INTRIGUING ART ON DISPLAY
The Bushman Heritage Museum in New Bethesda, the only one of its kind in South Africa, is exhibiting a range of intriguing lino prints. These, like other artwork at the centre. these explore the ancient wisdom. rich culture and mythology of the /Xam, states the museum website. They have been done by resident artists Gerald Mei, Naasley Swiers and Sandra Sweers and they depict porcupines, zebras, baboons, a lion and eland as well as Kraggen’s precious, eland, the rain bull, the trickster, and a female hunter. They are for sale and proceeds will go towards the funding of the museum and a forthcoming book. The Eye of Gaunu, written by Jeni Couzyn, a poet and psychoanalyst, who with her daughter, Tarot, founded the art centre in a falling down mud-brick building way back in 1999. The book is based on one of the /Xam legends captured by Dorothea Bleek. “The museum, which also has a range of narrative tapestries on its walls, represents the coming togerther of ancient Bushman /Xam wisdom and contemporary art. The mythology and legends offers a prophetic journey into who we are and who we are meant to be,” says Jeni. Today the museum and art centre, with outreach house and tourist accommodation, ramble across four buildings. Work from this centre has been exhibited across the world in places such as the British museum, in London and Aboriginal arts museum in Perth. On Heritage Day last year the museum launched a short film entitled These Are Our Stories, made by Jeni and Nana Dankwa. It can be viewed on YouTube. More from bushmanheritagemuseum.org.
A FIRST FOR SOUTH AFRICA
Lionel Miles, South Africa’s first full-time maxillofacial dental surgeon was born in Molteno on February 5, 1928. After matriculating from Queens College, Queenstown, he completed a dental degree at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1951. On qualifying he opened a dental practice in Worcester. In 1960 he went to England where he specialised in maxillofacial surgery. While in London he met Marion Hansen, a Canadian-born nurse, and married her in 1963. After his return to South Africa in about 1968 he and Professor Manie Breytenbach set up the first maxillofacial and oral surgery in Cape Town. Recognising the need for post graduate training of historically disadvantaged dentists, Lionel joined the faculty of Dentistry at the University of the Western Cape in 1983. At that time he was the chair and head of the Maxillofacial Surgery Unit at Groote Schuur Hospital. He was a sympathetic teacher, deeply religious and compassionate. He believed in fairness, justice and equality He was also a talented musician – an accomplished pianist, organist, choir master and a member of the Cape Town male choir. He died at the age of 89.
Note: Maxillofacial surgeons are trained to recognize and treat a wide spectrum of diseases, injuries and defects in the hard and soft tissues of the head, neck, face, jaws. They can administer anaesthetics.
PICTURES THAT DIDN’T TELL THE STORY
In the early 1920s American insurance mogul, Isadore William Schlesinger, a land developer and film magnate, bought farmland from Reg Holmes and some neighbours and created the African Irrigated Land Company. He appointed himself chairman. When the Van Ryneveld’s Pass Dam (now the Nqweba Dam) was constructed on the Sundays River, near Graaff-Reinet in 1925, Schlesinger persuaded the Government to allow him to sell an irrigation scheme south of the dam. He named the area Kendrew, divided it into plots for sale and granted the best to the African Irrigated Land Company. He then prepared a somewhat misleading brochure depicting orange groves and lush lucerne lands and distributed these in Britain mostly to WWI ex-servicemen who were finding it difficult to settle down and find jobs. Many fell for his sales pitch and used their gratuities to buy land at Kendrew. They thought it was a chance of a lifetime and set off to find their fortunes in South Africa only to find they had been duped.
