RARE RABBIT – EXCITING FIND
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) Drylands Conservation team were most excited to find a new colony of riverine rabbits in Baviaanskloof. These little nocturnal creatures, which are endemic to the Central Karoo and normally found only in the Beaufort West and Victoria West districts, are critically endangered. EWT Nama Karoo co-ordinator, Bonnie Schumann, said: “The first indication that this species had moved into this area came when well-known ornithologist and conservation scientist, Alan Lee, found a dead riverine rabbit on a gravel road in Baviaanskloof in December, 2018. Fortunately he recognised the rabbit, which many confuse with hares and rock rabbits. EWT teams then immediately set up 38 strategically placed camera traps to discover if there was a population of riverine rabbits in the area.” These cameras were left in position for 50 days to capture live footage. EWT Drylands Conservation programme manager, Cobus Theron, said “We were astounded when eight of our 12 camera clusters confirmed riverine rabbit habitats. This species is the true hide-and-seek champion of the Karoo and this discovery bodes well for the future survival of the species.”
STOOD THE TEST OF TIME
In 1969, about two years after the world’s first human heart transplant hit headlines across the globe, Professor Chris Barnard successfully implanted an artificial mitral valve into a 10 year old Italian girl. It certainly stood the test of time because Italian heart surgeons recently found it in perfect working order when they operated on the woman, now 60 years old, in a Salerno hospital. She was diagnosed with a serious mitral valve disorder at the age of five. During the next five years she showed no improvement and, as no life-saving intervention could be done in Italy, her family sent her to South Africa. She was accompanied by her 25-year-old brother. Neither of them could speak English or Afrikaans, but they had complete faith in Professor Barnard. It proved well founded. Her life was saved and the valve lives on. The Italian surgeons likened their find to an “exciting and extraordinary archaeological discovery”. There is no known record of any other heart valve lasting for so long.
WHAT TO TAKE WHEN YOU GO TO WAR
During the Anglo-Boer War Lieutenant C W Barton, of the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment, said: “A good kit should consist of two blankets, a waterproof sheet, great coat, cotton shirt, flannel shirt, socks, canvas shoes and a jersey.” His own kit weighed 35lbs (16kg), he said, adding that in a waterproof valise he had a bag blanket, khaki coat, trousers, felt hat, boots, canvas shoes, shirt, two pairs of socks, a sweater, pants, two cholera belts, a balaclava, two coloured and two silk handkerchiefs and a toilet bag with sponge, towel, razor, shaving brush, hair brush, tooth brush, tooth powder, two cakes of soap, looking glass and nail nippers. He also carried a folding lantern, writing case, prayer book, housewife, canvas water bucket and water bag. When on a march he carried a cardigan and vest rolled into a ground sheet, writes Cambridge University researcher, Martin Marix Evans, compiler of The Encyclopaedia of the Boer War.
DE RUST AND MEMORIES
The June issue of Round-up (No 306) brought back memories of a visit to De Rust to historian Richard Tomlinson. “Smuts’s Commando called in here on their trek westwards. The Commando’s adventure in the Cape Colony in October, 1901, is covered by Taffy and David Shearing in their book General Jan Smuts and His Long Ride. They give quite a description of the climb down by Deneys Reitz and Michael du Preez of the Commando with their horses from the Zwartberg range via the Donkerhoek to the mill at De Rust in search of food. It appears on page 105 of Chapter 6. Reitz and his men were lucky. Some locals gave them food, after which they were faced with a climb all the way up to the top of the mountains again,” says Richard.
FIRST WOMAN POSTMASTER
In Women in the Cape Colonial Post Office historian Professor Franco Frescura, states that women began to be appointed in the early 1800s. The first female postmaster was Catharina Hendrina, daughter of Johannes Matthias Bletterman and Geertruy Catharina (nee Schott) and wife of deputy postmaster William Caldwell. She was born in Cape Town in 1776 and, on February 12, 1796, at the age of 20, she married William, an Inverness-born, Cape Town businessman. Born in May 1758, he was the son of William Caldwell and Isabella (nee Clarke) and he had arrived in Colony in January that year. The couple had seven children – William Bletterman (June 7, 1797), Geertruida Isabella (September 23, 1798), who married Stellenbosch-born Reverend Abraham Faure, Johanna Maria (1800), Catharina Margaretha (March 21, 1802), Carolina Jemima (1803), Maria Henderika (October 5, 1805) and Georgina Johanna (January 3, 1808), who married Reverend William Elliot in 1826. On arrival in South Africa William became an auctioneer and ran a commission warehouse in Shortmarket Street. The “vigorous and enterprising” Catharina supported him in all his business dealings and in their 20 years of marriage there were many. She took up her position as postmaster on May 8, 1808, supported by Mrs A C Hudson, her deputy, and held it for 38 years. She retired in 1846 and died in 1852, aged 76.
