Lost treasure leads to neighbour’s sudden wealth Print E-mail
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Saturday, 11 December 2021 10:34
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Rob Milne, battlefield guide at Diamond Hill, is a source of anecdotes about the Battle of Diamond Hill and the entire Anglo Boer War. He read Philippé Otto’s story about her grandfather’s lost treasure and her lifelong experiences with ghosts in ‘Eeu-lange soektog na goue ponde in Platberg se arms’ in The Bronberger’s July edition. Here Rob tells us his own tale about a lost treasure.

Rob Milne

What a fascinating “spookstorie” about the house in Donkerhoek told by such an interesting person. I would love to locate the house and see whether the doors still open on their own.

It will also be interesting to locate the grave of the unknown child found under the floorboards. I had a similar experience in the 1980’s when I bought one of the oldest houses in Roodepoort North – lots of interesting stories to tell you about the disturbances.

The Welshman’s farmhouse soon after he died and floorboards inside were ripped up
Source: Rob Milne

Fortunately, we found that the foundations were sinking and managed to get out of the sale after living there for three months. Before we moved, I went down into the cellar and found a rough brick wall built under one of the rooms. There was a small gap at the top, but I was too “spooked” to investigate as the whole space felt ice cold and creepy.

An old couple in the area told me that a big woman (always dressed in black) had lived in the house for many years and was invariably standing in the garden late at night rattling her bead necklace. We were always woken around midnight by the rattling of beads!

The couple also told us that the woman’s husband had mysteriously disappeared and was never found. I am relieved that I never investigated what was behind the rough wall in the cellar.

The wrecked train
Source: Rob Milne

Regarding the lost saddlebag filled with gold sovereigns on Platberg, I came across a similar story near Greylingstad. Between writing the first edition of ‘Anecdotes of the Anglo-Boer War’ and the second edition, I solved the mystery of the missing gold sovereigns taken from the British paymaster’s safe and how they were re-discovered.

Farmers keep quiet about their discoveries and that even extends to their neighbours. Fortunately, just before I finished writing the second edition, my good friend Ferdie had a glass of wine too many and told me how it was found in the 1960’s.

Photos of the wrecked train were taken by a Scottish Rifles officer who was
garrisoned at Greylingstad in 1901
Source: Rob Milne

Two Boers are thought to have stolen the British paymaster’s gold from the guard’s van of the train wrecked near Greylingstad on 13 February 1901. One was killed, and the other hid the gold in an ant bear hole. When he returned to fetch the gold, he could not find it and, in spite of many treasure hunts for nearly a hundred years, it was always thought to be undisturbed.

My late good friend Ferdie Coetsee had owned a farm near Greylingstad for over 70 years, and he told the story of how his neighbour suddenly and unaccountably became fabulously wealthy.

Soldiers of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) at Greylingstad Train Station
Photo: Pinterest - (T.Roy)

Names are not mentioned, of course, as this is a matter of etiquette for the old-fashioned Transvaal farmer. I shall call the neighbour “the Welshman”, for that he was. The Welshman immigrated to South Africa after the Second World War and, single and penniless, bought a state-owned farm near Greylingstad on terms and at the special price offered by the government of the day.

His farmhouse was very old, having once served as a coach house for the coaches that travelled from Durban to Johannesburg before the railway was built. He obtained loans from the Department of Agriculture to buy a tractor and plough as well as seeds, fertilizer, and a few cows. The Welshman’s income was low, and his commitments were high. Ferdie’s late mother in law took pity on him and bought milk from her neighbour, as well as having him over for supper every night for over 20 years.

Front: 1900 Great Britain One Sovereign
Gold Coin
Photo: ebay.com

Back: 1900 Great Britain One Sovereign
Gold Coin
Photo: ebay.com

In the late 1960’s the poor struggling Welshman suddenly became unaccountably rich and bought a herd of Friesland cows, a milking machine, a refrigeration tank, and a couple of tractors, as well as building a new stable and milking shed. Ferdie immediately became suspicious that the Welshman was getting the money from his mother in law but was able to verify that this was not the case, as Ferdie used to complete her tax returns.

Some years later the Welshman’s staff found his tractor and hay baler running driverless through the veld and they managed to stop it and called Ferdie to help. He back-tracked along the mown path and found his neighbour lying dead in a ditch. It appears that the Welshman had suffered a heart attack and fallen forward under the mower blade.

Rob Milne

Ferdie subsequently bought the farm for his son, John, and was asked to check that everything was in order at the house just after John’s wedding in the town. Ferdie found to his surprise that the house had been broken into and, in the one room where there were floorboards, he found a hole in the floorboards in a corner of the room.

So, how did the Welshman suddenly become wealthy, and why the hole in the floorboards? All that Ferdie would tell me on the subject was: “It seemed to me that someone else knew about the British paymaster’s gold”.

Ferdie was, after all, a gentleman farmer and an ex Air Force officer who would not welsh on a Welshman!

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