NEW BOOKS FOR HISTORY BUFFS
Dr Dean Author, a popular lecturer – particularly at Matjiesfontein – historian and author of Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa, is working on two new books. The first is a collection of 365 illustrated stories from his extremely popular series, This Week In History and the second, Frontier Land, is a fully illustrated account of his recent travels through the Eastern Cape. This Week in History takes a fascinating look at stories that have shaped the world, over the centuries and in various countries, but which over time have been forgotten. It covers a different story for each day of the year throughout history. The second is the first volume in a series which will explore the Eastern Cape, one of South Africa’s most captivating regions. This part of the country is extremely rich in history. The book will take readers on a journey to places not often visited to meet some unusual people. As an exclusive pre-print deal Dean he is offering signed copies of the first 500 of each title at a special price of R275 each or R495 for both. For more information contact: email@example.com
A YEAR OF GOLDEN FLEECE
A major “wool boom” in 1951 brought undreamed of wealth to Karoo farmers. The Sydney Morning Herald of January 24, 1951, reported that exceptional wool prices had led to “wild spending.” The newspaper stated that South Africa “was in the throes of an all-time record wool clip”. Production had rapidly increased helped by the weather. “The Union’s main sheep farming area, the semi-arid Karoo, has had unprecedented rains which enriched its vast grazing areas. Nineteen years ago farmers were lucky to get £6 a bale for their wool; four years ago they were getting £20 for their best bales, but today they are getting £150.” The report added: “Last year South Africa’s total wool clip realised £38 million. It is estimated that this year’s clip will bring in more than £87 million.” At one wool sale in Port Elizabeth a farmer got £6,500 for wool from 930 sheep – and that was only a quarter of his flock. The 1951 wool income was divided among 80,000 farmers ranging from ranchers with 9,000 or 10,000 sheep to poor backveld farmers with only a few hundred which they regarded as a side-line. Most farms had been heavily mortgaged, and had been scratching a living from poor soil, until the arrival of the welcome rains, stated the newspaper. “This year the small farmers find themselves with sums ranging from £800 to £1,000 earned from sheep which once brought in a mere £40 or £50.”
DAZZLED BY WEALTH
Some farmers paid off mortgages and loans. Others, bewildered by their sudden good fortunes and dazzled by the leap in their spending power, were throwing their money about, said some reports. Exhibitions of wild extravagances had been widely witnessed. One farmer left a wool sale in Port Elizabeth with £14,000 in his pocket and promptly bought himself four cars. “Farmers with money to burn are coming in from the country to spend lavishly on luxuries they have never before been able to afford. Their wives are buying jewels and furs. Some are booking overseas tours they have. dreamed of all their lives. And meanwhile South Africa is creeping slowly up a new spiral of inflation,” said The Morning Herald.
QUITE A TRIP BACK THEN
A report dated 1855, states that a coach trip from Cape Town to Vlakkraal, near Prince Albert Road normally took 48,5 hours. The coach stopped every eight hours for fresh horses and allowed passengers to answer the call of nature and acquire some refreshments. Once the visitors reach Prince Albert Road they could stay at the station hotel or travel the 45km to Prince Albert, in one of Jan Haak’s coaches. There were several little hotels on this route for them to overnight. Haak also ran a service from Prince Albert to Oudtshoorn.
SEARCHING FOR THE LOMAX FAMILY
Johann Vanderbijl is searching for more information on his great grandfather Reverend Arthur Holliday Lomax, the son of John Lomax and Sarah (nee Whitaker). He was born in Manchester, England in 1833. In South Africa he served as the Rector of the Anglican Church in Steynsburg and as Rural Dean of Cradock. He married Mary-Ellen (nèe Conroy) the daughter of Mark Conroy and Margaret (nèe Horobin) on January 28, 1862. They had ten children. Two of their sons became chemists. One was the eldest, Arthur, (who married Elizabeth Keeton, the granddaughter of an 1820 settler), and the other was their third child and second son, Ambrose, who made a name for himself as a chemist and photographer in Molteno and Adelaide. He developed some products which became household items in South Africa and abroad. Among these was the cough syrup, Borstol. Nerve Pain Specific and some Clock Tower products. (He used the Molteno clock tower as his trade mark).
