Nr 41

Juni 1997


Redaktör: Olof Cronberg, Södra Järnvägsg. 21 A, 352 34 Växjö

Swedish Land Surveyor In Natal

August Hammar (1856-1931)

August was the eldest son of Elin Jakobina Ask and August Hammar, a grand-son of Maria Lovisa Hjelms. Born in Lund in 1856, he was educated at the Helsingborg High School and matriculated in June 1874. He then entered the Helsingborg Teknologiska Institutet, and graduated as a civil engineer in 1877 with a distinction in mathematics and was awarded the George Medal. One of his summer vacations was spent as a pupil engineer during the construction of the railway between Landskrona and Ängelholm.

To South Africa
A year later he decided to emigrate to the British colony of Natal in South Africa. Writing to his parents on 13 October 1878 from London, he said "On 15 October I am embarking on the steamer Balmoral Castle, a sturdy boat of almost 3000 tons, leaving from the West India Docks". Then in a letter in November he referred to the impending clash between British and Zulu forces: "... when I came to Durban, I found the situation very bad ... it would cost 15 to 20 pounds to go to Potchefstroom by post cart, carrying just a night bag. Even by ox wagon would be beyond means ... I couldn't stay in Port Natal (Durban) as I had not a penny ... after much discussion I decided to go first to Oskarsberg ..." (the Swedich Church Mission near Rorke's Drift in Northern Natal, under the Rev. Otto Witt). August walked 270 miles with an injured leg, and was met by Otto Witt. August wrote: "Otto said 'Greetings! August' ..... he had received notification of my arrival .... we mounted horses and immediately galloped to Oskarsberg ..... we made 20 kilometres in one and a half hours."

The imminent outbreak of hostilities between British and Zulu armies forced the Swedish family to abandon the mission at Rorke's Drift and August made his own way into the nearby hills. On 22 January 1879, he observed the activity of the Battle of Isandhlwana at a distance of five to six miles. This battle was one of the greatest defeats of the British army. Whilst trying to return to the Mission, he was cut off by a Zulu impi (regiment) and spent the night in the hills watching the epic resistance of the British forces at Rorke's Drift. Thus August Hammar on his arrival in Natal was unexpectedly connected with major events in its history. He sketched the scene of the battle at Isandlawana, and later the scene of the death of the French Prince Imperial in June 1879. This painting was later sent to his mother Empress Eugenie, the widow of Louis Napoleon. August became a member of Baker's Horse, a volunteer mounted regiment, and was with them in July 1879 at the defeat of the Zulu armies at Ulundi in Zululand.

After the Zulu war, August decided on a career of surveying, and trained with a surveyor in Verulam, Natal. In 1881 he practised as a surveyor and in 1883 he purchased a small farm near Rorke's Drift, from which he continued his practice. There he met a Dr Aurel Schultz. Together they planned a journey northwards to the Victoria Falls and then westwards to the Okavango marshlands. They left Dundee in Natal on 2 March 1884 on foot, with their baggage in a two-wheel ox cart. August's equipment included a sextant, artificial horizon, magnetic compass, thermometers and the only naval chronometer available in Natal at the time (this chronometer when last tested in January 1997 still kept very good time, with an accuracy of 0.3 seconds per day!). Over the next ten and a half months, they walked about 2,700 miles (4,300 km), visiting the Victoria Falls (about 20 years after Livingstone's discovery) and the origins of the Chobe River. August's detailed maps of the region were the first to be made of this part of Africa, and his drawings and paintings were used to illustrate "The New Africa" (Schultz & Hammar, Heinemann 1888). August resumed his surveying practice in early 1885.

In July 1886, he married Elizabeth Lamb, daughter of an Englishman who had arrived in Port Natal in 1860. Their first daughter Elin was born at Rorke's Drift in 1887. The family then moved to Pietermaritzburg, the capital of Natal, and two sons, Holger and Augustus, and their second daughter Elsie, were born there in 1888, 1890 and 1892 respectively.

In 1890, August was appointed as Government Surveyor, and over the next 25 years was responsible for most of the primary and secondary surveying of Natal. This included the politically important survey of the Zululand-Transvaal boundary during 1893. In 1910 he collaborated with the British Navy in a survey of the coastline of Natal and Zululand. He retired on pension in about 1922, but was still active in surveying for much of the rest of his life. His contribution to the surveying of Natal is well documented, as is his training of young surveyors in Southern Africa. As an indication of August's dedication to his profession, it is recorded that the then Surveyor General named a farm between Durban and Pietermaritzburg "Hammarsdale"; today it is an important industrial area.

Contact with Sweden
During the Anglo-Boer war (1897-1901), his younger brother Josef, a doctor attached to the Swedish Red Cross mission to the Boer army, was able to meet August briefly in South Africa. Josef was a member of the party sent to look for traces of Andre's ill-fated expedition to the North Pole by balloon in 1905; Josef sent some mementoes of this trip to his brother August, including a polar bear skin with mounted head, which was later exhibited for many years in the Natal Museum in Pietermaritzburg.

