The ever-popular Karoo Food Festival takes place in Cradock from April 26 to 28. This year’s programme includes delicious taste treats from boerekos with a twist to some exotic fare, say the organisers. Highlights will include a braai, excellent craft beer, two-day food market, tastings, demonstrations and master classes will cover preserving, pickling, salami and carbanossi making, ferments, such as kambucha, kimchi and kefir, soft cheeses, such as feta and halloumi, and homemade farmstyle breads. Spicey food with health benefits will be discussed. Special menus will be on offer at six partner restaurants. This festival is set to be a friendly, tasty, “laid-back” event with fine coffee, gin bars, live music and much more on offer. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy farm-hopping, a trail run and mountain biking. For more contact


On April 5, 1900, at the height of the Anglo-Boer War, a 16-year-old Belgian anarchist tried to assassinate the Prince of Wales, because of “the dreadful slaughter he was causing in South Africa”. The lad, Jean-Baptiste Victor Sipido, a tinsmith’s apprentice, leaped into the Royal compartment as a Denmark-bound train, carrying the heir to the British throne and his wife, started to pull out of Brussels-Noord Railway Station. Brandishing a cheap pistol he fired four shots. Two went wild, one grazed the Prince’s head and lodged itself in the seat between him and the princess. The fourth, says researcher, Dulcie Ashdown, embedded itself in the bun of a lady in waiting. Sipido was wrestled down by station master, Charles Crocius, and some railway personnel, writes Michael Kemp in Bombs Bullets and Bread. He was arrested and tried, but acquitted “because of his age”. The court felt “he had acted without discernment” and was “not legally responsible”. This caused an uproar across Britain. The House of Commons called it a “grave and most unfortunate miscarriage of justice”. The only casualty on that day was a student named Van Roy who was attacked by the crowd in the mistaken belief that he was the assailant. A cartoon by John Tenniel, entitled “Stain on the Belgian Flag” appeared in Punch Magazine. On his release Sipido fled to France. Edward VII’s biographer, J Pendrel Brodhurst, said the Prince later requested a bullet as a souvenir. Sipido’s parents are said to have written to Queen Victoria.


During the Anglo-Boer War, Sergeant Sandford, of the Victorian Bushmen’s Contingent, was recommended for the Victoria Cross after displaying great gallantry in the Zuurberg region of the Northern Cape. While his unit was under fire in this mountainous area he, together with three other Victorian, rode out to rescue a comrade who had fallen from his horse. Sergeant Sandford brought the man to safety by helping him onto the horse that he was riding. He then galloped away, with bullets flying everywhere, as the Victorians were surrounded by “an overwhelming number of Boers” stated the Brisbane Courier of April 10, 1901.


During the Anglo-Boer War was an extremely dangerous for Colonists to join the Boers. One Victoria West lad, Boy de Bruin of Abrahamskraal, learned that to his cost. He rode off from the family farm and just vanished, never to be heard of again. He was only 16 when he stole a neighbour’s horse and rode off to join the commandos. Fifty years later his younger brother, Hugo, then in his late sixties , told the story to Dr Taffy Shearing. He said his parents thought Boy had been drowned in the Orange River, but that it was only a guess. No one ever found out what became of him. “It was very foolish to ride out alone looking for a commando,” said Taffy. “There were deserters on both sides who were desperate for a fresh horse. 

Find Rose’s Round-up back issues and stories


When the bottom dropped out of the ostrich feather market in 1914 one of Oudtshoorn’s best known ostrich barons quite suddenly “died”. He was 51-year old, Clanwilliam-born James Alexander Foster, a real high roller, who lived in one of the most opulent “palaces” in town. Never short of cash, James entertained lavishly and his magnificent mansion was designed to show off his vast wealth. In 1902 he commissioned Charles Bullock, one of the most popular architects of the day, to design this house for him – it was to be the only double-storey “palace” in town. Today it is a guest house and Bullock’s original plans are displayed in the breakfast room. The house features local dressed sandstone, burned bricks, mesh plastered panels, stained glass windows, fanlights and door panels, exotic encaustic ceramic verandah tiles, plenty of teak and papier mâché embellishments. A superb flight of stone steps, cast-iron railings and false gables graced the facade. In 1907, the municipal valuation was £10,500. Local legend has it that both James’s wife, Oudtshoorn-born Antoinetta Christina (nee Le Roux), and his mistress lived in the mansion. In separate wings, of course.


