THE DAUGHTERS OF JOHN AND MARY BROWN
Whilst browsing through the museum one day, I opened a door that I shouldn't have, and peeked inside. There were documents and photos lying all over the place and I went in and took a look through some of them. I found the journals of a woman called Mary Brown, which I began to read. I was so fascinated by them, that I asked the curator to make me copies.
These diaries took me back to the 1870's, when Mary Brown and her husband John were living in Fraserburg. John was the local district surgeon. Mary gives full details of what her days entailed. The many tragic deaths of infants, including their beloved son, John. She describes how they spent most Sundays at the river, which sadly no longer exists. She tells of how they would take a horse and cart and go and spend weeks away at a farm called Ayesfontein as it was so far away. Ayesfontein is still there less than 20km from town, but the grand old house that used to house about four families at a time is not. The last of it was demolished by the current owner's father a few years ago. Some of the original orchard still exists as well as ruins of the old mill.
In 1873, Olive Schreiner came to live in Fraserburg with her sister, Alice Hemming for a short while. She and Mary Brown became great friends and later on, once Mary and John had moved back to England, Olive sent them a script for them to find a publisher for her book. This was the great novel, The Story of an African Farm which was published in 1883 and dedicated to Mrs John Brown. Olive was known to say that she felt the book half belonged to them.
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