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 serial murderer. Calitzdorp Cameos is well illustrated and easy to read. In fact, for anyone interested in the hinterland, houses and history, it is difficult to put down. The tiny Calitzdorp Museum, that encouraged Malan to capture all these stories, must be congratulated. This institution is so small that it has neither e.mail nor phone, so for more info contact its chairman Neil Currie (phone above). The book, which is also available in Afrikaans, costs R350 plus postage.


A project has just been launched to conserve what is said to be the world’s rarest and most threatened snake – the Albany Adder. These seriously threatened, critically endangered tiny creatures are endemic to only a very small region in the Eastern Cape and their existence has only recently been confirmed. Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) who, in partnership with Rainforest Trust is running the project, says that the continued existence of these adders is threatened through habitat destruction and poaching. They are also highly sought after by international exotic pet traders. Sadly, these small adders are very difficult to keep in captivity and most will die within a short while of being removed from the wild. Activities such as cultivation, forestry plantation, urbanisation, and sand-mining for the cement industry, also threaten their survival. Since their initial discovery in the 1990s, only 12 of these adders have been officially recorded. The adder is not on the critically endangered list because it was thought to be extinct.

Note: Until now the rarest snake in the world was the Caribean’s St. Lucia Racer – only 18 to 100 exist.


Cradock is gearing up to celebrate its 5th Karoo Food Festival in April. This popular event takes place from April 27 to 30 and, as ever, the programme is jam-packed. It includes a market with some interesting and different stalls, lunches, farm visits, demos and a great deal of entertainment. This is the place to be if you love good food, people, socialising and the Karoo.


You can always trust the Karoo to come up with something different. New Bethesda is hosting a Pumpkin Palooza – a special day for pumpkin lovers. This will take place on April 15 and it promises to great fun. There will be pumpkins galore, a street market, good food and music by Big Lights, Big City. Entry is free. All the organisers ask is that you come along and enjoy yourself. This is a beautiful part of the Karoo and there are some unusual things to do, like visit the Owl House or The Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre and take a guided fossil walk along the river bed. Browse in Dustcovers, the local bookshop, where there are treasures to discover, pop in to Ramstal, the local pub for a chat and some refreshment or visit the First People Khoisan Art Centre . The energetic may enjoy a 4 x 4 route or perhaps try out the Compassberg Hiking Trail. This delightful, picturesque little village, at the foot of the Sneeuberg, is one of the Karoo’s hidden gems. Only 50 km from Graaff-Reinet and reached along a breathtakingly picturesque mountain drive, the village, home to internationally known South African playwright, novelist and actor, Athol Fugard, was founded in 1875 and named by the Reverend Andrew Murray. It attained municipal status in 1886.


Charl Frederich Wuras, was destined to play a major role as a missionary in South Africa. He is credited with setting the Berlin Mission Station, Bethany, on its feet and for starting a second station at Pniel. His name lives on in the Tierpoort area, 50 km south of Bloemfontein, in a tiny railway siding, Wurasoord, was named in his honour and at the farm, Herzberg, named for his birthplace in East Prussia. Wuras, also known as Charles Frederick, was born on June 9, 1809. A conservative, orthodox, stern, pious, pedantic and paternalistic man, he was 27 years old when he arrived at Bethany, 65 km south of Bloemfontein and 20 km north of Edenburg, in May 1836, to minister to the Korana people. He stayedfor for 50 years. In order to best communicate with them he learned their language !Ora and within five years was using it fluently in his church services. He also wrote an !Ora catechism. Wuras married twice – both times in the Karoo. His first wife Johanna Sass, daughter of a London Missionary Society (LMS) man, Christopher Sass, might have had a Griqua mother, says one of her granddaughters. The Wuras wedding took place in Graaff-Reinet on July 25, 1838. After Johanna died 11 years later, on July 19, 1849, Wuras married Elizabeth Harriet, eldest daughter of Reverend Mark Rogers Every, of Colesberg and his wife, Elizabeth (nee King). Elizabeth was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England on November 29, 182l and she was 29 when she married Wuras in Colesberg on November 19, 1850. The ceremony was performed by Reverend C E H Orpen. Elizabeth and Charl had two children, William Henry, who was born on October 20, 1851, and Elizabeth Marianne , born on December 8, 1854. Wuras’s second wife died on July 12, 1889. Her parents seem to have come to South Africa because her father, is listed as having died in Burghersdorp in 1885. He is buried there.


