A breathtakingly beautiful Fabergé flower was presented to the Queen’s Own Worcesterhire Hussars, an Imperial Yeomanry regiment, when they returned from the Anglo-Boer War in 1903. First raised in 1794, this regiment again served as cavalry in WWI but converted to an anti-tank unit for WWII. In 1899 when volunteers were called for 3,021 men reacted immediately and the regiment was chosen from these – 16 NCOs were killed and 20 wounded in South Africa. The magnificent piece came from Georgina, Countess of Dudley, wife of William Ward, second in command of the regiment. It is a 5in (12,7 cm) pear blossom ornament, set in a little rock crystal vase. Rock crystal is a material which is harder than glass. The pear sprig has a gold stem, Siberian jade leaves, delicate enameled flowers, with silver stamens, each with a diamond dew drop centre. The vase bears the regimental insignia, encircled in a gold wreath, with a red gold tie. “When they departed each man was given a small sprig of pear blossom, as a reminder of Worcestershire. These were made of silk and designed to be worn in their hats,” said Honorary Colonel, Stamford Cartwright MBE. “Over the years the pear blossom developed a great significance because it honours the first time that this part time, volunteer regiment was sent to serve overseas. It also commemorates those who lost their lives in service of this country.” Antiques expert, Geoffrey Munn said: “It the rarest, most poetic manifestation of Faberge’s work that I have ever seen.” At a BBC Antiques Road show he valued it at £1 million. It is one of the most expensive items ever valued in the show’s 40-year history, he said.

Note: Georgina Ward was one of the ladies who served on the committee that created the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein, near Richmond, in the Karoo

DISCOVER THE KAROO contact karoobirding@beaufortwest.net

Three special Karoo tours – covering history and birding – are planned from March to May 2019. They will all tours start in Beaufort West and from there go to various destinations like Hanover, New Bethesda, Sutherland, Copperton, Carnarvon and the Tankwa areas. It costs about R1600 a day and this includes transport, accommodation (sharing) and meals, says tour leader and Karoo expert Japie Claassen, who is passionate about the area. Japie also offers an eight-day tour costing R12 500 per person (sharing), and two six day ones costing from R8 850 to R9 250, depending on which areas his clients wish to visit.


Infantry regular, Private J H C Waddington, a machinist by trade, was not at all delighted to see Imperial Yeomanry volunteers arriving in South Africa during the Anglo Boer War. In a letter to the Adlington Chronicle, of May 20, 1900, he said: “The volunteers that come out here are only guarding places that we have already fought for and taken. It is a piece of rot sending them out here at all.” He added: “We have been busy marching and chasing the enemy for over 200 miles out of Cape Colony into the Free State, We have had some big fights with the enemy and God knows we are all sick of it now, as it has been rough and hard work for us. I can tell you we have had some suffering in one way or another, what with hard marching and getting little or no rest. Our clothes are all worn out and ragged, and our boots hurting us because they no longer have any soles on them. They pinch our feet in walking, and I tell you no wonder we are sick of it. The fighting is the best part of it, only, of course, it is dangerous.” His letter was quoted by Sheila J Bannerman in a University of British Columbia BA thesis entitled Manliness and the English soldier in the Anglo-Boer War – The more things change, the more they stay the same. She says Waddington later poignantly added a heart-rending note stating: “I feel rather lost now, as my chums are all either killed or wounded.”

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Photography has an interesting history in South Africa. In 1882 C Ray Woods was the first photographer in South Africa to join the Royal Photographic Society. The first camera club started in Kimberley in 1890; Sir Benjamin Stone, President of the Birmingham Photographic Society, addressed the Cape Town Club in 1894 and by 1895 there were 11 clubs in South Africa. These provided studio and dark-room facilities, exchanged prints and lantern slides and organised outings and competitions. The Anglo-Boer War was the first war to be intensely covered by amateur and professional photographers. From the outset the press had a field day. Cinematographers provided some of the earliest war newsreels. French-born, William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, who arrived in South Africa on the same ship as Winston Churchill, was one of eight British commercial cameramen who filmed events of the Boer War. He first became involved in motion picture work in 1888. Lord Baden-Powell, invented a man-carrying kite, which was used for photographic reconnaissance in the Modder River area. One of the earliest photographs of the war, was taken in the spring of 1899 of refugees from the Rand changing from open trucks to railway carriages at Beaufort West station.


