Rhino conservation comes under the spotlight at the Royal Geographical Society Spring Talk in Kensington, London, on April 2. Three top South African experts, with roots in the Eastern Cape, will address the delegates and detail some of the horrors of rhino poaching. Their theme will be Creating a Rhino Stronghold. The key speaker is Dr William Fowlds, the wildlife veterinary surgeon educated in Grahamstown and Onderstepoort, who set up the ARCC (African Rhino Conservation Collaboration). Its main aim is to co-ordinate effective action against poaching. Will’s passion for conservation stems from his childhood in the Eastern Cape where his fifth-generation family farm was combined with neighbouring farms to create the Amakhala Game Reserve, in the Greater Addo Frontier Country, near Grahamstown. Widely known and internationally respected, Will travels across the world giving personal testimony of his studies at this reserve and others in the province. He shares the brutal reality of poaching and his efforts to bring rhinos back from the brink of death. Among his stories is the sad tale of Thandi, who with three other rhinos, was badly disfigured in 2012. She survived thanks to Will’s care. Also on the programme is his assistant, a dedicated young man, Siseko Mayinje, who was born on July 3, 1988 and raised on a farm, which became part of the reserve. He is a 4th generation member of a Xhosa family which still lives and works on this land. From humble beginnings at a local farm school to which he walked 5 km every day and the same distance home, he went on to study nature conservation and later to qualify as a commercial fixed wing pilot. He is now a key member of the anti-poaching team. The third speaker is Lindy Sutherland, who founded The Kariega Foundation out of a desire to contribute to the sustainable conservation of wildlife and the upliftment of local communities surrounding the Kariega Game Reserve.


Plans are well underway for the Karoo Food Festival in Cradock from April 24 to 27. This is a true hinterland “kos and kuier” festival with plenty of music and some very good food. Visitors will meet folk who produce, prepare and serve regional and seasonal taste delights in the Karoo. Some new wines, beers and a trendy white rum will also be available this year and there will be many free demos, plus affordable master classes for the true food fundis For those who would like a bit more local flavour there is a farm hopping excursion on Friday and, for sports enthusiasts, there’s a 7s rugby festival and the Swaershoek Mountain Bike Challenge. More mountain bike trails and obstacle courses can be enjoyed at Sanctuary Guest and Adventure farm where guests can pick pecan nuts. And, if nuts are your thing, you pick walnuts at Lowlands farm where rubber-ducking on the Great Fish River, is a main attraction. On Saturday night local restaurants will offer Karoo-themed menu at a set prices. More from or


If festivals are your thing there or if you’d simply like a break, consider a hinterland festival. The Afrikaburn Festival for those with a creative flair takes place in the Tankwa Karoo from April 27 to May 3 ( Food is on the cards at the Elgin Cool Wine and Food Festival on May l & 2, the Prince Albert Plaaskombuisfees (May 1 & 2 – and the Riebeeck Valley Olive Festival (May 9 & 10). Those who like a bit of liquid refreshment might enjoy the Graaff Reinet Stoep Tasting on May 28 & 30 For bibliophiles there’s the Franschhoek Literary Festival (May 16 & 17) and the Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival in Cradock, June 4 to 7 Then there’s “a sensational boutique festival” known as the Wolfkop Weekender Cooked Sister or Alice’s Adventures at Matjiesfontein (June 5 to 7) ( and Calitzdorp Winter Festival as well as a Vetplantfees


At the end of the 1800s wristwatches were generally only worn by women. Known as wristlets they were thought to be too delicate for men, who anyway considered them to be poor timekeepers, states jewellers Mappin and Webb. Men preferred pocket watches because they were robust fashion statements, decorative, had large easy-to-read dials which could be flipped open while wearing gloves and the beautiful heavy gold chains that hung across a waistcoat were considered most elegant. The German Navy was a forerunner of “military” time pieces. They fitted pocket watches with leather straps so that they could be worn on a sailor’s wrist. By the time the Anglo-Boer War broke out Mappin and Webb was selling “campaign watches” with leather straps.
They were introduced because pocket watches “had a major drawback – a free hand was needed to ‘operate’ them.” Fumbling around to see the time could cost a life when under fire, they said and added that these new timepieces were essential when co-ordinated attacks were necessary. Campaign watches, which cost £2/5/- each, could be delivered duty free to the front for an extra shilling. Said to be “absolutely dust and damp proof”, they became popular because they had oxidised steel cases and were reliable timekeepers even in rugged conditions.


