The story of Sybrand Mancadan

The story of Sybrand Mancadan


Stellenbosch’s first teacher was Sybrand Mancadan, but he wasn’t a schoolteacher in the same sense as today.


Controversial figure

Although Mancadan was schooled in Theology, he was expelled from ministry in Friesland (a province in Holland) due to his indecent behaviour. Thereafter he was sent per ship to the small settlement, Stellenbosch, as a teacher.

As one writer notes whimsically, “his love for drinking was only surpassed by his love for women”. It is with good reason that some people called the ‘krankbesoeker’ the ‘drankbesoeker (he who ‘visits’ the liquor).

Despite this, Mankadan was the only person in Stellenbosch with tertiary education and was therefore appointed as the first secretary of the Landdros and Heemrade council (their first minutes appear in1691).

Despite his controversial personal life, Mancadan made his mark on Stellenbosch’s heritage (he has a wine named after him).


Stellenbosch has 30 families

For most pioneers education wasn’t a very high priority – it was enough to be able to read the Bible and know a bit of writing (C Pretorius).

Stellenbosch, nonetheless, voiced their concern for a schoolteacher-sieketrooster, and contacted the necessary authorities in Holland.

28 September 1683, Colonists address a petition to the Political Council in which they ask for a school at Stellenbosch to accommodate the children of the thirty families already settled there. Their request is granted and Sybrand Mankadan is sent as teacher, preacher and sick-visitor.



What is a ‘sieketrooster-onderwyser’?

The title of Sieketrooster/sick-visitor has long been outdated. Traditionally this was an job connected to the religious life of a community, someone appointed to fulfill the tasks of the parson/preacher if necessary. Mancadan had to visit, care for and encourage the ill and dying. He was therefore also called the krankbesoeker – the person who visits the ill.

The sieketrooster’s duties usually started during the voyage at sea, when he had to visit the sick on board, see to it that the sailors prayed in the mornings, evenings and before meals, and that there would be a reading on Sundays. Usually he was also the assistant to the doctor on board (Claasens).


Image of a protestant teacher:

His duties in Stellenbosch

One of Mancadan’s most important duties was to do the reading during Sunday services. Stellenbosch’s first preacher, Ds Loon, only arrived in 1700, so for the first few years church services consisted of readings from the catechisms and other Dutch texts.

Mancadan was responsible for teaching catechism (Sunday-school)

As school teacher, Mancadan was likely responsible for instructing the children in reading, writing, singing and the basic principles of arithmetic

Another traditional role of the sieketrooster was to lead the congregation in song. Apparently many applicant sieketroosters failed their first few evaluations because they didn’t know all the psalms) (J Erasmus).

The sieketrooster/teacher was usually the most literate person in town and was seen as the general public’s artist and calligrapher. He had to draw up wills, write and decorate birth registers, mementos, celebratory cards and other documents, and create artistic decorations in hymnals and Bibles. Often it was also the sieketrooster’s task to engrave and decorate tombstones.



Read here for more interesting and unconventional stories of Stellenbosch and its residents.

Click here for more information about the Sieketroosters.


Stellenbosch drie eeue
South African History Online
J Celestine Pretorius, Die geskiedenis van Volkskuns in Suid-Afrika


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