If I should need to write a novel in a hurry
It would have to be about my ancestor,
Captain Anthony Beale, adventurer and rogue,
slaver, seaman, pioneer. He was
an officer, but not a gentleman.
The BEIC sent him to St Helena island
soon after it was colonised, his task,
to subdue the rabble that had collected there.
Other governors had failed, but Beale
no stranger to the lash, soon
whipped the ruffians into shape.
There weren’t too many of them anyway.
But then the Dutch attacked,
He tried to chase them off
by rolling rocks down on them from the heights.
The Dutch retreated but returned in force.
He thought it best to flee. He took a ship,
went to Brazil, hired a sloop and set out
to warn all British ships that St Helena
had been captured by the Dutch.
By chance he met some naval ships,
and with their help reclaimed the island for the Crown.
The Company were not amused. They cut his salary;
demoted him from Governor to storeman.
He took this opportunity to cook the books,
got caught and got the sack,
Now Beale was forced to till the soil and
sell his house, ( I’m sure
it wasn’t at a loss.)
It wasn’t long before this little isle,
in mid-Atlantic was again the scene
of strife and battle. Some malcontents,
Beale among them, started an insurrection.
The rebellion was soon put down,
the instigators executed, most of them.
but Beale, although condemned to death,
contrived to talk his way into a milder sentence,
Instead of being hanged, he would be exiled.
He was never to go back to England.
And that is how our family came to be
settlers and have remained settlers to this day.
(As for Anthony, he came to a sticky end,
poisoned by one of his slaves,
an early victim of decolonisation.)
At that time the Dutch East India Company were not very happy with the station they had established at Table Bay. They had found that the harbour was not at all safe. The weather was inclined to be very stormy. There was always the danger of shipwreck when rounding the Cape. The indigenous population were unfriendly; livestock was always being stolen and then fighting would break out. That is why an expedition was sent to St Helena. The intention was to drive the British out and establish an alternative station there. Perhaps they even intended to move Van Riebeeck and co.to St Helena. After successfully capturing the island the Dutch force returned to the Cape leaving just a weakened garrison to defend it. They didn't expect to lose it again so soon. If the Dutch had established themselves there, it would have had a profound effect on the BEIC. They might have been squeezed out of the Spice trade and lost much of their wealth. It would have had an even more profound effect on development of the Cape Colony. Fewer Dutch ships would have stopped there. The settlement might have been abandoned. It would certainly not have grown the way it did. The Portuguese might even have taken over in the Cape.
In school, we learnt all about Simon van der Stel, Ryk Tulbagh,Wolrade Woltemade and so on, but nobody is ever taught about Anthony Beale and the naval captain who chased off the Dutch and recaptured St Helena.