Yeomen of the Karoo, the story of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein, was successfully launched at the Richmond Book Festival in October. One of the authors, Dr Arnold van Dyk gave talks in town and at the actual hospital site where there was a great deal of interest in the ruins of the old Adamstein Hotel and the two graveyards. This occasion was turned into a celebration by Mark Borrie, of Hawksmoor wines Paarl, who sponsored a wine tasting in the front yard of the once elegant old Yeomanry Hotel. Festival organiser Peter Baker said: “It was a real treat to enjoy excellent ice-cold wine in the shadow of the old tent hospital where the action of the book took place.” The authors are most grateful to Mark for making this an occasion to remember. Anyone who wishes to know more of the guest house at Hawksmoor and the estate’s excellent range of wines can contact him

Note: Yeomen of the Karoo will make an ideal Christmas gift for anyone interested in the Anglo-Boer War. To purchase an A4, hard-cover copy at the pre-launch price of R390 – plus R100 for p&p contact: Firefly Publications


Road Tripper – Eastern Cape Karoo, is the latest addition to Chris and Julie Marais’s superb Karoo Keepsakes Series. This travel guide takes the reader on a 1 000 km journey as it points out affordable accommodation, places to see and things to do. The pubs, the padstals, and the people are all included, as well ideal spots for those interested in walking, hiking and mountain biking. This excellent 46-page book is much more than just a travel guide – it’s a passport to adventure. Throughout the book there are places to have this “passport” stamped and, if you do, you might be in for a surprise. This might be a slice of homemade apple crumble, a glass of ice-cold ginger beer or lemonade, a bottle of wine, a strip of droewors, biltong, koeksisters, some lamb chops or roosterkoek for the road. Some places might hand over a bag of freshly picked fruit, a bottle of homemade jam or chutney, a bumper sticker, a few postcards, a horseshoe for good luck, a pretty stone, a sprig or rosemary for remembrance, a bit of spekboom to plant in your garden back home. You might receive a discount on your bill or simply a hug. The pubs might provide a beer, glass of wine or a shooter. This “extra” feature, inspired by the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, where pilgrims are encouraged to have a little book signed as they walk along, pays tribute to the kindness, friendliness and hospitality of Eastern Cape Karoo people.” Stamp destinations vary – some are easy to find, but others require venturing far off the beaten track. Road Tripper, a fun and fascinating book, costs R240. Also, if you take a good picture on your travels send it to them with a short description. It might be published on the Karoo Space Facebook page.


After reading of “intrepid” Pieter Pienaar, who raced into the hinterland with a letter for French botanist Francois le Vaillant, historian Elizabeth van Heyningen wonders whether Peter Pienaar, who features as a scout, and various other things, in John Buchan’s Thirty Nine Steps and Greenmantle, might have been the role model for this character. Who knows!


A painting of a son of the Karoo, a forgotten hero of the Battle of Britain, hangs in the Imperial War Museum in England with one of Sailor Malan. This painting, by war artist, S. Morris Brown, is of Petrus Hendrik Hugo, a Victoria West man, also known as Dutch or Piet Khaki. Piet, who was born on the farm “Pampoenpoort” in the Victoria West district. (Sailor, Adolph Gysbert Malan – DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar – hailed from Wellington, where he was born on March 24, 1910.) After matriculating from Victoria West High School in 1936, Petrus studied aeronautical engineering at the Witwatersrand Technical College from 1937 to 1938. The nickname Piet Khaki was given to him by his sister because, the Karoo sun turned his face pink – just like a “Rooinek” – an Englishman, she said. In January 1939 he joined the RAF and was sent to Sywell in Northamptonshire to train as a pilot. After this he went to 13 Flight Training School at Drem in Scotland. Shortly after the outbreak of WW II he was transferred to Evanton at the Moray Firth and to St. Alban in South Wales for training as a fighter pilot. As a member of 615 Squadron, it was his task to deliver Hurricanes from the transport depot at Filton near Bristol, to the fighting units in France.


In the summer of 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain, Lord Beaverbrook’s Ministry of Aircraft Production eagerly began to explore possibilities of expanding aircraft production. A top priority was set on aircraft for the RAF. Public participation was elicited and “Spitfire Funds” sprang up all over England. Soon there was widespread fund-raising across the Commonwealth and before long the other countries followed suit. Everywhere the people were subscribing to a ‘Buy a Spitfire Fund’. South Africa was no exception. Thousands of pounds were collected across the world. The people of Victoria West set up the Petrus Hugo Spitfire Fund and raised sufficient to buy their ace his own aircraft. It was appropriately dubbed ‘Karroo’. Unfortunately, Hugo was shot down over the English Channel and today this Spitfire lies at the bottom of the sea somewhere off the coast of Dover. Fortunately, Petrus was rescued. He was actually shot down twice. The first time he was wounded in both legs and the second in his left leg, right eye and jaw. He was a crack shot and, at the age of 24, became the youngest Group Captain in the RAF. He achieved 22 victories in air battles, destroyed 22 enemy ships and 55 ground vehicles. At the end of the war he had logged up the greatest number of fighter operations – a total of 1 130hours. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Order, Distinguished Flying Cross (UK), Distinguished Flying Cross (USA), and the French Croix de Guerre. In 1942 he married a farmer’s daughter, Angela Margaret Seeds of Valley, Angelsey. They had three daughters.

