From Bandon Ireland to Kuruman South Africa

There is nothing more satisfying than finding another piece of a puzzle that is the family tree. Only last week I finally discovered the grave of one of my ancestors. This is his story.

On 17 May 1862 Susan (nee Smyth), wife of George Maynard Beare, gave birth to her fourth child and her third son.  He was christened George on 2nd June by Rev. John Bleakley in St. Peter’s Church, Bandon, Co. Cork, Ireland. George received his early education at Bandon Grammar School, and at the age of 21 he entered Trinity College, Dublin. He lived with his brother John Isaac Beare while attending University. 

George graduated as B.A. in the winter of 1887, and BAO. BCH H.B. in the winter of 1892.  He did his locum at Ballineen, Co. Cork, a village 8 miles from Bandon. Names where jobs were available were put in a hat in College and those who qualified picked out their future destination (As far as we aware this is how the medical jobs were allocated).  George chose Griquatown, Bechuanaland, South Africa.

George left his family and his home in Bandon for the last time on the ship Athenian in April 1893.  His brother, John, was at Southampton to see him off. Did he know this was the last time he would see them, (with the exception of a few visits by his brother John) as he said his goodbyes, I wonder?

This is a copy of a letter he sent to his brother William, shortly after arriving on board the Athenian. 

Ship Athenian

April 11th 1893

Dear Will

I was just going to go without writing you a line which would be too bad.

I was simply writing a few words to Mom when I remembered that I led you to expect a letter from me before I sailed out.

I got that letter of Mr. Donovan’s’ from you the other day.  It was a pity John Bird did not find out before the vestry meeting whether he was at liberty to publish it.   I expect John was keeping it dark to himself so that nobody should get hold of his important news with one exception information.

Be sure to get the bicycle by hook or crook if you did not get it before. This is the finest exercise in the world for keeping up the heart for when you find yourself low spirited you drive away dull care by working the peddles hard against the hill

John has gone away in the tender and I am now sitting in the saloon writing this by myself all the other passengers are on deck gazing.  I have a very decent fellow in the cabin with me as far as I can judge.  There are only the two of us in it.  He was at the Cape before and I suppose will be able to give me some tips.

I will let this letter open for a while to see if a parcel came from a friend of Mr. Bennett for me as I have closed the letter to herself without being able to find out.


Tell Tom I wish him well also his wife
Remember me to all at home

Interesting how even over 100 years ago the benefits of cycling were promoted by the Medical profession!

The next letter received from Doctor George was by his brother John, sent from Kimberly.


May 7th 1893

Dear John

Just a line to say I have got so far.

I have not much to say about the voyage out.  I was sick the first week and the last, when we had a storm which kept us back a couple of days.

I did not land at Madeira but saw plenty of the natives about and in the ship.  It would do your heart good to see some of them diving for money.  I tried to drop four half pence into the boat of a little fellow who was not getting anything, but in trying to catch them he knocked three into the sea.  Another fellow who saw them fall down from about five yards out under the little fellows boat and brought up the three before they had gone down any distance.  Snow capped or enveloped in cloud or what ever you like to call it ‘Tenerife’ was certainly a striking sight.  When I first saw it there was a thick cloud covering it from about the middle to very near the top and which we were passing, the cloud gradually got dispersed and left it shine out in all its majesty.  It looked to me the highest thing I ever saw and the snow looked curious in such warm weather. I was pointed out Albatrosses which had nothing grand about them.  The sailors said the large ones are not seen on the West coast of Africa.   The ones we saw were about the size of ducks and flew just like seagulls.  Flying fish we saw in thousands.  It seems to me the reason they fly is that they are afraid of the ship as you only see them when near it and fly away from it.  We saw a lot of porpoises and a few whales.

We came into Table Bay on Friday morning and saw Table Mountain just as the sun was rising on it.  It is flat on top, looks about 1000 feet or so high and a few hundred yards long.  It is supposed to resemble a lion but I could not make out the likeness.

Cape Town itself is very English looking.  I had to pay £5 for registration.  I started for Kimberly at 9 o’clock pm on Friday and arrived this morning at 8.30.

The journey up was very monotonous.  Hundreds of miles of flat land, with here and there a low  earth path – stones sometimes in great quantities scattered about – then only vegetation, small bushes call ‘veldt’ at some distance from one another and hardly green which merely makes more striking the awful barrenness of the country.  This of course is when there is no water but it is so in 99% of all the land I saw from Cape Town to Kimberly.  Where there is a spring everything is exactly the opposite, the land seems to be the most fertile and the vegetation most luxurious I ever saw in coming to Kimberly.  I believe I came 60 miles too far but I can not get accurate information today as it is Sunday.   Hoping Gussie and the children are well

I am yours as ever


It appears the good Doctor was quite the prose writer when he put his mind to it, with an honest but at the same time descriptive letter about his journey and surroundings. He worked in Griquatown for the next 3 years and then received a posting to Kuruman, as evident in the following letter.

Kuruman  (Kuruman is about 108 miles north of Griquatown in British Bechuanaland)

June 4th 1896

Dear Will

I only arrived here on Thursday last though I left Griquatown on the preceeding Tuesday and I can assure you I found the journey a bit tedious. The latter half of the road was not too bad as I travelled with Mr. Price, the oldest Missionary around here, and a very decent old chap indeed.  He asked me to stay a few days with him at Kuruman till I got some suitable lodgings and when I was about to learn yesterday for the only boarding house in the place – which by the way  has anything but a good reputation – he proposed that I should stay on at his place till I get married.  I said I should be very glad if he would accept the same amount from me per month as the boarding house charged, which he would not hear of at first but after a lot of persuasion on my part he agreed to take £3-10-0 per month for my board.  The usual rate about here is £5 or more so that I may consider my self lucky.  I have hired three rooms from the mission society for 30/- per month which Mr. Price will furnish for me gratis.  One will be a surgery the others a sitting and bedroom so that up to the present I am not doing so badly.  The magistrate here is very nice.  He has written to Cape Town to get the Government to appoint me acting D.G.. until the estimates are passed and in the meantime has got me to visit the jail, see some sick prisoners and write some medical certificates for which he says I must be paid even though the Government do not appoint me acting D.G.

This is about the nicest little place I have seen since I came to S.A. The people too are as kind as kind can be and I should not be surprised if I got on very well with them.  Of course there are only very few of them so that there will be little or no private practice except among the natives and they can’t pay much.

Yours ever   George

 A new post mark on the envelope so a new address for Dr. George.  He has moved north a hundred odd miles to Kuraman.  The possibility of marriage seems a bit sudden or did we miss a hint?  It is more likely there are missing letters.  The offer of accommodation is coming from his future father-in-law.

George did indeed marry. He and Elizabeth Price, daughter of Roger Price and Elizabeth Lees Moffat,  on 31 Dec 1896. They had two daughters, Helen Barbara Beare born in February 1904 and Mary Elizabeth Beare, born on 1908. George’s wife Elizabeth was related by marriage to the famous Dr. Livingstone.

George continued to work at Kuruman until his death on 24 Jan 1941. The Kuruman Moffat Mission at Seodin was established in 1816 and still exists to this day.

Up until last week we did not know where Dr. George was buried. I finally found a photograph of his grave which I have attached here.

Beare George 1862 - 1941










Please feel free to leave a comment or if you have any queries.

Bye for now,


Follow me on Twitter @elainebeare


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