Dr Dean Allen’s long-awaited book, Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa: Logan of Matjiesfontein, is to be launched in early April. The book, published by Zebra Press, explores how James D Logan, Laird of Matjiesfontein, and one of SA great entrepreneurs, established a health resort for the rich and famous in the far-flung Karoo, as well as how he developed and promoted cricket from this remote spot, despite gathering clouds of war. A unique social and political history, this well-researched biography looks at life in the late 1800s as it tells the story of the origins cricket in South Africa. It discusses one of the first international matches between South Africa and England at Matjiesfontein; explores the controversy surrounding the 1901 SA cricket tour to England and reveals how Logan had the captain and manager of the English team arrested as he boarded a homeward bound ship. The book is spiced with tales of Cecil John Rhodes and shady deals which brought down his government. Available at recognised booksellers at the cost of about R290. It promises to be an excellent and exciting read. Dr Allen is a senior lecturer at Bournemouth University and recognised expert on sports history and sociology. He began delving into this story in the mid-1900s while researching sport during the Anglo-Boer War for a Master’s Degree and lecturing at Stellenbosch University and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology


Jackie and Craig Thom have just completed a two-part saga of this family in South African. Simply entitled Thom this is a major biography of Scottish missionary, George Thom, followed by a collection of stories of other family members who also settled in SA. Part one includes some never-before revealed facts, corrects some previously published errors, and dispels the misapprehension that all Thoms are of Scottish descent – many have German ancestors. It describes day-to-day lives of some family members and how they were affected by local and general historic events. It explores why people left their homelands to emigrate to South Africa. It tells of the skills they brought with them, the work they did, discusses how slavery affected them and speculates on the family’s DNA. Many Thoms served during the world wars, some were taken prisoner, one helped escort thousands of Italian POWs to South Africa. The books cost R395 each, including postage and packaging.


Anton Anreith, who was born in at Riegel, near Freiburg in Breisgau, Baden, Germany, on June 11, 1754, came to South Africa in 1777 as a Dutch East India Company soldier. He became the Cape’s finest, Baroque artist and his exceptional work on the pulpit of the Lutheran Church in 1780 led to him being commissioned to carve an ornate pulpit for Cape Town’s Groote Kerk and another for Richmond’s neo-Gothic DRC in the Karoo in1847. Anreith died on March 4, 1822. Now in Cape Baroque and the Contribution of Anton Anreith historian, Dr Hans Fransen, investigates to what extent, Anreith’s work and the surprisingly rich body of Cape Baroque material can be linked to the style that spread across Europe, as a response to the strictures of Calvinism in Catholic countries. After an interesting account of the origins of the Baroque in Italy and its spread to other countries Fransen concludes that “Cape Baroque forms part of this international development but retains its own distinctive characteristics”. Published by Rapid Access, Stellenbosch, this book costs R275. 


A fascination with xerophytes (plants that grow in extremely dry conditions) began as a hobby, turned into an obsession and ended as The Giant Flag. It all began 35 years ago when Graaff-Reinet lawyer, Johan Bouwer, began collecting cacti and succulents, writes Heather Dugmore in Country Life, August 2010. A few interesting and unusual plants soon became Obesa, a privately-owned nursery and that also grew until it today has one of the largest collections of xerophytes in the world. The nursery is named in honour of Euphorbia obesa an extraordinary succulent, indigenous to the Graaff-Reinet area, and which, at the time, was almost extinct. “These plants are fascinating and mysterious,” says Johan’s son, Anton, who inherited his father’s love of xerophytes and began collecting as a very young boy. “We still have a great deal to learn about dryland plants. I find each one beautiful, unique and captivating.” Anton now heads the nursery and annually cultivates thousands of plants. Obesa, the nursery behind the creation of S A’s Giant Flag near the Valley of Desolation in Graaff-Reinet, specialises in conservation and propagation of rare and endangered species from South Africa and many other countries. The nursery’s vast collection has encouraged medicine men and healers from across the world to visit. “Most people gasp when they see our huge variety of plants, but the stock we have here is only the tip o the iceberg. There are over 650 000 known species of cacti and well over one million species of succulents in the world,” says Anton.


