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Saturday, 9 October 2010


The author of "Aliwal", Adam Yamey, at the grave of Henry Bergmann at Aliwal North


The small, sleepy town of Aliwal North lies on the southern bank (Cape Province side) of the Orange River. Today, two bridges cross the river into the Orange Free State (now ‘The Free State’). When Aliwal North was founded in 1849, and named in honour of a battle won by Sir Harry Smith in the Punjab, there were no bridges. The town was positioned at a point where the river was easily fordable.
The railway bridge across the River Orange at Aliwal North in 2003

Months after Aliwal North was established, a young Jew, recently arrived in the Cape Colony from his native Bavaria, came to the barely built town and opened up a general store there. He was Henry Bergmann, a first cousin of my mother’s grandmother. Business was brisk, and soon Henry became a wealthy man. His reputation was so great that he became elected a town councillor, and held other civic positions.
In 1860, wishing to get married to a Jewess (they were scarce in the Cape Colony in those times), he made a journey to Frankfurt on the Main, and married Jenny, the daughter of a prominent banker. The newlyweds returned to Aliwal North.
Henry’s business continued to prosper, and he became the managing director of one of Aliwal North’s banks, soon to become the only one in the town.
In 1866, Henry took his own life. The reasons for doing so have become obscured in the mists of time. In my novel “ALIWAL”, I have woven fiction with fact in order to reconstruct the tragic life of my relative, and to provide a plausible, if unproven, reason for his suicide.

Aliwal North in 2003

My novel, "ALIWAL" is available in paperback

on Amazon (WWW.AMAZON.COM or if in UK:WWW.AMAZON.CO.UK ).
Just type "Adam Yamey" into the product "search" line on the Amazon site.

Rouxville in the Free State, in 2003

Richard Grayling's interesting website for would-be authors: http://strugglingauthors.co.uk

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SOME BACKGROUND TO "ALIWAL", the novel by Adam Yamey which is available to purchase on www.amazon.com as well as www.lulu.com :

I have been researching the life and times of Heinrich (later Henry) BERGMANN (1830-1866). A first cousin of Peppi BLOCH (born SELIGMANN), my mother’s great grandmother, he was the first of my blood relatives to leave the German territories to settle in what is now South Africa. Indeed he was one of the first Jews to reach theCapeColony.
Born in Dittenheim, Bavaria, his father was Lazarus BERGMANN and his mother Klara (‘Gluck’) SELIGMANN, daughter of Jakob and G├╝tel SELIGMANN of Ichenhausen, near Augsburg. For those interested in my research, I have already published two articles in the journal Stammbaum published by LBI in New York City (see: Issue 25, Summer 2004 pages 26-31, and Issue 30 Winter 2006. Both may be accessed on-line onhttp://www.lbi.org/Stammbaum.html ).
Since then I have done further research, but naturally gaps remained in my knowledge of Bergmann’s biography.
In brief, Heinrich Bergmann left Dittenheim around about April 1849, and arrived inCape Townseveral months later. After a short sojourn there, he travelled inland to Graaff Reinet where he worked in a trading store owned by the MOSENTHAL brothers from Kassel and its manager Phoebus CARO from Posen. He did well, and was soon asked to open a new branch store in Aliwal North, a new town on the Orange River at the frontier of the Cape Colony. He made a great success of this, and visited Frankfurt-on-Main in 1860 where he married Charlotte Jenny SCHUSTER whose family lived in the Judengasse (Her father Lazarus Beer SCHUSTER is listed in:http://goldschmidt.tripod.com/schust.htm ).
After this, Bergmann’s life becomes obscurer. It is well recorded that he took his own life in 1866, and was buried by his friends Koos and David DE WET in Aliwal North.
The reason that Henry took his life is shrouded in mystery and controversy.
My new novel, “Aliwal”, is a fictionalised biography of my tragic relative in which I have invented a series of events leading up to his suicide. It is a story that may not necessarily be true, but is at least plausible.
In my novel, “Aliwal”, I have tried to fill the gaps between the facts with a series of imaginary but plausible events, and in so doing have created a fictionalised biography of my tragic relative.

Some of the places that appear in my novel

Budding authors may be interested in Richard Grayling' supportive website :