Ugie, Eastern Cape - South Africa


The Reverend William Murray, member of the Free Church of Scotland, was sent by the London Missionary Society to the then Cape Colony in South Africa to do missionary work amongst the Griquas of Adam Kok III who settled during 1862 in the present Kokstad area. He was also qualified as a medical doctor.


The Griquas were persuaded by the Cape Governor Sir George Grey to move from their territory named Griqualand, situated in the area between the towns of Griquatown in the Northern Cape and Philippolis in the Orange Free State. This was done because the leaders of the Griquas always quarreled amongst themselves, usually troubled the British Government to make peace and from time to time in conflict with the white farmers of the Orange Free State.


During 1862 they moved from Philippolis.  Preferred to trek through Basuthuland [now Lesotho], because they did not want to cross British territory, to their New Griqualand in the present Kokstad area.  Old Griqualand was later on called Griqualand West and New Griqualand, Griqualand East.


Due to a dispute in the Kok family a smaller group broke away from the main group.  They crossed the Orange River at Macumacuma near the present town of Sterkspruit.   Trekked through the present Barkly East district.  Crossed the Drakensberg at Mount Enterprise near the present Ugie and settled along the  I Nxu River.  They called the river the Wildebeest.


A number of them gathered at I Nxu Drift, now known as Lake’s Drift just north of the present town of Ugie.  This was on the wagon track between Dordrecht and the new settlement at Kokstad.  Ox wagons usually camped out there during the night and had to stay over for a few days if the river was in flood.  They usually overalled their wagons and “trekgoed” for the oxen during the time.  The Griquas that settled there helped them for a small fee.


William Murray was born on 15th July, 1837 and grew up in the New Deer province in Aberdeenshire in Scotland.  His father was a shoemaker and small farmer on the banks of the Ugie River near New Pitslego.  The Ugie River originates in the mountains near New Byth, flows through the Bucnan Hills and then into the North Sea at Peterhead near the city of Fraserburgh.  The railwayline between Aberdeen and Fraserburgh crosses the Ugie River between Maud and Strichen stations.


Murray, his wife, Ann [née Elliott], and baby daughter,  Ann Isabella, left Southhampton on a steamer on 27th July, 1862.  They landed in Port Elizabeth three weeks later on the 24th August.  From there by post coach to Grahamstown.  From there by ox wagon through Fort Beaufort up to Hackney in the Queenstown district.  In Katberg they were caught in a snowstorm.


Shortly after they reached Hackney on the 9th of September 1862 their baby daughter died.  The following day his wife also died.  Both of them were buried there on the same day.  Due to all the grief and hardships William Murray decided to stay at Hackney for a while.


Towards the end of February 1863 a deputation of the Griquas left I Nxu Drift by ox wagon to fetch Murray.  The driver of the oxen was Jacob Franks.  He was assisted by Gert du Plooy and Tom Croutz.  The wagon leader was April de Wet.


They returned to I Nxu Drift at the evening of 8th March.  The long, lean and sun burnt Murray got off the wagon.  Looked around him, went on his knees next to a rock and prayed.  “Oh, God is this my destiny.....If so......Abide with me.......”  When he stood up he decided to call the place remember him of his homeland.


The Scots pronounces Ugie as “Oogie”. They derived it from the word “Oorie” of the Vikings in Iceland. It means to get cold. Literally to shiver of the cold.


Compiled by Frans Nel

12. 12. 1997