If the ambitious dreams of a Scot named Alexander McCorkindale had come to fruition, the out-of-way little town of Amsterdam would today be the thriving capital city of a 'tartan republic' called New Scotland.
In 1864 McCorkindale arrived in South Africa with a bold plan for bringing new life to the then Transvaal. He wanted to bring 300 Scots into the area, establish farms, build towns and develop a sea route to the new port he planned to create at the mouth of the Usutu River.
The Transvaal government was delighted at the prospect of an economic revival in the moribund state. They offered to sell McCorkindale 200 farms in one huge block on the Swaziland border for 8000 pounds cash.
McCordindale formed the Glasgow and South Africa Company in Britain and in 1866 he returned to the Transvaal and toured the area with President Pretorius. He envisaged that New Scotland would be divided into 3 sections; Industria in the north, near Lake Chrissie; Londina in the south, centred on the present town of Derby; and between them, the capital Roburnia; named after the Scottish poet, Robert Burns.
The first 50 Scots arrived in 1867. They brought with them flocks of sheep and established some superb farms, such as Lochiel, Waverley and Bonnie Braes. Unfortunately that is as far as the great plan got. McCorkindale failed to raise the essential capital and died of fever on Inyack Island in 1871 while surveying the site of his proposed new seaport at the mouth of the Usutu River.
The birth of Roburnia
His efforts were not entirely wasted however, for the Scots who did arrive proved to be hard-working settlers. Roburnia did actually exist for about a year but in 1882 the township was renamed Amsterdam and today only the town square commemorates the name of McCorkindale.
There are large plantations of gum, pine and wattle in the district and the Usutu Forest, just across the border in Swaziland, is the largest man-made forest in the world.
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