A WINTER LOOK AT THE ANCIENT KAROO
Highlight of the Winter School at the S A Museum in Cape Town this year will be a series of lectures entitled Life and Death in the Karoo. Lectures in the T H Barry Hall from July 1 to 4 offer a new look at the Karoo’s fossil history. Field sedimentologist and head of palaeontology at the museum, Dr Roger Smith, opens by discussing a relatively new sub-discipline, Taphonomy: A New Look at Old Stone Bones. “This takes a look at what happened to the skeletons of ancient creatures between their death and final burial by studying evidence gathered from fossilised bones and enclosing rocks.” Roger’s second lecture, The Anatomy of Mass Extinction, reconstructs what happened in this southern part of Gondwana at the close of the Permian Period. Two lectures by Dr John Almond of Naturaviva, a natural history education, tourism and research organisation, follow. Mighty Fine Teeth deals with Mesosaurids, the earliest known aquatic reptiles. “They were delightful, poodle-sized creatures that showed remarkable adaptations for a buccaneering lifestyle offshore. Their well-preserved, slim-line skeletons are only known from the Permian period of Gondwana,” says John, who discuss the palaeobiology of these seafaring, air-breathing vertebrates, reviewing sparse fossil evidence of their contemporary life in the Ecca Sea. In a talk entitled Mighty Big Beef, John will discuss eurypterids, or water scorpions. “These rare, repulsively fascinating creatures were among the most diabolically horrible predators of the Palaeozoic Era. I’ll discuss fossil records, their eating habits, table manners, locomotion and the poignant love life,” says John
BEAUFORT-WESTERS ONTDEK WÊRELD VAN DIE SAN
‘n Palaeontoloog wie haar onlangs op Prins Albert gevestig het, Dr Judy McQuire, gaan Beaufort-Westers inlig oor die wêreld van die San. Haar praatjie, My Lewe met die Kalahari San, word om 18h30 op 18 Junie, tydens die Museum jaarvergadering by die ou Sendingkerk gelewer.
- Beaufort Westers Discover the World of the San
A palaeontologist who recently moved to Prince Albert will visit Beaufort West in June to share information on the world of the San. Dr Judy McQuire is to deliver a talk “My Life with the Kalahari San” at the Annual General Meeting of the museum, in the Mission Church, on June 18 at 18h30.
BEAUTIFUL BEAUFORT VOICE NOW SINGIN’ THE BLUES
Poignant love songs and ballads of pain, suffering, loneliness, rejection and hardship sung by a Beaufort West pensioner are stealing the hearts of audiences at the Nelson Mandela Theatre in Johannesburg. Beaufort West’s Helena Nuwegeld is fast becoming a star of David Kramer’s Karoo Kitaar Blues show. Helena started writing songs many years ago. They tell of her orphaned childhood, a family split by circumstances, the pain, rejection and hardships of Karoo life. Helena’s sister Siena Mouers, of Victoria West, composed the music and accompanies her on guitar. On the accordian is brother Koof Lof, with whom Helena lost touch for 15 years. Round-up reader Myrna Japhta loved Karoo Kitaar Blues. ‘There’s nothing quite like the wild sounds of “blik-kitaars,” she says. “The are tweaked to the wildest keys from ‘G’ minus to notes implying the guitarist could at midnight play with the devil at the crossroads. The sound is pure magic. It could set the dead a’dancing. It creeps into your soul and stays in your head long after the guitars are silent.”
BRINGING BACK THE COLOURFUL PAST
Several Beaufort Westers are hard at work researching an important slice of the town’s history for a new tourist route. The route is being created to honour the Coloured community, particularly former residents of the old Bo-dorp. “Many Coloured families lived here before apartheid, but were moved to an area south of town,” said Henry Brown, who grew up in the Bo-dorp and attended the Old North End School, now a second-hand motor spares store. “The school was run by a Miss Blyth and a Mrs Bird, both very strict teachers, neither of whom had time for spoilt or lazy children,” he recalls. The old Bo-dorp’s past is filled with family sagas and many stories about the old business district of early New Street. The places to shop and catch up on the news were Moosa Mohammed’s general dealer and Essap’s Trading on the corner of Meintjies Street. Vlotman’s Store and Stephen Krynauw’s general dealer, which stood where CZ Motors is now, were also popular. “These shops kept a wondrous range of items, boasting everything from a sewing needle to a tractor tyre,” says Henry. “Then there was the ‘sheriff of Newtown,’ local community policeman Van Heerden, who diligently checked dog and bicycle licences and made sure no rubbish was strewn in the streets. Children feared and revered him.” Henry and fellow researchers Hendrika Fortuin and Wendy Anthonie will welcome any stories that will add interest to the route. A diagram route can be seen at the Tourist Bureau.
