Karoo lovers are in for a special treat. Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit are about to launch a new book which takes yet another look at the dryland. Karoo Roads III is scheduled for blast-off in August/September this year. This, as usual, excellently illustrated book takes readers on a long, winding road trip into what the authors call “the Never-Never Land” as well as to some lesser-known areas. Readers are introduced to a fascinating array of past and present characters who all make-up the Karoo and add to its luster. Those who would like to ramble through mountains, explore mysterious valleys and discover the treasures of long-forgotten museums, should keep an eye out for Karoo Roads III. It joins Chris and Julie’s rapidly growing range of Karoo volumes: Karoo Roads: Tales from South Africa’s Heartland; Karoo Roads II: More Tales from the Heartland; Moving to the Platteland: Life in Small Town South Africa; Karoo Keepsakes; Karoo Keepsakes II; Road Tripper: Eastern Cape Karoo plus Chris’s own story of his adventures as a photo-journalist – The Journey Man: A South African Reporter’s Stories – as well as Shorelines: A Journey along the South African Coast and Coast to Coast: Life along South Africa’s Shores. More from Julie at


Dean Allen’s second book of fascinating stories of the old frontier is now available. Entitled Frontier Land – Exploring South Africa’s Eastern Cape – Vol 2, it covers the histories of 21 Eastern Cape towns. In his foreword His Royal Majesty iNkosi Zwelothando Mabandla says that the book excites him as it depicts the ideals of former President Nelson Mandela. ”The book reminds me of what makes South Africa unique and special in the eyes of the world.” He stresses that the Jamangile Mabandla Royal Family works hard to promote intercultural ties between all people of the province in order to build a better future for everyone to live in freedom, prosperity and peace with one another. The king praised Dean’s passion for history. It becomes evident as he tells the tales of the Eastern Cape, a land with a full rich history shaped by nine wars during a century of conflict. This land has many fascinating and some famous people. The well-illustrated book, with mostly colour pictures, takes readers to many lesser-known towns like Cala; Elliot (Khowa), birthplace of rugby legends, Os du Randt and Mark Andrews; Maclear, now Nqanqarhu, founded in 1876 as a military camp; Salem, a place of peace, with the oldest Methodist church in SA, and Jamestown, birthplace of former SA prime minister John Vorster and where Methodist preacher Alexander Kidwell earned himself the title of ”Father of Jamestown”.


Better-known places are all also there. Among them is Burgersdorp, a place that pays homage to Afrikaner culture; Cradock, a unique experience with a history forever linked to such greats as Guy Butler and Olive Schreiner; plus Barkly East and Lady Grey, both richly interwoven into railway history. Then there is Aliwal North, with its link to Sir Harry Smith’s famous and beloved little horse, Aberdeen, Somerset East and Graaff Reinet, the oldest town in the province, plus King Willams Town, now Qonce, with one of the oldest post offices in the country. It was developed by missionaries led by Charles Brownlee. The churches with their rich histories, architects of the time and the many memorials peppered about this province are saluted. The book also covers some aspects of natural history, such as the pristine indigenous wood, known as The Alexandria State Forest, or the Langebos. This book is the ideal companion to Frontier Land – Exploring South Africa’s Eastern Cape – Vol 1. Books cost R295 each, plus postage of R99 to anywhere in South Africa using the Send-and-Collect PAXI Parcel Service via any Pep Store. They send out an SMS when the books are available for collection. Order both books together for R550. More from


