After the Police
Jagersfontein; Old Post Office at Aliwal North; Engcobo; Bluegumbush farm and Qwa Qwa massif at Witsieshoek.
YOU ARE HERE: Richard Walford Stevens – Isandlwana ► After the Police
Richard Walford left the police in May 1881 with the note on his NMP record stating, “Nice boy but too young to promote.” 10 He then embarked on a career that must be gleaned from public records because no family records survive. It can best be described as chequered. He moved widely across South Africa, mainly the North Eastern Cape and the Witwatersrand area undertaking a range of occupations, and eventually settled in the Free State on a farm near Kestell with his son and daughter-in-law. He clearly had good moments, but he also had run ins with his creditors, money lenders and the law.
His first move was to the diamond fields of Jagersfontein in July 1881. The attractions appear to have been retail rather than digging for diamonds. He and his ex-NMP colleague, Robert Shedden Green, established a general trading business, Stevens & Green, based at Koppiesfontein but mainly servicing the miners at Jagersfontein. Green had been one of the Rorke’s Drift defenders having been in hospital there at the time of the Zulu attack. He was wounded in the battle by what is described as a “spent round”. Stevens & Green unfortunately went bankrupt in 1883. 23 The accounts presented suggest that this was due to the insolvency of their main supplier, and creditor, with liquidators for that business seeking immediate payment of all outstanding amounts. Their experience is rather reminiscent of the experiences of his later wife’s uncle, Joshua Abraham Norton who went bankrupt supplying the Californian gold rush.
Green remained at Jagersfontein as a trader and was a member of the Town Guard during the Anglo Boer War. Richard Walford moved on, but when exactly is not known.
Aliwal North 1887
By 1887 he was in Aliwal North and joined the Frere Masonic Lodge there on 5 November 1887. 24 His occupation is recorded as “Articled Clerk” which suggests that he might have been seeking to utilise his legal training, modest though it probably was, and follow the family profession. The Lodge record does not provide any information about how long he was a member, but a few months later, on 5 June 1888, he married Catherine Selina Norton by License giving his occupation as “Shopkeeper.” 25 His legal aspirations don’t appear to have lasted long.
Catherine, or Kate, gave her occupation as “Farmer’s Daughter”. She was born on 9 May 1864 and baptised at the Dutch Reformed Church at Maclean as Catharina Louiza. 26 The family had clearly been living in the Aliwal North area some time prior to her marriage. Her father, Benjamin Norton, was recorded in the Voters Roll for Aliwal North in 1882 and she was confirmed into the Aliwal North Dutch Reformed Church in August 1883 with a note in the church record book to indicate that the service had been conducted half in English and half in Dutch because she was not sufficiently fluent in Dutch. 27 This was undoubtedly due to her having an English father and an Afrikaans mother. Her father, Benjamin Norton (1823-1894), was the son of Jewish 1820 Settlers who had converted to Christianity. He had met and married Kate’s mother, Aletta Maria Muller (1832-1910), while farming in the Glen Lynden district where Aletta Maria’s parents also farmed. They were an Afrikaans family with a pedigree back to 1656 at the Cape.
The young couple do not appear to have stayed at Aliwal North for long because they baptised their son, Arthur Partridge, born 1 September 1889, at a private ceremony in Johannesburg the following day. 28 He was clearly named after Richard Walford’s elder brother, but didn’t like his name and always referred to himself as Arthur Percival. Richard Walford’s occupation is given as “Clerk” and his and Kate’s place of residence as “Johannesburg.” One of the witnesses, Selby Charles Davey, was also a native of Witham, Essex so possibly a connection from the “old country”.
Richard Walford joined the Boksburg Masonic Lodge on 4 November 1902 with his residence shown as “Boksburg” and his occupation as “Accountant”, but he and Kate had been living in the area prior to this. 29
Kate’s Norton family was concentrated in this area. Six of her seven brothers farmed in the Boksburg/Elsburg area. Her three sisters lived in the area and were married to men involved in mining. Her widowed mother also farmed in the Elsburg area. Kate’s brothers and brothers-in-law were also members of the Boksburg Masonic lodge. Some memberships started from 1896.
Kate’s brother, Joshua Abraham, and her mother made claims for compensation after the Anglo Boer War for losses suffered due to the actions of Imperial Forces during the war. 30 31 The claim files contain extensive documentation with some referring to Kate and Richard Walford and some completed by them. It is clear from these documents that Richard Walford lived in the area during the Anglo Boer War, but was not a combatant.
