Former Cape Times editor John Scott recently discovered the Karoo has a sexy side. John, who retired from formal journalism and editing the paper 18 months ago, now writes a daily column for the Cape Times and Independent Newspapers. During lectures given by natural historian and paleontologist Dr John Almond, at a Summer School run by the Cape Iziko Museums, John Scott discovered that those grey-looking Karoo bossies are far from boring. “I learned the Karoo has a hairy nipple bush, as well as a mouse nipple bush,” says John. “Yet, just how early Karoo inhabitants knew what a mouse’s nipple looked like remains something of a mystery to me.” John also learned to distinguish ‘harebolletjies’ from ‘Boesmanpielletjies.’ “The latter are probably the rudest of all Karoo succulents. Normally flaccid, they come erect after rain. One of the plants, if scraped down, provides relief for your tenderest part if you happen to have undergone a circumcision in the veld. By this stage it became clear to me that parental guidance was probably necessary before children should be allowed to venture into the hotbed of Karoo botanical lust and lewdness.” The strange habits of some Karoo animals also greatly amused John. “Nothing is hornier, in more senses that one, than the bullfrog. After sufficient rain it emerges with an almost insatiable sexual appetite.” John Almond persuaded him not to judge these creatures too harshly. “Remember, they may have had years of celebacy, in the Karoo’s dry climate.”


‘n Onlangs gestigte privaat museum en ‘historiese’ straat by die Spinwiel antieke winkel in Beaufort-Wes lok heelwat toeriste. Besoekers vind dit uiters aangenaam om ‘n wandeltjie deur dié kreatiewe kern te neem en ‘n terugblik te kry op die ou Karoo. Spinwiel eienaar Kobus Rossouw het die ou Beaufort-Wes straat-toneel as ‘n lewendige museum ontwikkel. Mense bly in die huisies wat met antieke- ligte, bankies, posbussies en gereedskap versier is. Kobus se persoonlike, rare en besondere versamelling van oudhede is nou ook op uitstalling in sy museum by sy Donkinstraat winkel. Dit bied ‘n interessante blik aan die wêreld van gister.

  • Private Museum a Tourism Drawcard

A recently established private museum and historic street behind The Spinwiel Antique shop in Beaufort West is proving to be a tourism drawcard. Many visitors are now thoroughly enjoying a stroll through this creatively-designed core area, which offers a peek into the old Karoo. Spinwiel owner, Kobus Rossouw, created the historic street scene as a living museum. People live in the little houses, which are offset by antique streetlighting, benches, postboxes and a variety of artifacts from the world of yesteryear, including an old petrol pump. Kobus’s personal, rare and unusual collection of antiques and artifacts is now also on display in a private museum in his Donkin Street shop. This too offers a delightful peek at past life in the Karoo.


Plans have been announced for the conversion of a Beaufort West landmark into a retail complex with boutique hotel. Collins Commercial Properties and architects, Smuts and Boyes, tabled plans to develop Pritchard House, once known as “Amen Corner” because of its proximity to the Dutch Reformed Mother Church, into a mall, incorporating a national supermarket chain, small retail units and overnight accommodation facilities. Alyce Collins, a director of the developing company, stressed that designers had been particularly sensitive, and the complex would be a skillful blend of old and knew. The beauty of the double-storey Victorian building and its historic site would be maintained. A Cape Town-based boutique hotel had already secured rights to the accommodation area on the upper floor. Ms Collins said Beaufort West was the first town identified for such a development. Plans for two others were in the pipeline


According to ‘Murphy’s Law’ if things can go wrong, they usually do. Beaufort West’s tinsmith and plumber, C J Heine, found this out on Friday, September 21, 1883. When a local farmer summoned him to fix a pump, Heine rode out taking his rifle along as well as he hoped to shoot some game for the pot. He luck was out. The gun misfired three times. Disgusted Heine flung it onto the back of his wagon. With the job completed Heine’s wagon bounced along on its homeward journey down a poorly-made farm road. Suddenly at a particularly bad piece of road a shot rang out. Heine almost died of fright. Then to his horror he noticed blood pouring from his upper thigh. In extreme pain Heine hurried back to town. Dr Drew raced to his aid and was happy to report that the bullet had “entered his buttocks and passed straight through, without hitting any essential bits.” A week later Heine up and staggering tenderly about, reported The Courier


