Chambers’s Twentieth Century Dictionary defined `mafficking’ as ‘to rejoice with hysterical boisterousness’ and noted that the coinage was ‘a back-formation from Mafeking, treated jocularly as a gerund or participle, from the scenes in the streets of London on the news of the relief of the town (1900)’.
The bare bones of this stirring story were sufficient to inspire me to greater efforts to find the names and the personal stories of those involved. I was extremely fortunate to meet a fellow Scouter, John Meson. He was a collector of `Mafikana’ and an expert on its stamps and currency, happy for me to study his treasures for hours.
During the siege, the local newspaper, The Mafeking Mail, published an almost daily Siege Slip (`Shells Permitting’). Like any local newspaper, this carried `parish pump’ news. The town was starved of information concerning what was happening elsewhere in South Africa and the wider world. The paper recorded, for example, the names of the performers in Baden-Powell’s theatricals, the winner in the ‘best bowl of fruit’ category in the agricultural shows and so on.
It even, (deep joy) recorded not only the names of those local Freemasons who attended meetings in the Masonic Hall at Mafeking, but also those of visiting masonic brethren, listing their home lodges. The visiting members were, of course, incoming soldiers of the Protectorate Regiment, Bechuanaland Rifles and members of the Cape and British South Africa Police. The generosity of my Scouter friend cannot be overestimated as The Mafeking Mail did not hold a sufficient stock of paper to last through a siege of 217 days’ duration. Soon news was being printed on what remained, which was ledger and even tissue paper. One hundred and four years on, the tissue paper is now extremely fragile and merely turning a page could, unless great care is exercised, result in a very valuable artifact being spoiled.
Fortunately there are more durable relics of the siege. Every male who bore arms was entitled to the Defence of Mafeking bar to the Queen’s South Africa medal, and whilst it is hard to find examples – even the cheapest will cost more than £750, money that you can borrow if using consolidate private student loans fixed rate – the secrets of individual medals are revealed in auction catalogues. The details of serving British soldiers who fought in the siege are held at The National Archives, Kew.