LETTERS MADE A SOFT BED
During the Anglo-Boer War, on July 8, 1901, Maurice Fitzgibbon was appointed as acting surgeon to accompany sick and wounded men from Reitz and Heilbron to the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein. The men were transported by a convoy of 400 bullock wagons, each drawn by 16 oxen. In addition to the patients they carried much other military paraphernalia. The convoy followed the route of the Imperial Military Railway line. Before the war, Maurice, a medical graduate from Trinity College, worked as a moderator in classics at Dublin University. He described the three-day journey as slow and tedious. The wagons were accompanied by an escort of cavalry, infantry and guns. On July 14 he and his patients were transferred to a train consisting of 18 coal trucks, a converted wagon and a guards van. “The latter was graded as first class for officers. In the van, with the railway guard that day, was a Defence Intelligence captain and an acting surgeon from the 13th Imperial Yeomanry battalion. As soon as the train stopped members of the general public raced into the covered wagon. The wounded men in Maurice’s care were faced with riding in the open coal trucks until, with a railway officer, he managed to secure better accommodation for them, he states in Arts Under Arms – A University Man in Khaki. The train set off and Maurice with the other officers settled down to sleep on about two dozen sacks of soldiers letters. “The softest bed on which I had lain in two days.” At Deelfontein “the patients were admitted to the IYH and he was free. “For the first time since I had left Ireland, I felt sick – not a serious complaint – just homesickness.”
MAGNIFICENT VOICE, UNFORGETTALBE CONCERT
Among the patients who Maurice took to the IYH was a former Irish Rugby Football International fullback. “This man was blessed with the finest countertenor voice I have ever heard.” That evening, after mess, Colonel Sloggett introduced him. “He sat down to the piano, and sang for us Kathleen Mavourneen, Asthore, and other songs. Never have I seen singing produce such an effect on any audience as did these songs under the conditions in which they were sung that night. This same evening I obtained my pass for Cape Town, and determined to leave by the next train, which happened to be the Cape Mail, passing Deelfontein at 05:30 The Commandant very kindly offered me a bed up at the hospital, about half a mile from the railway station. However, in order to avoid disturbing the camp, ensure catching the train, and also to obviate the necessity of sleeping between sheets in my ordinary clothes (I had not been out of my riding breeches, even for the purpose of washing them or myself for three months), I opted to sleep in the ladies waiting room at the station. The station master, however, forgot to wake me. However, soon after I had washed a supply train came along and it had a second-class coach. A few days later I sailed from Cape Town in charge of 300 sick and wounded men on a hospital transport ship.”
MADE TEETH YOUNG AGAIN
While working in South Africa Maurice earned “an underlying fame” among the indigenous population. “I was one day confronted by a woman who was suffering from the most dreadful toothache. I managed to find some morphine and a half grain dose provided a means of securing a good night’s rest for her. The next day I could find no forceps to extract the tooth, not even a pair of pincers anywhere, so I painted on her gum with a small qualtity of carbolic acid. This gave her immediate relief and the first good night’s rest in a week. All the locals immedictedly wanted me to give them a bottle ‘to make their teeth young again.’”
ON THE WAY TO THE FRONT
In a letter written to his mother during the Anglo-Boer War, Corporal John Clitheroe, of the 2nd Coldstream Guards, described what it was like marching to the front. The letter was published in the Burnley Express of December 13, 1899. In it he states: “We have travelled about 600 miles up the country. We have just passed about three miles of horses and troops on a line march for the front. There were hundreds of horses and waggons. We have heard that one of the Boer generals was seriously wounded or killed. There are a great many troops coming up the country just now. I am in the best of health and spirits. The climate is very warm in the daytime and cold at night. There are troops all along the railway, guarding the bridges, etc. This morning we had breakfast at De Aar Station. I am coming up here with a good heart and the best of spirits. ‘God speed’ to me and the British flag that flies high over the British empire.” Before the war Clitheroe was a member of the Barnsley Police Force.
