A new book, No 6 in the Cape Commando Series, is now available from Taffy and David Shearing. Entitled Malan Attacks Richmond, it tells of events in this isolated Karoo village during the Anglo-Boer War. “The war in this area was interesting,” said Taffy. “The town was far from rail, yet residents, led by their dynamic, determined magistrate, George James Boyes, put up a fight on two occasions against the Boer commandos under Wynand Malan. We have included Malan’s subsequent career as a guerrilla fighter in this 195-page book which includes 184 photographs, many of which have not previously been seen. The book also includes a list of 340 members of Malan’s commando as well as the names of the 151 men who served in the Richmond Town Guard. As background material we used a diary written by a Richmond Field Cornet who was among the locals who stuck it out in the Cape Colony. All of this makes the book a little different.” The book costs R220 plus R35 postage and packing.


The Thicket and Arid Zone ecology groups are joining forces to hold an Arid Zone – Thicket Fusion Forum at Rhodes University in Grahamstown from September 8 to 11. A number of special interactive themes dealing with broad-scale ecological patterns and processes will be included in the programme. One special session will highlight biome boundaries, drivers and dynamics, while another will concentrate on the management of the Tierberg Karoo Research Centre including discussion of past, present and future collaboration. Grahamstown was specially chosen as a venue as it is located in a biologically diverse area where four biomes intermingle. The programme will include field trips and there will also be time for delegates to enjoy some sightseeing.


Prince Albert’s Creative Karoo Winter School is scheduled to be held from August 8 to 17. The programme truly includes something for everyone say the organisers. There will be cookery courses, jewellery design and making classes, blacksmith and weaving workshops as well as photography courses. Delegates will be encouraged create an art book, learn emotional freedom techniques, write their memoirs, read and write haiku or attend a yoga retreat. A variety of guided excursions, field trips and historical walks in and around the village will be available as well as visits to the local wine and olive farms. There will also be a series of special classes for children. Delegates will be able to sample the local cuisine at a variety of restaurants, listen to local music and attend a film festival.


A handwoven rug, made at Karoo Looms in Prince Albert, will be on display at the 12 Rooms Exhibition at CCXIX showroom in Cape Town until August. It is based on a design developed by Laduma Ngxokolo. Karoo Looms has been supplying handwoven mohair runs and carpets to the trade and public nationally and internationally since 1983.


Caroline, the second eldest daughter of Sir John Charles Molteno, was a phenomenal woman – extremely beautiful, strong-minded, observant, fearless, sensitive and sensible. In 1876, despite initial opposition from her father, she married Royal Navy surgeon, Dr C F K “Charles” Murray, produced ten children and became a full-time, loving wife and mother. Throughout her lifetime she took an active interest in public affairs, firmly opposing racialism and the Anglo-Boer War. She was a leading member of a group pressing for women’s rights to the vote. In response to the problems of her son, Jack, she pioneered public support for the mentally handicapped. In 1913 she wrote her memoirs and remembered her happy childhood in early Beaufort West with affection. “Only a few families formed the simple society of the town. Among them were the Christies, Pritchards, Rices, Thwaites, Devenishes, Mustos, Kinnears, Madisons, Frasers and the lonely old postmaster, Mr. Cardwell. He was said to have come from a very good family in England. No one knew why he came to bury himself in this far-away solitude. He was very kind to children and always had a handful of small pink rose peppermints ready for us when we went to his post-office. Dr. and Mrs. Christie lived near us on the opposite side of a long straggling street. Their children were our friends. He was the only doctor in town until Dr. Kitching arrived. Mr Rice was a very great friend of Papa’s. His father, Dr. Rice, was principal of the Blue Coat School in London and a distinguished scholar. Mrs Rice, once a Miss de Jager, was a kind and motherly person. Near us also lived Mr. Dantje de Villiers, a man of great ability and character, who had a very large family. One of his daughters married Mr. W. Elliott who managed one of Papa’s Nelspoort farms for many years. They had two daughters, Mabel and Emily. Mr. Madison, the manager of Uncle Alport’s store, was also always kind. He had a pleasant word of welcome and often a little packet of sweets for children.”


