CELEBRATING A RESIDENT WITH VISION
On June 7, 2022, at 18h00, Prince Albert will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fransie Pienaar Museum. This Museum, the cultural hub of the village, doubles as the tourist information centre and houses one of the country’s largest fossil collections. It grew out of the collections of one local resident, Fransie Pienaar, who was born in Prince Albert in 1897. After leaving school she studied music at Sullivan College in Cape Town. She then returned to her home town, married and began to collect any pretty and interesting thing that caught her eye. Her collection comprised a huge variety of items representing a cross section of the Karoo’s domestic and culinary cultural history. Initially, she displayed these in a room in her house, but the collection outgrew that. The local Dutch Reformed Church donated a venue, but all to soon the collection filled and overflowed that, so she appealed to the municipality and they made a house available to house her collection. The house, itself had an interesting history. Built in 1906 it had served as a home for one of the town’s founding families, .the Haaks. It served as a hospital from 1952 to 1978 and after that was turned into a museum. The museum offers an adventure into yesteryear as visitors recognise items from granny’s or great granny’s homes. The collection continues to grow as Prince Albert inhabitants and many others donate items. The anniversary will be celebrated with an evening of story-telling and reminiscences of the “good old days”. Everyone is welcome
BRUSH UP ON WOOL
While brushing up on their knowledge visitors to The Karoo Winter Wool Festival in Middelburg from June 24 to 26 will also discover a farm that lives up to its name. Beskuitfontein’s Running and Mountain Biking trails will be opened officially on June 25 with freshly ground coffee/hot chocolate and beskuit (rusks). All the routes are family-friendly and vary between Jeep-tracks, riverine and rocky areas and easy walks where the beautiful landscape can simply be enjoyed. As the weather is likely to be cold there will be bonfires burning on the farm and in the village to keep visitors warm. One of the highlights will be a talk by Karoo bossie expert, Dr Loraine van den Berg from the Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute. She will discuss the unique ecology of the area. More from firstname.lastname@example.org More from Sandra at email@example.com
SEARCHING FOR SOOBRAMANIAN
Nita Soliar is searching for the grave of her grandmother’s brother, Soobramanian S Lingham He was born in Port Elizabeth in April, 1903 and died in Naauwpoort 8 May, 1922, age of 19 from either pneumonia or rheumatic fever. A very ornate gravestone was erected, with an angel (later broken) and two vases, but sadly all efforts to find it have been unsuccessful. Nita’s 80-year-old aunt, who lives in Switzerland, would love to visit this grave. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with information.
KILLED BY LIGHTNING
Daniel William John Coghill, a British soldier killed by lighting on Lemoenrietfontein farm during the Anglo-Boer War in February, 1900, is buried on Rietfontein Game Farm at Zeekoegat near Prince Albert. His grave is marked by a simple marble headstone. Named for his father, Daniel was born in Beaufort West on November 13,1872. Daniel snr was born in Scotland on September 20, 1842. His wife, Aletta Catharina Fischer (neé de Bruto), daughter of Joao Soares de Bruto from Portugal, was born in Victoria West on September 12, 1849. After Daniel snr died in 1874, she married Sebastian Frederick Fischer in 1877. She died in Prince Albert on September 16, 1908. Visit https://karoofoundation.co.za/karoo-cameos/ for more information
ENCOURAGING NEW IMMIGRANTS
One of the schemes embarked upon in the 1870s and designed to bring settlers to the Eastern Cape was referred to as the German Immigration Scheme. A number of families also came from Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Austria and Poland. The idea began when the Surveyor-General’s 1876 report showed that there was still a “considerable extent of unalienated Government land” in various parts of the Colony, which was “ideal for agricultural purposes and for attracting immigration”. On June 28, 1876, the House of Assembly adopted a motion to survey such land and to try to attract suitable immigrants from Northern Europe. The House defined what type of settler that was required and on the August 17, 1876 the Commissioner of Crown lands, John X. Merriman, entered into an agreement with William Berg to bring immigrants from Germany and Scandinavia.
