Chapter 15.00: The Union Letters.

Introduction to Bacon & the Art of Living

The story of bacon is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s when most of the important developments in bacon took place. The plotline takes place in the 2000s with each character referring to a real person and actual events. The theme is a kind of “steampunk” where modern mannerisms, speech, clothes and practices are superimposed on a historical setting.  Modern people interact with old historical figures with all the historical and cultural bias that goes with this.

narrative – the history of bacon background

The Union Letters

Sea Point, Cape Town,

The quest to understand Bacon and the Art of Living has by 1959 consumed 66 years of my time on earth. I lived through three major wars. The second Anglo Boer War was fought between 11 October 1899 and 31 May 1902 and the First and the Second World War which occurred respectively between 28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918 and 1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945.

When the sun sets over the Atlantic, Minette and I sit in our Seapoint apartment, watching it cast its deep orange cloak over our world. We play chess or cards on the balcony which has been turned into a sunroom when we enclosed it with glass a few years ago. We slowly sip on Gyn and remiss about the old days. In the morning we walk along the Sea Point promenade to stay active. We still regularly hike on Table Mountain but not as often as we should.  At night we stay home and enjoy each other’s company.

Tristan and Lauren


Tristan and Lauren during the construction of our first factory.

Tristan and Lauren have each gone their own way.  Tristan followed his own passion when he joined a travel firm based in Australia.  Lauren studies B Com. Tristan completed B Com which he did part-time. They both outgrew the difficulties associated with ones childhood and have their own amazing families to take care of.

Woody’s Bacon

woodys logo - Copy

The new Woodys logo. Willem Klynveld managed its creation.

Oscar and I grew Woodys into the largest supplier to retail in South Africa of own branded products for outlets like Pick ‘n Pay and Checkers producing 15 tonnes of the best bacon on earth every day.  We both decided its time to bid our baby farewell when Oom Koos and Duncan took the company over during the depression years and we both decided to follow other meat-related ambitions.

Letters from the Union – Therapy for an Old Man

The kids kept asking me for years to write down my memories from 1893 to 1959 and together with the letters I wrote them, Dawie Hyman, David de Villiers Graaff, and Oscar when I was abroad, learning the art of producing the best bacon on earth compile it into a book. After many years of dragging my feet, I finally decided to take them up on the request. The final idea came together at a time when both Tristan and Lauren were both living in Europe and New Zealand. This time it was not me on a quest around the world to unravel the secrets of bacon curing. It was the two kids travelling and I could write to them, not from Europe but now from home while they are living abroad. I find it difficult to make small talk on the telephone. Writing them about events following 1893 was the perfect structure I was looking for to build my letters around. So I picked the story up where I left off in 1893 when I wrote them my last letter about bacon from New Zealand. They were both pleased with the suggestion since it gives us regular contact and I fulfil their request for completing my work on bacon.

Imperial Cold Storage & Supply Co.

Prospectus ICS

The prospectus of the company replacing Combrink & Co. in 1899.

David de Villiers Graaff ultimately changed the name of Combrinck & Co. to the Imperial Cold Storage and Supply Co.  He made his fortune at least three times. The one time was when the city wanted to expand the railway station at the bottom of Adderly Street and needed to relocated Combrink & Co.. The location where they wanted to move the butchery business to as well as the money in compensation were both in dispute. After a process of arbitration, an astronomical amount of  £55 000 was awarded to them on 2 March 1895. David approached the high court to endorse the outcome of the arbitration process. The matter was heard on 9 March 1895 by the chief justice John Henry de Villiers and Justice Thomas Upington who found for Combrink & Co. and the  £55 000 was endorsed and made an order of the court.  This provided the initial financial basis for the development of their consumer goods empire.


The old railway entrance at the Cape Town Headquarters of the ICS.