The story of smoking goes back to the Portuguese who brought tobacco from Brazil to West Africa in the 1700s. Tobacco rapidly replaced the local hemp and dagga. Van Riebeeck’s journals mention pipes being used for trading. Cornelius Hendricks, a Dutch tobacco expert arrived from Amsterdam in 1719 to investigate growing it at the Cape, but found the soil unsuitable. He abandoned his trials in 1722 when the plants were destroyed by the weather states an article on the history of tobacco in The Sunday Mail of December 21, 2014. Merchants soon set up businesses to serve foreign soldiers who brought the “fashion” of smoking to Cape Town. At the end of the 1700s a French regiment introduced “seegars” and snuff. English officers from the Far East also favoured these habits, so in the early 1800s tobacco cultivation began at Stellenbosch, Paarl, Swellendam, Graaf Reinet and Uitenhage. On September12, 1801 the first tobacco advertisement appeared in the Cape Town Gazette when Walter Robertson & Company who advertised “cheroots captured from an enemy ship”. By June, 1818, locally made cigars were being advertised and by 1814 smoking was firmly established across the country.


By the mid-1800s the public began to complain. In 1837 the Beaufort West Municipality, became the first public authority to launch an attack against smoking. According to the South African Commercial Advertiser they gazetted regulations announcing that “anyone walking in the street with a lighted pipe or cigars would be liable to a penalty up to £5 and not less than 5 shillings”. This did not dampen spirits and, by 1845, a huge tobacco industry had developed in the Eastern Cape. By 1851 Eastern Cape farmers were exporting tobacco. (By 1904 Oudtshoorn alone produced a gross output of 1 214 324 lbs and the return of leaf per morgen on well-worked land was 3 000 lbs.) The anti-smoking lobby continued. The first recorded fine against public smoking was made in 1859 when two people were fined for lighting pipes in the street. By 1881 several Jewish immigrants, among whom were Kovno-born cousins, Nathan and Canard, entered the market. In 1855 they became the first locals company to manufacture cigarettes using American and Turkish tobacco. There was no machinery, so production depended upon the skills of manual workers, mostly girls. They hand-roll the cigarettes in shocking working conditions. A cigarette-makers union sprang up and became one of the most militant trade-unions in S A. Smoking became fashionable among the ladies of Cape Town who smoked publicly on the trains. Not everyone, however, enjoyed the aroma of tobacco and, by October 25, 1884, the Cape Government Railways introduced special smoking compartments. Female smokers often outnumbered men and frequently evicted males from these. Nine years later the first recorded workplace smoking regulations in S A came into being when legislation was passed to prohibit smoking during business hours at all public offices.


Charles Lennox Stretch Brown, fondly known as Charlie, was born in King William’s Town in 1862 to Herbert Howard Brown and Maria Susanna Wilhelmina (nee Hart). He was named in honour of Irish-born Charles Lennox Stretch, locally known as “Xolilizwe” (“peacemaker”), who came to the Cape in 1819 to participate in the defense of Grahamstown. Charlie made a name for himself as a humanitarian, philanthropist, government surveyor and prominent member of Parliament. Charlie married Cornelia Adriana Hester Maria Kruger. They moved to Maclear after their 10 children were born. After his death on April 9, 1921, it was discovered that he had signed their joint Dutch will with an X because he was going blind.


