Jean Daly (1865-1941)

When writing about ancestors’ lives we can usually find key dates and relationships but very often more detailed personal information is missing. Here are some of the circumstances of the life of Jean Pierre Francois Rocher (JPFR) Daly. He was the second child of Ramsay Daly and Catharina Rocher, born in 1865 and named after her father, Jean Pierre Francois Rocher who had led the family trek from St Helena Bay in the Cape to Potchefstroom. At the time, this looked like a really good move for the extended family. Ramsay established a trading store with an impressive range of commodities paid for in part with bank loans that, at an optimistic time, would have seemed quite reasonable. Then Fate, or sheer bad luck, stepped in. Jean was to live through two Anglo- Boer Wars, the First World War, the Great Depression and he died during the Second World War.

When Potchefstroom was besieged during the First Anglo-Boer War, Jean was fifteen years old. His Forssman cousins sought safety in the British fort but family mythology tells us that Jean was enraged at the British taking over his town. He was particularly fond of a little bench (“riempies rusbank”) that stood on the verandah of the double storey Schikkerling house in Church Square, as seen in this 1880 photograph, then occupied by English troops.

Lennie Gouws, The Economy of Potchefstroom 1838-1880. The Heritage Register, sighted on

He decided that it should not fall into English hands so he fetched it on his horse, took it home and it has remained in family hands ever since. (See Jeanne Daly’s account here).

After this War, brief as it was, the Potchefstroom economy collapsed. Jean’s father, Ramsay, went insolvent in 1892 but, despite economic warning signs, Jean still followed the family into trade. He may have had no other option not having enjoyed the educational opportunities that allowed his younger brother (another Ramsay Daly) to go to a privileged school and on to England to train as a medical doctor, then surgeon.

Jean opened a general trading store, applied to become an agent of the court, bought farms and took on a goldmining company – the Eclipse Goldmining Company. In 1888, he married Elsje Maria Mostert and they had their first son, Ramsay L’Amy, in 1889. Jean also went insolvent in 1891, just before his father, with the main debtor being the Cape of Good Hope Bank. This may have spurred them to move inland, to Nylstroom (now Modimolle). He never tried trading again. In Nylstroom, he bought land but his main activity was as a very energetic law agent, making applications on behalf of many clients often for small, even trivial claims.[1] Family stories talk of him walking to court followed by his pet warthog. By later accounts he was much valued for the help he gave the small local community where he practised as both law agent and magistrate until the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Boer War.

The University of Texas at Austin. From the Cambridge Modern History Atlas, 1912. Found on Emerson Kent.

The Second Anglo-Boer War started in 1899. Initially the British army was halted in Natal and the Cape Colony but then the number of British troops was greatly increased and the Transvaal was invaded. Pretoria was captured in 1900 and the British forces rapidly occupied towns to the north. The Boers turned to guerrilla warfare fighting where and when they could in small bands, taking advantage of their superior knowledge of the country. To contain these guerrillas, the British built blockhouses along railway lines and harried the Boers from place to place.

We lose sight of how our family survived – unless they met up with the redoubtable Roley Schikkerling – but it was a dire time. The “scorched earth” actions of the British army killed farm stock and devastated the land. Boer women and children were incarcerated in 45 concentration camps one of which was in Nylstroom and another in Potchefstroom. Black Africans were sent to 64 camps. Many thousands died in these camps in terrible conditions.

When the war started Jean had three children the youngest of whom, Catharina, was only seven months old. He went on commando serving, his records tell us, as secretary to the Boer General Grobler who faced defeat at Colesberg. Jean seems to have returned to Nylstroom to join his family. The town was in British hands. It is not clear why but Jean was classified as an “undesirable” by the Boer command and in March 1901 he was ordered to Pietersburg where he was placed under strict military orders amounting to imprisonment. When the Boer forces retreated from Pietersburg in April, 1901, he was told to leave in a wagon in charge of the jailor. Instead he surrendered to the British who saw him as a kind and considerate man, a “bon fide undesirable” and granted him parole. In July 1901, the British Provost marshal recommended that his parole could be “slacked off without damage” because Jean had been of service to him.

When Boer guerrillas were captured by British forces they had limited choices. Over 25,000 were sent to prisoner-of-war camps in far-off countries like Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Many thousands, maligned as hensoppers, surrendered and went on parole (some of these men later rejoined the Boer forces). Over 5,000 men formally joined the British forces (the joiners). When Jean Daly became a “hensopper” in Pietersburg he became a “protected burgher”. In 1901, his cousin CGC Rocher did the same.  In Potchefstroom, Glen White Scorgie, the brother of Mildred Daly (Jean’s sister-in-law),  became a “joiner” in 1900 and returned to his shop in Potchefstroom. When he applied for a Boer War Medal after the war, the Department of Defence labelled him disloyal (“niet getrouw”) but otherwise he appears to have escaped sancion.[2]

In 1902, after the war, Jean Daly applied for permission to visit Nylstroom with his family after which he lodged a claim to the British government for losses sustained there. This he could do as a protected burgher. These actions may have scarred his reputation. In Johannesburg in 1902, Jean’s younger brother, Alec, was registered as an attorney and notary public by the High Court of the Transvaal. Jean Daly did not fare as well. He realised that he would never work as a law agent again and applied instead to be a sworn court translator in English and Dutch. He received this accreditation in 1902, in the process swearing allegiance to King Edward VII.

In 1911, Jean Daly was rebabilitated from his 1891 insolvency but it seems their lives in Nylstroom had soured and they moved further inland. He was appointed as Justice of the peace in Waterberg and he acquired farms near Potgietersrust. His sons Ramsay and Charles did the same. His daughter, Catharina and her husband, Clifford Ackhurst, joined them. Later Jean, Elsje with Catharina and her family moved to a farm near Machadodorp, a good distance away, possibly because Catharina’s teacher husband, Clifford, was appointed principal of the primary school in Waterval Boven. At the same time Charles crossed the Limpopo and bought “Dunsandle” in the Tuli Block of what is now Botswana, directly across the Limpopo River from Ramsay’s holdings.

Elsje and Jean are buried in the Machadodorp cemetery.

[1] A record of Jean Daly’s extensive activities as a lawyer in Nylstroom are available from the National Archives Repository in Pretoria, listed in the TAB database. The record of his later surrender and parole is in the same archive.