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Amy Wilson collection on South Africa 1901-1902

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y305Q

Scope and Contents

A diary of a visit to South Africa, 100 x 120 mm, with original photographs and 4 cut from publications. The photographs include professional prints, but for the most part are amateur work, presumably by Amy Wilson herself, save for the few in which she appears. Most of the photographs can be linked to episodes described in the diary and many are captioned either below or on the reverse.

With the aid of the lists published in 'South Africa' on the day of sailing from Southampton, 26 October 1901, it has been possible to identify the fellow-passengers who appear in her photographs:

Mr H.J. Gillet - a Belgian Millionaire, described in Amy Wilson's diary as having 'one eye and a face scarred from some explosion, fearful toadlike hands with curled up fingers, carpet slippers and ill fitting clothes' (Nov. 3rd 1901). Nevertheless, he turned out to be a congenial acquaintance (see plate 2).

Mrs Ralph Williams with her niece Miss Bardswell - Mrs Williams was Jessie (née Dean) who was married in 1875 to Ralph Champneys Williams (1848-1927). In 1901 he was Resident Commissioner in Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and later, as Sir Ralph, Governor of the Windward Islands and Newfoundland. Their son Geoffrey (b. 1876) had a post at the Cape. Lady Williams died in 1917 (see plate 6).

Mrs Sewell - described in the Amy Wilson's diary as 'pretty little Miss Sewell ... quite a good sort' (Nov. 3rd 1901). Mrs Sewell was May (née Churchill), wife of Jonathan William Shirley Sewell (1872-1941) R.E., later Brigadier-General.

Mrs Horne and her two-year-old daughter Kitty. She was Kate (née M'Corquodale) married in 1897 to Henry Sinclair Horne (1861-1929) later General Lord Horne.

Mrs Percival (? Perceval) - described by Amy Wilson as 'Scotch and round-eyed' (Nov. 3rd 1901). Her husband was a soldier at Harrismith; possibly Major (later Brigadier-General) Claude John Perceval (1864-1932) D.A.A.G. for Transport in South Africa, who married Isabel Gordon Morison in 1898.

Mr E.H. Jones - formerly Mayor of Kimberley, with his wife, daughter and son, Dudley, 'a little boy with an ingratiating grin and an appalling accent' (Nov. 3rd 1901 - see plate 5).

The Misses Gers - '2 prim maidens with pig-tails' (Nov. 3rd 1901 - see plate 4).

Amy's brother Sir Henry Francis (Harry) Wilson (b. 1859) also appears in a number of the photographs. He was called to the Bar in 1888. After undertaking legal enquires for the Colonial Office he served as Principal Private Secretary to Joseph Chamberlain 1895-97, Legal Assistant at the Colonial Office 1897-1900 and Legal Adviser to the High Commissioner for South Africa in 1900. The following year he was appointed Secretary to the Orange River Colony Administration, whose title was altered to Colonial Secretary in 1902. On leaving this post five years later he entered the business world. He became KCMG in 1908 and KBE in 1919. From 1915-1921 he was Secretary of the Royal Colonial Institute. He died in 1947.


  • Creation: 1901 - 1902


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

Agnes Maria (Amy) Wilson (1867-1957) travelled to South Africa in 1901 to act as hostess for her brother Harry, then a bachelor, who had been appointed Colonial Secretary of the Orange River Colony. She arrived in November and remained until the following May, when both returned to England. During this leave he was married, but Amy returned to South Africa on her own account in 1903 and farmed there for many years. Her diary describes life on board ship, visits to the Cape, and travels in the interior, including the continuing impact of war - Pretoria had fallen in 1900, but the guerrilla war continued until 1902. She took a particular interest in the welfare of women in the concentration camps at Bloemfontein and elsewhere, and arranged knitting instruction for them.


1 volume(s) (32 images in 1 volume)

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Unless otherwise stated, the photographs are in good condition.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Christopher Wilson in 1976.

Related Materials

For a portrait of Sir Harry Francis Wilson see Y3011T/43.


For further comments on the diary see: Hammerton, Elizabeth (1976), 'Amy Wilson's South African Diary 1901-2', The Royal Commonwealth Society, Library Notes, New Series, no. 220, p.2-5. For further information on Sir Ralph Williams and family see p.282 of: William, R (1913), How I became a Governor, London : John Murray.


The original typescript catalogue contains a number of captions which presumably appear on the reverse of the prints. As the prints are now firmly stuck into the diary it has been impossible to verify their accuracy. KS.


Wilson, Agnes Maria, 1867-1957

Includes index.
2003-09-16 17:08:49+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
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Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom