When my wife and I first visited in 2006 I bought a copy of “St. Helena: The Forgotten Island”. This is a reprint, produced on behalf of The Museum of St. Helena, of an article by Quentin Keynes published in the National Geographic Magazine in August 1950 and includes some photographs not selected for the original article. In the booklet are biographical notes, by his nephew Simon, describing the development of Quentin’s attachment to the island. Helped by the purchase, in March 1951, of Philip Gosse’s collection of books on St. Helena he eventually owned what he believed must be one of the largest collections in the world of rare and early books and pamphlets on this interesting place. Simon opines that he no doubt felt a connection with St. Helena through his maternal great-grandfather, Charles Darwin, who had visited on the homeward voyage of the Beagle in 1836. He describes Quentin’s first visit in January 1949 as “the fulfilment of a boyhood dream and the start of a man’s career” and I am grateful to Simon for allowing me to use, from the article, the picture and text below.
Beside a Muzzle-loader Stands the Last Boer Prisoner.
Although he was soon liberated, 75-year old Charles Smith liked St. Helena so much he has left it but once since he was brought here by the British from South Africa.
On his second day ashore Quentin climbed the 699 steps of Jacob’s Ladder, taking “a panting 15 minutes,” an exertion he thought worthwhile because:
”up on the fort stood a very interesting old man: Charles Smith, 75, St. Helena’s last surviving Boer War prisoner He was captured by the British in South Africa and had been shipped along with the Boer general, Piet Cronje and 512 other captives to this island which had already been the rocky cell for another distinguished man of action. He told us he had been liberated in 1903, but that, liking his insular prison, he had elected to stay there forever. He had married a native and for many years had run a bakery. Only once had he ventured into the outside world, and that was in 1912 when he travelled to Durban to see his ailing mother.”
Is it possible that someone with access to the St. Helena BMD Records could tell me when he died?
Note: Cronje and 514 (Jackson) prisoners arrived at Jamestown on HMS Niobe the 11th April 1900.
St. Helena: The Forgotten Island ISBN 0 906919 21 5, Baldwin’s London, 2005