Note: The people of Natal raised more than £250 000 for aircraft. The Air Ministry decided this would best be used to equip and maintain a squadron which was already operational. The choice fell to 222 Squadron which officially became 222 (Natal) Squadron. A central feature of the Squadron badge reflects a Wildebeest and the motto Pambili Bo means ‘Go straight ahead’ in Zulu.”


At the end of the war Petrus returned to southern Africa. In 1951 the British government granted him a farm on the western slopes of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It was an awe-inspiring, breathtaking place with magnificent views. He built it up into a modern and prosperous enterprise and there he, his wife and three daughters lived very happily for 20 years. Tragedy struck in 1971. His father-in-law died and shortly thereafter, his beloved wife, Angela, also died. She was buried in the churchyard in Moshi on April 18, 1971. Then, in September some policemen turned up and, at gunpoint, ordered Piet to leave the farm within 24 hours. (His daughters were in Nairobi at the time and they too had to flee). He was forbidden to even enter his house again to collect personal items. He went by ship from Mombasa to Durban and from there, to his brother Ben, on the farm Pampoenpoort. Piet Khaki/Dutch had come the full circle, but while friends and family welcomed him, encouraging him to make a new start, he had nothing. His personal Cessna 182 was smuggled out. A friend flew it out from Kenya while it was there for maintenance. Piet died on June 8, 1986. He was laid to rest in the warm, dry earth of the Karoo. Lt. Col. Walter Stanford, CBE, DFC, who served under him paid tribute to him, saying: “For such a distinguished fighter pilot Dutch Hugo was the most modest man I ever knew. He had South Africa embroidered on his shoulders, but it was also in his heart. He was a charming man, one of the indomitable fighter pilots who helped to save Great Britain in 1940. It was a privilege to serve under him. We remember him gratefully now that he has taken to the wings of the morning.” A relative, Vic Olivier, of Durbanville, paid tribute to him in The Outspan of November 27, 1942, and so did The Victoria West Messenger of June 6, 1986.


The Karoo’s largest art gallery, Modern Art Projects, (MAP) in Loop Street, Richmond, is searching for old South African five cent coins. They want to use them in a sculpture. If you have any lying around please post them to Box 140, Richmond, 7090. MAP is situated on Richmond’s Market Square, once the childhood playground of Josephine Brink, later Jose Dale Lace, the vivacious, glamorous and scandalous wife of mining magnate John Dale Lace. Her story is captured in Bird of Paradise. MAP was founded in 2005 by Harrie Siertsema, a patron of the arts, and Abrie Fourie, a well known artist. The idea behind the project is to show the works of both established and emerging contemporary artists outside of the traditional gallery settings and in wholly unexpected spaces, like restaurants, hotels and homes. They describe the movement as symbolic of a new ’empathetic economy’ and a way of making art more accessible to everyone.


Jonno Sherwin of the Cart-Horse Protection Association has established a Karoo Donkey Sanctuary in Prince Albert. At this “donkey heaven” rescued donkeys can recover from lives of over-work, abuse and malnourishment. The sanctuary offers regular guided tour on which visitors can meet Sir Robert, Amazing Grace, Mona and her foal, Silver Shadow, as well as the rest of the herd. Booking is essential. Donkey lovers may even adopt or foster a donkey. Donations are most welcome, More from Prince Albert Tourist Bureau.


At the Eastern Cape Military History Society meeting in October, the members’ slot was used by Alec Grant who delivered a talk entitled The Remains of Gideon Scheepers and Johannes Lotter. “A good deal of emotion surrounds the executions and burials of these two men,” he said. “On a recent trip to Middelburg, I visited the Prince Alfred’s Guard Regimental HQ at the Drill Hall to see the letter and document they have on display regarding the remains of Scheepers. This letter was written by Private 53 W A Wright, a witness to his execution. It is addressed to ‘H’ – presumably Wilfred H Harrison. In the letter Wright says he went on to join the Port Elizabeth Police and in 1920 was made a sergeant in the CID Karoo Division in Graaff-Reinet. The National Party had at the time offered a £250 reward for anyone who could locate Scheepers’s remains. A man called De Beer claimed advances on the reward but was unable to produce the body. Eventually he was found guilty of fraud when he came up with bones from his own father’s grave and was found out. I could not establish whether Lotter’s remains are still buried at the Stoel (Chair) Monument. Some say, his body was later moved to Middelburg,” said Alec.


