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.
MELTON WOLD GETS THE STARS Melton Wold, the ever-popular Karoo Guest farm, has been granted a two-star grading by Satour. This well known venue between Loxton and Victoria West, has a warm, friendly and cosy atmosphere, neat rooms and an English Pub. It also has a rich romantic history. In the earliest times, many creatures of pre-history roamed these plains – fossils and footprints attest to this. In later times it was also a game rich area where Bushmen hunted, so Bushmen graves, artifacts and petroglyths can be seen on some of the popular walks. The farm was left [...]
IT’LL BE A HELLUVA MONUMENT There are moves afoot to declare the whole of Gamkaskloof, The Hell, a National Monument. This news has excited all who are in any way associated with this unique little valley, particularly those who once lived there. The Hell has been inhabited since 1843, but, until 1969, it could only be reached on foot. Then a road was built and as a consequence people slowly left. Just getting into The Hell is exciting. It is reached along as magnificent winding road which passes what possibly is the only cork tree left in the Karoo. [...]
THE GREAT KAROO’S A SMALL WORLD After reading the January Round-up, Murray de Villiers, owner of La De Da farm, placed a copy in his guest cottage. The first visitor to stay there was David Hudson Lamb, who, like Val Strickland in Canada, is related to Beaufort West’s first magistrate, James Goldbury Devenish, and the Lambs of Nelspoort. He is tracing the family history, which is closely linked to Prince Albert and their original De Beer family. The Central Karoo Regional Tourism Office was able to provide a great deal of valuable background information and David was most delighted. [...]
KAROO BECOMES A FILM STAR The Central Karoo is auditioning for a major role in a period film. A British director and his technical advisors, seeking a venue for a film that requires an 1860 setting, are looking for sites between Laingsburg and Loxton. Last month the central Karoo starred in an international 30 second TV advertisement – that it took a week to make. The script called for a Nevada Desert scene, and the British directors, from a well-known company, which has filmed such major movies as The Blade Runner, chose a spot outside Merweville. The required desert [...]
ZDRAVSTVOEITE ANDRE KONSTANTINOVITCH It’s not a typo - “Zdravstvoeite “– actually means “Good day, Hello” in Russian. This is how the Karoo greeted and welcomed Professor Andre Konstantinovitch Ignatinko, head of Afrikaans at Moscow University. For the past three years he has been a lecturer at the University of the Orange Free State in Bloemfontein, and now, before he returns to Russia, he wanted to show his wife, Larisa, and his little six-year old daughter, Katje, more of South Africa. On the way to Cape Town they stopped off in the Karoo. They were accompanied by Miss Estelle, Marais, [...]
GREETINGS FROM HIS GRACE A highlight among the messages of congratulations received in Richmond, on the occasion of the town’s 150th anniversary, was a telegram from the 10th Duke of Richmond. It read: “I am pleased to send you my warmest congratulations on the 150th anniversary of Richmond. One day I would like to visit you, I hope all citizens of Richmond enjoy the celebrations.” Messages were also received from the mayor of Richmond upon Thames, Councillor Gina MacKinnery, and from Eileen Leo-Hayden, honorary secretary of Richmond Overseas Links, a non-political, non-sectarian organization formed to establish and maintain cultural, [...]
THE SNOWMAN OF THE KAROO Dries Engelbrecht, manager of the Karoo National Park, recently had to travel to Augrabies, which like the Karoo is a hot, dry, semi-desert area. He left Beaufort West just as the recent rain and snow began. By the time he reached the top of the Nuweveld Mountains the snow was already a few centimeters deep. He thought of the hot dry area he was travelling to and the fact that children there seldom see rain, leave alone snow. Dries immediately stopped his bakkie, unpacked his provisions from his big cool bag and filled it [...]
WHO WAS MERVEWILLE’S ENGLISHMAN Just south of Merweville there is a signpost pointing to “The Englishman’s Grave”. And, about 500 m from the road, under some thorn trees in the veld is a neatly kept grave with a simple white marble cross. But, just who was this Englishman? His name was Walter Oliphant Arnot, and he came to South Africa with a British regiment during the Anglo-Boer War. He had been led to believe that the British were fighting “savages” in Africa, however, he developed a great respect for the Boer people and regretted his part in the war. [...]
WHERE IS “SKOTTELGOED DRAAI” The last curve on the road out of Prince Albert, leading towards the Swartberg Mountains, is known as “perde draai” (horse corner). The locals, however, refer to it as “skottelgoed draai” (pots and pans corner). The reason that this corner got this unusual name is proof of the local population’s sense of humour. Way back in time two cars crashed into each other here. It was due to the fact that the drivers had the oddest nicknames – Pot and Pan – that local humourists could not resist giving the corner its odd name. KAROO [...]
DANGEROUS DELICACY In some parts of the Central Karoo mouths water when a “pofadder” is mentioned. It is a sausage made from liver, kidneys, and selected offal, minced with fat and flavoured with special spices. Instead of a sausage skin, it is stuffed into an intestine for braaiing or pan-frying. The Country Hotel at Leeu Gamka recently wished to advertise its butchery to tourists and included “pofadder” as one of its specialties. The advert was written in Afrikaans and translated into English by the magazine’s staff who, of course, had never heard of this treat, so there with Karoo [...]
ELDERLY MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS A Cape Town Club for elderly, single senior citizens, visited the mountain farm, Wilgeboschkloof, in the Merweville district last month. Farm owners Hennie and Elsabe Victor thought that they would have a very restful weekend with this group, but that was not the case. “Of the 11 who visited, the youngest must have been 65 and there were two in their 80s – one was 80 and the other 84. Shortly after arrival all the visitors energetically set off on the mountain trail. We have a series of walks and they enjoyed most of these. In [...]
WRONG NUMBER – NOT AGAIN Platteland party line telephone systems totally confuse city visitors. They are used to answering the telephone each time it rings. A recent “helpful” guest at Melton Wold Guest Farm, between Victoria West and Loxton, ran to answer the telephone every time she heard it ring. Of course, many calls were not for the guest farm and she was puzzled at why they should get so many wrong numbers in so small a place. Once the mysteries of the platteland manual exchange system had been explained to her, she was quite red-faced. “I simply thought [...]
MUSEUM 'WORTH A SONG' It seems Elton John may have sneaked into Beaufort West unnoticed on his way to Sun City. There is an inscription in the visitor's book outside the Chris Barnard Exhibition - it simply reads: Elton John, a London Address and says "this exhibit's worth a song." Now, like a lilting melody the mystery will remain - was it or wasn't it him? PLANNING FOR TOURISM The first "platteland" workshop on planning for tourism was held in Beaufort West on March 2. It was presented by Satour and attended by 30 delegates from various towns in [...]
BUSY QUARTER The first three months of operation have been busy, but nevertheless, successful. The Central Karoo has been brought to the attention of newspaper and magazine editors and several tourism stories have been widely publicised. All press releases sent out have received good coverage in the local “platteland” press, as well as in national newspapers, such as Die Burger. A close working relationship has also been established with Radio Kontrei and with other radio travel programmes, such as the Saturday morning Travellers Check and Padlangs. The latest success is an item in Getaway magazine. It has resulted in [...]