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Sunday, 17 January 2010

The man with the toothbrush in his hat (Westbeech)

By Richard Sampson (my edition 1972 Multimedia Publications Lusaka)

The man with a toothbrush in his hat: The story and times of George Copp Westbeech in Central Africa concerns one of the first white trader-hunters to settle in South Central Africa. Much of the narrative concerns George ('Joros') Westbeech's relationships with Coillard (who gave him a silver watch), Sipopa, Lewanika and Lobengula. We hear how Westbeech supported the establishment of Coillard's mission, aided Arnot and Holub, and kept peace between Lobengula and the tribes to his north, while thwarting the Jesuits. There is much information on the succession of chiefs.

Like most of his contemporaries in the region, he also loved his drink.

Time and again one reads about how African chiefs knew whom amongst the white traders they could trust, and Westbeech is one of those who won the affections of many, through his honesty and trustworthiness. Although qualified as a master mariner in Liverpool (Toxteth Park), he spent most of his life in southern central Africa and was fluent in the languages spoken in the area, which helped him to assimilate himself into the local communities. In fact, according to Selous he had a wife in every village. Holub records that he had 16 wives. However, according to Sampson, no descendants of his had been traced at the time this book was written.

Supposed to be the only photo
of Lobengula
He married an Afrikaaner girl, Cornelia Carolina Gronum in 1875, but the marriage only lasted a few years before Westbeech's drinking and, probably more significantly, the talk of his other 'wives' put an end to it.

He seems to have travelled abroad due to a combination of family tragedy - when he was aged 8 both his parents had died - and the impact of the American Civil war on the cotton trade and industry in Liverpool. Possibly also he was caught up in the excitement generated by David Livingstone's visit to Liverpool in 1857. He emigrated to Natal in 1862 aged 17 and soon pushed northwards, arriving in Matabeleland in 1863. Many of those going north were deserters, discharged soldiers and criminals. So many travelled Westbeech's road in the end that Sampson says the boundary between Botswana and Southern Rhodesia more or less followed it.

His trade was mainly in ivory, and he killed hundreds of elephants (in a good year maybe 700) each year. No wonder areas were later said to be hunted out.

Thomas Leask
Although a supporter of English expansion, it seems ironic given Westbeech's generally good relations with Lewanika and Lobengula that his virtual control over the area just north and south of the Zambezi around Panda-ma-tenga should have in the end assisted Rhodes and the BSA in acquiring mining rights and bringing in colonial rule.

He died 17 July 1888 and was buried at Vleischfontein.

Coillard party, including Aaron Waddell

  • Lobengula and assumed to be George Westbeech, p.9
  • Holub Mr&Mrs p56
  • 1884 Coillard party, p72
  • Lewanika 1885 p88
  • Mataa p95
  • Tatila p95

Here are the names... (I omit minor chiefs)

