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Soldiers, Sailors, Rebels & Outlaws

Leander Starr Jameson

South African Infantry toy set

Period:
20th Century
Description:

These lead soldiers, the South Africa Mounted Infantry, were made by the toy firm Britains Ltd in 1903. The officer is Leander Starr Jameson who was born in Stranraer in 1853. One of Jameson’s many claims to fame – and indeed infamy – is that he is the only non-Royal to be included in a toy set manufactured by Britains.

Leander Starr Jameson’s father was a lawyer and also editor of the Wigtownshire Free Press. His son studied medicine at University College Hospital, London and qualified as a doctor in 1875. In 1878 he went out to South Africa where he combined a successful medical practice with politics and money-making. He used his influence with one of his patients, Lobenguela chief of the Matabele tribe, to win business concessions for Cecil Rhode’s British South Africa Company.

Cecil Rhodes, together with other British politicians and businessmen, wanted to bring South Africa’s huge reserves of gold and diamonds under British control. In October 1895 Jameson was encouraged to lead the British South Africa Company’s private army in an invasion of the Boer republic of the Transvaal. The invasion, known to history as The Jameson Raid, went disastrously wrong and Jameson’s men were forced to surrender to the Boers. There was a major political scandal and Jameson was brought back to England where he was tried, found guilty and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment.

The Jameson Raid, despite its failure, was used by the British government to drum up hatred of the Boers. In many ways it was a prelude to the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1901.

Leander Starr Jameson went on to make a name for himself as a colonial administrator and in 1906 he became Prime Minister of Cape Colony. It is widely believed that Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ was written in celebration of Jameson’s personal qualities. He died in 1917 and was buried next to Cecil Rhodes on Malindidzimu Hill in Zimbabwe.

Jameson was a complex character and today it all too easy to dismiss him as an adventurer, a mercenary and a self-promoter. But in later life he was also a dedicated civil servant and politician. These toy soldiers are a memorial to one of Stranraer’s more exotic sons.

Materials/Media:
lead
Dimensions:
90mm
Source:
Stranraer Museum
Accession number:
WIWMS 1998.10
Digital Number:
SRTM001a; SRTM001b
Creation Date:
1903
Copyright:
Dumfries & Galloway Council


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