Alexander Daly (1880-1942)

My aim in these postings is to bring to life some of the Daly family that went before. Some, like Roley Schikkerling, make it easy by writing a book about what they did – and his father ran a photographic studio that gave us access to the contemporary family images. Others are more difficult to track. Alec Daly is among them.

Alexander L’Amy (Alec) Daly was born in Potchefstroom, the ninth child of Ramsay Daly and Catharina Rocher. Ramsay went insolvent in 1892 when Alec was 12 years old. Two brothers just older than Alec had already died. Jacob Joachim died in Potchefstroom in 1885 aged fifteen. His name appears on a memorial wall where he is described as “Japie”.


Charles Zacharias (1891) died at nineteen in Observatory in Cape Town and earned a headstone.


Another brother, Rowland William died shortly after the family moved to Johannesburg. These traumatic events must have given the young man, Alec, a sad and disrupted youth. We know nothing of the educational opportunities offered to Alec. Later we find out that he knew enough French to become a court translator in that language but where he learnt it, we don’t know.

The next glimpse we have of Alec is when Roley Schikkerling, in his book Commando Courageous, describes sharing a blanket with him as they flee North after the British army takes Johannesburg and Pretoria. Clearly Alec was willing to fight but Roley writes him off as too incompetent even to saddle the right horse and therefore unfit for guerrilla warfare. We have no idea how Alec Daly negotiated this war and even the peace after the war. Somehow he must have acquired a legal training because he became an attorney and was registered as a Notary Public by the High Court of the Transvaal.

After the War, while some family members moved away, Alec stayed in Johannesburg where his parents and many other siblings and cousins were gathered. He never married. They were always a close family but Alec became the glue that held them together. They depended on him: he drew up wills, signed death certificates and settled estates. So, for example, Alec was present at each of his parents’ deaths at 28 Pretoria Street, Hospital Hill (now Hillbrow) where they lived close to their son Dr Ramsay Daly. The parents’ will named Alec as joint executor of his estate together with Dr Ramsay Daly. Two other brothers W.C.L and Fred Daly witnessed the will. Alec was named executor in the will of his uncle Dr Ramsay Daly, together with Ramsay’s wife, Mildred. Alec drew up the antenuptial contract for his cousin Edith Bramley Daly. Together with various other family members, Alec acted as sponsor for the baptism of his baby cousin, Vera Schikkerling.  For the first time in the family the women marry with antenuptial contracts and the documents shift from Dutch to careful legal Afrikaans. He must have assisted with the insolvencies that dogged at least two of his brothers, Ramsay and Jean.

As shown in the torn bit of envelope above, he corresponded with his nephew, another Ramsay Daly, who settled in the Limpopo region after the First World War. He provided long distance advice to this Ramsay and visited him there despite the remote location. Ramsay was clear, Alec was loved by the family.

Alec conducted all his correspondence in Afrikaans and his death certificate says he is an Afrikaner. He was a bibliophile and there are records of the many orders he sent to Europe for the purchase of books. In his will in 1927 he left his law books and his German, French and Dutch books to his executor, Advocate Dominicus van Hoytema. He leaves the remainder of his books to his cousin, Barbara Magdalena Newburg (nee Schikkerling) and his portraits and papers to his brother Friedrich. The remainder of his estate is divided between this brother, van Hoytema and his sister. She is the only one not living in Johannesburg at the time (Catharina Daly, wife of William Cradock, living in Durban).

In a codicil to his will Alec asks that, if his estate is not too small, his legatees should erect and maintain headstones on the graves of his two brothers, Wilhelm Carl Landsberg Daly, Rowland William Daly and his parents, all of whom are buried in Braamfontein Cemetery in Johannesburg. He suggests “grafskrifte” for these headstones.

For Rowland:

Gedienstig en getroud, vol lewenslust an sterwensmoed

For “pa en ma”

… die beminden, en die lieflijken in hun lewen, zijn ook in hunnen dood  niet gescheiden

(1 Samuel 1 23)


For his father:

His life was gentle, and the elements

So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up

And say to all the world, This was a man!

(Julius Caesar Act V Sc V)

And for his mother:

……………………… all dipt

In angel instincts, breathing Paradise.

(Tennyson: The Princess)

The suggested inscription for his brother William Carl is missing from my transcript.

We can see that Alec was a thoughtful and loving man. Why then did he not himself have these headstone erected? Perhaps the answer lies in a long illness before his death – the quote for his brother Rowland suggests that Rowland needed courage to face his death. In 1942, Alec died in Springkell Sanitarium in Johannesburg. This was a hospital for people suffering from tuberculosis, a debilitating illness that undermined health over a number of years testing any person’s “sterwensmoed”. The disease was widely feared so victims were isolated in institutions where they were encouraged to engage in open air physical activity like gardening. When they died they were mostly buried on the site. His grave is lost.


Two brothers witnessed his death certificate, Marion Jean Daly (living in Rivonia) and Friedrich Henri Daly (living in Berea). His estate was too small to honour any commitments.

Below is Karine Daly, descendant of Ramsay and Catharine Daly in Braamfontein Cemetery on the site of the unmarked graves of Ramsay, Catharina and their son, William.