In 1901, August made his only return visit to Sweden, travelling by ship up the East coast of Africa through the Suez Canal to Italy, and then by train to Sweden. His parents had moved to Nosaby near Kristianstad, where his father August was now the priest. On his arrival, August wrote to his wife in Pietermaritzburg: "My dearest Liz ... my reception was the heartiest you can imagine ... I have never seen such a pleasant home as that of my parents ...". He met most of the members of his family during this visit, including Josef, his sisters Bina and Eva, and their families. This was his last direct contact with his family in Sweden, for his father and mother died in 1905 and 1911 respectively.

Apart from his career as a surveyor, August is best remembered as an accomplished landscape artist. He started painting, using water colours and oils, as a young man in Sweden, and he continued producing outstanding paintings right up until 1930. His early paintings were of the landscape of Northern Natal during the Zulu wars; then there was the series painted during his journey to Central Africa with Schultz; these were followed by a large number of paintings devoted to central Natal and the coast. All his paintings are in the hands of the family, apart from one he gave to his pupil James Steere. He was very retiring in nature, and refused to exhibit his paintings. However during his absence in Sweden in 1901, his wife Elisabeth exhibited four of her husband's paintings in Pietermaritzburg, under the name of "Mr Dauber"; these paintings took the first four prizes! August was an accomplished landscape photographer as well; unfortunately most of the negatives have been lost and his photographs survive mainly in family albums, in South Africa and Sweden.

August's Family
His work of a surveyor in distant parts of Natal kept him away from home for months at a time, and his wife Elisabeth was the one responsible for bringing up the four children who went to school in Pietermaritzburg. Once Holger, Augustus and Elsie had left home, Elisabeth and daughter Elin continued living at 441 Burger Street in Pietermaritzburg. Elisabeth died in Pietermaritzburg in 1927, and August, still actively surveying and looking after Holger's farm in Zululand, developed pneumonia. He died in Empangeni hospital in 1931 at the age of 75 years, and lies buried next to his wife Elisabeth in Pietermaritzburg.

August's Descendants
August and Elizabeth had four children and 7 grand-children while they were still alive. Since then, 17 great grandchildren, 15 great great grandchildren and one great great great grandchild have been born.

Elin (1888-1951)
In 1908, Elin paid a visit to Sweden, staying with her aunt Bina in Strömstad. After her parents' deaths, Elin continued living in the family home. She was Secretary of the Royal Agricultural Society, a position she held until the mid-1940's. She was also a champion bridge player, representing Pietermaritzburg in the British Commonwealth Bridge Tournaments. She died in 1951, a well-loved figure in Pietermaritzburg.

Holger (1889-1971)
After attending school in Pietermaritzburg, Holger qualified as a Mining Engineer at the Rand School of Mines in Johannesburg. As a veteran of the 1914-1918 war, he was able to purchase a farm at Hluhluwe in Zululand, but his work in the gold mining industry, most of it as a senior mine manager, kept him from farming. In 1919, he married Jessie Ross, and they had two daughters, Elin and Margaret, born in 1920 and 1924 respectively. When he retired from mining, Holger and Jessie lived on the farm at Hluhluwe in Zululand and he was active in cattle farming until his death in 1971. Jessie survived him another 7 years. Their daughter Elin qualified in medicine, and in 1943 married Derrick Morris, also a doctor. They have four children. Margaret married Derrick's brother Bruce Morris, and together they farmed in Natal. Bruce played a leading role in the sugar industry but died in 1983. Two of their three children still survive and Margaret continues farming.

Augustus (1890-1955)
After serving in the first world war, "Gus" took up sugar farming near Empangeni in Zululand. He was awarded the Humane Society medal for rescuing people during a severe flood. In 1918 he married Dorothy Groom; they had two sons Jack and Jim, and a daughter Elizabeth. The sons both took up farming with their father, but Jack died in 1951 and Jim continued farming after Gus' death in 1955. Jim married Eileen Paine in 1954, and they had two children. His sister Elisabeth, married to Michael Lester, also has two children. Gus was a very popular man, loved by his family and friends.

Elsie (1892-1963)
She taught art at a school in Durban during the first World War while she was engaged to marry Colin Hathorn but they were only able to marry after his return from the war. They spent their whole life dairy and citrus farming near Pietermaritzburg. After Colin's death in 1959, Elsie moved to Pietermaritzburg. Elsie made her first visit to Sweden in 1962, and celebrated her 70th birthday there at a large gathering of the Hammar family in Stockholm. Elsie and Colin had two sons, Michael and Fergus. Michael, now a retired doctor, lives with his wife Margaret in London. They are survived by two of their four children. Fergus after qualifying as an animal scientist (zootechnologist) worked on Elsie and Colin's farm. He then lectured at an agricultural college and later became an executive in the dairy industry. He and his wife Jane-Eve live in Elsie's old home in Pietermaritzburg in their retirement. They have a son and daughter.

