SPECIAL WEEKEND FOR HISTORY BUFFS
A special Anglo-Boer War weekend, hosted by the War Museum in Bloemfontein and the Lord Milner Hotel, will take place at Matjiesfontein from March 16 to 18. The programme includes top speakers such as Tokkie Pretorius, director of the Anglo-Boer War Museum, who will discuss Soldiers of the Queen, Dr Johan Loock, who will review the famous and controversial Boer Commandant, Gideon Scheepers, Allan Duff will cover the activities of the commandoes of General Wynand Malan and Commandant Willem Fouche during the last week of the war, Dr Dean Allen will conduct a walking tour of the village and present Empire, The War and Cricket, and Dr Arnold van Dyk, co-author of Yeomen of the Karoo, will lead a special tour to Laingsburg and the nearby battlefield of Driefontein. There will be a visit to Monument Cemetery where Scottish hero, Major-General Andrew Gilbert “Andy” Wauchope, hero of Magersfontein, is buried. A star-gazing tour will celebrate the clear Karoo night skies and Johnny Theunissen’s Red Bus Tour, will be among the highlights. Accommodation is available at various village venues including the Lord Milner Hotel, where scrumptious meals will be served in the historic dining room. Costs range from R3,860 per person, depending of the type of accommodation chosen. Booking is essential. Quality accommodation is also available at nearby Laingsburg and on guest farms in the area.
CAPTURE KAROO MOMENTS
Prince Albert photographer, Gita Claassen, is offering a series of workshops in 2018. Sessions will take place mainly in Prince Albert and classes limited to four delegates to ensure personal attention. Landscape photography will be covered from March 23 to 25, and again from November 2 to 4. Next is photography fundamentals for beginners from April 6 to 8 and again from September 14 to 16. Then, astro and star trail photography – from May 18 to20 and again from July 13 to 15, Architecture will be covered from August 9 to 11 and nature photography from October 16 to 18. The latter will be presented in the Karoo National Park, outside Beaufort West,
EXCITING NEW TALK COVERS SPRINGBOK HISTORY
The game of rugby has been central to many dramatic moments in South Africa. These range from severe dissention regarding the national team’s name to South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar receiving the William Webb Ellis Rugby World Cup on June 24, 1995, from Springbok jersey-clad President Nelson Mandela. For those who would like to know more of the history of the game historian and author, Dr Dean Allen, is launching a new talk entitled Rugby and Reconcilliation, next year. This fully illustrated talk, based on years of research, starts with 1906 Springbok team that went on tour only four years after the end of the Anglo-Boer War fielding some players who had fought against each other during this bitter conflict. While in South Africa during March and April, 2018, Dean address Matjiesfontein’s Boer War Weekend (March 16 to 18); Cape Town’s Adele Searll Club (March 27); Howick’s Midlands Forum (April 3); Cape Town’s Decorative Arts Society (April 16); Johannesburg U3A (April 19); Inyoni Probus Club (April 19), Prynnsberg Estate, Clocolan, (April 20) and Knysna U3A (April 26).
SOME RUGBY FIRSTS
The first official South African rugby match – between the Army and Civil Service – took place at Green Point, Cape Town, on August 21, 1862. It was organized by Canon George Ogilvie, headmaster of Bishop’s College. In 1984 Prince Albert claimed to be the first town to have a multi-racial rugby team. Errol Tobias, who was born on Klipdrift farm, outside Caledon, on March 18, 1950, was the first black man to play for the national side in a rugby test match. He gained six caps between 1981 and 1984.