Wuras, who came from a middle-class background, was strongly influenced by the pietism of the Lutheran church and deemed self discipline to be essential. He strove to instill this in his converts about whom he, from time to time, had many disparaging things to say. He arrived at the mission station in 1836 shortly after the original five missionaries sent to serve in South Africa by the Berlin Missionary Society (BMS) were recalled or dismissed after a series of disputes and power struggles. They were Rheinhold Theodore Gregorowski, Johannes Schmidt, August Gebel, August Ferdinand Lange and Gustav Adolf Kraut. They arrived at the Cape on April 17, 1834, and, on the advice of the Rhenish Mission Society, travelled in to the interior intending to work among the Tswanas. On their route northwards Martha Gregorowski, Karoline Gebel, and Lange’s wife decided stayed on in Beaufort West. One or more of them might have been pregnant at the time. Their idea to serve the Tswanas did not materialize because on arriving at the LMS station at Philippolis, on August 26, 1834, they were persuaded by Reverend G A Kolbe to start a mission for the Kora (Korana – a Khoi khoi community) at Brandewynsfontein, alongside the Riet River, in the southern Free State. When they agreed to do this Adam Kok II allocated five acres of land to them for the purposes of starting a mission, states Piet Erasmus, from the Free State University Department of Anthropology, in an article Wuras’s complicity in the construction of the colonial Korana through his knowledge of !Ora. (S A Humanities, August 2012.)


Early missionaries faced many problems. The work was a challenge of faith and hope pitted against divergent lifestyles, cultural disparities, differing etiquette and thought patterns as well as a variety of viewpoints. Language barriers, disinterest, wavering work ethic and a constantly fluctuating flock, did not help the situation. Yet the missionaries relied on the Lord and soldiered on despite sometimes having to resolve problems which, at times, were nothing short of hilarious. On a visit to the interior in August 1839, James Backhouse, stopped at the Bethany Mission Station where he found some of the missionaries busy building a brick chapel because the one which they had constructed from reeds and grass had been eaten a few days earlier by a herd of hungry cows.


At almost this same spot a British soldier wrote to his father on May 26, 1900, mentioning that the Free State climate was a challenge. He said it the quick changes from searing heat to extreme cold were trying. “It is awfully cold here now. We have not seen the sun for five minutes in 30 hours. When I am working, I am compelled to wear a flannel shirt, pajama jacket and woolen sweater under my tunic. Now I am writing with my great coat on and am still somewhat chilly. On freezing nights, one needs at least five thick blankets to keep warm, but there is an advantage – the cold kills the flies and in this country they are a perfect pest.”


In 1859, while as the Bethany Berlin Missionary Station Carl Frederich Wuras wrote a special book for Sir George Grey, then governor of the Cape Colony. It was entitled An Account of the Korana with a description of their Customs, and it was considered to be a very thorough work at the time. Sir George commissioned artist, Charles Bell, to illustrate this work. Bell did a series of pen and ink drawings, depicting Korana people in their daily lives. These illustrations, which were of exceptional quality, demonstrated Bell’s creativity, says E Rankin, in Museums and the Politics of Culture. While serving as governor of South Australia, New Zealand and the Cape of Good Hope in the mid 1800s Sir George was an avid collector of art, artifacts and books. As he moved about between England and his various postings, he donated items to public libraries and museums. The only problem was that Sir George was not always too careful to donate items that he had collected in specific countries to organisations within those countries. As a result, many items from South Africa ended up in Auckland, Australia. Some were repatriated, others were lost.


While serving as governor at the Cape from December 1854 to August 1861, Sir George accumulated many San, Khoi, Xhosa and Zulu cultural items. He took these with him to New Zealand in 1861 and in 1887 donated most to the Auckland Public Library and Art Gallery. The ‘ethnographic’ objects found their way to the Auckland War Memorial Museum in 1915 and are still there, says E Rankin. In South Africa Sir George befriended many indigenous leaders in his efforts to secure peace. This proved successful as no wars broke out during his tenure as governor. He formed alliances with Xhosa chief Faku, also Sandile and Sareli of the Galecka, Moshesh in Basutoland (now Lesotho) and Mpande in Zululand. He befriended Andries Pretorius, leader of the Free State Afrikaners, and Dr Wilhelm Bleek, a German linguist. Bleek, was the first curator of the Grey collection at the South African Library in 1860. He also documented Sir George’s his first donation of books and art to Cape Town. Sir George also knew artists such as Thomas Bowler, Thomas Baines and Charles Bell, the Cape surveyor-general. When Baines returned from his trip into Africa with explorer James Chapman, he presented a variety of gifts to Sir George, so did missionary explorer David Livingstone and Dr John Fitzgerald, Superintendent of the King Williams’ Town hospital. From time to time both sent gifts to him in New Zealand.


In 1879 rhubarb was considered a treat. The Cape and Natal News of February that year stated that Mr Upjohn on Somerset East was advertising for sale plants of this “new and wonderful plant”. It added that Mr Hart of Glen Avon, had for some time been supplying his friends with seeds from this delicious vegetable. The newspaper mentioned that gooseberries, currants, and cherries had long been successfully cultivated on Glen Avon and that Mr Hart often sold timber, cut from gum trees on his estate, at the Somerset Fair. The Kentish and Black Heart cherry trees, which had been sent to the Colony by Mr. Vetch of Exeter, had done particularly well in this area. The newspaper added that the fruits of Glen Avon were unequalled in the Colony, and that no expense or trouble has been spared to bring them to perfection. “Glen Avon may be well considered a model farm and worthy of a visit. Iron mills have long been in use, and lately one of Westwood and Sons patent mills and stones have been worked with success by Mr Hart, junior. Generally speaking the district is rich and getting richer. Iron roofs for houses, mahogany furniture, pianos and such things are all the go now, as wagon chests and veld stoeltjes rapidly go out of fashion,” concluded the report.


