Philippe Menache and Helmut Wolff, both great admirers of church architecture, have just launched a new book entitled Die NG Kerk. This 136-page full-colour book features comprehensive text covering 139 Dutch Reformed Churches across the country. It also gives brief background details on the little towns in which these churches are situated, as well as historical details of the architects. In addition, special interior and exterior features are also highlighted. Sadly, say the authors, the country’s declining economy, poverty and depopulation of the platteland, have left their mark and some of these beautiful buildings have been neglected. The book fills an important niche in the market. In addition to being an interesting coffee table book, it will be of value to architectural students. It costs R270, plus an additional charge of R99 for Postnet fees.


A new must have book on the Karoo is now available. Karoo Roads II, written and photographed by the ever-popular, much-loved, award-winning travel writers, Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit, it is a sequel to their extremely popular Karoo Roads, a collector’s treasure of trips and tales gathered over more than a decade. “We had the time of our lives compiling Karoo Roads II,” they said. “It delivers the insider facts on the Great Karoo, the world’s friendliest arid land.” Karoo Roads II is a superb collection of travel stories, encounters, slices of life, history and adventures in the dryland. In it readers will discover why the Great Fish River flows nearly all year round; the mysteries of the massive herds of trekbokke that once flooded the veld; the story behind the curious beehive-shaped corbelled houses and find out whether UFOs really fly around in the night skies. Most of the stories were gathered during the current eight-year drought, so they tell of people thriving in a time of crisis and pandemic, lifting their communities through dance, culture and creativity. The book takes its readers from the diamond deserts around Alexander Bay through quiver tree forests of the Northern Cape to the flooding Orange River at Kakamas. Readers can enjoy a sunrise stroll around a Karoo graveyard, meet Aberdeen’s circus lions and enjoy the furious excitement of a wire car Grand Prix in Philipstown. They will also find out what goes on at a Merino ram auction; the story behind Karoo tequila, plus much more, including legends that lie beneath the surface of the Heartland. One thousand author-signed and numbered copies are available at R340 each. (Copies of Karoo I and II cost R600 incl courier) More from


Former Graff-Reinet Union High pupil, Theron Crawford, has written a book entitled Karoo Stories. It contains what he calls “12 frontier stories of the Great Karoo”. Based mainly in the Graaff-Reinet area, the stories are set during the Anglo-Boer War, World War I and the Great Depression. He heard these tales as a young boy while travelling with his grandfather. The book, which features quirky characters and hinterland happenings like stock fairs, auctions and church bazaars, is available from Amazon at the cost of about R150.


In the late 1850s street keepers, or dustmen, were a common site. They were easy to recognize -their dress consisted of a fantail hat, a shovel and a bell. This, normally poorly paid official and general factotum was, in most instances expected to possess the knowledge of a civil engineer. Only a few cases were reported where there was a conflicted with the interests of the community, states an item in Graaff-Reinet Stoep Stories of May 19, 2014. For example, in 1881, the Graaff Reinet street sweeper was ordered not to water his horses in front of the Methodist Chapel on Sundays while the service was in progress.



Henry Willard, a member of Malden Fire Services, was welcomed home in style when he returned from the Anglo-Boer War. At the outbreak of the war, he volunteered to serve alongside members of the RAMC and St John Ambulance Brigade at the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein. After being trained in London as part of the National Fire Brigade Ambulance Corps, Henry sailed from Southampton in February, 1900, and travelled by train to the Karoo. His brothers, William and Herbert, both reservists, were later also called up for duty. Their father, Uriah, a worker on Dickerage farm, was extremely proud of his sons. When Henry returned home in 1901 his friends drove him around the village in a steam fire engine. According to Robin Gill, editor The Malden Village Office, the village was a closely knit community and always came together to support families with sons involved in the South African conflict. Regular parades were held to raise funds, women knitted socks and balaclavas for the troops, and Surrey poultry farm regularly sent gift parcels.


Piet Retief’s farm Brandkraal got its name quite literally because his cattle kraal caught fire, explained Jeremiah Goldswain, in his memoirs of life on the frontier. Retief made a kraal on a sloping piece of ground so that the dung and dropping s would be shifted to the lower end of the kraal as the cattle constantly moved about. This was a good plan because it kept the cattle kraal, which was made of bushes, clean. The dung soon rose up to the top of the bushes, so, to keep the cattle from jumping out of the kraal, he laid more and more bushes until the lower wall was 20ft high. Then one day some careless smoker sent a spark into the kraal wall. The bushes and dry dung caught fire. It was extinguished, but it continued to smolder for over ten years This was before the 1820 settlers arrived. By 1848 ash was still on the ground of the Retief farm, stated Jeremiah.


