Archiver > SOUTH-AFRICA-EASTERN-CAPE > 2006-04 > 1144743767

From: "Sha Redfern" <>
Subject: The Times Mon Apr 29, 1936 pg 16
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2006 10:22:47 +0200

Sir George Cory

"The Rise of the South Africa"

Sir George Cory, whose death in Capetown yesterday at the age of 72 is announced by our Capetown Correspondent, was the historian of South Africa from the earliest times to 1857. "The Rise of South Africa" in six volumes is a monument of long and painstaking research carried on for the most part in such times as he could spare from his lecture room and laboratory at Grahamstown. In particular the account of the Settlers of 1820, set down with the scantiest provisions in the barbarous, if beautiful wilderness, and left practically to shift for themselves in face of the fierce hostility of the frontier tribes, is illustrated by Cory with much poignant and picturesque detail. It is a story to stir pride in the many foremost South African who claim descent from that stout ancestry.

George Edward Cory was born on June 3, 1862, son of the late G N Cory of London. He was educated at St John's College, Hurstpierpoint, and King's College , Cambridge,, where he took honours in the Science Tripos in 1888. In 1981 he was appointed vice-principal of Grahamstown Public School, and three years later Government lecturer in physics and chemistry at St. Andrews College in the same city. In 1904 he was appointed professor of chemistry in Rhodes University College, Grahamstown, and retired in 1925 with the title of Professor Emeritus.

When Cory first arrived in Grahamstown there were still living a few even of the actual settlers of 1820. In a country where everyone rides, Cory, who was no horseman walked even in the hottest months of the South African summer. In an account of his untiring quest for materials, he says: "Almost every year, from the middle of December until the beginning of February, I tramped the country to the East in search of British Settlers, Voortrekkers, Kaffir chiefs, historical sites, and anything else which could story the past." In this way he rescued a mass of personal reminiscence, which was every year lessening or passing into oblivion.

Cory was also the mans of bringing to light the diary of the Rev.. Francis Owen "Missionary with Dingaan in 1837-8" The anniversary of the crushing defeat inflicted on this ferocious Zulu is kept as a public holiday in South Africa. At Cory's suggestion the diary was eventually found at the headquarters of the Church Missionary Society in London, and the society sent Owen's correspondence and journals to Cory with permission to make such use of them as he thought best. For South Africans Owen's diary has a peculiar importance in that it contains the account of the murder of Piet Retief by the treachery of Dingaan "by the only white man who witnessed it, written at the time and on the spot." The original diary, which was published by the Van Riebeeck Society in 1926, is now in the public archives at Cape Town.

At first Cory's aim was merely to collect material for some future historian, but his friends urged him to write the history himself, and with the help of Sir Starr Jameson and later the Rhodes Trustees the first volume of "The rise of South Africa" appeared in 1911. In 1919 the Government of the Union granted him a year's leave of absence from his professorship, and he spent this, his first long holiday after more than 25 years' teaching, in research in the archives of Capetown. When the centenary of the 1820 settlers was celebrated, a citizen of Grahamstown started a fund as a tribute, not only to Cory history, but also for what he had done to keep alive the memory of the settlers, and men of all political opinions contributed. In 1921 Cambridge gave him the honorary degree of D.Litt. and he was also M A of Durham University and the University of South Africa. In 1922 he was knighted, he revisited England, which he had not seen for 31 years, and took the opportunity of!
visit the archives at The Hague. He was the first president of the Old Rhodian Union, old students of Rhodes University College, and they commissioned Mr J H Amshewitz to paint his portrait. In 1933 he was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Empire Society.

The Union Government bestowed on Cory an adequate pension, together with the official title of the Honorary Archivist. His years of retirement accordingly were mainly spent in the congenial task of exploration among the State archives at Capetown. He married in 1895, Gertrude, second daughter of Mr C M Blades, public analyst of Northwich, Cheshire. They had three sons and three daughters. Sir George was a man of many friends and many social gifts and was a vivid and racy speaker.

Sha Redfern

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