Sarie Marais

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"Sarie Marais" (also known as "My Sarie Marais" and pronounced "May SAH-ree mah-REH") is a traditional Afrikaans folk song, created during either the First Anglo-Boer War (c. 1880) (less likely) or the Second Anglo-Boer War (ca. 1900). The tune was possibly taken from a song dating from the American Civil War called "Ellie Rhee" (itself perhaps a version of the traditional folk song "Foggy Dew"), with the words translated into Afrikaans.

In the English translation, the song begins: "My Sarie Marais is so far from my heart but I hope to see her again. She lived near the Mooi River before this war began..."; and the chorus is: "Oh, take me back to the old Transvaal, where my Sarie lives, down among the maize fields near the green thorn tree, there lives my Sarie Marais." It continues about the fear of being removed far, "over the sea" (as the Boer men in fact were, by the ruling British authorities, who created the world's first concentration camps).

The melody was adopted in 1953 as the official march of the United Kingdom's Royal Marines Commandos and is played after the Regimental March on ceremonial occasions. The French École militaire interarmes also sings the song, in its French translation.

The song has been sung by Jim Reeves and Kenneth McKellar in Afrikaans.


The origins of the song are unclear. On account of the story refers to the American folk song Ellie Rhee, included in a book entitled The Cavendish Song Album.

Another account of the story is that the song dates from the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1881). When Ella de Wet, wife of General Louis Botha's military attaché Nicolaas Jacobus de Wet came to the battle front to see her husband she often played on the piano while the nearby burghers sang songs from the Cavendish album. The burghers supposedly wanted to honour their field chaplain Dominee Paul Nel, who often told stories around the campfires about his childhood and his beautiful mother Sarie Maré, who died young:

Whatever its origins, the song changed and got more verses as time went on. This accounts for the reference to the Kakies (or khakis), as the Boers called the British soldiers during the Second Anglo-Boer War. They were known as Rooibaadjies ("red coats") during the First Anglo-Boer War.

The inspiration for Sarie Marais (Susara Margaretha (Sarie) Maré)

Jacob Philippus Maré and Cornelia Susanna Jacoba Erasmus's eldest daughter was Susara Margaretha. She was born on die plaas Eendraght (eendraght farm), Suikerbosrand, Heidelberg district on April 15, 1869. Her father was Jacob Maré, who became highly regarded in the Transvaal, and for whom a street in Pretoria is named.

This is Sarie Marais (actually Maré) who lived on a farm by the Mooirivier's banks, also known as Tant Mossie (auntie Mossie), according to the South African Library's catalogue entry AP.1998-227.

Her parents were Voortrekkers who established themselves in the Suikerbosrand area. The town of Heidelberg at that time still did not exist. The greatest concentration of voortrekkers could be found near the Mooirivier, where Potchefstroom stands today.

When she was 16 years old, she met Jacobus Petrus Toerien, a representative of the patriot of paarl. (He was in pretoria to conduct a meeting with her father). He wrote under the pseudonym of Jepete in "Ons Kleintje" and as editor of "Di Patriot". They were married and had 16 kids, from which only 8 survived.

In the transvaal he heard the song Sweet Ellie Rhee from American mine workers, which originated in the American civil war and was written by the Septimus Winner (Alice Hawthorne). In the time between the first and second war for independence Jepete translated the words to talk about his wife, Sarie Maré. The words still did not exactly match the ones we know today. Maré later became marais due to a misspelling.

In 1899 Sarie was hit by a bullet. She was not hit by the English soldiers, but by others.[citation needed] The song quickly spread due to soldiers coming back from the South African Boer War.

The fame of the song became so great that the British Royal Marines took it as their official march. Their march was also called Sarie Marais. This is also the regimental march of Paraguay.[citation needed]

Sarie, Volksblad's sister magazine,[citation needed] was also named for her. Many hotels and apartment complexes are named after her.

During the first international broadcast between South Africa, Britain, and America during the birthday of Mrs. Isie Smuts, the wife of the prime minister, general Jan Smuts, Sarie Marais was sung by Gracie Fields.[citation needed]

During the second world war, there was a unit of soldiers called "Sarie Marais calling".[citation needed]

The South African army, as well as the French foreign legion, play this march during parades.

It is also the official song of the girl guides of Sri Lanka ( Ceylon ) who heard the Boerekrygsgevangenes perform it during the beginning of the last century.

During the 1930s it was incorrectly played as South Africa's official national anthem.

Germans cultivated a pink rose called Sarie Maries which is planted in the Panser school in Tempe, Bloemfontein.

Sarie's final years

Sarie was a very religious woman, and tried her best to disassociate herself with the song. When Jacobus died in 1920, she moved her daughters to Bloemfontein. She died on 22 December 1939 at the age of 73. She is buried in an unmarked grave in the Memoriam-begraafplaas (memorium burying place) by the Vrouemonument (woman's monument)

Sweet Ellie Rhee lyrics[edit]

Sweet Ellie Rhee, so dear to me
Is lost forever more
Our home was down in Tennessee
Before this cruel war
Then carry me back to Tennessee
Back where I long to be
Amid the fields of yellow corn
To my darling Ellie Rhee

Afrikaans lyrics[edit]

Originally in the Afrikaans version it was Sarie Maré which then became Marais.

Original Afrikaans version (ca 1880 )[edit]

Mijn lieve Sarah Marais is ver weg van mij,
maar ik hoop om haar weer te zien.
Ik ontmoette haar voor het uitbreken van de oorlog
in de Mooi River County.


Oh, lang ik om terug te gaan naar de Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek,
waar mijn lieve Sarie woont.
Daar, tussen het koren en het groene doorn boom,
daar woont mijn lieve Sarie Marais.

