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Postal Stones and the King's English
Xhore Postal Stones
Xhore and the King's English
A barrier to dealing with the Khoe was language - the Khoe click language was unintelligible to Europeans. They also knew very little of their culture or territory. A director of the EEIC - Sir Thomas Smythe - hatched a bizarre plan to teach a Khoe to speak English. He sent secret instructions that a chief should be kidnapped and brought to England.

Cpt. Towerson duly invited Chief Xhore aboard his ship, the Hector, for successive nights of eating and drinking. One night in May 1613, when Xhore and his companion had fallen into a drunken stupor, the Captain set sail for England. Xhore's friend refused to eat and died en route. But Xhore survived the journey and was taken to Smythe's house, dressed and accommodated as a gentlemen.


Xhore became a celebrity in high society. And each day he was given tuition in English. But the miserable Xhore played dumb and pretended not to be able to learn anything, until one day, as Smythe was pressing him to speak of his home. Xhore broke down and pleaded, in eloquent English to be allowed to return.

Ultimately his wish was granted, and he returned to the Cape in on board the Hector in June 1614. He walked ashore alone, wearing a shining suit of bronze armour and carrying a bronze spear. His tribe regarded him as one risen from the day and venerated him. The immediate effect of Xhore's return, however, was that he took control of the bartering and raised the price of meat substantially.
Postal Stones
From around 1615, a custom developed among the English of leaving reports about their ship's arrival engraved on stones along a particular stream. Soon sailors began to hide letters, to be returned to England, under the stones. Examples of these 'Post Office stones' can be seen in the 'Slave Lodge' Museum in Cape Town.

This gathering practice led to another kidnap - this time of a chief called Hadah. Captain John Pynne took him aboard his ship, and then set sail for Bantam. En route he taught him English. On his return Hadah and his followers made their home on Robben Island and here set up a 'post office'.

At first Hadah worked for the English in conveying messages, but in time he worked for all the passing nationalities, including the Dutch. Hadah was known to the Dutch as 'Herrey' and he became Van Riebeeck's official translator upon the Dutch settlement of 1652.



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