A REASON TO CELEBRATE
Rose’s Round–up has a reason to celebrate. This little newsletter turns 300 this month and it is 25 years old. The road, since the publication of the first issue in January 1993, has been an exciting one. Round-up’s initial aim was to persuade six town clerks to use history to promote tourism. These men represented Beaufort West, Prince Albert, Richmond, Victoria West, Loxton and Laingsburg, as well as Nelspoort, Merriman, Klaarstroom, Hutchinson, Leeu Gamka, Prince Albert Road Station, Matjiesfontein and Deelfontein*, the site of the Imperial Yeomanry tent hospital during the Anglo-Boer War. This was the area then controlled by the then Central Karoo Regional Services Council. The town clerks shared Round-up, with their councillors, who in turn recommended it to villagers and former residents. It was sent to journalists and to other interested parties and before long Round-up was winging its way overseas to promote the Karoo. Its aim has always been to provide a quick, informative and educational read, perhaps over a cup of coffee. The area changed, Victoria West, Richmond and Loxton were taken away, Murraysburg and Merweville joined. Round-up has seen tourism develop and move into several new areas. When it started the only definitive book on the area was Lawrence Green’s Karoo, now there are many. Over the years Round-up has received many awards and accolades. The highlight was being adjudged the best communications tool in the local government. .
Note: * The History of Deelfontein is recorded in Yeomen of the Karoo, written by Rose, Dr Arnold van Dyk and the late Professor Kay de Villiers.
ROUND-UP JOINS ‘ANCESTORS’
Round-up relocated to Bloemfontein when Rose’s husband died in 2003. She widened the scope of the newsletter to cover the whole of the dryland. Now, Round-up has a spot on Heather McAlister’s extremely interesting Ancestors website (www.ancestors.co.za) This prestigious website carries a great deal of interesting genealogical information and Heather, who has over 30 years of experience in the field of genealogical research and a true passion for history, is a brilliant researcher. Over the years she has helped many people find the hidden links and branches of their family trees. Her services are in great demand and each research job is specifically tailored to the client’s needs. Now a page entitled “Karoo Rose” will carry items of historic interest linked to early issues, while the full collection of Round-up will also eventually appear. Visit www.ancestors.co.za/karoo-rose/, This link has two tabs – one for small posts and the other for back copies of Round-up.
DOLLS HELP RAISE FUNDS
A fancy bazaar was held in Beaufort West’s Lyric Hall on the December 5, 1902 to raise funds to pay the outstanding balance on the organ for the Anglican church. A special feature, reported The Courier of December 11, 1902, was the large number of beautiful, tastefully dressed dolls suitable for Christmas presents. These were snapped up by the villagers.
CATCHY LITTLE DITTY
There once was an old Railway ditty that went: “You can’t go far without passing De Aar.” And, indeed, at one time, this was true of train travel through the Karoo. “The little village named De Aar, was established in an area of natural springs where the San and buck drank as thirstily as the railway steam trains that stopped there from the late 1800s,” wrote Lawrence Green in When The Journey’s Over. This spot, which once changed hands for a wagon and a team of oxen, became a huge railway junction and the trains changed the economy of the area. The little village suffered a severe blow when train travel declined.
FARMER WITH A VISION
William Quinton was a widely known, forward thinking Beaufort West farmer. He was first mentioned in Round-up No 2 on March 1993. William loved the Karoo and strongly felt that it should be preserved for posterity, so he began to avidly campaign for a conservation area which could be used as a sanctuary for endangered wildlife. At first his pleas fell on deaf ears, but in about 1950 people began to take notice of what he was saying and later still they saw the sense of his proposals. William was born in Beaufort West. He attended the local school and also a school in Port Elizabeth. He was always a keen bird watcher and from an early age studiously recorded and detailed every species he saw. He saved his pocket money and in 1941 was able to afford one of the first Robert’s Birding Guides ever published. This opened up a new world for him. By 1946 he joined the S A Ornithological Society.
