We now depart from Laer Volkskool’s memorial Hall down Begeman street, named after Rev. Begeman. We take a turn left in van der Westhuizen Street, named after the son-in-law of Jacobs after which Jacobs street was named. We then turn left in Marais street, probably named after JG Marais, the owner of the farm Diepkloof.
Several Marais families made Heidelberg their home many of them also died during the freedom struggle. According to the list of honorary list, of members of the Heidelberg Commando, 5 Marais men lost their lives during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). Willem Marais died during the battle of Spioenkop on 24 January 1900. In this battle 650 British and 25 boers were slain and Mahatmar Ghandi operated as stretcher bearer.
Eugene Marais another famous Marais would also become a remarkable figure in history. At the age of 19 he became the editor of the weekly newspaper, “Land en Volk”. He also exposed the maladministration of the government so much so, that he was banned from the press gallery of the “Volksraad”. In 1923 Marais settled in Heidelberg as a partner of the law firm Lawrence, Leppan and Marais. He befriended AG Visser who motivated him to publish his poetry. Marais was a nature lover also studied the baboons in the Suikerbosrand. This brings memories back of the folk song, “Bobbejaan klim die berg, so haastig en so lastig om die boere te vererg.” (Baboons climb the mountain very fast to anger the farmers.)
Folk songs are part and parcel of Heidelberg’s history first published book. In 1937 the first “FAK- Sangbundel” (a book containing folksongs) was published. Two members of the editorial commission were also inhabitants of Heidelberg, namely Dr. Hugo Gutsche and SH Eyssen. Seven of AG Visser’s poems were also published in this song book.
Our famous song, ‘Sarie Marais.” was also published in this song book. Her actual name was Susara Margaretha Mare, daughter of uncle Jors Voeter Mare. They resided outside Heidelberg on the farm Eendracht. At the age of 15, he took part in the Battle of Bloodriver and also fought against Silkaats. He was declared a outlaw by the British during the war. During Pres. Kruger’s visit abroad he acted as president for 3½ months. It was very difficult to ask for his daughter in marriage, but not for JP Toerien, editor of the first Afrikaans Newspaper, the “Patriot”. The first church was built on this farm Eendracht. According to the tale this song assisted him in asking her to marry him on 19 December 1884. 16 children were born from this marriage.
The old Scottish St. Ninian, Anglican Church is situated on the corner of Marais and Voortrekker streets. It was frequently visited by soldiers during the British occupation. The church building dates form 1882 and the parsonage with out buildings since 1896. It is simply built as a hall and finished with roughly plaster walls and gothic windows.
The ornamental glass windows date from queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897. The veranda was built in honor of reverend RA Urquart. The oak trees in Voortrekker street were planted to commemorate the crowning of Queen Elizabeth and her husband, George in 1952. In 2018 the trees were 76 years old signifying a new record for the British monarch still on the thrown. It is probable that this small church, with its Scottish origin, motivated JP Toerien. He founded his “Sarie Marais” on the tune of “Sweet Ellie Rhee” from the Scottish Student Songbook. With this composition, the name Mare changed to Marais. This is written amids the struggle. He was afraid that the Khaki’s (British soldiers) would imprison him and rather longed to come back home …” na die ou Transvaal, daar waar my Sarie woon – daar onde rin die mielies by die groen doringboom- daar woon my Sarie Marais.” He longed for the mealie fields where his Sarie lived.