Kate’s mother left her farm and went to Harrismith in September 1899 – ie just prior to hostilities. Kate fetched her in July 1900, when Boer forces in the area surrendered, and brought her back to live “in our house” on one of the Norton farms at Elsburg. They stayed in this house until December 1900 when they moved into Boksburg for safety and stayed there until December 1901 when they, once again, returned to the Elsburg farm. Richard Walford sent a letter dated 15 May 1902 to the compensation commission on Kate’s behalf using the Nortons’ Boksburg PO Box address, but would have been living on the farm.
Joshua Abraham Norton, farmed south of Boksburg and served in Colonial forces from September 1899 until July 1902. He submitted his compensation claim in January 1902. In it he indicated that Richard Walford had submitted an interim claim on his behalf from Boksburg sometime during 1901.
It seems quite possible that Richard Walford, Kate and Arthur could have lived in the Boksburg/Elsburg area from as early as 1889 or soon afterwards. It is not far from Johannesburg where Arthur was born.
Richard Walford was declared bankrupt in March 1909 at Butterworth. 32 The insolvency records provide some interesting insights into Richard Walford’s and Kate’s lifestyle and movements so are worth a little exploration.
The earliest transactions provided in support of claims are dated from March 1908, indicating that the Stevenses were living in Butterworth from at least that date. The records for the Boksburg Masonic Lodge show that he was “Excluded 31.12.06” which suggests that they might have moved to Butterworth in 1907.
A primary element in the insolvency was a shortfall in the accounts of the Transvaal Mines Labour Company for whom Richard Walford had been acting as agent and accountant. This was related to the recruitment of mine labourers in the Transkei area. There were claims for unpaid accommodation at Idutywa and Kentani, so Richard Walford was moving about the area. Ominously for later events, he was arrested and charged with Theft in relation to this shortfall because of questionable accounting, The Solicitor General declined to prosecute, stating:
In this case the Solicitor General declines to prosecute and remarks:-
“Whatever may have been the irregularities of the Accused in relation to conduct and bookkeeping I think that as regards criminal intent there is a reasonable doubt.”
The biggest contributor to the insolvency, however, was outstanding borrowings. Richard Walford had borrowed a lot of money via promissory notes, cash advances, and the payment of bills on his behalf from a number of people, including one who was clearly a money lender. He also had an overdraft with the Standard Bank.
There is then a long list of claims from butchers, bakers, tailors, other retailers and service providers from whom he obtained goods and services on credit. The stand-out claims are in relation to clothes. Richard Walford was clearly someone who liked to dress well. There are claims over the year for four suits , waistcoats (one described as “Fancy”), shoes, boots, shirts ,socks – and a fob watch. There are also claims for women’s clothing, boots and shoes and dressmaking material and supplies. They also spent a fair amount on furniture and drapery. All on credit.
There was also a debt of £60 to Marist Brothers, Uitenhage for “Educational Fees” – which the school ultimately did not pursue. This would suggest that Richard Walford had followed his father’s lead and sent his son to a private boarding school, but why he was sent all the way to Uitenhage is a puzzle when there were equivalent schools much closer to Butterworth and Boksburg.
One of the money lenders made an interesting claim in relation to Kate. He claimed that in February 1909 (ie immediately prior to the declaration of insolvency), Kate had offered some furniture to him in part payment of Richard Walford’s debts. She had claimed that this furniture was her own property being married Out of Community of Property, but it was later found that it was not her property.
The claims and proceedings paint a picture of a couple keen to maintain and present a certain standard of social standing and happy to borrow and contrive to realise this ambition. They lost all their household goods and accoutrements, but seem to have managed to keep their clothes. The insolvency was settled in September 1909 with creditors receiving a mere 11d in the £, but voting to allow Richard Walford to then resume trading.
Interestingly, at exactly this same time, Richard Walford’s brother, cricketer Charles Richard, was convicted at the Old Bailey in London for stealing some £21,000 from solicitor’s trust funds under his control. 33 He was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and died the following year at HM Prison Parkhurst, on the Isle of Wight.
