A SALUTE TO THE SETTLERS
The Eastern Cape branch of the SA Genealogical Society has just launched a new book to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the 1820 settlers. Entitled 1820 Settlers and Other Early British Settlers to the Cape Colony, this well-illustrated 500-page book, edited by branch vice-chairman, John Wilmot, pays tribute to the role that these settlers played in building South Africa. “In their stark ignorance these intrepid people made pitiful blunders and mostly learned the hard way through tenacious toil and tears. They stood their ground, with indomitable spirit and by grim determination, steadfast courage and high endeavour triumphed over almost every obstacle,” says John. “In time many served in high positions throughout the land contributing to the cultural development of towns and cities as well as to pastoral and agricultural expansion in the country. Their indelible mark will never perish.”. This 228 x 152 mm book (ISBN 978-0-6399326-6-8) published by Foot Print Press, includes names and interesting details. It costs R650 including postage within South Africa – see www.footprintpress.co.za. Further information from firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE DETAILS
Anglo-Boer War enthusiasts interested in maps, facts and stats will enjoy Pieter Cloete’s comprehensive new e-book. Based on extensive research it provides a great deal of information and comparative statistics in a clear, concise, graphic way. It contains a selection of coloured general, battle and campaign maps, as well as fact sheets on the Imperial forces and commandos as well as notes on marksmanship. It is available in Kindle as well as other formats i.e. https://www.kobo.com/ww/en/ebook/the-anglo-boer-war
NOTE: Wakefield Press in Australia will soon publish Citizen Soldiers, a book co-authored by Tony Stimson and Jennifer Humphries on the 60 South Australian soldiers named on the SA War Memorial in Adelaide,
BACK A BUDDY
The organisers of Richmond’s annual Bookbedonnerd literary and literacy festival are positive folk. This festival has been central to the village for the 13 years and they say this year will be no exception. They are going full steam ahead with plans albeit in smaller venues because of the corona virus threat. This will simply make the sessions cosier, they say. Sadly the Northern Cape Provincial Government can no longer assist, so to keep the festival alive and ensure standards, the organisers have set up a “backabuddy” system. They are appealing to anyone who might be able to offer financial assistance to become part of this campaign. Please contact Peter Baker (email@example.com) or Darryl David (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details. This festival, which features art and reading workshops for the children, as well as book binding and restoration courses, takes place during the last weekend of October. It also hosts the annual South African Independent Publishers Awards function and gala dinner, The list of authors who are standing by to be part of this year’s festival is an impressively long one, say the organisers.
IN SEARCH OF A BLACK BEAR
Roy J Stokes, an Irish historic researcher, is looking for a bear which has vanished into history. He would like to know whether anyone has heard the tale of a black bear which allegedly escaped from its cage on the deck of a schooner berthed alongside the Lucy in Table Bay harbour in 1864 and mauled a child to death. The tale was originally told by William Campbell, who at the time of the incident was a young boy travelling on the Lucy which was bound from Ireland to South Australia. “There is no reason to believe that William’s memory was not excellent, as he had recalled so many other facts about that voyage that have all checked out,” says Roy
TOP MARKSMAN NEVER TOOK THE SHOT
A small herd of oxen on Mr. Froule’s farm in the Albany district became a major problem in the late 1880s. They were too wild to round up and to take to market, so it was decided that the best way to deal with them was to shoot them and let the successful marksmen have a carcass as a prize. This was an attractive deal and a large amount of meat, so “a large number of hopeful hopefuls” gathered on the farm on May 13,1885, reported The Mercury. A party was to follow the shoot, so friends and families were also present and the atmosphere was “quite jolly”. Lots were drawn and the first shot was granted to a man named Britz, He was acknowledged as an excellent marksman. With his eye on the prize, he lay down and took aim. Nothing happened. The men began to taunt him, then realised that he was not moving. They took a closer look and found Britz was having some serious sort of seizure. He was quickly taken to the nearest homestead, but never recovered and died within five /hours. He was survived by a wife and 12 children ”who had no real means of support”.
