HONOURING THE 60 WHO NEVER CAME HOME
Professor Anthony Stimson and Jenny Humphries, in Australia, are co-authoring a book on the South African War Memorial in Adelaide. Said to be the finest equestrian statue in Australia, it was erected by public subscription in honour of the 60 men who served in South Australian contingents during the Anglo-Boer War but did not return. The memorial was unveiled on June 6, 1904. “Its story has been told, but not the stories of the 60 men named on it. We are filling in that gap and the book will tell each man’s story. Some are uplifting and heroic while others are sad beyond words.” One trooper, just 16 years old, died a lonely death from enteric fever far away from his mates. He enlisted in 5th battalion south Australian Imperial Bushmen in January 1901, only two days after returning from service in China and serving during the Boxer Rebellion. Another died just as he arrived home and when the troopship dropped anchor in Albany, Western Australia. He had been hale and hearty up until a week earlier and then measles struck him down. A third lasted only six hours in South Africa. He was killed when thrown from his horse as his contingent disembarked at Durban. He was one of four to die in accidents. Two were shot dead by their colleagues and four died at sea. “The book is aimed at the general reader, but we also want it to make a real contribution towards the understanding of the Anglo-Boer War, said Professor Stimson. “It is due to be published next year.”
CELEBRATING SIGNIFICANT MILESTONS OF 1918
Several significant centenaries will be celebrated at this year’s Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival in Cradock from July 19 to 22. These celebrations, hosted by the National English Literary Museum, a founding sponsor of the festival, will pay tribute to the births of some prominent South Africans. Among them are former president, Nelson Mandela (July 18), John Everitt “Jack” Frost, DFC & Bar, the highest scoring member of the South African Air Force during WWII, (born in Queenstown on July 16) and Cradock’s own literary giant, Professor Guy Butler, (born on January,21). Butler began writing while in North Africa and Europe during WWII. After studying at Oxford University, he joined the staff at Rhodes University, in Grahamstown and, as one of the South Africa’s most highly acclaimed writers, shared his love for the Karoo with his readers. The year, 1918, saw other significant milestones. The Great (or Spanish) ‘Flu pandemic broke out across the world claiming the lives of over 50 million people. About half a million people – 62% of whom lived in the Cape – died here making South Africa the fifth hardest hit country in the world. South Africa’s former national anthem, Die Stem, was written as an Afrikaans poem in 1918 by C J Langenhoven. (The music was composed in 1921 by Reverend Marthinus Lourens de Villiers, who for a time served the Dutch Reformed congregation of Beaufort West. It replaced God Save the Queen in 1957.) This year there will be a major multi-lingual poetry prize at the festival. It is sponsored by AVBOB, a company which was established in Bloemfontein in 1918 and which has since grown into Africa’s largest Mutual Assurance Society providing one-stop funeral insurance and a burial service. Their sponsorship will ensure a feast of poetry and allow many new young voices to read their own work in a variety of languages. Other milestones include the establishment of the Kooperatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereniging of South Africa (KWV), in Paarl. The Victoria College became Stellenbosch University and, on May 4, The Three Minute Silence, and daily firing of the Noonday Gun on Signal Hill, in Cape Town, was instituted by the mayor Sir Harry Hands. Boer officer, lawyer, politician and statesman, Schalk Willem Burger died on December 5, 1918.
FIXING THE RELATIONSHIP
In the December 2017, Round-up stated that Justice Joseph Herbstein was the brother of Moritz Herbstein, first chairman of the Graaff-Reinet Zionist Association. To set the record straight, a descendant, Manu Herbstein advises that: “In fact, Mr Justice Joseph Herbstein, who was a judge of the Cape Town Supreme Court from 1947 to 1963, was Moritz’s son.”
