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.
STUDENT FINDS RARE FOSSIL A rare and well-preserved fossil of a Gorgonopsian was found on Leeukloof recently when Friends of the South African Museum in Cape Town visited the Beaufort West area. “What made this find exciting,” said Dr Roger Smith, head of the museum’s palaeontology department, “is that it was a good example of this ancient carnivore and included a radius, elna and fingers. Also, it was found by a student, Jennifer Botha.” The 45 enthusiastic fossil hunters spent three days in the area searching for fossils under the guidance of the Museum’s Karoo-Paleo Team which includes Paul October, [...]
BOER AND BRIT MEET AT BLOCKHOUSE BRAAI A century after the air was filled with gun smoke, “Boer” and “Brit” horsemen rode as comrades through Beaufort West in the Great Karoo recently to take the salute at the old blockhouse which still guards the railway line. Crowds lined the route to cheer them on their way. The British brigade, under “General” David Pickard-Cambridge, carried Union Jacks and “regimental colours”, while flags of the old Boer Republics marked the passage of the Boer Commando under “General” Piet Ellis. Tantalising smells of braaivleis wafted about and a small crowd waited in the [...]
BOER WAR PROMISE HONOURED An Australian serving with the British army towards the end of the Anglo-Boer War committed suicide on the outskirts of Merweville. So distressed were these Karoo townsfolk when they heard of Lieutenant Walter Oliphant Arnot's death by his own hand on April 16, 1902, that they promised "to tend his grave forever." During almost a century they never forgot. So after all this time, locals were devastated when Lt Arnot's grave was vandalised a while ago and its marble cross destroyed. While discussing repairs, the problem touched the heart of Dominee Kallie le Roux, of Wesselsbron [...]
BIG PLANS FOR KAROO NATIONAL PARK The ever-popular Karoo National Park has expanded again. It recently acquired an additional 12 000 ha, extending its total area to over 70 000 ha. The farm Paalhuis has already been transferred to the park. The latest acquisitions include Brandywynsgat, Berg en Dal, part of Boesmanskop and Onderklipplaatsfontein. Discussions are also in progress to spend about R6-m on improvements. These will include a variety of projects such as 10 new chalets and predator-proof fencing. “We plan to upgrade and expand our restaurant and create a ladies bar,” said manager Leighton Hare. “There are also [...]
GRAND DUCHESS OF KAROO GETS TOP WEBSITE Matjiesfontein, the tiny Karoo village which offers visitors a peek of Victorian England, now has one of the country’s top websites. Set up by RMC, consultants who are assisting village-owner David Rawdon with a series of upgrades, the site was hailed a winner within days of its launch. Pages were designed by Catherine Kerr-Petersen and text written by Sarah Powys, winner of this year’s Silver Loerie Award for advertising copy. RMC director Chris Yates-Smith said: “It’s more than a pretty site. It’s designed to deliver useful information to tourists and Matjiesfontein management alike.” [...]
LONG AGO, WHEN THE RIVERS FLOWED NORTH Once a swamp and now a semi-desert, the Great Karoo fascinates most who explore it. Many wish H G Wells’s time machine existed to take them back to explore the once vast Gondwana continent. One man who brings this ancient world to life is S A Museum palaeontologist Dr Roger Smith. He recently explained the transition from swamp to dryland to visitors at the Karoo National Park. Way back when the earth was young all the land was on the western side of the globe and the sea on the east. Gondwana was [...]
RENAISSANCE MAN ROBERT GORDON HONOURED Over two centuries ago Robert Jacob Gordon stood on a Karoo koppie near the Swartberg mountains and painted the tranquil scene of Qweekvallei farm in the valley below. Almost a century later a town sprang up on the farm. And now, 150 years later, that town, Prince Albert, has honoured this famous artist, naturalist, soldier and explorer by naming the koppie in his honour. A small granite slab, placed at the site where he stood, near the now popular Koppie Trail, was recently unveiled by author Patrick Cullinan, whose book, Robert Jacob Gordon, the [...]
FOSSILS VITAL TO ECOTOURISM The role of fossils in ecotourism was the subject of a study done at the Karoo National Park recently. The research team, led by Dr Francois Durand, a Rand Afrikaans University Department of Zoology palaeontologist, included several members of the S A Society of Amateur Palaeontologists. Material was collected for a paper entitled "Problems relating to the identification and management of palaeontological sites in South Africa with special reference to ecotourism" and for a report being prepared for the park. The group also discussed the possibility of setting up a natural heritage display at the museum. [...]
BIG BLUE TRAIN BASH TO SALUTE Y2K The first exotic party to greet the new millennium is now being planned for the Great Karoo. The Blue Train Company intends bringing two train loads of VIPs to the Karoo where they will see 1999 out under the stars and watch the sun rise on the new millennium across the vast, unspoiled plains of the Great Karoo. One of the team members organising this event is Delwin Kriel, of David Barrett and Co. He and his colleagues have spent considerable time reconnoitering possible venues, and are now preparing proposals for each. [...]
NEW HOME FOR RHINO ORPHAN Early last year a lonely black rhino bull calf was spotted roaming at Addo Elephant National Park. Investigation soon revealed that its mother had been killed by an elephant. Game ranger Wayne Erlank and veterinary surgeon Piet Morkel captured the orphan and arranged its transfer to Karen Fedler's Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) in Pretoria.. The calf's sad and pinched face reminded Piet of Badger, a strange little dog once owned by one of his daughters. That's how the little rhino got its name. At ARC Karen managed to bottle feed the huge baby. Within short [...]