KILLED BECAUSE OF A VISION
A vision caused the death of a Somerset East man in 1885. According to the Eastern Province Herald of May 9, 1885, man named Dold was appeared before the Resident Magistrate and in a very calm voice stated that he had killed his stepfather. He told the magistrate that he shared a bedroom with his 60-year old stepfather, a man named Doyle. “At 04:00 a vision appeared and just knew I had to kill him. I went out, got a hammer, hit him with it and then threw him outside the door. I did this because it is said that the dead must rise again on the third day.” Dold certainly appeared to be insane. Mrs Doyle (his mother), who was also 60, told the magistrate that on hearing a fearful commotion at about 04:00 she rose and raced to the kitchen to find her son sitting calmly there. He told her he had killed his stepfather. She could not believe this. She went to the bedroom, but her husband was not there. She then opened the door leading into the yard and found her husband in an insensible state. She helped him into the house where she tried to help him and to clean him up. He was frightfully mauled and never regained his senses. The poor old man died at 09:00, she said. Oddly enough another murder had been committed in the next-door house only a short while before, stated the newspaper.
PRODUCTIVE PATRIARCHS OF THE PLATTELAND
In the late 1880s the Dispatch ran a story of an old Dutchman in Burghersdorp who had 32 children and 300 grandchildren. “Well, we can better that,” stated a May issue of the Grahamstown Journal. “We can boast of a 96-year old man, Jan Oliver, who has 35 children and 503 grand and great grandchildren. He is hale and hearty, and often is seen in the village, to which he rides two hours on horseback. His chief characteristic is unbounded loyalty to the Queen which, in his old age, mounts almost to monomania. He brings it up on all occasions and in any company, which offends some of his friends. It is said that on hearing that one of his sons had joined the Afrikaner Bond (a political party founded in 1880), Old Jan immediately sent him and his family packing with bag and baggage even though it was night! On being told of the probability of a Russian war Old Jan said ‘Write to the Queen and tell her that Old Commandant Jan Oliver will put a commando of his own sons into the field to fight for her’.”
DETERMINED TO COMMIT SUICIDE
Jacobus Grobelaar, a Kroonstad man, committed suicide “in a most determined manner” reported The Graaff-Reinet Advertiser of July 5, 1878. He went out into his garden, sat down by a pool of water and, after tying his hands and feet together as tightly as he could, rolled into the pool and drowned himself. He was a wealthy man, with only a wife and one child to support, but laboured under the idea that ill-luck would come his way, and cause them to starve. The newspaper also reported the suicide of 26-year old Charles Bacon, chief clerk to the district engineer on the Beaufort West Extension Railway. He shot himself “through the brain with a revolver” He was a fine young man well-known and respected in the Karoo and on the Diamond Fields. No one had any idea why he should have acted in this way. He had been in Beaufort West for three years.
DIED AT THE FIRESIDE
Early one morning, in July 1878, young Koos van der Berg rose from his bed and, because it was very cold, went to sit beside the fire while his wife prepared his tea. He suddenly fell off his chair, and to his wife’s horror. was “stone dead”. He was only 30 and according to those who knew him had always seemed to be a healthy man. However, for the past two to three days he had been plagued by headaches, stated the Graaf-Reinet Advertiser of July 3, 1878. He was survived by his wife and three children.
SON OF THE VELD WOWS THE ART WORLD
Daniël Cornelis Boonzaaier, a son of the veld, made a name for himself as a cartoonist and caricaturist. Born on a Karoo farm near Carnarvon on November 11, 1865, he attended the local school and on finishing joined the local magistrate’s office as a clerk. There his beautiful copperplate script soon attracted attention and within short he was offered a job in the offices of the Master of the Cape Supreme Court. At the time he was just 16. He moved to Cape Town and there also worked at the Colonial Office and for the Orphan Chamber. He became soon became inspired by the work of the well-known Cape Town-born cartoonist William “Willie” Howard Schröder, publisher of the humorous weekly, The Knobkerrie, Daniël, then 20, began drawing cartoons despite the fact that he had no formal art training, His work was readily acceptable and this encouraged him to study the work of many world-famous men including the Punch cartoonists. In 1889 he resigned from the civil service and became a professional cartoonist. Several publications used his depictions of famous South African and international figures. In 1903 his was given a permanent post by The South Africa News. This made him South Africa’s first full-time newspaper cartoonist. Daniël developed a controversial, anti-establishment style which ensured him a wide following. His home became a “a haven of culture” in Cape Town. He was a lifelong supporter of the theatre, both as an actor and producer. He corresponded with people like Sarah Bernhardt, W S Gilbert, Arthur Sullivan, Leo Tolstoy, George Bernard Shaw and Henry Irving. He was said to be the first owner of a gramophone in Cape Town. His son Gregoire Boonzaaier also made a name for himself in art.
