The name of John Blades Currey (1829-1904) is seldom mentioned in histories of southern Africa. Indeed, the young man who arrived at the Cape in 1850 made little direct impact on its story. He was nonetheless to become a profound influence on some of the Cape's most famous men and an astute chronicler of the political and social events of his time. His memoirs, published here for the first time, cover half a century of Cape history, from 1850 to 1900.
Soldiering, farming, copper-mining - Currey tried all these; then, on the advice of governor Sir George Grey, he joined the Cape civil service. While in its employ in the late 1860s he was entrusted with introducing to a sceptical Europe southern Africa's first diamond, the 'Eureka'. Later, as secretary to the government of Griqualand West, he chose the name 'Kimberley' for the burgeoning diamond-fields town of New Rush. In 1875 Currey was blamed for the diggers' rebellion there, and this led to his dismissal from office and blighted his subsequent public career. While he was in Kimberley, Currey befriended two young fortune hunters, both of whom were to become renowned premiers of the Cape: Cecil John Rhodes and John X. Merriman. To both of them Currey was to remain a lifelong friend and counsellor.
In 1884 Currey was appointed manager of a Kimberley land-owning company, and when, some fifteen years later, it was absorbed by De Beers Consolidated Mines, Rhodes as chairman of De Beers offered him the stewardship of the Groote Schuur Estate in Cape Town. Currey was to live in 'Welgelegen', in the grounds of the Estate, and it was while waiting to move into his new home that Currey wrote his memoirs. He is revealed in the account not as a politician but as a man who helped to shape politicians, not as a man who made history but rather as one who was passionately part of it. Published in the Brenthurst Second Series, John Blades Currey is complemented by contemporary illustrations, the majority of which are held in The Brenthurst Library.
Phillida Brooke Simons is a great-granddaughter of John Blades Currey. Educated at St Cyprian's School in Cape Town and Rhodes University, she has published several books on Cape social history of the nineteenth century.
276 pages, 300 mm deep x 238 mm wide;
including 31 full-colour illustrations with 34 in monochrome;
printed on Byronic Text 118 g/m² paper manufactured in Canada.
This edition is limited to one thousand copies, made up as follows:
Presentation edition 25 copies in full leather (not for sale)
De luxe edition 125 copies in half leather (out of print)
Standard edition 850 copies, not numbered, hard-bound in finest quality linen bookcloth, with 2 ribbon bookmarkers, and full-colour pictorial dustjacket.
ISBN 0-909079-30-7 ISBN-13 978-0-909079-30-7
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