In 1880 is Beaufort-Westers deur ‘n nuwe gier gegryp. Oud en jonk het begin rolskaats. Bernard Kromm, destyds eienaar van die Royal Hotel, het toestemming van die munisipaliteit gekry om die stadsaal teen 7/6d ‘n dag vir skaatsdoeleindes te huur terwyl hy ‘Kromm’s Elite Skating Rink’ gebou het. Die opening was ‘n feestige geleentheid. Ingangsgeld was 6d. Dit het nog ‘n 6d gekos om skaatse te huur. Belangstelling in die sport het toegeneem. Kromm moes oggende beperk tot vrouens en kinders, maar sy advertensies het gespog dat musiek by sy baan dag en nag gespeel word. Toe Kromm in 1892 die Masonic Hotel oorgeneem het het hy onmiddelik daar ‘n binnehofse skaatsbaan laat bou. Teen daardie tyd was daar bane by die Lyric- en Coronationsale. Kompetisies het gefloreer. Skaatsers en ondersteuners van ander die dorpe het meegeding. Dit was ‘n bloeityd vir toerisme. Snaaks genoeg, belangstelling in skaats het net so vinnig verdwyn as wat dit ontwikkel het. P J Alport se Coronationsaal is toe in Beaufort-Wes se eerste bioskoop omskep.

  • Skating Craze Grabs old Beaufort West

In 1880 Beaufort Westers found themselves in the grip of a new craze. Old and young alike began roller-skating. Bernard Kromm, at that time owner of the Royal Hotel, leapt in and hired the town hall from the municipality as a temporary skating rink at the cost of 7/6d. a day. He also instantly began building “Kromm’s Elite Skating Rink”. The opening was a festive occasion. Entrance fee was 6d. And, it cost another 6d to hire skates. Interest in the sport grew to the extent that Kromm had to limit morning sessions to women and children only, but he proudly advertised that music was played at his rink throughout the day and night. When he took over the Masonic Hotel in 1892 Kromm immediately had an indoor rink built there. By then there were skating rinks at the Lyric Hall and at Coronation Hall. Competitions flourished. Skaters and supporters from surrounding towns arrived to compete and this was great for tourism. Then, oddly almost just as quickly as it started, interest in the sport waned and vanished. P J Alport’s Coronation Hall was then converted into Beaufort West’s first cinema.


Nelspoort farm workers waving merrily at a passing train in October 1891, watched in horror as a railway labourer tried to grab a falling spade and fell beneath the wheels of a train. Isaac Saac, noticed his spade was about to fall from the truck in which he was travelling. He lunged for it, lost his balance and fell. Two trucks passed over him killing him instantly. “Shocked by the news Beaufort Westers are also sad because Isaac’s widow has been left with a large family to support,” reported The Courier.


In die laat 1800s het ‘n 17-jarige Klaarstroom meisie, Francis Amelia Bernhardt, ‘n aaklige ondervinding in Meiringspoort gehad. In haar boek Klaarstroom en Omgewing vertel Helena Marincowitz dat Francis en haar vader, Adolf Gustav Bernhardt, te perdekar op pad was na Oudtshoorn om haar moeder, Louisa, in die hospitaal te gaan besoek. Dit was ‘n lieflike dag. Hulle het by Perdedraai stilgehou om die perde ‘n blaaskaans te gee. Adolf het afgeklim maar voor hy sy dogter van die kar se trappetjie kon af help het ‘n skielike, harde donderklap die perde laat skrik. Hulle het weggehol. Francis se lang romp en stewel het in die trappie verstrengel geraak en sy is weggesleep. Haar verstomme vader het die wegholkarretjie te voet tevergeefs agterna gesit. Francis is deur 20 driwwe gesleep voordat die perde by Sanddrif tot stilstand gekom het. Vol lelike skrape, krappe en kneuse is die bewustelose meisie na die Oudtshoorn hospitaal gehaas. Daar is gevind dat haar baie bo- en onderklere haar teen ernstige wonde beskerm het.

