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Cape of Good Hope: Cork Cancellations

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These covers below do not show cork cancellers. The small orange 'buns' are discreet cork markers or identifiers. However, their method of manufacture was much the same as a 'cork canceller'.  They have been made from the cork of presumably a small bottle. The cork has been quartered unevenly, as is often the way with such ad hoc solutions.

What their purpose was, I do not know but I guess they show that the letter was either to be censored or had been censored. It was an office admin mark.  The two examples below and the one in Gawie Hugo's 'Table Mountain, The Inspiration' display, are the only examples I have seen. There must be more. As all three covers are from Stellenbosch,  I assume that these office admin marks were applied  there, not elsewhere as Gawie states.

The dates of my three recorded covers are: 26 August 1901; 21 September 1901 and 7 November 1901. Only the earliest cover has an 'OPENED UNDER MARTIAL LAW." label. Had they run out of labels by 21st September or were they no longer a requirement? If anyone has another example or knowledge of this, please share it with us here.

I have a theory. During the South African War there was a large Remount centre in Stellenbosch. Horses were key to mobility among the combatants by late 1901 when these covers were 'marked'. In April 1901, General Jan Smuts had invaded the Cape Colony. Born in Riebeek West in 1870, some 75km from Cape Town, he was educated in Stellenbosch. He rallied some 3,000 Cape Boers to the Republican cause, including my great uncle Elias Nel from Calvinia. For a time some of his Boer forces were based in the Hex River Valley, some 70 miles (112km) from Stellenbosch. At one point Smuts was said to be close enough to Cape Town to see Table Mountain. The possibility of Smuts capturing Stellenbosch and its Remount horses and igniting a wider rebellion among the Cape Dutch sent the British into a 'flap' between August and November 1901. Even Cape Town was a bit panicked at this time by the proximity of Boer forces. To reassure the citizenry extra security measures were introduced. Perhaps one was the tightening up of censorship. Letters from Stellenbosh were either marked with the small orange cork identifier to show they were yet to be censored, or more likely as all mail had to be censored, that the letter had already been censored and was approved for posting. This theory may have nothing to do with Jan Smuts or cork cancellers as we know them! If we could find earlier examples to show this was normal procedure, my theory would evaporate like Karoo rain.

Uploaded files:
  • STELLENBOSCH-SAW-Censor-Mark-1.jpg
  • Stellenbosch-SAW-Censor-Mark-2.jpg

I found this in a 'Discovery of Diamonds' display. I think the comment that the diamond-shaped cork canceller was used in Kimberley is 'interesting' but, like all things to do with Cape cork canceller's, "where's the bloody horse?".

Uploaded files:
  • Diamond-Cork-Canceller.jpg

And I thought 'Cork' Cancellers were Irish!  (There was supposed to be a smiley there but don't know where to get it from!).

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