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South Africa/a song about south africa


Amras wrote at 2007-09-15 20:20:23
I believe this to be an old marching song and refers to the British Army marching on the City of Pretoria in the Boer War 1899 to 1902. I remember singing it in school in the 70's myself and also wondered until I read more History.

Scott wrote at 2008-02-15 19:02:03
I sang this song in grade school in rural Minnesota some 35 years ago.  For years the song has occasionally returned to haunted me - and I wondered the similar questions - were these Afrikaners - was this the Boers wars - who were we supporting when we sang it and who were they fighting?  Thanks for the answer and thanks to google for helping me find this site when the song started to "haunt me yet again"

FarOutFish wrote at 2008-06-22 06:23:33
I believe Marching to Pretoria may refer to the trek of the Dutch settlers were forced into the interior before the Boer war, when the English occupied the costal parts of what is now South Africa. The original settlers, named Boers, were forced to march to their new territories and there new capital Pretoria

Richard wrote at 2008-08-02 22:26:40
I think it's amusing that you were singing it in the 1970's.  We were singing it in the 1960's in my little Dutch-American town.  They taught us to sing it when we learned all about how the Afrikaaners settle, tamed and civilized the "wilds" of the southern end of Africa.  Funny how things travel from continent to continent.

Joe wrote at 2009-04-04 14:13:02
I wanted to add that when I was in first grade in Macon GA in  73 we

also sang this song at my school.  I have only a few

memories of my time at this particular school because I

left after 1st grade.  Every time I think of the school

this song pops into my head.  Since the school I

attended was a Catholic school I often wondered what

significance this song carrird with regard to religious

teaching.  I could not think of anything in Christian

doctrine relevant to Pretoria.  Anyway it makes sense now.  

Thank you for your insight


Phoebe wrote at 2010-01-16 10:52:14
We sang this song in the early 60s in school, and for some reason it's been on my mind.

I knew it was African, and they did teach us what it meant.  All I can remember now,(until I read this!) was that it was a song about togetherness, and helping your fellow man.

As I was brought up to believe, and as this song says, if someone needs help, and you are able to help them, you do it, no questions asked or rewards sought.

Thank you!

Peter M. Kehoe wrote at 2011-06-22 12:38:53
To add to the history of this song in the USA.  A group called the Weavers first recorded this traditional South African song originally performed by Josef Marais in SA.  The Weavers, of whom Pete Seeger was the most famous, came from folk roots filled with political activism, singing songs popularized at union rallies, civil rights gatherings, etc.

In 1961, the Smothers Brothers, released their first album, which included Marching to Pretoria, with their own humorous spin on it.  Pete Seeger, Peter Paul and Mary, and even the Smothers Brothers in their own way, caught the imagination of a generation coming of age in the era of President John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".  Thus the songs and anthems of earlier movements struggling for peace and justice, from around the world, found their way into the pop culture of the USA, even into the schools.

Pretoria resident wrote at 2011-06-29 19:17:02

This song refers to the great flank march of the armies of the British Empire led by Lord Roberts which left the Cape Colony in February 1900 and marched to Pretoria, the capital of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, occupying the city on the 5th June 1900, during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The song was sung by British soldiers as they advanced.

Louis wrote at 2012-02-09 23:25:56
This explanation is horribly wrong!

The original song is:

My matras

Jou kombers

Donkre kamer

Sonder kers

En daar le die beetel

Roughly translated:

My matress

Your blanket

Dark room

Without a candle

And there

lies the beetle.

it basically means that two people who lie together in a dark

room will make a baby.

It comes from the Cape Coloured culture where they sing about stuff that happens on a daily basis. The music is known as Goema. The mixture with white war-time songs like (It's a long way to.. and..We are marching to to Pretoria are classic examples of war-time and apartheid irony. The locals were pulling their chains!!

KMT wrote at 2012-03-07 07:52:54
Here the writer has translated the following:

Die een kant op en     - The one on one side

Die anderkant af en    - the other on the other side

With my knowledge of Dutch (from where Afrikaans comes) leads me to suggest the following as more correct:

Die een kant op en     - Going up one side

Die anderkant af en    - And down the other side

The particular words in question are op (up) and af (down)

A bit like in the old nursery rhyme The Grand old Duke of York

"He marched them up to the top of the hill

And he marched them down again."

Justi wrote at 2012-09-04 13:38:38
Afrikaaners is proud to be called Boere, it is a term that wakens a strong feeling of belonging as most Afrikaans Families originate off farms, or has family, still today that lives on farms. Boere is a direct transaltion for Farmers.

As for this song, it dates back to the Anglo Boer War, when Pretoria was the capitol of the ZAR - Zuid Afrikaanse Republic. And both Brittish and Boer was fighting for this strong hold, so we pack our stuff, I'll take my blanket, you bring your matress and then we'll march on Pretoria.

Leonardo wrote at 2012-10-22 14:46:03
I'd liked to know the lyrics Nick Taylor uses in his version.

That means the second verse. The first verse you already mentioned.

Can't find it anywhere.

Tim wrote at 2013-02-19 22:33:15
"Marching to Pretoria"

Very coincidental, I had a flashback to my grammar school, returning to our classrooms having practicing our very orderly fire drills, we were to march-in-two, hand-in-hand singing this refrain. Of course we never knew what it meant, it was a catchy tune that kept us in-step, and from chatting to each other. We even played our flutes to it in the annual Memorial Day parades, I just can't recall if it was in 2nd or 4th grades since it was the same teacher. For the parade, we'd wear white shirts/ trousers with shiny green capes, and matching green cardboard hats. We practiced for months.

Try that today  

Mike wrote at 2016-02-03 00:26:18
In 1899 the British provoked a war in southern Africa in order to seize the gold and diamond rich Orange Free State and the Transvaal. In the course of this war the British rounded up Afrikaaner women and children into concentration camps, in which 26,000 died of disease and starvation. If you sing this song you are celebrating the worst excesses of imperialism.

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Jenna-lee Smith


I am a new expert to this site and am a South African, living in Gauteng, Johannesburg. I have travelled to many of South Africa's beautiful and unique provinces including Cape Town, Durban, KwaZulu Natal and many other areas. I would be able to answer possible questions you may have on South Africa since I have first hand experiences in these matters as I am a South African born and raised.

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