CANARY NAMED IN HIS HONOUR
The great drought of 1970 threatened many indigenous species in the Karoo. “This spurred William to double his efforts,” said Japie Claassen, a birding expert, who runs Karoo Birding Safaris, from Beaufort West. “William wrote to Dr Douglas Hey, who at that time was the chief director of Cape Nature Conservation. This time his pleas were heard, and wheels were set in motion for the creation of a nature reserve on the outskirts of Beaufort West. A funding campaign was launched by the South African Nature Foundation and many other organisations interested in conservation joined in. School children too became part of the fund-raising efforts and sold books of special art stamps, depicting the flora and fauna of the Great Karoo, to help raise funds. By 1979 the Karoo National Park became a reality.” William’s bird watching efforts were acknowledged when a local subspecies of the Cape canary was named in his honour. It is the Crithagra flaviventris quintoni. It was first seen on Hillmore, near Beaufort West. According to Dr J M “Jack” Winterbottom, this brightly coloured little yellow bird is somewhat larger than other indigenous canaries.
AWARE OF THE THERAPEUTIC VALUE
Many stone implements have been recovered near the mineral springs in South Africa. “This is an indication that the early indigenous tribes were well aware of the therapeutic value of these waters,” states Lawrence Green in When The Journey’s Over.
BEAUFORT WESTERS SUPPORT THE CURE
In 1902 a Beaufort West resident developed a hair restorer which he considered to be fit for a king. He was Vungadoo Sammy Naidoo and his product, The Great Sampwell Hair Restorer, proved to be a great success. It was first reported in Round-up No 56. Vungadoo’s friend Walter James Kinsley, wrote to Sir Gordon Sprigg, who was Prime Minister of South Africa at the time, extolling the excellence of this product, which he said was guaranteed to cure baldness. He asked how Mr Naidoo could present a sample to King Edward VII. The Prime Minister’s secretary, Sydney Cowper, replied stating that while the motives were appreciated, the Monarch did not accept such gifts. Vungadoo, then offered Cowper a jar, but received a terse reply stating that Cowper was quite satisfied with his present crop of hair and that the Prime Minister was also well provided with his own. Vungadoo persevered and sent a jar to the Prime Minister’s office “just in case”. He did not get a reply. Perhaps there were no bald men in the office. Several Beaufort Westers endorsed the product in the Courier. Among them were S W H King, Alf Munton, A J Crouch, L Klein, C J Goedhals, F C Maynard, H Van Zyl, W S Elliott jnr, J Jones, G De Wet, W Duncan, M P Cook, M B H P Tomsett and J J Paulsen.
FREAK ACCIDENT CLAIMS A LIFE
In the 1800s when roads were rough, rugged and rocky carts often came to grief with fatal results. Some roads were isolated and sometimes very little traffic passed. It was on just such a quiet day, along a rugged route, that James McEvoy came to grief. His horse stumbled while crossing the Baaken’s River, the cart overturned and flung James onto some rocks. His leg was broken, but he dragged himself to the bank and, in an exhausted state, lay there. Hours passed before he was found and taken to hospital. Sadly, by then infection had set in and his leg had to be amputated, stated the Grahamstown Journal of June 4, 1880. Sadly, poor James was too weak to recover. His condition steadily deteriorated and within three days he was dead.