A SKILLED AND CRAFTY BUSINESSMAN
William was appointed deputy post master general in May 1806, pending the arrival of a postmaster general (PMG) from England. He revised postal charges and reorganised the postal system, paying particular attention to the conveyance of mails to Saldanha Bay, Stellenbosch, Tulbagh, Swellendam, Mossel Bay, Plettenberg Bay, Uitenhage and Graaff-Reinet. A weekly postal route was set up from Cape Town to Stellenbosch in November, 1803. The first mails were carried by relays of Khoikhoi runners but, in time, these were replaced by post wagons, says Professor Frescura. When Mathew Gall arrived to take up the post of PMG on December 3, 1807, William then returned to his lucrative private businesses. He was a skilled businessman. In her dairy Lady Ann Barnard mentions an auction where a box of wigs had caught the attention of “almost every lady in town.” “Knowing that these were fashionable and that the ladies would bid on them, William Caldwell, a crafty shopkeeper, had the box brought forward early and purchased the lot for 40 dollars,” she said. The ladies were devastated, but “in the course of the morning William sold each wig separately for the money he had given for the whole box.” The Caldwells led a very busy and, at times, convoluted business life. In addition to the warehouse, they had a hotel, retail shop, general dealer’s store, and agency for a London property firm and two boarding houses – one in Bergh Street, and the other in Strand Street. These were said to be among the best in Cape Town and Catharina continued to run them in conjunction with her Stellenbosch job and even after William died on July 2, 1816, at the age of 58.
THE UNKILLABLE SOLDIER
A young man of Belgian Irish descent, who served in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War, became known as “the unkillable soldier”. Born on May 5, 1880, Adrian Paul Ghislain, was the eldest son of Léon Carton de Wiart and his Irish wife, Ernistine (nee Wenzig). Adrian, however, spread the rumour that he was the illegitimate son of the King Leopold of Belgium. He saw action in major conflicts for six decades and became one of the most battle-scarred soldiers in the history of the British Army. He ran away from school when he was just over 19 years old and enlisted to serve in South Africa. Before long he was wounded in the stomach and groin, invalided home. He, however, returned and saw extensive service. His injuries instilled in him a strong desire for physical fitness. He ran, jogged, walked, played a variety of sports and enjoyed pig sticking when he transferred to India. His comrades called him “a delightful character” but said he held “the world record for bad language”. In later wars Adrian was shot in the face, head, ankle, leg, hip and ear. A sniper’s bullet shattered his left kneecap and he was told he might lose the leg. He scoffed at that and recovered. He lost an eye and was given a glass one, but it caused him such discomfort that he hurled it out of a taxi and opted for a black patch. He fell from a train, survived two plane crashes, tunnelled out of a prisoner-of-war camp and, when his left hand was mangled in an artillery barrage, he bit off his fingers because doctors had refused to amputate them. In the end his entire hand was amputated. During the Battle of the Somme he pulled the pins out of grenades with his teeth and hurled them at the enemy. He was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1916. To the horror of many, he confessed to having “enjoyed the war”. On a visit to Rangoon he slipped on a coconut mat and fell down a flight of stairs, breaking several vertebrae and knocking himself unconscious. He had to be hospitalised and while operating doctors were able to extract a large amount of shrapnel from his old wounds. He died at the age of 83.
