The Horse Memorial in Port Elizabeth was dedicated to all the horses that suffered and lost their lives during the South African war of 1899 – 1902. The English brought many horses with them during the second Boer war and it is estimated 300 000 horses died during battle. The cost of the whole operation was £7 million.
It is currently located on the corner of Russell and Cape Roads but was originally erected next to George’s Park near Park Drive and Rink Street in the 1950s. The authorities thought it was a hindrance to traffic at the first location.
The memorial has been declared a Provincial Heritage Site.
The statue is made of a bronze casting of a 16 hand 2 inch horse drinking water from a bucket that is held by a life size soldier standing on one knee. It is set on a granite plinth with a drinking trough fountain built into its base.The trough was meant to be filled with water for animals but the water was never connected for several reasons, hygiene concerns being one of them. This statue is a well-known exceptional sculpture and its inscription reads as follows:
"The greatness of a nation consists not so much in the number of its people or the extent of its territory as in the extent and justice of its compassion. Erected by public subscription in recognition of the services of the gallant animals which perished in the Anglo-Boer war 1899-1902”
The unveiling took place on 11 February 1905 with the Mayor at the time, Mr A. Fettes, presiding over the ceremony.
Most of the horses brought into the country form various lands including Australia were brought in at Port Elizabeth harbour and in 1901 a committee of ladies headed by Mrs Harriet Meyer was set up to have a memorial built in honour of the horses lost at war. They raised £800 for Thames Dillon Works in Surrey, England to erect the statue that had been designed by Messrs Whitehead & Sons.
It behoves us to quote the Mayor Alexander Fettes’s unveiling speech verbatim because the fact needs to be brought to light that there will always be people as an example to others, who care for the welfare of animals.
"The unveiling of this monument marks the completion of what has been an arduous undertaking on the part of those ladies with whom the idea of raising a monument to the horses originated. To raise a monument to the 'brutes' that perish is considered by many to be misplaced sentiment, while some are inclined to think with Louis Wain that 'all animals have their season of happiness in a hereafter before their final effacement, as a reward for the trials they undergo in life, while under the dominion of man'. The design as a whole is an object lesson in kindness, and may appeal to the cruel or careless driver, and teach him that there are some who do not think it beneath them to attend to the wants of animals placed under their charge."
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