When it comes to men from the dryland who made names for themselves in the world of orthopaedics, many think only of Dr Emil Hoffa from Richmond. But there was another. Arthur Jacob (later Professor) Helfet, eldest son of Ukranian-refugee, Louis Helfet, was born in Calvinia, on February 19, 1907 and he became a world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon in England and in the United States. Louis fled the anti-semitism in the Ukraine and settled in Calvinia in 1897. With his wife Sara (nee Levin), he opened a small shop, later acquired land, became a farmer and produce dealer. Later still he extended his business interests to the little nearby settlement of Middelpos. There he met Joel Sher, grandfather of Anthony Sher, famous Shakespearean actor and friend of Prince Charles. Joel began his career as a smous (itinerant trader) as well as horse and mule speculator. During the Anglo-Boer War he followed the commandoes supplying riding and draft animals. When Nightingale, owner of the Middelpos Trading Store was given 24-hours by the Boers to clear out, Sher saw his chance, moved in and bought Nightingale entire stock, thus acquiring a ready-made business. Leon Helfet and Herman Weinrich, Sher’s brother-in-law, became partners in a shop and hotel. Helfet sold out in 1908, but the business continued as Weinrich and Sher until 1975.


From the Calvinia high school Arthur Jacob went on to the Universities of Cape Town and Liverpool where he graduated with a BSc. His completed his clinical studies at Liverpool University and then accepted a junior hospital appointment at Liverpool Royal Infirmary. He soon developed a special interest in orthopaedics, working under Professor T P MacMurray and within five years of qualification had secured both the FRCS and the MCh in orthopaedics. He was appointed chief assistant to the orthopaedic department of St Thomas’s Hospital, in England. He enlisted in the Territorial Army in 1937. Two years later he was called up for military service in the Royal Army Medical Corps where he attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. At the end of WWII he returned to Cape Town opened a private practice, took up an appointment at UCT Medical Schoo and was also appointed as surgeon to Maitland Cottage Home as well as The School for Spastics in Cape Town.


Arthur Jacob was appointed Hunterian Professor in 1941. (The Hunterian Society, named to honour John Hunter, who was considered to be the Father of Scientific Surgery, due to his lifetime of teaching and innovative experimentation is one of the oldest in England, was founded in 1819 by Dr. William Cooke, a general practitioner, and Mr. Thomas Armiger, a surgeon,) Arthur Jacob was then posted overseas to serve in Sierra Leone with the West African Frontier Force. During this time he encountered yaws among the native troops, This chronic skin infection, characterized by papillomas (noncancerous lumps) and ulcers, was endemic in the area. With encouragement from Major-General Rowley Bristow he published an account of the problem in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. In 1944 he was posted to the Middle East as a consultant to all the Allied Forces in Africa. He served as a consultant to the Israeli army during the War of Independence in 1948 and also became the first consulting surgeon in Israel and he was invited to organise the accident services of that country – an experience he was to describe as “the most romantic of my medical career”. For his services he was awarded the State of Israel Liberation Medal. On returning to South Africa played an important role in the formation of the College of Physicians, Surgeons and Gynaecologists of SA, was President of the South African Orthopaedic Association and was elected Hunterian Professor for a second time. This was a rare distinction.


On June 22, 1961, Arthur left South Africa to take up appointment as Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York. In the States he was then also appointed as director of orthopedic surgery at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center. Throughout his life he was a prodigious writer and contributed many articles to orthopaedic journals. He also wrote several standard textbooks. His 80th birthday was marked by the publication of an “Arthur J Helfet Special Issue” by The Orthopaedic Review. He was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in South Africa in 1985, according to Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows. Arthur was hailed as an original thinker who contributed greatly to many aspects of orthopaedic research . He was a highly successful clinician, whose diagnostic ability and judgement were truly remarkable. He was a perfect gentleman, with polished manners, states The South African Medical Journal. He married Nathalie Freeman in 1939 and they had three sons, Anthony, David and Timothy, and a daughter, Tessa. One son qualified as a doctor. Arthur died on 10 October 10, 1989, aged 82.


