Robert Bell was a founding member of the New Scotland farming venture in the east Transvaal of the late 1860's and was murdered near his farm called Craigie Lea. He was a Justice of the Peace and was arresting a Swazi tenant called Mabekana who murdered him with an assegai to the heart along with 6 of his policemen.
He was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 2 Nov 1843.
In 1861 aged about 18 he sailed to New Zealand or more probably Australia with his younger brother to farm for the Glasgow Land company. In 1867 he returned briefly to Scotland and was rewarded for his loyal service by being made manager for the Glasgow Land Co. for the newly established area of New Scotland in the eastern Transvaal of South Africa.
He married Isabella Jane Buchanan from Pietermartizburg, Daughter of David Dale Buchanan Buchanan-432 a prominent lawyer and founder and Editor of the Natal Witness Newspaper. They had 5 children. The youngest Roberta was born 6 months after her father was murdered. She died a year later on the nearby farm of Lillieburn.
Robert Bell and six policemen were murdered while enacting the arrest of Mabekana Malaza. The arrest was for cattle theft or more probably non payment of rent. Robert Bell's duties also included manager of the remnants of the New Scotland farming venture spearheaded by Alexander McCorkindale in1866. After McCorkindale dided of Malaria in 1872 the scheme lost its livewire and faltered. As manager to the widow of McCorkindale it was his role to collect rent from tenants of the farm within the scheme. Mabekana refused to pay rent for what he considered land belonging to the Swazi king and not the white farmers. On the order by Bell to arrest Mabakana, Mabekana countered with an instruction to his men kill Bell and the policemen. Two policemen were able to escape and reported the murder. Mabekana was caught the following morning and later hung in Pretoria. Robert did not believe in carrying a weapon and preferring to rely on his position and well-known influence for his safety.
There is a legendary ghost in the New Scotland area of Mpumalanga and is generally accepted as the ghost of Robert Bell. It took the form of a bright yellow light and appeared without fail at exactly eight o’clock in the evening every single day on the farm Craigie Lea. It would travel in a southerly direction for approximately 4 km roughly along the line of the now R33 road and then disappeared at more or less the place near the grave of Robert Bell. The light was observed Sam Breytenbach from the neighbouring farm Arthur's Seat when he arrived on there in 1919 but it entirley possible the light was observed before that time. The light was visible from the next door farms Clarence and Arthurs Seat over some distance. It was so reliable that the locals would make an effort to see the light and show others. During such viewings it was established that the light could not be seen if you viewed it from too close but on the same evening those further away would make a sighting. The light was still seen up until about 1980. Locals who witnessed the light long ago confirm it is now gone.
|The Craigie Lea Ghost light|
The grave site was on the R33 road (Oshoek side of Warburton leading in the direction of the Mpuluzi River approx 200 meters east of the road and 1.5 km from the river before approaching the bridge on the river). The inscription on the grave read: "Here lies Robert Bell, cruelly assegaied by Mabekana Malaza." Grave Co-ordinates: South -26.2611777, East 30.5901716 Mike Bell performed a search for the grave in Dec 2014. The search area was based on the location provided by Prof. Willie Breytenbach who viewed the grave as a boy growing up on the adjacent farm Arthur's seat and regularly witneesed the the light. The grave could have been destroyed in the process of the planting of a pine tree plantation in the 1980's or is still there but covered over by a thick carpet of pine needles.  Map of the gravesite
The memoirs of the late Robert Bell  for a complete record of his murder along with 6 policemen compiled by his brother-in-law D D Buchanan
After Bell was murdered a peak on the Swazi-SA border was named in his honour. It appears the murder may have taken place close to Bellskop which is roughly 30km as the crow flies from Craigie Lea.
Robert Bell is is centred in an unbroken line of firstborn Robert Bells spanning 214 years.
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Bob is 20 degrees from Elinor Glyn, 26 degrees from Frances Weidman and 19 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.