MORE UNFORGETTABLE SKETCHES
Another unforgettable South African caricaturist and cartoonist was Thomas Ochse Honiball – commonly known as TO Honiball. Born in Cradock on December 7, 1905, he attended the Paul Roos Gymnasium for boys in Stellenbosch and there started drawing cartoons for the school magazine. He studied architecture at the University of Cape Town until 1926. In 1927, a desire to express his talents in a less structured way took him to Chicago where he turned his attention to commercial art. He studied American cartoons and soon took up cartooning as a hobby. He married Iona Boesen in 1934 and they had four children. Back in South Africa in 1936 he joined Nasionale Pers and in 1941 took over from Daniël Boonzaier as political caricaturist. After Iona’s death in 1971, Honiball married Essie de Villiers-Dreyer (formerly Esther Maria Wiese) in 1973. He later developed Oom Kaspaas, a lovable old character and his nephew, Nefie. This series was an instant hit. Honiball loved portraying animals as humans and this led to his popular Jakkals en Wolf and Adoons-Hulle series. These books became highly collectable. On retiring in 1974, Honiball held his first solo exhibition in Pretoria. His continued drawing political caricatures until 1978. He died on February 22, 1990, in Montagu.
THE BOOKS CAME BACK
During the Anglo-Boer War Luckhoff’s Dominee Malherbe was ordered to appear before the British Commander, Colonel Frederick Macracken. The dominee’s son, Ernest Gideon Malherbe, who was born in 1895, well remembered that his father was ordered to stop introducing politics into religion, to which he replied that he was not doing that at all, but rather introducing religion into politics. He was arrested and sent to the Castle in Cape Town as a prisoner of war. Ernest (6) and his sister, Rachel,(4) – who spat at some British soldiers at Belmont station and had to be hidden under a seat – were taken to their grandparents in Malmesbury by their mother, writes David Harrison in White Tribe of Africa. By the time the war ended the Malherbes had lost everything except the dominee’s violin and his wife’s tennis racquet. It was found in the veld, after their home was ransacked. Then, long after the war the Dominee received a parcel from a William Dean in Manchester. William wrote that he had been among the soldiers who had ransacked the Malherbe home. He had taken two books, put them in his saddle bag and later posted them from Bloemfontein to his father, a Sunday school superintendent. After the war William decided to return the books, The Science of Religion and A Threefold Gift of God, because the dominee’s name and address were on the inside cover.
A SECRET, A VIOLIN AND A SMALL KAROO TOWN
Klaaarstroom became a star in 2014 when veteran filmmaker Koos Roets made a full-length movie there. Based on Pieter Fourie’s 1976 hit play Faan se Trein (Faan’s Train) it tells of a simple-minded train enthusiast who became smitten by a woman with a secret who was hiding in the village. She tried to manipulate him out of his inheritance of valuable antiques and a rare violin. A sequel, Faan se Stasie (Faan’s Station), a darker tale of the continuing adventures of the simple-minded man was staged in the Nico Malan Theatre. It became a radio play and was translated into German. Oddly there is no station nor railway line at Klaarstroom.
SHOCKED BY MP
Graaff-Reinet was not directly involved in the early phases of the Anglo-Boer War. Its involvement came later during the guerrilla phase when it was garrisoned by Imperial troops and immersed in problems of rebels, treason trials and executions. “ In effect Graaff-Reinet provided a microcosm of the Cape Colonial experience of the Second Anglo-Boer War,” states A de V Minnaar in the S A Military Journal of June 1987. “As the war progressed in favour of the British so the loyalists of Graaff-Reinet became more arrogant. They were particularly incensed by revelations in letters found in Bloemfontein, allegedly written by their local MP, Dr T N G Te Water. From these letters, found after the capture of Bloemfontein in March, 1900, it appeared that on May 27, 1899, Dr Te Water had written to Free State President M T Steyn sending him the private telegraphic code of the Cape Colony’s cabinet. Te Water’s rationale for this action was that Steyn might need to communicate in a hurry with the Cape government and that there were leaks in the telegraph service. Luckily for Te Water, he was overseas at the time of the discovery of the incriminating letters as there were strong calls for him to be tried for treason.
