William Wellington Gqoba was born in Gaba, near Alice, Eastern Cape in August 1840. He was the son of Gqoba of the Cirha clan, who was in turn the son of Peyi, a disciple and close associate of Ntsikana, a seminal figure in the conversion of the Xhosa to Christianity and in the history of Xhosa literature. During his final illness, Gqoba had a vision of Ntsikana and his congregation in bright clothing: 'While I did not know the famous Ntsikana,' he remarked, 'now I know him'. Gqoba's last public act was to officiate at the funeral of his Lovedale colleague Govan Koboka on 19 April 1888; ten days later, at his own funeral, the preachers were Elijah Makiwane and P.J. Mzimba. Gqoba attended the Mission School at Tyhume under William Chalmers before entering the junior class at Lovedale Institute in September 1853. In May 1856 he was indentured in the wagon-building trade, a profession he pursued after leaving Lovedale, first in King William's Town for a year under James Lawler, then independently at Brownlee Station.
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