Benjamin Moodie Settlers 1817

On 14 June 1817, one of the forerunners of organized immigration to the Cape, Benjamin Moodie begged leave to acquaint the colonial public ‘that, under the sanction of Government, he has arrived from England with a number of mechanics and labourers consisting of smiths, carpenters, cabinetmakers, turners, coopers, masons, tanners, stonecutters, ploughmen, gardeners etc, and that … he proposes hiring part of them out for such periods as may be agreed upon.’ This party arrived on the ship Brilliant. Later the same month he announced that a further 50 were on their way to the Cape, on the Garland, which duly landed at Table Bay on 23 August 1817. They were followed by another group on the Clyde on 24 September 1817. The men were Scottish artisans, about 200 in all, brought out under indenture to Moodie.

This experiment wasn’t an unqualified success. The indentured immigrants were dissatisfied with the conditions of service and a few ran away to become outlaws in the Knysna forests. Some of Moodie’s settlers married into Dutch families.

Moodie himself was 9th Laird of Melsetter (pronounced Meltster), Orkney. Born 1 January 1779 he married Margaret MALCOLMSON in 1816. Shortly after that the idea of taking indentured settlers to the Cape, and of settling there himself, took strong hold of Moodie’s imagination and he applied for purchase of suitable property. His brother John Moodie also decided to settle in South Africa and arrived on the Mary in 1819. In 1829 he produced a book, ‘Ten Years in South Africa’, before emigrating to Canada. Another brother, Donald Moodie, also later came to South Africa.

Benjamin Moodie initially settled on the farm Groot Vaders Bosch which he bought in 1817 and which is still in the possession of his descendants. This farm is close to the Langeberg Mountain in the Heidelberg Cape District, about 25 km from Heidelberg, on the road via Zuurbraak to Swellendam. In 1831 Sir Lowry Cole (Governor of the Cape) granted Benjamin the farm Westfield (5250 morgen) at the mouth of the Breede River – the farm was named after the ancestral home of Benjamin’s mother. He build his homestead here in 1832. It was a pretentious mansion by the standards of 1831. He moved to Westfield as soon as the house was completed and died and was buried at Westfield in 1856. His son Malcolm took over Westfield. Malcolm is my Great Grand father. – Guy Moodie