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.
ATTENTION ALL FOODIES The ever-popular annual Karoo Food Festival takes place again in Cradock this year from April 27 to 30. This event is a must for food lovers, particularly those who enjoy the special flavours of the Karoo lamb and venison. Remember, however, that this is an extremely popular event, so booking is essential. The programme, as usual, includes something for everyone. There will be paid and free food, wine and craft beer tastings, as well as a variety of food demonstrations and master classes. Several activities, especially designed to amuse and entertain children, also form part of the [...]
SYMPOSIUM COMMEMMORATES THE GREAT ‘FLU This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the world’s most deadly pandemics – the Spanish or Great Flu. It infected 500-million people and occurred in even in the remotest places. It came to South Africa on ships docking at Durban and Cape Town, says historian, Howard Philips, who will be one of the speakers at a symposium to commemorate this greatest medical catastrophe of all time. The flu travelled inland on South Africa’s well-developed railway network and the country’s migrant labour force helped to rapidly spread it across the country. The economy came [...]
SPECIAL WEEKEND FOR HISTORY BUFFS A special Anglo-Boer War weekend, hosted by the War Museum in Bloemfontein and the Lord Milner Hotel, will take place at Matjiesfontein from March 16 to 18. The programme includes top speakers such as Tokkie Pretorius, director of the Anglo-Boer War Museum, who will discuss Soldiers of the Queen, Dr Johan Loock, who will review the famous and controversial Boer Commandant, Gideon Scheepers, Allan Duff will cover the activities of the commandoes of General Wynand Malan and Commandant Willem Fouche during the last week of the war, Dr Dean Allen will conduct a walking tour [...]
YEOMEN IS A WINNER! Yeomen of the Karoo by Rose Willis, Dr Arnold van Dyk and Prof Kay de Villiers, won two prizes at the third annual S A Independent Publishers Awards, at the Richmond Booktown Festival. It was the winner in the Medical Category, and it shared the best of the best award with Ashwin Desai’s latest novel and Heather Costaras’s biography. The announcement was made by festival organizer, Darryl David, at a gala dinner on Wednesday, October 2. Yeomen of the Karoo, the story of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein, was edited by Dr Suzette Botha, the [...]
BLOEMFONTEIN LAUNCH FOR PRESIDENT’S LETTERS The Van Riebeeck Society’s latest volume (No 48 in the Second Series) will be launched at the Anglo-Boer War Museum, Monument Road, Bloemfontein, on Saturday, November 25, at 11:00. Entitled Selections from the Letters of President M T Steyn, 1904–1910, this work was edited by Con de Wet and Elizabeth van Heyningen and translated by Chris van der Merwe. Both editors will deliver short talks at the War Museum and answer questions. ALL ROADS LEAD TO RICHMOND This year’s Richmond BookBedonnerd Festival (from October 25 to 28) is going to be special. It’s the 10th [...]
KAROO PROVIDES SOME OF THE MAGIC The Karoo has helped generate some of the magic in the recently released film, The Dark Tower. Based on eight novels in Stephen King’s fantasy, horror and science fiction series the tale ranges from the Mid-World, created in remote, arid, semi-desert Tankwa Karoo National Park, to modern-day New York. Mesmerising caves and weirdly shaped red rocks in the Cederberg Mountains introduce a dramatic parallel universe and allow audiences across the world to see some captivating and unique local locations. Manni Village, for instance, was built at Rawsonville, near Worcester. Production designer, Christopher Glass, said [...]
FESTIVAL NOT TO BE MISSED A literary festival to honour South African author, Etienne van Heerden, will be held in Cradock from September 22 to 24. Arranged by well-known Karoo festival organizer Darryl David, it is the first event of its kind and promises to be a winner. “Van Heerden’s work is fiction at its best,” says Herman de Coninck, (NRC Handelsblad, Amsterdam), adding that: “You will have to read Van Heerden if you want to know anything about South Africa.” As the winner of two Hertzog prizes, and almost every Afrikaans literary award, Van Heerden, a son of the Karoo, is [...]
IT’S ALL IN THE RECORDS Church records are the oldest records in South Africa. Churches keep records of baptisms and burials performed from the church or on church property. Church Minute books also have a great deal of interesting information, depending on how efficient the minister was Beaufort West’s Anglican Rev Guy Gething kept detailed notes, particularly on burials. Until 1778 the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk or NGK) was the only official church in South Africa. This church's records date from 1665. The next oldest church is the Lutheran Church with records dating back to 1778. Anglican Church [...]
BOER WAR SERVICE MEN HONOURED DOWN UNDER Canberra, in Australia, now has a National Boer War Memorial after 115 years and it looks great reported John Sweetman. The official dedication took place on May 31, this year. This was followed by Boer War Day on June 4, 2017, when the Boer War Memorial Society of Western Australia paid tribute the 16,000 Australian men and women who served in South Africa from 1899 to 1902. For this anniversary commemoration and reconciliation service, held in Kings Park, Perth, the Botanical Parks and Gardens Authority completely restored and upgraded the memorial and 77mm [...]
NEW BOOK HIGHLIGHTS COLLECTORS AND COLLECTIONS An exciting new “bird book” has just been released. Entitled Warriors, Dilettantes and Businessmen - Bird collectors during the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries in southern Africa, it was written by Prince Albert’s Dr Richard Dean, a man who is widely known and highly respected in birding and history circles. The book covers the collectors and collections of bird specimens, from 1850 to 1950, across an area immensely rich in bird life. This was a period during which the interest in Africa was high and museum collections, in Britain in particular, were growing rapidly. Natural [...]
