Major Harold Robert Biggar
(Cir 1755-1799)
Ann Harvey
(Cir 1755-)
Alexander Harvey Biggar


Family Links

1. Mary Straton

Alexander Harvey Biggar

  • Born: 29 Oct 1781, Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland UK
  • Marriage (1): Mary Straton on 3 Mar 1799 in Brechin, Angus, Scotland UK
  • Died: 27 Dec 1838, Umfolozi River, South Africa at age 57

  General Notes:

Has a Wikipedia entry

The Biggar family, Alexander Harvey Biggar (October 29, 1781 - December
27, 1838) and his two sons Robert (September 12, 1813 - April 17, 1838)
and George (February 20, 1820 - February 17, 1838), were pioneer traders
at Port Natal in what was to become the Colony of Natal. Subsequent to
the massacre of Retief's delegation, they became involved in the exchange
of attacks between Zulus and settlers. Although contributing to the
overthrow of Dingane, all three lost their lives in the conflicts of
1838. Alexander's grandson John Dunn became a well-known Natal pioneer in
his own right.
Contents[hide] 1 Early life 2 South Africa 3 George dies in
massacre 4 Robert's fateful retaliation 5 Alexander assists the
"victory commando" 6 Biggars Mountain 7 References 8
External reference
[edit] Early life
Alexander was born in Kinsale, Ireland in 1781, to parents (Major) Harold
Robert Biggar and Ann, ne Harvey. On March 3, 1799, he married Mary
Straton (1781-1855) in Brechin, Scotland. Alexander first worked as
Paymaster for the 85th regiment, before fighting in the Napoleonic Wars
of 1803-1815, and the War of 1812 in North America. His highest rank was
Captain, but he was found guilty of embezzling 1,300 from War Office
Funds and was discharged from service after repaying the money.[1]
[edit] South Africa
He emigrated to the Cape Colony along with other 1820 Settlers. Alexander
paid deposits for 13 other settler families who were indentured to him
for three years and would receive 20 acres of land which they could
cultivate on weekends, and receive title after three years. Despite their
signed Article of Agreement, by July 1820 all except George Pollard had
deserted him or applied for release from their contracts.[1]
His family, which now included nine daughters and a son, Robert, departed
from Portsmouth on the HMS Weymouth on Jan 20, 1820, arriving in Algoa
Bay on May 15, 1820. His younger son George was born during the voyage.
The family was allotted the Woodlands farm, near Bathurst on September 6,
1826.[2] Ten years later, in May 1836, Alexander moved to the frontier
trading centre of Port Natal, in the later Colony of Natal, initially
with his younger son George. Once there, he founded the Port Natal
Volunteers in 1837, the first white military group of the region, though
they almost immediately disbanded.
[edit] George dies in massacre
Main article: Weenen massacre
In February 1838 Alexander's youngest son of 18 years, George, was 120
miles inland at the Blaauwekrans camp of the Voortrekkers. When news
reached Port Natal that the Zulus had exterminated Piet Retief's
delegation, Alexander sent Dick King to warn George and others at the
Voortrekker camps. Dick King departed immediately on foot, accompanied by
some natives. Despite covering the distance in four days by walking day
and night, they arrived just after the Rensburg voortrekker camp was
attacked. They reached the vicinity of the next camp, near present day
Estcourt, just as the attack on it started on February 17, 1838. Though
cut off from Gerrit Maritz's laager, Dick King participated in its
defence, but was unable to prevent the death of George, who was further
[edit] Robert's fateful retaliation
The traders at Port Natal were determined to make a diversion in the
victims' favor. Two Englishmen from Port Natal, George Biggar and Thomas
Halstead, were among those already killed at Blaauwekrans and Dingane's
kraal respectively.
Some 20 to 30 European men, including Dick King, were placed under
Robert's command on April 13, 1838. With a following of 1,500 Zulus who
deserted from Dingane, they crossed the Tugela river near its mouth and
proceeded to Ngungunhlovu, 2826'09?S 3116'03?E28.43583S 31.2675E.
Four days later they were able to take 7,000 head of cattle from a group
