Richard became interpreter to the Rev. Francis Owen (a curate from Normanton, Yorkshire) at Dingaan's Kraal in 1837, and wrote an account of the events preceding and following the massacre of Piet Retief's party by Dingaan.
An extract taken from Reverend Owen's visit to Zululand in 1837:
"Richard Brangan Hulley was engaged in the month June 1837, by Francis Owen, to accompany him to Zululand as interpreter and artisan. (It is not known just where Richard learnt to speak Zulu - or maybe he could speak Xhosa, which would help to understand and speak a little Zulu.)
The party started from Butterworth Mission, in Gealeland and consisted of the Reverend Francis Owen, his wife, Richard Brangan Hulley, his wife Jane, their 4-year-old son, William, and a young man by the name of Wood.
En route to Port Natal (now Durban), a call was made on Mr J Joyce (missionary to Paramount Chief Faku) and Dr Adams of the American Mission Board. In Port Natal, the party went to Berea House which had been built by Captain Gardiner for the Church of England Mission.
After permission was obtained from Chief Dingaan to settle in his country, the party left Port Natal in August 1837 in three ox-wagons, with Mr Richard (Dick) King as their guide. (Dick King is famous for his ride to Grahamstown from Port Natal to seek British force to come relieve Port Natal from the Boers.)
Five days after leaving Port Natal, the Tugela River was crossed. Ten miles further on, an American Mission, under the supervision of Reverend Champion, received the travelling party with great kindness. Here they also met a Mr Brownlee, who later became an authority on Native Affairs and Law in the Transkei. After a further five days trek, Dingaan's kraal of some 1000 huts was reached.
Except for one meeting when the Reverend Owen preached to the Zulu, he was not allowed to preach again.
As Richard Brangan Hulley could speak to Dingaan in his own tongue (or thereabouts from Xhosa ?) he was engaged by Dingaan to teach him to read and to write, and to act as his interpreter. However, Dingaan became too occupied with his wars with the Boers to continue his studies.
At about this time, a son named Richard was born to Richard and Jane.
Richard Brangan Hulley was the only white man who ever presumed to make a joke with Dingaan. At the birth of this child. This was done by announcing to Dingaan that a white stranger had arrived during the night and was now at the Mission House. Dingaan had an extraordinary system of espionage; no stranger came into his domain without the information being conveyed to him; and any neglect to acquaint him of this stranger's presence meant certain death to a score of people in the vicinity.
When Richard Brangan Hulley made his statement, the Councillors around Dingaan were seen to squirm with fear. Dingaan was incredulous; such a thing could never happen without his knowledge. Richard Brangan Hulley affirmed it to be as he said it was, but as the stranger was too weak to walk, he invited Dingaan to come and see for himself.
Once at the Mission House, Richard Brangan Hulley introduced Dingaan to his newborn son who had arrived during the night. Dingaan enjoyed the joke so thoroughly that he promptly ordered that 10 head of cattle be given to the stranger at once. In delight at the escape, the councillors gave an impromptu war dance. This is the first and only European child to be born at Dingaan's 'Great Place'.
Early in 1838, Dingaan requested that Reverend Owen write a letter to Captain Gardiner in Durban, and also to John Crane, requesting the two of them to be present at a meeting with the Boers to be held at the "Great Place", Gingindhlovu. Richard Brangan Hulley was sent to deliver these letters.
On the morning of the 6th February 1838, after having given breakfast to two of Piet Retief's party, Reverend Owen and his party heard the inflamed shouts of the blood-inflamed warriors as the Boers and their servants were massacred.
Richard Brangan Hulley's return was delayed by the flood of the Tugela River, but, on reaching the ridge overlooking the "Great Place" and in the direction of the execution ground, he observed a large flock of vultures hovering over the "place of the dead". About halfway down the ridge, as he travelled, he saw a white shirt sleeve torn from its garment, lying beside the path, which filled him with fear, lest the Mission Party had been put to death.
When he reached the principal entrance to the kraal, he saw a pile of saddles piled one upon another. He sent a message to Dingaan reporting his return, but, being anxious about his family, went off to check on the situation. His house was empty, but with the tea things not cleared away. So he went to Reverend Owen's house where he found his family all safe and gathered in prayer.
Richard Brangan Hulley reported back to Dingaan, where he learnt that during his absence, the Boers (numbering about 60 men with the same number of after-riders) had arrived and had what was presumed to be a satisfactory meeting with Dingaan. However, when their horses were brought up and they were preparing to depart, they were requested to enter the enclosure and to come to Dingaan to drink to his good health. He requested them to leave their arms outside the enclosure. On a sign from Dingaan, they were attacked by 1000 warriors. The Boers' necks were broken.
The dead bodies of the Boers were taken to the execution ground and left out there to decay.
Thereafter, the missionaries felt their safety insecure and so asked permission from Dingaan to leave his country. This was granted. Two men were sent with them to secure safe passage to the Tugela River. The party reached Port Natal (Durban) safely. Thus ended the mission to Zululand and Dingaan's kraal.
Richard Brangan Hulley then had a lengthy and notable service in Pondoland. As a Catechist at Clarkbury, he did valuable pioneering work but was driven out by the Frontier Wars with a number of his converts. He subsequently settled in Shawbury - another Mission. He laboured between troublesome times here, but his efficient and vigorous leadership carried him through.
When he was appointed to Tsungwana (Osborne), many of his people followed him there. He did wonderful work among the AmaBaca, wielding a tremendous influence. He retired to Entambeni and started service of his own on his own farm. Here he laid the foundations for the Entambeni Missionary Circuit. A large church has been erected at this place to his memory.
Inkosi Zuko Dingiso:
Richard Brangan Hulley was the only European child to be born at Dingaan's kraal at uMgungundlovu (Pietermaritzburg). Dingaan was the Zulu king who assasinated Shaka-Zulu in September of 1828. The great Richard Brangan Hulley was very much aware of Shaka's assasination by Dingaan, as the incident took place 9 years earlier when he was around 18 years old and it was only within 8 years of his arrival in South Africa as an innocent 10 year old, but that did not stop him accompanying Rev. Francis Owen to Dingaan's kraal to act as his interpreter, as Richard Brangan Hulley spoke almost fluent Xhosa which made it easier for him to understand and translate Zulu into English because Xhosa and Zulu are both Nguni languages that share almost 80% grammar.
Richard Brangan Hulley was the first European who gave reading and writing lessons to Dingaan (the Zulu king) at Dingani's request. Richard Brangan Hulley was also the only European or white man to ever presume to make a joke with Dingaan, and Dingaan laughed. What a brave, courageous young man your great great grandfather was Brian Hulley. Your great great grandfather was also present around Dingaan's uMgungundlovu kraal when Piet Retief's party was assasinated by Dingaan. Hulley saw the piles of bodies of Piet Retief and his army. It is believed that Richard Brangan Hulley also warned the Piet-Retief party about Dingaan's dangerous anger and hatred toward them, but it looks like the old man Piet Retief hesitated to trust the young man's deep knowledge about Dingaan. Well, after all, maybe any trained army general in combat would have never listened to the 28 year old interpreter who was just accompanying Rev. Francis Owen. Not knowing that Richard Brangan Hulley was becoming more important and special to the Zulu royal house than any white ever does. The proof is 10 cattle that were given to him as a present for the his new child, Richard Hulley (called stranger by Dingaan).
RB Hulley was called Macau (the shield) by the Baca people who lived at Mzimkulu in the 1860s to 1880s.
RB Hulley built Etembeni station in Clydesdale, Mzimkulu.