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.

 

 

Rose’s Round-up February 2007 No 157

ESSENTIAL PIECE OF THE PUZZLE FOUND A prehistoric human skull, found in the Karoo, has proved to be a missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle relating to human evolution. The skull, found in the mid-1950s in an erosion gulley near Hofmeyr, 70km north-east of Cradock, in the Eastern Cape, has only recently been dated and the information it provided caused ripples of excitement in scientific circles. It provided a vital “missing link” in the fossil record showing modern people originally came from sub-Saharan Africa and migrated to colonise Europe and Asia 30 000 to 40 000 years ago. “This [...]

Rose’s Round-up January 2007 No 156

EXPLORE ANOTHER DRY LAND Ever wanted to find out more about Namibia? Well, here’s your chance. The Friends of the South African Museum in Cape Town are planning an eight-day natural history tour to south western Namibia from April 23 to 30. This tour, led by Dr John Almond of Natura Viva, will focus on diverse aspects of Namibian landscapes, geology, fossils and plant life. Plenty of time will be allowed for exploring the veld rather than simply sightseeing from along the roadside. “The trip starts and ends at the Namibian border and concentrates on the area between the [...]

Rose’s Round-up December 2006 No 155

NEW KAROO BOOK IN THE PIPELINE Touws River-based photographer and author, Jonathan Deale is writing a book on the Karoo. Published by Struik it will be available next year. The Karoo so captivated Jonathan when he moved to the Touws River area a few years ago, that he acquired ground, started the Gecko Nature Reserve and began to photograph and study the region in depth. “For me the lure of the Karoo lies not only in its uniqueness and the special aspects of each little town and village, but in the very challenge of determining where it actually begins and [...]

Rose’s Round-up November 2006 No 154

RIVERINE RABBIT SPOTTED FAR FROM ‘HOME’ A riverine rabbit research team recently found some of these critically endangered creatures far from their normal habitat. This caused great excitement as these rabbits (Bunolagus monticularis) now seem to have a wider distribution range than scientists interested in their conservation previously believed. Fifteen riverine rabbits were spotted in total during a week-long field survey undertaken by 21 researchers from CapeNature and the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Riverine Rabbit Working Group (EWT-RRWG). The rabbits were recorded in the Ceres Karoo, as well as in the Klein Karoo’s 54 000 ha Sanbona Wildlife Reserve and on [...]

Rose’s Round-up October 2006 No 153

MEN OF THE MENDI HONOURED The almost forgotten story of the sinking of the SS Mendi is now being told en-masse in Britain by a dramatic documentary. This film, entitled Let Us Die Like Brothers, was screened for the first time at the South African High Commission in London, at the start of October to launch Black History Month at British Schools. The film, which highlights the role played by Black South Africans during WWI, is due for release in South Africa, next February, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi. When the Mendi was [...]

Rose’s Round-up September 2006 No 152

BIG PLANS FOR 100TH ANNIVERSARY Hanover’s Dutch Reformed Church celebrates its 100th anniversary in October this year. The congregation has great plans to make this a memorable event and hopes to encourage travellers of the N1 to pause and toast this occasion with them. This little town, which prides itself on being exactly half way between Johannesburg and Cape Town, was established on land bought from Farmer Gous in 1854. It was called Hanover in honour of his forebears who came from Germany. The first church, a humble little structure, was built in 1857 and Thomas François Burger, who later [...]

Rose’s Round-up August 2006 No 151

OLD AIRSTRIP BACK IN BUSINESS Matjiesfontein airstrip has been re-opened. Several private flights from around the country have already used this airstrip, which has been out of action since it was destroyed in the Laingsburg flood. Somehow its restoration never seemed to be a high priority on anyone’s agenda. Then Alan Veasey, a pilot who flew for 23 years, bought Rietfontein farm and decided to turn it into a Private Nature Reserve. A deserted airstrip on his doorstep made no sense, so he took a closer look and discovered that it could be resurrected. Alan’s enthusiasm rubbed off on David [...]