  • Prospective visitor becomes a hospital patient

In the late 1800s a 17-year-old Klaarstroom lass, Francis Amelia Bernhardt, had a dreadful experience in Meiringspoort. The her book “Klaarstroom en Omgewing” Helena Marincowitz tells that Francis and her father, Adolf Gustav Bernhardt, were en route to the Oudtshoorn Hospital to visit Francis’s mother, Louisa, who was in hospital there. It was a lovely day and they stopped to give the horses a rest at “Perdedraai.” Adolf alighted and as he turned to help his daughter down from the step of the cart, there was a sudden, loud, clap of thunder. The horses took fright and bolted. Francis’s boot and long skirt became caught up on the step and she was dragged off. Her horrified father gave chase without success and Francis was dragged through 20 drifts before the horses calmed down and stopped at “Sanddrift.” The unconscious Francis was covered in scratches, scrapes and bruises, but fortunately her many petticoats and sturdy outfit prevented her from becoming seriously hurt. She was rushed off to Oudtshoorn hospital for attention.


Cape Town-based Hirsch Ginsberg has followed the stories of marble-stoppered mineral water bottles (Round-up 107 and 108) with interest. His family ran bottling plants at Deelfontein and Laingsburg. “Our family took over the farm and mineral water bottling operation when the British Army moved its hospital facilities away from Deelfontein during the Anglo Boer War. “Uncle Joseph used those bottles at Deelfontein and so did Uncle David, who once owned the Laingsburg mineral water company. Our family were widely known general dealers in the Karoo and had a specially-made baby’s feeding bottle. Tapered at both ends, it looked like a fat glass banana and bore the stamp ‘Adamstein Brothers.’ Those bottles were of high quality and quite sought after in their day,” said Hirsch.


A man, once hailed as the best loved Catholic priest in South Africa, penned a Christmas Carol in Beaufort West in 1918 to raise funds for the local Red Cross and St Joseph’s Hospital and Orphanage. Rev Denis McAuliffe, dedicated this hymn to “Dr and Mrs Barrow Dowling in memory of an idyllic Christmas hour.” A copy of the carol, recently found in Cape Town, was sent to Beaufort West antique dealer Kobus Rossouw. Its existence came as a surprise to most townsfolk. A copy is now on display in Kobus’s private museum in his Donkin Street shop, Die Spinwiel. Born in Cape Town in 1851 McAuliffe was the first South African to be ordained as a Catholic priest. He studied in Dublin, Ireland, obtained a doctors’ degree in theology in Rome, and then went to Holland to study Dutch in preparation for service in the South African hinterland. McAuliffe was 24 when he arrived in Beaufort West to serve a diocese stretching from Worcester to Prieska and including Marydale, Calvinia, Sutherland, Laingsburg and Prince Albert. His Greek Bible and vestments were always at hand in his saddlebags so that he could share a quick roadside service with any worker or traveller. McAluliffe was the oldest Catholic priest in South Africa when he died at the age of 87 in 1938.


Die mense van Merweville nooi Karoo liefhebbers uit om deel te kom wees van hulle dankfees vanaf 2 tot 4 Mei. “Mense wat nog nooit so ‘n geleentheid bygewoon het nie sal nooit kan glo hoe gesellig so ‘n naweek kan die wees nie,” sê die organiseerders. “By Merweville kan ons mense wat ‘n dankfees wil geniet verseker dat hulle dit sal kan doen met die vriendelikste Karoomense. Die program sluit in ‘n groot braaivleis en Oscar Ehrensperger konsert op die Vrydag aand. Op Saterdag is daar ‘n basaar met produkte te kies en te keur, vleis bestellings kan ook vooraf bespreek word as mense heerlike Karoo lam wil huis toe neem. Deur die dag sal die heerlikste tradisionele kos beskikbaar wees en daar is ook teen 11h00 op Saterdag ‘n veeveiling wees. Op Sondag, sal daar weereens ‘n heerlike ete wees na die diens in die NG-kerk.