The complacency of the Graaff-Reinet loyalists was rudely shattered by the start of the guerrilla phase of the Anglo-Boer War, continues A de V Minnaar. “On December 15, 1900, Commandant Pieter H Kritzinger crossed the Orange River with approximately 700 men. He was followed by Commandants Wynand Malan, Gideon Scheepers, J C Lotter and Willem D Fouche, all of whom were subsequently very active in the Graaff-Reinet area. The aim of these Boer commandos was to disrupt the enemy, blow up railway lines, wreck trains, and to encourage Colonials to rebel and join the Boer cause. The commandos were certainly successful in harassing the British. They constantly, captured trains and wagon convoys, taking any horses, weapons, ammunition, blankets, saddlebags, riding breeches, boots, hats etc, that they needed. On December 20, 1900, martial law was declared in Graaff-Reinet. Loyalists were greatly disturbed by the news that Kritzinger was in the neighbourhood of Middelburg and was heading their way. Kritzinger had, in fact, occupied New Bethesda. Any plans he may have had to occupy Graaff-Reinet were forestalled by the arrival at midnight on Old Year’s Eve, 1900, of 600 of the Coldstream Guards. By the end of the week there were some 2 000 mainly mounted Imperial troops, encamped on the slopes of Magazine Hill and on Van Ryneveld’s Square. Soon after the arrival of these troops Graaff Reinet raised a Town Guard force of about 100 men. (By March 1902 they numbered 220). The raising of a town guard allowed the Imperial troops to concentrate on tracking Boer commandos – an immensely difficult task in view of the rugged, mountainous terrain and isolated valleys of the Sneeuberg. This resulted in much action and unrest. The effects of the Anglo-Boer War on Graaff-Reinet were traumatic to say the least. It left deep scars. Divisions were exacerbated by a number of trials which took place there.”
SCHOOL WITH A PROUD HISTORY
While researching the history of a Somerset East’s Paulet Street, where she spent her childhood, Dr Taffy Shearing discovered some interesting details about the William Oats Memorial School. “It was established in 1843 by Thomas Merrington, a missionary teacher,” she said. “In the 1930s Rev Alwyn Charles Lloyd, wrote to the London Missionary Society asking for details regarding the founding of the school. They sent him an extract (page 96) from an 1843 LMS report stating that Thomas Merrington had started the mission school on a plot bequeathed by Dorothy Evans. Originally named Ebenezer School, it had 35 Day students and 65 attended the Sabbath School. Also, between 120 and 150 people attended the Sabbath service. The name of the school was changed to William Oates Memorial School in 1936 when the premises were enlarged, “I think this makes it the oldest school in South Africa,” said Taffy. The William Oates Memorial School was built by the congregation under the leadership of John and Appolis Hufkie. The congregation burnt the bricks, and put scrap metal and old brass from beds between the brick layers to make the walls strong. “The Hufkies said they were going to build the school like Fort Knox, and it wouldn’t crack.” At that time it was decided to name the school in honour of Reverend William Oates, who had studied at Lovedale College and Grahamstown. Initially a Wesleyan (Methodist) Minister, he was born in Fort Beaufort district of the Eastern Cape in May, 1844. He came to Somerset East to serve the Coloured Community at the Old Hope Congregational Church. After a while he resigned, but later re-joined the ministry in 1868. He accepted a call from the local Dutch-speaking congregational community in 1880 and served them from then on until his death.
