The late author Lawrence Green, in his book There's a Secret Hid Away, tells the story of the origins of this famous South African song, which dates back to the Boer War of 1899-1902. Apparently, there were few Afrikaans language song books in those days, and the Boer Commandos (who seldom numbered more than 20-30 men on horseback) used to sing the American tune "Ellie Rhee" as part of their repertoire.
Apparently, one Mrs. De Wet, wife of a well-known Boer general, wanted to see her husband, who was fighting in the Province of Natal. Such was the gallantry in those days that Lord Kitchener (the famous Lord Kitchener of Khartoum), commander of all British forces in South Africa, graciously allowed her passage through British lines to join her husband.
One evening, around a piano, "Ellie Rhee" was being played, and the company decided to see whether they could change the words into Afrikaans, something more suited to their home tongue. The end result of this effort was a song with different words and a slightly altered tune.
The song itself became famous as a Boer song and in later years was translated into English, Italian, French, and German. Even today, the song is synonymous with South Africa. In the words of Lawrence Green, "Perhaps the song touches the deepest human feelings when the singers are far from South Africa - at home it is a jolly dance tune - in exile it is the very essence of the longing which a homesick South African knows when he thinks of the land of his birth."
Our thanks to Ken Copeland for providing the background information on this song.
"My Sarie Marais Is So Ver Van My Hart"