ALL ABOUT THE THOMS
Craig and Jackie Thom have written two volumes on the history of this family in South Africa based on 20 years of research. The first volume, a 340-page, A4 book, is a comprehensive biography of Rev George Thom, the first Scottish missionary to come to this country. A devout and passionate Christian, he played a key role in the establishment of the Presbyterian Church in South Africa. The second, entitled The Genealogies of the Thom Families in South Africa, “is about the Thoms, for the Thoms, and by the Thoms”, say the authors. “Not all the Thoms in this country are of Scottish descent,” they add. “There is, for instance, a large sector of the family that has its origins in Germany.” The books are a rich mix of historical articles covering daily life at the time, the reasons why the Thoms left the countries of their birth and came to South Africa, their education and the effect of slavery on the family. There is also an interesting debate on the family’s DNA. The volume on Rev Thom, in particular, contains never-before published facts and corrections to some previously published information. Craig would love to hear from any others researching this family
DEVOUT CHRISTIAN, PASSIONATE MISSIONARY
Scottish missionary, George, the son of William Thom and, his wife, Barbara (Nee Sheriff), was born in the Old Machar parish of Aberdeen on June 18, 1789. He clearly spelled out his calling to become a missionary in a letter dated March 28, 1809. Initially he intended to go to America to teach the Indians. He studied at the University of Aberdeen before he was accepted as a missionary candidate by the London Missionary Society (LMS) in 1809. He enrolled at Gosport Seminary, in the south of England, for two years. Shortly after he was ordained at the Scots Kirk, London Wall, in April 1812, the LMS posted him to India. He never reached there. On October 24, that year the LMS instructed him to stay in Cape Town. Thom played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Presbyterian Church in South Africa. It began when the LMS granted him permission to attend to the spiritual needs of the 93rd Highland Regiment, or Sutherland Fencibles, who were stationed at the Cape. He became actively involved in a Calvinistic Society, among these soldiers, which dated back to 1808. Thom, who enjoyed the respect of the soldiers, enthusiastically rendered his assistance and helped reorganise the society. It flourished and soon started functioning as a church. Soldiers from the 83rd Regiment, the 21st Dragoons and the Royal Artillery, soon joined this movement and, as there was not yet any Presbyterian Church at the Cape, Thom acted as their chaplain.
CALLED TO THE DUTCH REFROEMED CHURCH
Georg Thom became superintendent of LMS affairs in Cape Town He spoke out against the morals and behaviour of local missionaries and also informed the directors of grievances with regard to salaries and working conditions. In August 1817, he arranged a meeting of missionaries in Cape Town, but it was not successful, and he resigned from the LMS in September 1818. Then, In November 1818 Thom, who spoke Dutch fluently, was appointed as a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church at Caledon. Part of his brief was to minister to lepers and to the Khoisan. He adapted very quickly in this new environment. After being shown a fossil in 1814 he became very interested in the palaeontology and geology of the country. He wrote several papers on these subjects, collected and sent several specimens to Universities in Europe. Thom was the second person to describe the Cango Caves (the first was Petronella S. Faure, who provided a brief account in 1808). He visited the caves on October 14, 1816 and drew a cross-section plan of the grotto. He visited Scotland in 1820 and recruited a number of Scottish clergymen. They included Andrew Murray, Alexander Smith, William Ritchie Thomson, Henry Sutherland, Cohn Fraser and George Morgan. He also recruited the services of six Scottish schoolmasters. Among them were James Rose Innes and William Robertson. These ministers and teachers greatly influenced the church and education in South Africa.
LOSES HIS FIRST LOVE
George Thom married Christiana Louisa Meyer, a very pious and devout woman. She dedicated herself to the spreading of the gospel amongst the children of the local Malay slaves and even mastered their language. Tragedy struck in 1816 when she died while giving birth to their first child, a son, named George Whitefield. She was only 27. At her funeral, a distraught George exclaimed: “I shall see her face no more on earth — the wife of my youth — the joy of my heart — the delight of my eyes is gone forever.” On August 11, the following year George married Cornelia Johanna Maria (Neeltjie) Vos and they had 8 children. George died in hospital on May 11, 1842.
