Ian Colquhoun - Marching on Pretoria




"Marching on Pretoria
Sung by […] Colquhoun
With orchestral accompaniment.

When the call to arms went forth [our hearts were…] and glad
[… those days and…] the brave it bloody had.
Every English meadow yielded up its human lad
We March! March! March! on Pretoria.

Hooraah! Hooraah! Come hither sail they come.
Hooraah! Hooraah! They've made the [business…] calm.
Round the world you heard the beat of Britain's ceaseless drum
When we went marching on Pretoria.

Far from overseas our brothers flocked to join the flag.
[Doing thus that pretty part] what neither blus nor brag.
Put the foot they stood with us beneath that dear old flag
When we went marching on Pretoria.

Hooraah! Hooraah! [… play this] bonnie song.
Hooraah! Hooraah! [Lets] mark an [aid in call]
They have thrown [it] in their [face/faith?] the blood of Britain's [rung/ruin/young?].
When we went marching on Pretoria.

Cheer up boys and sing good luck to all our gallant men
Who fought for the empire out in Africa and when
They have brought the seas once more we welcome home again
Conquerors of proud Pretoria.

Hooraah! Hooraah! [Foot-soldiers/Get hold] of the King
Hooraah! Hooraah! Their praises let us sing.
Victory they have brought us back wherever they have been.
And now they are coming home from Pretoria."

(Transcribed by Flat International)

The lyrics do appear to refer to a British victory ("Conquerors of proud Pretoria") and we know that the war ended with the signing of the the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902. So it is likely that the recording took place some time after that in mid to late 1902. Michael Kinnear's discography of the International Zon-o-phone Company, shows Ian Colquhoun as having recorded a number of other military related tracks during this same session. (The Zon-o-phone Record: 1901-1903, 2001) According to Ernie Bayly's article in the Talking Machine Review (Issues 62-69) these recordings all appear to come from the second London session (X-329 to X-353). Colquhoun's tracks include:

Ian Coquhoun (Baritone), Piano Accompaniment
X-331      On the Banks of Allen Water (Old Scottish Song)
X-332      Meet Me by Moonlight (Old English Song)
X-333      A Warrior Bold
X-334      Off to Philadelphia (Haynes)

Ian Coquhoun (Baritone), Orchestra Accompaniment
X-345      Tommy (Carmichael)
X-346      The Young British Soldier (Cobb)
X-347      The Soldiers of the Queen (Stuart)
X-348      Marching on Pretoria (Patriotic Song)
X-353      My Coal Black Lady (Jefferson)


recorded 1902c
issued 1903c
Int. Zonophone Co. EMI
made in Germany
matrix X-348
78 rpm
source: flatnternational / Kirby



1.1Marching on Pretoria




Marching on Pretoria is the earliest recording in the flatinternational archive and probably dates from around 1902. Recorded in London, the song comes from the Second Anglo-Boer war and is sung by Ian Calquhoun, obviously from a British, patriotic perspective.

This Anglo version of the song is actually an update of an 1865 American Civil War marching song Marching Through Georgia by Henry Clay Work. Listen to the original American version at the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project of the University of California. (Thanks to Bruce Kearnan for leading me here.)

After trying to find out more information about the record, I came across a thread on the web (at mudcat.org) discussing the origins of the song “Marching to Pretoria”. The discussion on the website traced the earliest history of the song, via Baden-Powell’s scouts groups, to British forces in South Africa, though no-one knew the original British lyrics as sung by British soldiers. A sanitized English version of the Afrikaans song was popularized by Joseph Marais; who introduced it to American radio audiences on his NBC show in 1939. In his book World of Folk Songs, Marais explains that the song was sung by both sides during the Boer War. Various contributors to the web discussion go on to tell stories of variations of the song from many parts of the world such as “Swimming to Victoria” in Canada and so on. Confused by the subtle distinction between ‘to’ and ‘on’ Pretoria, I joined in the discussion.

Growing up, I was often a member of the school choir, and I can remember singing on many occasions the famous Afrikaans song Marching to Pretoria. Though in retrospect it befuddles me that the lyrics would be in both English and Afrikaans (some versions of the Afrikaans lyrics are quite explicit.) I had always heard the song as ‘to’ and not ‘on’ Pretoria. But I was struck by this Zon-o-phone version, which most definitely puts Pretoria on the defensive. I suspect as the song was popularized in Afrikaans it was more politically correct to shift the emphasis to going to Pretoria rather than attacking it.

This British patriotic song is different from the Afrikaans version both in lyric and melody. It is also sung from a home-front perspective rather than from the war-front. Perhaps it too could have been derived from the battle version. But in any event, it is the "Hurrah!" in the Josef Marais version at the end of "We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, hurruh!" that makes me think that the various versions are historically linked. The "Hooraah!" in the British version is definitely the most catchy part—the hook if you like—and I suspect that, sung on battlefields, it might have been the thing that people most responded to—Afrikaners or English.

Perhaps there is some irony on my part in including the Zon-o-phone record in this archive. The recording is made in England, the disc in Germany and the singer is most definitely not South African. This disc would have only existed in South Africa as an import. In my research into early South African recording history it was interesting to discover that
businessmen like Eric Gallo would seldom record music by English-speaking South Africans, preferring tracks in Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and other African languages. The rub was that “superior” music in English was imported from the “homeland” and the United States; and therefore there was no market for local colonial culture. In some ways I wonder if this attitude of not supporting local talent might have contributed to a culture of displacement. That is, an English-speaking culture, with very few local icons, that became obsessed with “overseas” and continually referred to England as “back home”.

This record was part of a personal collection of 78 rpms that were owned by ethnomusicologist Percival Kirby. To be sure, Kirby made hand-written notes on many of the labels. At some point the discs were acquired by, Johannesburg collector, Warren Siebrits who subsequently passed them onto the Flat International archive. Many thanks to Warren Siebrits for leading me to this record!