Ox wagons played a pivotal role in South African history. Men like John Dunn and Sir Percy Fitzpatrick made their livings as transport riders. From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s these tough, sturdy, wooden, transport vehicles encouraged individual entrepreneurship. These men were kings of the road and their wagons central to the country’s economy, opening of the hinterland and search for independence. The wagons, pulled by teams of between 12 and 19 oxen, carried loads varying from two to four tons across the hinterland. Their cargoes included produce, firewood, bricks, grain, forage, vegetables, hides, skins, timber, coal, wood, stone, groceries, furniture, fuel, cement, soap, sugar, corrugated iron, tanks, timber, pipes, poles, barrels, and the paraphernalia of war. Then came the railways. However, during the first 30 years of rail transport, the wagons continued to link the ports to inland destinations, says Gordon H Pirie in an article entitled Slaughter by Steam.


Wagons were in great demand after the discovery of diamonds and gold. “In 1882 the four main diamond mines in Kimberley, on average, used over 500 wagon loads of wood each week,” says Pirie. From the second half of the 1870s the fledgling CGR faced stiff competition from ox wagons, Pirie states that transport riders in the Eastern Cape and Transkei greatly contributed to the rapid increase in wagon building in Paarl, Tulbagh, Grahamstown and King Williams Town. “There is no doubt that the CGR was surprised by the tenacity of ox wagon transport and that it did not anticipate the alliances between merchant, farmers and transport riders. Many of these men consigned freight by rail only if it suited their pockets or when there was a shortage of wagons. But then, in 1896/97 came the rinderpest, and this coupled to crippling surcharges, dealt the wagons a blow.


The wagon industry recovered from the rinderpest and “rate wars” In the early 1900s an average of 24 wagons (12 in each direction) crossed the Kei River Bridge daily. Branch lines, poor financial performance and failure to capture more potential traffic, forced the CGR to become better acquainted with its road transport rival. The organisation appointed Cape Mounted Riflemen and officials, such as A C Hutchinson, to gather copious information on the geography of the land, the structure of transport riding, the needs of merchants, transfer officials, forwarding agents, farmers and station masters and the like. The struggle between the rail and the wagons continued until railway greed turned harmony into war and politics allowed the wagons to be sacrificed to steam. “This signalled the demise of small scale entrepreneurship in the central interior,” wrote Pirie.


In 1884 three young men hoped to have an afternoon of fun on the river, but it ended in disaster. The Cape Mercury of Thursday, December 11, 1884, reported that Charles Huntly, Justice of the Peace, was told that two soldiers, Privates John Willis and William Farrington, both members of a company stationed near Grahamstown had built a boat so as to enjoy some time on the river and at a nearby dam. The boat was finished on a Friday night and launched at about 14:30 on the following Saturday afternoon. From the outset it did not float properly. It had to be ballasted with stones, but that done, all seemed fine and, with 13-year old George Farr holding the painter, the two men got into it and rowed downstream following the eastern bank. John was the only one who had prepared himself for an emergency. He had taken off his boots, socks and hat. William, who could not swim, said he would rely on John to save him if they got into difficulties. All went well. George was invited to take a seat, and for about two hours the lads enjoyed themselves rowing up and down the river.


Then suddenly the boat began to ship water. No one knew why. It lurched and John, who was sitting at the back was thrown into the water. The boat capsized. Fortunately William who was sitting in the bows was thrown clear and into shallower water. He managed to scramble out and reach the shore screaming for help These cries were heard by some fishermen downstream who raced to see what assistance they could offer. They found William trying to throw some pieces of wood to John, but it was no use, he kept sinking beneath the water. George, who could swim struck, out for the shore, removed his clothes and dived back into the water, but he could not find John. Nor could anyone see him. Mr Bonn, a miller, managed to secured the body and, with some assistance. Managed to haul it onto dry ground. The men tried to revive John to no avail. He was rushed to the military hospital where doctors proclaimed him dead due to drowning. Spectators estimated that less than five minutes elapsed from the time that the boat capsized until the body was recovered.


