Dr Juliette Whelpton’s latest book in the Heroes with Hooves Series tells the story of Maharajah, an Arab stallion which belonged to Captain Jack Seeley. Jack first saw Maharajah on the Egyptian plains and was captivated by him. He came to South Africa with Jack to serve during the Ango-Boer War, and this is their story told by Maharajah himself. During his lifetime he met Queen Victoria, Lord Kitchener and many other important British officers. He also met some top Boer leaders, like General Christiaan de Wet and the teenage hero Japie Greyling. Maharajah had many friends and horse acquaintances, some of whom, like Soldaat, who came from Australia and the Thoroughbred, Don’t Touch Me, became quite famous. Then there was his best friend, a homing pigeon called Skaduweetjie (Little Shadow) because it followed him everywhere. Maharajah’s Egyptian family considered him to be a leader, a king, and so they named him Keheleh Madj’hij-Maharajah. Jack Seeley gave a gold watch to his owner in exchange for him and then their adventures began. He travelled with Jack to the Isle of Wight and later to South Africa. This book covers the hardship of the voyage, which he almost didn’t make it because he was light grey, and the War Office thought it folly to take a “white” horse to war. Undaunted, Jack dyed him brown. He also tells of his times in remount camps and at places like De Aar, Philippolis, Hoopstad and Senekal. More from Juliette at and


The Early History of Loeriesfontein, by Nigel Amschwand’s is a power-packed 40-page read. In it he states that the true pioneers, who trekked up across the Cape borders and up towards the Orange River were the Basters

– a South African ethnic group descended from white European men and black, usually Khoisan or slave women. Loeriesfontein was never a missionary town. It was initially a Baster community and it lasted longer than many missions. There are records of loan farms being granted after the Bushman War of 1739. The first written record dates to 1825 when Richard Fryer requested information on some watering places. The town is then said to have developed from about 1894 around Frederick Turner’s general store. Gathering this interesting saga involved a great deal of research and digging through old documents in archives and museums. This well- illustrated little book is packed with facts, figures and long-forgotten information. “But it is also a sad-story of a self-sufficient community who were forced off their land with the coming of the trekboers,” says Nigel. The book costs R100 and is available from Print On Demand, Cape Town.


General dealer Moss Valentine claimed to have introduced Sunlight soap to Dordrecht in 1899. It proved to be a highly sought-after product, he said. Stocks were soon in such great demand that his shop was besieged whenever the word went round that the transport rider was on his way. Sunlight soap become so popular in this part of the Karoo that a general dealer in Queenstown ordered a ton to be sent to his store, states an article in Jewish Life. Moss’s great grandson, Joseph, reported that his great grandfather was an enviable entertainer, greatly sought after and central to village life. He had a beautifully, trained tenor voice and was an excellent actor, so he kept the community well entertained at regular concerts. Moss started a choral company called The Christy Minstrels which gave its first very successful performance in the Dordrecht town hall in April, 1885. He then founded a dramatic society and, in the same year, organised a juvenile fancy dress ball in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. He then went on to found The Moss Chess and Draughts Club which also became very popular. When he was sure of the standard of his players, he organised many challenge matches.


In June 1917, a Dobermann was born at the South African Police Dog School in Irene and named Sauer. His breeding was sound, but he failed to measure up to the strict standards required by the police canine unit. He seemed to be just too nervous. Detective-Sergeant Herbert Kruger took hum under his wing and with patient and careful handling Sauer improved. He and Kruger formed a strong bond. He was loyal and obedient to Kruger, but others found him difficult. Sauer first demonstrated his legendary powers when he successfully followed a trail that was 132 hours old. This is believed to be a world record. Then, in 1921, he tracked someone who had stolen articles stolen from a Worcester shop, all the way to Nuy Station, 20 km. There he only lost the trail because the thief had taken a train to Tulbagh. Sometime later a thief broke into the DRC manse while the minister was preaching his sermon. A travel bag with some clothes and £3 in cash was stolen. The bag was later found in the veld and a day later Sauer brought to the scene. He quickly picked up the trail, followed it to a house not far away. He immediately started barking and as soon as the door was opened, Sauer rushed in and went straight up to the guilty party. The man was arrested and later convicted.


In Paupan, a thief broke into a house, but left his knife at the scene. Sauer sniffed it and tracked him for many kilometers along the railway line to Houtkraal. There he led Kruger away from the rail to a shop at Potfontein, where he sniffed around a spot on the stoep. The shop owner confirmed that a stranger had left his bundle lying there the previous night. Sauer followed the trail for almost 13 km across the veld to the remains of a fire. Then, after a 42 km round trip he wound his way back to Houtkraal station, but enquiries revealed the suspect had caught a train to De Aar. Kruger and Sauer followed on the next train and on arrival at De Aar station were able to arrest the thief. In 1925, Sauer tracked his way into history. Called in on a case of stock theft, he and Kruger tracked a thief, without stopping over a grueling 160 km across the Great Karoo, and again caught their man. To this day this is considered a world tracking record according to an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Sauer died, aged nine, in June 1926, in De Aar. He was buried in a place of honour on police property, wrote Caroline Barnard, in Dobe Capers, the magazine of the Dobermann Club of the Cape. Sadly no one has been able to find a photograph of Sauer. His story was confirmed by Captain Hendrik Smit of the SAP Dog Unit. While researching Sauer’s story Caroline met Irene Oosthuizen, whose father brought the first three Doberman Pinchers to South Africa to be trained by the police in 1911.