BRIEF TOWNSHIP TOUR ENDS IN A BOOKLET A tour of Lingelihle Township during a Cradock Karoo Writers Festival led to a booklet. Some time ago, Brian Wilmot, curator of the Schreiner House Museum in Cradock joined a tour to this township and found it inspirational. “So much general information and first-person anecdotal material was shared, particularly about the part erased by Apartheid, that I felt it should be preserved in a booklet,” he said. He immediately went to work and now an informative 42-page, well-illustrated, full-colour guide, entitled In the Footsteps of James Calata and Matthew Goniwe - a [...]
CALITZDORP – THE INSIDE STORY Malan Roux’s Calitzdorp Cameos is a gem. As it takes a look at the growth and development of Calitzdorp, this book examines several old houses and, in the most charming way, brings their former inhabitants to life, while also introducing some present-day owners. This is no dry architectural history; the book is full of excitement and surprises. While learning interesting and often amusing facts about places like De Oude Pastorie, Die Dorpshuis, Homestead, Aletta’s House, as well as Klaas Fouche’s House, Siesta and the Van Tonders, the reader discovers that Calitzdorp had a nobility and [...]
A CLOSER LOOK AT KAROO BATTLEFIELDS In 2016 the Karoo Development Foundation received funding from the National Heritage Commission to establish a Battlefields Route. Work is now starting. “We aim to include Griqua and Anglo-Boer War history,” says Professor Doreen Atkinson. The battles of Swartkoppies (1845) and Boomplaats (1848), the Boer incursion of the Cape Colony, The Third “De Wet Hunt”, battles and skirmish sites as well as towns, such as Colesberg, Burghersdorp and Aliwal North, that were occupied, will be included. Concentration camps at Springfontein, Bethulie, Norvalspont, and Orange River will be on the route as well as places [...]
ATTENTION ALL BOER WAR BUFFS Exciting plans are on the cards to host an Anglo-Boer War weekend at Matjiesfontein. It will be held in The Lord Milner Hotel from April 7 to 9. A “boutique collection” of top speakers will present a series of talks on various aspects of the war. Among them will be the eminent historian, Dean Allen, author of Empire, War and Cricket and an authority on “old Matjiesfontein”. He will lead a walking tour around the village during which visitors will be allowed to explore some of the unique Victorian buildings, many of which have fascinating [...]
ON THE MOVE AGAIN I am on the move again. This time to our family farm, Chez Nous - which means home - 60 km south of Bloemfontein. There my youngest sister and I have built a lovely, two-bedroomed wooden cottage and hopefully will be living in it towards the end of January, with sheep, cattle, and donkeys as our nearest neighbours. Preparing to go has not been easy as we have had to pack up the memories of all who lived in this huge old family home. Everyone who has ever been part of this house seems to have [...]
SUCCESSFUL LAUNCH FOR THE YEOMEN Yeomen of the Karoo, the story of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein, was successfully launched at the Richmond Book Festival in October. One of the authors, Dr Arnold van Dyk gave talks in town and at the actual hospital site where there was a great deal of interest in the ruins of the old Adamstein Hotel and the two graveyards. This occasion was turned into a celebration by Mark Borrie, of Hawksmoor wines Paarl, who sponsored a wine tasting in the front yard of the once elegant old Yeomanry Hotel. Festival organiser Peter Baker [...]
PRINCE ALBERT TAKES THE GOLD Gold medals went to two Prince Albert farms in the 11th Annual South African Olive Association award presentations in September. Kredouw Olive Estate won a gold medal for its Frantoia oil, as well as silver medals for their Italian Blend and Favalosa oils, while Fred and Hein Badenhorst of Prince Albert Olives were awarded a gold for their Karoo Blend. This well-balanced, soft, medium-style extra virgin olive oil is blended from a seasonal selection of Frantoia, Leccino, Coratina, Barnea, Dor Carlo, Koroneiki or Favolosa cultivars. Fred and Hein also grow figs, grapes, pomegranates and citrus [...]
ART BOOK HIGHLIGHTS RESTORED HOPE Professor Brenda Schmahmann’s new book, The Keiskamma Art Project - Restoring Hope and Livelihoods, will be launched in Johannesburg on November 30. Pre-launch copies of this excellently illustrated book can now be ordered from Print Matters. “The book, the first to be devoted to this project, is a definitive and authoritative resource covering the project’s extraordinary achievement,” says Print Matters creative and publishing director, Robin Stuart-Clark. He explained that the Keiskama Art Project was started by Carol Hofmeyr, in 2000 to provide opportunities for hundreds of people in the little Eastern Cape village of Hamburg. [...]
BEAUTIFUL NEW BIRD BOOK A new and beautifully illustrated bird book, entitled Levaillant’s Legacy – a history of South African Ornithology, has just been released. Written by emeritus professor W Roy Siegfried, it pays tribute to the French author, François Levaillant, a noted ornithologist, explorer, naturalist and zoological collector, who visited South Africa in the 1780s. He described many new bird species, and several are named in his honour. He was among the first to use colour plates as illustrations. Opposed to the binomial nomenclature introduced by Linnaeus he preferred instead to use descriptive French names such as the bataleur [...]
KAROO PARLIAMENT CANCELLED The 3rd Karoo Parliament, which was to have been held in Laingsburg in September this year, has been indefinitely postponed. “Several factors, beyond the control of the organisers, have led to the Trustees approving this decision,” says Professor Doreen Atkinson. YEOMEN SOLDIERING ON Yeomen of the Karoo, the story of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital, near Richmond, is now in its final stages of production. “Working on this incredible story of a unique hospital, never seen before, nor again, was a fascinating journey,” say authors Rose Willis, Dr Arnold van Dyk and Professor Kay de Villiers. “While working [...]