Rose’s Round-Up Newsletters are fascinating factual tales and stories on South African history by Rose Willis. Rose also better known as “Karoo Rose” publishes a monthly newsletter mainly covering snippets of Karoo history. We provide an online archive of her newsletters.
For almost three decades now Rose’s Round up has delivered a monthly “breath of the Karoo” to its readers. Over the years it has shared the spirit of the dryland with a wide cross section of readers. You can subscribe to Rose’s Round-Up by emailing her here for a small fee of R120.00 for 12 e-mailed copies
Initially, bashed out on an aged manual typewriter its 4 A-4 pages were sized down to an A-5 format and then photocopied double-sided onto one A-4 page to save costs. This was an economic necessity as there was no communications budget and the aim of the newsletter was simply to inform six town clerks of promotional plans being brewed by the then new Central Karoo Regional Tourism Office. The first copy was delivered to the office of the Beaufort West’s town clerk and almost instantly he requested a “couple of extra copies to pass around to council members”.
Only 10 copies of the first issue were initially printed. Then, more councillors asked for copies, a press mailing list was compiled and requests rolled in from former residents and those interested in the Karoo. The publication was designed to be quickly read over a cup of coffee; its mission was to inform and educate and in so doing to encourage market development. Despite its humble image and being strange by the standards of the glossy and glitzy promotional material of the day and it soon proved itself to be a winner. Among the first notes of praise was one calling Round-up the “cutest” news sheet in the country. Readers began to copy Round-up and send it to friends and family across the country and abroad, where for many it was a link with home. Round-up quickly grew into a powerful, respected marketing tool, it encouraged the establishment of guest houses and helped create a farm holiday association and by December, 1993, it had encouraged a professor from a Russian University to visit and spend a few days on a guest farm. In 1994 it assisted the United Nations delegation who came to see that the elections were free and fair. In June 1996 Round-up was elected as the top municipal communications tool in South Africa. An official was presented by the premier of the Northern Cape in Kuruman to the sound of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best”.
Old residents loved it. They began to share memories which were published and this led to more and more stories flooding in. Historians and family history researchers began to ask for help. Requests were published and as answers rolled in, the information was published and much original and “lost” information was re-gained. Experts gladly shared their knowledge and all talks and seminars given were covered. Round up was a knowledge pool into which students could dip at will. It even helped a Texas school boy create a winning class project on Professor Chris Barnard.
Within four years, Round-up’s circulation had grown to such an extent that mailing costs threatened to kill it. A nominal postage was requested and despite smirks, the publication went on to build a huge base of paid subscribers as it carried stories about the Karoo to readers by post and email in 24 countries, which included England, the United States, Russia, Scotland, Canada, Brazil, Turkey, India, Australia, North Korea, Japan, Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as many places in South Africa. Readership was (and still is) all but impossible to calculate as many readers pass it on, copy, fax or email it to friends, relations and business associates.
And when the time has come to pop a cork and let the bubbly flow – when Rose’s Round-up has reached its 100th issue – nostalgia overwhelmed many readers and took advantage of wandering off down memory lane to recall unforgettable boating days at Beaufort West’s Springfontein Dam, strolling along Lover’s Lane to steal a kiss, picnics at the Waterfall or in the poplar grove on Molteno Pass. Some remembered playing truant and drinking ginger beer, “or was it sherry” in the bushes on the banks of the Gamka River, others remembered ‘borrowing” cars, while yet others told of dreadful schoolboy pranks dating back to the days of outside loos and bucket toilets.
On its centenary a reader in India, wrote: “This country is so crowded and noisy that I look forward to Round-up. Each issue brings the tranquillity and freshness of the Karoo’s calm open spaces to this busy place.” A UK reader said: “Every issue offers a feast of reading and each seems better than its predecessor. We love the breath of fresh Karoo air each Round-up brings to grey old London!” from Germany came a note saying “each Round-up brings the magnificence of the Great Karoo to Europe.” And in the United States, a former Laingsburg lass said: “I am overjoyed each time Round-up pops up on my computer screen. Each issue is so full of zest and flavour I can taste and smell the Karoo as I read.”
