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The Great Hunters

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Victor Pohl South African Born Great Hunter

One of a large farming family, Pohl spent an idyllic childhood in wild country on the border of present-day Lesotho and the Orange Free State. Born in 1886, he moved as a very young child to the farm Alpha on the banks of the Caledon River.

These lands were undeveloped, so the father and his three sons hunted for the pot and as a means of income. When Victor was thirteen, they moved again to the farm Waterpas north of the Cannibal Mountains.

They were there when the Anglo-Boer War broke out in 1899. Stefans, Frederick and Willie immediately joined commandos while Victor and his two younger brothers remained reluctantly at home. Victor was later arrested while carrying messages and spent some time in a British detention camp in Cape Town. His family’s war experiences are recorded in Adventures of a Boer Family.

After the war, Pohl moved to Bloemfontein where he gave lessons in the violin. Later, with the help of General Hertzog, he went to Belgium for three years to further his musical studies. On his return to South Africa, Victor joined his family on their new farm in the Modjadje region of the Northern Transvaal. Their homestead, which had at one time been occupied by Rider Haggard when he was writing his romantic African adventures, was close to big game country. On his way from the railway station, Victor stopped with his brother, Eric, to look out over the area where the Transvaal, Rhodesia and Portuguese East Africa met. Victor writes: “Little did I know as I gazed over those untravelled wilds. That Eric and I were destined to roam them in years to come, and that the glorious freedom we would experience in those vast solitudes would grip our very souls, imparting an indefinable restlessness of spirit that would always rebel against the tyranny and vanity of civilization.”

Pohl had the sadness of losing his parents, wife, and a brother in an epidemic of Spanish Influenza. He later gave up big-game hunting, turning to fishing and to target-shooting (for which he was nominated to an Olympic Team). He has written several books in a style characterized by deep feeling and vivid visual evocation. These extracts are taken from The Dawn and After and Bushveld Adventures.