Adonis p39

Africa, Jan ('Klaas') p.35, 43, 126-7 d.1887
Akafuna - see Tatila
Arnot, Frederick Stanley p76,79,89,91-2, 137
Asikambwa, Mwanamala (Sipopa's steward) p64
Begehegge (Jesuit) p79
Bairn (Bauren), Robert (clerk) p53,57,60,63 d. Panda-ma-tenga 1875
Baldwin, William C. (trader) p.28,32
Banosha family p92
Barber, (Bulwayo) p53
Blockley, J. George (Sesheke) p.32,40,55,61,66,74,76,79,80,96,102,126-7 d.1887
Boyd, Dr p35
Bradshaw, Dr Benjamin p35,44,45, 65, 67, 73
Browns, Tati Store, post office p54
Byles (trader) p67
Chapman (trader) p.32
Clark, Elizabeth (shopkeeper, wife of George Copp)
Clark, Ted p128-9
Clarke, Richard (Shosong) p53-55
Coillard, Elise c. p72
Coillard, F. (& Mrs) p70-81, 87-92, 96-110, 128-35, 144-5
Coillard, Mrs p72
Copp, Elizabeth Clark, b 1816, m. 22/1/1840 Church of St Bride, d.1852 (TB),
Copp, George, from Devonshire to Toxteth Park, d. 1847 (m. Elizabeth Clark)
Cowley, Richard p62, d. Panda-ma-tenga 1875
Dardier, Dr Auguste (Swiss, Sesheke) p131-3 d.23 Feb 1888?
Dawson (Matabeleland, Shoshong, Bulawayo) p37,70,126-7,131,141
Depelchin (Jesuit) p79
Dobbie, Hugh (Australian, Tati) p64
Dorehill, George (hunter) p64-5
Fabi and wife Asserat - cook, p62
Fairbairn, James (Bulawayo) p17-19,50,83,87,96-7, 109, 126-7, 131, 141-4
Fairlie, William Frederick p62
Fekete p117-8
Fourie (transvaal) p49
Francis, William C. & Mrs, p54,57-60
Francis and Clarke 1872 p53
Frere, Sir Bartle p67 letter to Panda-ma-tenga
Frewen, Richard (posh traveller) p66-68, 76
Fry, Mr T. (trader, Shoshong) p120
Garland (Port Elizabeth) p44
Gosling, John (retired P&O chef) p51, 60, 65
Grandy, William (ex navy hunter) p64-5
Gronum (Grunim, Gronen), Antonie Johannes, (Marico) p48-9, from Beaufort West, farm Veldevreede (Transvaal) p51
Gronum, Cornelia Carolina p46 (photo), m. Westbeech (Zeerust), 1875, p49-69, 75, 144

Hartley, Henry (hunter) p.20
Hammar, August (German) p.14
Helm, C.D. (LMS) p141
Hewitt (trader) p63, 66 d.1876
Holub p55-61,77, 103, 108, 111-120, 135, 138-9
Horn, W (Klerksdorp) p38, 99,112
Horner, Lewis (hunter) p64-5 1877
Hughes, ? married younger sister of Elizabeth Clark, 1840
Hughes, Samuel John, b. c. 1842 (building contractor, Toxteth Park)
Isiah (Coillard) p72
Jalla, Revd Louis (Italian) p132, 145
Jantje p39
Jeanmairet, Dorwald (Swiss) p91 m. Elise Coillard 4/11/1885 p.100
Jesuits (Dutch and Belgian) p74-5,82,87,89,96,108,112
Jolly (trader) p55, d. Panda-ma-tenga 1875
Khama, p52,70,71,73-4,77
Kuruman (Mzilikazi's heir) b.c. 1828 p.20
Leask, Thomas (from Orkney), p.23,24 (photo), 33, 47, 69-70,82-3,86-7,97, 126-7, 131, 141-4
Lebebe p94
Leeb p117-8
Lekoguani (Lewanika's nephew) p110
Levi (Coillard) p72
Lewanika, 'Robosi', p45, 66, 71, 73, 75, 77-80, 84, 86, 89-94, 98-106, 109-112, 121-3, 128-131, 134-37, 145
Litia (son of Lewanika) p92,110,112
Livingstone, David p55,57, 137
Lobengula, p51.66,70-1,74,77,81,83,87,97,109, 124-27, 131, 133, 139-43
Lochner, Elliot p144-5
Mackenna, p45
Macleod, Cpt Norman (74th foot) p62
Mackintosh, Christina (Scots, 2nd wife??) p77
Magumpa p134, 136
Mahura, Jan (employee of Leask, Sipopa) p.30, 61,62
Mairet, Jean p72
Mapani p117-8
Maransian (aka Sikabenga) p100-2, p124, 133-8
Ma-Ruthi (Levi's wife), p72
Mashoku (Sipopa's executioner) p55,61
Mataa p73, 94, 96, 98-9
Middleton (Coillard's party) p72, 130
Middleton, George William (artisan, brick maker) p91, 144 
Moffat, John Smith (son of Robert) p142-3
Moffat, Robert p.74
Mokhole p135
Molemwa, p121-2
Montgomery, J.A. (landdrost, Zeerust) p48
Moremi (Lake Ngami) p94,99,122
Musson bros (traders) p144
Mwala (M'wala) trading induna p94
Mwanawina p64-66,73,92
Njambo p135
Oates, Frank (naturalist) p45, d.1875
Openshaw, G. p53, 57, 60
Patterson, (Captain) Robert p68-9

