Recording history for people

2008-08-07 00:00

“I want this to be the Ladysmith website,” says Brian Kaighin, “if you want to know about Ladysmith and its history, this is where to go.”

Click here for Ladysmith history.

“The site was designed by my son Rowan and is intended to have everything do with Ladysmith history up to and including the South African War,” says Kaighin. It also provides access to a database of all known British military personnel who died during the war plus a database of the residents of Ladysmith from its earliest days to around 1900.

Kaighin originally hails from London, coming to South Africa as a works manager for Caravan International in 1981. After postings in Pinetown and Johannesburg, Kaighin settled in Ladysmith where he set up his own business repairing industrial caravans.

“Once you get to Ladysmith you either like the history or you don’t,” says Kaighin. He clearly did and joined the Ladysmith Historical Society, becoming actively involved in refurbishing fortifications and battle sites.

“I spent most of my weekends out discovering or uncovering the various sites,” he says.

His other weekends seemed to have been spent recording what he found there or in the archives. His A Diary of the Siege of Ladysmith, published in 1999, provides a day-by-day account of the siege as recorded in the diaries and letters of those involved.

This was followed by a CD-ROM The Siege and Relief of Ladysmith which went into a second revised edition. Then he began to focus on the civilian population. This led to his compiling a list of Ladysmith residents of all races dating from the founding of the town in 1861 until 1900, the year when the famous siege was lifted.

Even after retiring to Waterfall, near Kloof, Kaighin is still keen on all things Ladysmith and he decided to make all the information he had gathered available via the website. “I thought let’s put all this information on the Internet, and let everyone who is interested have access — schools, libraries, tourists, whoever.”

“Much of the information and photographs contained in this website are used by kind permission of the Ladysmith Siege Museum to whom I owe a big thank you,” says Kaighin.

As the site becomes established Kaighin intends boosting Ladysmith tourism by including links to local accommodation, bed-and-breakfasts and tour guides. “I will also be looking for a sponsor for the main page.”

Some aspects of the website are still under construction and Kaighin hopes soon to add a section on monuments and memorials. “I get inquiries from all over the world, usually about great-grandad so-and-so who died in the war. And I can usually tell them exactly when and where the person is buried and send them a photograph of a monument. I really like to help people in that way.”

Kaighin intends expanding the site as he continues researching.

“As with all new projects, glitches will occur, so if errors are found, or articles need to be amended or you have constructive criticism, then comments are invited,” he says. “Articles for inclusion should be accompanied by authentication, where applicable, and it would be helpful if presented in Word and JPEG formats.”

He’s also appealing for contributions to the recipe page. “Hopefully these would be authentic recipes from the late 1800s, preferably tried and tested; much like an ‘Ouma’s Recipes’ contribution.”

• Brian Kaighin can be contacted via www.ladysmithhistory.com or e-mail brian@ladysmithhistory.com telephone 031 762 2292 or mail: P.O. Box 1068, Link Hills, 3652.

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