Memoir on Arrest and Deportation

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A few quiet days at Charlton House were most soothing after the "Sturm und Drang" of these varied months. Great was the love and sympathy awaiting me there. But it could not be for long. I was whirled round and round continually, needing to return to London for interviews.

While North, Lady Ripon invited me to spend a few days with them at Studley Royal and much I enjoyed that repose, the beauty of Fountain Abbey and above all the advantage of long quiet talks with Lord Ripon.

It was after very full discussions with him that I decided to return to the Cape Colony - not of course to the camps, which had been prohibited, but to continue another branch of the work about which the letters from the Cape were continually arriving. This was the condition of the deportees, of whom many were in the coast town: Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town itself. They were in sore need of hep. In addition, I had been urged both form Africa and England to take up the cause of the British Refugees and I was ready to investigate their need, though many "on the spot" had assured me further help was not required.

Lord Ripon was fully in accord with this outline of work, but Lord Ripon knew geography and did not conclude , as so many did, that going to South Africa necessarily meant going to the camps. Lady Ripon, too, kindly furnished me with a letter to Lady Hely-Hutchinson. Consequently I made preparations to start early in October.

Having definitely decided upon my journey and having found acquiescence in it from a number of my best advisers, I cut short my visit to Studley Royal and hurried to London for final arrangements. Being much out of health I longed got the rest of my voyage and for the sunshine of the cape. But it seemed prudent to take a companion and I did so in the shape of a young and capable nurse, Miss Philips, whose skill would later, i felt for sure, be of utmost value in the shortage of nurses throughout the country. She had been recommended to me by Mrs. Barnett when I discussed the matter with her and Canon Barnett at Bristol

We sailed on the "Avondale Castle", an intermediate slow vessel, on 5 October. We had a terrible storm on the Bay, the Captain telling me it was my fault and that I was the Jonah! That was his little joke, with a spice in it. But we were fairly good friends. It was a dreary voyage and, far from resting me, made me very unwell. Doutless I was suffering from the strenuous work of the past year. The only intellectual companionship was that of Miss Steedman on her was to become Principal of the Bloemfontein School for Girls.

I had been very much in the limelight and, needing to rest and quiet, had taken pains to keep my journey unknown and to this end had secured the promise of the Union Castle Company to omit my name for the passenger list. I was therefore the more surprised that my movements were known and arrangements had been made to arrest me. Not till much later did i learn that a busybody journalist had got wind of it and published the fact in a London paper. His woeful ignorance of what is possible under martial law made him believe and publish that i was going back to the "camps." As already stated the Government had definitely refused permission and i should never have dreamed of anything so undignified as attempting to go behind that prohibition even had it been possible, which, with martial law in control throughout the interior, it was certainly was not."


41. To Leonard Hobhouse[edit]

"S.S Avondale Castle, Table Bay"

29 October 1901

There seems much to tell of feelings and experiences if not of facts since our arrival here on sunday, the 27th. We dropped anchor as the clock struck 4 p.m., and we were all dressed and ready to go ashore, ready with the readiness of those who has been 22 days at sea, grinding along with an asthmatic engine against strong currents and head winds. The tropics were very cold and we were all wrapped up to the tips of our noses. I never felt well all the way.

The only person of interest to me on board was Miss Steedman, late of Manchester School, going out to take Principalship of Bloefontein Dames Institute from which Miss Murray was deposed. Of her more anon.

All was calm and lovely as we glided into the Bay and our spirits were at boiling point. Of course we had to wait for pratique, but when the stream tug came out alongside of us I saw with horror the khaki in it and knew at once the worst to come.

They boarded us and the Officer sat in the smoking-room and proceeded to examine every single individual pf the 450 passengers. Our spirits sank. No possibility of going ashore that night and sorrowfully we unpacked again. Presently it came to my turn, and then the Officer, one Lieutenant Lingham, when he had digested my name, informed me that he would prefer taking me at the very end of all. From this i augured no good, but i bowed and withdrew, still expecting only a more detailed and searching examination.

It was a long buissness. Not till the dinner bell rang did he come to me and say he wished to speak to me. Crowds of people were everywhere and there was no quare inch of quietness. I took him to the Captain;s cabin, for I had an instinctive turning to the Captain at the moment as the only man to stand by me. He welcomed us in and was himself withdrawing when the Officer stopped him saying that the matter concerned him also. He, Lingham, then turned to me and informed me I was placed under arrest, that i shouldnt not be allowed to land in South Africa "anywhere," and that I was to hold no communication with anyone on shore by word or leter. I drew up and asked him from whom he had recieved such an order, and he replied from colonel Cooper, Military Commander of Cape town. I further asked from whom did the Colonel revieve such instructions, and he replied he could say no more. Then he turned to the Captain, who looked horridly misreable, for we are very good friends, and said I was placed in hid charge and he would be held responsible for me. He was to ee I did not leave the ship nor hold communication with anyone.

