The Mafeking Mail
published 'Siege Slips' daily 'shells permitting', as the editor, G N H Whales proudly declared from its masthead. There were some days when enemy shellfire did indeed stop production. The first issue came out on November 1st 1899, and by the time the Siege was over on May 17th 1900, the 217th day of the Siege, 143 issues had been printed. They were not, as a rule, produced on Saturdays and Sundays, and no issue was printed on the day of the Relief. Siege Slips continued to be produced until Wednesday May 30th 1900, for though the Siege may have been lifted, the Boer War was still going on. Their production ceased, presumably, when the township felt they were no longer under threat.
Siege Slips were printed on several types and colours of paper stocks as supplies began to run low. The editor cheerfully apologised for having to use red, stating:
"We are sorry we can no longer use white, emblematic of our purity, but we have heard so many things since the siege which have caused us to turn red that now the very paper blushes in sympathy"
After that ledger paper had to be used and then a very thin tissue which today is almost impossible to handle without its edges crumbling.
Whilst the Siege was ongoing, the Mafeking Mail
allowed its readers to order bound copies that would be delivered once the fighting was concluded. Demand for these exceeded expectations and there was a second edition, both produced in 1900 from the same paper stocks as the original Siege Slips. These volumes are extremely rare and a copy in good condition is likely to cost around £1,000. They are prized because they cover every aspect of Siege Life from Colonel Baden-Powell's staff orders, to the winner of the Most Beautiful Siege Baby competition.
If you are fortunate to be able to find a copy, it is unlikely that you would want to read it on a casual basis as to do so would cause it to rapidly deteriorate, so delicate are the paper stocks used. As my researches have made it necessary to consult this historical document on a reasonably regular basis, I determined to protect my investment by typing all 143 Siege Issues into a Microsoft Word
document. If words like 'get a life' and 'anorak' are forming in your mind, then you are totally forgiven. It was a major investment in time, but the advantage is that I no longer have to turn over brittle tissue paper and watch their edges crumble in my hands. I can switch on the computer and interrogate the whole 143 issues, using string searches, making fast and accurate research a positive pleasure.