Note: The concept of using dogs to track criminals originated in 1907 when Cornelis Kuyper’s daughter witnessed a murder. Kuypers tried to convince the Commissioner of Police in the Transvaal to enlist the aid of tracker dogs to help the crime investigators. In 2010 Constable R Seekoei of De Aar become the first woman in the Upper Karoo to complete a patrol dog handler`s course, as well as the most difficult and tough tactical dog handler’s course.


In 1903 when Rabbi Philips from Port Elizabeth visited the Jewish community in Willowmore, he was met by a strange request. The area was in the grips of a dreadful drought and, while the DRC dominees had fervently prayed for rain, not a drop had fallen. The farmers thus approached the rabbi and asked whether he would pray. He readily agreed and a special service for Jews and gentiles was arranged in the town hall. It was the first time both congregations had ever worshipped together under one roof. His prayer was answered. On the next day there was a veritable deluge, wrote Arthur Markowitz in the SA Jewish Times of June 4, 1948. Rabbi Philips’s social status immediately changed and so did his popularity. He was overwhelmed with letters of thanks.


The itinerant traders that plied the hinterland roads tried to ensure that they carried the widest possible range of goods to intrigue the far-flung buyers. Among their highly sought-after items was one labelled “A cup of tea in five minutes.” This invention, described in 1882 by Sarah Heckford in A Lady Trader in the Transvaal, consisted of a small piece of sponge covered with wire gauze and encased in a metal cover. She said: “The apparatus could be carried in a pocket until required to perform the part of a spirit lamp. The contrivance is a bit more complicated than I describe and it is decidedly ingenious.” They proved quite popular and helped hinterland tea drinkers to quickly boil water to quench their thirsts.


In the 1920s Scottish musicologist Percival Kirby set himself the ambitious task of documenting and describing all musical instruments used by indigenous people across the country. Funded by the Carnegie Foundation he studied myths, legends, and reports written by early travellers and then conducted about nine field trips. On these he collected wide ranging fascinating facts, a wealth of historical information and descriptions of the instruments and their manufacture. He also visited museums across South Africa and abroad. He wrote a series of papers and a book detailing each instrument from a technological as well as historical point of view. Among the instruments he described were rattles and clappers, “bull roarers”, spinning disks, the Gora – a stringed wind instrument, San and Khoi violins, the Ramkie, the Zulu umtshingo or open flute, the fugube mouth resonated bow, dithlaka pipes and Moshupiane, a Pedi friction drum, which was owned by women. “It emitted a wild screaming sound, said to be the voice of the spirit of the guardian of the hills in the form of the night owl,” he said. He described reed flutes mentioned in reports written by Vasco de Gama after landing as Cape St Blaise, near Mossel Bay in 1497 and very old instruments such as the segwana, a bow with an ox sinew string lubricated by saliva or honey. It was made by the Tswana people of Eastern Bechuanaland (now Botswana). The Zulus made a similar instrument, the ugubu , which had a calabash resonator. His research also covered Western type instruments played by indigenous people, as well Venda string puppets. “These were manipulated by the toes while they sang songs often with obscene words,” said Professor Kirby. His private collection, which went to the Albany Museum, included over 600 instruments, and about 500 photographs.


Life in early hinterland towns was quite sociable. Newspapers advertised concerts, recitals pantomimes, dramas, plays and sing-alongs. A stream of entertainers, musicians, magicians, acrobats, and the like, constantly travelled from village to village. In addition, there were regular dances and among the guests would be the judge and circuit court, if they were in town, the magistrate (landdrost), shopkeepers and their assistants, hairdressers, bakers, barbers, dressmakers, local residents and farmers. The actual dance music was provided by a fiddler. One such event was described in 1882 by Sarah Heckford in A Lady Trader in the Transvaal. She said: “Oh, the dancing. They danced with great gravity and ponderosity, if one may use such a word. Some clung to each other as they hopped round and round to waltz tunes. Others charge savagely with to and fro, an imminent danger to their neighbours; others held their arms stretched down so tightly that they looked as if they were mutually desirous of dislocating each other’s shoulders. One couple, a chubby little man and woman, regardless of the time of the music or other dancers, stood in the middle of the floor with a stolid smile on each fat little face and turned slowly round. They seemed quite oblivious of the collisions they came in for. I saw them get a thump from one of the chargers, which would have knocked down a less steady couple, but it only caused them to totter. The comicality of their appearance tickled me.”


