By Neil Shafer
The note shown here is an example of the famous and very rare “shirt money” issued by the Border Scouts based at Upington, South Africa, during the Boer War of 1900-03. Upington is 300 miles southwest of Mafeking, on the Orange River.
A Major John Birbeck of the 4th Scottish Rifles organized the Scouts, reaching a force of 786 by early 1901. They participated in various wartime exploits, but for a time the unit had to undergo siegelike conditions without enough food or money to pay the Scouts.
Birbeck then authorized this emergency type of note in values of 2 and 10 shillings, also one and five pounds. They were partly stamped and handwritten, and Birbeck signed them all. Dates were either 1.2.02 or 1.3.02.
Though a total of 45,000 pounds was issued, extremely few survived today.
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