Minute Books of the Transvaal Manx Association

Scope and Content

The deposit contains only minute books of the Association from:

  • May 1899 - August 1909.
  • August 1909 - February 1915.
  • March 1915 - January 1939.

Administrative / Biographical History

The South African Republic often referred to as the Transvaal, was an independent country in Southern Africa from 1852 until 1902, lying north east within South Africa and just north of the Vaal River. The Transvaal which in Afrikaans means 'across the Vaal' was occupied by Afrikaners (descendants of the Dutch settlers) in the 1830s when they migrated to the region after crossing the Vaal River. During the nineteenth century the Transvaal experienced frontier wars, the ‘Mineral Revolution’ and conflicts between the British and the Afrikaners (which came to a head with the South African War of 1899-1902, also known as the Second Boer War). The Transvaal had predominately been an agricultural society, however in the 1860s to 1880s discoveries of gold and diamond deposits were found in the region and dramatically changed the Transvaal’s economy, marking the beginning of the so-called Mineral Revolution. The Mineral Revolution fuelled rapid industrialization and economic change in South Africa and highlighted the need for a permanent workforce to maximize the profits to be had from mining minerals. In 1886 further discoveries of significant amounts of gold deposits occurred in the Witwatersrand ('ridge of white waters' in Afrikaans) area. This discovery resulted in a huge influx of foreign miners seeking work and led to the establishment of the city of Johannesburg.

The Isle of Man has a long and well established history of mining and in the late 1800s many of its miners and their families were drawn to the Transvaal (especially the Johannesburg area) to seek employment and possible fortune. On arrival, emigrating Manxmen found little or no support in this region of South Africa, already blighted by warfare. Therefore in May 1899, a group of 26 Manxmen gathered at the Dive Hotel in the Transvaal and formed the Transvaal Manx Association. The Association’s objectives were to assist (emotionally and financially) any Manxmen in the Transvaal who through misfortune, sickness or distress had become incapacitated. The structure of the Association included a patron, president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary, auditor and a committee. The Association’s first patron was J. D. Lace. J.J. Fern was the first president, J. J. Corlett was the first treasurer and the first secretary was William Quilliam. It had regular social meetings and annual reunions held on or near to the 5 July (Tynwald Day). Many of their social gatherings would consist of dinners, concerts and dances. New members were asked to pay an initiation fee and then an annual subscription fee to be paid on the 5 July.

Throughout its history the Association has done much philanthropic work in and around Johannesburg. For its Diamond Jubilee anniversary in 1959 100 Manxmen sat down and paid tribute to the “Manx pioneers of the last century whose skill helped build the cities of South Africa” stating for the record “that they had made a wonderful contribution to the opening of the Witwatersrand” (Isle of Man Times 22 January 1960). Many Manxmen had indeed been prominent in the Transvaal as mining engineers, elected first citizens of Johannesburg and as active players in the South African Stock Exchange. Members of the Association dedicated their lives to their adopted country however the society never forgot their homeland with the Isle of Man at the centre of the Association’s objectives. In 1996 the Transvaal Manx Association changed its name to the Manx Association of Southern Africa to reflect the Association’s expanded geographical membership. The Association today no longer offers the financial support that the pioneering Manx members received; however it is still a thriving society which promotes its members to embrace their Manx roots in the form of Manx poetry, Manx legends, Manx genealogy, Manx history and the many activities of the Isle of Man.

Access Information

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Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from Isle of Man newspapers, The Isle of Man Times (22 January 1960) and Mona’s Herald (26 January 1960). Isle of Man newspapers available online at http://www.newspapers.gov.im/Default/Skins/IOMDemo/Client.asp?skin=IOMDemo&enter=true&AppName=2. Further information was gathered from John Quirk's Manx Connection (2007: 170-190) and web sites: http://www.britannica.com/place/Transvaal and http://www.sahistory.org.za/mineral-revolution

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), October 2015.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage include the Historical records of the Transvaal Manx Association. Reference number: MS 12817.