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 tissue samples of mounted museum exhibits. It was a painstaking and slow process. Eleven new plains quagga from this breeding project are being resettled in the Karoo. The young animals were recently delivered to the Karoo National Park near Beaufort West, where everything possible is being done to help them naturally adapt to life on the veld.
DIE IERSE REBEL VAN DIE KAROO
Die verhaal van die Anglo-Boereoorlog avonture van Kaapse rebel Kommandant Edwin Conroy is onlangs weer vrygestel. Die stoRIe, deur Sep Smidt, onder die skuilnaam Adriaan Roodt, het oorspronklik in 1945 as ‘n vervolgverhaal in die Burger verskyn. Dit is op persoonlike onderhoude gebaseer. Edwin en sy broer Andrew is in Hanover gebore. Hulle familie het oorspronklik van Ierland gekom en hulle in die Karoo gevestig. Daar is nog afstammelinge in die gebied en onder hulle is Andrew Conroy van Biesiespoort in Victoria-Wes. “Die twee broers was baie groot, sterk en aantreklike mane – hartebrekers van hulle dag – maar ook uiters koppig. Soos dit maar met Ierse families gaan, het die twee glo tydens die oorlog met mekaar haaks geraak en het eers weer in 1936 met mekaar gepraat,” se Andrew.
POOR OLD CHAP HAD ARTHRITIS
An early indigenous Karoo dweller will soon reveal details of his life and times to researchers in the modem world. Last year heavy rains washed away part of a riverbank on the farm Leeufontein in the Murraysburg area and revealed the skeleton of a hunter gatherer or pastoralist buried in a sitting position. Initial investigations, carried out by archaeologist David Morris of the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, have now been taken a step further by a physical anthropologist, Professor Alan Morris, no relation to David, but a colleague and friend. Alan Morris recently visited the site with a team of nine students from the Anatomy and Cell Biology Department at the University of Cape Town and excavated the skeleton, which was virtually complete. This formed part of a practical field trip that will now be followed up with in-depth analysis and radio carbon dating. Once they have completed this a full report will be compiled. At present all they can tell is that the skeleton is that of a very old man and riddled with arthritis.
MAN OF GOD IMORTALISED KAROO
A sickly youth sent to the Karoo for health reasons, immortalised the area in an adventure novel, and also rose to become a highly respected Baptist minister in South Africa. Joseph John Doke, born into a family of religious workers and missionaries in Chudleigh, Devonshire, England in 1861, suffered from a bad chest and nagging cough. In the hopes of a cure, his family decided to send him to the Karoo as a missionary. He loved the area and eventually settled in Graaff Reinet, where he established a Baptist church in 1882. The fresh, clean air revitalised him to such a degree that he decided to travel to India to further his religious studies. But he left his heart in the Karoo and soon returned to marry Agnes Hannah Biggs, an energetic young lass who fully supported all his efforts in ministeries in England, New Zealand and back in South Africa, where he was elected President of the Baptist Union. A highly respected man, greatly loved by his congregation, he was also a gifted and spirited orator. His heroic efforts saved the Baptist church of South Africa from financial ruin. In 1913, he wrote an adventure novel entitled “The Secret City – A Tale of the Karoo”. It was so popular that he wrote a sequel “The Queen of the Secret City” in 1916. A talented artist, Joseph John illustrated his own work. In 1909, he wrote “M K Gandi – an Indian Patriot in S A”. It was the first biography of Gandi, with whom he was closely associated and whom he nursed in his own home. He also edited Gandi’s journal, “Indian Opinion”. Joseph John died at the age of 52 on his way home from Lambaland where he was setting up a chain of mission stations to link South Africa to the Congo.
MURRAYSBURG MAN EN DIE KINDERBYBEL
Lank voor Afrikaans offisieel as kerktaal gebuik is het ‘n voormalige Murraysburger, Willem Johannes Conradie, ‘n kinderbybel in die jong taal geskryf. Tans nog in gebruik, het dit is eers as “Bijbel geskiedenis vir ons volk” in 1912 verskyn. Conradie is in 1857 in Murraysburg gebore en het as dominee in die Karoo en Namaqualand gedien. Hy was ook ‘n bekende skrywer vir Die Burger. ‘n Reeks sketse wat hy in 1915 vir die koerant geskryf het was so gewild dat hulle in 1943 in boek vorm onder die titel “Sketse uit die Boerelewe” uitgegee is. Die bundel, ‘n top verkoper, is propvol herinneringe van sy lewe as platteland predikant en beskryf ook heelwat ou gewoontes wat met die jare verdwyn het.
