This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the world’s most deadly pandemics – the Spanish or Great Flu. It infected 500-million people and occurred in even in the remotest places. It came to South Africa on ships docking at Durban and Cape Town, says historian, Howard Philips, who will be one of the speakers at a symposium to commemorate this greatest medical catastrophe of all time. The flu travelled inland on South Africa’s well-developed railway network and the country’s migrant labour force helped to rapidly spread it across the country. The economy came to a standstill. Graves could not be dug fast enough, and, in about three months, 500 000 South Africans were dead, making this the fifth hardest hit country in the world. Then the flu disappeared as quickly as it appeared. The commemorative symposium, hosted by the S A Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, will be presented at 574 Ziervogel Street, Arcardia, Pretoria, on January 26, from 08h30 to 13h30. It also takes a look at other great epidemics that hit the world. Louise Cilliers, emeritus professor at the University of the Free State, will discuss two catastrophic epidemics that hit the Greek and Roman World. Dr Arnold van Dyk, chairman of the Van Dyk Anglo-Boer War Trust and Friends of the War Museum, will talk about the measles epidemic which hit the concentration camps of the Anglo-Boer War. Howard Philips, emeritus professor at the University of Cape Town, will trace the connections between Spanish Flu and WWI and Professor Louis Grundlingh will uncover facts of the Aids pandemic. Attendance costs R100 and this includes refreshments and lunch.


The University of Cape Town Summer School takes place from January 22 to 26 at the Kramer Law Building on the Middle Campus. This year’s programme will explore prominent themes of Van Riebeeck Society publications, concentrating on those covering history, slavery, botany, the hidden voices of black South Africans, war and Colonial conquest. The programme, coordinated by Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen, a longtime member of the Society, is entitled Witnesses to South African history: from Cinna the slave to Richard Victor Selope Thema. Elizabeth will speak on History and its Sources; Gerald Groenewald, Associate Professor at the University of Johannesburg, will discuss Slavery; Dr John Rourke, National Botanical Institute, will cover Botany and General Science; Dr Pamela Maseko. Rhodes University talks on Hidden Voices and Professor Bill Nasson, Stellenbosch University, will discuss War and Colonial Conquest.


Sir James Murray, an Irish physician, developed a magnesia fluid in about 1809 and successfully used it to treat the Marquis of Anglesey, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland’s, stomach cramps. After that he set up a factory in Dublin and marketed the mixture as a palatable laxative and remedy for acidity, indigestion, heartburn and gout. He also developed a syrup for women and children. Sadly, he did not patent his formulas internationally, so they were copied. When Murray died in 1871 his assistant, Dinnisford, patented the product and became wealthy. Then, an Eastern Cape chemist, W J Earle, got into the act, conducted some research and attached an apparatus to his soda water making machine. He marketed his product “a purer and more condensed fluid of magnesia”. He claimed it was superior to Murray’s and Dinnesford’s products and sold it at a lower price. The SA Commercial Advertiser of March 30, 1850, states that was an effective treatment for gout, severe urinary pains, biliousness, spasms, neuralgia, heartburn, nausea, irritability, acidity after overindulgence or excessive drinking, and, because it was a gentle way of curing constipation, it prevented of infants from smelling sour. Earle appointed agents and successfully marketed his product throughout the hinterland.

DON’T MISS Victoria West’s Wilds and Duiwe Fees, from June 22 – 23, 2018.

This is an excellent way to taste delicious venison in a true hinterland atmosphere


Dru Danford is trying to trace the Simpson family of old Beaufort West. One of his ancestors, Henry William Simpson, emigrated from London to the Eastern Cape with the Wilkinson party of 1820 settlers. About ten years later he moved to Beaufort West where he and his family lived until 1906. Henry’s two sons, Zacharias Joseph and Henry William, set up a smithy almost opposite present day Matoppo Inn. In those days this was a huge market square and there the Simpson brothers attended to all of the town and district’s black smithing needs. Over the years some family members were married in Beaufort West, but the marriage documents state in Trinity Church. “Has any Beaufort Wester heard of this place of worship? Was it perhaps a Methodist church?” asks Dru. Most of the Simpson children seem to have been christened in Christ Church Anglican church. It seems that the family owned ground in Salt River Valley area. Where, asks Dru, was this. There is also a document stating that Samuel Arthur Simpson, who died in 1907, had a farm called Dassiesfontein. He also owned property in the village and his will contains the lot numbers. “Does anyone know whether any old town plans exist?” asks Dru.


Dudley Schnetler is trying to unravel the puzzle of his ancestors. “My research shows that the first Schnetler arrived in SA around 1804 and settled in the Knysna/George area. They seem to have moved to Aberdeen in the Karoo in 1859, to take advantage of an immigration scheme, devised as a result of a sheep farming boom,” says Dudley. He would be interested to know more of the happenings in Aberdeen in the late 1850s and to learn whether any farmers in the district know of this family. “Research reveals that several of their children were baptised in Aberdeen churches,” he says.


