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Issue 119 - The Whisky Trail

Whisky Magazine Issue 119
April 2014

 

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The Whisky Trail

Annabel Meikle recounts her ancestors voyage to South Africa in 1869

In 1869 my great great grandparents embarked from Scotland on an uncomfortable three month voyage from Lanarkshire to Port Natal (Durban) in South Africa.

My great grandfather, Stewart Meikle, was only a boy, aged three years old. The young family were swept up in the quest for adventure and the lure of the colonies. When they arrived in South Africa they then travelled North West to a rented farm in the Natal colony where my great grandfather, along with his brothers and sisters, made the family home.

When I was three, my father was keen for his young wife and children to see the land of his birth. My family and I visited Rhodesia and I can remember ‘taking tea' at Meikles Hotel in Salisbury (now Harare). My great grandfather's portrait hung on the wall at the hotel. He was born 100 years before me and I have always been captivated by his entrepreneurial story. It was only when I started to work in the whisky industry that the significance and romance of the journey that Stewart and his brothers made really caught my attention. He was an early ambassador for whisky, just as I too would become.

The virgin land on which Stewart's father, John, chose to build their farm was cheap, perhaps because it was surrounded by warring Zulu warriors. The area of the Northern Natal was correctly reputed to be dangerous, until the demise of the fierce warrior chief, Chaka. John Meikle wasn't much of a farmer, and was lured by the sparkle of sourcing diamonds. Early successes ...

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