The second instance was the outbreak of rinderpest, a dreaded disease afflicting cattle that annihilated an estimated 2,500,000 cattle and untold numbers of game across southern Africa. Its spread into South Africa started around 1895.  David’s answer was to import frozen meat from Australia and to distribute it to cold storage facilities to be erected throughout the region. In order to finance this elaborate scheme, early on in 1897, David and his one brother, Jacobus Graaff started thinking of floating a limited liabilities company. On 4 May 1899, the South African Supply & Cold Storage Co. Ltd. was registered with a nominal capital of £450 000.


Oxen being slaughtered “roughly” in the field. They were then hoisted up with slaughter poles and cut into joints for cooking. (From Ice Cold In Africa)

It allowed David to erect cold storage facilities across Southern Africa and the chance to import vast quantities of meat into the Colony and later into the Union of South Africa. During the Anglo Boer War, the Imperial Cold Storage and Supply Company won the tender to supply the British forces with meat. With the refrigerated railway cars that David saw in Chicago when he visited Philip Armour’s packing plant, he was the only firm that had the capacity to take on such an enterprise. Apart from this, the company became one of the largest meat processing companies in the world.  Our friend eventually sold his shares and the name of the company was changed to ICS during the Great Depression.

The company was in financial trouble by 1934 due to hardship that probably goes back to 1925.  Anglo-American corporation became its biggest shareholder with the total share capital of the company increased to GB£2.2 million (equivalent to £436,000,000 in 2010). The company worked closer and closer with Tiger Oats which was, back then, also a subsidiary of Anglo-American corporation.  (1)

Dawie Hyman

IMG_1779 - Copy - Copy

Eben, Dawie and Tristan at Truth Coffee.

Dawie Hyman returned to America where he transitioned from working for the Community Chess in Los Angeles and the Twin Cities of St Paul and Minneapolis to establish his own company supplying solutions in the manipulation of data. After Minette and my visit to New Zealand, we never made it to America as our partners in Cape Town needed our urgent participation in setting up the bacon company and its processing plant. We did eventually make it to Los Angeles many years later, but the objective of the visit was related to further training in areas outside the narrow scope of bacon which consumed me for so many years.


My mom and dad both passed away. My dad passed away after a motor accident on the way home from a vacation in Natal and my mom, after a long sickbed where she struggled with dementia. My brother, Elmar, became a lawyer and later turned his attention to real estate and the retirement industry. Juanita, his wife, kept working as an optometrist, raising Pieter Willem and Handre, their beautiful two boys. Andre, our older brother left the forestry business and entered the personal protection industry. Fanie and Luani, Minette’s brother-in-law and her twin sister, continue to live in Cape Town and their two kids, Liam and Luan went on to have successful careers in their own right.

Union of South Africa


The Times, London, England, 11 October 1910

South Africa became a Union in 1910 and there is talk right now that it will sever its ties with Brittain and form a fully independent Republic. I have my own mixed feelings about it and see the attitude of many white people as desiring nothing more than to have independence in order to secure a continuation of slavery just in another disguise. I remember how this happened with the institution of a system of indenture after slavery was abolished and the Transvaal Republic looked for ways to continue the diabolical practice. There were reports of slave markets, now in a new form, but effectively the same thing continues to exist in Southern Africa right up to the end of the 1800s. The English waged the First Anglo Boer war based on an assertion that this system was nothing less than slavery by another name.

I insert the opening paragraph of Louis Botha’s speech when we became a Union. It shows the deeply embedded racist undertones that existed even in the thinking of people even of the statue of General Louis Botha.


The Buffalo Sunday Morning, 14 August 1910, the opening paragraph of a speech by Louis Botha.

While the Black people got a raw deal, the Union gave unprecedented power to former foes of the British Empire, the Boers.


The Guardian, London, 1 June 1910, a day after the Union was proclaimed.  Celebrating the new political power now largely in the hands of the Afrikaners.