During the Anglo-Boer War ‘lady hindrance’ was a term used to describe a group of non-nursing “nurses” – female ‘do-gooders’ who almost literally killed with kindness. Notoriously arrogant and imperious they got in the way of the “real medical personnel”. One of these was Lady O’Hagan. When she arrived in Cape Town in February 1900, she lost no time in offering to go Noupoort and to take seven or eight patients under her care. She announced she had a hospital tent, but no medical officer. Because she was known to be difficult, Surgeon-General Wilson accepted her offer and ordered that her tent be included in the Stationery Hospital. Lady O’Hagan arrived in Noupoort in April 1900, accompanied by a cook. She was not there for long before disaster struck. A fire that started in the mosquito netting over a badly wounded officer quickly spread and soon her whole huge hospital tent burned down. Fortunately, all the patients were evacuated in time.


The Cape and Natal News of February 1, 1860, states that Colonel Rose, the new commander of the Corps, in Algoa Bay, had drowned in a dreadful accident. He had just arrived from England to relieve Major-General Bolton and was on his way ashore from the steamer, Waldensian, when the serf boat in which he was travelling overturned. He and other passengers were tossed into the sea, but he was struck on the head by an oar, and so was possibly unconscious when he hit the water. This was confirmed when his body was recovered. There was a dreadful gash on his head. Everything was done to try and resuscitate him, but all efforts failed. Colonel Rose was the author of an excellent work entitled Four Years at the Cape. It was based on his experiences during a visit to the Colony 30 years before, said the newspaper.


Way back aircraft pilots navigated by the oddest means, says Prince Albert’s, Dick Metcalf. When flying in unknown territory they would swoop down to read name boards on roads and railway stations to confirm their route. “To assist them in establishing their location people began painting the names of towns and villages hills and koppies. This made things much easier,” he said, adding that Prince Albert’s name was painted on the koppie in 1934 when the town’s airfield was laid out. “My dad took us to see the airfield being built. Despite there being a dreadful amount of dust kicked up by the donkey harrows, it seemed as if the whole town was there to help. The first planes, three Wapiti biplanes, landed a few days after the airfield was completed. That was another exciting day.”


A boy, born in Uitenhage on June 26, 1821, was destined to have a great influence on the history of South Africa, particularly on the Trans-Gariep area. He was David, the son of Scottish settler, David Arnot, a blacksmith, and his wife, Kaatje der Jeugd, a Hottentot woman, also known as Catherine van Wyk. Young David’s childhood years passed in hardship and poverty. His father, who had come to South Africa in 1817 as an indentured worker to Benjamin Moodie, did not do well. Most of his business ideas failed and he was declared insolvent. Young David, however, was bright, intelligent, diligent and fortunate enough to be accepted as a student at the local Rose-Innes Academy. There he met such boys as Charles Henry Somerset, James Murray and William Guybon Atherstone, all of whom played important roles in his later life. David’s father was delighted when, in September 1836, Sir Benjamin D’Urban nominated him as one of the five boys to attend the newly established South African College School (SACS) at government expense. There David did well. His classmates included several others who would influence his life – James Rose-Innes, Johannes Henricus Brand, Jan H. Hofmeyer, (father of Onze Jan) and the Marquards.


Young David was a well-spoken, friendly, personable and energetic lad with lively eyes and curly hair. He was a short, swarthy, thickset and unprepossessing. He took full advantage of all opportunities with which life presented him. Some described him as emotional, ostentatious or unscrupulous and in many instances they were right. He was also musical and played an entertaining role at local concerts, particularly when he moved to Colesberg, shortly after completing his education at the SACS in 1845. He accepted a post as a general agent in the Trans-Gariep from Griqua chief, Nicholas Waterboer. In the same year he married Anne, the daughter of John Grimmer, an English settler, from Norfolk. This union produced 12 children. David was a good family man, devoted husband and father. He also excelled at his job as an agent. He was organized, efficient and wrote in a beautiful, neat, Italic hand. He was a sworn appraiser to the Master of the Supreme Court, and valuator to the Divisional Council. He transacted a wide range of business for people in the area and handled some affairs for David Livingstone. Because he was eloquent in English and Dutch, he often appeared in Court for his clients, despite the fact that he was neither a lawyer, nor law agent. He transacted loans, executed estates, acted as secretary to a huge number of organizations and also helped set up a local bank. In fact, it was said that no enterprise started in Colesberg without him having a hand in it. His was remarkably industrious and his influence extended over most aspects of local and Colonial life.


David was motivated by British imperialistic ideals and a loyalty to Waterboer. He promoted Griqua interests throughout the territory, often at cost to the Orange Free State. He was largely responsible for the establishment of Griqualand West, for Griqua acquisition of territory south of the Vaal (including some diamond fields). He served the area as a member of the Legislative Council in 1874 and was rewarded with a huge grant of land. It comprised 37 farms and was known as “The Reserve”. This land grant led to increased agricultural interests in the area and agricultural shows in Colesberg. With surveyor general, F H S Orpen, he wrote a book covering land deals and a brief history of the Griquas. He was a fellow of the Linnean Natural History, British Geographic and Philosophical Societies. His activities led to an increase in gun-running and gunpowder sales. It was said that he used the area around the town spruit to conceal many contraband rifles.


