestyle”, so much so that some parents refused to have their children taught by him.

The nature of his “other gross misdemeanors” in Friesland was to become apparent early in the next year: to the horror of the burghers, Maria Catharina van Swaanswijk, an orphan from Holland, moved in with him without the blessing of the church. Landdrost Mulder laid a complaint with Commander Simon van der Stel, with the result that they had to appear at the castle. They were summarily joined in civil wedlock by De Grevenbroek, the Secretary. Later he had a child with one of the slaves.

In the early days as the only graduate in Stellenbosch he was furthermore appointed as Secretary to the Council of Landdrost and Heemraden in 1686. He was a capable teacher and the question about him was more about his not so private life.

His wife Maria married again soon after his death in August 1695.

The story of Dr Jan Cats

Jan Cats was a medical practitioner in Stellenbosch. His surgery was in Dorp Street (on the corner what is today Dorp and Andringa Streets). The bookshop across the street was the mortuary. As the sick and injured passed away, at the dead of night, when nobody could be discouraged by seeing the doctor’s failures, the bodies would be carried across the street from his surgery to the mortuary.

The bookshop has two different kinds of windows (it can still be seen today), and one was specifically build to ensure the stretcher with body can be slid through. It is said, that even today some people walking by in the middle of the night can see books moving in the bookshop. Jan Cats is now a pub and restaurant and part of the Stellenbosch Hotel.

The story of Hercûles van Loon

It was in March 1700 that Stellenbosch got its first permanent pastor. He lived in the “Kolonieshuis”, the oldest house in town, on the corner of Dorp and Ryneveld Streets – which thus became the first parsonage in Stellenbosch. Some speculate that his wife was not the perfect minister’s wife and that she strayed from her marriage vows at times.

He was allotted a farm near Klapmuts shortly after his arrival and it was on his way from this farm back to the village that Valentyn wrote, “he met his death most pitiably” on June 26th, 1704. Kolbe provides more particulars of Van Loon’s tragic death, reporting that he committed suicide by “cutting his own throat with his pocket knife and that no one had yet discovered the cause of his profound despair”. We can only guess and speculate about that cause…

Teddy Hall Wines

Teddy purposely pushes boundaries while exploring new ways to evince the complex play of contrasts that define limits and frontiers in winemaking.