Rose’s Round-up July 2006 No 150

DISCOVER THE KAROO’S NATURAL HISTORY Discover the secrets of the Great Karoo - book now and explore the unique natural history of this fascinating arid zone at Rietfontein Private Nature Reserve, near Matjiesfontein. The first trip, from August 10 to 13, is a three-day and three-night programme of veld walks and talks, led by Dr John Almond. These cover a wide spectrum of Cape and Karoo natural history with topics ranging from rocks and fossils through soils, climate and ecology to archaeology and the glorious Karoo night skies. Veld walks each day explore the diverse natural attractions of the Rietfontein [...]

Rose’s Round-up June 2006 No 149

‘MANNA’ RE-ISSUED Manna in the Desert, Alfred de Jager Jackson’s special book on the Great Karoo, is being reprinted. The new, better illustrated, hard cover edition, which includes a dust jacket and additional background material, will be launched in Beaufort West in August. No changes have been made to the style and spelling of the original text. The man behind the project is Alfred’s great grandson, Craig Elstob. “Like him I love the Karoo,” said Craig. “I visited Bakensrug and Kamferskraal, the farm where he was born, and where he spent the first 20 years of his life and, thanks [...]

Rose’s Round-up May 2006 No 148

RARE FOSSIL EXCAVATED IN THE KAROO The fossil found on Niël Rossouw’s farm België, near Prince Albert, last July, has turned out to be a rare one. Professor Bruce Rubidge of the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research in Johannesburg, who was invited to assess the fossil, has identified it as a Nochelosaurus. These were huge reptiles that lived on the floodplain of an ancient Mississippi-like river that once flowed across this part of the Karoo. Only three other specimens of this species have ever been found worldwide. One is in the Smithsonian Institute. It was sold to this museum [...]

Rose’s Round-up April 2006 No 147

LAINGSBURG FILM EN ROUTE TO CANNES There is an air of beauty, pathos, drama and hope in the latest film to be made in the Karoo. In many ways this short 15-minute film, Vloedlyn (Floodline) captures the dynamics of the Great Karoo. Loosely based on welknown artiste Antoinette Pienaar’s myths and legends of the Karoo, it tells the story of the Laingsburg flood at three different levels – before the flood, later in 1990s and lastly in the modern day, when two young travellers meet on a desolate road. Behind this production is highly-talented young musician and composer, Braam [...]

Rose’s Round-up March 2006 No 146

PLANS FOR ANOTHER WINNING OLIVE FESTIVAL Prince Albert’s ever-popular Olive Festival will keep the village buzzing from May 5 to 7 this year. As always it promises to be a winner with many interesting stalls offering intriguing and unique items. Among them will be stalls with home-made preserves and fresh produce. Food stalls, as ever, will hold a special appeal for “city folks” and there will be a range of cultural and traditional taste treats to explore. Of course, the restaurants, bistros and coffee shops in the village will not be outdone. They are already planning some different dishes and [...]

Rose’s Round-up February 2006 No 145

KAROO VELD REPUBLISHED A second edition of Karoo Veld Ecology and Management is being published. This well-illustrated, 224 page, full-colour book, edited by Karen Esler, Sue Milton and Richard Dean, is available in English or Afrikaans, from Briza Publications. It costs R169-95. Karoo Veld outlines veld management and assessment approaches for a wide geographical area of arid South Africa, ranging from the vygie veld of Namaqualand, through the Great Karoo to the grassier parts of the eastern Karoo. The book is designed to assist practical and ambitious land users to apply ecologically friendly veld management techniques and to evaluate the effects of [...]

Rose’s Round-up January 2006 No 144

HIPPOS RETURN TO KAROO AFTER 230 YEARS It is claimed that the last hippopotamus in the Great Karoo was shot on the banks of the Zeekoei River, near Hanover, in 1775. Now, after 230 years, three hippos have been given a new home on New Holme Guest Farm, 8km north of Hanover. December 13 was an emotional day for farmer PC Ferreira when a truck pulled onto his farm after a 14-hour journey from Mpumalanga. The doors opened, black snouts appeared, and one sniff of Karoo air was enough. With eyes squinting in the sunlight, a hippopotamus bull, cow [...]

