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Digger's Republic (South Africa)

Last modified: 2000-01-21 by ole andersen
Keywords: south africa | diggers republic | free republic | diamond republic | klipdrift | griqualand west republic | adamantia |
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I posted some time ago the flag of Diggers Republics according to the SAVA information posted to me by Bruce Berry.
I read now that the flag of the republic was whithe over red with the inscription "Independent Republic" (language unknown, but probably english), inspired by Czech digger Cenek Paclt.
Perhaps this was an alternative or proposed flag. SAVA writes about a white flag with the inscription: Free Republic, and between "free" and "Republic" a red diamond, but with the Union Jack above.
Jaume Ollé - 1 March 1997

Do you have information about the flag of the Digger's Republic formed in the early 1870's in the diamond fields of South Africa, in what was considered the Province of Griqualand West, a British colony? I have a couple of pictures in books showing the flag flying. What qualifies a flag to be listed or become "official". I note the Land of Goshen has a flag listed at http://www.wi.hs-wismar.de/~linke/RSA/Flaggen/Gosen_af.html.
Ron Carlson - 9 June 1998

Some information on the flag of the Digger's Republic:
The Diggers' Republic - also variously described as the Free (Diamond) Republic, the Klipdrift Republic, the Griqualand (West) Republic and the republic of Adamantia - existed for some months during the latter half of 1870 in the alluvial diamond fields of the Vaal River (former Cape Province in South Africa) between Hebron in the east and its confluence with the Harts River in the west.
The publicity surrounding the discovery of diamonds led to hundreds, and then thousands of people flocking to the diamondiferous territory which maps were, before long, to show as "Adamantia". Initially many of the diggers were British subjects from within South Africa, but as word spread further afield they flocked from almost every corner of the globe.
In the absence of any form of government control, the diggers framed a code of rules for the regulation and management of their affairs on the diggings. In the face of what they considered to be predatory claims by the Orange Free State and the Transvaal republics, and also from the Griqua Chief Nicolaas Waterboer, the diggers at Klipdrift, the principal centre on the diggings, also established a "Mutual Protection Association" with Stafford Parker, who had long traded in the area, as Commandant. Parker, a former able-bodied seaman in the Royal Navy, merchant seaman and painter was then a prominent general dealer and owner of a music saloon in Klipdrift.
The first real sign of political interference in the affairs of the diggers came the following month when the Transvaal Volksraad (Parliament) granted the exclusive right to mine for diamonds, other precious stones and minerals to three men with effect from 24 June 1870.
In a report filed from Klipdrift on 15 July 1870, the Argus newspaper correspondent reported that as a result of the news of this concession; "The diggers are in a fearful state of excitement .. and there is to be a meeting of what they proudly call the Provisional republic" tomorrow afternoon".
The following day the special correspondent of the Aliwal Observer, also writing from Klipdrift, reported that " ... several of the crowd ...were immensely cheered whenever ... they called for the diggers to declare for a 'Free Republic' ". He continued that "Great enthusiasm was manifested throughout" and the call "Parker and a republic" was received with cheers and an irregular salute of musketry.
Writing from the Pniel side of the Vaal River the next day (17 July 1870), the special correspondent of the Aliwal Observer noted "Union Jacks and British ensigns flying today". The ensigns referred to would presumably have been Red Ensigns.
Precisely when the diggers declared their "republic" with Stafford Parker as President is not clear from British correspondence, but various writers give the date as 30 July 1870.
Both the Free State and Transvaal governments laid claim to the area and it is clear that the diggers did not take kindly to this interference.

[Digger's Republic (1870) in South Africa]
by Bruce Berry

In a letter to Lieut.-general Hay, Acting Governor of the Cape Colony, Theodore Doms, political agent of the Baralong and Batlapin branches of the Bechuana Nation wrote that on 16 September 1870, "a flag as hoisted by (one part of) the Diggers (they have different political feelings), viz. a white flag with the name Free (diamond symbol) republic, and the Union Jack above, and an independent Government was proclaimed ..."
From this description it is not clear if the Union Jack positioned directly above the name or in the canton as with traditional British ensigns.

[Digger's Republic (1870) in South Africa - alternate]
by Bruce Berry

According to McNish, Parker's Presidency was at first only a galvanised iron building in the veld but later a more substantial place in the main street of Klipdrift was used. He writes, "A flag was designed showing "the Union Jack in the top right hand corner with a large rearing horse as the central item". This flag was hoisted daily on a flagstaff in front of the Presidency building.
When one considers that the majority of the diggers were British subjects (from Natal and the Cape) and that the Union Jack and British Ensigns were widely flown on the diggings and the fact that the flag described by Theodore Doms contained a union Jack, it is well within the bounds of possibility that the Red Ensign could have formed the basis of this flag of the Diggers'Republic.
With his naval background Stafford Parker would have been well acquainted with the Red Ensign - which with the addition of a distinctive badge was later to form the basis of many colonial ensigns. In addition he had a great love for horses.
Since Parker had made a living as a painter for a while before moving to the diggings, it seems more than likely that he might have painted the horse onto an existing Red Ensign himself. A white horse would undoubtedly have shown up better on the red field, but as it happens, it seems that black paint was used instead. The only known representation of this flag is in the form of a painting by W McGill, which is in the African Museum in Johannesburg.
Following the appointment of a British magistrate to Klipdrift and a disastrous flood in December 1870, many of the diggers moved to more promising "dry diggings" at Du Toit's Pan, where Parker again opened a general dealer's store and music saloon.
It is known that McGill visited Du Toit's Pan in 1871. The catalogue of the African Museum describes the painting in question as showing "depicting a wood and iron store with the words "...mond fields .. duce store" - " ... Buyer" - "Diamant Kooper" (diamond buyer) painted on it. Above the store flies a flag with a horse on a red ground and a Union Jack in the top corner nearest the flag-pole. This has been described - on what grounds it is not known - as the flag of the Griqualand Republic. The name of the artist and the subject are adduced solely from the Signature".
Its seems probable that the building concerned might well have been Stafford Parker's own establishment at Du Toit's Pan. He never allowed people to forget he had been a President and was known as the "ex-President" for the remainder of his life. It is logical to assume, bearing in mind the independent nature of the diggers, that Parker might well have continued to fly a flag adopted during his Presidency, while living at Du Toit's Pan.
(Extract from SAVA Journal 3/94: "The Union Jack over Southern and Central Africa, 1795 - 1994" by FG Brownell.)
Bruce Berry - 10 June 1998

Ales Brozek that is (or was) member of the list reported (I don't remember where) another flag for Diggers Republic. The flag was white over red and with the inscription "Independent Republic" in unknow language. The flag was a creation of the czech "digger" Cenek Paclt. I dont remember more details, but perhaps if Ales read this can post more information
Jaume Olle - 14 June 1998