While travelling in the Eastern Province researching his books on the frontier, Dr Dean Allen discovered ahidden gem – Stenden Institution of Higher Education, in Port Alfred. The local campus, a branch of Stenden University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands, is situated in the premises of the town’s former Grand Hotel. Stenden offers full degree programs in Disaster Management and Hospitality Management. “Adrian Gardiner, head of The Mantis Collection was instrumental in setting this up here over a decade ago and today students from all over Africa and the rest of the world benefit from Stenden’s experience and reputation within the hospitality industry in particular,” says Dean.


When Kevin Boyd, “a Kiwi from Perth in Australia”, and his Indonesian wife, Rina, undertook a six-week trip through the Karoo in search of NZ/Australian Boer War history. They thought the region resembled the Waiouru region of New Zealand. On the Robinson Pass they paused at the memorial to 13 officers from Hammanskraal Police College who were killed in an accident in January, 1988. They were on their way to give a gymnastics display at a Mossel Bay festival when their vehicle plunged down a ravine – 71 men were also injured. En-route to Colesberg, where their main purpose was to locate New Zealand Hill and West Australia Hill, they stopped to see the roadside chair memorial at the spot where Boer Commandant Gideon Scheepers was executed by firing squad, while tied to a chair, on January 18, 1902, At Springersfontien Farm, a sign, in three languages warned that they would be shot it they proceeded, but fortunately the owner drove up on a quad and was able to confirm the locations of both hills. At Norvalspont they visited the site of the concentration camp and hand feed a tame wildebeest. They later visited Yardley Farm where the owner took them to the Worcester Hill Memorial. Then it was off to see Suffolk Hill memorial.


At Kimberley they enjoyed a tour of the battlefields. The route took them to Modder River and Magersfontien, where they saw what they considered to be one of the best the small interpretative displays, a very good collection of artifacts and a world class audio-visual presentation. “It started by showing pre-dawn darkness. The sky then slowly lightened as the sun rose over a Boer trench. Faint, at first and getting slowly louder came the skirl of the Highland Brigade’s bag pipes, followed by Boer orders to open fire. Then, the slaughter commenced. Awesome!” The Battlefield Tour ended at the McGregor Museum, “again not to be missed.” At Kimberly Cemetery, which has over 1000 war graves, they searched out graves of NZ and Australian soldiers. Then, en-route to check out the Boer war history sites in Bloemfontein they passed the Paardeberg battlefield. Nearby was Makoes Drift where in a small cemetery, they located another lonely Kiwi grave.


Gasant Abarder, who is among the country’s most influential media voices, discusses the tiny Eastern Cape hamlet of Clarkson, in this new weekly column #SliceofGasant in Cape {town} Etc. He recently visited with an author and film crew following the publishing of a book on Clarkson and a proposed documentary. Clarkson which lies 26 km south-east of Assegaaibos railway station, was established in 1839 by Bishop H P Halbeck of the Morovian Missionary Society. He named it in honour of Thomas Clarkson, a red-haired man who stood over 6 feet (l,8 m) tall. He spent his long life working to abolish slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire in 1760, the eldest of the local headmaster and minister’s three children, he studied at the local grammar school and then St John’s College, Cambridge. From 1786, he lived and worked in London, in the Lake District and then moved, with his wife Catherine, to Bury St Edmunds in 1803. Finally, in 1816, he came to Playford Hall near Ipswich in England, where he died in 1846, aged 86. . The 1875 census shows that this station had a population of 340. Despite modest settings, no one went hungry. The German missionaries laid down water pipes and, whatever was grown in the fertile lands, fed the community. Clarksonners – as they call themselves – went on to become judges, lawyers and school principals. Initially the town was peaceful, but later a murder blotted its story. Today, the local preacher, Meester Johnny, Jonathan Lawack. a sixth-generation Clarksonner, is striving to get the community, which now numbers 6 000, to return to the old values He says: “Everything begins and ends with a healthy family life The town was built on the solid foundations of church, school, sport, culture and farming skills handed down from generation to generation. This is the key to restoring the town to its former glory. For more see


