Centenary of the day McHardy died of a broken heart Print E-mail
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Monday, 23 September 2013 23:34
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Werner Schellack

The centenary of William McHardy’s death was on 28 August. William is known as the first general manager of the Premier Diamond Mine of Transvaal, but who was this man really and why keep his memory alive?

William McHardy was born on 30 May 1846 in Ballater, Scotland. As a young man he decided to leave his native Scotland in search of wealth on the newly discovered diamond field of Kimberley in the Cape colony.

William McHardy

He soon proved himself an outstanding miner with a sharp mind for diamonds. While working in Kimberley, William met his future wife, Evelina McCormick, who came from Kings Williamstown in the Eastern Cape and was a descendant of the 1820 British Settlers. They married and had seven children, four boys and three daughters.

During the 1890’s William became manager of the De Beers Mine in Kimberley, a position he held until 1903.

When the Premier Diamond Mine of Transvaal started mining operations early in 1903 in Cullinan, the chairman, Thomas Major Cullinan, was looking for a suitable mining manager and the choice fell on William McHardy.

The McHardy family

The McHardy family moved to Premier Mine in 1903 and William took up his new position. At that stage the mine was nothing more than bush and veldt and the McHardy family was accommodated in tents while their house, the first house in the village, was built. Towards the end of 1903 the family moved into their new house, and Evelina immediately started a garden.

William was manager of Premier Mine when the largest diamond ever (3106 carats) was discovered on 26 January 1905. It put Premier Mine on the world map, and also became the legacy of the McHardy era.

Werner Schellack at William McHardy’s grave in the Cullinan cemetery
Photo: Elsabé Maré

On 7 December 1912 tragedy hit the McHardy family. The youngest son, James, died in a motor accident. He was only 19 years old. William never recovered from his son’s death and nine months later he died on 28 August 1913, aged 67, of a broken heart.

The McHardy family left deep footprints in Cullinan’s history. Today the McHardy House Museum in Oak Avenue is a constant reminder of the role this family played during those crucial formative years of the mine and the town that grew around it.


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