My Sarie Marais or simply Sarie Marais – pronounced ‘may sari ma-re’ as in ma(terial)-re(d) – is an Afrikaans song dating back to the 2nd Anglo-Boer or South African or 1899-1902 War although it goes back to an English song from 1815 – the link has various versions and the lyrics in Afrikaans. (p292 has the 1815 lyrics alongside the Afrikaans – for Afrikaans readers this looks a fascinating publication.)
For years, I’ve known the piece of music has been played on bagpipes and heard it once a the Edinburgh tatoo. The links between the Scots and Boers go back to a time when Scottish missionaries to South Africa would go to Holland to learn Dutch before heading south. John McKenzie covers this in his excellent book, The Scots in South Africa: Ethnicity, Identity, Gender and Race, 1772-1914. There was a definite mixing of cultures, during the First World War, many Afrikaners who decided to serve in Europe joining the Transvaal Scottish which wore the Atholl Tartan.
Sarie Marais, the name of a young girl, has a far reach:
- the words have been translated into English,
- a novel was published in 1938 by author Manfred Nathan,
- a film was made in 1949,
- there’s a hotel in South Africa,
- a British therapeutic yacht named after her, and
- a South African beer.
- And now I discover, thanks to Martin Plaut, there’s a Russian version (lyrics). Martin explains the Russian links. For Russian involvement in the 2nd Boer War, there’s the book by Apollon Davidson and Irina Filatova.
Who knows what else (excluding the parodies which I’ve purposefully ignored) will come to light around this young girl who is now over 100 years old.