Rose Willis was one of 12 women recently honoured by Western Cape Minister of Tourism and Gambling, Joyce Witbooi, at a special ceremony in Cape Town. The award was for “the creation of Rose’s Round-up to showcase the Karoo as an off-the-beaten-track attraction in the mix of Western Cape venues.” The minister paid tribute to these women, who had not received public recognition for their commitment to tourism, at a ceremony held at Marco’s African Place in the Bo-Kaap. “The event is not about winners,” she said. “It is about unsung stars. When making the selection I looked for women who have excelled in tourism, who have a passion for what they do. Women who have worked unstintingly, gone the extra mile and done exceptional jobs. These women have made a difference. Their efforts have not necessarily made headlines, but their quiet commitment over many years has significantly contributed to the development of tourism in this province.” Rose worked in the Karoo for 13 years, but when her life partner Wally Kriek died last year, she moved to Bloemfontein. She was unable to attend the function. She asked Gert Lubbe, co-owner of Matoppo Inn and a member of the new Western Cape Destination Marketing Organisation to accept the award on her behalf. He was delighted. “I am so proud of you and all you have done for the Karoo,” he said. “This honour is one of your proudest achievements. We must, however not loose sight of the role Wally played. He was the wind beneath your wings, he allowed you to soar, encouraging and supporting you every step of the way. The Karoo misses you both.” Other award recipients were: Glenda Appies, West Coast Tourism Help Desk champion; Debbie Bruce, Southern Cape’s key role-player in black business development; Dale Isaacs, driving force behind emerging entrepreneurs on the Cape Flats; Maria Maile, first black woman in Cape Town to face the challenges of township tourism; Emmah Makatu, who taught black entrepreneurs to stand together and speak with one voice; Marian Mercuur, energetic, enthusiastic promoter of the Worcester Tourism Expo; Shareen Parker, who has an in-depth understanding of entrepreneurship; Itumeleng Pooe, creator of partnerships, safety and security awareness and Maureen Wicomb, developer of new black businesses in Oudtshoorn. A posthumous award was made to Hanli Matthyssen, Swellendam’s passionate events co-ordinator. (Background on Round-up below)


The Karoo National Park, outside Beaufort West, celebrates a quarter of a century in ecological conservation and environmental education this year. “Much has been achieved since those first tentative steps were taken to establish a National Park in the Central Karoo in 1979,” said park manager Norman Johnson. “We are immensely proud of our achievements. The park has expanded. It now covers 80 000 ha. Interest in the park has never stopped growing. We are proud to be an icon in the Western Cape and a special stopover in the Karoo. We are now working very hard to complete our Environmental Education Centre at the Ou Schuur. We are confident it will become one of the key places to visit in this area of the Karoo when it opens later this year.”


“Managing Variability” is the theme of this year’s Arid Zone Ecology Forum to be held at the Apollo Theatre Complex in Victoria West from August 30 to September 2. The way plants and animals cope with short- and long-term variability, conservation, management techniques, differing biota, soils topography and socio-economic conditions are among topics scheduled for discussion.


Nineteen educators from Central Karoo schools recently enjoyed a journey back in time and a trip to the stars. These “jaunts” were part of a highly acclaimed two-day workshop, The Earth and Beyond, designed to build educator capacity in natural and life sciences. It was held at the Karoo National Park. “We introduced the educators to fossils, theories of mass extinction, the earth’s minerals, rocks formations, the solar system and some celestial phenomena,” said one of the organisers Annemarie Gebhardt. “At present no local lesson or source material exists for these subjects.” Participants reconvened on March 12 to design learning activity material that will form the basis of pilot material to be rolled out to the rest of the South Cape/Karoo schools. The material will then be refined for other schools in the Western Cape. The educators so enjoyed getting closer to nature in the Karoo that they unanimously called for a follow-up workshop in August.