Several staff members at the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein were keen photographers. One was Dr John Brian “Jack” Christopherson, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his ground-breaking work on the use of an ancient poison (antimony tartrate) to treat bilharzias. Controversy broke out when the award went to Robert Koch, a German doctor, working in a similar field. Despite the loss of his left hand, forearm and fingers of his right hand, due to radiation burns suffered at Deelfontein, X-ray pioneer Dr John Hall-Edwards, went on to become a master photographer and an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. Fellow X-ray pioneer, Dr (later Sir) Humphrey Davey Rolleston, was also a keen photographer and so was Dr Thomas Openshaw, a Yeomanry Field Hospital physician who had a link with Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel murders. Claude Henry Baxter Grant and Eibert Carl Henry Seimund, Yeomanry soldiers who had worked at the British Museum and who were recuperating from typhoid also sent photographs home from the IYH. Nurse, Emily Seabrooke-Cooper, who worked at Deelfontein and at Mackenzie’s Farm, made a name for herself by using a little Box Brownie. She compiled two richly illustrative portfolios covering camp life, the hospitals, VIPS and landscapes. These were eventually published in an album.


Despite being warned of serious repercussions if he took a camera to the site, Graaff-Reinet photographer Ivie Allan, managed to capture the execution of Commandant Gideon Scheepers on January 18, 1902 in disturbingly grainy photographs. Ivie, a Graaff-Reinet town guard, wrote: “I was present when Scheepers was brought into town. He had a fever and had been captured by Gorringe’s Flying Column. Had he not been ill I am sure that he would not have been caught. Just before his capture he had sent a message to Captain Hennicker, of the Cold Stream Guards, who were garrisoned in the village, stating that he was coming into town and would hang him (Henniker) from the nearest telegraph pole.” Ivie also took a photograph of Scheepers in jail. This was the only photograph of him in captivity,” states Hermi Baartman in a Graaff-Reinet Museum magazine. Ivie remarked that Scheepers “was a well-mannered and obliging fellow.”


Scheepers was sentenced to hang, but as King, the executioner, could not be found, it was decided to execute him by firing squad. Ivie wrote: “I went out with the town guard on foot at 3pm (15:00). I had been warned, not to photograph the execution, but decided to chance it. I hid a tiny Box Brownie in my tunic, stood between two guards, and shot three photographs.” One showed a grave, the second the blindfolded Scheepers tied to a chair flying backwards as bullets struck him, and a third of his body on a blanket with a doctor bending over it. Ivie said there were 25 men in the firing party that day – “the largest used to date”. He added: “Quick lime was thrown into the grave and more was added after the body and broken chair were thrown in. The grave was closed and soldiers were stationed there to guard it. (History, however, records that Scheepers’s body was removed that night. His grave has never been found.) Ivie also photographed General Kritzinger’s trail in Graaff-Reinet, as well as General Wynand Malan in a hospital bed at Noupoort on the day that peace was proclaimed. “The snow stood 2in (5 cm) deep that day,” he said. Among his others photographs are Commandant Lotter and Karreljie Lemkuhl, Gideon Scheepers’s adjutant. Allan was born in Wimbledon, England. He came to South Africa in 1890 and from 1898 to 1904 lived and worked in Graaff Reinet.