The achievement of the Boer nation was remarkable and this fact should never be underestimated. Here are two more extracts from the newspaper article quoted above, from the Manchester Guardian. It deals with the fact that a Union was a better option than a Federation and how this gave greater autonomy to the former Boer republics.  It highlights another remarkable fact of the Union of South Africa in the following clipping from the paper.

The_Guardian_Wed__Jun_1__1910_ (2)

The_Guardian_Wed__Jun_1__1910_ (3)

This unification of the Afrikaner and English South Africa became a focal point for both Botha and Smuts. The respect from the British that became the basis of their new approach to the Boer nation was built upon respect gained in the Anglo Boer war. In December 1889, in a piece I wrote from Johannesburg entitled, Seeds of War, I recount my meeting of a Boer called Daniel Jacobs.  One night at a dry riverbed outside Kimberly, he asked me if we could camp together for the night. He was travelling alone and our transport party provided him with the security in numbers for the night which lone travellers lack. He was on his way to Johannesburg on government business. I kept in contact with Daniel and after the Boer War, he shared the following fascinating account with me which illustrates my point.

He told me the story of one Gustav Baumann who was born on 21 November 1858 in Bloemfontein. His dad immigrated from Germany and was one of the first residents of  Bloemfontein. Gustav was a land surveyor in the Free State and later became Chief Surveyor General. His daughter published a book on her father’s memories after his passing, The Lost Republic: The Biography of a Land Surveyor by Gustav Baumann and Elfrieda Bright. He was a very compassionate person.

He matriculated from Grey College and even though his mother tongue was Afrikaans, he learned English while in school. During the War with England, he fought on the side of the Boers and was captured when Bloemfontain fell in English hands. Pres. Steyn, the president of the Boer Republic of the Free State instructed him to stay behind and to hand the Free State land title deeds to the English forces.

After the war, he met the Boer warrior and folk hero, General de Wet.  He told Daniel, (2) “Meeting old General de Wet after the war, I asked him why, after Bloemfontein and Pretoria had been captured and we knew we could never win the war, he still went on fighting: ‘Mr. Baumann,’ he said, ‘we kept on because we had to knock respect for our people into the British!’ This is exactly the point I am making about the basis for the English treatment of the Boer nations following the war. It was predicated on respect. His daughter later wrote about her father (2), “Gustav Baumann, who was an old friend of de Wet’s, and who had the greatest admiration for the old warrior…”

He also made another point of something that my great grandfather, JW Kok referred to which I wrote about in October 1960 where I celebrate The Castlemain Bacon Company from Australia as a producer of some of the finest bacon on earth. Here, he makes mention of the fact that some of the Boers who were captured early on in the war were accused of “ill-discipline.” 

de wet et al

Nico Moolamn describes this as “surely… one of the classiest photos in my collection. As dyed by friend Tinus le Roux. For my book “Thank you, general.” Commandant Flip de Vos, Genl De Wet and Veldkornet Alfred Thring at Kroonstad. ABO era.

Gustav Baumann recounts the following about the ill-discipline of the Boers early on in the campaign.  “The lack of discipline, especially in the early stages of the war, was appalling. My brother Herbert was a veld-kornet with the forces investing Kimberley. He was visited by a veld-kornet of the Transvaal Forces. While they were drinking coffee together, a messenger arrived from the Hoft-Commandant (Highest Commandant) for the Transvaler: Commandant Cronje wants to see you at once.” “And who the devil is Cronje to order me about?’ he demanded. ‘Tell him I’ll come when I am ready.’ He finished his coffee and left at his leisure.” He later writes that “…after three years of fighting the men still in the field had learned the art of war.”

Irrespective of the achievements of the Boer, the separation of races and the exploitation of black people and their exclusion from decisionmaking and government never stopped in South Africa but things went from bad to worse when the National Party came to power in 1924 for a short time and again in 1948 which lasted to 1994.  It was in 1948 when a new word was coined to describe the policies of the new government – “apartheid”.  I can see no positive outcome to the scheme and fail to understand how the white population can continue to think that a future is possible that is built upon the exploitation of our fellow human beings and excluding them from determining their own future.  On the other hand, the Boers got a deal, pretty close to what they were fighting for over many years.  South Africa remains a deeply divided land with great opportunities as was proven by David de Villiers Graaff, despite tremendous personal challenges and the diabolical system instituted by the National Government which kept the black man in bondage.

