RA Rouillard (RAR)
The pioneering spirit which opened up the interior of South Africa came in a variety of guises.
In the Louwsburg and Magut district, one pioneer who had a particularly significant impact on the region was R. A. Rouillard.
Richard Antoine Rouillard was born in the Phoenix district of Mauritius in 1873.
During the years 1892 - 1897 he studied at the Royal College of Science and the School of Mines in London; in 1897 he obtained a degree in Chemistry and Mining Engineering and became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of Chemistry.
At the age of 24 he came to South Africa, expecting to be in great demand with his specialised training. He was to be disappointed at first and began his career by working for his keep only at the Crown Reef Gold Mining Company.
In April 1908, then head of H Eckstein & Co.’s mining department in Johannesburg had resigned from Eckstein’s and took up two prospecting options in the Ngotshe district which he mined himself – one at Wonder Mine and one at Klipwal. He used a small fivestamp battery to crush the ore and did all the smelting and extracting of the gold on a small furnace almost single-handed.
He not only mined Wonder Mine from 1908 to 1909, but he also built the 14-mile road leading from Louwsburg to the mine and the road between Louwsburg and Magudu. Bearing in mind that, in those days everything had to be done by hand with a pick and shovel and every nut and bolt had to be imported from overseas, his achievements are even more amazing.
After selling the mines, he bought a number of farms in the area and was the driving force in helping the region’s agriculture to reach economic viability.
Through his subsequent ventures in cotton farming, he also single-handedly ensured that reticulation such as railways, telephone and electricity reached the Magut and Candover regions.
Today his descendants still farm in the nearby Pongola valley and have continued his impressive tradition with their own contributions to the region.
Abstracted by: Richard N.S.Dold
(Grandson of R.A.Rouillard)