The global trend to toward adventure mountain biking has grown in recent years. One of the most testing routes on the international calendar is Karoo Burn. This a brutal, challenging 242 km route which mostly follows the R355, South Africa’s longest gravel route over breathtaking isolated terrain. “This race, which starts after dark and for some ends that way too, redefines the challenges of mind, body and bike,” says News 24 cycling editor Lance Branquinho. This is truly a one-of-a-kind race, say the organisers. They stress the semi-arid desert routes of America, Australia and South America simply do not compare as they do not have the diversity of geology, history and mystery. For more contact


In the 1850s British soldiers stationed on the Amatola escarpment between Fort Beaufort and Adelaide named the place Mount Misery because of the many brutal battles fought during the second campaign of the 8th Frontier War. It was a merciless game of cat-and-mouse between the Xhosa, Khoi and British army. The Xhosa, who knew the surrounding area very well were able to surprise the British soldiers on many occasions. Fort Fordyce was named after a British officer named who lost his life there. In 1835 most of the Boers joined the Great Trek moved northward and the years of conflict to an end. Today this beautiful Mount Misery area, with magnificent views across the Hogsback and Katberg mountains, forms part of the Fort Fordyce Nature Reserve


Gold attracted Isaac Sonnenberg to America and diamonds also brought him to South Africa. Hearing that gold nuggets had been found at Sutter’s Mill in the Sacramento Valley in California on January 24, 1848, Isaac, or Ikey as he was fondly known, set off to try his luck. He was the eldest of four sons born to Marum and Sarah Sonnenberg and, in 1849 at the age of 16, he left his hometown Floersheim, near Frankfurt in Germany, to join the Californian Gold Rush. He then simply vanished. Ten years later his mother sent his younger brother Charles Mayer to look for him. Charlie didn’t find him until July 1863 when they bumped into each other on the Battlefield of Gettysburg. In 1868 the brothers came to South Africa and in 1870 joined South Africa’s first major diamond rush to the diggings at Barkly West, then known as Klip Drift (or Klipdrift). in Griqualand.


This Dutch name Klipdrift means “stony ford” and this was a direct translation of a much older !Kora or Korana name Ka-aub (or !a |aub) meaning a “stony place along a river”. This little village had a brief but exciting history when soon after diamonds were discovered it was declared the Klipdrift Diggers Republic. A former merchant and Royal Navy, a seaman, artist, auctioneer and shopkeeper, Stafford Parker who had jumped a ship bound for the Crimea after wounding a French officer in a duel, was declared president and the town was named Parkerton. He was easily recognizable by his white top hat. He began to collect taxes – often at gunpoint, however, his Presidency was short lived. When the British moved in and declared their authority over the area Stafford, a friend of the infamous Cockney Liz, and his government resigned in February,1871. The fledgling town was then named in honour of Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of the Cape. During the Boer War the town was occupied by Boer forces and temporarily named Nieuw Boshof,


In Barkly West Ikey first worked as a smous (itinerant pedlar) and later as a diamond dealer. Ikey, a gregarious, friendly, affable and a totally lovable character, was also an inveterate gambler. In addition to being a mining pioneer he and his brother had a business in town, by 1870 they opened a general dealers store in Jacobsdal and later another in Aliwal North. After that Charlie set off to join a family business in Queenstown. On a visit to him Ikey met and fell in love with Jeanette Rosenthal. They were married in the village on December 13, 1870. (They had 8 or 9 children before she died in 1911.) In 1873 he went to the MacMac diggings outside of Pilgrims Rest. By the end of 1875, he had acquired Blaauwbank farm near Rustenburg, but no gold was found there, so he moved to Johannesburg, then to Bechuanaland and later to Barberton until about 1888. Ikey died in Johannesburg on September 28, 1906, as a result of myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, which then led to paralysis of his limbs.


The South African Army has almost never functioned without spiritual leadership. During the Anglo-Boer war the men in the field were served by many lay and professional preachers. In the years following the war a few part-time chaplains still served in military bases, however. although these chaplains were South Africans, they were not regarded as South African chaplains because they also worked among British colonial troops. On October 9, 1920, two full-time chaplains, who had served with the Citizen Force during WWI, were appointed to Roberts Heights (later Voortrekkerhoogte) – one was to serve English-speaking church members and the other to serve the Dutch. Accordingly Reverend A Roberts and Reverend J N Murray became the first two full- time (not Permanent Force) chaplains of the Union, states Mrs L Brits of the SADF Military Information Bureau in an article entitled The Chaplain-General. A milestone was reached in October 1946 when the South African Corps of Chaplains was established as a special unit to serve the Army, Air Force and Navy.


South African rivers fascinated Captain J E Balfour, a civil engineer and hydrologist, who arrived in the country around the 1880. He published a two-part is paper entitled On Some South African Rivers, published in the Transactions of the South African Philosophical Society, Volume 3 of 1881-1883. The first paper discussed the Orange (Gariep), Olifants, and Berg Rivers, while the second, under a byline of only his initials

– JA – appeared later in the same volume and was entitled Irrigation on the Visch and Zak Rivers, Calvinia and Fraserburg Divisions, states Cornelis Plus in The SA Biographical Dictionary.

Travel leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller – IBN Battuta