Minds are like parachutes – they only function when they are open – Thomas Dewar
Round-up recently sent John Hund, a Cape Town resident, on a trip down memory lane. In this special supplement he recalls some trips to the Karoo and drives along “The Great North Road”
A TIME TO REMEMBER
I have always had a love for the hinterland. It began sometime between 1936 and 1938 when my father took us on an adventure to the Karoo. At the time I was about 6 and it was my first visit to the Beaufort West area. I have never forgotten it. My Dad had just bought a new car – a Hillman Hawk – and he thought the 500-mile journey would “put it through its paces” and that we would all enjoy a short holiday on a Karoo farm. In those days the trip from Cape Town into the Karoo was tedious and time-consuming. Dad set off confidently on the rudimentary roads of the day. They were all gravel and most were in shocking condition. There were almost no bridges. We travelled across endless plains, through dry river beds, dust bowls and passed a blockhouse dating back to the Boer War. All of this was most exciting to a small boy. In the middle of nowhere we stopped at a small curio shop selling some intriguing items, semi-precious stones and bits of fossils. I can’t recall exactly where it was and wonder if it was ever documented. At last we reached Beaufort West, passed through the town and about 20km north, on the road to Three Sisters, at a siding called Rhenosterkop, we crossed the railway line and soon arrived at our destination – a working farm, which today would be called a guest farm.
TORTOISES, SPIDERS AND FARM ANIMALS
I can’t recall how long we stayed. It must have been about two weeks because my Dad contracted tick fever and was confined to bed until he recovered. Sadly this meant that he didn’t see much of the farm. We had to wait until he was better because my mother could not drive, but I didn’t mind a bit. I had the best time ever as I was allowed to roam as I pleased in the veld. The fresh air and smell of the Karoo bushes was exhilarating. I collected tortoises – one I called Racer, as he wasn’t slow, and another Biter because he wasn’t shy and would nip at my fingers. I befriended a young farm boy, and he showed me how to unearth trap-door spiders. Normally they are about 2,5cm long, but can grow to 4cm. They are hairy, stocky and range in colour from yellowish brown to reddish black. They are also very fast. They have powerful jaws and sharp fangs, but are non-dangerous. Their trap-doors are silky flaps, hinged on one side and well-camouflaged by plant growth and leaves. We would prize the doors open and poke sticks down into their burrows which were about 5cm across and 30cm deep, to entice the spider to come out. When it did we would try to feed it with ants. To my mother’s horror I caught a spider, put it in a bottle and took it home to show them. The farm had sheep and cattle. There was always something to do, feeding and milking to watch. The food, mostly beef and lamb, was delicious. We had fresh milk, thick cream, farm butter and almost golden eggs. This was a holiday never to be forgotten.
MORE INDELIBLE MEMORIES
Of course, there was no butcher and they slaughtered animals when they needed meat. Their method of killing a cow left an indelible impression on my mind. A number of farm boys rounded up the animal, then somehow managed to upend it and tie its legs to a tree. They then cut its throat. To a city boy this seemed very cruel. They then dealt with the insides, skinned the animal and cut it into pieces for storage in the farm-type cooler, or meat safe. This was a large square wooden structure on legs. The sides were open to the air, but covered with fine wire mesh lined with clinker. Wet sacking was placed on top. These contraptions kept the food cool and the insects out. The farm had no electricity, not even gas. All food was cooked on a huge coal stove, paraffin lanterns provided light and we used candles to get to bed. I just loved that holiday. Unfortunately it was never to be repeated, but the memories remained.
THE GREAT NORTH ROAD
Now that I am elderly and have time to reminisce I recall another exciting trip through the Karoo. This one happened in 1941. Dad and I went from Johannesburg to Cape Town in his Chrysler New Yorker. I was 9 and bursting with excitement as we set off down the gravel road. We aimed to go via Bloemfontein, but the road was not signposted, directions were bad and we got lost. The journey took three full fun-filled exciting days. A wrong turn took us to Glen about 26 km north of Bloemfontein. Struggling back to the main road, we nearly hit a donkey. That was enough to set a young boy’s heart racing. It had been grazing, but on hearing our approach, took fright and leapt in front of the car. We overnighted at Polly’s Hotel in Bloemfontein, then at Beaufort West. On leaving there one gravel road looked much like the next. We again took a wrong turn, ended at Fraserburg Road, had to retrace our steps and to overnight at the little Victorian hotel at Matjiesfontein.
