A letter from Transvaal

Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh

16/10/1880

Dearest Mother and Father,

How is everything in Ireland? I hope you have had a satisfactory harvest. It has been a complete waste of my time, and my men’s morale to embark upon this errand. At the time of writing, my men and I are stuck in the middle of this valley. While a bunch of Dutch farmers pretend to match us in ability and willpower. They are rebelling against the British Empire for heaven’s sake. They will never succeed. Just last week those barbarians murdered my Colonel, and I have taken his place. This country is abnormal. We have been marching for days on end through the plains and savannahs of this dirty backwater of the world. Then they attacked us again, a mile north of Johannesburg. I lost half my men that day, and now those peasant’s will pay the high price.  I wish I was back at the homestead. I could have been supervising the harvest. I always doted upon the thought of the endless acres of our land. With the O’Briens, O’Rourkes and Fitzpatricks labouring the soil. I always dread the thought of waking at cockcrow in this land. With those Elephants, Tigers and Monkeys making worse racket than the foe. At least at home, the cattle keep quiet and are well behaved. We are expected to move towards the coast to be conveyed to India. Apparently, those Hindus and Muslims are causing a ruckus again. Nothing new coming from that overflowing sewer. Meanwhile, we’ve been expecting our pay for over a fortnight. I am obliged to receive £100 for my service to her majesty the Queen. I shall be having a stern word with the Major General. I must confess, I thoroughly miss the races of a Sunday. Everyone dressed up in such fine garments, obviously imported from England. As if the Irish could make such apparel. The storms never end near the coast. I always wonder why they renamed it from the Cape of Storms to the Cape of Good Hope. Good hope for what. More unrest. There is only one place in this world that is stable and that is the United Kingdom. Excluding Ireland of course. Remeber when those damned Fenians destroyed our storehouse, causing such an explosion that people came from as far as Killarney? I do not recall any event of which so many people were within our home since the Queen visited. I received orders from Major General Colley to move towards Pretoria in Transvaal. The army was trooping the colour when farmers attacked them. Once again, my regiment and I were left to do the dirty work. When we reached Pretoria the barbarians had moved on all the soldier’s lay dead. It was a horrific scene. I wish I could just leave this strange land. I’d prefer to be sitting at home with a brandy. That would be ideal.

I hope to see you all soon.

Yours sincerely,  Niall