ONE OF THE BEST OF ALL TIME
Francois du Toit “Mannetjies” Roux, who was born in Victoria West on April 12, 1939, is said to have been one of the greatest Springbok centres of all time. After completing his schooling at Paarl Boys High School, he attended Stellenbosch University and later joined the South African Air Force in Pretoria where he was a Harvard instructor. Between 1960 and 1970, he was capped 27 times; 6 times on the wing and 21 times at centre. He was not very tall, but his lightning speed, ferocious defence and cockiness earned him the nickname “Mannetjies” (little man in Afrikaans). He won his first cap against Wales in Cardiff in 1960. He is perhaps best known for his tackle in 1992 which broke the jaw of British Lions fly half Richard Sharp. Controversy followed him throughout his career. He achieved notoriety on the demo-ridden 1969/1970 Springbok tour of the United Kingdom when he kicked one protester in the backside and hurled a ball at another Mannetjies retired in 1970 after leading Griqualand West to their third Currie Cup victory. He returned to Victoria West where he and his wife, Charlotte, set up The Victoria Trading Post, a little shop and museum, where his rugby memorabilia is on display.
MORE RUGBY ROOTS IN THE KAROO
Louis Luyt, a well-known and controversial personality in South African rugby was born in Britstown on June 18, 1932. Initially his name was Oswald Louis Petrus Poley, but his mother had her first marriage annulled after discovering that the man she thought to be her husband was a polygamist. When her second husband, Charles Luyt, legally adopted Louis he dropped Oswald and Petrus. The family was not affluent, and Louis was required to be up before dawn on icy Karroo mornings to work in a bakery and to irrigate the family’s tiny vegetable garden. He showed an aptitude for rugby at school and played as a fullback. During a match at Colesberg that he was spotted by the local Collegiate School coach who offered him a two-year contract with free books as well as free boarding and lodging. Louis, however, still had to work during his school holidays in order to matriculate. He then went to Bloemfontein where he found a job as a labourer on the railways and joined the Railway Rugby Club. He moved from fullback to fly half, eighth man and lock. On May 27, 1952, just before he turned 20, he made his debut for Free State, against Eastern Transvaal. Louis played 52 times for Free State and captained the team on occasion. His last game for the province was on July 6, 1960. Then, after a lay-off of five years, he played a match for Northern Transvaal. After leaving the railways Louis worked underground on a Welkom gold mine, then moved through the ranks of business until he had established his own business empire at the age of 38.
MOVED INTO SPORTS SPONSORSHIP
As a wealthy Johannesburg entrepreneur, he became involved in sports and rugby sponsorship, however, due to his brusque manner, he was not a popular man. His achievements for rugby and for the unification of the game were great. He took control of Ellis Park stadium and turned its substantial debt into a healthy profit. He was an excellent meetings chairman and as president of the SA Rugby Football Union, brokered many deals in the name of game. When things fell apart for him in the rugby world he resigned as SARFU president in 1998 and moved into politics. A self-made millionaire, he was awarded the Businessman of the Year award in 1968, 1969 and 1971. Luyt met Adri in 1957 and married her the following year. They had four children – two daughters and two sons. He died in Durban on February 1, 2013, at the age of 80.
HOSPITAL RUGBY STARS
Yeomen of the Karoo tells of the enviable sports fields at The Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein. In Arts under Arms: An University Man in Khaki, Maurice Fitzgibbon, moderator in classics at Dublin University, mentions that in July, 1900, he accompanied a convoy of sick and wounded men to the IYH. “Among them was a trooper in the 54th Belfast Squadron, a former international rugby football fullback for Ireland.” Many doctors and other hospital staff played rugby. One of the doctors, Reginald Cuthbert “Cuth” Mullins was an acclaimed player. A South African rugby union forward, he played club rugby for Oxford University and also international rugby for the British Isles. He was a member of the British team that toured South Africa in 1896. He later captained Guys Hospital rugby team for two years. His brother, Charles, was awarded the VC for gallantry during the Anglo-Boer War. Oddly enough, Robert Johnson, who was awarded a VC in the same action as Charles, was also a member of the 1896 British rugby team. In his book, Reminiscences of Sport and War, General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle, says: “Sport and war are closely allied. The man who excels in sport always excels in war. To me both are great games, the greater is war.”
