Diaries and Reminiscences

Several members of the family kept a diary or journal at some point in their lives. The earliest is Caroline Molteno’s which she started in 1868, aged fifteen. Her elder sister, Betty Molteno, also kept a journal at various times, both as a young girl and in old age. Their sister in law, Lil Sandeman, wrote a daily record of her visit to the Cape in 1905-06; it was during this seven-month trip that she met Wallace Molteno and got engaged.  And Caroline’s son, Dr Kenah Murray, kept an evocative and historically valuable daily account of the four years he spent as a doctor with the South African Medical Corps during the First World War.

Other relatives wrote down their memories and impressions towards the end of their lives. Sir Robert Charles Bristow, a greatgrandson of Mary Molteno, actually published a pamphlet privately, Memoir of the Bristow Family – with notes on the Family of Molteno of Milan and South Africa.  Some reminiscences, as well as extracts from letters, appeared in the Chronicle of the Family, 1913-1920.  It is worth remembering that a handful of members of the family wrote actual books  that were published. Some of these have now been digitised and can be seen on-line. To look at what exists, click on Books & Writings.  Finally, there are other diaries and reminiscences that have not yet been transcribed. These are either in private hands or stored in the Archives of the University of Cape Town Library.

Here is a list of Diaries and Reminiscences in the Molteno and related families that will eventually all be available to read on the website.

To make the diaries and reminiscences that are being reproduced on this website a bit more intelligible, I have constructed Sir John Charles Molteno’s Family. This is a list of all this children and grandchildren. These members of the first three generations of the South African Molteno family (including Sir John) are the main dramatis personae of these diaries and reminiscences.

Transcribing these handwritten accounts has been a big job, as you can imagine.  For each one, I have also written a short Introduction and have added explanatory footnotes (sometimes endnotes). You may find it helpful to read my Introduction to each Diary or Reminiscence first because it will tell you something of the life of the member of the family who wrote it and the interesting things you may find in the text itself. The only changes to the actual texts have been the insertion of subheadings for those who would like to flip through the text and get a sense of the ground covered.

Now available for you to read:   

Cynthia Payne — Growing up in East Griqualand — Recollections (pdf)

Lucy Molteno (nee Mitchell) – How I became a Woman Prospector (pdf)

Peter Gibbs — Prospecting with Mrs Lucy Molteno in Namaqualand and South West Africa, 1953 (pdf)

Lucy Molteno (nee Mitchell) — What a Strange Thing is Memory (pdf)

Caroline Murray (nee Molteno)  — Reminiscences of the Old Cape (pdf)

Kenah Murray’s War Diaries (1914-18) — Introduction and Table of Contents

Lil Sandeman, An Account of my first Journey to Africa, 1905-06 (pdf)

John Syme – Story of a South African Boy (pdf)

Carol Williamson (nee Molteno) — Reminiscences (pdf)

Sir Donald Currie’s Tour of South, 1887-88 — Diary of Maria Wisely (nee Currie) (pdf)