Amsterdam, Grass & Wetlands

Despite being named after the city in the Netherlands this pretty little town, virtually on the border with Swaziland, was originally settled by the Scottish when 300 of them arrived with a man named McCorkindale who did not just want to settle here, but hoped to develop an ambitious sea route to the port he intended establishing at the mouth of the Usutu River.

McCordindale was obviously no stranger to entrepreneurship and was something of a visionary. He initially arrived in South Africa to settle in Zululand intending to grow cotton. On suggestion from his brother-in-law that the area west of the Swaziland border was a good place to further McCorkindale's idea of a Scottish settlement in South Africa, he formed the Glasgow & South African Company.

He then convinced the government of the time to sell him 200 farms close to the Swaziland border, to which he also gave a series of Scottish names (Iona, Dumbarton, Craigie Lea etc.), to which he intended to entice the Scottish as part of an immigration scheme. He called the area New Scotland and intended bringing farmers, mechanics, traders and miners to the area (a bit like the 1820 settlement at the Cape).

McCorkindale also proposed to make the River Usutu navigable and to provide the land-locked Transvaal with an outlet through Delagoa Bay. He returned to Britain to raise capital and recruit migrants taking along President Pretorius's daughter, Christina, to see Europe (Chrissiesmeer was named after her).

His ambitions outweighed his capabilities and he returned having raised little of either, bar persuading some of his relatives, and a few Scots from Natal, to move to New Scotland. Around 50 people settled at the lake called Chrissie. McCorkindale then fell foul of maleria whilst on a survey to Delagoa Bay and died.

Leaderless, most of the Scottish farmers left their farms and returned home, and McCorkindale's wife was apparently tied up in legal and financial complications for much of her life.

Today Amsterdam is a demure sheep farming town surrounded by huge gum, pine and wattle plantations, close to the Swazi border.

If you can, cross the border and visit the Usutu Forest, the largest man-made forest in the world.

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