After the devastating Franco Prussian war of 1870 – 1871 which involved about two million soldiers and resulted the deaths of more than 180 000 men, many decided to emigrate to South Africa. Among them was Victor Dold. His story was recently proudly highlighted on Facebook by his great grandson Mark Sandison. He stated that after Victor arrived in Cape Town, he walked up Adderley Street from the docks and at No 23 saw a sign for Burmeister Jewellers . He stepped inside and asked about a job. He was hired as a clock repairer and he worked happily for this company for three years saving as much as he could until he had enough to buy an ox and a wagon. With these he began transporting goods and people to the diamond fields at Kimberley. After a few years he opened a trading store in Kokstad, where he married and where his nine children were born. One of his daughters, Alice married Sir Patrick Duncan in 1916. They had three sons and a daughter. Sir Patrick was Governor General of South Africa from 1937 to 1943.


During 1845 local government in Graaff-Reinet was put into the hands of a Board of Commissioners. They started well but degenerated into a pathetic situation of gross incompetence, petty bickering and strife. Some truly ridiculous regulations were passed. For instance, it was illegal to smoke a lighted pipe in the streets. Cigar smoking outdoors was also prohibited in case thatched roofs would catch fire. Small boys were not allowed to fly kites, nor play cricket in the streets. Many regulations were concerned with water sluices and water distribution and there were fines galore. A fine of five pounds was levied for failure to keep the common water furrow clean and there was a fine of three pounds for “stealing water” reported the Graaff-Reinet Herald of May 18, 2014.


Mining engineer, Arthur R Sawyer, visited South Africa briefly in 1889, returned to England, but soon came back to practice as a consulting engineer. In 1893 Sawyer reported to the Cape government on the geology and gold mining prospects of the Prince Albert district. He paid particular attention to the region north and east of Tierberg, a mountain about 20 km east of Prince Albert. He stated that the prospects of the region as a gold-field were not good. Nevertheless, this area experienced a mini gold rush in 1891 when a gold nugget was found on Klein Waterval. Miners flooded to the area, 1042 claims were registered, but only 504 oz of gold was produced. Sawyer’s report on the Prince Albert area and surrounding districts included the longest colour section ever printed in Africa. It was entitled “Ideal geological section from the Indian Ocean to Fraserburg”.


From about 1870 consumptives from across Britain and Europe began streaming to the Karoo in the hopes that the clean, dry air and high altitudes of dryland would cure them. Dr E. Symes-Thompson, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, said that, in his opinion, Aliwal was an excellent area, Cradock was another good place and Tarkastad, midway between there and Queenstown, was viewed as “superior”. People also went to Beaufort West, Burghersdorp, Ceres, Hanover, Grahamstown, Graaff-Reinet. Nelspoort, and Matjiesfontein, but once they arrived most found they still faced a long trek and with few travel options. Local hoteliers and sanatorium owners promoted inland trips saying the journeys would be beneficial as passengers would be able to enjoy clean fresh air along the route. However, in reality, such journeys involved camping in the sweltering heat, with very little shade, or in cold and rain. Two types of private cart costing about 40 shillings a day were available. The “American” or the Cape carts, high, two-wheeled sprung vehicles commonly used throughout South Africa and the “rough and ready” mail carts. In fine weather, and roads good a Cape cart could be quite comfortable, but in bad weather they regularly capsized or got stuck in the mud. Mail carts, were sturdy, slow and cheap, costing six pennies a mile, but had no provision for the frail or invalids. Then there was the very slow ox wagon, with speeds of between 10 or 12 miles a day, it took about three weeks from the coast. Once the railway network became operational things improved as most towns were on the rail says Valerie Anne Zangel in her thesis Pulmonary Tuberculosis in Cape Town and the Karoo.


When the first trickle of consumptives started to arrive in Cradock in 1871, it was a small town with healthy residents and no epidemics. Within a year that changed. William Clemence, arrived in 1872 in the hopes that “the air of Cradock would have a beneficial effect upon his constitution”. He took up residence in the Victoria Hotel and while playing billiards one evening his mouth began to bleed. He went to his room and asked a servant to call the doctor. However, by the time he arrived, Clemence was dead. This demonstrates that a consumptive could show few signs of poor health and yet be at death’s door. The example of Edwin Bull was different. He also arrived in 1872 and headed for Cradock where he lived for 18 months, taking a very active interest in the affairs of the town. At times he was well, but at others worse. At the time the only accommodation was at the Victoria Hotel, but it was expensive. Nevertheless, it was invariably full because it was popular among consumptives and general travellers. On occasions guests were asked to share a room, but such requests were was not always well received. By 1880 a new “first-class hotel and club house’ was built opposite the Victoria.


In Beaufort West the field cornet arrived in 1881,travelled on a train carrying several people in search of better health. In town he met many more. Almost all told him they had come on the advice of their medical practitioners in England and Scotland, because the climate was ”perfect” and that they would certainly recover. He, like many other locals, was not familiar with the disease. One young man was told that his recovery was certain if he stayed in Beaufort West for three months. The field cornet invited the man to dinner, but on the appointed day night he responded to a knock only to find the young man hemorrhaging on his doorstep. His story underlined the unrealistic expectations given to consumptives by overseas medical practitioners. Reverend Guy Gething of Beaufort West’s Christ Church also had tales like these to tell. In his death register he recorded that Beaufort West’s extremely high death rate could be attributed to consumptives who had left it too late to seek treatment.