Caroline recalled the lovely gardens of old Beaufort West. “Ours had vines, irrigation sloots, peach, fig and apricot trees, as well as a gigantic walnut and a mulberry tree, at the front,” she said. Sir John’s cousin and “brother in law and business”, Percy Alport and his family lived in the house behind them “As my mind wanders back, I remember dear Aunt Sophy and Uncle Alport seem linked with our lives almost as closely as our own parents. He kept hunting dogs in kennels in a railed-in courtyard between our homes. We regarded them with the same terror as we would wild animals. I can still see Uncle Alport riding back from a hunt with the dogs dancing round his horse and with hares and corans hanging from his saddle. His horses and dogs were like children to him. He treated them with great tenderness. One could not think of Uncle Alport and Aunt Sophy apart from one another, their lives were so completely blended in their beautiful orderly home. Wherever Aunt Sophy went one could feel her quiet influence. She was a combination of gentleness and strength capable woman, sweet and totally unselfish. This gave her the courage to uncomplainingly endure a life of unusual suffering which finally reduced her to a complete helpless invalid.


Many years later, when Caroline Murray revisited her old home town she was happy to find many of the landmarks she remembered had not changed. “As I walked down the street, still shaded by the familiar old pear trees, an old man rose from a stoep where he had been sitting, came forward and shook me warmly by the hand. This was our old friend Mr. Madison. When I asked him how he could possibly recognise me when he had not seen me since I was seven years old, he said, ‘Oh, I could never fail to recognise a Molteno face.’ He then talked of how optimistic Pappa was as to the possibilities of the district. He told me that when Mr. Rawson, the Colonial Secretary, visited Beaufort Pappa invited him to go with him to one of his Nelspoort farms. There Pappa was able to show Mr Rawson 40,000 sheep in one spot. Rawson was amazed. Like many others he had looked upon the Karoo as a worthless desert.” Caroline died in 1937 at the London home of her beloved and much-admired younger brother, Percy, just a few weeks after he himself passed away.


In 1857 Alfred Essex, was a vociferous and persistent advocate of progress and proprietor of The Graaff-Reinet Herald, decided a map was essential to boost the economy of the town. However, the only lithograph in the Colony, and the only press capable of handling such a job, was in Cape Town. Undeterred, Alfred and William Henry Rabone, his brother-in-law, partner and master printer, decided to “invent a method” of printing the map locally. They experimented for weeks before achieving success. “In the end,” wrote William, “thin planks of pine were prepared, and the map was carefully drawn in full detail on these by Mr H Bolus. The planks were then sawn into squares of equal size. Alfred then cut out the rivers with saw and roughly chiselled out the mountains through the wooden squares, thus forming an immense number of separate pieces like a dissected puzzle. These squares were then separated by strips of thin ‘brass rule’ and four screws were inserted so that each metal block could be adjusted to ‘type height’ before printing. The roads were then drawn separately onto the bed of the press, reversed and thin strips of sheet lead were bent and shaped according to the marks left standing up. These strips were wedged to keep them firm and molten type metal was poured between them, until the roads stood in relief, embedded in a solid sheet of metal, the size of the map and weighing over 80 pounds (about 36 kg). The roads were then separately printed in red ink. The map itself was executed in spare hours amid the pressing business of running a newspaper office. Finally, 600 copies, accompanied by a 20-page descriptive pamphlet – the first ever printed in Graaff-Reinet – were issued as a supplement to August 1857 issue of The Graaff-Reinet Herald. The map was widely and well received.”


William Henry Rabone, joined the staff of The Graaff-Reinet Herald in 1853. Those who knew him said he had “ink in his blood” and this was perhaps true because he was probably one of the most experienced and efficient printers in the Colony at the time. Born in Birmington in 1824, he learned his trade at Osborne’s (later Bradbury and Evans’) where Punch and the works of Charles Dickens were printed. After qualifying he moved to Paris, but soon returned to England, then emigrated to The United States where he worked for several top firms before returning home to marry Harriet Essex, the love of his life and Alfred’s sister. Before long Alfred offered him a job in South Africa.