Local readers also added their congratulations A Hanover resident, wrote: Round-up has been a source of joy for many years. I remember receiving it when I worked in the mining district of central Johannesburg. Each issue carried me to a place where I never thought I would ever live. Now I am here. God bless it and you!” “There’s nothing quite like Round-up it’s the best tourism newsletter in the country,” says radio journalist and travel writer. One wag quipped: “Round-up may well be the name of a weedkiller, but this Round-up has promoted nothing but a growth of interest in the Karoo,” Tourism operators were also very complimentary and one said: “The planet would just not be the same without it!” he wrote.
Then Rose’s life partner died and she left the Karoo, but Round-up came with her. She re-located with her family in Bloemfontein where she broadened the base of the publication to cover the whole of the dryland and this once again encouraged the readership to grow. With the philosophy of the Pen is Mightier than the Sword, under the banner of a little knight in a tin suit who brandishes a pen and spurs his cynical horse, Round up too continues ever onward.
You can read all about Rose here and subscribe to her newsletter latest Rose’s Round-Up for a small fee.
BOER COMMANDANT HONOURED A century to the day after his capture near Prince Albert local Boer War enthusiasts honoured legendary Boer Commandant Gideon Scheepers. A memorial commemorating the 100th anniversary of Scheepers’s capture on Koppieskraal October 10, 1901, was unveilled by Rienus Koorts, grandson of the man who sheltered Scheepers. “This dynamic and controversial young Boer leader led British forces a merry chase across the plains of the Karoo”, said Lydia Barella, one of the organisers of the function. “Towards the end he became increasingly ill. This eventually led to his capture in a tiny room in one of the [...]
RIVERINE RABBIT MEETS THE PRESS The Riverine Rabbit Conservation Project was recently introduced to the media at Kirstenbosch. At this function members of each conservancy received a certificate of registration. “The aim of the launch was to raise awareness of the plight of this nocturnal animal and gain publicity for farmers committed to the survival of the species. The riverine rabbit is Africa’s only indigenous burrowing rabbit and one of 12 globally endangered rabbit species”, said Tony Marshall, regional manager Cape Nature Conservation. “Saving the species from extinction is extremely difficult because the rabbit’s natural habitat does not fall within [...]
ALBERT’S MILL COMES BACK TO LIFE On a windy winter’s day recently, a group of people alongside a stream on the outskirts of Prince Albert enthusiastically discussed a lady, a launder and a lantern. The Friends of Albert’s Mill were in fact taking a serious look at restoration work in progress on the last surviving mill in town. The uninitiated soon discovered that the strange terms all referred to parts of a mill. In its heyday, Albert’s Mill was no rarity what with four others in the village. But it was closest to the Swartberg Mountains. The mill once supplied [...]
IT’S ALL SYSTEMS GO IN KWA-MANDLENKOSI Tourism has sprouted wings in Kwa-Mandlenkosi. This was evident at the crowded inaugural meeting of a tourism planning committee recently at H M Dlikidla Primary School. Representatives from diverse organisations discussed the vital role of tourism within the Beaufort West community and the importance of the proposed route through the township. “Until fairly recently, most Africans had little interest in tourism”, said Siphiwe Piti, chairman of the Central Karoo Regional Tourism Organisation. “Developments in the new South Africa, however, have changed this. People now acknowledge tourism as the key to economic and infrastructure development [...]
KAROO’S FIRST TOWNSHIP TOURISM ROUTE The first tourist route through a Karoo township is being created in Kwa-Mandlenkosi, Beaufort West. This was recently announced by Siphiwe Piti, chairman of the District Municipality Tourism Committee, when he appointed 12 tourism ambassadors at Mandlenkosi Secondary School. They are Gift Louw, Utombekhanya Lawrence, Athone Ngondo, Uthabiseng Manewe, Bongulethu Faas, Siyabulela Swartbooi, Andiswa Mzakala, Sandile Kohwe, Mzwamadode Visagie, Sipho Ngwenya, Uonzwakazi Lekanyane and Mucedisi Minye. All are in Grade 9. They volunteered to help with a community service project. Siphiwe presented the pupils with T-shirts and background information. The idea for the route [...]