Kokkedoor star, Chris Greef, who recently moved to Prince Albert, has brought a “Royal touch” to town, states The Olive Branch. He once worked in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace and also, at palaces of other royalty across Europe. Now that he has made the Karoo his home, he is offering cookery classes at African Relish. Some say attending simply to hear his anecdotes is well worthwhile. Chris also serves light meals at the restaurant’s Open House on Wednesdays.


Prince Albert is to open a POP – Path out of Poverty – centre early in April. This programme, which has shown positive results across the Western Cape, is designed to enhance the lives of young children and teenagers. POP is a very long term holistic and integrated programme, generally covering 20 years and made up of 17 different child focused projects. Some start before the child is born. The programme reaches out to expectant mothers and young potential parents and continues creating safe spaces for children through adolescence into early adulthood. The programme, started at Goedgedacht in the Swartland in 1998, was most successful. Since then it has been replicated in many other poverty-stricken rural communities.


The ever-popular Calitzdorp Port and Wine weekend is being expanded into a whole month of festivities. Research has shown that visitors need more than a single weekend to enjoy the town and surrounds, says co-ordinator Joey van Tonder, so a full programme has been planned from June 13 to July 19. Local cellars Axehill, Boplaas, Calitzdorp Cellar, De Krans, Du’SwaRoo, Peter Bayly, TTT and Withoek, will all offer tastings, food and wine pairings, as well as many other activities. Calitzdorp’s excellent ports are widely acclaimed. Experts say that port grape varieties prefer a hot, dry, climate and poor, but well drained soils, such as are found in the Calitzdorp area, where the climate is said to be quite similar to that of the Douro Valley in Portugal. In these conditions the grapes struggle to ripen, and oddly this is very suitable for port. Calitzdorp also has an impressive range of red wines made from their port cultivars. These will be showcased during the festival.


In February,1831, several newspapers carried the colourful tale of a farmer who was killed while resisting arrest. The whole saga began when a constable arrived at William Fletcher’s farm, near the Fish River Mouth, on January 26, enquired whether there were any firearms in the dwelling, unloaded one handed to him, and then presented a “warrant for Fletcher’s apprehension”. It was signed by Mr Currie, Justice of the Peace at Bathurst, and it stated that a 14-year old girl had charged Fletcher with a “heinous offence”. Fletcher, however, was not home, so the constable set off in the hopes of encountering him on the road. He found Fletcher at the home of Charles Baylie, Provisional Field Cornet, and tried to arrest him. Fletcher resisted saying he “first needed to go home and put his affairs in order”. An hour later, however, he had made no move to leave, so the constable decided to proceed with his duty. “He exhibited a pair of handcuffs and threatened to put Fletcher to the inconvenience of wearing them,” stated The Albany News.


Fletcher leapt to his feet and “assumed a fighting stance when the constable tried to seize him”. He rushed into a bedroom, where firearms and a sword were kept, and held the constable and his men at bay. Baylie leapt to the assistance of the constable as soon as he “Perceived the perilousness of the situation and noticed that Fletcher had an instrument of death in his hands,” reported the S A Commercial Advertiser. A shot rang out. Fletcher was hit but ran from the house “uttering most violent imprecations”. He got only a short distance away before falling to the ground “mortally wounded”. He died a few hours later. “The circumstances of this melancholy catastrophe have led to controversial opinions,” stated the S A Commercial Advertiser reporter, adding that he failed to understand how four able-bodied men were unable to apprehend one man. He conceded that the “deceased was powerful, resolute, desperate, not well educated, quick tempered and the possessor of wild, violent and unbridled passions.” The reporter concluded that perhaps it was “the accusations which might affect his liberty, even his life”, which triggered Fletcher to react in the way he did, yet, he wrote: “The situation could have been more delicately handled way if cool deliberation had been exercised, but sadly the matter is now beyond the reach of human law.”


Barend Erasmus, an Eastern Cape/Karoo farmer, was struck by bad luck in mid-October 1841. He was away from his farm on October 14, seeking fresh grazing for his stock, when burglars struck at his home, cutting the riem (leather thong) with which he had secured his door and breaking into a chest belonging to Trader Foreman. They carried off most of Foreman’s goods including about three dozen guns. Foreman had left his “stock” with Barend for safekeeping as he intended selling the guns to outlying farmers. “There is always a ready market among these people,” he said. The police arrived with a tracker, who found fresh spoor of two barefoot men, but lost this at the place where they crossed the drift. Oddly enough Barend’s own guns – he had five in the house – were not taken. At the time of going to press with its October 21 issue, The Cape and Frontier Times reported it had no further news on this case.