Kate Stevens’s mother, Aletta Maria (Muller) Norton, died in September 1910. 34 Her estate was finally settled in 1912. Kate signed a receipt, date stamped Germiston, in May 1912 which suggests that she was there or travelled there for the purpose. She also signed a receipt, date stamped Germiston, in October 1912, but this is on the same page as an affidavit sworn before a Justice of the Peace in Queenstown in November 1912 stating that Richard’s second name was “Walford” and not “William” – a technicality related to the probate. It seems probable that Kate and Richard Walford were living in Queenstown at this stage and the date stamps of Germiston were just for convenience.
The next record we have of Richard Walford is of him rejoining the Masons via the Charles Blakeway Masonic Lodge at Engcobo on 20 May 1916 with his occupation given as “Agent”. 35 Engcobo lies 70km north of Butterworth and 100km east of Queenstown, in the Transkei region of South Africa, so it would seem that Richard Walford was continuing his involvement with labour hire for the mines. The masonic record shows his membership ticked off for the years 1916 to 1920 and with a note for 1921 stating “Excluded 3/6/21″. The record also indicates that he was not registered as a mason at the time of joining which would accord with him having left the Boksburg lodge in 1906.
Richard Walford and Kate were not, however, resident at Engcobo for the period 1916 to 1921 as the Masonic record might suggest because Richard Walford enlisted in the Union Defence Forces at Roberts’ Heights on 23 September 1918 stating his occupation as “Native Recruiter”. 36 This confirms that he did continue his labour hire activities from Butterworth at Engcobo. He would, therefore, have been engaged in this enterprise from c.1907, and his move to Butterworth, until his enlistment in 1918. On enlistment he joined the Camp Commandant’s Staff as a Private. He gave Kate’s address as Elsburg so she was back living amongst her family on one of the Norton farms. He understated his age by 10 years by claiming a year of birth of 1868 – undoubtedly to ensure recruitment. His medical three days earlier at Johannesburg passed him as fit and recorded some personal information that tells us something of his appearance:
|Age: 50 (incorrect)||Eyes: Grey|
|Complexion: Fresh||Hair: Grey|
|Height: 5’ 5¾” (167 cm)||Chest: 35” (89cm)|
|Marks: Tattoo of a rose on his right arm|
In April 1919 he was transferred from HQ Staff to become the Chief Clerk of the Dispersal Camp (handling demobilisations) and was promoted to the rank of Provisional Sergeant Major. He was discharged from this post at the end of November 1919 with his character noted as “Very Good” and immediately re-enlisted as a Private in the No. 1 Returned Soldiers Battalion, this time with his correct year of birth. He was ultimately discharged and demobilised on 13 February 1920. Kate was still shown as living at Elsburg. The only event recorded in his army record was two weeks spent in hospital because of dysentery from 22 November 1918.
Boksburg – Johannesburg – Witsieshoek 1925/1926
On 30 October 1925, Richard Walford, “Clerk”, was tried in the Transvaal Supreme Court, Johannesburg, for the theft of £264 from the Boksburg Benevolent Society. 37 He pleaded Guilty to this charge, but was released on his own recognizances for 12 months to give him the opportunity to repay the money. Despite being unable to do this, the judge at his sentencing hearing on 30 September 1926, released him without recording a conviction! The statement by Justice J. Krause, was:
Now, there is no object in sending you to prison; the State is not going to gain, and nobody is going to gain by that. And, seeing that you have been an honourable man in the past, I am going to put you on your honour, to see whether you will appreciate the leniency the Court will extend to you, by doing your level best, even in your declining years, to repair the wrong that you have done to others; in other words, however small the amount may be, or however long it may take you to repay the amount, that you will use every effort as an honourable individual to repay the money that you have illegally taken.
Now, in the circumstances which have been disclosed, no object can be served in postponing sentence any further. If I had suspended a sentence against you at the time, and passed a formal sentence, the effect would practically have been that at this time you would have been released from any further penalty. So I am going to discharge you with a caution, in terms of section 360(d) of the Criminal Procedure Act. This means that although you have pleaded guilty, there is no stain on your character; it acts practically as a free pardon. I do this because I rely upon your past honesty and trust you will, as an honourable man, try your level best in your declining years to repay the money that you have taken and to repair the wrong that you have done.
A surprising and undoubtedly welcome outcome – “Guilty” but no conviction recorded and no criminal record either! One can but wonder about the possible influence of masonic, public school and possibly military connections as a survivor of Isandlwana. How well would he have been received at NMP reunions had the judge not extended him this leniency? How keen would he have been to go?