Philips, George Arthur 'Elephant' (Bulawayo) p.17-19, 35-37 , 40 , 50, 52, 69, 83, 86-7, 96-7, 131, 139, 141, 143-4
Pinto, Major Serpa p109
Price, Helmore (LMS) p.28
Rae, Fr p.107
Rees, Bowen (witness on Lobengula mining agreement) p.142
Reutter, Dr George (Paris Mission) p40, Inventor mosquito net 1902
Samaseku p94
Rhodes, Cecil p141-4
Rudd, (Rhodes representative) p142
Schinderhutte, Christoffel 'Stoffel' (German) p.35,44-45, 63, d.1875
Scholtz, Clark Burton (landdrost) p50
Scott (visiting falls) p67

Schulz, Aurel (German) p.14
Sekofella p98-9
Selembu (Sipopa's ngambela) p61, 94,98-100
Selous, p68-9,82, 137-9
Sergeaunt, John p68-9
Shepstone, Theophilus p.20
Sikabenga - see Maransian
Sipopa, p.28, 29 (sketch), 44, 55-74, 92, 94, 100, 105, 122, 124, 129, 137
Slack (trader, Shoshong) p63
Sousa, Filisberto Guedes (trader) p109
Stabb, Major p.13, 51
Stromboom, Jan Oscar (Norwegian-British)  p.44, 128
Tahahima p134
Tatila p95-100
Taylor, James (Klerksdorp) p69
Taylor and Leask's store (Klerksdorp) p.47
Theunissen (trader) p57
Thomas, Evan Morgan p69
Van Rooyen, Mr & Mrs, Tati store, p54
Vijlder, De (Jesuit) p79
Waddell, Aaron p72
Waddell, William p91
Wall, Henry (Griqua, Grahamstown), p35, 43
Walsh, Alexander (Second Queen's Surrey Regiment), Shoshong, Tati p53, 57-60, 74
Ware, Harry p98, 144
Watson, Frank p97, 119-20, 126
Westbeech, George, d. 1847 (husband of Elizabeth Clark)
Westbeech, George, b.5 Oct 1844, m. Cornelia Gronum 1875 d. 17 July 1888
Westbeech, Joseph, b.1847, d.1849 (enteritis)
Westbeech, Joseph (naval commander) c. 1758 - c.1811
Westbeech, Joseph (founder, mariner, tide waiter) c.1800 - c1848 (at sea?)
Weyers, Jan (Panda-ma-tenga) p137
Wilson, B. 'Matabele' p139, 141
Wood, George (trader) p86 d.1882
Zoldner (Sollner), Oswald (Austrian, Holub's party, killed) p115-17


  1. How do I buy this book?
    bmapani@unam.na; lolelaani@gmail.com

  2. Try e-bay perhaps... I think that's where I got mine, or perhaps it was just part of our home library. There are also many online second-hand bookshops.

  3. Hewitt (trader) p63, 66 d.1876

    Please could I have any detail on this trader _ My great Uncle James Hewitt was killed up near the Zambezi by the Barotse. Think this may have been him.......THANK YOU rgds Ian

  4. Hello Ian, Here's what it says

    "In 1876 a man named Hewitt, a partner of a trader named Slack who had a store at Shoshong, went to Sesheke for the purpose, according to Westbeech, of spoiling Westbeech's trade with Sipopa but was imprisoned by that king. Whilst in the custody of Sipopa, Hewitt died in July 1876 and was buried at the junction of the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers. Over the years since his death, many writers have speculated that he was probably poisoned by Sipopa, and Westbeech's testimony in this respect must be treated as the truth of the matter. He was on close terms with most of the senior members of the Lozi tribe surrounding Sipopa at that time. Westbeech however, has very little sympathy for either Hewitt or his remaining partner Slack and he had also written that Slack had lost about One Thousand Pounds by his endeavours to oust Westbeech, and Westbeech concluded 'so I think he will have had quite enough of the Zambezi'."

