An exciting new “bird book” has just been released. Entitled Warriors, Dilettantes and Businessmen – Bird collectors during the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries in southern Africa, it was written by Prince Albert’s Dr Richard Dean, a man who is widely known and highly respected in birding and history circles. The book covers the collectors and collections of bird specimens, from 1850 to 1950, across an area immensely rich in bird life. This was a period during which the interest in Africa was high and museum collections, in Britain in particular, were growing rapidly. Natural history museums built up collections of birds, bird skins and eggs so as to help researchers identify and study a huge variety of species. Richard explains how specimens were discovered, collected and sent to places like the British Museum of Natural History by explorers, such as Burchell, and ecologists, such as Colonel Sloggett of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein. Others were not so generous, to some “a bird in hand meant money in their pocket”, says Richard, who also discusses the trigger-happy trophy hunters. He highlights how human fascination with birds led to their study and to the science of ornithology. He discusses how ornithologists, working in museums and other institutions across the world, began to rely on these growing collections of birds for their studies. Warriors, Dilettantes & Businessmen is an excellent read not only for bird lovers.


Warriors, Dilettantes & Businessmen has some fascinating facts and interesting snippets of information. Richard reveals that birds were used for decoration and as magic charms. Some of their earliest recorded uses were related to culture and traditional customs. Mummified birds were used as “grave goods” by the ancient Egyptians and large preserved birds were used as food covers at some ancient banquets. The book underlines the importance of caring for these collections in a time where the world is facing climate change, habitat loss and the disappearance of several species. The collections have provided well-known authors, such as E L Layard, A C Stark, W L Sclater, E L Gill, A Roberts and P A Clancey, with valuable information. Artists, authors of field guides and avocational ornithologists have also made use of these bird collections. “Although birds are extremely well-studied compared to other animals, these collections are still vitally important in building knowledge,” states Richard. Published by Jacana, this well-illustrated book costs R300 and is available from select book sellers.


Richard, who has an MSc Botany and PhD Zoology began his working life in the printing industry but has been a full-time biologist since 1972. He has worked in Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. From 1974 to 1978, he was a research assistant for the former Transvaal Division of Nature Conservation at Barberspan Ornithological Research Station, and from 1979 to 1982 was the officer-in-charge of Nylsvley Nature Reserve. In 1982 he was elected an associate member of the Transvaal Museum and, in 1995, an invited guest scientist at the UFZ-Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany. He was awarded the Gill Memorial Medal in 2009 for his lifetime contribution to Southern African ornithology. In 2006, Richard joined the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology to study birds of the arid areas.


The next Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival takes place in Cradock from July 27 to 29, 2017. As ever this promises to be a popular event with many top speakers and discussions on the programme. Then, there is the 10th Richmond Book Festival, scheduled for October 26 to 28 – this is another event not to be missed. In celebration of these events Round-up will carry regular pages on the poets and writers of the hinterland.


Richmond decided to take a break from the J M Coetzee and Athol Fugard festivals this year and incorporate these in the tenth anniversary event programme. Also, an important part of this year’s Bookbedonnerd event will be the S A Independent Publishers Awards Ceremony. Those who wish to enter any self-published book should remember that the closing date is August 31, 2017.


Recently launched Carvings from the Veld is Dave C George’s latest book on rifle carvings from the Anglo-Boer War. This 346-page book, beautifully illustrated in full glossy colour, features details of 338 weapons. It also contains information on swords, bayonets, bandoliers, ammunition, medals and unit badges. Soft cover copies cost R940, while the hard cover version is available at R1140.


Dysseldorp-born pianist, Sulayman Human, recently thrilled the audience at the Prince Albert’s Showroom Theatre with a magnificent rendition of Rachmaninoff ‘s Russian Roulette. His two-hour performance kept the audience enthralled. Sulayman, a renowned pianist, started lessons at the age of 12. From his home in the Klein Karoo, he went on to study at University of Stellenbosch and recently won the Fine Music Radio (FMR) Bursary Trust Music Award in the classical category. This gave him R20 000 towards furthering his studies. After his performance he left for a two-week master class at the University of Indiana in the United States.


Visitors can still not cross the historic Swartberg Pass which was severely damaged by torrential downpour on April 9. An earlier fire had destroyed so much vegetation on the plateau, that there was nothing to hold back the floodwaters, and these thundered through a narrow gorge, destroying the road from Malvadraai to Eerstewater and beyond. The area was strewn with debris and huge boulders. Foundation rocks, cut and laid by convicts in 1881, were laid bare. Road repairs will take some time, however, the isolated valley, Gamkaskloof, can fortunately still be accessed from the Oudtshoorn/Calitzdorp side of the pass.