LAINGSBURG NAVORSING VORDER GOED
Navorsing en beplanning van die Laingsburg Vloedroete vorder goed. “Daar is groot belangstelling en heelwat interessante inligting is al bekom,” sê bibliotekaresse Frances van Wyk, ‘n ko-ordineerder van inligting vir die projek. “Ons is beindruk met die samewerking wat ons tot dusvêr ontvang het. Mense in ou huise langs die roete het oorspronklike kaart en transport dokumente opgespoor. Die geskiedenis van die Lutheranse sendinggemeente is gevind. Die skole werk nou ook graag saam en daar is heelwat mense wat verversings, soos tee en koffie, langs die roete wil aanbied. Ons hoop om ‘n klein nabootsing van vloedverwoesting te bou en hoop om iets betyds in plek te hê vir ons gewilde 80km Karoo-marathon op 28 September sowel as ons dorpsfees op 1, 2 en 3 November.”
- Laingsburg Research Moves Ahead
Research and planning for the Laingsburg Flood Route is doing well. “There is great interest and a good deal of valuable information has already been gathered,” says librarian Frances van Wyk, who is co-ordinating the information for this project. People along the route have done quite some research into their houses and some have even found the original transfer papers. The history of the Lutheran mission congregation has been found. Schools have joined in the project and several people along the route wish to offer refreshments, such as tea and coffee. We even hope to recreate a small area of flood damage so that visitors will be able to see the devastation. We hope to have this ready for our popular Karoo Marathon on September 28 and our Festival on November 1, 2 and 3.”
IN SEARCH OF THE SYMINGTONS
Mrs Ingrid Paterson, of Inverness, Scotland, is trying to trace James Daniel Symington, an early adventurer who passed through the Karoo, and his youngest son, Henry Benjamin. James Daniel, her great great-grandfather, was born in Scotland in 1800, but by 1817 was off into the wild unknown. “Like so many young men of his day, he was drawn to Africa,” says Ingrid. “He seems to have been a restless man, moving from place to place in the hinterland before pausing to get married in Swellendam. His youngest son, Henry Benjamin, my great-grandfather, was born in Worcester in 1838 and died in Murraysburg in 1876. I would like to find out more about him and perhaps visit his grave if it can be found in Murraysburg. I’d love to hear from anyone who knows anything about the Symington clan in the Karoo.”
DATUMS VIR DIE DAGBOEK
Prins Albert ondervind ‘n bloeityd in toerisme soos al hoe meer mense die prag van die Swartberggebied ontdek. Nou beplan die dorp ‘n reeks feeste om besoekers te trakteer en nog meer gaste te lok. ‘n Witblitzfees sal vanaf 9 tot 11 Augustus gehou word. Die “To Hell and Back” fietrits na Gamkaskloof volg op 9 November, en ‘n Oesfees word beplan vir 23 November. “Volgende jaar se Olyffees sal vanaf 25 tot 28 April gehou word, en glo dit of te nie ons het klaar besprekings,” sê toerismeburo voorsitter Di van der Riet Steyn.