The trial records and letters written by Richard Walford and others in support of his position expose his personal circumstances and provide a window into his life at that time. The charge sheet shows that the thefts took place between November 1923 and March 1925. He stated that he had been unemployed for over two years prior to this and that it was the debts he had incurred as a consequence that had induced him to steal the money. His creditors had been getting insistent and threatening action. His previous behaviour shows that borrowing money to maintain his lifestyle in the face of inadequate income would have been a default behaviour. The dates mean that he would have had little employment after leaving the army in February 1920.
After being released in 1925, he went to live with his son, Arthur, at Witsieshoek. He told the court that Arthur was farming a portion of his brother-in-law’s farm. This was Bluegumbush, a large farm that incorporated the majority of the impressive Qwa Qwa massif that dominates Witsieshoek (Phuthaditjhaba).
Bluegumbush and Witsieshoek are in the Harrismith district which is where court documents show him to have been arrested in May 1925, so he was probably also living with his son at that time. He was then incarcerated at Boksburg for 4½ months awaiting trial. The likely scenario is that he got out of Boksburg when the theft was discovered around March 1925, went to Witsieshoek and was arrested there a few months later. Staying in Boksburg amongst his wife’s extensive and well-connected family after being accused of theft from a local charity, would have been untenable.
Kate did not go to Witsieshoek with him. He made this clear in the letters he wrote to the court. He explained the position by saying, “My Wife, I am sorry to say has been compelled to seek employment to enable her to earn a living.” He returned to live with his son after his pardon in 1926, but there is nothing to indicate that she ever joined him there. Family stories talk of him living with the family, but do not mention her. Whilst it cannot be confirmed, it would appear that this was the end of their relationship.
By this stage, Richard Walford’s only remaining birth family were his brother, William, and his half-brother, Francis. He wrote to both of them seeking money to help him. Francis didn’t reply. William did and his letter provides an interesting insight into the Stevens’ family dynamics. The tone of William’s letter suggests that there had been little contact between them and that he was a bit annoyed to now be contacted because Ricard Walford needed money. He declined to help, pleading poverty, and, somewhat insultingly, sent a £1 Money Order:
My dear Dick
Thank you for your letter. Yes it is a long time since we have heard anything of one another. I can’t remember whether I answered your last letter but I think I did.
I am sorry to hear of your financial plight but hope that you will be able to get some permanent work soon though you are 67. Cannot Katie’s relatives do something for you who I am under the impression are large farmers. It is a great pity that you have had to part with her but I trust it will not be for long. What about your son Arthur? Can he not help you in some way? I only wish I could come to your rescue but that is quite out of the question as I have only quite a small income to live from & were it not that I have hitherto received donations from time to time from Lloyds Benevolent Fund [William was a retired Lloyds underwriter] I don’t know how I should have managed to have carried on. Even now I don’t know whether this assistance will be forthcoming next year. However I enclose Money Order for £1 – which is all I can spare.
This last wasn’t true. He died a few years later and his probate makes it clear that he could have easily afforded £264, and definitely a contribution well above £1! William’s comment about the Nortons being wealthy farmers was correct. They too could have easily covered the amount of the theft. The fact that they did not help reinforces the perception of estrangement between him and Kate.
There are no further records of Richard Walford’s employment after this. He settled on the farm in the Witsieshoek area and stayed with his son’s family for the rest of his life. There are, however, a number of references to him as an attendee at NMP and Isandlwana reunions – thanks to a generous judge.
This photo was published in the Natal Mercury of 15 July 1929 showing a number of the survivors in the 50th Anniversary year of the battle. 38
Richard Walford, quite nattily attired, seated left-front next to Charlie Sparks whose horse he released prematurely when they were both seeking to retreat from the donga on the fateful day. This must have been a pleasant surprise for Charlie Sparks who, when describing the release of the horses a few months earlier, had also indicated that Richard Walford had been killed when retreating to the camp. Yet, here he was.
