TRANSVAAL Postal Department Staff before and after the South African War by Jeff Woolgar. Book review by Andrew Higson

The book was published 12th October 2021 by the author, in Gravesend, Kent, UK, ISBN none, 128pp with five maps, seventeen tables and circa sixty illustrations in full colour, written in English, A4 size, perfect bound.  It can be ordered from the author via price £20 plus postage.

This is a meticulous study of government papers relating to postal staff (referred to as officials in the documents) in the South African Republic (1899/1900) who later applied to the Transvaal authorities for their pensions.  These employees are listed with as much information as the author could assemble from official government published papers; noting their last appointment and salaries.

Within a period of eleven years (1899-1910) postal officials could have found themselves working for four different governments – the South African Republic, the Imperial Military Government, Transvaal Colony, and the Union of South Africa.

Those re-employed following the fall of Johannesburg to the British, eventually became officials in the Transvaal Civil Service; their salaries are examined to 1910 and compared with those previously obtained under the Republic.  Not all were re-employed by the British administration, as recorded in the Legislative Assembly debates.

The drop in wages after 1900 meant that men (there were no women recorded) had no choice but to accept or go hungry. However, some officials accepted government allowances which were given in kind, although this could affect their future circumstances. Having endured a constantly-changing political climate, even with a pension, retirement could bring new financial problems and life changing decisions.

The book commences by detailing the law relating to postal department officials’ pensions, and then sets out all the claimants who applied for their pensions.  It also discusses some employees’ careers, as well as changes and cutbacks in the Transvaal Post Office.

A number of Post Offices are illustrated by means of contemporary photographs and postcards.  This is followed by sections illustrating South African Republic, Boer War and Transvaal covers and postcards from the era.

The Appendices include the South African Republic Postal Law No.18 (1898), Law No.1 (1896) relating to the Field Telegraph, Proclamation No.1 of 1900 (by Field-Marshal Roberts), Proclamation No.16 of 1900 which placed the Transvaal under Martial Law, and Government Notice No.659 of 1908 relating to South African Republic Officials’ Pension Commission. This book is an excellent example of “social philately” whereby understanding the social context is as important as the philately itself.

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