PRAYED FOR THE KILLERS
It was a freezingly cold June winters night in 1825 and death roamed the hinterland plains. A young English missionary, who at one time had been so ill that he pleaded with ships’ captains to come “ashore and bury me because I died last night”, knelt beneath the stars and prayed that those who were about to kill him would be forgiven. He was William, the son of Richard Threlfall, a tanner and an affluent businessman. Born in Hollowforth, near Preston, in Lancashire, on June 6, 1799, William joined the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society and in October 1821, was sent to South Africa. He initially joined Reverend William Shaw, at Salem Mission, 20km south of Grahamstown. During the following year he rode over 160 km to preach at Somerset East and then went on to Graaff-Reinet to visit Reverend Samuel Broadbent who had been seriously injured in an accident. From there he moved to Leliefontein Mission near Kamiesberg, in the Northern Cape, to work with Reverend Barnabas Shaw. On this last fateful journey, he and two assistants, Jacob Links, an ordained local missionary, and Johannes Jager, a lay preacher, were in search of a site for a new mission.
MURDERED AT MIDNIGHT
Their long and tedious journey took them through Namaqualand and into Namibia. Some of their oxen had died and worried about being stranded in the desert, they bought fresh oxen and procured the services of Naauwghaap, (Hans Jantje), a local guide. He, one day, encouraged them to stop at a general camping area where they were joined by a suspicious-looking group of men. They moved away from this group and retired for the night. Shortly after midnight William was woken by gunfire. He saw Johannes lying nearby. He had been shot through the spine. Further over Jacob too was dead. He had been hit by an arrow and stoned to death. William, who had endured many hardships in this country and survived East Coast Fever, which killed almost a whole shipload of his companions, knew there was no hope for him. He knelt beside his meagre belongings and consigned his soul to the Lord as some men crept stealthily towards him. Within minutes this 26 year old man of God was clubbed to death by friends of his trusted guide, Naauwghaap. The bodies were stripped and left on the veld for the vultures and hyenas. Professor Tilman Dedering stated that the murders occurred at a place latterly called Dakakabis. The remains of the three missionaries were buried in 1835 by Wesleyan missionary, Edward Cook and news of this crime sent a wave of horror across the Colony. Naauwghaap was later arrested wearing William’s clothes. He was tried in Clanwilliam, sentenced to death and executed at Silverfontein on September 3, 1827. A memorial was erected at the site of the murder in 1987.
‘DIGESTED’ THE WORD
Jacob Links, one of South Africa’s the first Christian martyrs, was also one of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society’s first converts. When he first heard the Word of God he did not understand it, so he ate some pages of a Dutch prayer book hoping that this would help him “absorb” the new religion. He also got on to the roof of his house to pray, thinking that there he would be nearer to God. People called him mad and his “mother cried over him”. He then met Reverend Barnabas Shaw, and his wife, Jane. Shaw taught him to read and write. Jacob became a teacher, interpreter and evangelist. He had also accompanied missionary James Archbell on several journeys.
A CONFERENCE NOT TO BE MISSED
An interesting conference to mark the 120-year commemoration of the Anglo-Boer War will be held at the War Museum, in Bloemfontein from October 9 – 11. The theme will be Re-imaging the War: New perspectives after 120 years. The programme will feature top class speakers and a wide range of topics.
NEW MEANING TO A FEATHER IN YOUR CAP
Ostrich feathers, long-time favourites of fashionistas, burlesque dancers and catwalk models, add magic to the Oudtshoorn story. Here the feather barons experienced two booms – 1865–1870 and 1900–1914 – and built mansions which still draw tourists today. Representing romance and a lifestyle of sumptuous grandeur feathers adorned horses, uniforms, hats and exotic outfits. Almost no lady would be seen without an ostrich feather boa. Before the outbreak of WWI ostrich feathers from South Africa were more precious than gold. In the 16th century, however, ostrich feathers they were worn almost exclusively by men. History records a 24-year-old German fashionista, Matthäus Schwarz, having a most lavish hat (headdress) created for himself in May 1521. Half a metre wide and 45 cm high, it had over 32 plumes embellished with gold. This sumptuous structure could be seen from almost a kilometre away.