Contacts with Sweden
The first contact with the family in Sweden after Elin's visit in 1908 was in 1935, when Josef's elder son Frank passed through South Africa while escaping the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. This was followed a year later by a visit to South Africa by Gösta, Josef's younger son. Since then many members of August's family have been to Sweden, visiting Josef's family and descendants, and Eva's daughter, Elsa af Sillén. There is good and regular contact between August's and Josef's descendants.

In 1989, an exhibition of August Hammar's paintings was held in the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg. These artworks were lent by South African members of the family. The catalogue contains details of most of his large output of water-colour and oil paintings. In her opening address, an art historian commented " ... his subject matter is the botanical and geographical marvel of a Natal untouched as yet by freeways, structures or the industrializing hand of man ... light and structure were probably the phenomena Hammar responded to most as an artist ... an effect of loveliness is given to the topographical record".

August's younger brother Josef and his descendants, also had close connections with Africa; but this is another story, and could be the subject of a future article in the family newsletter Hjelmaren.

Michael Hathorn, with the assistance of Jane-Eve and Fergus Hathorn, and Olof Hammar


Att studera släktboken kan ge många intressanta upplysningar, rent bortsett från torra fakta om födslar, giftermål och dödsfall. I Hjelmaren har vi tidigare redogjort för ättlingar som uppnått ovanligt hög ålder, senast i samband med Ingeborg Tegnérs bortgång i fjol i en ålder av 103 år. I det sammanhanget kan det vara värt att notera att den äldsta manliga ättlingen troligen är Gösta Richert, som avled 21 oktober 1987 i en ålder av 98 år och 10 månader.

Lovisa Maria Hjelm födde själv 14 barn i sina två äktenskap, men endast nio av dem nådde vuxen ålder. Hennes son Johan Peter af Billbergh gav upphov till lika många barn i sina båda äktenskap. Tre av dem dog som spädbarn. En sentida ättling av släktgrenen Kinberg, Jan Richert, har emellertid slagit detta rekord; i sina tre äktenskap har han givit upphov till inte mindre än 15 ättlingar, den senaste född 1 januari 1996. Samtliga lever.

Att kvinnor ibland kan förekomma i släktboken med barn utan att fadern redovisas torde väl numera inte överraska. Förr i tiden och även långt in på 1900-talet ansågs det inte comme-il-faut att ha barn utom äktenskapet. Mera anmärkningsvärt är väl då att geologen, fil. dr. Olof Holst, som avled ogift 1918, rapporteras som fader till två flickor: Hanna och Anna. Någon moder till flickorna finns inte angiven. Hanna Holst blev för övrigt en av de få, som uppnådde 100-årsåldern.

Ett rekord av mer makabert slag är det som drabbade familjen Schönherrs dotter Maria von Utfall och hennes barn. Maria Schönherr, som gifte sig med Johan von Utfall, dog samma dag (29/1 1833) som hon gav livet åt sitt andra barn, som också fick namnet Maria. Men olyckan förföljde denna andra Maria. Hon gifte sig 1849 som 16-åring med den nye godsägaren på Schönherrs Sparresäter, Victor Renström. I september-oktober 1857, då hon redan fött fembarn, avled plötsligt fyra av dem med endast några dagars mellanrum. Ytterligare tre av deras barn avled senare i späd ålder. Vilken tragedi!

I fråga om yrken ger släktboken ofta ganska knapphändiga upplysningar, i synnerhet när det gäller de senaste generationerna. Bland tidigare generationer är det lätt att hitta ättlingar med lärda titlar (dr, professor, läkare osv.) eller med prestigefyllda befattningar (statsråd, ambassadörer, biskop, verkställande direktör mm.) I samtliga fall år det då fråga om män.

Titlar vi emellertid på de senast generationer, de som presenterats i supplementet till släktboken, finner vi åtskilliga exempel på kvinnor, som innehar betydelsefulla yrken och titlar. Så t.ex. finner man minst fem kvinnor med högre akademiska titlar: Margareta Blombäck, f. Wetter ( professor i medicin), Elisabet Hidemark f. Stavenow (docent, intendent Nordiska museet), Birgit Krantz, f. Hjertén ( professor i arkitektur), Elisabeth Hammar (docent i franska), Helena Hemming-Straume (dr i medicinsk vetenskap). Sverige fick sin första kvinnliga professor så sent som 1945 (Karin Kock, nationalekonomi). Två av våra ättlingar har innehaft poster i regeringen, nämligen Hedda Lindahl f. Richert, sjukvårdsminister 1978-79 (i Ola Ullstens ministär) och Ann Wibble f. Ohlin, finansminister 1991-94 (i Carl Bildts ministär).

För säkerhets skull ska här framhållas att uppgifterna ovan inte är heltäckande. Det kan sålunda inträffa att det finns ytterligare personer som borde ha omnämnts i de olika rapporterade fallen, ytterligare någon 100-åring, ytterligare någon kvinnlig professor, etc., men som vi saknar information om.

Hans-Georg Lindgren


Denna sida är sammanställd av Olof Cronberg 980628.