S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Moodie, Mr George Pigot (surveying)

Born: 22 January 1829, Grahamstown, South Africa.
Died: 2 November 1891, Cape Town, South Africa.
Active in: SA Moz.

George Pigot Moodie, surveyor and railway pioneer, was the son of Lieut. Donald Moodie of the Royal Navy and his wife Sophia, born Pigot. In 1850 he assisted John Moreland in surveying land for J.C. Byrne's Colonial Land and Emigration Company in Natal, and in March 1864 was appointed engineer-surveyor for Pietermaritzburg. He hunted and traded in the Transvaal and beyond its borders until 1867, when he settled down as a land surveyor in that territory. From 1870 to 1873 he was a member of the Volksraad for Wakkerstroom. During 1870 and 1871 he travelled to Delagoa Bay (now Baia de Maputo) three times to investigate, at his own expense, the feasibility of a rail link between Lydenburg and the coast, and in 1872 submitted a scheme for a railway to the Transvaal government. In March the next year the Volksraad granted him a concession to build a railway line from Klipstapel (20 km north of Ermelo) to the Lebombo Mountains on the Transvaal border, while soon afterwards he obtained a Portuguese concession to continue the line through Mozambique. The latter concession he ceded to President Burgers of the Transvaal before accompanying the president as his secretary on a visit to Lisbon in November 1875 to conclude a formal treaty for the railway on Portuguese territory. However, nothing came of the project. Moodie was none the less rewarded for his services by being granted a block of thirteen farms in the eastern Transvaal near present Barberton, which came to be known as Moodie's concession.

Towards the end of 1876 he became managing director of the Nil Desperandum Co-operative Quartz Crushing Company and the next year visited Britain to acquire machinery for exploiting a gold concession at Blaauwbank, some 70 km west of where Johannesburg was later laid out. In May 1878 he delivered a lecture at the Royal Colonial Institute in London on "The population, prospects, and future government of the Transvaal", which was printed for private circulation. Three years later a paper by him on the history, native inhabitants and politics of the Transvaal, in Portuguese, was read before the Sociedade de Geographia de Lisboa. On 10 September 1879 he married Rosa Maria Spranger in England. They had two sons and two daughters.

During the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1881) Moodie was an active supporter of the Boer cause. After the war, in September 1881, he succeeded S. Melvill* as Surveyor-General of the South African Republic (Transvaal), a position he held until 1884. At some stage he compiled a map of the Transvaal, a copy of which was donated to Albany Museum, Grahamstown, in 1899. In his capacity as Surveyor-General he was a member of a commission appointed in January 1882 to investigate the construction of a railway from Pretoria to the Portuguese border. He advocated the route he had proposed in 1872, passing close to the site where Barberton was later established and to Ermelo, but finding no support for his views resigned from the commission later that year.

Moodie opened his concession to prospectors in 1892. Gold was found there and he formed Moodie's Gold Mining and Exploration Company. "Moodie's reef" briefly became the most important goldfield in South Africa early in 1884, but the high royalties that he demanded and the discovery of gold in neighbouring regions soon relegated it to a field of minor importance. He retired to Pietermaritzburg, but later decided to settle in Britain. However, his health was poor and finding the climate trying he spent his last years at the Cape. He changed his surname to Pigot-Moodie in 1889. In September 1891, shortly before his death, he donated the ornamental Rondebosch fountain, now a landmark and national monument.

List of sources:
Cape of Good Hope. Report of the committee of the Albany Museum, 1899.

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 1, 1968.

Malherbe, D.F. du T. Family register of the South African nation, 3rd ed. Stellenbosch: Tegniek, 1966.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to George Pigot Moodie / G.P. Moodie.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Tabler, E.C. Pioneers of Natal and South Eastern Africa, 1552-1878. Cape Town: Balkema, 1977.

Compiled by: C. Plug

Last updated: 2020-04-23 17:30:14