H de Villiers of Klein Drakenstein was badly injured in a freak accident on the way to town in 1853. The Cape Frontier Times, of May 3, stated that while driving a heavily laden wagon to town, De Villiers was blown from his seat by a strong gale, which suddenly whipped up, near the sixth mile stone, on the hard road. Sadly, the wheels of the wagon passed over him, breaking his ribs and these pierced his lungs. His injuries were so severe that he died within minutes. De Villiers was only 33 years old.


A stone mason, named Sampson, was peacefully strolling along a Grahamstown street in 1852, minding his own business, when he was accosted by two men by men wanting tobacco. Under the heading, Murderous Outrage, The S A Commerical Advertiser, of January 13, that year, reported that an “atrocious assault had taken place which demands publicity, in order to guard the public against similar acts of violence”. The case went to court and the resident magistrate, was told that Sampson, an “industrious stone quarrier”, was walking near Allison’s store, behind the Cape Corps Barracks, when two men in the dress of that regiment stopped him and asked for tobacco. He said he had none to give them. “After exchanging a few words, one of the scoundrels struck Sampson a violent blow on the head. That stretched him out on the ground. While he was senseless, more blows were inflicted on him and severe injuries were caused with stones. The two then robbed Sampson of two sovereigns and some silver money, before fleeing,” stated the newspaper. Military authorities confirmed that one had been arrested after passing a sovereign in a local shop. The other was still on the run.


Renu Karoo Nursery is now selling mixed Karoo spring flower seeds. Stock lists, vegetable and herb lists and planting guides, as well as lists of fruit and nut trees, books, publications and reports are available. When in Prince Albert call to book a guided tour of the nursery and surrounds.

Poets and Writers of the Hinterland

Two Sutherland families, the Von Moltke Louws and the Esterhuyses, produced three of South Africa’s best-known Afrikaans poets. They were Daniel Christiaan Esterhuyse, Nicholaas Petrus van Wyk Louw and his brother William Ewart Gladstone Louw. Daniel C Esterhuyse, the oldest of the trio, was born on August 1, 1815, the son of Johannes Hermanus Esterhuyse and his wife, Anna Hendrina Engela (nee du Plessis). He was raised in poverty, yet he rose to become one of the most interesting figures of the Roggeveld. Esterhuyse, a gifted young man, spent only nine weeks at school where a travelling teacher taught him the elements of reading and writing. Building on that he taught himself more by reading Trap der Jeugd. He worked as a servant for Hendrik Jooste on the farm Vijffontein, which, in the end, he was able to buy. By the time he died at Baviaansdrift near Sutherland, on September 2, 1897, he had become one of the most renowned and wealthy residents of the area. He was one of the founders of Sutherland and a pillar of its church community. His strong feelings for Sutherland and its people shine through in his work. He was a member of the building commission of the first church, served as an elder and one of first church councillors. He also worked as an auctioneer and helped to prepare deceased estates. He married Christina Johanna Jordaan of Worcester, in September 1843. They had five sons and two daughters. (Christina died on Vijffontein in May, 1904.)


It was the death of Hermanus, his two-year-old son, that gave rise to Esterhuyse’s poetry. One day in 1846, while walking out in the veld on the farm Swaanepoelshoek, he gave the little boy a type of tulip bulb to eat totally unaware that it was poisonous. The boy died a few hours later. Esterhuyse poured out his grief in a poem. In 1861 it became part of a privately published anthology of mainly religious poems. Entitled Dertig Liederen, (Thirty Songs) a copy was given to each of his children to remind them of his fatherly feelings. His admonitory warnings were set out in the poetry. Because of this anthology, he is recognized as the first person to write poetry in Afrikaans and as South Africa’s first published Afrikaans poet. The Volksblad published an item about the anthology on November 2, 1861, praising the work which “had been completely adapted to the Cape Tongue.” All copies of this work disappeared, but it was reprinted in 1890 and a fourth edition appeared in 1935. Esterhuyse was a most eccentric character. He designed and carved the headstone for his grave leaving out only the date of death. He died in Sutherland on September 2, 1897. (Karel Schoeman based the character Steenkamp in Die Uur Van Die Engel on Esterhuyse’s life.)


NP, the second of four boys, in the Louw family, was born on the farm, Gansfontein, in the Sutherland district, on June 11, 1906. His father was Bismark von Moltke Louw, a solicitor, and his mother was Martha Hendrina Johanna Frederika. NP became the best known among the sons. In 1920 the family moved to Cape Town, and there he completed his schooling at SACS (South African College Schools). He then earned an MA in German at the University of Cape Town before going on become a lecturer. (He was later awarded an honorary degree from the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands.) Finding himself separated from his beloved Karoo, he wrote poetry to express his longing for it. One of the Dertigers (Writers of the Thirties) he rose to become a prominent Afrikaans writer, dramatist, poet and essayist. He was a central figure in Afrikaans literature and cultural life for more than a half-century. He married twice, first to Joan Isabeau Wessels and later to actress and theatre director Gertruida Isabella Reinet (Truida) Louw. He had three daughters.