  • Huge Thanksgiving Festival Planned

The people of Merweville are inviting Karoo enthusiasts to come and join their annual Thanksgiving Festival from May 2 to 4. “Anyone who has never experienced the social side and enjoyment of such a small-town festival will find it thoroughly entertaining,” say the organisers. “And, at Merweville, we can assure people that they will be celebrating a Thanksgiving festival with the Karoo’s friendliest people. The programme includes a large braai and Oscar Ehrensperger concert on Friday night. On Saturday there will be a bazaar with a variety of products on sale. Karoo mutton and lamb may be ordered in advance by those who would like packages of quality meat to take home. Throughout Saturday a delicious variety of traditional foods will be on sale and at 11h00 there will also be a stock sale. Then, on Sunday, there will be yet another delicious feast after the service at the Dutch Reformed Church.”


A Beaufort West-born man appears to have escorted a mysterious princess who visited South Africa during World War II. Princess Marie Bonaparte, a descendant of Napolean Bonaparte, came to South Africa at the invitation of General Jan Smuts when she and her husband Prince George of Greece fled that country in 1941 ahead of the German invasion. Researcher Dr Poul Pedersen, professor of anthropology at Aarhus University in Denmark, has now discovered that during Princess Marie’s stay in South Africa she travelled about with Harry Wolhuter, the legendary big game ranger, who once killed an adult male lion with his bare hands and penknife. Wolhuter, who spent his childhood in Beaufort West, became South Africa’s first game ranger. He is greatly honoured in the Kruger Park area. Dr Pedersen , who is trying to piece together Princess Marie’s stay in South Africa, recently appealed for information in a Sunday Times interview with Shanthini Naidoo. “The princess, enigmatic and marvellously modern for her time, was wealthy, charming, unconventional and highly intelligent. She was also extremely courageous. As a friend of Sigmund Freud, she saved his books and manuscripts from the Nazis at great risk to herself during the war. Her time in South Africa is shrouded in mystery, yet many here must have met her,” said Pedersen


The English version of a booklet detailing how to use Karoo herbs, particularly those from The Hell is now available. Written by Dr Jan van Elfen and Hendrik ‘Hoed’ Mostert, who was born and raised in Gamkaskloof, Herbal and Witblits Remedies from Die Hel, covers the old, tried and trusted natural treatments used by the people who lived in this isolated valley in the heart of the Swartberg Mountains. For over a century the only access was on foot. It was extremely difficult for doctors to reach ill or injured people. Hendrik Mostert acquired an enviable knowledge of natural remedies at his mother’s knee. He and Dr van Elfen, author of mothercraft and health educational books, thus decided to compile this interesting little book. It details remedies for chest complaints, fevers, gastro-intestinal disorders, heart weakness, poor circulation, skin problems, and many other ailments. The book includes botanical names of plants and their characteristics. It details diverse decoctions, infusions and macerations which Gamkasklowers believed were “hellishly good.” Available from Janus Art and Books, Box 147, Prince Albert, 6930, this booklet costs R25 including postage.


Rose’s Round-up has lost its greatest supporter. Wally Kriek, an enthusiastic champion of this publication since its inception, died on February 26, aged of 64. He loved nothing more than reading, researching and polishing stories for Round-up and writing promotional brochures for the Karoo. Wally had a great love of life and an enormous passion for the English language. His love of adventure and constant search for new experiences took him to sea for a few years in his youth and then on to motor racing, but a serious crash cut short his ambitions on those circuits. He then turned to motoring and later agricultural journalism, making a name for himself in mechanised farming circles on The Farmer’s Weekly. Wally went on to seek greener pastures in Europe and as a writer and sub-editor on Johannesburg’s English language newspapers. He also was the editor of a respected political magazine, Comment and Opinion. Wally’s journalistic career took him to more South African towns and villages than he cared to remember and gave him a deep understanding of the platteland and its people. His early years in Namibia (then South West Africa) developed in him an immense love for South Africa’s arid zones and in 1989 this brought Wally and Regional Tourism Co-ordinator, Rose Willis, to settle in the Karoo. A private, quiet and unassuming man Wally will be remembered by many for his keen, wry and often cynical sense of humour. His support in all promotional efforts for the Great Karoo over the years will be missed, but never forgotten.