A letter Richard Walford wrote to the editor of Nonqai (The Natal Mounted Police and Natal Police journal) in response to press coverage regarding the surviving escapees from Isandlwana was published in the November 1936 edition. This shows him living on his daughter-in-law’s farm, Solferino, between Kestell and Witsieshoek in the Orange Free State. His son’s family, with him in tow, had moved there at some stage from the farm they were farming at Witsieshoek in 1925, when Richard Walford first moved in with them:
Mr. R.W. STEVENS, of Solferino, O.F.S., writes: I noticed in the public press recently a paragraph headed: “Last Hero Dies: Isandhlwana Recalled,” in which it was stated that: “Believed to be the last survivor of the famous massacre of Isandhlwana in the Zulu War of 1879, Mr. Robert J.M. Kincaid has died, when nearly 80 years of age, in the Addington Hospital, Durban.” I am writing to inform you that I am one of the survivors of that awful massacre.
I was a Trumpeter in the Natal Mounted Police at the time, my regimental number being 254. Mr. Kincaid was also as a member of that Force, and, of course, I knew him very well. I was also with him at the Harding Station. You also mention Mr. Sparks. He, too, was a member of the Force.
I cannot remember precisely, but I think that only six or seven of our Force escaped out of 31, and we all made for Helpmakaar. Sparks, I know, rode on the same night for Greytown. We all met at Durban in July, 1929, to attend a banquet given in commemoration of the Zulu War 50 years ago. The Governor-General and a lot of other celebrities were present.
I have in my possession several very graphic accounts of the massacre and a full account of the banquet, showing also several groups of men who took part in the war.
In support of the statement Mr. Stevens attended recently the N.M.P. and N.P. Old Comrades’ Reunion at ‘fading away.’ He explained that the Sparks mentioned by him in his communique was the father of Capt. Sparks of Defence Headquarters, who is also an ex N.P.’ (Transcript provided by Cam Simpson)
Fellow Isandlwana survivors Robert Kincaid had died on 27 September 1935 and Charlie Sparks had died on 30 July 1935. He was wrong about his regimental number which was actually 256. The photographs and the accounts of the battle and the banquet to which her referred have not survived.
Isandlwana – Durban 1939
The March 1939 edition of Nonqai carried a report of the 60th Anniversary commemoration held on the battlefield on 22 January 1939. 39 The article contains a number of references to “R.W. Stevens of Kestell, OFS” as well as a photograph of him.
|Group of attendees with Zulu warrior.||In front of the memorial with others including Dugald Macphail two down to his right.|
We will come back to Richard Walford and Dugald Macphail. And there is also this photograph from the 1939 Reunion of the Natal Mounted Police & Natal Police. 40
Richard Walford sitting fourth from the left in the front row
This photograph of Richard Walford and Dugald Macphail was published in Volume 70 of The Springbok (the Journal of the South African Legion) in 1986. The photograph was provided to Ian Knight by the photographer, F.M. Lonsdale, with the statement that it was at a reunion in 1946. This was clearly incorrect as Dugald Macphail died in May 1941. The truncated caption is tantalising and frustrating. Where? When? And Dugald Macphail’s what?
After much investigation, Cam Simpson obtained a copy of the article at the Cape Town Library which clears up the questions. The missing portion of the caption indicates that they were renewing old acquaintances “at the formers Centenary (in 1946).” The date would have been 26 April 1940. Dugald Macphail farmed in the Dundee area. F.M. Lonsdale’s full article in The Springbok can be found here.
The February 1941 edition of Nonqai contained an article regarding the death on 9 June 1940 of William Dorehill who was also one of the nine NMP members to escape Isandlwana. 41 The article contained the following reference to Richard Walford, naming him as the last surviving of those escapees:
Major Dorehill died recently at the age of 82, and his passing has left only one of the eight Natal Mounted Police who escaped from the battle – Trumpeter Stevens, who lives at Kestel [this would have been on the farm Solferino] in the Orange Free State and who, at the time of Isandhlwana, was a lad of 17 years of age.
Richard Walford died on 8 November 1942 at Solferino of myocardial degeneration from which he had been suffering for some five years. 42 His death certificate shows him as a Military Pensioner and indicates that he was to be buried at Kestell. No grave has been found to date.
Natal Mercury 10 November 1942: 43
Catherine Selina “Kate” Norton died at Johannesburg on 19 September 1946. 44 Her death certificate shows that she was an Old Age Pensioner residing at Lyndhurst at the time. She was buried at the West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg. Her grave has only recently been located (16 January 2023). It is Plot EC/1280 and does not have a headstone.
©Alun Stevens 2023