Keep cool – Diamond Dogs rule, OK
Beware of the Diamond Dogs
(David Bowie 1974)
Jack Walsh sat quietly sipping at his gin and tonic as the golden sun dipped below the hills to the West. He studied Cecil’s expression, searching for some sign of dishonesty or insincerity, some trick to the wonderful offer he was being made. All he could see was an innocent seventeen year old sickly boy, full of enthusiasm and no trace of deceit.
Cecil Rhodes had just made him an offer of a lifetime. He wanted him to join his venture when he finalised his purchase of a claim to the De Beers mine. Head foreman was the offer and a princely sum of just under a guinea a week.
“Is there any more tonic? The blasted malaria. I’m told it works well against it.”
Cecil reached over with a jug of lukewarm tonic and re-filled his glass. Their eyes met as he sat back in the rickety wooden rocker, on the front porch. “I need a man I can trust and one who knows this damned business. You’ve been around diamonds ever since you saw Erasmus pull that one out of the Orange River five years ago. It’s in your blood Jack. ….and I trust you more than any man here.”
Jack took a long hard swig, nodding as he swallowed it down. “OK. You’re on. Let’s do it.”
So began the relationship between Jack Walsh, hardened diamond miner and Cecil Rhodes, young ambitious entrepreneur.
Jack’s main job was to maximise production and stop theft. The mine workers would come up with all sorts of amazing inventions to smuggle diamonds out of the mine. Over the years Jack had extracted diamonds from just about every possible hiding place. They were sewn into clothes, placed into their own bodies, sometimes at the cost of excruciating pain and even death. Some had tried swallowing them in order to smuggle out their dream of a rich future, only to find that the diamond had cut into their intestine or bowel, leaving them with an awful and slow death.
Yes, Jack knew all of the tricks. Even so, he often wondered how many successes there were. How many thousands of pounds worth of diamonds had been removed without a trace?
Cecil was far more relaxed about the theft. Culprits would be promptly executed. Profits were booming. “Why worry too much about a few stolen diamonds, when we are expanding at such a rate,” he would say. “Just do the best you can Jack.”
For Jack, however, it was personal. It was his job. He took it as a personal attack against his authority and was obsessive in catching thieves. He even introduced a company law that forbade any worker to leave the mining complex within three days of working the mine. The latrines were searched at the end of each working day. This task was handed out as a punishment for slackness or other minor crimes.
One evening just before dinner Jack was taking his usual evening drink out on the porch, chatting with an old friend, Robert Parsons. Robert was a travelling salesman, dealing mainly in mining tools but also someone known in those parts for his uncanny capability to acquire almost anything for a price. He had even recently managed to come up with a white marble grand piano for Cecil’s new house at a cost of one thousand two hundred guineas.
“You’re pulling my leg Bob, surely? A breed of dog that can smell a diamond? Diamonds don’t have scent. If only it were true.”
“Well, I admit that I am no expert but apparently it really is true. I have heard that they don’t smell the diamonds directly, but can pick up on the scent caused by the potential smuggler. I guess he gives of an adrenalin or nervous scent, which the dog can be trained to pick up on,” replied Bob thoughtfully.
“Do you know where I could get one of these dogs?” Jack inquired, quite excited by the idea of finally being able to stop all theft.
“It’s very easy. The best breed available for this type of work is your common-and-garden Beagle. It is a well-known hound for hunters. There are plenty around. I tell you what, next time I come by in three weeks’ time, I will bring one with me. How’s that?”
Jack became quiet, thinking about how much easier his job would be fighting the smugglers if he had such a hound. The next three weeks dragged for him.
Three weeks later as Robert Parsons walked towards him with young, but full grown Beagle on the lead, he called out “Hey Jack. Only eighteen months old but fully trained. What do you think?”
Jack waved away the two miners that he had been scalding for laziness and sent them back to their work. With a beaming smile he greeted first the dog, then his friend. “What do I call him? Does he have a name?”
“She,” he replied, grinning, “has been named Ruby. All you need to do is have the miners file past after each shift and the dog will do the rest. Trust me; I have seen her in action.”
At the end of the afternoon shift Jack stood with Ruby as, one by one, all one hundred and sixty miners slowly shuffled past. Ruby looked totally disinterested. With nose mostly to the ground she sniffed around, barely noticing that people were walking by. Jack was sorely disappointed and began to lose heart.
“Look, all it means is that nobody was trying to smuggle anything today. You should be pleased, rather than upset. Give it time. You will see.” Robert re-filled his glass with plenty of tonic water and was clearly enjoying the fun; after all, Jack had paid a good sum for the dog. “Do you believe this is good against malaria?”