A SALUTE TO THE TASMANIAN BUSHMEN
In 1911, Lieutenant-Colonel P L Murray, produced a book covering details of all Australian contingents which came to South Africa to fight in the Anglo-Boer War. In it he states that the Second Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen embarked at Hobart on March 27, 1901 and landed at Port Elizabeth on April 24. This unit comprised 12 officers, 241 men and 289 horses. It saw service in the Cape Colony, under General French. Murray quoted Trooper Blackburn who stated that after landing the unit proceeded by train to Cradock. “The Colony was in a state of rebellion, so we were kept in town. On May 8, 9 and 10 we were sent to Ganna Hoek, to drive Scheepers’s Commando out of the Cradock District.” They then joined General Scobell and stayed in the area until joining Colonel Gorring’s Flying Column. Colonel Murray claims that Commandant Scheepers once said: “Give me 600 Bushmen and I would go anywhere.”
DRAMATIC TIMES IN THE KAROO
Trooper Blackburn writes that his unit trekked around the Karoo for some time, chiefly on patrol work, He said that they occasionally encountered rebels and a few horses. They were sent to join Colonel Benjamin Doran’s column to try and break up Smuts’s commando near Beaufort West. When they encountered him two of their men fell almost at the first volley. “Stewart was wounded in the leg, and North in the head, as well as the body. A Yeomanry officer was also injured, Sergeant Adams, was grazed on the thigh, a 5th Lancer was hit in the ear, and one man was captured. Later Judge Hugo and another Commandant were killed, and a Boer soldier was mortally wounded.” They chased the commando towards Carnarvon but did not engage them again. A few days later they met Malan’s forces at Tafelberg, outside of Richmond, and “had a very good running fight, which lasted all day”. Blackburn said that Malan and his men had a very narrow escape and that he barely gained the koppies ahead of them. They fired at us. Five bullets hit a horse; but soon we had got them on the go again,” Corporal Johnson, he said, was slightly wounded, the Boers lost Commandant Rudolph and four others. “Several were badly wounded. We chased them for days, but only captured their Cape cart.”
ATTENTION ALL ARTISTS
A most successful art retreat was held in May in picturesque New Bethesda. It was fully booked and according to those who attended “great fun”. This has encouraged the organiser, well-known, experienced art teacher, Cathy Lane Milner, to arrange a follow-up course. She will be hosting this in October. The course will cover oils, acrylics and mixed media and will cost R5 5 00 for tuition. Accommodation can be arranged, and beginners are welcome.
ENJOY CLASSICAL MUSIC AND ART
The Klein Karoo Klassique, a winter festival of world class classical music, top cuisine, excellent wines and local art, takes place in Oudtshoorn from August 9 to 12, this year. The programme includes chamber and symphonic music, with a dash of jazz, this year, say the organisers. Works will be performed by local as well as some internationally known ensembles and soloists. The programmer has been planned in such a way as to allow visitors to explore local restaurants, art galleries, and the sightseeing attractions that Oudtshoorn has to offer. It concludes with a traditional Sunday lunch at Schoemanshoek.
RELAX AND UNWIND
Join Forrest Guardian Sandra Robinson from September 20 to 23 for the fourth Karoo Forrest Yoga Retreat. The programme includes yoga, meditation and locally sourced vegetarian food, prepared by Simply Saffron, in Prince Albert.
AND FOR THE ENERGETIC
Those who appreciate the Karoo will enjoy the Lormar Endurance Trail Run from September 22 to 23 this event allows contestants to enjoy breath-taking sunrises and sunsets, as well as awe-inspiring scenery. Runners will also enjoy traditional Karoo hospitality, spitbraais, fresh farm bread, condensed milk coffee, koeksisters and craft beer. The run, which takes place on Fairview Farm outside Middelburg, is not about crossing the finish line as quickly as possible, say the organisers, but rather it’s about experiencing the Karoo.