The Ostrich Crawl Mountain Bike Experience is scheduled to take place in Oudtshoorn on April 15. The choice of routes includes a 55km ride, a 35km route and a15km route. There is also a 5km fun run or walk More from – Corné (073 194 2948) or Stephanie (073 659 7980). The Redstone Mountain Bike and Trail running weekend takes place at Buffelskloof, Kruis River, Calitzdorp on May 12 and 13. This includes an 11km night ride and run across 60km, 43km, 17km routes as well as an 11km fun ride, a 20km trail run, and 11km or 5km walk or run followed by potjiekos. Next day there will also be a “plaasbasaar” (farmers market) and a beer garden in which to socialise. For more Experience the challenging, scenic, rugged three day, 156km ride through breathtaking Baviaanskloof on May 25, 26, 27. First day – 60km, 2nd day – 46 km, 3rd day 50km.


A man, born in Richmond on October 18, 1885, went onto be described as South Africa’s “most brilliant geologist”. He was Percy Albert Wagner. His parents, John and Bertha (nee Hoffa), both of German origin, came from a long line of musical and medically talented people. John, who claimed to be able to trace his roots back to the famous composer, Richard Wagner, was descended from the surgeon/ bandmaster of the Duke of York’s Regiment, which arrived in South African from London in 1805. Percy’s mother’s side also included some well-known medical men. His grandfather, Moritz, was the village doctor and his uncle (Bertha’s brother Albert) was considered to be the father of modern orthopaedics. A popular, internationally-known medical practitioner and teacher, Albert established the first private unit in Germany, for orthopaedics, physiotherapy and massage and gave his name to the Hoffa’s fracture, a curious complaint associated with the fat pad behind the knee.


Percy studied mining at the South African School of Mines, at the South African College in Cape Town and passed the first mining examination of the University of the Cape of Good Hope in 1904. When mining studies were transferred to the Transvaal Technical Institute in the following year Percy then moved to Johannesurg to continue his studies. He passed his second examination there in 1905 and in 1906 was awarded a Diploma in Mining Engineering and a BSc in Mining Engineering. He then went to Germany to study further for his doctorate at the Technical School in Dresden, the Royal Mining Academy of Saxony in Freiberg and the Rosenbusch Institute for Petrology at the University of Heidelberg.


Percy returned to South Africa and taught geology at the Transvaal University College in Pretoria. He joined the Geological Survey of the Transvaal and became a consulting geologist and mining engineer. He carried out many mining and mineral surveys, in South Africa and wrote many papers. One, The diamond fields of southern Africa, was for many years considered to be the most thorough and comprehensive study of the geology of the country’s diamond mines. When South Africa took over the administration of German South West Africa (now Namibia) in 1915 the government commissioned Percy to report on the mineral resources of the territory He left the Geological Survey in 1927 to become a consultant to the Union Minerals Exploration Syndicate in Johannesburg. He died two years later of enteric fever, pleurisy and pneumonia. He was only 44 years old. He was an extremely hard worker and he maintained the highest professional standards. During his relatively short career Wagner produced three books, seven Geological Survey memoirs, and over 100 papers


Not all Wagner’s work was in economic geology, however. He provided a comprehensive description of The Pretoria salt pan for which the University of Cape Town awarded him a Doctor of Science (DSc) degree in 1922. This work included a detailed account of the various saline deposits on the crater floor. He concluded that the crater was the result of volcanic action, but this theory was later rejected in favour of a meteorite impact. Wagner’s interests also included the plants associated with different geological formations, prehistoric stone artifacts, and prehistoric smelting operations. He presented the University of the Witwatersrand with a valuable collection of prehistoric mining implements, smelter appliances and metal work. His interests extended to the living human populations of the regions he visited, particularly their games and pastimes.


Wagner became a member of the Geological Society of South Africa in 1905, served on its council from 1910 to 1929. He was elected president in 1916. In that same year he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa. By 1906 he was a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, serving as president of Section B in 1918. Around 1927 he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of London. For some time before his death he was associate editor of the Journal of Economic Geology. In his obituary in the Geological Magazine A.L. du Toit described him as South Africa’s “most brilliant geologist, unselfish in character, charming in manner, enthusiastic in discussion, and friendly in debate”. In 1922 he married Ida van den Berg, with whom he had a son and a daughter.

We have too many high sounding words and too few actions that correspond with them – Abigail Adams