While at school David developed a great interest in natural history. In later life his long and arduous journeys into the interior allowed him to indulge these. On every trip David collected a huge variety of indigenous plants and succulents to send to Sir William Jackson Hooker, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, at Kew. Among these were aloes, euphorbias, casssulas, mesembryanthemums, cotyledons and bulbs. David also contributed stapelias to the collection of Sir Henry Barkly a British politician, colonial governor and patron of the sciences. Several of these – Stapelia arnotii, Talinum arnotii, Haemanthus arnotii, Hypoxis arnotii – were named in his honour, so was a land snail – the Sheldonia arnotti – and, his wide interest in ornithology, led to the naming of Arnot’s chat, (Myrmecocichla arnotti), a member of the flycatcher family. David also collected fossils which he sent to the British Museum. Through the Colonial botanist, as well as friends at Kew, in Germany and Australia, David obtained the seeds of many exotic trees. Many may still be seen in the Colesberg area today. David died on June 6, 1894, at the age of 74.


General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle spent quite some time in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War teaching soldiers to ride and shoot straight. In Reminiscences of Sport and War, he states that British men fought for their country, regiment and pride in themselves. “Generally, the British soldier is a fatalist. He firmly believes that his death is pre-destined and that he cannot be killed unless a bullet has his name on it. The South African War strengthened this belief for me.” He then mentioned five amazing, freak accidents that occurred in his own column of 1500 men within three weeks. In every case the victim was shot through the heart and here it must be remembered that the general taught his men to shoot. The first accident occurred when a South Australian closed the breech of his rifle after firing practice, pulled the trigger and shot his comrade, right through the heart. Then, an officer from the 6th Mounted Infantry got lost in the dark, came up to a line of barbed wire and, as he began to cut it, the sentry took him for an enemy, and fired straight through his heart with one shot. Another sentry, on seeing a line of men galloping towards him, fired one round at 600 yards and shot one of his own scouts through the heart. At dusk one day the column reached a river and placed a Vickers machine gun to guard the drift. Later a shot was fired at a suspicious man. He dropped to the ground. Next morning, they found one of their own men, shot through the heart. On another occasion, the column settled for the night at a bend in the road. At dawn as a man sat up, stretched, he was shot through the heart because the sentry thought he was an enemy. “The first accident might have been avoided,” said the general, “but for the rest the sentries were only obeying orders.”


Emil Paul, son of August Baumann and his wife, Bertha (nee Rosenstein), was born in Graaff-Reinet in June, 1874. With his three brothers and three sisters he attended St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown. He then went on to study medicine at the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Berlin and Vienna, where he proved to be a diligent student. He qualified as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) and a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians (LRCP) of London in 1897. The following year he was awarded the degrees Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and Bachelor of Surgery, and, in 1902 he received a Doctor of Medicine degree (MD) at the University of Edinburgh. After being admitted to the Royal College of Physicians in London, in 1903, Emil he joined the Pathological Chemistry laboratory staff at the University College in London and published two important papers on the physiology of blood. Emil then returned to South Africa and was registered to practice in 1905. He married Andrietta (Andrea) Maria Maasdorp, on June 5, 1906 in the St James Anglican Church in George and they moved to Johannesburg.


Emil joined the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, but his membership soon lapsed, states Cornelis Plug, who researched his life. In due course he became senior honorary visiting physician at the Johannesburg Hospital, honorary physician at the Johannesburg Fever Hospital, and lecturer on clinical medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand. Over the years he began to specialise in pediatric diseases of and became honorary physician at the Transvaal Memorial Hospital for Children, as well as lecturer in the diseases of children at the University of the Witwatersrand. He wrote a variety of papers on childhood diseases. From 1933 to 1936 he represented Rosettenville in the House of Assembly. His hobbies were child welfare and horticulture. He died in Johannesburg on March 7, l936.


In the 1750s, when Ryk Tulbagh succeeded Hendrik Swellengrebel, as the last Dutch governor of the Cape, he introduced some severe and sumptuary laws. He was said to be much loved and hailed as “the father of the people”, yet he decreed that no one of lesser rank than a junior merchant might carry an umbrella – odd when one considers the Cape weather. Citizens had to be a full merchant in order to enter the Castle in fine weather with their umbrella open. Everyone had to stop and get out of their carriage at the approach of the Governor. Also all men were required to doff their hats as they passed the governor’s house. No woman below the rank of the wife of a junior merchant might wear a silk dress or a dress with silk, braiding or embroidery and no woman, whether in or out of mourning might wear a dress with a train. There was a huge 25 Rix dollar fine for doing this. Few women were allowed to wear – or even to possess – diamonds or mantels. These were known as the Pracht en Praal (ostentation and luxury) regulations, states Mrs P Troller in Old Cape Colony.

Rough diamonds may sometimes be mistaken for worthless pebbles. Sir Thomas Browne