PRINTED ERROR BRINGS AUTHOR TO KAROO
By 1857 Robert Michael Ballantyne was a popular author of adventure stories for boys and had an envied job in a publishing house in Scotland. But then disaster struck. An inadvertent factual error in his most famous work, “The Coral Island,” embarrassed him so greatly that he decided never again to write anything unless he could base his work on personal experience. He resigned his job and started to travel. The call of Africa was strong, and 1879 saw him in Cape Town bound for the Eastern Cape. His trip took him through the Karoo and he captured much of its magic in adventure stories, as well as in a series of articles entitled “Letters to Periwinkel”. In total Ballantyne wrote more than 80 books before he died in Rome in 1894.
KUNSWERK VAN VISSKUBBE EN FLUWEEL
‘n Pragtige stuk handwerk uit die vorige eeu, wat in Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prins Albert uitgestal is, word nou as uniek en waardevol beskou. Professor P Grobbelaar van die Universiteit van Stellenbosch het kuratrisse Lydia Barella vertel dat die borduurstuk wat in spierwit visskubbe op rooi fluweel uitgewerk is, iets besonders is. Die kunstige werk is deur Annie Oosthuizen van Zwartskraal gedoen voor sy met Oosthuizen Marincowitz getrou het. Sy het visskubbe gekook tot dit sag en spierwit was en dan elkeen afsonderlik soos kraalwerk op die ontwerp vasgewerk.
HAIR RESTORER, THE KING AND THE CAT
The search for platteland products and the attendant marketing innovations seems endless. In 1902, a Beaufort West resident, Vungadoo Sammy Naidoo, developed a hair restorer “guaranteed to cure baldness”. Thinking big, he decided to send a sample to King Edward VII of England, who “could not fail to be impressed with it”. The problem was how to get a sample to the King. Naidoo appealed to local businessman Walter James Kinsley for advice. Kinsley wrote to Prime Minister Sir Gordon Sprigg for “guidance on the route to follow.” A courteous reply came from Mr Sydney Cowper, Secretary to the Prime Minister. It stated that “while the motives were truly appreciated, it was not possible for the Monarch to accept gifts from private individuals”. Vungadoo was not happy. So, he wrote to Cowper from his Donkin Street address, entreating him personally to accept a sample, which “indubitably would be as successful as it has been in every case”. At the foot of this letter, now in the Cape Archives, Cowper wrote a terse note to his clerk: “Tell Mr Naidoo I am quite satisfied with my present crop of hair and that the PM is well provided with his own.” As an aside he added: “We might, of course, try it on the offis (sic) cat”. A later marginal note states that “No sample came to hand”. Cape Town historian Dr Arthur Davey discovered this gem. “I wonder what ever finally happened to the hair restorer,” he said.
EEN MANIER OM ‘N LEER TE KIES
In 1880 het die Kaapse Koloniale Regering die owerhede in Beaufort-Wes laat weet dat hulle 114 soldate nodig het, maar om mee te begin sou 50 manne genoeg wees. Die dorpsvaders het eenvoudig elke man se naam op ‘n stuk papier geskryf en in ‘n hoed gegooi. ‘n Beroep is toe op `n mnr Paisley gedoen om 50 name te trek en ‘n mnr Whiteley moes hulle noteer. Volgens ‘n berig in Die Courier is almal verstom hoeveel oues en ongeskiktes daar onder die 50 was.
FOSSILS ON TV
The tiny fossil museum on Zwartskraal farm on the Beaufort West/Oudtshoom road recently featured in a TV documentary on Karoo fossils. Considered the best privately-owned exhibit of its kind in South Africa, this museum was created by amateur palaeontologist Roy Oosthuizen. Many of his discoveries have brought world renowned palaeontologists to the Karoo. Among these was a fossilised Blastoid, an ancient starfish-shaped sea creature, named Brachyschisma oostheizeni in his honour. He considers this his most important discovery. Roy Oosthuizen also discovered the oldest fossil in the southern hemisphere, a mammal-type reptile that roamed the Karoo 250-million years ago. A specialist in Karoo fossils, Roy Oosthuizen has written several papers on his finds. Also on display at Zwartskraal are artifacts, found on the farm, dating back to the earliest hunter gatherers. Prince Albert is now to honour his research by creating the Roy Oosthuizen Fossil Exhibition in the Fransie Pienaar Museum. Displays will be professionally mounted by a team of experts headed by Dr Roger Smith, head of palaeontology at the South African Museum.
NAVORSING IN ‘N KERKHOF
Prins Albert se toerisme beampte, Inge Mynhardt, bring deesdae baie tyd in die kerkhof deur. Sy is besig om opnames te maak van ou grafte. “Die dorp se eerste kerkhof het in 1884 tydens ‘n vloed verspoel en omtrent at die kopstene het verlore gegaan. Die begraafplaas is toe gelyk met die grond gemaak en ‘n nuwe kerkhof is by Perdedraai begin. “Volgens oorlewering was ‘die vader van Prins Albert’, Samuel de Beer, in die eerste kerkhof begrawe, maar baie min is daaroor bekend. Daar is nietemin heelwat interessante grafte in die ander begraafplaas. “ In een hoek is ‘n kindergraffie van ‘n seun van landdros J N P de Villiers. Sy ander seun het as landmeter gekwalifiseer, en hom op Beaufort-Wes gevestig en jare lank in die Karoo gewerk ”
MATOPPA NOW PART OF COUNTRY ROUTE
Beaufort West’s Matoppa Country Inn is one of 12 tourist venues which have joined forces to form the newly-launched Cape Country Route. This project, brainchild of Gert Lubbe, a partner in Matoppa and D’Ouwe Werf Country Inns, was introduced to the Press, tour operators and travel agents, just before the Easter Weekend. Aimed at the self-drive tourist, its objective is to encourage visitors, particularly from abroad, to explore some of the most beautiful scenic routes between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Along the way they can enjoy stopovers at charming, individually-owned, romantic venues, each with a character of its own. The route is rich in culture and history. Many of the venues, including Matoppa Country Inn, are National Monuments. Among others are the Alphen Hotel in Cape Town, d”Oude Werf in Stellenbosch, Mimosa Lodge in Montagu, and the Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet. These establishments encourage visitors to relax in luxurious surroundings, while enjoying traditional hospitality and cuisine. Stopovers can be combined with ecological explorations of the Winelands, Karoo or Eastern Cape. “Response has been excellent,” said Gert. The route will also be marketed at Indaba in Durban in May.
KAROO IN DIE KAAP
Besoekers aan die Kaap kan egte Karoo gasvryheid in ‘n Wynberg gastehuis ontdek. Eienaar Eugene Buchner het ‘n groot Iiefde vir die Groot Karoo en in die dae toe by nog onderwys gegee het, het by elke skoolvakansie en talle naweke in die Beaufort-Wes en Rietbron areas deurgebring. Sy gastehuis, Terra Cotta Gardens, Wynberg, het net vier kamers en is gebaseer op persoonlike diens. Daar is heelwat Karookuns in die huis, vygies in die tuiin en ‘n werkstuk van Outa Lappies, van Prins Albert, heet besoekers welkom by die deur.
ANGLO-BOER WAR ENTHUSIASTS MEET
Representatives of the Anglo-Boer War Commemorative Planning Committees held a combined co-ordinating meeting in Cape Town recently. Special events, exhibitions, the creation of maps, and a variety of tourist routes as well as a gala ball were discussed. The War Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein is off to a good start with a three-day seminar, “The Afrikaner Perspective of the Anglo-Boer War,” from May 29 to 31 this year. Talks will cover life on commando, music during war, medical and surgical practices, as well as many of the battles. The Kimberley Society will hold its Expo from October 8 to 10, also with many interesting talks and battlefield visits. In the Western Cape Province some aspects of the war will be discussed at a conference in Saldanha on September 21 and 22, this year. And, in the pipeline is an international conference at the Castle from October 4 to 9, next year. A variety of routes through the province and neighbouring areas of interest are being planned and will be published with a map indicating all historical sites. The Western Cape Tourism Board will involve all its tourist bureaus so as to enable visitors to combine their interest in the war with ecological tours.
VIR BLOKHUIS ENTOESIASTE
Belangstellendes in die Anglo-Boereoorlog sal binnekort ‘n Blokhuis Roete deur die Wes-Kaap kan volg en so ook geskiedenis met eko-toerisme kombineer. Die Sentrale Karoo Distrikraad is tans besig om agt van die strukture in hulle streek to herstel vir die honderdjarige herdenking van die oorlog. Die blokhuise het oorspronklik deel van die De Aar-Paarl blokhuislinie gevorm en moes volgens kontrak binne ses weke deur drie kontrakteurs voltooi word. Maar hierdie sperdatumns vas heeltemal onrealisties, en die bou van elke blokhuis het maande gevat. Entoesiaste sal Johan Hafting en Andre Wessels se boek, “Britse Fortifikasies in die Anglo-Boereroorlog (1899 – 1902)”, van groot nut vind op die roete. Dit is van die Oorlogsmuseum in Bloemfontein verkrygbaar.