“I dunno. That’s what I have heard,” Jack replied quite morosely.
The following day and the one after that was the same reaction from his young Beagle. She just didn’t seem interested. Jack was almost ready to call it a day and send the dog away. Even the miners were chuckling to themselves as they paced by after each shift. One of them even stopped to hand the dog some titbits of meat, which earned him a sharp crack on the shoulder from Jack’s stick.
It was the last evening shift on the third day that Ruby finally showed some attention. A large built Mandingo, skin oiled by sweat after a hard day’s work, casually strolled by. Ruby pricked her ears, made a gruff rumbling sound which escalated in volume until she was barking loudly and looking frantic from Jack to the miner and back again.
Jack called to the miner, “Stop. You there. Come here.”
The worker looked nervously towards Jack. He stood still for a few seconds before breaking into a full run towards the compound exit gate. Jack called him to stop or he would shoot. The Mandingo carried on. Jack raised his single shot breech-action Martini-Henry rifle slowly to his shoulder, took aim, held his breath and gently squeezed the trigger. The shot took the left knee clean off the runaway thief.
His two helpers dragged the screaming Mandingo across the dusty floor, in front of the staring line of workers. “No-one moves,” shouted Jack.
A search revealed nothing. Jack was unsure what to do next. “Why did you run?” he shouted at his sobbing victim.
“No reason Master. No reason. I just got scared. Please Master, please, I got four kids to feed Master.”
Then Jack noticed a small trickle of blood coming from behind the miner’s left ear. He walked over, took his ear in his hand and there it was, a small cut with a hard lump buried beneath. He squealed as Jack pressed with thumb and forefinger forcing a diamond as big as his finger nail out of the small opening. “Take him away,” he commanded as he turned towards Ruby. He walked over to her. She had resumed her inactive disinterest in the whole affair. “Well done girl. You have earned a steak tonight,” he whispered as he ruffled her floppy ears.
And so it went on for many months. Jack acquired three more Beagles and occasionally caught would-be smugglers. However the miners soon became wise to Jack’s Diamond Dogs and knew that it was pointless to try to steal any more. Their smuggling game was over.
By 1873 Cecil Rhodes, with his partner Charles Rudd had amassed a significant number of mines in southern Africa.
The introduction of Jack’s ‘Diamond Dogs’ had become so successful that Rhodes had noticed a marked increase in profits. In view of this he invited Jack to his home for dinner, with a proposal for further expansion of the use of his Beagles. Rudd was also present.
Rhodes offered Jack a new position, to relinquish his post of Head Foreman at the Kimberley mine and take over the role of security for the complete company. Rhodes wanted to see Jack’s dogs used across all of his mines in Africa.
Rudd, however didn’t like Jack’s crude ways. He considered him to be far too low class to be sitting at the same dining table with the likes of him and Rhodes. He was quite negative about the security proposal and made it abundantly clear that he had no time for Jack.
“Cecil, this is a complete waste of company funds. We have no evidence that the rise in profit has anything to do with these overfed stupid dogs. I say we kill the whole idea.”
Cecil Rhodes had known Jack for a long time, longer than Rudd. He was clearly irritated by Rudd’s animosity and replied,” I haven’t told you yet. My other announcement tonight is that I will be leaving for England next month to complete my studies at Oxford. I would like you to take care of everything while I am away, probably three years.”
Rhodes was far too cunning for Rudd. He knew that Rudd would be easy to convince faced with the prospect of three years and a free hand with the company. Agreeing to allow him to follow through with the ‘Diamond Dogs’ plan would be a small price for him to pay.
Rudd leaned back in his chair and smiled easily. “Ok Cecil, have it your way. Walsh can have the job with his dogs and I will look after things while you play student at Oxford. Let’s drink to it.”
Jack raised his glass and took the toast, but couldn’t shake off the feeling of uneasiness over the new changes. He felt very vulnerable with Cecil Rhodes, his friend gone and replaced by this sly fox. He would have to watch his step, he thought, as he downed his final drink before leaving.
Rhodes took a ship for England as promised the following month. Jack’s replacement was up and running in the Kimberley mine, which left him free to implement the use of his Beagles throughout the sixty-eight mines in the Kimberley area.
He had been gone only a week when he was visited by Charles Rudd. The meeting was very aggressive and resulted in Rudd directly accusing Jack of stealing, although without any proof. Jack was not someone to mince his words and threatened Rudd that if he didn’t rescind his accusations he would be sorry. Rudd laughed in Jack’s face and replied that he was lucky to have a job at all. His salary would be reduced from that day onwards by ten per cent.