Translation: My dear Sarah Marais is far away from me,
But I hope to see her again.
I met her before the outbreak of war
In the Mooi River county.


Oh, I long to go back to the South African Republic,
where my dear Sarie lives.
There, among the corn and the green thorn tree,
there lives my dear Sarah Marais.

Another version[edit]

My Sarie Marais is so ver van mij af
Ek hoop haar weer te sien
Sy het in die wijk van Mooirivier gewoon
Nog voor die oorlog het begin


O bring my terug na die ou Transvaal
Daar waar my Sarie woon
Daar onder in die mielies by die groen doring boom
Daar woon my Sarie Marais

Modern Afrikaans version[edit]

My Sarie Marais is so ver van my hart,
Maar'k hoop om haar weer te sien.
Sy het in die wyk van die Mooirivier gewoon,
Nog voor die oorlog het begin.


O bring my t'rug na die ou Transvaal,
Daar waar my Sarie woon.
Daar onder in die mielies
By die groen doringboom,
Daar woon my Sarie Marais.

Ek was so bang dat die Kakies my sou vang
En ver oor die see wegstuur;
Toe vlug ek na die kant van die Upington se sand
Daar onder langs die Grootrivier.

Die Kakies is mos net soos 'n krokodillepes,
Hulle sleep jou altyd water toe;
Hul gooi jou op 'n skip vir 'n lange, lange trip,
Die josie weet waarnatoe.


Verlossing het gekom en die huis toe gaan was daar,
Terug na die ou Transvaal;
My lieflingspersoon sal seker ook daar wees
Om my met 'n soen te beloon.


Translation of the additional Afrikaans verses (ca 1900)[edit]

I was quite afraid that the British troops would catch me and send me in exile abroad, so I fled along the Orange River into South-West Africa; the town of Upington is 121 km upstream from the point where the Orange River becomes part of the border.

The British government is just like a crocodile -- it keeps dragging one into the water. They put you onto a ship for a very long journey to God knows where.

The war has come to an end and I want to go back to my dear country, the South African Republic. I hope my dearly beloved will be there to reward me with a kiss.


The song Sarie Marais has been translated into many languages including French, Spanish (by the Afrikaners who emigrated to Patagonia in 1903), Italian and Russian.

Sarie Marais English lyrics[edit]

My Sarie Marais is so far from my heart
But I hope to see her again
She lived in the area of Mooi-river
Before the war began


Oh bring me back to the old Transvaal
Where my Sarie lives
There by the maize
By the green thorn tree
There my Sarie lives

I was so scared that the Kakhis would catch me
And send me far across the sea
So I fled to Upington
there next to the Grootriver


The khakis are just like crocodiles
They always drag you to the water
They throw you on a ship for a long long trip;
Who knows where they're taking you


Relief came and it was possible that we could go home
back to the old Transvaal
My love will probably also be there
to reward me with a kiss

The real Sarie Marais[edit]

Grave of Sara Johanna Adriana Maré.

It is not clear if Sarie Marais was a real person or fictitious. Two persons have been mentioned as being the real Sarie Marais: Sarie Maré (1840-1877) and Sarie Maré (1869-1939).[1]

Sara Johanna Adriana Maré was born in Uitenhage, Cape Province on 10 May 1840. She married Louis Jacobus Nel in 1857 in Pietermaritzburg. Maré died at the age of 37 after giving birth to her 11th child, and was buried near the old homestead on their farm Welgegund, near Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal.

Susara Margaretha Maré was born in Suikerbosrand, Transvaal on 15 April 1869. Suikerbosrand was at that time in the Ward Mooirivier. She married journalist (and later a well-known poet) J.P. Toerien. She died 22 December 1939 in Bloemfontein. Toerien may have been the author of the Afrikaans version of the song.

Another version on the National Anthems forum supports J.P. Toerien as author and his wife Sarie Maré as the subject of the song. It too suggests the song's origins go back to Sweet Ellie Rhee, written in 1865 by Septimus Winner (1827-1902). The claim is that this song was sung by Americans working in the Transvaal gold mines, and heard there by Afrikaans journalist and poet Jacobus Petrus Toerien, who re-wrote the song in Afrikaans, substituting the name of Ellie Rhee with that of his own beloved Sarie Maré (Susara Margaretha Maré).

Sarie Marais (1931): the first South African film with sound[edit]

Sarie Marais was also the title of the first South African talking picture, directed by Joseph Albrecht and made in 1931. Filmed in Johannesburg, Sarie Marais manages to pack a lot into its 10-minute running time. Set in a British POW camp, the film concentrates on a group of Boer prisoners as they pass the time under the watchful eye of their British captors. One of the internees, played by Billy Mathews, lifts his voice in song with the popular Afrikaans patriotic tune "My Sarie Marais". His enthusiasm catches on with the other prisoners, giving them hope for the future [1].

Afrikaner nationalism was emerging as a force in these years, and Sarie Marais portrayed the British cultural and economic imperialism negatively (the desire to spread the English language, culture and influence even where it was unwelcome).

Shortly after this film's release, a group of Afrikaner nationalists established a film production organisation called the Reddingsdaad-Bond-Amateur-Rolprent Organisasie (Rescue Action League Amateur Film Organisation), which rallied against British and American films pervading the country.

Francis Coley directed a remake of this film, again titled Sarie Marais in 1949.

Sarie women's magazine[edit]

The contemporary Afrikaans women's magazine Sarie takes its name from this song. Originally entitled Sarie Marais – a name which at the time (1949) of its first publication was synonymous with the idea of empowered Afrikaans womanhood – it was the first Afrikaans magazine to focus on the female market, with a content ranging from fashion, decor and beauty to relationship advice and family planning.


External links[edit]