Graaff-Reinet was on the main route from the coast to the hinterland, so a huge number of photographers worked in the village between 1852 and the early 1900s. The most successful of these early pioneers was William Roe, who arrived in 1859, aged 32. He worked in the village until his death on April 12, 1916, and during those years documented more of the area’s cultural history than any of his colleagues, mainly because he was prepared to lug his heavy equipment out into the veld and streets to capture images of the town and surrounds. His landscapes are said to be among his best work. William became one of the best known and most highly respected residents of Graaff-Reinet. He was born on March 25, 1827, in Northampton, England, a town famous for shoe and boot making. Footwear from local factories was worn by British troops across the Empire. William’s parents were cobblers and he too was apprenticed to that trade. An interest in natural sciences, however, led him to study chemistry and take a photography course in London. He married Mary Ann, 21, daughter of James and Mary Ann Durham, in Manchester, on September 25, 1847. Their first son, Alfred, died shortly after he was born in 1848. William Edward, arrived on April 25, 1849, Mary Ellen, in August, 1853, (sadly she died on April 9, 1861, after accidentally drinking an oxalic acid-based stain remover) and Frederick Alfred, in August, 1856.


By the time William arrived several other men had studios in Graaff-Reinet. Furniture merchant, James Hensley, opened one in 1852, a man named Selby and a Hollander, Pieter de Kok, (1857), James Edward Bruton (sometimes spelled Brunton), James Hall and Canadian, Arthur Green, who was not a full time resident (1858). William Roe arrived during the following year, state photographic historians Carol Hardziger, who has one of the largest private photographic collections in South Africa, Ansie Malherbe, on www.theheritageportal.co.za and Johanna Francina van der Merwe in her PhD thesis on William Roe and 19th century photography. Then came C H J Schmidt, (1864), Hale and Cronin and Thomas G Ffennell (1868), Augustus Brittain, a general dealer, (1878), Edward Evans, Ernest Ewing (1886-87), C D Feneysey, D Fortuin, C A Hensley, F Hodgson, G Kemp (1880), W R Koertzen, Matthew Pearston, Henry Selby, W B Sherwood (1884) and Ivie H Allan followed in 1898. These men recorded the development and growth of Graaff-Reinet, as well as education, religion, the library, the hospital, and many other major events, such as the Great Trek, the arrival of the railway, the Anglo-Boer War, the First World War and the Great Flu. William also had a small studio in Aberdeen in rooms which he rented from photographer John F Scholtz.

Note: The first man to experiment with photography in South Africa – as early as 1839 – was Charles Piazzi Smyth, an employee of the Cape Observatory. Then, Frenchman, Jules Léger, set up a studio in Algoa Bay, on October 14, 1846. He later moved to Grahamstown and later still to Cape Town.


William and Mary Ann set sail for South Africa on the Aurifera in August 1858. He opened a studio in Algoa Bay in October that year and advertised himself as an artistic photographer who could produce miniatures, pictures on glass, paper and leather, as well as a supply photographic goods and chemicals to the trade and amateurs. He made his own chemicals and plates by “melting” old silver coins. After a short while William moved to Bloemfontein and later to Graaff-Reinet. He travelled extensively in the 1860s and ‘70s, going as far afield as Kimberley and Pretoria. He was the first photographer to go to the diamond fields in 1869. He raced there by horse and cart shortly after diamonds were discovered. His heavy equipment followed by ox wagon. Mary Ann, an adventurous personality, often accompanied him on these journeys, which at times took months. While travelling William also sold homeopathic medicines. On one trip William became ill and the people in the village he was visiting clubbed in for a nurse to look after him. Mary Ann did not take this well and, when the nurse arrived, she slammed the door in her face, announcing that she had looked after William for years and was still capable of doing so. Roe wrote and illustrated articles on the town and surrounds. These were published in the Illustrated London News in March 1872, the Illustrated Commercial in 1905. His photographs won many awards – in Paris in 1878, in Port Elizabeth in 1885 and at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886. Interestingly, his “logo”, which was printed on the back of the boards onto which the photographs were mounted, included a rising sun and the words “portrait of our senior partner”. He did this to acknowledge that sunlight played a crucial role in his work.