A cowboy once rode out of the Karoo dust, performed a series of magic tricks and then vanished. But he so thrilled a six-year old little girl, that she never forgot him. Pam Avis, now 84, recently recalled the magic of that day when telling her grandchildren of her childhood in the Karoo. She has agreed to also share some stories with Round-up readers. “It was a scorching hot Karoo day in 1926,” said Pam. “My sisters and I were playing on the shady veranda of our lovely old farmhouse on De Keur, near Middelburg. Suddenly the clip-clop of hooves, jangle of metal pots and pans and rattle of wheels interrupted our game. A brightly painted wagon drawn by two sweating mules slowly emerged from the dust of the rocky road leading to our house. As it clanked to a stop a rangy man, dressed in a checked shirt, huge Stetson and high boots stepped down. He was the most unusual creature we’d ever seen. As my dad, Gervase Collett, went to greet him, the man said: ‘Good Day, I’m Texas Jack, would you like a magic show?’ What a question! We all quickly settled on the verandah.” Texas Jack then put on a magnificent show with the magic rings, cards, ropes and sleight of hand tricks. “He was fantastic.” Texas Jack asked for Gervase’s pocket watch. “With some trepidation Dad handed over his precious timepiece. Texas Jack tossed it into a bag, which he smashed about on the table. We were horrified. Dad nearly had a fit. Then Texas Jack produced the watch intact from the back of Dad’s jacket amid sighs of relief all round!” Pam’s father, a kindly man, offered Texas Jack a night’s rest in a vacant overseer’s cottage. This was gratefully accepted. The mules were set to graze. Milk, meat and eggs were sent from the farmhouse and soon everyone settled for the night. Early next morning Gervase popped down to see whether Texas Jack had spent a restful night. “Dad came stomping back in a rage. Not only had Texas Jack and family decamped in the night, but they’d helped themselves to things from the cottage! No doubt he set off to do his ‘magic’ at another Karoo farm. I often wonder who he was, where he came from and what became of him? He swirled in and out of our lives just like a capricious Karoo dust devil.” Pam, daughter of Gervase and Rowena Collett, was born in the Karoo in 1920. She moved to England in 1944 to marry James Avis, an RAF man who came back from the World War II to run an old family business started in London in 1875. Two of Pam’s sisters are still in the Karoo. Barbara Ffynney, 90, lives in Graaff Reinet and Roslyn (Rossie) stays in Grahamstown. The youngest sister Hope Heggie lives in Stratford-on-Avon.


Searching for clues to her mother’s early life in the Great Karoo proved extremely difficult. So, Mignon Britten decided to enlist the aid of Rose’s Round up in the hopes that someone in the Graaff Reinet or Middelburg areas would remember the Staples, Dodds or Hinwood families. Grandfather Staples and some siblings came to the Karoo from Southhampton, in England. They then acquired farms in the Graaff Reinet/ Middelburg area. Mignon’s grandfather seems to have lived happily on his farm until he was killed in a riding accident in 1926. Charles Edwin (Mignon’s father) married Elizabeth Dodds in Cradock. Elizabeth died shortly after the birth of their fourth daughter and Charles remarried in 1923. This union produced two more daughters. Mignon’s mother Vallerie Gwendoline Staples was the second daughter of the first marriage. Vallerie married Bertram Shepherd Hinwood from Somerset East in Middelburg on May 12, 1923. Her oldest sister Eunice was married from the same church earlier that year. Mignon would value any information.


In the late 1800s chest sufferers found they could breathe more easily in the Karoo. Clean, fresh air soon became a drawcard and quickly put the Karoo on the map. Chest sufferers from almost every European country dashed to places such as Beaufort West and Matjiesfontein in search of a cure. Sanatoriums mushroomed. Now, William Raynham, is searching details of all old sanatoriums in the Karoo. “My interest stems from the fact that my grandfather, Eustace Frederick Raynham and his wife came to South Africa in 1896 because he was suffering from T.B. He spent time in Beaufort West before going on to Kimberley, where he eventually settled and took a clerical post at De Beers.” William recently visited Beaufort West and stayed at Lemoenfontein, which in its day was a sanatorium. But it was not the only one in that town. Mr Levin and his wife, a fully qualified nursing sister operated a sanatorium in the old magistrate’s residence, present day Matoppo Inn. The sick and suffering were treated at many houses in town and on other farms, such as Duneden. Dr Richard Spratley, himself a chest sufferer, worked at this farm for a short while before he died. He reported that mountain air was preferable to that of the town because it was cleaner. Records kept by the Reverend Guy Gething, rector of Christchurch Anglican Church, in Beaufort West, prove that many had left it too late to search for a cure. Many died within days of arriving. Then James D Logan, Laird of Matjiesfontein, promoted the cleaner air in that part of the Karoo and those who could afford it flocked there. In 1911 philanthropist John Garlick, founder of one of the country’s leading department stores, helped with the establishment of a TB sanatorium at Nelspoort because he was appalled at the toll TB was taking in South Africa. William would now also like to hear of other towns, which cared for chest sufferers in the late 1800s and early in the last century.


A Canadian website set up by a genealogical researcher may interest South Africans tracing their family trees. Anne Lehmkuhl, who lives in Canada and runs an organisation called South African Genealogy Without Borders helps Canadians trace their heritage. Her website sets out the best way to get to grips with genealogical research. Details are on her website and those interested should visit:̃. Anne has been a keen Round-up reader for years. “I’ve always enjoyed your newsletters,” she writes. “I love history and, of course, South African history is a favourite of mine. I’ve been publishing various newsletters over the years and find that your idea of combining history with interesting news events, tourism and publicity information is great. I like the idea so much that I am considering producing something similar in our local area. So, you never know, one of these days Rose’s Round-up may have been the inspiration for a Canadian version.”