TV viewers, who know the Karoo, will recognise Prince Albert and the Swartberg Pass in the new Vodacom advertisement. It was filmed at the home of Ian and Jackie Canning. Jackie told the local newspaper, The Prince Albert Friend, that this was “the most fun” she had had in years.” Noleen Cochran, Vodacom’s Strategic Media Manager, says that Prince Albert was chosen because: “Vodacom strives to be authentically South African in all its media campaigns. We pride ourselves in showcasing local people and places. Prince Albert was the perfect, quintessential village for our story. The rich history, unique look and feel tied perfectly into our script which depicted tech-savvy grannies. Keep an eye out for our print ads and billboards.”


A trader, who now lives in Mareko, in the Transvaal, has recently returned to his old home town, Worcester, stated the Cape and Natal News of September 3, 1860. He left ten years ago to hunt elephant. At the time he was very poor, but now is in good circumstances. He told the locals that he had personally killed 88 elephants. He also said he had been up to the Zambesi and was only three days journey from where Dr. Livingstone was stationed. On that trip they killed 94 elephants and his share was 38. He left a cured elephant head, as well as rhinoceros and antelope heads at Van Der Byl and Le Seur’s store, where they are creating great interest.


The work of the Salvation Army began in Worcester began in 1891, when Captain Lotz “opened fire” and became the first Commanding Officer. Brother Craayenstein kept the work going by faithfully serving the Army’s cause for decades and accompanying Saturday night open-Air gatherings on his violin. He strolled through town collecting money until his death in 1961, states The Worcester Standard.


In 1819, James Griffin, warned intending immigrants that they would become “destitute” if they moved to South Africa. Such a move would entail “giving up your country, friends, and all the polish of European society”. He added that “in the case of illness, you will be without any sort of medical assistance.” Griffin stressed that intending “settlers” would “feel the bitterness of wandering in a foreign land, friendless, homeless and penniless.” Despite all this, however, women followed the men they loved into the wilderness in many cases to eke out an existence on impractical farms in a buffer zone between established regions of the Colony and the amaXhosa and amaThembu communities further east. This was a dangerous region that had undergone “ethnic cleansing”. It was filled with heated emotions, turmoil and conflict that led to constant war. To make matters worse, their husbands were mostly tradesmen, not farmers. Water was scarce, rainfall poor and soil in the area to which they were sent was acid – neither good crop farming nor grazing. One historian refered to the 1820 settler scheme as “probably the most callous act of mass settlement in the entire history of the Empire”. Yet 40 000 people applied and 4000 were chosen. Of these 20% were women. These women who brought love to brighten this hostile area, states James in A Correct Statement of the Advantages and Disadvantages attendant on Emigration to the New Colony forming near the Cape of Good Hope (1819).


In the latter part of the 19th century conflicting reports were coming out of South Africa. Some 1820 settlers had made it, some not. Many wondered whether to leave England or to stay. Then a booklet entitled Should I Succeed in South Africa? was published by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Company, Limited. There was no author’s name it was simply written by a Successful Colonist. A review in Black and White Budget, November 17, l900 stated that: “Everyone asking themselves this question should certainly procure a copy of this valuable and interesting little book. The experience of the author will be found most profitable to the novice and might be the means of making him a rich man or saving him from a disastrous speculation. Some prominent people have benefited from it.”


Karoo Poppies, the authentic, ethnic dolls, that are handmade and marketed by Rose Wright and Michelle Mangaleze of Graaff-Reinet, are stealing hearts across the country. These women use locally sourced materials and use traditional spinning techniques and modern sewing methods to create these ragdolls. Each is lightweight, beautifully finished Karoo Poppie has a calico body stuffed with unprocessed wool (known as ‘tops’) from Merino sheep sheared in the Camdeboo district. Their cheerful hair-do’s are also made from wool hand spun on a wooden spinning wheel. Their dresses are made from Shweshwe material, woven and printed in the Eastern Cape and their smiling faces are screen-printed in Nieu Bethesda. The dolls, which retail from around R185 and are currently available from True Living and the Victoria Hotel in Cradock.


Extraordinary feats of travelling are often performed by colonial mail carts However, often the heat in the Karoo takes a cruel and fearful toll. Some time ago a traveller from the Free State announced his safe arrival in Cape Town after a journey of some 800 miles accomplished in five days. The venture was a great one requiring extraordinary nerve and sinew to stand the fearful strain of the post cart. Such journeys call for prolonged watchfulness. Passengers suffer extreme fatigue and exhaustion. .A recent case terminated quite tragically. An unfortunate young Dutchman managed the entire distance from the Free State to within a few miles of Karoo Poort, suddenly could go no longer. He called out to the post cart driver to halt. The effort of the journey, the scorching heat and dust were proving too much for him, he said. The driver stopped the care and the man leapt out d raving mad. He ran into the veld where shortly afterwards he perished miserably states The Commercial World of August l, 1861.


A monster mushroom was recently found growing at Sir Lowry’s Pass. It was three feet seven inches (109,22 cm) in circumference and three inches (7,62cm) thick in the centre. The stalk was 2 ½ inches (6.35 cm) thick, and it weighed two pounds thirteen ounces (907 gm), states The Cape and Natal News of August 30, 1861.

The greatest enemy of justice is privilege – Maria van Ebner Eschenbach