Why Join?

  • Add New Books

  • Write a Review

  • Backpack Reading Lists

  • Newsletter Updates

Join Now

Talking Location With author David Cairns of Finavon – ZULULAND

3rd February 2024

David Cairns of Finavon#TalkingLocationWith…. David Cairns of Finavon, author of The Case of the Wandering Corpse – former Zululand, South Africa

David Cairns of Finavon author of The Case of the Wandering Corpse, a historical fiction adventure mystery that begins in South Africa in the midst of the conflicts between the British, the Boers and the Zulus.

Over many years I have lived and worked on 4 continents and I drew upon my familiarity with Durban and the surrounding veld to begin this book before moving to the burgeoning frontier city of Melbourne, Australia.

The story begins in Zululand, Natal, South Africa.

Zululand in 1838 was a tinderbox.  The Dutch settlers in the Cape province and Cape Town had been travelling north to escape British governance and were making their way into Zulu territory.  The proud Zulu nation led by Shaka’s successor, Dingaan stood in their way.

Initially, the Dutch, or Boers had sought a peaceful accommodation with Dingaan and thought that they had made a bargain with the Zulus, ceding lands south of Durban to the settlers.

David Cairns of Finavon

View of uMgungundlovu from viewing tower, looking south. JMK, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

What followed was a fight to establish supremacy with the Boers using modern weaponry to supplement their smaller numbers and the Zulus using greater numbers and battle techniques and formations that had been used to overcome other tribes as Shaka had built the Zulu nation.

Altogether about 500 men, women and children were killed.  Their remains, of those that could be found, were buried where the Bloukrans monument now stands.

David Cairns of Finavon

Memorial of Boers killed at Kwa-Matiwane – today known as Execution Hill, near present day Ulundi. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There was an almost immediate conflict at a location nearby (since renamed Rensburg Kop) which I describe in my book.

It was a fearsome clash between severely outnumbered Boers who had taken up a strong defensive position and the frenzied Zulu impi. Eventually, the Boers were able to beat off the attack but it was a close run thing.

There were other bloody battles as the conflict developed but the most significant and a history-changing event was the battle of Blood River which I describe in depth in my book.

Under the leadership of Andries Pretorius, a kommando of some 350 men was formed to punish Dingaan and destroy the Zulu threat, taking up a defensive position when facing the Zulu army.

The battle site is commemorated today by a reconstruction of the wagons that had been drawn up in a laager to provide defensive cover for the Boers who were vastly outnumbered by the Zulu. The Boers prevailed in part thanks to the Boers’ muskets and two pieces of artillery (an obsolete cannon and a naval gun that fired grapeshot), deployed against the spears and clubs of the Zulu impis.  When morning broke, the Zulus charged. It was “a black avalanche of men who were repelled by a steady, murderous rain of musket balls and buckshot and deadly grapeshot from the cannon”.

David Cairns of Finavon

Site & memorial of Battle of Blood River Emesbe, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons

The site next to the Ncomi river (the battle of Blood River refers to the waters running red with Zulu blood) is near the Nambiti Game Reserve, a two and a half hour drive from Durban.

About David Cairns of Finavon

David is a Scot who lives today on the Gold Coast of Australia.  A retired technology entrepreneur, he has written 5 books to date and is currently writing the third novel in the Findo Gask & Erroll Rait series.

All his books are either true stories ‘coloured’ to bring history to life or historical fiction intermingled with real events, people and places to bring veracity to the story.  The common theme is immersing the reader in the past, appealing to the time traveller in us all.

The first of the Gask & Rait series was a finalist in the Readers’ Choice Book Awards. His latest novel The Case of the Emigrant Niece is available from all good book retailers. https://bit.ly/Finavon

Connect via his website and BLOG at www.CairnsofFinavon.com and on Twitter/X @theDavidCairns

Join team TripFiction on Social Media:

Twitter (@TripFiction), Facebook (@TripFiction.Literarywanderlust), YouTube (TripFiction #Literarywanderlust), Instagram (@TripFiction) and Pinterest (@TripFiction) and BlueSky(tripfiction.bsky.social) and Threads (TripFiction)

Subscribe to future blog posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *