A Battlefield Tour with a Difference.

July 16, 2016 Nicki von der Heyde
Nicki von der Heyde and John Edmond
Nicki von der Heyde and John Edmond

A love song with anodyne lyrics makes pleasant listening. But an accurate historical account of a battle, sung in tuneful rhyme to a rollicking, foot-tapping beat, is rare and marvelous. And this is what the prolific composer and renowned singer John Edmond does so well, on a battlefield tour.

Battlefield Tour

He and his wife Teresa have fairly recently composed and compiled many songs that document iconic historical events and battlefields in South Africa.  It was this development that led them to team up with me, for a battlefield tour. By day, we visited well known battlefields while by night we were enthralled by John’s inspired renditions of the same battles, in song.

Historical Facts in Song

John and I had not colluded prior to the tour on historical detail; (we met each other for the first time on the tour) and were both happy that the factual details of our respective battle accounts were the same. This is amazing, considering the wide divergence that exists between accounts of the same events, recorded by contemporary authors. But John’s historical research is painstaking. And he captures then delivers these facts in rhyming, country-style, catchy, mood-lifting, folk music.

Accommodation in Dundee.

Tour participants hailed from Cape Town, Gaborone, Mocambique and various parts of KwaZulu-Natal. The battles we covered ranged in time from the 1838 Battle of Blood River, to battles of the SA War of 1899/1902. The Royal Country Inn in Dundee provided home base and plentiful refreshment, both liquid and solid. Each evening was filled with boisterous song, and some hilarity as the group joined in with the chorus of John’s lively version of the song ‘Good Bye Dolly Gray.’

Age is no disadvantage

Although many members of the group met for the first time on tour, their common, dual liking for John’s music and for military history provided the glue for instant bonding. This was reinforced when the ticket-seller at one of the battlefields, on seeing John and his followers alight from the coach, spontaneously offered pensioners’ discount to all in the party.

But age in no way hampered the group’s participation in the activities of the trip; although there were a few who groaned when the steep slopes of Black’s Koppie at Isandlwana had to be ascended, and when the graves of Melvill and Coghill proved higher up the slopes above the Buffalo River than had been anticipated. The spectacular victory achieved by the Zulu army at Isandlwana occupied the minds of all that day, and was re-iterated in song that night.

War not condoned

War can never be condoned but it can illustrate the nobility in common men. There were many acts of great bravery and self-sacrifice on both sides, some of which are recorded in John’s songs. He sings songs of respect for Zulus, Boers, Indians and British while his deep feeling for personal tragedy and his awareness of the cruel aftermath of war are favourite themes.

Next Battlefields Tour dates

We’re teaming up for another combined tour in May 2017; Mail nicki@campaigntrails.co.za now to secure your place. There can be no better way to tour the battlefields than in the dual company of a knowledgeable guide and a great entertainer.