Tywyn and the Boer War

1899 – 1902

On the Coronation Day of Edward VII, 9 August 1902, a monument was unveiled in Tywyn to celebrate the safe return of seven people from Tywyn who took part in the Boer War Campaign. This had such an impact on the town that new buildings carried the name Pretoria and the Talyllyn Railway locomotive “Dolgoch” also carried that name for a time.

At Church Parade on Christmas Day 1899, Captain Kirkby (a member of the Nanney Wynn family of Llanfendigaid) called for volunteers for active service in South Africa from the TOWYN COMPANY of VOLUNTEERS. All the Company volunteered. Four privates were required, and those selected were – William Jones; John Morris; Robert Richards and Sgt Evan Robert Johns. The latter proposed that he be reverted to private in order to qualify. In the event he went as Corporal. The group was under the command of Captain Kirkby, and included his brother, Lieutenant Harold Alexander Kirkby and a Nurse, Sister Myfanwy Wemona Pughe A.R.B.

The group reported for duty at Newtown on 20 January 1900 after a large and emotional send off from Towyn. Many travelled with the group as far as Aberdyfi and Dovey Junction. From Newtown the group proceeded to Brecon for three weeks training. They sailed from Southampton in the S.S. Greek and after a stop over in Tenerife they landed in Cape Town on 15 March.

The campaign in South Africa took the group initially to Ketting Sidings, in the Karoo Desert. They then proceeded, via Springfontein and Branafort, forty miles beyond Bloemfontein where they encountered their first wounded comrades. At Kroonstadt they joined up with their Regiment, 24th South Wales Borderers, who were attached to the 15th brigade under General Tucker. Here they received their first mail since leaving Towyn and learned of Queen Victoria’s death.

Their journey now took them to the boundaries of the Orange Free State and into the Transvaal, where they found that the retreating Boers had left the railways intact, unlike the Orange Free State were they had been destroyed. Their route took them to Johannesburg where they slept in the Show Ground in the cattle pens. They passed through Bethulie, where they caught a pig and roasted it. After that, it was onwards to Providence Sidings, where a fortification entitled Harlech Castle was constructed.

Finally came the order to return home and after disembarking at Southampton they arrived back in Towyn to a heroes welcome on 1 May 1901.

Each member of the group was presented with an illuminated address by the townsfolk. Sergeant Jones is illustrated in our display. Captain Kirkby was presented with a pair of field glasses, also on display in the case opposite. The town then, by public subscription, erected a monument to the exploits, at the junction of Neptune Road and High Street. This monument was officially unveiled on 9 August 1902 (King Edward VII’s coronation day). Our display includes a photograph taken on that occasion with all of Towyn’s children. Sergeant Jones, who was a builder, erected Pretoria Buildings in Towyn High Street. In this building, one of the shops was occupied by his brother as Jones Drapers. The shop is now a hardware store, J.B. Owens.

The Talyllyn Railway renamed its locomotive Number 2 “DOLGOCH” as “PRETORIA” for a while and that same locomotive carried the name “PRETORIA” again this summer.

Opening of Boer War Exhibition, 10th August 2002

The photographs below were taken on the occasion of the opening of the Boer War Exhibition at the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum on 10th August 2002.

Prof Eric & Mrs Sunderland with Pretoria.

Relatives of Boer War Volunteers from Tywyn.

Some Museum Trustees with Pretoria.

Pretoria and Tom Rolt at Pendre.


Pretoria at Abergynolwyn.