James’s second daughter, Annie Cornelia, the apple of his eye, had one of the grandest weddings till then ever seen. Reporting on the ceremony, on September 20, 1912, The Oudtshoorn Courant of stated “it was a very pretty affair” and that the “deftly decorated St Jude’s Church was filled to capacity”, because no invitations had been sent out. The Foster’s announced “everyone was welcome” and almost everyone came. The groom was National Bank manager, John Clark MacLaren and Annie, the Belle of Oudtshoorn, was his second wife. His first wife, Scottish-born Margaret Farmer Warden, had died two years earlier at the age of 32. The officiating priest, Archdeacon Atkinson, was assisted by the Reverend R Murray. Miss Morris played the organ and the bride, who looked “quite exquisite”, given away by her father. Both she and her mother carried bouquets – “real gems of floral art” – made by Miss Gussie Van der Spuy. After the ceremony everyone went to the Foster residence to toast the couple with “bumpers of champagne”. The couple then left in Foster’s motor car for his beach residence at Hartenbosch Strand, near Mossel Bay, and then on to Cape Town.


James was a canny fellow. When the market collapsed and bankrupted the barons, he was not around to face the music. He hid from his creditors in the cellar, had a coffin filled with sandstone fragments and on April 18, 1914, arranged for news of his sudden death to be circulated and for a funeral to be held. His ruse was never discovered, and he was never seen again. He was, however, such an arrogant man that, it was said, he attended his own funeral in disguise. The Standard Bank took over the property and in 1915 sold it to the educational authorities who turned it into a Teachers’ Training College, a Girls’ Hostel for the Commercial School and then a school. In time it fell into disrepair, was evacuated, but later restored by the Van Der Stel Foundation.


Among the town’s other “palaces” is Welgeluk, the stunning homestead, on Safari Ostrich Farm. It was built in 1910, and named “Good Luck” by the farm owner, a Mr Olivier, to boast of his good fortune. However, his luck turned. Disaster struck, four years after the house was completed. The feather market fell and he too was bankrupted. For this beautiful sandstone house, with its false turrets, he imported roof tiles from Belgium, floor tiles from Italy, stained glass windows and doors from Holland, columns from Greece, woodwork from India and fireplaces from England. It 18 rooms and three bathrooms, one of which has a giant bath which can hold about 1 500 liters of water. All the palaces have their tales to tell. One, became a bridal boutique, another the home of a beauty queen, and yet another, a clinic. The doctor never left. His ghost is still seen roaming the rooms at night, searching for his love, a beautiful nurse who fled when she got pregnant to avoid a scandal. She “fell” from cliff at Mossel Bay – suicide, murder, who knows? The Polish orphans, who were brought to South Africa by General Jan Smuts during WWII, were also housed in one of these beautiful mansions.


Australian troops acquitted themselves with distinction in the Karoo in 1900. The North Eastern Ensign, from Benalla, in Victoria, reported that a large force of Boers, who attacked Noupoort, were opposed 100 Australians and two guns. The force included the Victorian Mounted Rifles, under Captain McLeish, the New South Wales Infantry, under Captain Legge, and the South Australian Rifles under Captain Howland. Fighting continued throughout the day. The Australian’s, firing was well directed and effective. The Boers were forced to retire.