According to this agreement William Berg was to co-operate with J C Godeffroy & Son of Hamburg, to bring 1 500 adults to South Africa. (Two children under twelve counted as one individual). The Immigrants were to consist of “respectable peasants who could be engaged in agricultural pursuits”. Married couples with children were preferred; young women could come out under the care of a guardian, and only a certain number of single men would be accepted. The age limit was fixed at fifty years. Ten ships, the La Rochelle, Fedrasa, Wandrahm, Godeffroy, Caroline Bahn, Sophie, Adele, Papa, Saturnas and Uranus, were chartered and they brought out about 1900 people as well as another 35 who paid their own passage. A doctor, who was paid £30, was carried on each ship that had more than a hundred immigrants. If necessary, the immigrants were to be kept on board the ship for a period of eight days after arrival. In return, the contractor was to be paid £15 for every immigrant introduced to the Cape and approved of by the Immigration Board. The immigrants were not required to refund their passage money and would be charged no customs duties on personal luggage.
Settlers could take up at least twenty acres per adult at the rate of ten shillings per acre, payable in ten yearly instalments of one shilling per acre. A clause stipulated that the lessee should erect a dwelling house of the value of at least £20 on his land, and that after the expiration of the two first years, he should cultivate at least one acre of every ten acres leased. The Government agreed to convey immigrants from their point of arrival to their chosen locations and to advance money to purchase seeds and agricultural implements. This all sounded most attractive, but then no one knew the problems of the frontier. At first the German settlers were provided with tents until they built their settler homes which had sod-walls under thatch without ceilings. Due to the primitive conditions many of the babies and children died of pneumonia and other illnesses. Gardens were cultivated with wooden staves or wooden ploughs. Those settlers who could not afford draught animals pulled the ploughs themselves. Produce fetched pitifully low prices. One of the settlers was reduced to eating his own dog, writes Fritz Dreyer in German Relics of the Eastern Cape in the Heritage Portal. There were no pastors or teachers.
The children were illiterate and spiritual life suffered, but gradually conditions improved. Schools and churches were built and the latter became social centers.
FOSSIL HUNTING IN THE NUWEVELD MOUNTAINS
Keen Karoo researcher, John Hund, joined the ”Friends of the Iziko Museum” in Cape Town on a fossil hunting trip near Beaufort West on March 22, 2022. The group overnighted at the Karoo National Park and from there next morning set off to the Vale where they met paleontologist Roger Smith. They then went on to visit some previously unexplored areas, each some 80–90 kms away, with permission of the farm owners. “This involved 4 or 5 – 4 x 4 vehicles each day taking us over De Jagers Pass, Molteno Pass and some rough, rugged, undulating terrain which sometimes crumbled under foot,” said John. “We took good footwear, hiking-gear and walking sticks to aid our balance, so fortunately there we were no casualties.” Some exciting and interesting finds were made and marked with “loo” paper. The small ones were excavated for taking back to the Museum’s laboratory for analysis. John did not find any fossils, but he did make two interesting discoveries “The first was a poisonous plant “gifbol”, botanically “boophone” from the Greek, meaning “death”. It is most attractive, with fan-shaped pink petals and a large bulb at the base. The bulb is peeled like an onion and used medicinally to cure various ailments, abscesses and wounds,” he said. “The second was a rounded dolomite stone, a little smaller than a tennis ball and coated with a fine crust of rust coloured solidified gravel. The stone fitted snugly into the palm of a hand. One side had been worn down, completely smooth – exposing the black dolomite. Roger explained that the stone would probably have been worn smooth through constant rubbing for softening or curing hides.”
