The If Man

Dr Leander Starr Jameson, the Inspiration for Kipling's Masterpiece

Chris Ash

Date Published :
November 2012
Publisher :
30 Degrees South Publishers
Illustration :
100 b/w photos, sketches, maps
No associated books available.


A rollicking biography of Dr Leander Starr Jameson—hero, rogue and rascal of Empire and the man who inspired Kipling to write this masterpiece, ‘If’

This famous poem by Rudyard Kipling is said to be based on the life of Jameson, and the suffering he endured as a result of the 1896 raid that he and his Rhodesian and Bechuanaland policemen carried out on Paul Kruger’s Transvaal Republic. In this engaging biography in the style of Wilbur Smith-meets-Louis l’Amour, Ash recounts the life of this colonial statesman known as ‘Dr Jim’ or simply ‘The Doctor’. He was an enigmatic man. When he died The Times estimated that his astonishing personal sway over his followers was equalled only by that of Parnell, the Irish patriot; from the fervour of the Kimberley diamond fields where he had established a small medical practice in 1878. It was through Jameson’s relationship with Lobengula that the chief granted a concession to Rhodes’ agents that led to the formation of the British South Africa Company. When the company proceeded to open up Mashonaland, Jameson joined the pioneer expedition of 1890. He was instrumental in securing the greater part of what would eventually become Mozambique for the Portuguese who were laying claim to it and in 1893 was named administrator of Mashonaland, playing a key role in the First Matabele War. Despite his many escapades and adventures Jameson is probably most known for his role in ‘The Jameson Raid’. Despite the raid, Jameson had a successful political life. He died on 26 November 1917 in London. His body was laid in a vault at Kensal Green Cemetery where it remained until the end of the First World War. Ian Colvin (1923) writes that Jameson’s body was then “... carried to Rhodesia and on 22 May 1920, laid in a grave cut in the granite on the top of the mountain which Rhodes had called ‘The View of the World’, close beside the grave of his friend.

A British Colonial and ex-Gordon Highlander, Chris Ash has spent much of his life in Africa, usually drilling for oil in the least pleasant places. Blessed (cursed?) with a love of adventure, when he was 24, Chris drove his Land Rover from London to Cape Town and decided to stay. His passion for Victorian history was sparked by watching ‘Zulu’ and ‘Breaker Morrant’ as a child, and stoked by a drunken argument with an irate Afrikaner in Pietersburg.

About The Author

Chris Ash grew up in the Shetland Isles and studied at Aberdeen University. After a brief and undistinguished dalliance with the British Army (Lovat Scouts and Gordon Highlanders), he drove his Land Rover to South Africa and decided to stay. Since then, he has worked in oil and mineral exploration all over Africa and the Middle East. His interest in South African history was sparked by watching Zulu and Breaker Morant as a child, ameliorated by countless drunken arguments over the years. He is a regular speaker on the remarkable life of Dr Leander Starr Jameson, the subject of his first book, The If Man. His second book, Kruger, Kommandos & Kak, continues to fuel Boer War controversy. Away from work and history, Ash enjoys cricket, rugby, upsetting the politically correct, J&B and messing about in Landies. He commutes between Johannesburg and Iraq.

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