‘n Jong Karooboer, wie eens ‘n nagmerrie ondervinding op pad na Mashonaland gehad het, het sy aanvallers in woede agtervolg en sy besittings herwin. Vroeg in 1891 het John McRobert van die plaas Wagenaarskraal, op die poskoetsroete tussen Beaufort-Wes en Victoria-Wes, besluit om sy familieplaas in die Groot Karoo te verlaat en na groener weivelde te gaan soek. Voor hy sy eindbestemming kon bereik is hy langs die pad deur rowers aangeval. Witwatersrand- en Diamandveldkoerante was so vol van die storie dat John so spoedig moontlik ‘n brief aan sy vader geskryf om hom gerus te stel. “Koerant verslae oor my ongelukkige ervaringe is heeltemal korrek, maar gelukkig leef ek nog,” het hy geskryf. Op sy reis na Mashonaland het John ‘n koors opgedoen. Hy moes langs die pad rus en daar is hy aangeval. Al sy wêreldbesittings, kontant, klere en beddegoed is gesteel. Met net ‘n hemp en steuwels is hy in ‘n sloot vir dood gelos. ‘n Goeie Samaritaan het hom gevind en sorgvuldig verpleeg. Na ‘n paar weke het John sy gesondheid herwin. Uitgevat in nuwe klere en met hernieude krag en ‘n paar sterk maats, het John die rowers te voet agterna gesit. Vyftig myl weg vanwaar hy oorrompel was het John die diewe gekry. Sy klere was nog in hulle besit. “My gelukkigste oomblik was om my betroubare ou buks weereens in my eie hande te hou,” het hy gesê.

  • Enraged man trails his assailants

A young Karoo farmer, who had a nightmare experience en route to Mashonaland, chased after his assailants in a rage and recovered his possessions. Early in 1891, John McRobert, of the farm Wagenaarskraal on the post coach route between Beaufort West and Victoria West, decided to leave the family farm in search of greener pastures. Before he reached his destination, he was beset by robbers on the road. Witwatersrand and Diamond Field newspapers were full of the story and as quickly as possible John wrote to his father to set his mind at rest. “Newspaper reports on my unfortunate experience are quite correct, but luckily I am still alive,” he wrote. It appears that on route to Mashonaland John developed a fever and had to rest alongside the road. There he was attacked and robbed. His assailants left him with only his shirt and his boots and left him for dead in a ditch. A passing Good Samaritan found him and nursed him back to health. Then John, with new clothes and renewed vigour set off on foot after his assailants, accompanied by a few friends. Only 50 miles from where the attack took place, they found the robbers who still had all of John’s possessions. “My happiest moment was to once again feel my trusty old rifle in my hands,” he said.


The story in Round-up 107 of a British major’s lonely Christmas in the Karoo during the Anglo-Boer War touched the heart of a Pietermaritzburg reader. “I identified with the Grenadier Guardsman,” writes Anne Coates. “I was only 21 when my young husband and I were posted to a remote district in Malaya during the height of the Communist emergency. The house was surrounded by rubber trees. Armed guards were on duty day and night. It was our first Christmas away from home – no family, no friends, and no church. We needed permission even to leave the district. If this was granted, we were escorted by armed guards. I sincerely hope Bt Major the Hon A V F V Russell lived to see happier days as indeed we did.”


In its heyday The Beaufort West Courier kept British enthusiasts abreast of Karoo and South African affairs. In fact, in Britain it was quite a sought-after publication. In October 1891, the editor of The Courier proudly announced that while the newspaper was available at top British reading rooms a new agreement had been reached. “By arrangement this paper is now filed in the handsome reading rooms of the Inter-Colonial Publishing Company in Leadenhall Street, London,” he wrote. “Visitors to this great metropolis can now also call there to keep themselves ‘au courant’ with Beaufort news in particular and South African news in general. The editor and general manager of the reading rooms, Mr Th Simpson Jones, has also expressed his ‘readiness to extend a hearty welcome to any friend of the Karoo and, to the best of his ability, advance their interests in the world’s great emporium of trade.'”