    The reference given is a letter, and the author says "Slack is unknown" and might be a nickname for another interior trader. It goes on...

    "...after the death of Hewitt, very few of them [traders] endeavoured to find their way across the Zambezi river itself, [though they] did to a considerable extent infiltrate the ivory market throughout the south bank."

    I'll see if I can spot any references in some other books I have.

    1. THANK YOU sorry only seing this now: This is the version I have of my uncle:
      With the discovery of diamonds my Uncle James Hewitt was one of the first to trek further north to the Parnell River diggings on the Vaal, during the time of the Parker and Tabb parties. In due course they pushed on to Khama’s country (Botswana formerly Bechualand) where he carried on his trading business. At Shoshang the Matabele (Ndebele) came down to settle some dispute with the Khama’s people. With the help of the traders the situation was saved, King Khama showed his gratefulness ever after. Hewitt feeling unsure about the matter did not venture into Matabeleland to trade. To his surprise a runner came down from King lo’Bengula asking him to bring along his trading wagons. My uncle on second thought, made a hurried trip taking only one wagon in case of trickery. On his arrival at ko’Bulawayo (the place of suffering, formerly called Gibixhegu) he drew up and out-spanned. The king sent for him, when the usual good wishes were over he asked my uncle: “Why have you come with one load?” He explained his loss was due to a siege by his warriors and the Khama people, which delayed his going south to replenish goods and that he had hurried up to show good faith. The old King feeling contented remarked: “you need to stop to trade, tell me what you have and the value of the goods?” After a rough calculation lo’Bengula told him to offload and then paid him out cash, giving him a fresh team of oxen for the journey back. He then gave an order for sixty head of cattle to be driven out in compensation for the loss Uncle James had sustained, telling him to hurry down country and replenish his goods. In those days it was three months journey each way. I recall my uncle exhibiting six wagon loads of ivory, feathers, kaross’s and curios on Market Square in Port Elizabeth, which realised £6000. He replenished his trading goods and trekked back to Bechuanaland (Botswana) via Colesburg, Hopetown and Kuruman.”

      1876 James Hewitt met his fate on the Zambezi River above the Victoria Falls. He had taken or accompanied a party of Missionaries to their destination beyond the now dry Lake Ngami. From there he ventured on to trade. After a tedious journey he reached Shesheke on the Zambezi with his two wagons. The Matabele by this time new him as a trader to Matabeleland and left him undisturbed. A short while after King Lewanika’s Barotse people crossed over the river in their dugouts.

      “Believing my uncle had shown the Matabele favour they murdered him pillaging everything he possessed. These were the times of Edward Chapman, William Francis Sam ‘Matabele’ Edwards, old Bill Finaughty, George Phillips, Davidson and James Fairbairn, all early traders to the untamed interior.”

    2. Hi Ian - thanks for the extra information. Where do the quotes come from?

  5. There is a George Hewitt, a missionary. Other than that I have a reference in 'They came to Northern Rhodesia' (Richard Sampson), which says:

    "Trader. Entered N.W.R. [North Western Rhodesia] 1876 from south. Died Sesheke July 1876 but buried in Bechuanaland."

    The source for this is the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, April 1881.

    NWR refers to Southern, Copperbelt, Part of Central, Western and North-western Lusaka, so that's a pretty big area!

  6. That RGS reference is

    Notes on the Chobe River, South Central Africa
    Benjamin F. Bradshaw.

    He writes:

    "The trading station is situated nearly opposite the town of Impalera, on a sandy rise, at the edge of a small flat, which is covered with thick patches of thorn-trees and used to be formerly the haunt of buffaloes. The position of this place, in long. 25 19' E and lat. 17 49'S... I obtained from Major Serpa Pinto on the 6th October, 1878....
    Several white men are buried here, among them a trader named Hewitt, who is interred under a large thorn-tree, and who we strongly suspected had been poisoned by the late king Sepopo, July 1876, at Sesheke, on the Zambesi. His body was sent down here for burial."

    1. Fantastic Anton thanks for your time on this


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