of Zulus who fled. The party returned with these cattle to the bay, and
discovered that a spy of Dingane had been found and killed there in their
Once again they set off to Dingane's kraal and reached Ndondakusuka
village north of the Tugela on April 17, 1838. This kraal built on
highlying ground, belonged to a captain of Dingane, named Zulu. Here,
while questioning a captive, likely a decoy, they were closed in by a
strong Zulu force led by Dingane's brother Mpande (or Nongalaza). The
English soon found that retreat was impossible, and blundered by dividing
their force to oppose their encirclement. The Zulus made a successful
dash to split the forces in two. The English force was overwhelmed in the
desperate aftermath, and Robert died with his comrades. Only Dick King,
Richard (or George) Duffy, Joseph Brown, Robert Joyce and about 500 Zulus
escaped to the bay.
Pursued by the Zulu force, all European inhabitants of Port Natal took up
refuge for nine days on the Comet, a British vessel which happened to lie
on anchor in the bay. When the Zulus retired, only Alexander Biggar, Dick
King and some six or seven others returned to live at the port.
Alexander's daughter, Ann Dunn and her children departed with the Comet,
joining the missionaries, hunters and other traders who returned to the
[edit] Alexander assists the "victory commando"
The Voortrekker commando assembled to retaliate against Dingane was named
the "victory commando". Alexander, having lost both sons, joined this
commando led by Andries Pretorius, assisted by a hundred (some say
seventy) black servants.[3] On December 16, 1838, Alexander participated
in the Battle of Blood River where no life was lost on the Voortrekker
side. Their "victory commando" proceeded to Ngungunhlovu, where a roll
call recorded Alexander as one of those present. The commando then
laagered at Mthonjaneni to the south, from where, on December 27,
Alexander joined Hans de Lange in search of Dingane's hidden cattle. The
party was led down the Opathe gorge 2827'06?S 3119'07?E28.45167S
31.31861E by a Zulu decoy, and could hardly escape encirclement when
they were ambushed. Alexander was on his horse and it is claimed that he
could have escaped, but stayed with his amaCele.[4] He died at age 57
alongside five Voortrekkers and some of his servants.
[edit] Biggars Mountain
While travelling with the Voortrekkers, Alexander's servants overturned
his cart. Due to the accident, the mountain where it happened,
Heuningberg, was renamed Biggarsberg, or Biggars Mountain, 2815'22?S
2958'09?E28.25611S 29.96917E as it is still known today.[4]
[edit] References
1. ^ a b Tessa King, West Rand GSSA. The 1820 Settlers. Retrieved on
2. ^ Longmans, Green & Co. General Plan of the Eastern Part of the
District of Albany [map]. Cartography by George Philip & Son, Sworn
surveyor J Knobel.
3. ^ Preller, G.S. (1940). Andries Pretorius. Johannesburg. p. 35.
4. ^ a b du Plessis, E.J. (1973). Suid-Afrikaanse berg- en riviername.
Tafelberg-uitgewers, Cape Town. p. 74. ISBN 0-624-00273X.
Eye witness account, William Wood, Collard & Co., 24 Heerengracht,
Cape Town, 1840.
Information on the Wood, Biggar and Dunn families
Robert Biggar, The Biggar memorial plaque
Eye witness account of Robert Biggar's expedition, missionary
Hewitson's journal

Death Notes:

Alexander remained behind in Port Natal when his daughter Ann Dunn and
her children evacuated on "The Comet".

The Boers named the high ridge on the Natal bank of the Mzinyathi
(Buffalo) River, near Ladysmith after him - The Biggarsberg.

"The town Biggarsberg, in South Africa is named after Alexander Biggar
whose pony cart fell over, much to the amusement of the Boers of the; Wen
Kommandot; whom he was accompanying him to Blood River" Alexander Biggar
was killed by the Zulus in a battle the following December.

INFO embezzled 1300 from War Office funds

  Noted events in his life were:

Occupation: Paymaster, 85Th Regiment, 1815.

Alexander married Mary Straton, daughter of The Reverend George Straton and Margaret Graham, on 3 Mar 1799 in Brechin, Angus, Scotland UK. (Mary Straton was born in 1781 in England UK and died in 1855 in Grahamstown, Cape Of Good Hope, South Africa.)

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