Professor Izak Wilhelmus van der Merwe wrote under the pseudonym Boerneef. Born on May 11, 1897, on the farm, Boplaas, in the Ceres district of the Cold Bokkeveld, he was the son of Carel Petrus van der Merwe and his wife, Eliza (nee Lubbe). Izak received his basic education at a school on the neighboring farm, Houdenbek. He matriculated from the local high school in 1914, then went farming for a year before enrolling at the University of Cape Town, from where he graduated in 1918 with a BA degree. He then went to Holland to study for an MA degree. On returning to South Africa he taught for a while and, the poet, N P van Wyk Louw was one of his pupils. He went on to lecture at Cape Town University and during this time was a frequent participant in Afrikaans radio programs telling stories of general farm life, planting, harvest time, spirituality, customs, habits of “the old world, the trekboers and of Cold Bokkeveld farmers who took their stock to the Karoo in search of grazing,. His friends encouraged him to write these down and in time they were published in Die Huisgenoot. Izak contracted tuberculosis in 1919 and was forced to spend some time in a sanatorium, but after several months, completely recovered. He was awarded the W A Hofmeyr Prize in 1956 and the Hertzog Prize for poetry (posthumously) in 1968.


Izak became a widely acclaimed writer, poet, lexicographer and academic. His wrote short stories and prose until the age of 61, when he began concentrating on poetry which he referred to as “volkspoësie” (poetry for the people). Musician Louis van Rensburg used lines from three of his poems as the lyrics for Voshaarnooi. The song became popular as the theme song for the television drama Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling. He was one of only a few Afrikaans writers who could capture “realism” and “fantasy”. He managed to set himself apart from the bigger issues of life and focus on small communities, simple lifestyles and small village life. His work was greatly appealed to the common man. He married Marie Roux, daughter of the Anglo-Boer War general, Reverend Paul Roux, on May 6, 1924. They had one child, Carl Peter. After Marie died of cancer on August, 27, 1940, Izak married Annie de Kock, on October 31, 1941. She died of cancer on May 9, 1943, at the age of 35. He then married Francina Alida (Fannie) Jordaan, widow of J J Jordaan, and mother of illustrator Willem Jordaan. Izak died in Cape Town on July 2, 1967, and his ashes were strewn on Boplaas.


The rock formations of the Great Karoo intrigue tourists. They attract photographers to places like Meiringspoort and the Karoo National Park, where magnificent examples of the Karoo Supergroup of rocks can be seen. These include the Dwyka Formation, Ecca and Beaufort Groups. The Dwyka, which records about 120 million years of geological history, is the lowest and oldest deposit. It indicates the edges of the Karoo Basin, once a deep glacier filled sea, which extended across much of southern Gondwana. As the glaciers floated out and “calved” they produced icebergs, which melted and dropped sediments on to the sea floor as a rain of “rock flour” – stones and pebbles. This now appears as a grey material in the rocks. The specks which appear to be lichen are the remains of boulders. This deposit is up to 1 000m thick and can also be seen in areas around Prince Albert, Matjiesfontein, Laingsburg, Sutherland, Worcester, Calvinia, Carnarvon and Kimberley. The Ecca, the second of the main subdivisions of the Supergroup, comes from a vast, but shallow sea. It reaches around 500m, which was its deepest part in the Tanqua areas. The rocks of the Ecca Group first appear near Sutherland and continue east through Laingsburg, Prince Albert, Jansenville and Grahamstown. Deposits are also found near Britstown, Petrusville and Hopetown. The Beaufort Group overlies the Ecca Group and consists of alternating mudstone (red in places) and sandstone. In the park dolerite sills and dykes can also be seen. There is a picturesque dolerite sill along the Klipspringer Pass on the way to the Rooiwalle lookout point.


Eskom power cuts do not phase Willowmore. The Blackstone Power station at the southern end of town still has an engine which can supply the municipality’s requirements, if needed. In its heyday this tiny power station’s six Lister Blackstone diesel engines supplied all of the town’s needs. They worked until 1984. The engine, which is still in working order, uses 20 liters of fuel an hour when it is switched on.