Prince Albert is experiencing a growth in tourism as more and more people discover the magnificence of the Swartberg area. The town is planning a series of festivals to entertain visitors and encourage more people to visit. A Witblitz Festival is planned from August 9 to 11. Then there is the popular “To Hell and Back” Cycle Race to Gamkaskloof on November 9. A Harvest Festival is planned for November 23. “Next year’s Olive Festival is to be held from April 25 to 28, and believe it or not, we already have some bookings,” says new tourist bureau chairman Di van der Riet Steyn.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU, MR GHOST
On a leisurely hour’s pre-dinner stroll through the village of Prince Albert with Ailsa Tudhope, tourists can now make the acquaintance of the local ghosts. “We set out at dusk and wander into the descending darkness to ‘meet’ the goldfields gambler who ceaselessly plays cards in a room at the hotel, as well as a ghost who washes dishes at the strangest hours. At the hotel there are also haunted paintings, and a ghost slips into a certain bed no matter what weary soul occupies it. Then there is a Jewish pedlar displaying his wares, and a British soldier who never leaves his post, even under the brightest moon. An ancient hearse ceaselessly creaks along deserted roads to the graveyard and ghostly horses canter down Bank Street,” says Ailsa.
THE QUIET GIRL ON A DARK AND LONELY ROAD
Way back in 1930, a youthful and carefree Abel Phelps, had a strange encounter in the Karoo near Beaufort West. Ever since, it has lived in the back of his mind. Abel, then 20, gave a mysterious young girl a lift to Beaufort West on the back of his motorcycle, and for over 70 years now has wondered what could have become of her. “It was early evening when I passed through Beaufort West en-route to Cradock but pushed on to Nelspoort. As darkness approached, I stopped to camp at the roadside. I kept a sleeping bag on to the back of my bike for such occasions. I was just about to make a little fire to braai a few mutton chops when I noticed a young girl walking along the darkening road towards Beaufort West. She was carrying a small suitcase. She did not pause to greet me as she purposefully strode along looking oddly nervous. I wondered where she was going but did not react until she was quite a distance away. Then some instinct drove me to follow her and offer her a lift. She quietly accepted, so I put my travelling pillow on the back to make a seat for her and slung her suitcase around my neck. Strangely, it weighed almost nothing. Soon it became dark. It was a rough ride to town on the gravel road. I thought how uncomfortable the poor girl must be, but she did not utter a sound.” After travelling 19 miles back to Beaufort West in silence, Abel reached the centre of town. He asked the girl where she wanted to be dropped. “‘Here will be fine,” she said, dismounted and with a simple “thank you” took her case and disappeared into the night. “I never saw nor heard of her again,” says Abel. “All the way back to my campsite, difficult to find in the dark, I wondered about her. The next day a farmer asked if I’d seen a girl on the road the previous evening. ‘Yes,’ I eagerly replied, anxious to hear more. He simply said she’d lived on a neighbouring farm, where she had been sent to help the farmer’s wife. She’d apparently not been kindly treated, so had probably fled in desperation, perhaps hoping to return home. I often wonder who she was and what became of her,” says Abel, now 92. I have a friend who believes we are at times ‘sent’ to do certain things. Perhaps I was sent that night to help that girl on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. I would love to hear from anyone who can complete this story for me.”
KAROO KRY GOEIE PERSDEKKING
Winter is ‘n heerlike tyd in die Karoo en die media mense stem saam. Heelparty joernaliste het onlangs kom kuier om in die snoesige atmosfeer van rooiwyn langs kaggelvure stories van ons gebied te ontdek. Onder hulle was TV-spanne van Free Spirit en Pasella wat in Prins Albert besoek afgelê het. Getaway was ook op die spoor van stories en die TV program Kwela het Jan en Daleen Mocke se geelhuis in Merweville besoek en ook die rots-tekeninge van Nelspoort met hul kykers gedeel. Farmer’s Weekly was hier vir ‘n storie oor Gannakraal, en volgens skrywers Steve en Brent Moseley is daar nog heelwat plaasstories in die pyplyn. En Gwynne Conlyn praat nou elke Donderdag oor die heerlike Karoo op radio SAFm.