Keen mountain bikers across South Africa are now gearing up to compete in the Trans Baviaans – one of South Africa’s premier mountain biking events. This challenging 24-hour 230km, marathon MTB race follows an unmarked route from Willowmore through the breathtakingly beautiful Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area, to Jeffreys Bay. The route tests riding skills, builds a camaraderie among teams and makes for an unforgettable experience, say the organisers. The idea was born when a family of keen mountain bikers holidayed in the Baviaanskloof. They decided that there was no better way to share their Baviaanskloof experience than to organize a ride through the mountains. “Why ride when you can race?” they asked, and then they asked: “Why not make this a team event?” It took seven years to finalise the concept, however, they managed to capture the essence of Baviaanskloof, while still offering a true test of endurance and a unique challenge. Organisers say that the event which is termed the “longest single stage team MTB event in the world”, is unique, enjoyable and achievable.

FOR OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS: The Karoo to Coast Mountain Bike Challenge from Uniondale to Knysna via Prince Alfred’s Pass on September 25, 2022 –; Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon, Cradock – October 7 – 8, 2022 –; Run the Karoo – a weekend of typical Karoo hospitality and trail running on Dwarsvlei Farm in Middelburg in the heart of the Karoo – October 1 – 2, 2022 and March 11 – 12, 2023 – more from


Anglo-Boer War expert the late Dr Taffy Shearing discovered that Lance Corporal John Boyd and Johannes Klue could not have killed each other at Klaarstroom. She said: “Research has revealed that Boyd, a Scottish sharpshooter, hailed by all who knew him as a ‘great patriot,’ was killed near Kriedouw Pass. According to Sharrad H Gilliert, who wrote Rhodesia and After, Boyd was the only casualty of a skirmish near Klaarstroom early in 1901.” Gilliert stated that: “The Boers were reported to be in possession of Klaarstroom. Colonel Parke thus sent men stationed near Kriedouw Pass towards the village in an effort to draw them out. Two parties of 20 men approached the village and captured three enemy scouts on its outskirts. Captain McDowell led his men into the village only to find the enemy massing in numbers. In danger of being outflanked, the British retired and the Boers gave chase. The two British parties retreated in turns, one keeping the enemy engaged while the other galloped back and took up station to cover the retirement of the first. Disaster almost struck when one section delayed its departure too long and found themselves under crossfire. Colonel Parke would have been killed or captured had not Sergeant-Major Jackson and Trooper Mobsby dismounted and covered him until he was in the saddle again. In this clash Jackson was captured and taken prisoner along with eight men whose horses had been shot. Lance Corporal Boyd was killed. The enemy flocked out towards the ridge. As they came within range the British opened fire with howitzers. The Boers fled in panic.”


In 1870 two entrepreneurial Eastern Cape boys started as small weekly newspaper called Kariega News. They were 16-year-old Fitzwilliam Edward Carey Bell and his brother, 14-year-old William Henry Somerset Bell, sons of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Harland Bell and his wife, Sarah (nee Jarvis) The Lieutenant-Colonel, who served as resident magistrate in the then Basotuland, was born in Jamaica. The newspaper ran for a year and as the boys could not afford printing equipment they built most of the plant themselves. The boys were sent to England from the age of 6 to “get an education” and they completed this at St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown. William had a flare for writing and chose law as a career, with journalism as a side-line. He wrote prolifically for law journals. He was admitted as an Attorney of the Cape Supreme Court in 1879. In 1884 he became editor of the Cape Law Journal, which he continued to edit until 1896, While practicing law in Johannesburg, he joined the Reform Committee, much against his better judgement, and was arrested for high treason, for his role in the Jameson Rai imprisoned and banished. However after serving about one month in prison his sentence was commuted to a fine of £2,000. Later in life, he also wrote Bygone Days, an account of his pioneering life in the Colony and then Transvaal.

DIARISE; Richmond Boekbedonnerd Book Festival – October 29 to 31, 2022 –

To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often – Winston Churchill