S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Lennox, Mr George St Leger Gordon (natural history collection)

Born: 22 November 1845, Perth, Scotland, United Kingdom.
Died: 12 September 1919, Upington, South Africa.

Gordon Lennox, adventurer and outlaw, was one of several persons using the pseudonym 'Scotty Smith'. He claimed to be George St Leger Gordon Lennox, born in Perth, Scotland, in 1845, but no supporting evidence has been found of his connection to the well-known family Gordon Lennox. In fact, most information about him is of unknown reliability. He claimed to have had a good education, including some training in land surveying and veterinary science. At the age of 18 he joined a cavalry regiment, served in India for some time, travelled to Australia and got in trouble there, spent some time in the United States, and then returned to Europe, where he fought for the French in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and in Spain in the war of 1872-1876.

In 1877 Lennox came to the Cape of Good Hope as a member of the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police. He served in the border regions of the colony and as a farrier in Kokstad and then in King William's Town. There he deserted and started his career as an outlaw in the present North West Province and northern part of the Northern Cape, up to the Namibian border. He appears to have stolen mainly from the rich and to have supported the poor. In 1888 he became a prospector for a while, but without much success. In 1892 he married Susarah Magdalena ("Sarie") van Niekerk, with whom he had seven children. At that time he had settled on the farm Leitland's Pan (later Lentlandspan), near the junction of the Molopo and Kuruman rivers, where, among other activities, he was a paid agent in the service of British Intelligence and gathered information about developments across the border in German South West Africa (now Namibia). During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he again worked for British Intelligence with such success that, after the war, the Cape government granted him free pardon for his previous misdeeds. He settled in Upington in 1909, where he remained for the rest of his life. During World War I (1914-1918) he was attached to the staff of military intelligence of the Union Defence Force with the rank of warrant officer, to gather information about the movements and activities of the rebel forces.

On his many trips in the Kalahari Lennox collected a variety of specimens of scientific interest. He had a permit from the Cape government to collect Bushman skeletons, sold several skeletons to Dr Porch of Vienna and to Dr L.A. Peringuey* of the South African Museum, and in 1910 presented five skeletons believed to be of mixed Bushman and Bantu origin to the McGregor Museum in Kimberley. There was much interest in such specimens at the time, but his permit was withdrawn in 1912. In 1910 he also supplied the McGregor Museum with a variety of Bushman artefacts, including karosses, hair-chains, a necklace, powder pots and snuff boxes, and was thanked for his efforts to make the collection as complete as possible. More artefacts from Gordonia followed the next year. He subsequently donated reptiles and amphibians from Gordonia (1912), spiders (1913), and more reptiles, amphibians, spiders and solpuges (1914). Around this time he acted as a guide for several expeditions into the Kalahari, among others by Miss D. Bleek* and Miss M. Wilman* (1910); Major C.A. Anderson, an expert in ground water resources (1913); and by Mr R.W. Thornton* to obtain Afrikaner sheep for the Grootfontein Agricultural College (1914). He later sent Thornton various grass seeds from the Kalahari for the latter's experiments with drought-resistant grasses.

Lennox died during the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919. One of his sons was also named George St Leger Gordon Lennox.

List of sources:

George St Leger Gordon Lennox. Geni. Retrieved from https://www.geni.com/people/George-St-Leger-Gordon-Lennox-1/6000000026454914238 on 2018-5-3.

McGregor Museum. Annual meeting: Curator's report, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914. Diamond Fields Advertiser. Copies received from McGregor Museum.

Metrowich, F.C. Scotty Smith (2nd ed.) Cape Town: Books of Africa, 1970.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS), at http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to George St Leger Lennox.

Tylden, G. The pseudonym 'Scotty Smith' in South Africa. Africana Notes and News, March 1951, Vol. 8(2), pp. 59-66.

Compiled by: C. Plug