FROM TEACHER TO TOP CLASS NEWSMAN
Stories of Oudtshoorn always remind Round-up reader, David Smith, of his grandfather. He was John Thomas Pocock, the founder, proprietor and for many years editor, of the Oudtshoorn Courant. Born in George on May 24, 1851, John was the second son of Lewis Greville Pocock, an apothecary. He had four brothers and three sisters. After completing his education he worked as a teacher at Blanco and, in time, rose to be the principal of the Boy’s School in Oudtshoorn. He later became a catechist at the Anglican Church in Malmesbury and later still moved to Grahamstown, where he again took a post as a teacher. He served the 1877 Frontier War, then, in 1879 was stuck by a serious illness and had to give up teaching. He considered returning to England, but, as Oudtshoorn had no newspaper, he decided first to try his hand at filling that gap. He bought a small printing press and the first issue of the Oudtshoorn Courant appeared in May, 1879. From the outset it was a great success. John did not ally himself to any faction, view or standpoint, but rather focussed on local matters which needed reform. A few months later he was joined by his younger brother Hedley Agard Pocock. Sadly, this partnership did not last as Headly was struck down by typhoid in March 1882, at the age of only 23. Later that year John married Johanna Elizabeth Steytler of Stellenbosch in a ceremony solemnised by her uncle Reverend A I Steytler. The couple had eight children. John was a well-known, polite, highly respected man with a “wonderfully clear brain”. Sadly, towards the end of his life he was handicapped by failing eyesight, but “found solace in music”, stated his obituary in the Oudtshoorn Courant of October 10, 1933. He was 89.
A PASSIONATE HORSEMAN
Many considered Hugh Montague Trenchard to be a rather dull, unintelligent lad. However, in the end he proved them wrong. Born on February 3, 1873, he was the third child and second son of Henry Montague Trenchard, a soldier and legal clerk, and his wife, Georgiana Louisa Catherine Tower (nee Skene). At the age of two Hugh’s family moved to a country estate where he was educated by a tutor whom he greatly disliked and who was neither strict nor skillful. As a result Hugh did not excel academically. He was later sent to boarding schools, but he preferred playing, practical joking, outdoor sports, riding and hunting to studying. He failed the entrance examinations for most military services and only just succeeded in meeting the minimum standard for commissioned service. He was sent to India where he was nicknamed “the camel”, because he did not drink. He took up reading, particularly biographies, and this filled in the gaps in his education. He also took up polo, although it was not a tradition of his regiment. It stood him in good stead during the Anglo-Boer War when he helped train mounted infantry at De Aar and other places in the Karoo.
AMBUSHED AND CRITICALLY WOUNDED
When Hugh arrived in South Africa he was recovering from a hernia operation. After his stint at De Aar, which he greatly enjoyed, he was attached to a regiment. It was involved in several skirmishes and on one occasion his patrol was ambushed. They chased a party of Boers up a steep incline and before Hugh and his men reached the top of the ridge the Boers had disappeared into a valley. Below was a farmhouse which had smoke curling from the chimney. Hugh surmised that the Boers, thinking that they had gotten away, were enjoying breakfast, so after watching for a while he led his men into the valley. As they broke cover, the Boers opened fire. Hugh pressed forward, reached a sheltering wall, but was struck him in the chest. As he slipped in and out of consciousness he was rushed to hospital where surgeons drained three liters of blood from his pleural cavity. He lost a lung and doctors feared he would die. It took three days for him to regained consciousness.
BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN
Hugh was sent home and went to St Moritz in Switzerland to recuperate. There he was involved in a bob-sledding accident and sent home. On recovery he returned to South Africa despite the fact that his scars had not fully healed and often bled, causing him great pain and leaving him breathless. Once here he reorganised the demoralized mounted infantry and trained riders at his in Middelburg in the Karoo. In 1912 he learned to fly. He was a poor pilot, so he became an instructor. He was instrumental in setting up the RAF and United States air Force In 1913 he contracted Spanish flu and asked Katherine Boyle (née Salvin), the widow of a friend and fellow officer, to come and nurse him. She did. When he recovered, he proposed, she refused, but when he proposed again in 1920 she accepted. They were married on July 17. They had two sons. On his retirement he became Metropolitan Police Commissioner and, as a director of several companies, travelled widely. During the last two years of his life, he was partially blind and physically frail. He died one week after his 83rd birthday.
Always take sides. Neutrality only helps the oppressor – Eli Wiesel, Romanian-born Nobel laureate