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Posted by James Briggs on November 19, 2003

In Reply to: Irreconcilables posted by ESC on November 19, 2003

: : James Briggs, I am very sorry. I did not know that my quotation was lost. Now I noticed that.
: : Thank you for your patience. I will give you my original quotation below with quotation marks " ".

: : "Since the start of the Boer War, and more so as it progressed, the British had come under considerable international condemnation. As the fighting dragged on, the outnumbered Boers relied entirely upon guerrilla tactics, sabotaging supply lines and derailing trains. Conan Doyle's solution to this, as he wrote in the Times, was a truck of 'Boer irreconcilables' hitched to every locomotive: to the critics who attacked him, his reply was 'Our duty is to our own soldiers'."

: I googled "Boer irreconcilables" and came up with several sites. Then I looked the term up in an online dictionary. An irreconcilable is a person who won't get with the program. What I'm not clear on is what would be the difference between an irreconcilable and a dissident. (See definitions below.)

: The first batch of prisoners arrived in Ceylon on 9 August 1900 and subsequently others followed until some 5 000 prisoners had landed. Diyatalawa was the main camp. Mt Lavinia was the convalescent camp while dissidents and irreconcilables were housed at Ragama.

: From Merriam-Webster online:

: Main Entry: 2irreconcilable
: Function: noun
: Date: 1748
: : one that is irreconcilable; especially : a member of a group (as a political party) opposing compromise or collaboration

: Main Entry: dis·si·dent
: Pronunciation: -d&nt
: Function: adjective
: Etymology: Latin dissident-, dissidens, present participle of dissidEre to sit apart, disagree, from dis- + sedEre to sit -- more at SIT
: Date: 1837
: : disagreeing especially with an established religious or political system, organization, or belief
: - dissident noun

This must have been a way of punishing the Boers and, at the same time, making the punishment useful to the British in the hope that the remaining Boers would not attack a train/convoy which contained some of their own. I don't know whether the ploy was ever used.
They were irreconcilable only in the eyes of the British in that they persisted in remaining true to the Boer 'faith', even though captured, something that thje British found difficult to deal with.
This is surmise, but I guess it's pretty near to the truth.