It took William and Harriet six months to reach this country. They sailed from England on The Cuba, which was wrecked just off Cape Recife, near Algoa Bay, their destination, states a booklet, Graaff-Reinet, Gem of the Karoo. Passengers and crew were rescued by a vessel bound for England and they hoped to be taken to Cape Town. The Captain, however, refused to land them there and took them all the way to St Helena. From there the Rabones eventually managed to travel to Ascension and after a while there boarded a Cape Town-bound steamboat. It ran out of coal and was forced to seek shelter at Saldanha Bay while a man raced on horseback to Cape Town to ask for coal to be sent so that the ship could proceed. The coal was shipped and by the time the Rabones landed in the Mother City, they were destitute. They had lost everything in the wreck of The Cuba, and their insurance had not paid out. They arrived penniless in Graaff-Reinet, but both were good artists, so they used these talents to supplement their income. Harriet drew chalk portraits for which she charged three guineas each and William started an art school, the first of its kind, for youngsters. It was so successful that he soon had offer classes for men and women. Pressure of work at The Herald forced the closure of this school. The Rabones prospered. In time he became the sole proprietor of the newspaper and all went well until the depression of 1864 forced its closure. Once again, the Rabones were in dire financial straits. In time William found a job as editor of the Diamond Fields Express. From Kimberley he moved to Johannesburg and later to Pretoria, where he worked as a teacher. In his old age he returned to Graaff-Reinet and did odd editorial jobs on the Graaff Reinet Advertiser until he died in 1902.


A search for her roots has led Carol Coney to Beaufort West where her mother’s grandfather, Stephanus de Villiers, married a Jacoba, a daughter of Jacob Heineman, a German shopkeeper. He appears to have been Jewish because he corresponded with his mother in Hebrew. Jacob, who was born in Paderborn, Hesse-Kassel in Germany on October 23, 1786, attained the rank of captain in the German army but, when his brother was killed in action, Jacob’s mother implored him to go to South Africa as she feared losing him as well. Once here he travelled inland to Beaufort West where he opened a shop – census records show him as having 4 employees, 4 trek oxen and 113 sheep, yet still being unmarried in 1824. On October 21, 1827 at the age of 41 Jacob married his cousin, 28-year old Cecilia Catharina Jacoba Nortier, who died four years later at the age of 31. Family records indicate the couple had two children – Jacob Gerhardus, born on February 4, 1825 and a second child who is not named, so Cecilia may have died in childbirth. Jacob married 18-year old Anna Margaretha Susielja Brooderyk five months later. They had seven children – three sons and four daughters. After Jacob died at the age of 63 in Beaufort West in May 1850, Anna married Lodewyk Johannes Brink. Carol would like to contact anyone researching the Brooderyk and De Villiers families of old Beaufort West.


Last year, on a trip to the Eastern Cape, Gloria Rhembe bought a painting of a beautiful Karoo scene when she passed through Smithfield in the Free State. She was told it depicted a legend of twin sisters who haunt the road around Beaufort West. Amused by the tale she hung the painting in her lounge and shared the story with friends. It in intrigued many but disturbed some to such an extent that she had to take it down. She likes the painting and wonders whether anyone can shed any light on the story. If anyone can I’d love to hear from them.” says Gloria.


Gray Rutherford, who lives in the Wilderness, is hunting for information on the first aloe brought to Kirstenbosch in the 1920s. The only information of record states that it came from a place called Bonnie Blink or Blink Bonnie somewhere in the Graaf-Reinet district. “Apparently this was the name of a farm with a beautiful view,” says Gray. “Enquiries in Graaff-Reinet met with no success, so I wondered whether any Round-up readers might have information on the farm or aloe. I’d be pleased to hear from anyone who does,” says Gray.


The village of Montagu Road was established on the farm De Draai, or “the bend”, on November 7 1877, when the railway line from Worcester to Matjesfontein was opened to traffic. The station was located at a point where the line crossed the Touws River, and was named in honour of the Colonial Secretary, Sir John Montagu, writes Franco Frescura in S A History on Line. “This was quite misleading, as the village of Montagu had already been established in a different sector of the Colony, on the road to Swellendam, so, on January 1, 1883 the station was renamed Touws River. In its early days, passengers travelling on the Western line frequently had to make an enforced stop at the village, sometimes for more than one night. As a result, many of them stayed at the Frere Hotel, an establishment built by the Cape Government Railways for the purpose of accommodating their clients. This monopoly persisted until 1921 when the village’s residential area was finally laid out.”