I believe that the unequal distribution of the resources of this great land will come home to haunt every people living here. The English will lose their “little England” and the Boers their “God-given independence” and little Holland with its straight and orderly lines, their language and their church. The peoples from whom they have taken so much by force and illegitimately will grow up to be united and strong enough to fight back. They will leave their care-free existence to forge peoples organised like the superpowers who lord it over them right now and will one day throw the joke off with no regard for Brittain or Holland or the ideal of “self-preservation to the exclusion of all others,” so well exemplified by the Afrikaner. They are training generations of people to hate with a burning fire!  Will they ever be able to withstand what is coming their way?

Bacon Curing and the first Union Cabinet.

It is remarkable that beacon curing and the meat trade featured very prominently in the first Union Cabinet.

Louis Botha’s 1910 cabinet. Supplied by Linda Fouché‎.

Gen Louis Botha was the man who championed the course for the development of the meat industry in South Africa. He had a great ally in David de Villiers Graaff who created ICS which became Tiger Brands. FR Moor is 3rd from the left, back row, looking to his right. His younger brother, JW Moor was the chairman of the farmers cooperative that became Eskort. Botha opened the Eskort factory in Estcourt, Natal shortly before he passed away. The first curing system that Eskort used was the Wiltshire cure associated with Tank Curing.

Through the presence of Botha, De Villiers Graaff and Moor one can see the two South African cold meat giants, Enterprise and Eskort, the largest bacon producer in South Africa represented in the first cabinet.

Meat Curing Focus


Photograph from L V Praagh, The Transvaal, and its Mines, 1906, p.321, of the curing room of a cold storage and butcher’s shop in  Fordsburg, Johannesburg.

My focus remained steadfastly on understanding the chemistry of meat curing to aim Woodys in the right direction. In recent years I became intensely interested in the development of meat curing and preservation in Africa during pre-colonial times. This is a project on its own to reduce to writing at a future time. When I am done with my work on bacon and the good Lord grants me health and a few more years, I will take this project up for there are amazing tales related to it that have never been told!


Unie van Suid-Afrika, Departement van Landbou en Bosbou, Hulpboek vir Boere in Suid-Africa, 3de en uitgebreide uitgawe, saamgestel deur D. J. Seymore (Redakteur)


Unie van Suid-Afrika, Departement van Landbou en Bosbou, Hulpboek vir Boere in Suid-Africa, 3de en uitgebreide uitgawe, saamgestel deur D. J. Seymore (Redakteur)

Bacon & the Art of Living

The letters that follow tell the rest of the story of Bacon & the Art of Living written from South Africa to my children who are living abroad.


When I’m not working (curing meat) or exploring with Minette, this is my life!


(c) eben van tonder

Stay in touch


(1) In March 1982 Barlow bought a large interest in Tiger Oats and the controlling share in Imperial Cold Storage. In October 1998 Tiger Brands (Tiger Oats Limited) bought out Imperial Cold Storage.  It swallowed up ICS in its own portfolio of brands and subsidiaries.

(2)  The quotes and references all came from The Lost Republic The Biography of a Land Surveyor by Gustav Baumann and Elfrieda Bright which was brought to my attention and quoted by Daniel Jacobs.


Brooke Simons, Phillida (2000). Ice Cold in Africa: The History of Imperial Cold Storage & Supply Company Limited. Cape Town: Fernwood Press.

Gustav BaumannElfrieda Baumann.  1940. The Lost RepublicThe Biography of a Land-surveyor.  Bright Faber & FaberFree State (South Africa)