Talana Museum South Africa  


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Swedish Lutheran Mission & Church

Ebenezer Church and Betania Mission complex - McKenzie Street

In July 1889 a decision was made that the Church of Sweden would start mission work at Dundee. Revs Lars Norenius, Witt and Walberg were delegated to make the necessary preparations during 1889 and 1890. In 1891 2 acres of land was bought at Dundee Coalfields as well as a small, simple dwelling house. A small chapel was built and consecrated and Rev Norenius moved in the new parsonage with his family. In 1893 a school house and small house for an evangelist were built. Rev Norenius also started mission work in Dundee proper. As this mission work grew it was decided to buy a plot of land and build a chapel and dwelling house. With the growth in work in the town of Dundee, it was decided to move the mission into Dundee Proper. Over time more sections were added, with a school, parsonage in 1897 and Ebenezer church in 1898.

On 12 January 1899 Betania hospital and “Imbewana”, the nurses home were opened.. The first matron of the hospital was Baroness Posse (1899-1901). She had previously taught in the mission school at Rorke’s Drift. She had personally paid for the construction of the hospital and nurses home and until 1903 paid all the running expenses of the hospital and the salaries of the nurses. The hospital literally had a baptism by fire, when on 18 January 1899 they had to deal with a number of European and Zulu casualties from a mine disaster – many were badly burnt.

Then in October they were sheltering from the shells landing just in front of their buildings during the Battle of Talana.

Today the site is once again a mission. The original hospital - with its 1930’s additions and enlargement, the original “Imbewana” and church are all still there. Many of the buildings that grew over the years still exist and others like the school building have been altered and reconstructed for modern use. Elements of the original buildings were retained and still be seen in the buildings today.

This is a declared Provincial Heritage Site.

 

Betania hospital

During the battle of Talana, Rev Norenius offered the use of the hospital for wounded soldiers and the church was used as a hospital ward.

There is a military cemetery just behind the church. Today it is a Wesleyan church.

In the military cemetery, 15 British soldiers and 4 Boers, all of whom died of wounds in the hospital building near the church, were laid to rest. Amongst them are two British Officers: Capt. F. H. B. Connor (of the Royal Irish Fusiliers) and 2nd Lt. C. J. Genge (of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers). Also buried there is Tpr. R. A. Cunningham (of Bethune’s Mounted Infantry) who died in May 1900 during the British advance through northern Natal. There are also 4 Boers in this cemetery and the memorial is the only one in South Africa to record British and Boers names on the same memorial.

  

Capt. Frederick Henry Connor of the 1st Batt. Royal Irish Fusiliers died of wounds received in action at  Talana Hill. He lies buried in the  Betania Mission churchyard in Dundee, where a marble cross has been placed to  his memorial. He was born in May 1862, joined his regiment in  October 1884 and was promoted to Captain in August 1891.  He received his mortal wound after crossing the wall which bounds the terrace on Talana.

2nd-Lt. Charles Jarvis Genge  of the 2nd Batt. Royal Dublin Fusiliers was born on the 22 September  1877.  He entered his battalion in January 1899 and was in Natal at the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War.

He fell in the battle at Talana.  He is buried in the Betania Mission churchyard, where a marble cross marks his grave.

 

 The sheer numbers of wounded coming in to the hospital necessitated many of the buildings being used. The church became another ward for the wounded.

Members of the Dundee Town guard came to offer their services but could not carry weapons so the rifles of 7 of the men were hid in the bell tower.