“When you choose the lesser of two evils, always remember that it is still an evil.” – Max Lerner

“Stories are our tradition, our birthright, our way”, says Trevor Emslie who produces an interesting peek into S A history entitled Story of the Week. If you are interested in receiving a copy of these interesting tales, many of which are written by Martiens van Baart, contact Trevor at

Needed – a 1949 Pontiac Generator

By Allen Duff. – May 2014

In the early 1950s my family lived in Adelaide. In mid-December 1955, my parents decided to travel to Cape Town to visit my maternal grandmother for Christmas. We left in the evening as the weather was very hot. Our vehicle was a second-hand 1949 Pontiac. I sat up front with my father. Mother and three sisters, the youngest of whom was seven months old, were in the back. Our route took us from Adelaide to Bedford, then on to Somerset-East, Aberdeen, Beaufort-West and finally, the N1 south. The roads were gravel and the driver had to stay alert. This trip was a great adventure for an 11-year-old boy peering into the light of the head-lamps and keeping the old man awake as instructed by my mother.

Some miles from Aberdeen the red generator light on the dash-board came on. My father gave an exclamation of dismay. About 02:00 we drew into the commercial square of Aberdeen. My father decided to try and rouse the owner of the General Motors [GM] dealership, so he and I went to the Post Office and endeavoured to raise the man on duty at the exchange from the public phone in front of the building. There was no response to the cranking of the phone’s handle, so we walked to the rear of the Post Office and through the window could see the switchboard with its holes for the plugs and their cables. The operator was fast asleep on a stretcher. He had half a bottle of brandy next to him and as no amount of noise could rouse him, so my father decided to go to the police station. We found the entrance door wide-open and walked in. There was nobody on duty inside. Two fellows were snoring in a drunken stupor in the cells. We returned to the car and dozed until about 06:00.

Then, my father again tried unsuccessfully to raise the operator at the exchange. We again went around the back and banged on the window. Despite our shouting and banging, however, the fellow slumbered on. Exasperated my father threw a stone through the window and this did the trick. The noise of breaking glass woke the operator who shouted angrily and abusively at my father, who remained quite calm and said that if the operator sorted the broken window-pane, he would forget about seeing the brandy bottle. With the score at one-all, the General Motors dealer was roused.

When we arrived at the garage, we found that the owner of course didn’t have a generator for a 1949 Pontiac. He was friendly enough and said he would be pleased to order one from Port Elizabeth and have it sent up on the overnight passenger train. My father then asked what generators the owner had in stock and in a dusty storeroom we found about half a dozen. One was a 1939 Chevrolet generator. “Put it in,” said my father. The garage man did this and soon we were merrily on our way again.

There was a good reason why this generator worked. When the Second World War broke out, General Motors stuck with whatever parts design they had and continued manufacturing accordingly stock-piling all surplus. By the end of the war, the stock-pile was considerable and GM used the stockpile in new production until it was exhausted. Hence it was only in 1950s that GM began manufacturing vehicles with parts which had “a post war design”.

By the time we departed Aberdeen it was about 08:30 and the sun was already blazing from a cloudless sky. Aberdeen to Beaufort-West was 115 miles of nothing. Just a dry, dusty, corrugated and seemingly endless road. At last we reached Beaufort-West and the tarred N1. Before proceeding on that road, we stopped for refreshments and my cold Sparletta from a Beaufort-West main street cafe never tasted better.


In February 1942, during World War II, all the USA automobile makers had their production lines shut down. This was a government freeze and production then concentrated on vehicles needed by the armed forces. Automobile production started up again in 1945, and although the cars coming off the production lines were listed as 1946 models, most were considered to be “warmed over” (an expression used by Internet archives) earlier models. The term “warmed over” logically equates with using existing designs and parts. This “warming over” continued in subsequent years. GM’s first post-war redesign of certain parts was their 1949 line of automobiles.

My father in the early 1950s was a printer in Adelaide. The owner of the printing works also owned the GM agency next door and presumably was the origin of my father’s knowledge. – Allen Duff.