LONG AND INVOLVED TRIP TO THE CAPE
James Read, led a rather colourful life. Born in Essen, England, on December 3, 1777, he grew up hoping to become a missionary. He was not as very well-educated man, yet, at the age of 20 he was accepted by the London Missionary Society (LMS) mainly because he was a skilled artisan and carpenter. In 1798 the LMS sent him to South Africa, however, en-route the ship, on which he was travelling, was captured by French privateers, near Brazil. It took him almost two years to find his way back to England. Back with the LLMS he was given some training before again being sent to the Cape in 1800. He worked for a short time in Wagenmakersvallei (Tulbagh) before being sent in 1802 to help Johannes Theodorus van der Kemp set up a mission station on a deserted farm 20km north west of Algoa Bay, present-day Port Elizabeth. It was named Bethelsdorp. Travellers who saw the place described it as a dusty little settlement, almost treeless, with little water, about 50 gloomy little huts and with a small, clay, thatched church in its centre. The almshouses were built in 1822, and inside the church today is Van der Kemp’s original Dutch Bible, believed to be the oldest in South Africa. At this station the two missionaries began preaching to about 600 Khoi and people of mixed race. “This flock took to the fiery Van der Kemp version of Christianity with a fervour that amazed everyone,” states researcher Andrew C. Ross. Not satisfied with simply providing a place of safety the two missionaries also began teaching their congregation to read and write. This greatly upset Governor, Jan Willem Janssens He called the project “utter nonsense” and forbade the missionaries from continuing.
SCANDAL HITS THE MISSION
At Bethelsdorp James met a Khoi woman named Sarah, whose earthly possessions comprised “two sheep skins and a string of beads to ornament her body” To the dismay of neighbouring farmers and the local community he married her on June 29, 1803. He was the first European missionary to take a wife from outside the white community. (Three years later, the 60-year-old Van der Kemp married a 17-year-old former slave from Madagascar and the locals also disproved this union.) In James’s opinion his marriage to an indigenous woman should have helped him identify more closely with his congregation, but it did not and, in a strange way, he also lost their respect. He toughed it out. Before she died in 1849 Sarah provided him with three sons and five daughters. The mission station, in time, became a thorn in the flesh of Colonial authorities. It was considered a hotbed of rebellious behaviour and James once again landed in hot water when he began helping indigenous people to bring charges of ill treatment against their masters at the new British courts which were established in 1811. Many farmers never forgave him.
A SECOND SCANDAL STRIKES
Scandal struck again in 1816 when James admitted that he might be the father of a child born to the teenage daughter of a San deacon of the Bethalsdorp church. This scandal shook the very foundations of mission work in South Africa, states Julia Wells in an article entitled The Scandal of Rev James Read (S A Historical Journal, May 2000). By the time the dust from this incident settled in 1820, a quarter of the LMS missionaries in South Africa had resigned. James, however, left Bethelsdorp in 1816 and moved across the Orange River, outside the Colony, to preach to Thlaping and Tswana people. This, it was said, paved the way for Robert Moffat. At the LMS synod 1817 James was accused of a number of irregularities. An investigation was ordered, and Dr John Philip was sent to South Africa in February 1819 to investigate. Philip ordered James to return to Bethelsdorp which he did in 1820. For the next nine years, James worked there and at Theopolis, a schoolmaster and artisan.
IN HIS FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS
James moved to the Kat River Settlement when it was established in 1829. He was joined in 1832 by his son James Jr, then 21, and a man who later became a leading evangelist and minister in the eastern cape. (Another son, Joseph, was a hero of the frontier and an officer of the Cape Regiment and his daughters became teachers.) James Jr was ordained at the chapel of St Thomas’s square, in Hackney, on October 25, 1836. He returned to assist his father at Kat River on November 7, 1836. Many considered him to be a more intelligent man and better preacher than his father. He married Anna, daughter of English missionary, Rev George Barker, in 1841. They had three sons and a daughter. Their third son, Walter Henry, became a magistrate in
the Transkei. James Snr established good relations with the Xhosa across the frontier, but sadly the Frontier War of 1850-1851 destroyed all of his efforts. James Snr left Kat River and moved to nearby Elandi Port, where he died, in 1852, states researcher Andrew C. Ross.