The Cape and Frontier Times reported a robbery at a Grahamstown butchery on November 2, 1843. The burglars gained entry to Mr. Ford’s shop, in Bathurst Street, by forcing open a window. They made off with knives, loaves and a few coppers left in a drawer, but took no meat, stated the newspaper. A great deal of damage was done by dogs that later crept in and devoured a sheep’s carcass and other meat in the shop. On the same evening vandals broke through the thatch roof of the slaughter house at the back of the building and spoiled many carcasses by hacking them up. Again, oddly almost no meat was taken. Were these the same burglars? No one could say. The local constable felt this was simply an act of vandalism or a hate-crime against Mr Ford.


When Ignatius Stephanus Ferreira died suddenly at the age of 54 on April 15, 1844, he was sadly missed by family and a large circle of friends in the De Staden’s River district of Uitenhage. Ignatius had been ill for about five months, yet his death was unexpected, and he was widely mourned because he was such a great source of information, stated The Cape and Frontier Times of May 16, 1844. Ignatius, a great reader, was “possessed a most retentive memory and strong powers of mind, which he had cultivated by perusal of the best Dutch authors,” stated the newspaper. “He had acquired a large fund of intelligence and was acquainted with both the facts and chronology of history, to an extent not often met with in those possessed of scholastic attainments,” wrote the reporter. “Ignatius was also distinguished by his love of animals and a spirit of generosity and hospitality that was almost unbounded. He displayed this not only to his own countrymen, but also to strangers, especially those in want of assistance, and to English residents in the neighbourhood, as all will abundantly testify.” Ignatius left a widow and eight children.


International rugby union and rugby league football star, Gert Wilhelm ‘Tank’ van Rooyen, was born in Steynsburg on December 9, 1892. A well-known lock, in his day, and at times called ‘George’, Tank was a popular player. He appeared for South Africa in two rugby union tests in 1921 before leaving for England in 1922, at the age of 29, to play rugby league for Hull Kingston Rovers. This team won the 1922/23 league championships. Tank joined Wigan in November 1923, and went on to win the Challenge Cup in 1924, as well as two Lancashire League titles in the two following years. He spent six years at Wigan, appearing a total of 178 times for the club. In 1929, Tank joined Widnes on a free transfer, as the club’s first overseas player and in 1930, he won his second Challenge Cup in a shock 10–3 win against St Helens. Tank continued to play for Widnes until his retirement in 1933. He died at Runcorn in the United Kingdom on September 21, 1942.


A driver of a span of oxen, peacefully travelling along the old Cape Road suddenly found himself in an awkward predicament states the July18, 1896, issue of the South African Weekly Journal. The man did not realise that the road ran along within the borders of the Free State for a distance of about 4,8 km. At the time rinderspest was rife. So, hardly had he crossed into that section when his cattle were seized and carried off by the Free State authorities who feared his oxen might introduce animal sickness to their province, stated the newspaper.


On their wanders across the country Karoo experts Chris and Julie Marias discovered a “tortoise lady” in Somerset East. Gia de Goede, formerly lived in Hermanus, but a love of angling brought her and her husband Andre inland in 2012 in search of “trout and yellowfish in the waters”. While in Hermanus Gia worked for Animal Welfare and was involved with much animal rescue work. There she discovered that tortoise shell can heal, so she developed a method using disinfected gauze and netting to create a “new shell” for creatures injured on the road while they waited for their own to repair itself. If the break is bad she also uses with Plaster of Paris or sometimes Pratley putty to cover the damage and allow the shell to regrow. “Tortoise shell grows back very well.” says Gia “It takes time, but within a year or two, you can hardly see that the animal was injured.” Once the tortoises have recovered Gia releases them back into nature on a nearby farm. In addition to their interest in fishing the couple are also keen bikers. Roaring down a country road on their Harley Davison increases their sense of freedom. They have developed a special bag to transport any injured tortoise that crosses their path when they are out exploring the byways.

If you have no wounds, how can you know if you’re alive? – Edward Albee