Commandant (later General) Pieter Hendrik Kritzinger, was an extremely able commander and a very brave man. He proved this on December 16, 1901, near Frans Siding on the railway line between Hanover Road and De Aar. He had re-entered the Cape by crossing the Orange River during the night of December 11 states Neville Gomm in an article on Kritzinger in the Military History Journal of December, 1970. After attacking 100 men of Lovat’s Scouts who were sleeping in their camp at Quaggafontain, Kritzinger was fortunate enough to find a sandbar which allowed his 101-man commando to cross the river in safety while hotly pursued by Thorneycroft who was unable to catch them. The commando went to Colesberg where it was attacked, but escaped due to Kritzinger’s able command. Moving northwards he was pursued by the 5th Lancers.
They gave Kritzinger’s men and horses no respite. In this rough terrain the animals were subjected to appalling demands and at the end of an exhausting day, the commando abandoned 130 horses in the Hanover district. On December 16 Kritzinger’s commando was cornered at Fransmanskop near Hanover where a line of blockhouses had been erected. The men had to cross the railway line in broad daylight. Fieldcornet J. Fraser and a number of men raced ahead to cut the fence and the commando stormed through under a hail of bullets from the blockhouses. An armoured train passed, the men were safely away and behind a hill, but not the Commandant.


While his force was crossing the line under severe fire from the Gordon Highlanders, Kritzinger went back three times to assist men struggling to cross. On the third occasion he was badly wounded and captured by Lieutenant-Colonel Beauchamp Doran. Kritzinger said he was waiting for all the men to cross because ten were having difficulties with their horses. He then followed the commando, but when he looked back he saw a man hobbling across the line on foot. “I immediately went to his aid, and was again the target of the enemy fire from which we had just escaped. I felt a sudden shock. In a flash a bullet tore through the muscles of my left arm, and passed through my lungs, just missing my heart. It happened so suddenly that for a few seconds I did not realize that I had been wounded. I stayed in the saddle until a few burghers came to my aid. They lifted me from the horse carefully, wrapped a blanket around me and carried me to a place of safety. At first I was determined to accompany my commando to a spot where I could recover in safety, but I soon became aware of the seriousness of the wound, and realised that without proper nursing it would become infected, possibly at the cost of my life. My men knew it impossible for me to stay with them.” Commandant Louis Wessels took over command and Kritzinger was treated at the British army hospital in Naauwpoort.


Lady Mary Bailey, wife of Cradock-born, South African mining magnate and Randlord, Sir Abe Bailey, flew into the history books when she became the first person to fly solo from London to Cape Town and back. At the time she was already the mother of five. She undertook this historic solo flight from Croydon to Cape Town between March 9 and April 30, 1928 in a De Havilland DH 60 Cirrus Moth with an extra fuel tank. Then, between September,1928, and January 16, 1929, she flew back across the Congo, along the southern edge of the Sahara, up the west coast of Africa, across Spain and France back to England. This was the longest solo flight and longest flight accomplished by a woman until then. This feat won her the Britannia Trophy in 1929. Mary was also the first woman to fly over the Irish Sea. She went on to study navigation and was the first woman to be awarded a blind-flying certificate. She won numerous flying competitions and also used her talents to take aerial photographs of important archaeological sites, Born in Ireland on December 1, 1890, she was the daughter of Derrick Warner William Westenra, 5th Baron Rossmore, and his wife, Mittie (née Naylor). Mary was Abe Bailey’s second wife. They were married on September 5, 1911. They had three daughters and two sons. Their son James Richard Abe, “Jim” founded the magazine African Drum, later simply known as Drum. Mary died in Cape Town on August 20, 1960.

Note 1: Amy Johnson, CBE, a pioneering English pilot, was the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia. She set many long-distance records during the 1930s. She flew in the Second World War as a part of the Air Transport Auxiliary and died during a ferry flight.

Note 2: The designer of the aircraft, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, was a keen entomologist and for this reason he named his light aircraft moths.

Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain