New on the bookshelves, and just in time for Christmas, is The Accidental Entrepreneur – John Garlick: His Life and Legacy – Merchant, Politician, Philanthropist and Family Man 1852 – 1931. Written by Sherry Garlick Stanton, herself a very interesting woman, this is the story of her search for information about her great-grandfather, John Garlick, the founder of the well-known South African department store. He was also the benefactor of Nelspoort TB Sanatorium just north of Beaufort West in the Karoo. John, who was born in Algarkirk, a small village in Lincolnshire, England, on February 22, 1852, decided to come to South Africa at the age of 20. A newly-qualified draper he disembarked in Cape Town on April 5, in 1872. He had £10 in his pocket, but he had arrived at a time of prosperity. Wages were high and living was cheap. A go-ahead, self-motivated, energetic young man, he was excited by his stroll down Adderley Street. It was only six blocks long and it housed a number of drapers, outfitters, haberdashers and merchants. This was his world.


Several stories surround John’s entry into the South African business market and the start-up of Garlick stores. One states that he took a job with Charles Hunter Hodgson, a who owned a “general drapers s” and, after gaining experience there, acquired a building from the Millar brothers and opened a store. Then, there’s a tale that says he went to Kimberley because diamond fever was high, but yet another says he went to Johannesburg where he was not successful, so he returned to the Cape aiming to return to England. He took a chance, bought a crate of salvaged goods for £5, sold the contents at a good profit and did it again. He continued buying and selling salvaged goods until he had £2 000 and could start his own business. What ever the story, he lived in an exciting and competitive era. He met many interesting people, including some like the entrepreneurial Irishman, William Cuthbert, who established a local shoe making business in 1882. This 460-page book, with black and white illustrations is based on 20 years of intensive research into the Garlick family. It takes the reader through happenings in England, Scotland and Canada in the world of the late 1800s. It captures the excitement of the man, his time and business development. It costs R395 plus postage. More from


On May 3, 1875, John Garlick opened a small retail and general drapery store on the corner of Bree and Strand Streets in Cape Town. It was a great success. In 1878 he started Garlick’s Compendium a unique business advertiser. It was possibly prepared in time for Christmas. One advert stated: “Go to Garlicks if you want to save money, Go to Garlicks if you want to spend money, Go to Garlicks if you want value for money”. Newspapers did not like this trespassing on their territory. Shortly after opening his first store, he became interested in the wholesale distribution of merchandise. So, he soon set up Garlick’s Wholesale to supply retailers across southern Africa. By 1893 he had greatly expanded his business and built a new eight-floor steel-framed building. It was the tallest building in town; it had electric lights, a lift and sprinkler system. Twelve of the largest sheets of glass ever imported at that time were used for its display windows. It was a landmark in the city for 90 years. A London office was established to manage purchasing and shipping. He established factories to make a variety of items. He advertised Home Shuttle sewing machines; then, in 1885 introduced Garlicks safety bicycle. The cycle company introduced motor-cycles and pioneered the import of motor cars. Garlick also pioneered the use of the typewriter in South Africa through an agency arrangement with Remington Typewriters. John was appointed chairman of the 1884 South African Industrial Exhibition and he handled this creatively. He entered politics in 1891. He was offered a knighthood, in recognition of his public services and munificence, but he declined. He was considered one of the most progressive men who has ever served the city.


John Garlick married Ellen Rachel Miller on June 12, 1878, in the Congregational Church, in Caledon Square, Cape Town. They had eight children, five boys and three girls. During the Boer War he helped raise and equip the Cape Town Guard. He also raised a full company of infantry and the first cycle company. He served on the city council and on the Legislative Assembly. He was a popular and respected figure in Parliament. He took a keen interest in public affairs and his benevolence was most generous. He made extensive private donations. He gave £20,000 to the Cape Town University and £25,000 towards the establishment of a Tuberculosis Sanatorium in the healing air at Nelspoort, in the Nieuweveld Mountains, 50km north of Beaufort West. Assisted by some experts he chose an 8,154-morgen farm on the Salt River. His aim was to have patients help with farming operations as soon as they were able.


The sanatorium was opened in July, 1925, by the Prince of Wales, who is said to have put the solid gold key which opened the door, into his pocket and forgotten to return it. A copy was made and this now resides in a glass case next to a bronze bas relief bust of Garlick in the portico of the administrative block. It reminded all who at Nelspoort that they owed their chance of health and strength to “John Garlick of Cape Town, whose munificence enabled this institution to be established.” Trying to find a cure for TB was a major concern for John because his father died from this dreadful disease in 1862 when he was only ten years old. John asked the local authorities of the Cape had to match his donation of R25 000 on a £ for £ basis and then he challenged the Government to double that sum. An amount of £100,000 was thus available for the project. When TB was no longer a problem the institution became a home for severely mentally ill patients. Garlick died in Cape Town on June 11, 1931, aged 79.


Sherry Garlick Stanton also discovered that the family always did its best for the less fortunate and it tried to spread Christmas cheer. She learned that the family had a charity which did a great deal of good in five little English villages. Each year at Christmas this Garlick charity gave a £5 gift to the five village churches at Algarkirk, Sutterton, Kirton, Wigtoft, and Swineshead.These gifts were sent to the vicars “to be spent on gifts for the poor”. The necessity for relief was the only qualification. It did not matter whether the person was a church goer or not. If self-indulgence was the cause of their poverty, it was also “not to be reckoned against them”. As Nelspoort sanatorium grew a special section was opened for “indigent women”. After World War II, a new wing was built to treat returning soldiers. Christmas was cheerful time at Nelspoort. Together with the local farmers’ association and two ladies’ clubs, John Garlick provided Christmas treats for patients. Delicious mouth-watering aromas filled the air. The Christmas menu included rosemary roast lamb, well-marinated venison, spicey spring chicken, fruit cake, mince pies and brandy pudding thanks to the Good Cheer Ladies’ Club and the ladies of the Red Cross. They made up special parcels for hospital patients and organised carol singing. Ronald Jackson, of Bakensrug, says he remembers his mother, a member of the Good Cheer Club, paying great attention to ensuring Christmas was a cheerful time at the sanatorium.


A unique Christmas card, sent out during the Anglo-Boer War in 1901, poses an eternal puzzle. It is a small square of khaki fabric, with a drawing of crossed flags and the inscription Boer War 1901 SA. It is said to have been sent by Australian trooper, William Alexander, No 138, Australian Commonwealth Horse (NSW), to his cousin also William Alexander. Written on a small piece of paper, headed: “This is the only Christmas card I have to send.” It states: “Torn from my coat I send to thee/ A piece of old war worn khaki/ With luck and love from me alone/ To thee dear cousin in your dear home.” However, the question is, just who was this trooper and who was his cousin? According to the website there were only two troopers by this name in South Africa during Christmas 1901. They were 1528 William Alexander Third NSW Mounted Rifles and 1261 William John Alexander


Celebrate the arrival of 2022 in Nieu Bethesda. The annual, spectacular and inspiring Festival of Lights, run by the Bethesda Arts Centre, will once again wind through the village streets on December 31. This lantern parade will end with a braai and dancing under the stars. More from


This is exactly the right time of year to be nominated as Friend of the Froth Blowers. I am now Member No 384 of this international, fascinating and fun little beer brewing and drinking club. It has a vague link to the Karoo via Sir Alfred Fripp, the civilian surgeon who did meaningful work at the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital, at Deelfontein, during the Anglo-Boer War. He also played a key role in the reform the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). The honour was bestowed on me after I acquired Dave Woodhead’s books on Sir Alfred. They ensure unanimous election. Ten people attended the first meeting when the order was resurrected in September, 2005, in “wistful memory of” Ye Ancient Order of Froth Blowers (AOFB 1924-1931). They met at the then Frothblowers Arms in Salisbury. Members are encouraged to “spend their own money on real ales of their choice, provided they are brewed in Britain”. Overseas friends, like me, are “forgiven and pitied for having to drink cold slops in the countries where they reside.”.


The AOFB was founded in 1924 by Bert Temple. His aim was to raise £100 for charities supported by Sir Alfred Fripp, after he performed a life-saving operation on him. Both men were astounded when the AOFB took off and raised £100 000 from 688 000 members worldwide. Funds were used to organise trips to the seaside for poor children. One newspaper reported that enough money had been raised to take 300 children to Bognor for the day and to give each child an apple, a banana and an orange, as well as a shilling and a piece of Bognor rock. The efforts of the AOFB also enabled 50 cots to be endowed in various hospitals; £12,000 was allocated to the Invalid Children’s Aid Association, equipment was supplied to West Wickham for children suffering from rheumatic fever; and £14,000 was invested in a trust with the Boy Scout and Girl Guide organisations for camps for disadvantaged children. After Fripp died in 1930 and Temple in 1931 the order was disbanded.


Herbert “Bert” Temple was born on August 5, 1879, to Alfred Longdale from St Bees, in Whitehaven Cumberland, and Mary Jane (nee Smith), from Rippon in Yorkshire. He had several siblings, one of whom was blinded in a sporting accident. His father, who initially worked in a lace-making warehouse, later became a lace buyer. By the time Bert turned 21 he was a silk agent. Bert stood 5 ft 8 in (1,7m) tall, weighed 163 pounds (73,93kg), had brown eyes and dark brown hair. He initially enlisted in what in today’s world would be a Special Services Unit, but later with other units and served during the Anglo-Boer War and WWI. He was a popular, sociable sort of fellow who was said to have led a bit of a playboy life style. He apparently lived life to the full and burned the candle at both ends. Fripp referred to Bert as “a bad lad who has taken the best out of life and put nothing back.” Bert was said to have had a face “lined by the ravages of the Great War combined with an excess of Bacchus and a neglect of Morpheus”. His love of beer and tobacco probably contributed to the escalation of the tuberculosis which eventually killed him. Some even said it tuberculosis that bought the two men together in 1924. Bert’s story is told by Ian Brown on the website