WATER PROBLEMS FOR THE GEM OF THE KAROO
Graaff-Reinet’s longtime water problem was not even dreamt of when the town was laid out in 1786. The first magistrate. M H O Woeke, had chosen a location in a bend of the Sundays River where there was an abundance of water. Even when the village began to grow after 1804 the water supply was still more than adequate, states A du V Minnaar from the Institute for Historical Research. Slowly, as the number of residents increased, so too did the water problems. In the early years each erf holder simply helped himself to what he needed. As the town grew, vested water rights became a condition for the sale of erven. In the late 1820s magistrate Andries Stockenström (jr), and the College of Landdrost and Heemraden drew up a system of water distribution and by November 19, 1827, erven were numbered and two water turns a week were granted to every erf according to size. A crude dam was built across the Sundays River and a system of water furrows and canals was created. Stockenstrom later improved the system by using convict labour to build a dam at Broederstroom, and a water canal below the cliffs. Once this system was operational Graaff-Reinetters would not allow it to be changed. But, it had two defects. Firstly, during heavy rains the Sundays River washed the dam away and silted up the two main furrows. Secondly, drinking water was filthy. Branddamme (storage dams in case of fire) were created and open furrows built to assist with water distribution. When water left the river, it was crystal clear, but as it was pumped to the branddamme it became more and more muddy. This came in for severe criticism especially as residents took their drinking and household water from these dams. In October, 1861, pumps were erected and to avoid pumping up sediment from the bottom of the dam, the pumps were set in small building on one side of the dam, with the end of the pipe away from the lowest level of the water.
FOUL WATERS IN THE FURROWS
To make matters worse, there was no proper sanitation. The foul water went straight into the furrows in which residents also did their laundry. Soon the bad water was said to be the cause of widespread illness and infant mortality. Up to 1879 there was no hospital and only a few doctors covered the vast surrounding district. Despite the town’s rapid growth nothing was done to improve the water situation. Residents simply accepted that after heavy rains streets would be impassable and stagnant water would lie around spreading disease. The wealthy dug wells and later made use of rainwater tanks. The irregularities in the water supply led to quarrels and there were many cases of neighbours stealing water from each other. In October, 1867, the construction of a third branddam was approved. In 1873 Alfred Thornton sunk a well with a 13-metre shaft and pump in the centre to supply water in emergencies and times of drought.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The basic cause of the water problem was the extremely low rates charged by the municipality which rendered it impossible to bring about any improvements. The villagers sought the assistance of the Colonial hydraulic engineer, John G. Gamble. He proposed a system and on May 1, 1880, H. Henchman was appointed town engineer and instructed to implement a waterworks. Things did not go well and when he turned on the water, he was attacked by a group of backstreeters and thrown into the water furrow. They were prosecuted but even then, the problems did not end. There was a time when the municipality was forced to declare itself bankrupt. The Van Ryneveld’s Pass Dam was designed to ensure a permanent supply of water. But periodic droughts, caused the town’s water supply to become impregnated with salts, and the water rights of irrigators lower down the Sundays River presented almost insurmountable problems. These difficulties led the town council to launch investigations into various alternative water supply schemes. Unfortunately these were unsuccessful and Graaff-Reinet entered its third century no nearer to solving its ever-vexing water problems Minnaar tells the full story in an article entitled Graaff-Reinet’s Water Problems in https://repository.nwu.ac.za>handle and in the Journal for South African Urban And Regional History.
CARING FOR EYES IN THE HINTERLAND
Two Jewish families named Norden came from England to Carnarvon in the late 1800s.One couple was possibly among the first opticians to serve the South African hinterland, states Jewish Life. They were Jack and Annie Norden, both qualified opticians, who had trained in Germany. They settled in Carnarvon in around 1896. Annie was possibly the first female optician to practise in South Africa. When Jack died she continued the business and in time also consulted in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. The second Norden family settled in Beaufort West where one of their children died was buried in the local cemetery in 1879. There this man, allegedly also named Jack, was said to have invented one of the first pressure cookers in South Africa.