Jack went back to his hut boiling over with anger. He knew that the Rudd’s of this world always had the upper hand. They were the true masters and Jack was no better in many ways than the poorly paid mineworkers.
That night he took his gin neat and was unconscious within a few hours, although not oblivious to his troubles.
During the night Jack dreamt. He dreamt of the people he had harmed, their blood, their pain and even worse their faces. He cried through his sleep and could be heard in the neighbouring huts screaming for help. In the end he quietened to a morbid melancholy and, while still asleep, his plan became clear. As he woke, before the sun had begun to rise, he felt much better and knew which direction his revenge on Charles Rudd would take.
The Beagles were introduced throughout the diamond mines. Within a few months, just before Cecil Rhodes returned earlier than expected, after only one semester at Oxford, fifty of the mines already had Diamond Dogs checking the workers. Profits were promptly showing signs of increase.
This time, however, Jack was working to a different plan. He had realised that the dogs could easily swallow small diamonds embedded in pieces of beef. He set up trusted accomplices at each mine to ensure that the dogs were ‘fed’ diamonds, which were then passed back to him when he did his weekly rounds. They were paid handsomely. Jack felt secure in the knowledge that his collaborators would be punished just as harshly as he would if they were caught. This ensured their discretion.
Within a year Jack Walsh was a rich man. He had amassed, without knowledge of his employer, over ten thousand pounds in uncut diamonds. There remained only one small part to his plan before he would leave South Africa forever.
Under the guise of a welcoming back party to Kimberley after his trip to England, Jack invited Cecil Rhodes to a festive evening at the mine. There was music and dancing. The miners were all rewarded with a few hours free time to join in the celebrations. They were allowed to bring their women and children along. Cecil was quite taken aback by the festive spirit and joined in fully, donating an extra barrel of gin to the evening. Jack had deliberately arranged the evening while Charles Rudd was away on business with the consortium of merchants.
As the evening progressed Jack began to touch on the sensitive information that he wanted to privately divulge to Rhodes.
“Mr. Rhodes, we have known each other for a very long time, and I hope, despite our different positions, that I can consider you to be a friend, a friend that I can speak to in utter confidence.”
Cecil looked at him, slightly puzzled. “Of course Jack, anything you tell me stays strictly between us. What is it?”
“I am sorry to bring this to you but I have reason to believe that your partner, Charles Rudd is guilty of diamond theft. I overheard two miners discussing how they get them to him during his occasional visits. The diamonds are collected in the tool house until there are enough for the handover. That is all I know.”
Cecil Rhodes looked incredulously at Jack. “I can’t believe this. Who are these people? I want to talk to them now.”
“I am sorry, but I couldn’t see their faces. They were talking after dark behind the latrine. My only suggestion would be for us to quietly take a look through the tool house while the party is in full swing. No-one would notice.”
Jack and Rhodes went into the tool house. It was a large dusty building, full of picks, shovels and various other mining tools.
“This is a waste of time Jack. Even if there was a stash of diamonds here, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack,” said Cecil as he turned to walk back out.
Jack had to think quickly, too quickly. “Here, look. The soil in the floor over there is a different shade. “
He burrowed with his hands and quickly came out with a small linen bag. Opening it, he poured a small pile of diamonds into his palm.
Rhodes was aghast. “You were right Jack. I need to think about this until Rudd returns on Friday. I want no word of it to come out until I speak to Rudd. Do I have your word?”
Jack fought hard not to smile. With earnest expression he just quietly replied, “Of course Sir.”
Cecil Rhodes was a sickly fellow, young and innocent in appearance. This was one of his greatest advantages as a businessman, which enabled him to be continually underestimated by people. Jack was one of those people.
Rhodes had understood the bad relationship only too well between Rudd and Jack. It was very clear to him that Jack was trying to set up his partner as a thief. He knew that Charles Rudd was on to far too good a thing, as his partner, to risk losing it all for a few diamonds. They were to become extremely rich together during the following years.
Rhodes also knew that Jack must have gotten these diamonds from somewhere. This mystery he must solve quickly and discreetly.
One of the black miners was the grandson of a slave that had been freed by Cecil Rhodes’ great uncle back in 1823, a full ten years before the abolition. Rhodes knew that he felt a debt of gratitude and could trust him. He secretly arranged for him to spy on Jack Walsh. Over the following weeks Rhodes received the intelligence reports that Jack Walsh was smuggling out diamonds through the use of his Beagles.
A full search was promptly organised, involving the use of mounted infantrymen, as this was well before the formation of the British South African Police. Jack Walsh was found to be in possession of a large number of uncut diamonds and proven guilty of embezzlement. He was sentenced to death and executed on the evening of the 10th June 1874 as the golden sun dipped below the hills to the West.