MINISTER CALLS FOR MORE RESEARCH Tourism was a powerful partnership, but only the surface had been scratched in efforts to create a closer working relationship between all sectors of the industry, the Western Cape Minister of Finance, Business Promotion and Tourism, Mr Leon Marcowitz, said when he addressed tourism roleplayers at an Oudtshoorn road show recently. “The image of tourism is still too fragmented. We also have far too many logos and structures”, he said. “Image is important, and so is marketing. We must focus and streamline our marketing approaches, spend more wisely and research the value of niche [...]
KAROO PLANS OFF-ROAD RACE The first off-road race in the Great Karoo is being planned for later this year. “Interest in the proposed event is high, and it could eventually attract about 250 competitors”, says Pete van der Walt, a director of Motor Sport SA. The course will be laid out in the Merweville area and tested later this year. Pete evaluated the proposed 50km route recently when he visited the area with Kallie le Roux of Springbok Lodge. “The course will cross a wide variety of rugged and challenging terrains”, said Pete. “From the village it snakes out [...]
TOURISM IS THE KEY Carefully planned development would create a better quality of life throughout the Karoo, according to Doreen “Thiwe” Hugo, the first mayor of the Central Karoo District Municipality. “Every effort is being made to promote tourism to so capture a larger slice of both the domestic and international market sectors. Tourism will assist us to develop the area, build the infrastructures of our small towns and villages and strengthen the region’s economy. We aim to bring tourism closer to our previously disadvantaged communities so that they may share its benefits and experience a better quality of [...]
MURRAYSBURG ON EUROPEAN TV The search for an isolated South African village with tourist appeal finally took German TV producer Mark Kaczmarczyk to Murraysburg in the Great Karoo. He loved it all - the town, its people and the area. It reminded him of Arizona in the US. So, with a cameraman Robert Leithner and sound engineer Alexander Seidel, from Tango Films in Germany, Mark spent two days capturing the spirit of Murraysburg for VOX Television Network in Cologne, Germany. The edited footage will form part of an hour-long documentary for their highly-rated, popular, weekly VOX Tours travel series. [...]
THE HELL LOOKS UPCape Nature Conservation is upgrading, refurbishing and stabilising most of the historic buildings in Gamkaskloof, The Hell. R1,1m has been obtained for this important project. Work has already progressed in some areas, while tenders are awaited in others. The restoration of Oukloof, the oldest raw brick and clay farmhouse, has been completed. This house, home of Zanie and Anita van der Walt, Nature Conservation officers and full-time residents of the valley, revealed many of its secrets during restoration. “The house was stripped back to basics and this gave us a good deal of much-needed historic information,” said [...]
TEMPLE OF THE DEAD DISCOVERED Quena shrines, a temple of the dead and a sophisticated astronomical observatory have been discovered near Murraysburg. The man behind these archaeological finds is Dr Cyril Hromnik, who recently visited the Karoo to discuss them. “Much needs to be done to reverse the academic neglect of the Great Karoo in recent decades,” says Dr Hromnik. “Hottentots in the history of the Karoo are all too often ignored, simply as if they did not matter. Yet the Otentottu or Quena people were culturally, religiously, economically and technologically more advanced than the Stone Age Kung or [...]
FOOTPRINTS IN CYBERSPACE An illiterate who uses a sophisticated scientific system as an everyday tool has presented the Great Karoo to Dutch TV viewers. A TV crew from the Netherlands recently visited the Karoo National Park to film the ultra-modern CyberTracker wildlife management system for the popular Jules Unlimited series broadcast by VARA. “Each 25-minute broadcast, designed to keep viewers abreast of the latest scientific developments, has well over a million viewers” , says researcher Julia Greiner. “The programme relies on active hosts and good camera angles to make viewers feel part of what they see”. The man who [...]