Note: The International Tourism Film and Video Festival Africa will take place at the Apollo Theatre in Victoria West from November 20 to 24 2019


The Anglo-Boer War was hard on horses. They represented one of the greatest tragedies of the conflict. The horse was essential to action and to victory, but number that were killed was unprecedented in the history of modern warfare and the “wastage” of animals was unbelievable. The British Army needed around 520 000 horses to support the largest mounted force it had ever mobilized. These had to be transported 10 000 km from across the Empire, Europe and America to South Africa. Horses were poor sailors. Around 4% – over 14 400 – perished at sea, among them valuable cavalry horses. While at sea horses were compelled to stand in stalls for weeks. They were unable to roll or lie down. The stalls were poorly designed, difficult to muck out and aeration was inadequate. The horses stood in decaying dung and urine, the constant motion of the ships badly affected their legs, and sometimes, because of insufficient fodder, they starved to death. One poignant photograph shows a limp horse being swung from the deck of a ship to the dock in Port Elizabeth. The voyage, noise, poor food and dismal conditions had been too much. He simply fainted. After landing there was no acclimatization period. Horses arrived incapacitated, bewildered, dehydrated, malnourished, with severely compromised immune systems, but were sent immediately to the front in the middle of a South African summer.


Between October 1899, and May, 1902, the army lost over 320 000 horses and 50 000 of its 151 000 mules. It had expected to lose about 60% in combat or as a result of maltreatment. This loss was, however, described as a “holocaust” by Frederick Smith, who qualified as a vet and joined the army in 1876. He came to South Africa on November, 1899, and stayed until 1905. Some regiments were more badly hit than others The 6th (Inniskillings) Dragoons lost 26 out of 130 horses to pneumonia, injuries, “seasickness and exhaustion”, while the 10th Hussars lost 18 shortly after leaving England due to “heavy seas”. Later two-thirds of their mounts drowned in a shipwreck, states author Stephen Badsey. General French’s men were said to have ridden 500 horses to death in a single day, in their effort to relieve the Siege of Kimberley. There are accounts of some battles where horses were shrieking in pain as bullets tore into them and of them breaking legs as they struggled to pull supply wagons in rain and mud. The cost of keeping the army supplied with horses was more than twice the original estimated amount. The cost of buying a horse rose from between £10 or £20 to between £30 to £50 each, with a good cavalry horse at times costing £70. The Imperial Army entered the conflict with the idea that a mere 125 cavalry horses and 250 mules per month “would do”, however, as requirements escalated the British Army’s Remount Department, which annually bought only about 25 000 horses in peacetime, was referred to as a “scandalous failure”. An unknown number of donkeys, and about 70 000 oxen, also died on this war.


Keeping the horses supplied with fodder was a nightmare. Grazing was scarce and sparse. South African horses ate both oats and mealies. New Zealand horses, however, would not touch mealies – they ate only oats – and Australian horses ate mealies but not oats. Many found the British manner of bridling strange and upsetting. In the second and third years of the war, horse sickness resulted in 5,700 fatalities. There were other strange ailments, like a mysterious “tongue illness” which spread from the American imports. Mange, a highly communicable disease, was also rife. During the war there were around 27 300 cases of mange. In 1901 12 000 horses were infected with glanders and had to be put down. Strangles (an infectious disease of the respiratory system) and equine influenza, both triggered by the stress, and compounded by vulnerability and poor hygiene, took their toll. Pneumonia, “sleeping sickness,” biliary and tick-bite fever, to which South African horses were partially immune, also took their toll. A less documented cause of equine mortality was simply bad horsemanship. At the end of the war there were practically no horses left in South Africa, states R C Bester.


The Naudesberg Pass should not be confused with the more famous Naudes Nek Pass. Naudesberg, which connects Graaff Reinet to Middelburg, was constructed by Andrew Geddes Bain in 1858. Naudesnek, which connects Maclear to Rhodes, was created by farming brothers, Gabriel and Stephanus David Naude, who was said to have been the first person to cross at this point in an ox wagon. They started in 1895. Heavy snowfalls, during the Anglo-Boer War, stopped work and the pass was completed in 1905 under the direction of engineer Alfred Bain. The old wagon route can still be seen in places. In the middle there is a public telephone that can’t make calls, but which offers a good photo opportunity.

To succeed in life you need three things – a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone – Rebecca McEntire