AIMED TO LIVE IN ETERNAL SUNSHINE
George Aitken, a Scottish doctor, wanted little more than to live happily with his wife and family in the warmth of the African sunshine. He knew this as soon as he stepped ashore in 1874, but sadly his dreams were not to be realised. Before leaving Cape Town George, who had a medical certificate from a Scottish University, registered to practice as a doctor. He set off for Willowmore, where a doctor was needed, hoping that the dry air of the hinterland might cure his consumption. From there he wrote to his beloved wife, Shirley, back in Rutherglen, Scotland, telling her of his dreams and stating that as soon as he had sufficient funds, he would to return to Scotland to fetch her and their children. All went well and before long George moved to Prince Albert from where he wrote more letters telling Shirley the sunshine, the pure, clean, fresh air and drinkable water flowed into the village from the mountains, says historic researcher Ailsa Tudhope.
DEATH SHATTERED HIS DREAMS
Sadly, George’s respiratory problem did not improve, and he died on December 3, 1876. He was only 32. The Mossel Bay Advertiser of December 20 carried an obituary stating that death had “removed a member of the community who could ill be spared”. During his brief time in the Colony George established a memorable reputation. Despite his own constant ill-health, he was always ready to attend the sick and frequently travelled beyond the boundaries of Prince Albert to do this. The newspaper added that one of George’s relations was a celebrated medical author, and that George might have followed in his footsteps had he been in better health. George’s funeral took place from the Church Room in Prince Albert as the village did not yet have an Anglican Church. The service was conducted by Rev John Cornelius Samuels. George’s coffin was taken to the burial grounds (now St John’s church cemetery) on a horse-drawn hearse. It can still be seen in the Fransie Pienaar Museum. Devastated at the news of George’s death his family arranged for Legge Stone Masons in Aberdeen, Scotland, to ship a suitable memorial to South Africa for erection on his grave. On arrival in Cape Town it was sent to the end of the railway line at Hex River. The Prince Alberters collected it there and transported it by ox wagon to the village. The stone was erected and blessed by Rev Samuels during a touching ceremony. George’s sister arrived two years later to visit his grave, states The Prince Albert Friend. Few single women traveled alone in the 1870s, so this was a major journey for her. She was impressed by the friendliness of the Prince Alberters who met her at Vlakkraal stagecoach stop, (now Prince Albert Road Station), and drove her to the village. There she was regaled with tales of her brother’s never-ending kindness.
PRIZE WINNING NOVELIST
Wilna Adriaanse, a popular writer of Afrikaans romantic fiction, has close ties to the dryland. She was born in Askham, in the Kalahari, on March 19, 1958, but grew up in Worcester. She obtained BA and BA honours degrees from the University of Stellenbosch and later completed a master’s degree, for which she gained a distinction in creative writing, at the University of Cape Town. Her novels have been published under the names of Wilmine Burger, as well as Wilna Adriaanse. Several have been awarded prizes. Among these was the Lapa Publishers Prize for Romance and the ATKV-Woordveertjie. In 1981 she married Deon Adriaanse and travelled with him to a variety of locations while he was working on projects across Africa. The couple have three sons, Cobus, Jaco and Johan.
EXCELLENT COLLECTION OF ECCLESIASTICAL SILVER
In the early 1980’s Professor Trumpelmann visited Graaff-Reinet and was impressed with the wonderful collection of silver in the Dutch Reformed Church, says Johann van Zijl. In his opinion it was the best in the country, he writes in Stoep Stories, No 13 – Tales from the Karoo, published by the Graaff-Reinet Heritage Society on May 13, 2014. The collection, said Johann, included examples of the work of silversmiths Lotter and Combrinck, widely known for communion cups with leaf patterns and gilt insides. Johannes Casperus Lotter was one of the descendants of Matthias Lotter, who came to South Africa from Augsburg in Germany in 1734. He was a silversmith by profession and, for a year, worked for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) before becoming a free burger in 1735. He married Anna van den Berg and they had two daughters and four sons, one of whom Johannes, born in 1768, followed in his father’s footsteps. Johannes died in 1824.
It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion. William Ralph Inge