FAMOUS MEN GRACED THE CEILING
Of course I didn’t mind the detours one bit. I was enchanted to learn that Lord Kitchener had used the tiny hotel, now the Lord Milner, as his headquarters during the Boer War. I slept in a four-poster-bed on the top floor. I had never seen one before and as I got into it I imagined that perhaps Lord Kitchener might once upon a time have slept there. I dozed off to dreams of soldiers and horses and woke to see a whole row of evenly-spaced papier-mache images of famous men peering down at me from the wide ceiling cornice. I wanted to stay, but we had to go. Cape Town seemed tame in comparison to the Karoo.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
My next trip along the Great North Road happened when I was 17 in 1949. A fellow student and I decided to hitch-hike from Cape Town to Johannesburg and back during our vacation. The magic of the Karoo had not vanished. Like the explorers of old we were blown away by the vast vistas of the open plains and flat-topped koppies. By then much of the route was tarred, however, there were plenty of “omrits” (deviations) to negotiate and provide excitement. Keen to explore we chose to go up via Kimberley and back via Bloemfontein. In those days hitch-hiking was easy, fun and safe. As we normally hitched to university and back each day we decided to be quite choosy about the type of vehicle we would flag down. We were, however, quite surprised to find very few vehicles on the roads — less than 10 on the whole route. Most stopped for students and we had some good conversations while in transit. On our first night we dossed down somewhere in Beaufort West – a comfortable, clean and friendly place, but nothing fancy. The next day a farmer took us as far as Krom River where we stood for quite some time in the cold Karoo air waiting for a ride. At last a sturdy-looking car pulled up driven by a commercial traveller for Rembrandt’s Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes. He was pleased to have our company and took us all the way to Kimberley. And so it went – one chatty ride after the next.
In 1952, while still a student at UCT, three friends – Robin, Michael, Gysbert – and I decided to go to the Kruger Park. No hitch-hiking this time, we all had driver’s licences, but only I was experienced. I had learned to drive at the age of 15 by “borrowing” my Dad’s car at night. My friends and I would wheel his Morris out of the garage very quietly, hop in, let out the clutch as it moved down the road and quietly start it. Then, after visiting pals or a pub we snuck it back. Dad was a sound sleeper, but our shenanigans came to an abrupt halt one morning when he found the car was still pretty warm. I had to confess and that was the end of my driving until I got a licence. Anyway, for this trip Robin persuaded his father to lend us his large Buick to drive to Johannesburg, but no further. Again we stayed over in Beaufort West. In Johannesburg we borrowed Michael’s father’s new Studebaker Commander – a snazzy car with enough advanced styling to gladden any young man’s heart. All went well until we left Machadadorp – about 4 hours from Johannesburg. We stocked up with such provisions as boerewors, steak, chops and eggs. Placing these on the rear window shelf, we drove off down a winding red gravel road and towards some scenic hills. The altitude fell away as we entered the Lowveld. Then out of the blue there was a torrential downpour. Michael was driving because it was his dad’s car. He had previously driven only on the good tar road from Cape Town to Hermanus. Now his little experience, coupled to minimal visibility and a rugged, muddy, sloshy, unmade road, sent the car into a skid. Michael fought for control, but as luck would have it, there was an oncoming car. To avoid hitting it Michael swung to the left sending a whoosh of mud onto the windscreen of the oncoming vehicle. We plummeted down the embankment.
Our car slithering along, totally out of control and would have overturned had it not been for the driver’s door flying open and digging into the embankment. The world stopped spinning. Mild-mannered Michael swore, Gysbert, who never smoked, lit a cigarette. I examined my knees which had been cut on the metal ashtray and were bleeding as Robin, who was covered in broken eggs tried to disentangle himself from the boerewors. We were all badly shaken. So was the driver of the on-coming car, who turned out to be a woman with a vocabulary that would have made a sailor proud. She stormed towards us very colourfully berating us for being “irresponsible” in most unprintable language. The headlight of her car was smashed, but the new Studebaker, had fared much worse. It was a complete write off. After a while she sped off, sending a deluge of mud in our direction. We managed to calm down, flag down a passing vehicle to get to get town. That was the end of our Kruger adventure. A salvage truck collected the Studebaker. We were reduced to watching the Karoo flit past the windows of a railway carriage on our way back to Cape Town. – More of John adventures next month.