CARVED IN STONE
Over the years a great deal of dressed stone has been used in major, as well as minor buildings in South Africa. These can be seen in many towns and cities across the country as well as in tiny villages, such as Sutherland in the Karoo. During the period 1858 to 1861, just over 3 800 immigrants were recruited in England, Scotland and Ireland and brought to the Cape Colony under the auspices of the Cape Town Immigration Council. These imported workers were badly needed to alleviate the then major local shortage of skilled workers. Among them was a number of well-skilled stonemasons who contributed greatly to the architecture of South Africa, states Tania du Toit in The Origin of Stone Masonry in South Africa. Then. against the backdrop of the discovery of diamonds the country became a more attractive destination for opportunity seekers and adventurers.
STUDIED A SUBTERRANEAN TIDE IN THE KAROO
Andrew, the eldest son of, Andrew Young and his wife Lilias Burns, qualified as a geologist in Scotland. He
came to South Africa in July, 1902, to take up a post as professor of geology and mineralogy at the South African College. A fun-loving young man, known as “Merry Andrew”, he was instantly accepted by his colleagues, many of whom were Scots. An excellent lecturer with a wide range of geological interests, he was popular among his students and frequently took them on field trips into the hinterland and Karoo. Based on his Scottish qualifications he was able to enroll as an MA candidate at the University of the Cape of Good Hope (then the only university in southern Africa). In May, 1903, he became seriously ill and was forced to take sick leave for six months. His brother Robert, also a geologist, then came to South Africa to take over his classes. Robert, a forceful person and good administrator later went to the then Transvaal.
GOING WITH THE FLOW
Andrew was not an active researcher, however, during 1905 he started observations of fluctuations in the flow of an artesian borehole on the farm Tarka Bridge, near Cradock. He found that the flow of the borehole was affected by tides. In 1905 he presented preliminary results in a paper entitled A subterranean tide in the Karroo to a meeting of the British and South African Associations for the Advancement of Science. This was followed up in 1913 by a more comprehensive paper, On December 27, 1905, he married Elizabeth P. Hamilton, with whom he had two daughters. Both died young and their mother did not survive them for long. Andrew died from leukaemia in 1937. Robert was a much more active researcher and worked across wide areas of South Africa. Among specimens given to him by limestone miners in Taung was a juvenile skull which he forwarded to Professor Raymond Dart who identified it as a new hominid, Australopithecus africanus, This contributed significantly to the understanding of human origins. states Cornelis Plug in the S2A3 Biographical Database SA Science. Robert was married to the violinist Janet F Algie, but they had no children.
PEACE SHATTERED BY GUNSHOTS
In December, 1901, a group of Boers were attacked in the Calvinia area on a seemingly tranquil summer morning. No one was aware that Doran’s column was in the area. Around 30 horses were quietly grazing in a field at Leeuwendrift guarded by a number of unarmed youngsters. At about 10:00 just as the Boers were about to mount and ride out on patrol, the British attacked. The Boers managed to charge through the British line, but they had to abandon the grazing horses and their guards. The Intelligence Agent at Calvinia, reported that during this incident seven men were captured. Among them was Calvinia Rebel, 14-year-old Johannes Loubser from Wilgenbosch. He was dangerously wounded and not expected to survive. He didn’t. He died on December 17 after managing to explain that he was one of about eight horse guards, who leapt on to horses and riding bareback, tried to evade capture. He was forced off his horse, he said, and as he stood unarmed with raised hands, his captor robbed him of his knife plus some other items and then shot him. As he lay on the ground, he heard the man re-loading, but he was not shot again, he said. The next afternoon he managed to start walking, in a bid to seek help. He reached De Puts and from there managed to send a messenger to Mr van der Merwe of Brandwacht who was the member of the Legislative Assembly for Calvinia. Van der Merwe sent a carriage to bring Loubser to his farm and there took his statement which is still in the Calvinia Museum. The other prisoners were taken to Sutherland and from there to Matjesfontein where they stood trial on January 24,1902.
DIARISE: The Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival, in Cradock, from June 16 to 18. The programme will as always be packed with interesting speakers and things to do in the village will be highlighted.
They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for – Tom Bodett