On best behaviour

For most of Wauchope's Port Elizabeth parishioners, his incarceration was a travesty. Not only was his guilt questionable, but he was "advanced in age" and deserved to spend his twilight years in his community. Read letters from parishioners to the Supreme Court, asking for a reduction in Wauchope's prison sentence.

Also see an image of the original document: Page 1 | Page 2


May it please your Excellency

The petition of the European and Native residents of Port Elizabeth humbly sheweth:-

(1) That in January 1910, Revd ISAAC WAUCHOPE was tried at the Criminal Sessions at Grahamstown for forgery, before the HONOURABLE Mr. JUSTICE GRAHAM and sentenced to THREE (3) YEARS imprisonment with hard labour, which sentence the said ISAAC WAUCHOPE is now undergoing at the Tokai Convict Station.

(2) That the said ISAAC WAUCHOPE has been a native minister of the Congregational Church of Fort Beaufort since 1892 and as such has taught the Native people of that district and elsewhere, the right way to live and has not only preached the Gospel of Christ, but also advocated loyalty to the British Crown.

(3) That the said ISAAC WAUCHOPE was at one time described by an influential Cape Town Journal as "a prominent Native in South Africa."

(4) That apart from the question of the fallibility of all judicial Tribunals and consequent possible innocence of the said ISAAC WAUCHOPE, there is the fact that he is well advanced in years, being 58, and your Petitioners earnestly desire his release in order to avoid the possibility of his dying in gaol, and further, in order that he may live as many as possible of his declining years with his family and among the members of his former Congregation and dispel that stigma which his conviction and incarceration have placed upon a formerly good and excellent character.

That before assuming the duties of a clergyman the said ISAAC WAUCHOPE honourably discharged the duties of Native Court Interpreter of this town for a period of NINE (9) YEARS.

That your Petitioners humbly request that when your Excellency is considering this Petition you will bear in mind the loving memory of the lately lamented KING EDWARD the SEVENTH the ACCESSION of HIS GRACIOUS MAJESTY, KING GEORGE the FIFTH and the establishment of the UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA, and that this history making epoch coupled with the humble request of your Petitioners may claim Your Excellency's clemency towards the said ISAAC WAUCHOPE and that it may please Your Excellency to order his immediate release from imprisonment.

And as in duty bound your Petitioners ever pray.

- Searle, F and others, "Petition from the European and Native Residents of Port Elizabeth for Release of Isaac Wauchope", undated, National Archives, Pretoria, REF. GG 51.404

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"You are going to die, but that is what you came to do... Let us die like warriors."
Reverend Isaac Wauchope
King George V inspects the SA Native Labour Corps, France, 1917
Picture: © SA National Museum of Miltary History


In this lesson plan, learners will study two transcripts of oral sources and will be encouraged to appreciate the insights and feelings that these sources offer us. They will also study a "minute" from Louis Botha, the Prime Minister at the time of the disaster, and resolutions passed by a Christian African community on how they planned to carry forward the fight for the Empire.

Lesson plan
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Archive Photo Gallery
A small collection of images of Reverend Wauchope and the men who died with him in the SS Mendi disaster.
The brave Reverend Wauchope
In February 1917, hundreds of SA Native Labour Corps members died when the troopship SS Mendi sank in the freezing waters of the English Channel.