Letter from Hector Maclean in the Transvaal, 1902

A letter from Hector Maclean of Crowlista, serving in the Transvaal, South Africa, to his sister Annie in Glasgow in 1902. Hector died in South Africa early in 1903 of fever – more of which shortly.

SAC Station
Draaifontein 278

My dear sister,

Received your welcome Letter, glad to see you were well and also that you enjoyed yourself so well when on your holidays. Had a letter from home today and was glad to hear of Mother’s safe arrival and seems to have benefited a lot by her trip to the Western Highlands. I have not very much news to inform you in this letter, only I am keeping well in health. You will see by my above address that I am out on the Veldt again. As Police Stations are scattered all over the Country there are five Scotchmen with me on this station 4 of them belonging to Edinburgh. D Morrison is about 80 or 90 miles from me. I have not seem him for some time. But expecting to see him soon as I will ride half way say 40 or 50 miles to meet him as we are all provided with good horses and can do that distance in a short time.

Of course you must understand that we are quite different from Policemen at home. Altho’ it is peacetime we are all well armed the same as an ordinary regiment of Soldiers, when on duty. We cover a distance of 40 and 50 miles a day. So that shows you the amount of country have [to] go through.

I had a letter from John Macaulay. He is in Pretoria. He is leaving for home shortly. Probably you will see him in Glasgow en route for Stornoway, as he is going straight home to see his Mother at last, so he tells me at any rate. I can see by his letters that he is getting a bit wiser thru Experience I expect, as he has seen a good deal of fighting since I saw him last in Fort George a good few years since. I was gong up to Pretoria to see him when I was ordered out to this isolated part of the Country. It is terrible lonely out here now only a few Dutch farmers and some natives (Black) here and there. The Boys that are with me here are fully intending to go home after their time expires. You would laugh to hear them talking at night about bonnie Scotland. We have nothing else to pass the time unless we play cards, draughts etc. So I can assure you it is very monotonous, especially to fellows that have been brought up to busy city life, and now in a Wilderness, I may say, for all we see of human life.

Well Annie I am not certain yet as to what steps I will take after my 3 years are up in the Country. That is if I am spared and good health. I would like to be stay in this Country for some time altho’ there is not very much to profit by it, no more than if a fellow had a decent situation at home. I do not fancy the Country or climate. It is far too hot even in the Winter time far less Summer here. But the nights are beastly cold, say for instance at night sometimes we require 3 or four coats on us to keep us anything like warm, and thro’ the day if I could bear the heat of the sun I could go about naked. Anyhow I would like to go home and see Mother once more. I have not heard from Malcolm or Peter for a long time, as for Kenny I do not know whether he is dead or alive or where he is.

Well Annie, seeing they are so careless about writing to me, I can just simply return the compliments. But I know if they had the slightest idea of the Loneliness and desolation of this Wilderness where we are stationed they would have an idea how a letter is appreciated and accepted, when it comes to a place of this kind. I think I only received 2 of the newspapers you sent me. Of course, could not rely or expect anything else in time of war, but now it is different.

I have not very much more to say. Remember me kindly to Hector Barnet & Co. I hope he is getting on well. What is he doing?

I wonder if David his Brother ever got my letter which I sent him last January or thereabouts. If he did he never answered it. However it does not matter much. Remember me kindly to them all. Both married and otherwise.

One of the nicest letters I receive is from Jessie Menzies. I always look forward with pleasure to one from Jessie, she gives me much news and writes in such a nice old fashioned style.

Sorry to hear about Mary Mackay’s death. Is the Notorious Hannah in Glasgow. I never seen since she was running about our house at home. Did you ever see Norman Maciver since he came to Glasgow. Give me all news when you write. Send me Hector Barnett’s address, I will write him. I thought he was somewhere near your place. I knew his handwriting on one of the letters I received some time ago.

Write per return. Let me know all news. How is Malcolm’s wife getting on. Also let me know about — Concluding with best love

From your aff. Brother