Photos: The 'Scottish Man' Greets Mansion Visitors

Sammy Marks Museum Ghost

There is a ghost of a Scottish man roaming this old house in Pretoria, South Africa. Note there are only 21 people but there is an extra hand??? Looks like that of a lady. Also behind on the landing is a face of a man. This Scot was a friend of the Marks family and looked after the children in the 1800's. He later died in his room and now he is said to tease the lady visitors. I was one of them...

^This photo of the 'Scottish Man' was taken during a previous tour of the Sammy Marks Museum


Sammy Marks

One of South Africa's grandest colonial mansions, Zwartkoppies Hall, 23 km outside Pretoria, is now a fascinating museum that pays tribute to the genius of its original owner.

Set somewhat in acres of rolling veld just outside Pretoria, Zwartkoppies Hall epitomises all the ornate elegance of prosperous colonial households during the latter decades of the last century. The 48 graciously rooms are filled with all the trappings of refined Victorian living exquisite furniture, porcelain, paintings, silver making it a home truly worthy of Sammy Marks's status as one of the leading industrialists of his day.

The museum is unique in that it's the only Victorian mansion in the country whose interior is preserved intact and wholly authentic. This is thanks largely to the foresight of Sammy Marks, who declared in his will that the house with its contents are to be preserved for four generations after the day he dies.

What is even more appealing about it is that Zwartkoppies Hill has somehow retained some of the well-worn and relaxed ambience of a family home. It is a gorgeous period piece, soaked in atmosphere and appealingly frayed at the edges, which is hardly surprising when you consider that the his descendants occupied the mansion for most the century.

An very impressive home for a man whose origins were so humble. Born in Lithuania, the son of an tailor, Sammy Marks was blessed with integrity, courage, astonishing business acumen and the capacity for sheer hard work, all qualities that helped him rise, in the period of a few decades, from being a peddler of cheap jewelery to one of the old Transvaal Republic's leading industrialists. He departed for South Africa in 1868, aged 24. After his stint as a smous (peddler) in the Western Cape, he teamed up with his cousin Isaac Lewis, who was to be his life-long business partner, and went to Kimberley, where they made a modest living selling supplies to mines and diggers, and later branched into diamond trading.

After some time they decided to diversify their interests and turned their attention to the Transvaal region, buying concessions and starting a variety of businesses, including a distillery, a canning factory, a glass factory, a brick and tile works, a maize mill and, later, an iron-and-steel works that was to be one of the direct precursors of the steel industry in the Transvaal. They mined coal on the banks of the Vaal River, where Vereeniging is now, and gained partial control of the rich Sheba mine in Barberton. At the last few years of the 19th century, the Lewis and Marks company had emerged as one of the top ten on the Rand, being both millionaires.

If you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself,' was one of Sammy Marks's favourite expressions, and when the time came to build his own home, he became clerk of works, personally supervising the ordering of materials, which were transported from Durban by ox-wagon.

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