EMBARASSING EXPERIENCE FOR ‘POLO MAN’
Beauvoir de Lisle, (later General Sir), the man best known for creating modern polo, landed in an embarrassing position while trying to teach soldiers to ride and fight at the start of the Anglo-Boer War. The state of horses and untrained men shocked him. In Reminiscences of Sport and War, he states he was fully occupied for a month at a camp 20 miles (32 km) west of Colesberg where he had to fit out and train men and horses. “This might sound easy, but the horses were only half trained and few had ever been saddled. I had my work cut out. Also, I was also almost the only man who had ever ridden, so this project meant hours in the saddle for me every day. Fortunately, only one horse was really troublesome. I had heard of horses ‘buck-jumping’ out of the saddle, but never believed it possible. However, on Christmas Day in 1899 I had practical confirmation. After girthing up a horse myself, I mounted, and almost immediately found myself in the dust, badly shaken with the saddle and girth intact between my legs. This was a severe blow to my pride. I had ridden bad horses in India and often found myself on the ground, but not once in the face of my troops.”
HE TOOK UP THE CHALLENGE AGAIN!
By the time Lord Roberts arrived take over as supreme commander in South Africa Beauvoir de Lisle was still in Colesburg. Roberts instantly made plans for an advance to Modder River to relieve Kimberly. In Reminiscences of Sport and War, de Lisle writes: “In order to increase his mounted forces, Lord Roberts raised six new battalions of mounted infantry. I was sent to De Aar with the local rank of Lieutenant-Colonel to raise and command the 6th Mounted infantry No one can conceive the work entailed to mount and equip five companies from different regiments and have them ready for active service in a fortnight. None of the men had riding breeches or putties. The latter were improvised from strips of blanket. Most men could not ride and almost all had to be taught. Officers knew nothing about mounted tactics, so they also had to be educated. Confusion was dreadful and work incessant, but somehow, it was done. Kimberley was relieved, Paardeberg fought and Bloemfontein occupied.”
FATAL RAIL ACCIDENT.
A young man fireman named Charles Bevidge, one day heard a peculiar sound on a train which was on its way from Cookhouse to Alicedale. He realised something was wrong with the break chain and resolved to fix it. After passing Middleton station Charles climbed out over the tender to see what was causing the noise. He overbalanced and fell beneath the wheels. “The entire train passed over his body,” stated the Queenstown Free Press of January 25, 1883. “His chest and ribcage were dreadfully smashed up, but he was not instantly killed. He was rushed to a hospital, but never spoke again until the day he died.” Mr. Pierce, the train guard, wired Charles’s father about the accident, and later told him of his son’s death. Charles’s remains were sent to Grahamstown for burial. He was said to be a fine, steady, sober, and industrious 20-year old and the mainstay of his family. . His death was a severe blow to his parents who lived in humble circumstances. They were devastated because their eldest son had been killed in 1881 in the Kalibani Mountains of Basutoland.
DESERTER RODE FOR THE DIAMOND FIELDS
Richard Keats Henry D’Arcy, the Justice of the Peace for Aliwal North, issued a warrant for the arrest of William Douglas, a 2nd class private in the Frontier Armed Mounted Police Force. The charge was desertion. The commanding officer of the force informed D’Arcy that Douglas was easy to recognize. He was 26 years old, rather stout, full –faced and had light whiskers. He was about 5ft 8in (1,72 m) tall and walked in a slovenly, slouching, manner. Douglas, he said, had left the barracks on January 3, 1871, and not returned. He had taken his revolver and a troop horse, a good-looking chestnut of about 15 hands high and with a white blaze. Colleagues said he had ridden off in the direction of the Diamond Fields. A warrant of arrest appeared in the Grahamstown Journal of January 16. 1871. All field cornets, constables, police officers and other officers of the law were called upon to arrest Douglas on sight and take him to the nearest magistrate.
After a dry and windy time in the Karoo locusts made their appearance in the Graaff-Reinet district in May 1853. The Graaff-Reinet Herald of May 11 reported numerous flying swarms between Burghersdorp and Middelburg. The newspaper stated that formidable numbers had been seen flying towards the east. “This is not at all an encouraging for farmers because certainly these creatures will lay their eggs across the Colony, and we shall once again be exposed to the appalling ravages of their hopping progeny.”
