"And you thought that George Harrison was a Beatle!" Top 5 Page for this destination Diamonds and Gold Tip by CatherineReichardt

Diamonds and Gold, Johannesburg: 6 reviews and 9 photos

by CatherineReichardt

As you drive into Johannesburg from the airport, you will see an enormous statue of your left hand side just as you pass the Eastgate shopping centre. By this point, most tourists are too zonked after their international flight to wonder who this bare-chested, somewhat undernourished individual might be, let alone why he's holding a rock triumphantly above his head.

Meet George Harrison, and if you're wondering what happened to his moptop haircut, perhaps I should clarify by stating that this is his lesser known namesake, whose claim to fame is that he was the man who discovered gold in Johannesburg!

In fact, the first gold was found in the region as early as 1853, when Pieter Marais discovered alluvial gold in the Jukskei River, which drains northwards from Johannesburg. However, the source from which this gold had been derived - the Witwatersrand (White Water) Ridge - was not identified until Harrison stumbled over gold bearing outcrop on the farm Langlaagte in 1886. At the time, Harrison didn't realise the significance of his find, and the bitter irony is that, having discovered the largest gold field in the world, he sold his claim for a measly 10 pounds and headed off to the goldfields of the Eastern Transvaal to seek his fortune - as he then disappears from the historical record, one can only assume that he never did!

Even the few people who have heard of Harrison usually don't realise that he was an Australian prospector - for those unfamiliar with colonial politics, there is a keen friendly-ish rivalry between Aussies and South Africans, so this is a bit of a touchy point! Moreover, this statue is in an entirely inappropriate site, as Langlaagte is located about 10km west along the ridge, on the western fringe of Johannesburg. Frankly we should just be grateful that he gets a memorial at all - even if it's in the wrong place - since his find was responsible for the establishment of Africa's economic powerhouse!

Harrison's statue stands in a small park which got a facelift in the run up to the 2010 World Cup, and was still adorned with wire figures of footballers at the time of writing (November 2010) - I am amazed that they still haven't been nicked!

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Apr 12, 2011
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