BECAME A MINISTER IN THE KAROO
Arthur, snr, initially moved from England to Mauritius to take up a post as headmaster at a school. Their first two children, Arthur and Mary, were born there. Arthur then returned to England to study theology and Ambrose was born in Litchfield in 1868. While still studying at Lichfield college Arthur was recruited to come to South Africa to act as vice-principal at Zonnebloem school in Cape Town. He was ordained in this country by Robert Gray, the first Bishop of Cape Town, in the 1860’s. Their daughter Edith was born in Cape Town. Poor health sent Arthur to Aliwal North, where he once again took up teaching and where the dry climate and hot springs helped his health. Two years later he was called to Dordrecht to serve the Anglican Church as their minister. After two years the Lomax family was on the move again – this time to Mthatha (Umtata) where Arthur started St John’s School (which still exists). After that they went to Southwell where their son John was born. Ten years later they were in Middelburg and he became the Rural Dean of Cradock. The last post he held was as a preacher at Steynsberg. Their youngest daughter, Alice, became a nun and was known as Sister Esther at St Faith’s Anglican Mission and school in Rusape in the then Southern Rhodesia. Arthur and Mary Ellen both died in Steynsburg within months of each other in 1910 – he on September 18 and she on December 20.
A VERY QUIET MAN
Ambrose Lomax was a very handsome, but quiet man who seldom spoke. He had bright shining eyes, a reddish face and a large moustache. He usually dressed in a suit and wore paisley ties. He was apprenticed to pharmacists Mager & March in Queenstown, William Mager, who emigrated from England and settled at Queenstown in 1881, was responsible for importing several pharmacists and for training others. Among them were Ambrose Lomax, T Wardley, G Bacon and J Choat. Mager took over Lennon’s in Queenstown, became mayor in 1900 and served on the Cape Pharmacy Board for 30 years from its inception in 1892. Ambrose qualified at the age of 21 and was licensed to practise on March 1, 1889. He then settled in Molteno, where he started a pharmacy and photographic studio. He and Ellen Augusta Dodd were married by her father Reverend Douglas William Dodd, Rector of St Cuthbert’s, in Molteno. on May 5, 1904. They had eight children. One of their sons became a pharmacist and three qualified as doctors. In addition to golf and photography Lomax was interested home remedies.
GAVE THE AIR A HELPING HAND
Aware that respiratory problems brought people to the Karoo in search of a cure in the crisp clean dry air Ambrose decided to give air a helping hand, In 1894 he developed a herbal cough remedy called Borstol. It was an instant success. Demand mushroomed and within short Borstol was a household name. During 1918, when the Great Flu hit the country, Lomax was inundated with orders He did not advertise his products, he relied solely on word of mouth. Using the Molteno clocktower as a trademark, he developed a range of Clock Tower products, His son, Talbot, took over the business when Ambrose died in 1974. Ambrose was a passionate golfer and photographer. He opened the Rembrandt Studio next door to the chemist. It had a glass wall and glass roof to ensure uniform light. “As a photographer, Lomax made excellent use of simple backgrounds, ‘academic’ curtains, plants, a sofa, chairs and a stand. The lighting was sometimes magical. His pictures are examples of photographic excellence which would be difficult to surpass,” said Molteno historian Johannes Meintjies. “Soldiers lined up at his studio to get photos taken to send home. They were photographed on horseback, in groups, at Stormberg station, at funerals and in front of buildings.”
Willie Mann was fondly remembered in Touws River. It was there that he enlisted in 1940 to fight in WWII. He was a very kind and considerate man and loved nothing more than giving presents to friends and family. Willie merrily gathered souvenirs wherever he could while “up north”, but due to the constraints of war was often forced to abandon his purchases. He, in fact. spent most of his army pay on mementos and gifts to send home as the war progressed and as his company advanced. However he sometimes had to leave them “strewn across north Africa and Egypt,” when called upon to leave at a moment’s notice. The SA Jewish Report, in an article entitled Battle stories a way of preserving memory … mentions that Willie went on a buying spree in Nairobi, and bought a magnificent lion skin. In Egypt, he got silk stockings for his sister. Deep in the desert, in Cairo he acquired “a magnificent sleeping bag made of silk and genuine feathers”. However, every time the company moved at short notice, he had to abandon purchases not yet posted. “Thing gets left behind,” he wrote in a letter home. “Lost property? There’s a stack of mine scattered across Africa and Europe.”
In 2000 two men met in Tunisia. Incredibly they were both Jewish, both South Africans, both pilots with a shared history of WWII and were both named Jack Friedman. However, despite the fact that they had served alongside one another in the Western Desert, they had never met. They were brought together by a visit to a desecrated Tunisian shul. Even more astonishing – quite unbeknown to each other, both had discovered fragments of a torn Torah scroll in a Nazi anti-aircraft gun pit. Most of the soldiers manning the guns were killed in a British air raid, but these “mementos” had been discarded there by soldiers who had desecrated a shul, states the SA Jewish Report. The Friedmans individually came across some fragments, and kept them, but one lost his during operational travel. The second set of fragments were brought back to South Africa and are housed in a glass case in Cape Town’s Temple Israel.
A SOLDIER WHO LOVED THE VELD
Gerald Edwin Barrett-Hamilton was a keen natural historian who loved South Africa. He was born in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India, on May 18, 1871. He was the son of Samuel Barrett-Hamilton an Irish gentleman farmer from Kilmarnock and captain of the 3rd Kings Own Hussars, and his wife, Laura Emilia Thompson, who returned to England in 1874. At university Gerald studied zoology and marine biology. He came to South Africa at the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War as an Instructor of Musketry for the 5th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles. Stationed at the isolated Vredefort Road Station for the greater part of the war he studied plants, mammals and birds to relieve the boredom. In 1902 he donated about 90 mammal and bird skins to the British Museum. This was followed in 1903 with 15 more bird skins. His paper Traces of past glacial action in the Orange River Colony was published in Nature. During his stay in South Africa three new species were named in his honour. After the war he married an Irish lass, Maud Charlotte Eland, They had six children. Gerald died on January 17, 1914, of pneumonia following a heart attack in the south Antarctic whilst leading a British Government investigation into whale and seal fishing. He was 43.
A HOUSE, A CASTLE AND A FAMILY HISTORY
Soon after Sue and Neville Gordon bought Richmond House on Port Alfred’s Wesley Hill, in 1999 she began to delve into its history. The house was designed to withstand siege during the Frontier Wars. It had fortified battlements and a flat roof specially strengthened to take the weight of a small cannon. It belonged to William Cock, a dynamic entrepreneur, businessman, cattle farmer, ship owner, and politician. Its fortifications led to it being named Cock’s Castle. William, who became known as “the man who shifted the Kowie River”, created a harbour. Sue was assisted in her search and encouraged by a fifth generation descendant of William’s, local dairy farmer Ed Cock. In time she collected so much material, artefacts, stories and documents that she created Richmond House Museum in 2007. This all led to the publication of Cock Tales on the Kowie, the story of William, the son of Thomas Cock and his wife, Ann Lovey. A printer from Penryn in Cornwall, 27-year-old William led a party of 91 British settlers to South Africa on the Weymouth, arriving in May, 1820. He became a mainstay on the frontier. He was married for 64 years to Elizabeth Mary Toy and they had eleven children.. This book, which brings the world of the Settlers and Albany to life, costs R275, plus postage or courier fees. Order from firstname.lastname@example.org
A GREAT ENGINEER
Allan Griffiths Watson was appointed temporary acting district locomotive superintendent at Noupoort in 1901. Born Hopetown in 1876 he was educated in South Africa before moving to Scotland in 1895 to work for Neilson, Reid and Company. He returned to South Africa, joined the Cape Government Railways and served his apprenticeship at the Beaufort Works He quickly rose through the ranks. He enlisted in the S A Engineers Corps when WWI broke out in 1914 and when peace was declared returned to re-join the railways in Noupoort. On April 1929 he succeeded Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Richard Collins as chief mechanical engineer of the then South African Railways & Harbours (SAR&H) Soon after taking up that post he embarked on a program of standardisation of locomotive boilers and engine parts, which ultimately led to a considerable reduction in the time taken for locomotive repairs. At the time, 88 different types of locomotive were in service in South African and about 50 types of replacement boiler were being ordered. He was also responsible for many innovations and improvements in the SAR. He introduced water-softening plants in the Karoo and South West Africa, modernised works, improved layouts, machinery and buildings, and was responsible for designing and building some low-cost double-engined railcars for branch-line work. He retired in 1936, and died on November 13, 1945.
WISE MAN HAS A LINK WITH MIDDELBURG
The South African historian, journalist, and well-known author Eric Rosenthal had a link with Middelburg in the Karoo. His grandfather, Albert, was one of the first Jews to settle in this little Karoo village and was in business there for many years. Albert Rosenthal and his wife, Pauline (nee Emmanuel) arrived in South Africa from Germany with two sons, Julius and Richard. He joined the Standard Bank of South Africa and later moved to Middelburg where they were among the earliest inhabitants and where he served on the board of directors of the bank. Their youngest son, Berthold, was born in Middelburg in 1885. Pauline was an accomplished musician and gave music lessons in the village. Before coming to South Africa she had been a fellow student with Engelbert Humperdink, the German composer who wrote the music for Hansel and Gretel, After some time the Rosenthals moved to Cape Town where Albert had “something of a struggle” as a manufacturer’s agent. Eric Rosenthal was the elder of two children born to Richard Rosenthal and his wife, Hedwig De Beer. After completing his schooling he studied Law at the University of the Witwatersrand and qualified as an attorney, He, however, gave up law to become a journalist and writer of many corporate histories. He also wrote the history of Victoria West. He was one of the three wise men on Springbok Radio’s immensely popular and long-running quiz programme, Test the Team. He was competent artist and personally sketched many illustrations for his books.
BICYCLES FOR BRITSTOWN.
A German Jew named Reinhard Rüdiger, who was born in Kassel, came to South Africa in 1892 and, in time, became one of the early entrepreneurs of the little Karoo village of Britstown. He owned the mineral water factory and the town’s first cycle shop. He was the agent for Brennabor cycles which he imported from a well-known German manufacturer of baby prams, cycles, motor cycles and later of motor vehicles. The company, which was based in Brandenburg an der Havel, was started in 1871 by three brothers, Adolf, Carl and Hermann Reichstein. They began by making basket-work baby “buggies” and children’s two-wheel cycles in 1870. By 1881 they had become a booming mainstream bicycle business and by 1930 they were one of Europe’s largest bicycle producers. Rüdiger was the first person to own a car in Britstown.
MASTERS OF CAMOUFLAGE
Arthur Kingwill, who once lived on St. Olive’s farm, beyond Ouberg, near Graaff Reinet, knew there were leopards on his land, but never saw them. In his book, A Karoo Farmer Looks Back he mentions that at one time leopards were so troublesome in the mountainous areas that all mares in foal and cows in calf had to be moved to the flats below. During the eight years that he farmed in that area, he said, he never saw a leopard, but he lost many foals and calves. His neighbour once trapped eight leopards, which he had never seen. “These creatures which are masters of camouflage, prefer solitary living, but can come close to houses without anyone being aware of them. Walter Murray, who farmed on Bloemhof once reported at least two leopards on his land. This was confirmed by the Graaff-Reinet Nature Conservation, but the creatures were never found. Walter said he lost some game calves but no stock.
You will never win if you never begin – Helen Rowland