- Good Press Coverage for the Karoo
Winter is a wonderful time in the Karoo and the media seems to agree. Several journalists have visited recently to learn more of the area as they languish cosily at the fireside sipping red wine. Crews from the TV-programmes Free Spirit and Pasella, recently visited Prince Albert. Getaway was also in the area on the trail of stories and the TV-programme Kwela called to film Jan and Daleen Mocke’s yellow house in Merweville and share the rock art of the Nelspoort area with viewers. Farmer’s Weekly used a story on Gannakraal and the Nelspoort Nellies. And according to writers Steve and Brent Moseley there are many more such stories in the pipeline. Radio journalist and travel writer Gwynne Conlyn has been doing the Karoo proud in her regular Thursday slot on the Bruce Millar show.
KAROO’S MEDICAL HALL OF FAME GROWS
The small population of the Great Karoo has many produced so many medical greats, including probably the most famous surgeon of modern times, Chris Barnard, that it seems almost an unfair advantage in the profession to hail from these parts. Now even more have surfaced. Cyril Karabus, born in Beaufort West and whose father was one of the first five Ford agents in South Africa, says: “I was surprised to read of Cecil Alport in the May issue of ROUND-UP. Few know of his Beaufort West connection. By the way, he never cured nephritis, but described a condition of hereditary deafness and nephritis that became known as Alport’s Syndrome. Another medical condition, known as Dubowitz Syndrome, is also named after a doctor with Beaufort West connections. He is Victor Dubowitz, who as a young man lived in New Street. Victor is now professor of paediatrics at a London hospital. Then, Eugene Weinberg, one of South Africa’s leading paediatric allergists, also hails from Beaufort West. He is head of the Department of Paediatrics at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.”
NAVORSER ONTDEK OU WATERPUT
Karoo-liefhebber Arnold Hutchinson verlustig homself in navorsing noudat hy afgetree het en is deesdae oral te sien op die spoor van ou tolhuise, paaie, myne en fossiele. Sy nuutste ontdekking is ‘n ou 8-meter diep waterput in ‘n motorhuis agter Young’s Kamers in Beaufort-Wes. “Die Karoo-klipmure is pragtig maar die bou daarvan moes ‘n ongelooflike taak gewees het. Ek wonder of daar nog sulke putte in die dorp is,” sê hy.
- Researcher discovers old well
Karoo enthusiast Arnold Hutchinson is indulging himself in research now that he has retired. These days he can be seen darting about searching for information on old toll houses, roads, mines and fossils. His latest discovery is an old 8-meter deep well in the garage at Young’s Rooms in Beaufort West. “It is a perfectly circular structure with walls of Karoo stone. Building it must have been an incredible task. I wonder if there are any more similar old wells in town,” he said.
GOOD WISHES POUR IN
The 100th issue of ROUND-UP caused something of a stir. A flood of congratulatory messages from readers throughout South Africa and abroad and a series of media interviews marked this Great Karoo event. A radio interview with Hilary Reynolds on SAFm’s Woman Today, an article in the Saturday Argus by Myrna Robbins, and an electronic news item in Cape Info soon got hundreds of Karoo lovers across the country rushing to register as subscribers. A sincere thanks to all who made the 100th milestone so memorable.
ROUND-UP TAKES MANY DOWN MEMORY LANE …
Nostalgia overwhelmed many when the 100h issue of ROUND-UP appeared. Among those who called to share memories of happy times in the Karoo was Peter Judelsohn, 83, who recalled unforgettable boating days at Beaufort West’s Springfontein Dam, now little more than a dust patch. “In 1940, when I lived in Beaufort West, Springfontein was a deep dam and the social hub of town. Army, Navy, Air Force and other special days were ‘celebrated on the water.’ One day a group of us ‘shanghaied’ Dominee De Beer, not at all a keen sailor and a poor swimmer, as we later discovered. I think he eventually boarded our boat just to show he was a good sport. We were a boisterous bunch and our antics caused him to panic. Way out in deep water he suddenly jumped up, rocking the boat so badly that he fell overboard. We unsuccessfully tried to haul him back aboard, but the hero of the day was Police Chief Kloppers, who brought the dominee safely ashore. We took our girls strolling along the banks of Springfontein Dam and stole many a kiss in Lovers’ Lane, now sadly just a driveway to a guest house,” says Peter. Halcyon days in old Beaufort West was central to many stories of picnics at the Waterfall or in the poplar grove on Molteno Pass. Some remembered playing truant and drinking ginger beer “or was it sherry” in the bushes on the banks of the Gamka River, while others told of dreadful schoolboy pranks dating back to the days of outside loos and bucket toilets.