NP was awarded the Hertzog Prize five times, including for Afrikaans Drama in 1960. D.J. Opperman, hailed him as the greatest Afrikaner poet of the period. Guy Butler agreed, stating that Louw was “the greatest poet in our complex society as well as one of the most sensitive and conscientious thinkers.” Karel Schoeman called Louw “South Africa’s greatest poet and one of the few figures of international standing yet produced by this country”. In 1948 he received an honours degree from the University of Utrecht for his critiques and creative works. In 1949 he took up a post as professor of Afrikaans at the University of Amsterdam, where he remained until 1958. He returned to South Africa to become Head of Department of Afrikaans-Dutch at the University of the Witwatersrand. He died on June 18, 1979. President Thabo Mbeki posthumously bestowed The Order of Ikhamanga in gold on him on September 27, 2005, “for his exceptional contribution to literature and advocacy of language rights for the African languages”.


Whenever he went off on evangelistic tours, Robert Moffat preferred to stay with local farmers. He often praised the kindness of these people. “When the service was over, I took a draught of milk, and stood for a while talking to the congregation as I much enjoyed their company. Then, I retired, lay down on a mat to repose for the night. There a kind housewife had hung a ‘bamboos’, a wooden vessel filled with milk, on a forked stick near my head, that I might, if necessary, drink during the night.” Then there was another occasion when he slept on the ground near the hut in which the principal man of the village and his wife reposed. During the night a noise “as of cattle broken loose” was heard. In the morning Robert remarked upon this to his host, who replied, “Oh, I was looking at the spoor this morning, it was the lion!” He added that a few nights previously a goat had been seized from the very spot where Robert had been sleeping. Horrified, Robert asked the man why he had put him there to sleep and the man replied, “Oh, because the lion would not have the audacity to jump over onto you.” Often after travelling all day, and hoping to reach a village at night, Robert and his companions found no people at all. In a hungry and thirsty state they had to pass the night and in the morning search for water. Often, they were not successful, but if they were, they would “partake of a draught” and then start off with their hunger unsatisfied, and hoping to find a migrating party during the day that would have food to share. He said his food was milk or meat mostly, not both together and sometimes not at all. “There were no shops and had there been I could not have bought anything for I had no money.”


Robert Moffat’s wardrobe showed the same poverty as his larder. The clothes he was given in London soon went to pieces, and the knowledge of sewing and knitting, unwillingly learnt from his mother, often now stood him in good stead, wrote his biographer David J Deane. His mother had showed him how a shirt might be smoothed by folding it properly and hammering it with a piece of wood. Resolving one day to have a nice shirt for his Sunday service, Robert decided to try this out. He folded the shirt carefully, laid it on a smooth block of stone and hammered away. “What are you doing?” asked one of his companions. “Smoothing my shirt for Sunday service,” replied Robert, and lifted it proudly to show his friend. It was riddled with holes.


Robert’s wife, Mary Moffat, was a woman of great faith. On one occasion, her friend Mrs. Greaves wrote form Sheffield asking Mary if there was anything of use which she could send. The reply was: “Send us a communion service, we shall want it someday.” Communication between the Kuruman and England at the time was tardy to say the least and before any reply could come the Moffats were to see many dark and trying days. Then one day, preceding the reception of the first converts into the Kuruman Church, a box arrived from England. It has been twelve months on the road, and in it was the communion vessels that Mary had asked for more than two years earlier.


In addition to all the trials and tribulations they had to face the missionaries also had to content with the vagaries of the weather in South Africa. On one occasion, during one of the most severe droughts, the rain-maker found that all his arts to bring on the much needed downpours were proving to be useless. He laid the blame on the missionaries and suggested things would improve if they were driven away. Mary Moffat was quite unaware of this and one day, with a baby in her arms, humbly asked a woman, just to be kind enough to move out of a temporary kitchen, that she might shut the door as she normally did before going into the place of worship. The woman, who suddenly remembered the rain-maker’s plea saw her opportunity, seized a piece of wood and hurled it at Mary’s head. Poor Mary was horrified. She fled into the house of God, leaving the intruder in possession of the kitchen, and all its contents.


Way back in the 1860s a Mr Lester tried to “make a sudden run for gold” on the Cradock Bank. He was unsuccessful. He was trying to copy the 1825 run on the Bank of England. This caused an economic crisis and the collapse of 145 banks,” stated The Cape and Natal News of September 30, 1861. The Rothschilds fixed the problem by shipping £10m of gold to the Bank of England. “The Cradock Bank survived, the intended “drain” and in so doing proved it was a little too strong for Mr. Lester,” stated the newspaper.

How can you speak of the ocean to a frog that has never left his pond – Ernest Pillay