The concertina, is very much part of South African country life. No platteland Christmas function – or for that matter any party – would be the same without one. Concertinas are central to almost every boereorkes (Afrikaans popular music orchestra). “Every Boer believes himself to be a born musician,” stated the 1900 edition of the Hampshire Telegraph and Naval Chronicle, published in Portsmouth, England. “Every Boer home possesses some kind of musical instrument and, as a rule this is a concertina,” it added. “Generally, the concertina is in use every day. When the Boer goes away on a transport journey, he takes his concertina with him. From every wagon trekking slowly along the dusty road you will hear strains of this instrument on the quiet air, and, if you give a backward glance, you will see the transport rider stretched out on his narrow mattress in the tent of his wagon, pipe in mouth, grinding out some-world forgotten tune. When the night closes in he will play himself to sleep. On the farm, too, the concertina is never idle. Boys play it in the early morning after the stock goes out and, in the evening, when the animals come home.” In The Anglo-German Concertina:a Social History, Vol 2,

Dan Michael Worrall, explains that concertinas came from Germany. Initially they were found along the coast in places where ships could deliver the instruments. In 1872 a German explorer remarked: “The concertina, flute and pennywhistle have become naturalised in this country thanks to merchants and sailors.”



Just 18km from Marquard in steep, rocky terrain is a cave with a sad tale linked to Christmas day. It is said that during the Anglo-Boer War a group of women and children hid from British soldiers in this cave. It is not known how long they were there; some say eight days, while others say three weeks. According to locals they went undetected until, one Christmas morning, when they lit a fire to make a cup of coffee. Nearby soldiers saw the smoke and rushed to the spot. The group was taken prisoner. Ever since then the cave on the 12 000-ha Banke Conservancy, has been known as Christmaskrans. An awe-inspiring hiking route leads to this spot.


On Christmas eve, 1901, soldiers in a British camp, about 20km from Kestell, were looking forward to celebrating the great day. But they did not know there were Boers in the area. The British infantry withdrew late on December 24 leaving the 11th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry, with a Pom-Pom and a Royal Field Artillery gun. From a high point General de Wet observed this withdrawal. He had a bird’s eye view of the British camp and pickets. He waited patiently until shadows hid the moon before advancing. Shortly after 00:10 on Christmas morning the Boers were gathered at the foot of Groenkop. Leaving their horses, the pom-pom and about100 men at the foot of the hill, they silently started to climb. At 02:00, after just a brief rest just below the summit, De Wet shouted: ”Storm!” The men swarmed over the crest. They unleashed murderous fire and overwhelmed the sleeping soldiers. The surprise was complete. Several soldiers were hit in their tents. The horses stampeded as British soldiers fled down the hill in their night-clothes. Some officers vainly tried to mount a resistance, but within minutes it was all over. Barefoot Boers dressed in rags, enthusiastically looted the camp and enjoyed the Christmas fare. At least 57 British soldiers were killed and 84 were wounded. The Boers took them and 200 other men prisoner, but a few days later released the unwounded men. On the Boer side 14 men were killed and 30 wounded. Two soldiers of a patrol sent from Rundle’s camp to investigate, were also captured. This action was described by P Cloete in The Anglo-Boer War: A Chronology and J L Small in Monuments & Battlefields. After this action the little hill was named Krismiskop


Christmas day in 1883 was not a very merry time in De Aar. A fearful fight broke out in the railway workers’ camp resulting in deaths and injuries. Avast labour force was required to lay the line as the railway system crept northwards from Beaufort West. The job opportunities attracted about 1,400 Zulu and Fingo workers – people who traditionally were not good neighbours. Nevertheless, they pitched their tents at De Aar, then a new railway junction, and construction got under way. For a while, great progress was made. From time to time there was dissent about one thing or another. Then, as time went by more and more violent clashes broke out. The situation deteriorated and a really furious fight broke out on Christmas Day 1883. This resulted in 60 dead and many more wounded. A large body of Cape Mounted Rifles under Colonel Southey, was sent to resolve the situation. It became known as the “De Aar Expedition,”. This unit soon managed to successfully quell the dispute, bring order and getting the situation under control, states the history of De Aar on the website


There’s a shortage of trees in the Karoo, so there’s clearly no chance of finding a pine branch to decorate at Christmas. However, Karoo people are very inventive, states historian Wendy van Schalkwyk, in her book on the history of Aberdeen. She explains that in the Karoo the agave or garingboom, a large aloe-like plant with sharp, sword-like leaves is used. “People dry the long stems, paint them white and hang their brightly-coloured baubles and tinsel ropes on that. These “Karoo Christmas trees” have become quite popular in cities.


In 899, during the Boer War, Queen Victoria decided to send a gift to all men serving in South Africa “to keep their spirits up”. She commissioned manufacturers, Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry & Sons to supply 123,000 tins of chocolate. The factories were Quakers-owned and did not want to profit from the war, so they donated the chocolate. The queen personally funded the manufacture of the tins which had rounded corners so they could be neatly slipped into the soldier’s knapsack. Each tin contained half a pound of vanilla chocolate.

There are far better things ahead than any we may leave behind.” – C S Lewis