Talana Museum South Africa  

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Founders of Dundee

Thomas and Peter Smith

The two Smith brothers who emigrated to Natal, Thomas and Peter, were the sons of Thomas Smith and Mary Paterson.  They lived on Mole Hill farm in Forfarshire, near Dundee, Scotland.

Thomas Smith left home in the 1850’s and went to the Australian gold fields, hoping to find gold and get rich.  He spent five years there before coming to Natal.  He got here in 1855 and was granted 3000 acres in Northern Natal and named his farm “Dundee”. 

He was a building contractor and farmer. He built a lot of houses in Dundee.

Peter Smith was born in 1828.  He married Ann Craighead and they had three children before coming to Natal:  William Craighead, Isabella Petrie and Elizabeth (Bessie).  In 1859 they arrived in Natal, in Durban on the ship “Lady of the Lake”.  

In 1864 Thomas built a small cottage on “Dundee” and persuaded his brother, Peter and family to join him.  Thomas focused on building and Peter on farming and mining coal on the side of Talana hill.

Peter and Ann lived in their simple cottage (now part of Talana Museum) and had another 2 children: Thomas Paterson, born in March 1864 and Peter Craighead, a year later.  See photo

In 1882 he, together with Dugald MacPhail, William Smith and Charles Willson founded the town of Dundee.

Peter, with his wife, Ann, continued to live in the cottage they had built until their deaths..

Peter and Ann are buried in the family cemetery on the slopes of Talana hill, overlooking the town they founded. Ann died on 15 August 1908, aged 84 years.

Peter died three years later, aged 83. Nearby lies Thomas. He had died in 1880, aged 62.   See photo


Dugald MacPhail   see photo

 He was 26 April 1840 in Inveraray, Argyllshire, Scotland and came to live in Natal in 1864.

He travelled all over South Africa and in 1870 he visited the Dundee district and stayed with Peter Smith and his family on the farm “Dundee.”

Two years later he returned and bought the farm “Craigside” and married Isabella Petrie Smith, the daughter of Peter Smith.

Isabella died in childbirth 3 years later, leaving him with 2 young daughters. She was 22 years old and is buried in the cemetery at Talana.

Two years later Dugald married Annie Susanah O”Leary from Oudtshoorn.

In 1873 he joined the Buffalo Border Guard – a local group of soldiers - and in 1879 was the Quartermaster and managed survived the Battle of Isandlwana.  He was the last man to escape the Zulu warriors and brought the message of the battle to Dundee.

In 1896 Dugald sold the first plots to Indians and 2 years later there were twenty Indian families settled in the town.  

 He took part in the Battle of Talana during the Anglo Boer War as a member of the Dundee Town Guard. He had to leave his farm and the town which was looted by the Boers.

 After the war he returned to the farm, where he farmed and mined coal. He had buried some of his valuables under a hydrangea bush and was able to dig them up after the war.

For his 100th birthday there was a great ceremony in the town, when he was presented with a set of gates at the entrance to his farm by the town of Dundee.  Today these gates are at the entrance to MacPhail Park in Smith street.   See photo.

 In 1940 he enrolled as a member of the Police Reserve – the oldest reservist in the Empire and also the oldest ex-serviceman.

He died in 1941 and was buried in the Smith Family graveyard at Talana.



Was the eldest son of Peter and Ann Smith. See photo

He married Janet Gray..  They lived on the farm “Balgray”, on the slopes of Mpati mountain. They had 7 children.

He served in the Langalibele Rebellion (1873) and in the Anglo-Zulu War (1879) as a member of the Buffalo Border Guard and in the Natal Carbineers in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902).  His son, Craighead, died in the Siege of Ladysmith.

In 1883 he was made a Justice of the Peace, was also President of the Dundee Agricultural Society and of the Rifle Association.   He died on 11 February 1907 at the age of 55 years.


Charles George Willson


Charles Willson was born in London in England. He was a little boy when his family landed in Natal in 1852. 

While travelling up country in 1873, he met William Craighead Smith, who was travelling down to Durban.   He told him how good the land was in the Sterkstroom Valley and so he made his way here. Peter Smith leased him four acres on his farm “Dundee” and Charles Wilson opened the first store here.

Thirty three years later, on his way to England for a visit he confessed that when he first came to Dundee he “hadn’t enough to buy a match”.

He was recognised as one of the “four Fathers of Dundee” and had a long record of public service.   He became the first mayor of Dundee.

 A Justice of the Peace, he was also a member of the Legislative Assembly and had served Dundee’s interests diligently.

He was responsible for arranging the water and electricity supply to early Dundee and in bringing the railway line to Glencoe.

He married  Maria Lydia Sophia Schkummeketel.  He died at 62 in 1912.