FARMERS LINK UP TO SAVE RIVERINE RABBIT Three farmers in the Krom River area near Beaufort West have established a conservancy for the riverine rabbit, one of South Africa’s the most endangered species. “A recent three-day seminar in Stellenbosch, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Zoo and other USA organisations, prompted this action by Monty Truter, David Jack and ourselves,” said Hillary Steven-Jennings, of Hillandale. “Research by Cape Nature Conservation has revealed many potential habitats for these nocturnal creatures on Booyskraal, Bokpoort and Hillandale.” Riverine rabbits are only found in the Beaufort West and Victoria West areas of the Great Karoo. [...]
NEW MINISTER HAS DEEP ROOTS IN TOURISM Mr Leon Markovitz has taken over responsibility for tourism in the Government of the Western Cape Province. He replaces Mr Hennie Bester, who has taken over the portfolio of Community Safety. In a recent cabinet reshuffle, Mr Markovitz was appointed Minister of Finance, Business Promotion and Tourism. He is also Minister in the Office of the Premier, and his responsibilities include the Gambling Act. Mr Markovitz’s is a director and shareholder in hotel, restaurant and tourism related companies and has a keen interest in tourism in both the private and public sectors. He [...]
BOER WAR GRAVES RESTORED The graves of British soldiers buried in Beaufort West in the Great Karoo during the Anglo-Boer War have been restored by the local Rapportryers organisation. The work was undertaken by Goodall and Williams, and cleaning and washing of gravel chips provided short-term employment for the jobless. Goodall and Williams personnel repaired and rebuilt all curbings and recemented all surrounds. Marble crosses and memorials were all thoroughly washed and cleaned, and metal Guild Crosses were repainted. Then markers, with details of the soldier's name, rank and number were fixed to each cross to ensure that the graves [...]
KAROO DUCHESS GETS A FACELIFT Matiesfontein, that grand old duchess of the Great Karoo, has been given a facelift. Four self-catering cottages, each with accommodation for six, and nine extra rooms, at the Garden Mews, formerly the Boarding House, have been brought into the tourism mix. A station has been added next to the old train at the cricket field, and a motor museum is to be created on this site. To enhance the village’s aura of history and romance, a brandy and cigar room, plus a library, is being created on the second floor of the old station building. [...]
AUSTRIA HONOURS BARNARD A son of the Great Karoo, Professor Chris Barnard, is to be honoured by the Austrian Government this month. In an international poll, the world heart-transplant pioneer emerged as the most popular of seven international leaders in their fields. He will receive the first My Way award. "Polling was conducted by Internet to gain as wide an international response base as possible," said Eric Bruckberger, a director of the Tatum Media Group, organisers of the gala function in Vienna at which the award will be presented. The media group, which has negotiated the loan of a large [...]
PARKING NOW SAFE AT HISTORIC SITE The historic Monument Cemetery, 10km south of Matjiesfontein, now has a safe parking area. It was recently constructed by the Central Karoo District Council with assistance from Western Cape Tourism Board. “Our aim was to provide visitors to the cemetery with safe parking away from the busy N1 highway,” said district council chief executive John van der Merwe. “Formerly, tourists had to park at the gate, climb over a stile and walk almost 1km to the graves. Most visitors were concerned about leaving their vehicles unattended so far away. Also, there was room only [...]
KAROO PARK GETS THE KEY The ever-popular Karoo National Park, outside Beaufort West, will be 21 years old in September. Special plans are being made to celebrate the big day. The park, little more than a dream in 1950 when local farmer William Quinton started his campaign for a conservation area in the vicinity of Beaufort West, plays a vital role in the tourism mix of the Central Karoo. Since its official opening on September 7, 1979, it has served the local and international tourism markets, as well as the local community. “Our aim is to encourage visitors to [...]
MERWEVILLE HOPS INTO THE FROG ATLAS Besides being welcome in the Karoo to rejuvenate life, good rains during the festive season brought Merweville a strange fame. The steady downpours encouraged herpetologist Atherton de Villiers to visit and search for frogs. His research into reptiles and amphibians has led to him becoming the regional co-ordinator for the South African Frog Atlas project in the Western Cape. He was accompanied by wife Rikki, a chief nature conservator at Jonkershoek, in Stellenbosch. ‘We chose the Koup as no previous records existed for the area,’ said Atherton. “As we drove into the tiny town [...]