KAROO ANGELS CAPTURE THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
Angels rescued a tiny Karoo village. From a little factory in a once abandoned church in Vondeling, near the beautiful Baviaanskloof World Heritage Site and 40km from the quaint Karoo town of Willowmore, angels now fly across the world bringing the spirit of the Karoo and the message of Christmas to homes across the globe. These beautiful, 100% handmade, delicate little feather, wire, sequined and beaded angels travel from Vondeling, a little settlement with no electricity or shops, to faraway places that the angel makers have never even heard of. Vondeling, once happy little community, sprang up alongside the railway line, but the death knell came when the station closed, leaving only a telephone booth, a small community hall, an old church and 29 families who had nothing but extreme poverty to look forward to. There was no work. The community survived on government grants and food parcels, but Vondeling’s spirit was not crushed. In 2006, a grant led to the creation of the Vondeling Optel Craft Project. Initially the crafters and their mentors tried some jewellery and velt items, then the idea of angels was born. They took off and in time became so successful that Rietbron Crafts, a group in another little farflung Karoo village about one hours drive away, joined the project. The Karoo Angel Factory now operates from both Vondeling and Rietbron. These magic little angels, each of which seems to have a personality of its own, now sparkle brightly in offices, homes and on Christmas trees, in many countries. Over the years they have truly carried the spirit of Christmas across the world.
WAR DID NOT DAMPEN THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT
Christmas was just another day during the Anglo-Boer War. Places like the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein, near Richmond, knew that they might be busy. As early as June,1900, Senior Surgeon Alfred Fripp, stated that “We are going to keep going at Christmas.” However, when the day did arrive, the hospital staff were involved in a bit on excitement and volunteers had to ride out to disperse a party of Boers who were operating along the railway line. Fortunately, there were no casualties. The incident was described by John Charles Davis, 33, an ambulance brigade volunteer. He wrote: “We heard that Boers were very near. This led to great excitement. Never before had the Boers been right on our doorstep. On December 22, rebels had blown up the railway line at Mynfontein, but that was 10 miles (16km) north of us. We were fairly tense, but that did not dampen our Christmas spirit. Once the Boers had gone a superb Christmas dinner was served, despite the heat. Men from the work crews waited on the tables. The evening too was most enjoyable as there was a minstrel performance. My day was near perfect because I had just been made sergeant.” New Year too was a festive occasion. Dances continued throughout the year and did much to build up camaraderie.
CHRISTMAS TRIBUTE TO THE FALLEN
Shortly after noon on Christmas Day in 1901, during the Anglo-Boer War, a parade of about 90 school children, led by the pipe band of the Coldstream Guards, marched to the De Aar town cemetery to honour the fallen. “As they left Carnarvon-hall the band struck up Scots Wha’ Hae and followed with Flowers of the Forest,” wrote Sergeant P Craven, of the Welsh Regiment On arriving at the cemetery the band formed up on the right while each child took up a position behind one of the graves. Mrs J R Cuthbert, the representatives at De Aar of the Loyal Women’s Guild, explained that the community was placing wreaths, on the graves of these soldiers, who had paid the highest price while serving their country, on behalf of their families in faraway Britain. “Their families will be thinking of them with aching hearts today,” she said. “Bereaved families in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales will appreciate that we have done what they cannot do.” As children laid the wreaths the band played Abide with me. Then, after a pause of a minute or two, the Last Post, played by the buglers of the Coldstream Guards, rang out. After that God Save the Queen was sung. “It was the grandest, most heart-stirring scene I have ever witnessed,” wrote Sergeant Craven. “Grown men stood at the graves with tears streaming down their cheeks, their hearts too full to speak.”
IN THE DOLDRUMS
In 1899 Grahamstown was in the doldrums. The prosperity of the mid-Victorian era, when this was a garrison town, had faded. Once the troops were withdrawn in 1870, the city was “commercially impoverished, with no function of real importance to fulfil”, The return of the troops during the Boer War enabled Grahamstown to catch a last fleeting glimpse of its old martial self, but blurred its vision of the future, states Dr H C Hummel of Rhodes University Department of History.
Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe