Cradock’s 4th Annual Karoo Writers Festival, scheduled for August 9 to 11, promises to be the best yet, say organisers. The programme includes internationally known authors, top South Africa writers, and some exciting excursions. “The festival has grown steadily since its inception, but as far as interest and input are concerned, it has truly ‘taken off’ this year,” says Brian Wilmot, one of the organisers and curator of Cradock’s Olive Schreiner Museum. “An excellent mix of new and well-loved writers will talk, read, socialize at leisurely meals and participate in fireside chats. Among them are Etienne van Heerden, one of South Africa’s best loved novelists, Margie Orford, who is hailed as ‘the Queen of South African crime fiction’, and Rachel Holmes, who ran the London Literary Festival for four years.” Rachel recently spent time in Cradock researching the crucial political, personal and emotional friendship between Olive Schreiner and Eleanor, the youngest daughter of Karl Marx, for a new book to be launched early next year. Rachel’s has written the biographies of Saartjie Baartman, “the Hottentot Venus”, and Dr James Barry, the highly-acclaimed 19th nineteenth century military doctor and friend of Cecil John Rhodes, who was found to be a woman after he died.


The Karoo Development Foundation will hold its 3rd major conference, The Karoo Parliament, at the Bokskryt in Philipstown, near De Aar, on October 10 and 11. All stakeholders, including municipalities, the private sector, community organisations, academics, Government and non-governmental organizations are invited to attend.


Writing can be a difficult, lonely and often discouraging road. Prince Albert’s Derek Thomas can assist. His company Ready to Print is able to advise writers on how to go about getting published. He says: “Because the desks of publishers and agents are normally flooded with book proposals many really good stories never see the light of day unless they are self-published. Many authors have chosen this option with rewarding results. I offer a professional service from cover design to page layout and can also advise on costing, printing, ISBN numbers and the like. I am able to assist with information regarding listing books on wholesale websites for maximum exposure. I have handled many projects for the Fransie Pienaar Museum and local writers. A popular option is Print-on-Demand (POD). This is an affordable way to publish a book at reasonable cost without having to print and store a large number of copies.


Prince Albert is planning a Creative Winter School from August 2 to 10. A wide range of courses, lectures, workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions and excursions, all conducted by local expert, are on offer. There include art appreciation lectures, art courses for beginners and skilled artists, cookery classes, covering gourmet dinners and patisserie, jewellery designing and making pewter and mosaic-work, calligraphy, guitar playing and photography. For those interested in the great outdoors there will be botanical excursions, geological and archeological outings, labyrinth walks and lectures on plants, birds and insects of the arid zone. There will be historic rambles, ghost walks, talks on farming, a play, moonlight market, potjiekos evening and bazaar


Olive Schreiner became a close friend of Jenny Julia Eleanor, the English-born youngest daughter of Karl Marx, in the 1880s. Fondly known as “Tussy”, Eleanor, who became secretary to her father at the age of 16, was a social activist and literary translator. Olive also knew Marx’s two sisters and occasionally stayed with another of his daughters in Paris. She was immensely fond of Eleanor, but greatly disproved of her common-law marriage to self-confessed atheist, Edward Aveling, who refused to divorce Isabel Frank, whom he had married in 1872. Olive wrote to Havelock Ellis calling Aveling “villainous” and stating she had a “horror” of him. Among her early letters are some reflecting a debate as to whether Eleanor should be invited to join the Men and Women’s Club. Olive feared the more conventional club members might make hurtful comments. Olive and Eleanor were intellectual equals who shared political ideals and even holidayed together. She was greatly distressed when Eleanor killed herself on March 31, 1898, by taking poison. Olive blamed Aveling for Eleanor’s troubled state of mind, which she felt was brought on by his unscrupulous behaviour, sexual infidelities and marriage to an actress after Isabel died in 1892. In a letter to British writer and poet, Dollie Radford (nee Maitland), Olive said “at least, by committing suicide, Eleanor has escaped Aveling”. Olive considered Eleanor “mental champagne”. She wrote many letters to her from places like Cradock, when she returned to South Africa. Some say Aveling destroyed these.


Cradock’s 4th Annual Karoo Writer’s Festival will focus on the youth and harmony. Learners from several local high schools will present a multi-media programme, co-ordinated by Upstart and the National English Literary Museum, on the pre-festival day. Women’s Day, August 9, will be celebrated with readings from Olive’s works at a luncheon at Schreiner House, and in the evening at Victoria Manor. Zenobia Kock will read a moving passage from the book she wrote when she was a “pastorie-mama” in Colesberg. Etienne van Heerden’s new novel, In Love’s Place, – the English translation of In Stede van die Liefde – will be launched at the festival and Margie Orford’s fifth “skrik vir niks”, Dr Clare Hart thriller, will also possibly be ready by then. Popular, Cradock-based travel writer\photojournalists Chris Marais and Juliette du Toit will present The Beautiful Karoo, an evocative pictorial journey, to set the tone for fireside reminiscences. Cradock-born Ezelle Marais will tell some stories behind the recipes in her second book, Liplekker Wildsvleis 2 at a venison lunch, Barbara Mutch will discuss her new book, The Housemaid’s Daughter, a Cradock-based family saga spanning three generations and conduct a tour to various landmarks mentioned in it. Harry Owen will present his book, For Rhino is a Shrinking World, Doreen Atkinson, director of UFS’s Heartland and Karoo Institute, will discuss Women, Families and Communities in the Anglo-Boer and Sigi Howes will “look” at it through the eyes of a child, Iris Vaughan.


Poetry will be a core feature at the Cradock Writer’s festival. Songwriter\lyricist Robert Pearce will perform some on his own works, as well as those of Adam Smal and Peter Snyders, to guitar music. This will be the “ice-breaker” for an open microphone poetry session, chaired by Professor Paul Walters, at which two students from the Upstart Programme and two from Rhodes University, will read their works together with Dominee Attie van Wyk, Johan Carstens, Xhosa poet, Russel Kashula, and Dutch poet, Alfred Schaffer. Tarkastad magistrate, Jo Els, will tell how poetry helped him overcome a lifetime of stuttering and Clinton Du Plessis will launch his 7th anthology, Rangeer. The programme will include some exciting excursions, one of which will be to Buffelskop and the site of Olive Schreiner’s grave.


Booklovers travelling to Cape Town on the N1 should remember that Richmond, in the Karoo is Africa’s only Booktown. The village has several shops to keep travelers interested. The Annual Boekbedonnered Book Festival takes place there at the end of October. Organisers say that this year’s festival will include a feast of new material.


British medical doctor, Horatio Bryan Donkin, was smitten by Olive Schreiner. A sophisticated neurologist and practicing physician at London’s Westminster and East London Childrens’ Hospitals, he met her at the Men and Women’s Club in the 1880s. As Commissioner of Prisons, he was considered an expert in criminal psychology and knighted in 1911. It is said that he was so in love with Olive that he proposed several times during 1885 and 1886. Olive was “fond of him but did not reciprocate his love”. Some said pity made it difficult for her to extricate herself from him. She told Havelock Ellis “my heart aches when I think I can never marry him.” His pursuit of her was so unwelcome and intrusive that it led to Olive spending the two periods of retreat at convents, where male callers were banned.


A mysterious double murder and suicide occurred on the farm Bloemhof outside Graaff-Reinet in September 1892, leaving everyone stunned and mystified. “No further particulars of the terrible tragedy are to hand,” stated the Graaff-Reinet Advertiser and Queenstown Free Press. The Eastern Province Herald also covered the story stating: “All we know for certain is that on the farm Bloemhof three lives were sacrificed, but no one can fathom the reason.” It seems that the eldest son of the Hon A Botha MLC, had accused a Dutchman, named Rossouw, of stealing some items from him. This was hotly denied, yet Botha, sent an urgent message to Colonies Plaats police station asking for a policeman to be sent out at once to the farm to investigate. None was on hand, but by evening Constable Smit arrived. He accompanied Botha to the place where Rossouw lived “to see if any of the things allegedly stolen from Botha, could be found.”


At the inquest farm labourer reported that he had accompanied Botha and Constable Smit to the house that Rossouw shared with his sister, Mrs Steyn, whose husband was away on “togt”. It was only three or four hundred yards from Botha’s home. Rossouw, he said, seemed not to object to their entrance nor to the search of the house. From the doorway he saw the men searched through a large box and other things in the room, and then move to another room. Rossouw watched them all the time. Suddenly he seemed to snap, and he fired at Botha who was in a stooping position. Botha fell and so did the policeman. Everything happened so fast that no one could say whether more than one shot was fired, but there was only one bullet hole in the wall. Mrs. Steyn, said she cried out: “What have you done?” to which her brother answered: “Everyone here tonight must die.” Terror-stricken, she ran from the house, and he turned the gun on himself, wrote a reporter of the Eastern Province Herald of Friday, September 16, 1892.


A miner of Scottish descent decided to return to Aberdeen to share his new-found fortune with his family, but he never made it. The Queenstown Free Press of October 27, 1891, reports that James Hadden, who was well known to some hinterland folks, departed from South Africa on The Scot, and disembarked at Plymouth. With £16,000 in his pockets he seems to have wandered about the town and its taverns “reveling in joys of drink”. A Devonshire constable said it could not be proved that he had taken so much money ashore, but it was known that he had that amount and it was not found in his luggage aboard the vessel. At the inquest it was stated that Hadden seemed to have wandered on to the railway line in a drunken state and that he was knocked down by a passing train. His skull was fractured. Bone fragments penetrated his brain, both legs and arms were smashed, and the lower part of his back was broken. The coroner rendered a verdict of “death by misadventure.”


Andrew Murray followed by his son Charles preached for 82 years in Graaff-Reinet’s Dutch Reformed church (Murray snr for 44 years and Charles for 38.) Andrew’s son-in-law J H Hofmeyr preached in Somerset East for 40 years, succeeded by his son. Their total was 73 years.


Andrew Murray, one of the first Scottish ministers to come to South Africa, married the lovely 16-year old Maria Susanna Stegmann in 1824. Their marriage lasted for 43 years. Eleven of their 16 children survived. Four of their sons, John, Andrew, Charles and William became ministers and four of their daughters married ministers, i.e. J H Hofmeyr, J H Neethling, H L Neethling and A A Louw. These couples produced 36 children, who either became ministers of missionaries, states Flip van der Walt in Kerklike Ditjies and Datjies. “This great family continued to grow in faith and service to the church.” Twice married Adriaan Jacobus Louw, owner of Labori et Picardi, in Paarl, had a similar family. He had three sons, one of whom died young, the other inherited the farm and the youngest, Adriaan Jacobus went in to the ministry. All seven daughters married ministers – N J Hofmeyr, A Hofmeyr, J R Albertyn, G Murray, C F Muller, J C Truter and P G P Meiring.


A “most distressing occurrence”, was reported in the Queenstown Free Press on April 5, 1892. “Lenie, the fine promising, seven-year-old daughter of H. du Plessis, of Bellevue, was burned to death by a spiteful boy. “The girl was visiting her sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. van den Bergh, who farmed in the Karoo. One day Mrs van den Berg, accompanied by Lenie, some labourer’s wives and children, went into the lands to pick mealies. The children were left alone in a part of the field as the women walked along collecting food for their supper. A 12-year old boy made a fire on which to roast some mealies. Lenie, thinking that he was wasting the mealies, said: ‘If you continue, I will tell my sister.’ To which the boy replied: ‘If you do, I shall burn you.’ Lenie ran off anyway and the infuriated, the boy followed touching the flaming stick in his hand to her skirt. Her clothing immediately ignited. The unfortunate girl screamed and begged him to put out the flames. He did not know what to do. The others raced for help, but by the time the women arrived Lenie’s clothes had burned and there scarcely was a stitch left on her. Only her boots and stockings remained. She was carried home where it was found that from the knees upwards to the chin, she was literally roasted. Her agonies were dreadful. Everything that could be done to relieve her sufferings was done, but she died later that evening. She was conscious all the time and kept repeating how the boy had deliberately set her on fire.”


In December 1891, a Karoo farmer, named Dutton, died as a result of a bar room prank, stated the Queenstown Free Press of Friday, December 4, 1891. Dutton, who had come in to town to shop, went into a bar for a drink before returning home. He told the police: “The ringleaders were Adrian Maartens, Fanie Wepenaar and Alexander McDonald,but the Payn brothers and Piet de Lange were also among the pranksters.The bar was crowded because it was a “sale day. Fanie stood in the middle of the billiard room, splashing water over the people. He thought this an enormous joke. I got one lot of water on me,” said Dutton. “Then Alexander McDonald threw some paraffin down the back of my neck and Adrian Maartens struck a match. I blew out the first flame, killed the second with my hand, then a third match was struck – I cannot say by whom – and I suddenly found myself ablaze. I rushed out of the bar. Mr Woods and Mr Uys tried to stop the pranksters and Christian Naude tried to put the fire out but did not succeed. He may be able to give a clear account. Many people tried to help me take my clothes off because they were partly consumed. Mr. Birbeck, John Plessis and Attorney Jones were there, but did not do anything. I am in great pain and I fear I might die, nevertheless, I desire to proceed criminally against all persons involved, “said Dutton. The district surgeon’s post-mortem report showed Dutton’s back, neck, ears, and arms were badly burned and his hair was singed. His whiskers and beard, however, appeared not to have been touched by the fire. His lungs were very congested, and the left one had adhered to his chest walls. The doctor concluded that death was due to burns and congestion of the lungs. At the ensuing circuit court hearing one of the accused turned Queen’s evidence.

Conversation is the legs on which thought walks; and writing, the wings by which it flies.

Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington, who died on June 4, 1849, at age 59, in Paris.