(1843 – 24 September 1914)

Born in 1843, James was named after a dear family friend, Barend Jacobus Burger, who was to be his godfather. At the age of seven, he had an attack of rheumatic fever, leaving his heart affected. Thus, he remained under his mother’s watchful care when the other children were send to school. As he grew older and stronger, James developed a strong love for farming and spend some years on the farm Rooi Poort with Willem Burger (son of BJ Burger). When, after a number of years, he moved to a farm closer to Graaff Reinet, his mother and sisters could visit him more often. They complemented him on his “neat and tidy housekeeping as a bachelor”!

James seemed to have a sense of adventure and loved being alone: In 1878, he moved to Pretoria and after selling his cart and horses for $100, he bought a share in two wagons and two spans of oxen and stared out as one of a team of transport riders. He writes to his mother that he does not really care for the work and the month-long journeys, but “… as you know I like to be alone, and that is a great thing to me”.[1]

Even though not in formal ministry, James actively served the Lord. During the time he spend in the Transvaal first as transport driver (1878) and then on commando during the War with Mapoch, he would act as the chaplain to the burghers in the absence of their minister. He also fought at Majuba in 1881. During his time in Graaff Reinet, where he was persuaded to tend the parsonage’s large gardens, he was active in the Christen Strewers Vereeniging and for a period of time, the chair person. Even tending the gardens was a task of love and he grew wonderful flowers (sharing his brother Charles’ passion) and vegetables and fruit to be share with all those in need. Each year he sold hundreds of vine cuttings as fundraiser for mission work.

After his brother, Charles’ death in 1904, James left for Utrecht where he lived with his youngest sister Eliza at Neethling’s Hof. Once more he took on the gardening, sowing and reaping duties, helping in all ways necessary with the running of the farm and boarding school. During this time, as a result of an accident while working with wire fencing, he lost his right eye; but he never complained. Gratitude for every mercy and absolute unselfishness were his prominent virtues. He became the much-loved bachelor uncle of the family, and the beloved “Oom James” to all the children, who always wanted to do things for him such as helping with the “outspanning” of his horses when he came to visit.

When Eliza moved to Cape Town towards the end of her years, James went with her. He contracted a serious illness and, after suffering for many months, died on 24th September1914. After a service conducted by his cousin Rev AC Murray, he was laid to rest, next to his parents and brother Charles in Graaff Reinet. Here he was one of the most well-known and beloved persons.[2]

James was a friendly, unassuming and easy to please person, who had a heart for others and who lived in total sincerity. An old friend suggested that on his grave should be written: “Voor zooveel gij dit een van mijne minsten broeders gedaan hebt, hebt gij Mij gedaan” Matt 25:40.[3]

[1] Letter written by James to his mother, 25 Nov 1878.

[2] Unto Children’s Children, p110-111

[3] De Kerkbode, 1 Oct 1914, p 938 [“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”]