Boer War Page 13

Boer War Plates


Harry Macdonough (1871-1931) & John Bieling (d.1948):
"After They Gather the Hay" c 1902

You are listening to an original recording from c 1902, featuring two of Canada's very first recording artists, Harry Macdonough, and John Bieling, singing "After They Gather the Hay." Songs rooted firmly in Canada's rural traditions were popular during the Anglo-Boer War era, especially those that talked of being true while I am far away.

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Technical Note: To turn off this recording, use a hammer on the front of your monitor.


God Save the Queen
Plates were among the most affordable memorabilia available to the average person because they came in a wide variety of sizes and quality. The most plates, by far, featured Queen Victoria, who celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1887 (10 1/2" pressed glass plate above left). (Found in Timmins, ON) 

Pride in the might and power of Britain was reflected in this 1887 plate (above right). (Found in Kingston, ON)

The huge 11" plate (above) which pictured her palaces, celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1896 just three years before the Boer War broke out. (Found in Kingston, ON)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, labeled on this plate as "Premier of Canada", was knighted on that occasion in London, England, and soon had his own plate (left). (Found in Aberfoyle, ON)

The platter (left) listed the seven loyal provinces of Canada. Alberta and Saskatchewan were still known as the wild "North West Territories." 

This plate was found in Cambridge, ON.

Cannon Fodder

As the body count started to grow, new plates were struck to honour the achievements of artillerymen (right) on an 8" plate. (Found in Barrie, ON)

Other branches of the service were not forgotten. The 8" plate (above left), celebrated the courage of the Highlander, cavalryman, bugler and infantryman. (Found in Kingston, ON)

As the casualties mounted, the British Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain (right),  looked to the colonies to plug up the holes in the ranks of the British army.

Chamberlain, who wanted to use Canadian volunteers as simple cannon fodder, was surprised to find his intentions thwarted, when Prime Minister Laurier sent instead, complete Canadian units with Canadian officers.

(Small saucer made with cigar labels found in Cambridge, ON.) 

Victoria's Generals

During 1900 plates started appearing that celebrated Victoria and her leading generals.

This plate featured, in clockwise order from lower left, General Buller (first commander-in-chief), Lord Roberts (his successor), General French (who led the cavalry), General White (who was besieged in Ladysmith, Lord Kitchener (last commander-in-chief), and Lord Baden-Powell (the hero of Mafeking.)

General Buller VC, who had served in Canada during the Riel Rebellion, (four plates below), was the British Commander-in-chief during the opening months of the war, became the first to be honoured, even though he suffered devastating reverses and was soon replaced by Lord Roberts.

Lord Roberts, or "Bobs", as he was affectionately called, succeeded Buller, and presided over the most upbeat part of the war. So his face adorned more memorabilia than any other British general (six plates right and below).

(Plates found in Burlington, London, Belleville, and Toronto, ON)

Lord Kitchener was honoured with plates bearing his title of Sirdar (top right) when he won the Sudan War at the bloody Battle of Omdurman in 1897. (Found in London, ON)

When he replaced Roberts, ostensibly to do the mopping up operations, he became the third commander-in-chief in South Africa, and a flood of plates honored  him (above, right, below, found in Milton, ON)

One of the only other personalities to draw attention from plate makers was Robert Baden-Powell, the hero of the Siege of Mafeking, and later founder of the Boy Scouts. (below)

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Battle Plates

"The proudest moment of my life" wrote Hart McHarg, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, "June, 5, 1900, when I marched past Lord Roberts in the conquered capital of the Boers."

A plate was issued to celebrate the occasion which everyone believed was to be the victory to end the war. In fact the war went on for two more years. This 9 1/2" plate was found in Aberfoyle, ON.

Battle plates are rare and only found for the opening months of the war. As the guerrilla war developed, old-style, set-piece battles gave way to skirmishes and slash and burn tactics. Somehow war lost its heroic nature and plate makers did not memorialize these events.
Another plate was issued to celebrate the relief of Mafeking after being besieged by Boers for seven months. Canadians were instrumental in the success of the final attack which was delayed until the guns of the Royal Canadian Artillery had traveled 2,000 miles into the interior. (Found in St. Catharines, ON)
This rare plate memorialized "Bloody Sunday" at Paardeberg, Feb.18, 1900 (above and below). It was the worst day of casualties suffered by Canada's military in a hundred years. (Found in Truro, NS)

God Save the King

When Queen Victoria died in Jan. 1901 most of the war still lay ahead. Her son Edward VII and Queen Alexandra now graced ribbon plates (above) and bowls

This magnificent 11" blue flow bowl celebrated his coronation. But Edward was firm. He refused to be crowned until peace had been declared, winning the title of "The Peacemaker." (Found in Aberfoyle, ON)

The last of the Boer War celebrities to have a plate issued in his honour, was Lord Robert Baden-Powell of Gilwell when he was an old man, for his work in founding the international Boy Scout movement. 

The movement's uniforms and training were directly copied from his Boer War experiences. (Found in Pickering, ON)

With the war over, it was time to think of remembering the heroes who would never return home.

(below) The earliest souvenir plate we have ever seen with a Canadian theme (only 6"), was issued "In Memory of the South African Heroes" and showed the memorial erected in London, Ontario. It was made in Austria not long after the war. (Found in Paris, ON)


c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000