The Treasure at the Woody Cape, or The Days of Ryk van Tulbach

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The Treasure at the Woody Cape, or The Days of Ryk van Tulbach is a historical play by Alexander Wilmot.

The titles are also found separately in some sources, i.e. The Treasure at the Woody Cape or The Days of Ryk van Tulbach, .

The original text

Written by the local postmaster and historian, Alexander Wilmot, the storyline behind the play dates back to 1760 when a Governor’s authority was almost absolute. The first scene opened with the promulgation of the “Pracht and Praal” (Splendour and Glory) regulations which declared that “whoever of the female sex, beneath the rank of junior merchant’s wives, shall wear silk dresses and embroidery,” would be liable to a fine of 25 rixdollars.

As can be imagined, this declaration did not make Ryk van Tulbach very popular among the ladies. The pirate, Van der Decken, (captain of the legendary Flying Dutchman) also known as Sluyskens, captured the ship, Nederland, which was carrying the wealth belonging to the Governor’s niece, Aletta van Breda, to Cape Town.

In a plot of deception and kidnapping, the pirate tricks the Governor into breaking up Aletta’s engagement. A bit of dancing and singing on the pirate’s ship livens up the presentation. A bit more drama and escapes see the kidnapped victim escape and after some more action, the boat tips the occupants into the sea. Luckily they survive and end up in a cave at Woody Cape. Some dreams and water sprite scenes follow and the long-lost treasure was found. Van der Decken stabs himself and dies at the feet of those he betrayed.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1867, September 23: Performed in the New Theatre, Port Elizabeth by the Port Elizabeth Dramatic Club on September 23, “at considerable expense in dresses and general mounting.”. The band of the 86th, kindly lent by Col Lowe, CB, and officers, “played some capital selections during the intervals”.


Margaret Harradine. 1995. Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the End of 1945. Port Elizabeth: E.H. Walton Packaging (Pty) Ltd.

Alexander Wilmot and John Centlivres Chase. 1869 History of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. ("From its discovery to the year 1819" by A. Wilmot; "From 1820 to 1868" by John Centlivres Chase). London: Longmans, Green Reader and Dyer/Cape Town: Juta and Co. [1]

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