KAROO HOSPITAL CHANGED HER LIFE
The Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein totally changed the life of one of its nurses, Florence Barraclough “Barrie” Lambert was only 29 when she arrived, yet the work done there by civilian doctors who didn’t need the jobs so impressed her that she decided to study medicine. She qualified in 1906. Born on August 13, 1871, she was the daughter of a solicitor. After attending school in France she trained as a nurse in London and became a ward sister. Petite, energetic, brilliantly intelligent, friendly and empathetic, she enlisted at the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War. She was a ball of fire, energy and enthusiasm, broadminded with had a keen sense of humour. She was fiercely honest and a good, clear speaker. She did not use rhetoric and was easily understood by the common man. She was conservative with progressive instincts. She had few enemies and many intensely loyal friends. She turned her attention to physical medicine, furthered her studies in Stockholm and became one of the first to specialists in physiotherapy. During WWI it was said “she was worth her weight in gold”. She achieved an almost unique distinction for a woman in those days and served as a major in the RAMC. After the war she moved in civic and political circles and played a vital role in public health. Hailed as one of the most remarkable women of her day, she became Dame Barrie Lambert. She died at the age of 86.
SIX WOMEN ON A MISSION
In 1901 the British government appointed a Royal Commission of six-women to investigate the conditions in the Boer War concentration camps. Before they left for Cape Town, the women refused to meet with Emily Hobhouse, who had been labelled a “hysterical spinster of mature age” by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Joseph Chamberlain. There were two doctors – Ella Campbell Scarlett-Synge and Jane Elizabeth Waterson – and two nurses – Katherine Brereton and Lady Anne, wife of General Knox – (she had worked as a nurse in Ladysmith during the siege and was familiar with some camps) – and Lucy A E Deane, who was the daughter of Colonel Bonar Deane who died at Laing’s Nek in 1881. She had National Health Society qualifications and, at the time of the war, was a Home Office sanitary inspector. The commission was headed by the feminist, politician and writer Millicent Garrett Fawcett, sister of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman to qualify as a medical doctor in England. Millicent was the widow of the blind Liberal parliamentarian, Henry Fawcett, She was a fierce campaigner for women’s suffrage and legislative change. She led Britain’s largest women’s rights association, was intimate with British politics and was determined to avoid anything pro-Boer.
A FIRST FOR BLOEMFONTEIN
Ella Scarlett and Katherine Brereton – had links to the Karoo. Ella served as a doctor Norvalspont concentration camp and Katherine at the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein. Born in Abinger Hall, Surrey, in England on November 22, 1894, Ella was the daughter of an Irish aristocrat, William Scarlett, Lord Abinger, who served in the Crimean War and visited America during the Civil War. Her mother was Helen, the daughter of Commodore George Allan Magruder, of the United States Navy. She was the first woman to practise medicine in Bloemfontein, the first and only doctor to be appointed at the Dames Institute (now Eunice School). She had a most exotic career. After qualifying she worked at the Royal Court of the Emperor of Korea. She later moved to Canada to teach and become the first woman doctor at the Royal Columbian Hospital in Alberta. She went to the States, and during WWI worked in Serbia. Jane Waterson, like Ella was a product of a society that did its best to prevent women from gaining academic qualifications. A Scottish teacher, she was inspired by David Livingstone to become a missionary. She initially came to South Africa with the Free Church of Scotland’s mission. She later qualified as a doctor, established a practice in Cape Town and devoted her life to the care of the poor. She spoke Xhosa fluently.
TOP NURSE FROM THE IYH
Katherine Brereton, an excellent nurse, was appointed as night superintendent at the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein. Born in Norwich in 1861, she was the daughter of a military officer who was opposed to her training as a nurse. She worked at Guy’s Hospital, the Birkenhead and Wirrall Children’s Hospitals and was a member of the Nurse’s League. She trained in mid-wifery at York Road Lying-in Hospital. Before the war she was head sister of the Bright Ward at Guys Hospital. (It was named in honour of Richard Bright an early pioneer in the research of kidney disease). In 1903, she accompanied Millicent Fawcett (by then Dame Millicent) to South Africa on a mission to promote reconciliation of between the Boers and the British. On her return to England she took a course in farming to enable her to manage her family’s estates. As a final gift to medicine, she bequeathed her body to the Medical School of Guy’s Hospital.
FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH
Way back when I was still involved with schools, I was sitting in a classroom browsing through a Boer War book seeking material for a chapter on horses for Yeomen of the Karoo. A little lad looked over my shoulder and asked: “Can the horses in your book talk?” Well, why not? All the horses in his books could speak. Now after several years I have discovered some books on the Anglo-Boer War in which the horses do speak. This is the Heroes with Hooves series written by Dr Juliette Whelpton. In these some very important horses tell their own stories based on their war-time experience. One is Fleur, General Christiaan de Wet’s faithful steed, the other Bokkie, the legendary Basotho pony of General Koos de la Rey and then there is General Louis Botha’s magnificent Boerperd, Dapper. Among the other heroes who leave hoof tracks throughout the series are Malperd, Rooibok and Generaal. These horses all share poems, songs, a wealth of interesting facts about what it was like to be a “war horse” and involved in the war – the joys of the open veld, the terrors of combat, the pangs of hunger. This charming series is dedicated to all the unsung horse heroes of the war in which 500 000 of them died. It is historically accurate and perfect for readers from 9 to 99. “These are beautiful and original tales, compassionately and sensitively told,” said Professor Fransjohan Pretorius. For more information contact Juliette at email@example.com
HORSES DO THE HEALING
Dr Juliette Whelpton runs a company called Healing Hooves. Situated in Pretoria and Philippolis, it offers natural healing using environmental art and equine (horse) assisted counselling. The organisation provides services to individual clients and groups, as well as outreach programs to youth at risk and communities in need. “We don’t whisper to the horses, we let them speak to us,” said Juliette. “In today’s busy modern life, with an overflow of information and technology, people become detached from themselves, as well as from the things and people they love. Healing Hooves helps those who feel lost and alone to find meaning and a way back to their lives, themselves and their relationships,” she added.
HORSES WERE LIVING SKELETONS
The loss of horses during the Anglo-Boer War at times brought combatants on both sides to utter despair. In early 1900, after the capture of Bloemfontein, a British officer described the horrific state of the horses with empathy: “From side to side these living skeletons swayed and crossed their hind legs if compelled to move. When tied up in batches they leant against each other, and the centres collapsed under the pressure These wrecks of war, this flotsam and jetsam of human passions and strife, these helpless victims of a policy of the grossest cruelty and gravest injustice, were dying by hundreds,” stated the Marquess of Anglesey, in A history of the British cavalry. “The rotting carcasses of horses and mules left psychological scars,” said Denys Reitz. Sharing his worst experience of the war as he wrote of a hard rain falling on the commando. Fifty or 60 ponies had died from exposure, rendering a quarter of the commando horseless and on foot in the freezing downpour, carrying their saddles and stumbling over the carcasses of their mounts. The night was so psychologically damaging that the little group who survived the ordeal called themselves the “Groot Reent Kerels” (the “Big Rain Men”). On the British side, an equally poignant vignette captured the close bond forged between man and horse. In The Web of a War, Henry Francis Prevost Battersby, tells of a trooper who had been shot and had fallen from his horse. The animal, “as if realizing the wounded man’s condition, knelt down beside him and the trooper made several ineffectual attempts to scramble into the saddle while under fire.” (Battersby was a poet, novelist, researcher and correspondent for The Morning Post during the Anglo=Boer War. When the war was over there were almost no horses left in the South African hinterland.
AND WHEN IT WAS OVER
At the end of the war, there were still over 131,000 horses on the books of the War Office, with a fifth recovering in remount camps. The Repatriation Department faced the Herculean task of dealing with remaining combat animals. About 9,500 horses suspected of infection were destroyed to forestall epidemics and 120,500 horses from all over the world were sold to local farmers. Horses once accustomed to the fields of England, Ireland, the Steppes of central Europe, Pampas and plains of the Americas, found new homes in the hinterland of South Africa, states Susan Swart in Horses of the S A War. After the war many efforts were made by veterinary surgeons and farmers, in places like the Karoo, to re-establish horses. Good Thoroughbred bloodstock was imported and Grootfontein College, in 1910 just outside Middelburg, played a vital role in equine rural practice.
A walk in nature, walks the soul back home – Mary Davis