Alfred Aylward: Fenian Editor of the Natal Witness.

Donal P McCracken


Alfred Aylward, ex-Irish Fenian revolutionary, diamond field agitator and Boer commando leader, became editor of the Natal Witness in the latter half of 1879 when the paper was owned by P. Davis. In February 1881 he vacated his editorial chair in Longmarket Street, fled Pietermaritzburg and
joined the insurgent Boer forces in the Transvaaal. A master of biting sarcasm, branded in his own lifetime as murderer, a traitor to both the Fenians and the British, a conspirator. mercenary and secret service agent;2 "the notorious Aylward" was in fact a man of quite considerable ability. He was a liar, but his lies were told eloquently and entertainingly. And if Frere, Lanyon and Southey regarded him as a scoundrel, Colley, Shepstone and Wolseley, though with some caution, held a soft spot for hirn in their hearts. Any paper Alyward edited would be worth reading, and it is noteworthy that the Witness's circulation had increased so much under his direction that from January 1881 it was published daily instead of three times a week.

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