The Laird of Matjiesfontein.



James LoganJames Logan was born in 1857 at Reston Berwickshire, a village located in the southeast of Scotland. He was the son of a minor Scottish railway official who immediately after leaving school joined the British Railway Company.

Jimmy at 15 years began his career as a booking clerk at Reston but was compelled to improve his life. Two years later he boarded the sailing vessel Rockhampton bound for Australia. On the way the ship was engulfed in a storm and became waterlogged. This made it necessary for the ship to seek refuge in Simons bay in South Africa. Jimmy decide to leave the ship with only £5 in his pocket and walk to Cape Town.

Using his previous experience he gained a job with the Cape Colonial Railways. Working as a porter he was paid a lowly 5 shillings a day. At the age of 20 he became the Stationmaster of the new Cape Town station. At 21 years he married a local girl Emma Haylett and was promoted to District Superintendent. The area he covered was between the Hex river and Prince Albert Road stationed at Touws Road. Jimmy lived near the railway line within reach of fresh water which he sold to railway passengers. He also built a mineral water factory and bottled soda water, lemonade and ginger ale for sale to thirsty travellers.

As an experienced railway man, Logan knew that every locomotive needed 250 000 litres of water to cross the Karoo.

Matjiesfontein was 55 kms up the line on the main route to the gold diamond and gold fields of Kimberly. It was ideal for Jimmy to open a station refreshment room to supplement his railway wages. Later he was a licensee of the Railway owned Frere Hotel on the Touws river. Shrewdly he decide to leave the Railways and take advantage of the continual flow of ox cart and wagon travellers. With his wife and two children he moved to Matjiesfontein.

Within a short time he gained the concession to open a refreshment room and bought a farm called Tweedside. He gradually bought the surrounding farms and was on the way to riches. Jimmy had health problems that had began to improve through the dry air and clear waters. With this in mind he opened the Matjiesfontein Health Spa and improved the area by importing London lampposts. He also planted trees and built fine fountains that along with his holiday resort attracted many important people creating a paradise in the desert.

Olive SchreinerVisitors included Cecil Rhodes, Edgar Wallace, Olive Schreiner, Randolph Churchill and Rudyard Kipling. His own house was the first to install a wind powered electric generator and flush toilet. He had a telephone connection between his house and farm the longest in South Africa. Jimmy also organised the first international South Africa cricket game which began the country’s lover fare with the game.

James Logan of Reston became known as The Laird of Matjiesfontein the owner of 100,000 acres of land. At the age of 37 he became a member of Parliament of Cape Town serving in both upper and lower houses.

Milner Hotel - once a convalescent homeWhen the Boar War broke out Matjiesfontein became a British military stronghold where 10,000 troops and 20,000 horses were established on the outskirts of the town. An officers convalescent home was established in his Milner Hotel with its three observation turrets.

Slowly, in the passage of time Matjiesfontein became less fashionable and drifted into shabby obscurity.

Jimmy Died in 1920 at the age of 63 a spectator to the decline of  his town. The people of South Africa remembered when John Merriman became Prime Minister (1908 - 1910) he said : "I wish there were ten thousand Logan’s in South Africa. He has courage to take decisions and stand by them!"

The area is now under new developments and the Lord Milner Hotel stands just as elegant. Next to the hotel is the Lairds Arms adorned in Victorian style. The Tweedside lodge is the home of Jimmy’s descendant. Matjiesfontein is imbued by the Logan spirit and has set the course for expansion in the dry champagne air.

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