As soon as he was old enough William Edward joined his father and the business then became known as Roe & Son. Both of them worked hard to capture general photographs of people and town scenes during Anglo-Boer War. They re-photographed pictures, VIPs and royalty, such as President Kruger and Queen Victoria, for bulk sale, as these were in high demand. William did not shy away from postmortem photography. He also hand-coloured photographs which became the rage and fellow photographer, Charles Essex, joined him and helped him to do this in 1861. It was a time consuming and expensive process. His photographs were so clear that some were used during the Reinet House restoration project in the 1950s. These were again referred to after a devastating fire in the building in the 1980s. William died on April 12, 1916, aged 89. All of his children had pre-deceased him. Mary Ann, who was partly disabled in later life, died in 1921 aged 92. The Roe studio equipment was sold by public auction shortly after his death. Fortunately, photographic plates, were rescued after they had been discarded by the new owners of his house, states Arthur Rabone in the Graaff-Reinet Advertiser of September 5, 1968.


William retained his interest in nature throughout his lifetime. During 1895 he forwarded specimens of insects from Graaff-Reinet, to the Cape’s newly appointed government entomologist, Charles P Lounsbury. He included information about the damage they caused. In 1897, he wrote two articles for the Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope. One covered the geology of the Cape Midlands in relation to water. In this he discussed the influence of dolerite dykes, the size of the catchment area and the amount of ground water available. The second covered irrigation and, in this one, he stated that inland lakes, which had existed in the interior of southern Africa, had dried up. He proposed that all the gaps in the dolorite dykes of the Karoo, where rivers had passed through them, should be filled up to reduce run-off and increase ground water. He also suggested a series of dams should be created and used for irrigation, states historian Cornelis Plug.


Poisonous snakes have always been a danger in the hinterland. The 1820 settlers and their children were constantly on the lookout for them. In Yesterday’s Children, Daphne Child tells of a three-year old boy who was bitten on the leg by a puff-adder “He was saved from death by the presence of mind of his mother who had heard of an old Hottentot remedy for snake bite. She immediately put this into practice by slitting open a fowl and holding its palpitating breast to the wound. When the bird had absorbed some of the poison and died, she slit open a second and then a third bird. The last fowl survived though it became very giddy. After this the mother gave her son a drink of sweet milk and held his leg in a running stream. Finally, she smeared it with tar. The violent inflammation and vivid hue gradually disappeared, and, within a few days, the boy was perfectly well again, states Sydney Hudson Reed in 1820 Settler Stories.


Towards the end of the 18th century the population of South Africa was composed of ½ Dutch, 1/6th French and 1/6th German, plus some other nationalities and all spoke simple Cape Dutch, states Professor J du Plessis in The Life of Andrew Murray. By 1806, at the time of the second British occupation of the Cape, the population numbered 2 500 and only 70 or 80 were British. By 1820 there were 40 000 colonists and they opted for the return of the use of Dutch, which had been banished from Government and the law courts. By 1838 the population of the Cape was about 100 000 and there were about 23 schools. Yet by 1840 it was reported that education at the Cape was at its lowest ebb – the impetus started in 1822 by Ds Thom had faded and died. Salaries offered were too meagre. School teachers were offered £40 year with an additional £5 for every ten pupils over the first 20, that they took on. The schools of the day taught only the 3Rs, however, even on those terms, teachers were unprocurable. “In way out places, such as the Karoo, parents clubbed together to obtain a teacher who would teach Latin and mathematics. Such men could command top dollar. They were offered £120 a month, yet ‘school master’ was a term of reproach in the hinterland” said famous astronomer, Sir John Heschell, in a memorandum on the state of education at the Cape “Men tramped from farm to farm masquerading as teachers and farmers were forced to content themselves with the services of such malcontents or discharged soldiers who were often intellectually challenged and morally incompetent to impart even the most elementary instruction.”

We take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. Cynthia Ozick