… AND IT BLOWS A ‘BREATH OF THE KAROO’ ABROAD
ROUND-UP delivers a monthly “breath of Karoo air” to many an international reader. Mike du Toit, now in India, says: “This country is so crowded and noisy that I look forward to ROUND-UP. Each issue brings the tranquillity and freshness of the Karoo’s calm open spaces to this busy place.” UK reader David Upton says: “Every issue offers a feast of reading and each seems better than its predecessor. We love the breath of fresh Karoo air each ROUND-UP brings to grey old London!” Barbi Lasar in Germany says, “each ROUND-UP brings the magnificence of the Great Karoo to Europe.” And in the United States Nicolette Solomons says: “I am overjoyed each time ROUND-UP pops up on my computer screen. Each issue is so full of zest and flavour I can taste and smell the Karoo as I read.” Long-time South African reader, Jennifer Slade-Baker, now a Hanover resident, says: “ROUND-UP has been a source of joy for many years. I remember receiving it when I worked in the mining district of central Johannesburg. Each issue carried me to a place where I never thought I would ever live. God bless it and you!” “There’s nothing quite like ROUND-UP. It’s the best tourism newsletter in the country,” says radio journalist and travel writer Gwynne Conlon. “Roundup may well be the name of a weedkiller, but this ROUND-UP has promoted nothing but a growth of interest in the Karoo,” says farmer Ed Wards. Tour operator Louis Willemse was quite lyrical in his praise: “The planet would not be the same without it!” he wrote.
OUPA KOOP DIE EERSTE MOTOR
Voor die Anglo-Boereoorlog was Beaufort-Wes ‘n duisternis van waens, kapkarre, bokkies en spaiders. Hulle het die “Parade” voor Glatt en Norrie se winkel op die hoek van Donkin en Meintjiesstraat volgestaan, skryf Wynand Viviers in Hooyvlakte. Daar was ‘n “cab stand” langs die watertrog vir perde, en besoekers kon spaiders of kapkarre huur teen een sjieling vir ‘n rit na die spoorwegtasie. Die koms van fietse het die prentjie effens verander maar daar was ‘n totale omwenteling toe plaaslike fotograaf Henry Finch ‘n Humber motor bestel het. “Dit was Beaufort-Wes se eerste motor,” vertel sy kleinkind Val Church. “Volgens oupa was landmeter Deas die mees betroubare man en die eer het hom toegeval om die motor vanaf die stasie na oupa se huis in Birdstraat te ry.” Kort op Finch se hakke was Dokter G B Wilkinson en teen September 4, 1911, het die munisipaliteit ‘n snelheidsbeperking van tien myl per uur ingestel. Val se vader was ‘n horlosiemaker en tandheelkundige in Victoria-Wes. Sy moeder, Winifred, is in Beaufort-Wes gebore.
- Grandfather bought the first car
Before the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War Beaufort West was filled with a splendid variety of wagons and horse-drawn vehicles. There was even an area known as the “Parade” at the side of Glatt and Norrie’s shop on the corner of Donkin and Meintjies Streets, writes Wynand Viviers in Hooyvlakte. There was a “cab stand” next to a water trough for horses and visitors could hire a horse-drawn vehicle there to take them to the railway station for a shilling. The coming of the bicycle altered the picture only slightly, but when local photographer Henry Finch ordered a Humber car there was a complete change. “This was Beaufort-West’s first car,” says his grandson Val Church. “According to my grandfather Landsurveyor Deas was the most reliable and mechanically minded man in town and the honour fell to him to drive the car from the station to my grandfather’s house in Bird Street.” Right on Finch’s heels was Dr G B Wilkinson who was also quick off the mark to order a car. By September 4, 1911, the municipality instituted a speed limit of ten miles an hour in town. Val’s father was the watchmaker and dental mechanic in Victoria West and his mother, Winifred, was born in Beaufort West.