Five fascinating stories from Adam Tas’s diary

Five fascinating stories from Adam Tas’s diary


Personalities from the past

Much has changed in Stellenbosch since the early Dutch settlers. But it’s fun to realise how they had personalities just like our own.

In his diary, Adam Tas records in great detail his day-to-day activities. As I explained in my previous blog, Tas (who lived from 1668 to 1722) was a agriculturalist and one of Stellenbosch’s earliest burghers. The only parts of his journal that survived were fragments (of copies) from the years 1705 to 1706.


Here are 5 elements of Tas’s day-to-day life that I found surprising!


1) A road trip to Cape Town

Wednesday, the 17th.

Fine morning. At nine o’clock this morning I left for the Cape with Hans, the smith, in his horse-chaise. We arrived there at three.

In this section Adam Tas describes a trip to Cape Town with a smith called Hans. Notice how long it took them to get there!

2) A world before News24 

Friday the 8th.

While sitting with Mr. van der Heijden in front of the door, we heard the sound of brisk firing at the Cape. We were told that firing had also taken place early in the morning, and that the Governor had left his homestead for the Cape early in the morning. The conjecture is that it must be English.

Communicating across long distances was obviously difficult, therefore the cannons in the Cape was often used to send messages to nearby towns. Sometimes the residents had to guess what is going on.

3) Going for a walk with my spouse

Wednesday the 29th.

This morning I walked with my wife about the corn lands. We found on our ground, close to the lands of Botma, fresh tracks of lion or leopard.

Tas often writes about going for a walk with his wife. On this specific day they came across some tracks of wild cats.


4) A friend in jail

Wednesday the 29th.

The landdrost turned up this morning with his manservant and told me that Hans Henske had been put in prison (or in the cells), and that he was to leave for the Cape to-day to be lodged in confinement there.

The ‘Free burghers’ had to be careful not to get into trouble with the authorities. Here Tas describes how a fellow was put into b(little knowing that he would face the same fate!). Tas also makes mention of Robben Island, in those days a harsh setting for captives doing slave labour, often in chains.

5) Coffee and wine

Sunday the 2nd.

Sunday the 2nd. In the morning Mr. van der Heijden and I visited the home of Mr. Poulle, where we drank a glass, and from there we went in company to Mr. Pfeijffer’s, where we had a drink of gin, and then to the home of Mrs. Munkerus, with whom we drank a cup or two of coffee. Thereupon we went to the home of uncle Husing, where we had some breakfast followed by a drink of wine.

Here Tas describes a typically relaxed morning, including coffee, gin and a few glasses of wine.



Want to read more?

A digital version of Tas’s diary is available on the website of the DBNL (Den Haag). This includes a wonderful English translation by J Smuts, as well as some insightful footnotes in Afrikaans. Thank you to

Leo Fouché, B.A. (Cape), Ph. and Litt. D. (Ghent) and revised by
A.J. Böeseken, B.Ed. Cape Town, M.A. and D. Phil (Stell.)
English Translation by Dr. J. Smuts, M.A., Ph.D. (Cape Town)





‘nDromer is a young Stellenbosser who loves writing about the everyday things that often go unnoticed. She likes dusty books and seeing how the past isn’t always what it seems. She has written about Stellenbosch, it’s heritage and it’s people almost every week since 2015.

Article: Y Coetsee 2016
Sources: dbnl website
Stellenbosch Drie Eeue


“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”
Alan Bennett, The History Boys

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