A LASS WITH A GREAT FUTURE
Two people, destined to make their mark on South Africa, sailed from England on the Garth Castle in September 1887. One was Cecil John Rhodes, the other was a quiet, refined, Russian Jewess, Annie Lazarus. Born in Bailystock, England, in 1870, Annie moved to London with her parents when she was six. She received her basic education at a nearby school and, as was the fashion of the day, then spent two years at a finishing school in Paris. On returning to London, she married Myer Krenski on June 22, 1887, at the Duke’s Palace Synagogue. At the time this venue was decorated for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, so the wedding seemed to be a totally grand affair. Shortly after the wedding the couple set sail for South Africa and settled at Modder River where they opened a trading post. The trials and tribulations of running a shop at such an isolated spot would have taken their toll of any ordinary lass, but Annie took it all in her stride. She was a determined girl and resolved not to let anything get her down. So, ignoring all she disliked, she threw herself enthusiastically into helping her husband develop his business. She loved him dearly, ran a most efficient home and calmly raised their children. Her eldest son Julius was the first Jewish infant to be circumcised in Johannesburg (the operation was performed by Rabbi Harris). All her other children were born at Modder River.
A GRIEVIOUS BLOW
Disaster struck in 1890. Myer died suddenly leaving Annie to fend for herself. She was the only Jewish woman in the district, and her children were all infants. She screwed up her courage. The trading store was all she had and from that base. With indomitable courage, she resolved to make a life for herself and her family. The business had been doing well and she knew if she kept it on track it would continue to do so. So, despite the anti-British feeling and the rumblings of war, she bravely carried on. Surrounding farmers supported her despite the fact that winds of war were blowing. When hostilities did break out, she considered it her duty to repay their loyalty by keeping the store open. She could then also provide much needed supplies for the troops. She applied to Captain Ross, provost-marshal to Lord Metheun, for special permission to trade with the 40 000 troops stationed around Modder River. When this was granted, she took the precaution of sending her children to Cape Town with Mrs Jefferies, the station master’s wife.
WITNESS TO HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Annie was an eyewitness to many historic events. She heard of the sounds of battles, cries of the wounded and mourned the dead. She saw Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener pass through Modder River several times and she heard the guns of Magersfontein. When the Boers occupied the district, Annie, who considered herself a loyal British subject, refused to supply them and closed her store. The magistrate of Jacobsdal came to see her and suggested that she should resume her business. She was affronted: “Mr Van Heerden, do you really expect me to trade with the enemy?” she asked, her eyes flashing with anger. With chivalry characteristic to his breeding, he took her by the hand and explained that even in war there was a middle route. She understood and re-opened the store. After eight years as a widow Annie married Moss Lazarus. They left Modder River for a while but returned to run the store – mainly for railway workers, who were guaranteed to find fresh fruit and vegetables from her garden among the general produce.
A WOMAN WITH A WILL OF HER OWN
Lady Chesham, one of the two society ladies who started the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein, was a most haughty, domineering woman. She came to South Africa to “supervise” operations at the hospital despite the fact that there were others more qualified to do this, states Yeomen in the Karoo. She stayed for six months, despite the fact that she had no knowledge of “supervising”, nursing, medicine, or of how to run a hospital. During this time, she earned a great deal of criticism, which she totally ignored. In November 1900, she decided to go to Kimberley to visit her friend, Lady Rolleston. Commanding officers in the Army went into an uproar, so did Colonel Sloggett, principal medical officer of the IYH. She ignored their requests. When Lord Milner heard of her plan, he tried to nip it in the bud, stating that such a journey would be unsafe. She ignored his admonitions as well. He wired General Sir Forestier-Walker asking him to discourage her because her husband, who was commander-in-chief of the Yeomanry, was not in the area at that time. The General’s appeals fell on deaf ears. She set off on the earliest train and fortunately her trip passed without mishap. She and her daughter arrived safely in Kimberely where Lady Rolleston was at the station to welcome them.
We give advice by the bucket, but take it by the grain. William R. Alger