Nigel King’s was delighted by the response from Round-up readers to his request for information on his grandfather. He even received assistance from as far away as Canada. Anne Lehmkuhl, who lives in Ottawa, Canada, advised him to contact Dennis Dredge in East London. With son, Michael, and daughter, Carole-Anne, Dennis has completed a book and compact disc entitled “Footsteps in times, the history of the Dredge family in Southern Africa 1820 – 2000” Dennis’s ancestor William Dredge worked as a brush-maker in England, but on arrival in South Africa preferred to call himself a cabinet maker. Joe Davis, a retired railwayman in Beaufort West went to a great deal of trouble tracing Nigel’s grandfather, Edgar Dredge. “He was a popular, handsome, active, fun-loving, 24-year-old young man,” said Joe. “He joined the Cape Colonial Railways and drove a train which was the forerunner of today’s prestigious Blue Train One day, while hurtling through the Karoo it seems Edgar and his fireman decided on a ‘braai’ for their lunch. This was quite a common on steam engines. They simply filled a shovel with red hot coals and over this grilled their meat. Sadly, it seems a freak gust blew a spark in Edgar’s direction and his clothes caught alight. As he tried to put the fire out he stumbled, fell from the moving train and was killed. He was buried from Christchurch Anglican Church in Beaufort West. It was a Masonic funeral because Edgar was a member of the local lodge.” Joe sent photographs of the church, Masonic Lodge and general views of Beaufort West to Nigel. He also copied as many documents as he could find and emailed these. “I can not thank Joe enough for his input,” said Nigel. “Thank you too Anne, it was wonderful to receive information from so far away.”


Rose’s Round-up was started in 1992 to keep six town clerks and their councils abreast of tourism. After arriving in Beaufort West from Johannesburg, Rose Willis was captivated by the Karoo. She started the newletter when she was appointed to promote tourism in the Central Karoo. The councils so enjoyed it that she decided to extend the mailing list by including tour operators, members of the travel industry, editors, columnists and travel journalists. Soon the cost-effective, monthly newsletter became a trendsetter in the marketplace. So, the little communications medium for six town clerks ended up being mailed to almost 3 000 people in 25 countries. For a while it was even read at the University of Moscow. By the time Rose left Beaufort West 116 issues had been published. Over the years, an electronics mailing list was also developed for Rose’s Round-up, but that did not overshadow the postal mailing list because many readers like to keep the publication on file. Round-up is also kept on file by several libraries and reference libraries Round-up receives a great deal of “fan mail” from those who enjoy the stories. The little newsletter almost faded into history when Rose decided to leave the Karoo, but a wave of requests from readers who love its stories and news of the Karoo led to its being continued from a base in Bloemfontein.


Bloemfontein historic researcher Johan Loock has received a pat on the back for his talk on Reverend Johan Kestell. “I have always been interested in this man,” writes Jean van Zyl from Lyndhurst, Johannesburg. “A short while ago I managed to visit the town named in his honour. It was a wonderful experience. Reading Johan Look’s tribute to this great man in the February issue of Round-up brought the experience to life again for me. Please pass on my compliments to Johan. I would have loved to have been able to hear the talk.”


A Dutch couple who recently visited the Karoo discovered a “strange tree” on a farm. It had the aroma of citrus but seemed too big. The fruit was not familiar. It was large with lustreless, pitted skin and inside it was full of pips. In an effort to discover more they contacted a local friend Lizzie Stroebel. She sent the description and pictures to Round-up and Rose Willis in turn sent these off to Karoo expert David Shearing. “It appears to be a very old orange tree. Some Karoo farms have them and most are now between 80 and 120 years old. I have seen some fine examples on Wellwood farm near Graaff Reinet. The fruit is indeed full of pips. The picture also shows a pepper tree (Schinus molle) and from its condition I imagine the trees are growing in deep soil. In the 1880-90s my grandfather, Tom Murray of Roode Bloem, he saw some of these huge orange trees on a visit to a friend. They had very sweet fruit. He brought home some pips and planted these. These grew into wonderful trees, which I remember climbing as a boy. The trees were even bigger than the one in the photograph.” Lizzie’s friends were delighted by this information.


Those seeking a different stop with a touch of history may enjoy The Green House at Philippolis and Karbonaatjieskraal near Touws River. One is at the northern entrance to the Great Karoo and the other at its southern. The Green House or Laurens van der Post Retreat is a charming, beautifully restored venue which offers artists, academics and researchers the perfect place to work in peace. Much further down the busy Nl highway, south of Touws River is Karbonaatjeskraal, on Bergplaas, the Matroosberg farm of John Rudd This beautifully restored farmhouse (circa 1756) and its out-buildings offer spacious accommodation and a glimpse of the true freedom and romance that is the Karoo. “It was across this farm that Jan Smuts and his men made their frantic to the West Coast towards the end of the Anglo-Boer War,” says John. “Those who enjoy the vastness of the Karoo will be delighted by a visit to Fort Tierkloof near Karoopoort, once the gateway to the Great Karoo.”

“I shut my eyes in order to see, ” said the great impressionist Paul Gauguin, a man who was fascinated by paradox and self-contradiction