SIGN OF A BIG WELCOME The first road sign welcoming tourists to the Western Cape Province was recently unveiled in the Beaufort West area by a man born and bred in the Great Karoo. While standing on the Karoo plains near the curiously shaped koppies at Three Sisters, Mr Piet Meyer, Minister of Transport and Works, reminisced about his carefree childhood days at Noupoort. "The Karoo is a special place and makes an intriguing northern gateway to the Western Cape Province," he said. "This sign on the busy N1 will welcome tourists from neighbouring provinces, as well as our friends [...]
BIGGER RHINO HERD The Karoo National Park outside Beaufort West is preparing to receive some pretty hefty permanent residents. The first Bicornis michaelis, an East African black rhino bull, has arrived and is being acclimatised in a bouma. Staff at the park are busy constructing fences and more boumas to accommodate a herd of 10 animals to be delivered from Addo National Park early next year. The newcomers are slightly smaller than the five Bicornis bicornis black rhino that the Karoo National Park sent to Addo earlier this year. "We are delighted by the swop. The bigger herd will mean [...]
LINKS ACROSS THE WORLD In 2002, Beaufort West in the Great Karoo will host a get-together of a society for towns called "Beaufort." This was revealed by Beaufort West Tourism Bureau marketing committee chairman Rob Pollitt at a recent annual general meeting. He said: "Some time ago, while overseas I attended a meeting of the Societe Beaufort, originally established in France. This exclusive society has only 14 members, all towns called Beaufort. Its members are in countries such as France, Ireland, Wales, North Carolina, in the United States, and Australia. The group meets every second year, each time in [...]
RETURN OF THE BIRDMAN Rob Davies, a researcher who spent five years in the Karoo studying the habits of black eagles, is back. This time he intends writing a book on the natural history of the Great Karoo. "At the end of 1989 and in 1990, I studied these magnificent raptors in the Beaufort West area and lived at the old airport. It was a wonderful time during which I was able to complete some beautiful eagle studies. I am now taking a more in- depth look at the Karoo, starting way back in the days when it was [...]
HOPE FOR THE HELL A group of ministers and VIPs recently visited Gamkaskloof, popularly known as The Hell, to discuss its preservation, restoration and tourism potential. Among them were Mr Mark Wiley, Minister of Public Safety and Environment Affairs, Mr Kobus Meiring, Minister of Cultural Affairs, Dr Kas Hamman, acting director, Cape Nature Conservation, Mr Carel du Preez, head, Department of Cultural and Environmental Affairs, and Ms Hannetjie du Preez, director, Cultural Affairs. They were accompanied by Ms Eureka Barnard of Cape Museum Services. They all agreed The Hell was an important cultural historic site and could become a major [...]
TOURISM MUSHROOMS, SAYS MINISTER Tourism in the Western Cape Province has mushroomed, yet there is still room for growth. This was said by Mr Hennie Bester, Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism, at meeting with the Central Karoo Regional Tourism Organisation in Beaufort West. He said tourism in the Western Cape Province represented between 8 and 10 percent of the province's gross regional product. This meant that virtually overnight tourism, as a revenue earner, had leapt up to equal agriculture, the oldest industry in the province. "The Western Cape is South Africa's number one destination, with 28% of international visitors [...]
TOP-LEVEL DISCUSSIONS Eight chairmen of Regional Tourism Organisations in the Western Cape recently met with Mr Hennie Bester, Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism, for discussions on problems facing the industry. Also present were Mr David Jack, chairman of Western Cape Tourism Board, and Mr Hennie Taljaard, head of the new Strategic Management Team. Core issues were legislation, establishment and accreditation of bureaus, funding, and workplace challenges. Ways of streamlining communications were also discussed. The minister said a Strategic Management Team, headed by Mr Hennie Taljaard, regional general manager of the Airports Company, had been appointed for three months with [...]
THE QUAGGA IS BACK IN THE KAROO On August 12, 1883, a quagga mare died at the Amsterdam zoo. Nobody then realised that this signalled the extinction of the species. Only later was it revealed that she had been the last of her kind on earth. This beautiful species of zebra-type animals was once abundant on the plains of the Karoo, but they were ruthlessly hunted as the settlers considered them competitors for grazing needed for sheep, goats and cattle. Early in the 1980s a project was started to recreate the species from portions of its genetic code present in [...]
PICKLED OSTRICH EGGS - A WORLD FIRST The enormous ostrich egg, which makes an adequate omelette for about 12 people, has landed in a pickle for the first time since it appeared on menus. Much to the delight of the culinary world two Prince Albert entrepreneurs, Jason Lucas and Johan Serfontein, are now pickling and canning whole ostrich eggs. This unique product, which recently received a small business award, has also excited the international market and several orders have been received from abroad. Among these is a large order from Japan. Pickled ostrich eggs are now available at duty-free shops [...]
LONG WALK FOR DONKEY RIGHTS A little grey donkey will lead an historic 75km pilgrimage over the Swartberg Pass in April. The aim is to create an awareness of the plight of donkeys and to raise funds for an educational programme on their care. The walk, from Prince Albert to Oudtshoorn, will be undertaken by Esmeralda, a badly abused donkey rescued by Howard Derby in 1994. They will be accompanied on this epic journey by Rev Chris Briers, of Prince Albert, local artist, Lenore Snyman and a group of children. In an effort to ease the lot of beasts of [...]