By 1878 Cradock residents began to recognise the value of providing accommodation for consumptives. A Mrs Jackson and her son purchased a large house and set it up as a boarding house for gentlemen. N C Wolter also opened a boarding house and two enterprising nurses set up private nursing home. Another facility, run by the partnership of Fitchett and McKenie, provided boarding facilities for consumptives for 25 years, from 1881 until it finally closed its doors on September 26, 1906. Soon there was a demand for accommodation on farms and, as this grew, some farmers applied for liquor licenses. Sanatoriums sprang up Highlands, Dunedin and Lemoenfontein, outside Beaufort West. Maurice Hall opened a sanatorium on his farm, The Willows. Private homes took in boarders, but standards varied. A number of establishments referred to themselves as ‘sanatoria’, but, in reality, they were nothing more than hotels or guest houses. Few provided medical care. For the majority the climate was the drawcard, and the reason that they were prepared to accept living conditions which were less than ideal.


In the early days of travel there were many accidents on Naude’s Berg Mountain. In fact, one is said to have given the mountain its name, states Ann Murray, a long-time resident Graaff-Reinet, in the Heritage Society’s Stoep Stories of May 27, 2014. The mountain, she said, owed its name to a tragic accident that befell an early trek battling to cross it. A young boy named Naude tried to board a moving wagon by stepping on to the disselboom. He slipped, fell under the wheels and was instantly killed. He was buried on the slopes and the mountain was named in his memory. In 1850 Graaff-Reinet businessmen realised that they were losing revenue because travellers, traders and farmers with their wagon loads of wool were by passing by the town on their journeys to and from Port Elizabeth. They were using the road through Cradock which was longer. The farmers also used a primitive pass on which they unloaded their bales of wool at the top, rolled them down the cliff face and then reloaded them at the bottom. Both routes were inconvenient and time-wasting and clearly a better route was needed. Today a beautiful winding route passes through a narrow gorge between steep dolorite kranses.


The daunting task of building the Naudesberg Pass, 40km north of Graaff-Reinet, was given to the famous and experienced road builder Andrew Geddes Bain. He faced many problems. Supplies were erratic and labour problematic. On one occasion labourers threatened to leave as there were no sheep to slaughter for their rations. The clerk of works, Thomas Middlecott, had to make hasty arrangements to prevent work being brought to a halt. Then a new problem arose. No safety fuse for the blasting operations was received. The Head Overseer and Miner, Edward Jones, was using gunpowder – as this was before the days of dynamite – and he was working without safety fuse. On September 14, 1858, he lit a touch paper, the blast exploded, but he was not able to get away quickly enough to safety. He was severely injured and lived for only a few hours enduring great pain, after the accident happened. Edward’s wife Frances Lucy Jones received a small gratuity of £100 from the Governor. She moved to Port Elizabeth where it was easier to supplement her income and educate her children. She died there in 1906 at the age of 97.


Two desperados, who had deserted from the Cape Corps, attacked and robbed two farmers on their way to Cradock on Thursday, November 7, 1850. It was later revealed that they had also murdered William Jelliman, a respectable inn-keeper, who resided at Leo Fontein, not far from the Kaga on the main road to Cradock. J Francis and F Kidson were on their way home from Cradock, however when they reached De Bruin’s Poort, a narrow bushy defile near the Fish River, they were confronted by the two Cape Corps deserters, each armed with a double-barrelled regimental rifle. “These ruffians ordered the farmers to dismount and deliver their money, or be shot dead,” states an article in the Grahamstown Journal. “Francis, who had £200 in his pocket book, was obliged to hand this over. From Kidson they obtained only a single sovereign. Having secured their booty, the robbers rode off, leaving the farmers to make their way to town as they best could.” The robbers rode towards Cradock, arriving at Jelliman’s Inn at about midnight. They knocked loudly on the door and demanded brandy. Jelliman went to the door and told these men that he could not supply them with liquor at that hour. An altercation ensued, the ruffians forced open the door, and in the scuffle shot Jelliman through the heart. Francis and Kidson walked to Hyde’s Accommodation House, where they obtained a horse and rode into town to inform the authorities. Colonel Somerset immediately despatched a Cape Corps patrol. Only while in pursuit of the robbers did they hear of Jelliman’s murder. He was survived by his wife, Eliza and six children


A team of international archaeologists, including researchers from the University of Cape Town, recently found that water in the dryland allowed humans to live 600km from the coast. Their research suggests early humans of the Middle Stone Age, who lived in the southern Kalahari Basin, 12km north-west of present-day Kuruman 105 000 years ago, were as innovative than their counterparts at the coast. The team unearthed a collection of 22 white calcite crystals, as well as fragments of ostrich egg shell, from beneath the Ga-Mohana Hill rock shelter. The crystals appear to have been deliberately collected from faraway sites and can possibly be linked to spiritual beliefs and rituals, states an article in Journal of Nature, of March 31, 2021. Also discovered at the site were ostrich egg shells, which were possibly used to carry water. Ga-Mohana is considered to be a spiritual place linked to stories of the Great Water Snake, a capricious, shape-shifting being.

If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. – Dolly Parton