Rose’s Round-up December 2005 No 143

NEW BOOK CAPTURES SPIRIT OF PRINCE ALBERT The spirit of Prince Albert is captured in a book launched by the village’s own Writers’ Guild. Some time ago the many writers who live in Prince Albert formed this Guild. In time the beauty of the village, its location and the magnificence of its surroundings inspired ten members, all experts in their own fields, to write this book that captures the flavour of the town. Prince Albert – Kweekvallei covers the rock art, early indigenous inhabitants, fresh mountain water in irrigation furrows, the town’s unique architecture and its exceptional and eccentric people. [...]

Rose’s Round-up November 2005 No 142

RABBIT RESEARCHERS REPORT EXCITING FINDS A highly successful search for riverine rabbits has delivered exciting news. Some of these creatures seem to have settled down and started breeding in the wild. A team of 25 researchers recently scoured a huge area of the Central and Klein Karoo between Touws River and Montagu, as well as part of the Ceres Karoo to discover the status of this critically endangered species. They reported rabbits near Touws River and Ceres. During a two-day search on Slangkrantzrivier/Keurfontein farms near Touws River seven riverine rabbits were sighted. This is the furthest south that these animals [...]

Rose’s Round-up October 2005 No 141

GREAT KAROO REVEALS ANOTHER SECRET The Karoo has shared yet another secret. “An extremely rare fossil, a magnificent specimen of a Conulariid, was recently found on Vyevlei, about five kilometres from town,” says Prince Albert palaeontologist Judy Maguire. “Oddly enough local Ds Eddie Scheffler also recently acquired two similar specimens, but is unsure of their provenance. The Conulariid is a totally extinct group of organisms. They left no living descendants. Way back when they were alive, the whole African continent lay much further south (the South Pole was close to present-day Bloemfontein). Strange life forms evolved in the cold climate [...]

Rose’s Round-up September 2005 No 140

NEW ROCK ART BOOK REUNITES PEOPLE AND PLACES A new book on rock engravings has just been launched. Entitled "My Heart Stands in the Hill," this beautifully illustrated, full colour coffee table book, written by well-known archaeologists Janette Deacon and Craig Foster. All engravings in this book were all done by the /Xam San people who lived in the Kenhardt, Brandvlei and Van Wyksvlei districts of the Upper Karoo. “The book draws on the myths, legends and folklore of the /Xam people written down in the 1870s by Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd,” says Janette. “To express the strength of [...]

Rose’s Round-up August 2005 No 139

PART OF THE ANCIENT WORLD REDISCOVERED AT LEEU GAMKA The fossilised remains of a complete dinocephalian, with an unusually long tail, have been found in the Central Karoo. It was discovered on a Leeu Gamka farm by labourer, Hendrik Mans. Its discovery sent ripples of excitement travelling through the palaeontological world and scientists are scheduled to visit the site shortly to evaluate it. There was a time, way back when the earth was young and the Great Karoo a primeval swamp, that these giant creatures trampled unconcernedly about in this area. They splashed in the waters at the edge of [...]

Rose’s Round-up July 2005 No 138

LAINGSBURG LINK WITH TOP MUSIC INSTITUTE The sonorous tones of a Karoo Dutch Reformed Church organ started a Laingsburg lass on a musical career that has now landed her a top job. Nicolette Solomon, an internationally-known string specialist, who was given her first music lessons by her father, Melvyn van der Spuy, once the Dutch Reformed Church organist and music teacher in Laingsburg, has been appointed executive director of the Suzuki Institute of Dallas (SID), Texas, USA. She spent her childhood in the Karoo, enjoying all the freedom that only a small South African hinterland town can offer. In time [...]