Next he gave me the alternative of returning home by the "Carisbrooke" on the Wednesday or the remaining where I was. I replied that to return by the "Carisbrooke" was out of question fir I felt the wholly unfit for another long voyage. I then asked if he would tak letters for me to the Commandant and the Governor, etc. and this he agreed to, promising to call for them when he came to finish the ship in the morning.

Although I kept my head fairly well, but I was so taken aback that i could hardly at the moment think what it was best to do. Then I had to keep up and walk down to dinner calm and unconcerned, though through the Purser the news had flashed through the ship in a second. however, I was just able to chatter merrily all dinner-time, and then after I went and poured myself out to Miss Steedma. Shewas intensly astonighed and angry and truly sympathized - a good type, of the average english view that we are all right and everything is going pretty well, this was her first lesson in the sort of things really being done in South Africa, and she was horrified. We had made great friends and though she had before embarking had the usual newspaper view of me, she had been quite turned round to see and understand me as I am.

With her help I write four letters - to Milner, Kitchener, Hely-Hutchinson and Colonel Cooper. I will try to send you copies of these and the replies as I recieve them. She agreed with me that it was my duty to stay and fight the point and that it would never do to turn round and meekly obey them by going home.

All night I lay awake shuddering from head to foot with the effects of the shock, for oddly enough it was a shock and unexpected in that form. Then i began to see my way and brace myself to the battle.

I shall be very polite, very dignified, but in every way I possibly can a thorn in the flesh to them. I see already many ways of being a thorn. For instance, "they" don't want it much talked of in Cape town and i mean it shall be. We are to move into dock as soon as the gal subsides and I shall at once demand a guard; partly because it is ectremly disagreeable for Captan Brown to be my goaler, and partly that the guard is their witness that I keep the rulers laid down. Most of all because I understand they don't want to do it because of making it conspicuous. I know soldiers hate garding wemoen. I also mean to refuse to return to England until such time as myself willing and able, unless of course they send me under force of arms. I shall not move a limb in that direction. If the "Avondale" unloads immediately she will be able to continue her voyage in ten days' time and then they must find another prison for me.

I have already petitioed all the authoritiesfor "land" prison; rocking out here in the cold is awful and I cannot sleep.

It would be too ludicrous if it were not for the great tragedy of which it is one little outcome. Anyhow I think they will find me a bore, polite but a ore, before we have done. I felt happier when i had made up my mind what course to steer. The Captain who, though by no means a political sympathizer, likes me personally, is acting most courteously in a trying position. He is very angry and thinks it a great cheek of them to have used his ship as a prison and himself a goaler.

Remember, of all this story you can publish just whatever you like, and more widely the better, I should think. I am hoping to send a packet home by the oficers of this ship to be posted in England. Nurse says they will do it, for one immediate results of the affair has been that evertone who avoided or disapproved of me before has now turned round in my favor.

The first day of my imprisionment seemed very long. It was exasperating to see all the others land and to stau out tossing oneself in the south-easter. So I began to sketch and did two little oils of Table Mountain anf the Lion's Head. I could not read. Today we were to habe gone into dick, but the gale was too strong, so I manages another sketch - a big panorama scene of the whole group of mountains. the wind was terrific, but I pinned my paper on the dock itself and did it lying down. the Captain calls me "Napoleon in St. Helena".

I bethough me today of the other cases of imprisonment in our family, but so far can only think of Hugh Hobhouse of Bristol, imprisoned for Quakerism about 1660, and of course old Bishio Trelawny. I wonder if 20 000 Englishmen "will know the reason why" about poor me! So today finding Macaulay in the library I read up wrinkles [sic] for me own guidance. And I found one at least. Those seven good on board this ship. It is 10/- a day. Here I see another way of being a bore. Also if they send me home, Government must pay my passage. I find that it is the rule of the Company in cases of undesirables who may not land. And so has ended my second day.

I forgot to say that i asked if Nurse might land and Lingham replied: "Probably, but she must be searched." Captain and I both laughed so at this, that he looked very silly. nurse is of course much put about, but though wishing to remain with me and "tend" me she has decided to remain in the Colony if I go home. This being so I do not like to injure her prospects by keeping her with me, and so having permission I shall send her ashore with a letter of introduction to Lady Hely-Hutchinson and she will also take Lady Ripon's letter to Lady H.-H. What I wish is that she should join forced with little Miss Aldis and that they should push their way together to the amps. The "Kinfauns Castle," on which vessel I believe she is, lies now alongside of us unable also to get into doc. How i felt for the poor girl when i saw the steam tug meet her and that Khaki Lingham board her. I wonder if they will let her land. I have told Nurse to get into touch with her through Rev. Dewdney Drew.

I shall miss Nurse very much. she will be a great stand-by. No more tonight. I am too weak in the hand to weild the pen any longer, I hope I may sleep tonight, but if you could only hear the wind; it is like great guns going off.

With Love. E. Hobhouse.[1]


  1. Hobhouse, Emily. Boer War Letters: Arrest and Deportation. Ed. Ryker Van Reener. Capetown: Human & Russeau. 1984. p.137-142