A farmers’ wife in Aberdeen, who couldn’t even type, has just published a book on the history of the town. And, this 168-page book, illustrated by almost 200 fascinating black and white photographs, is the first cultural history ever to be produced about Aberdeen in English. Written by Wendy van Schalkwyk, a long-time resident of the area, and published by Westyby-Nunn Publishers in Cape Town, Aberdeen of the Cape – A Retreat of the Future, contains many long-forgotten stories, anecdotes and descriptive articles. These not only cover the history but include items on the architecture as well as on the many interesting people and unusual personalities who lived in and around this lovely little town, named to honour Rev Andrew Murray’s hometown in Scotland. The book’s colour cover was supplied by the Swellengrebel Archives in Holland and it shows springbok being hunted in the Cambdeboo a short distance form present-day Aberdeen. This scene was painted in 1777 by Johannes Schumacher, who at the time was a member of an expedition to the Karoo led by explorer Col Robert Jacob Gordon. This soft-covered book costs R150 plus R10 for postage and packing to addresses within South Africa. It can be ordered from 081-783-1257 or P O Box 202 Aberdeen.


Good food, fun, and a fabulous time will be highlighted at Prince Albert’s Town and Olive Festival, from April 27 to 30. Organizers have worked hard to ensure the programme includes something for everyone. Karoo lamb, olives and cheese dishes will be served everywhere, and street stalls will be filled with intriguing arts, crafts and other interesting items. The town’s special treasures, including people, homes and gardens, will be showcased. For the first time ever, some homes and gardens will be opened to the public. Among these will be some old-fashioned gardens with elderly quince and pomegranate trees, picturesque Victorian gardens, with masses of roses and flower borders peppered with highly scented herbs, such as lavenders, and gardens featuring ingenious water-saving methods. A special route, that can be walked, cycled or driven by car, has been mapped out for festival-goers. Along this, visitors can see several unusual collections, such Rina Gouws’s house of dolls, Mike Collins’s “Harley Davidson Haven” and a unique collection of bicycles from across the world. Many of the collections have never before been open to the public. And, just to add to the fun some of the old bicycles will be ridden in the Saturday Morning Street Parade by Prince Alberters, suitably attired for the occasion. There will be go-karting, a scavenger hunt for the young and young at heart, photographic, olive spitting, Miss and Master Prince Albert competitions. There will also be a truly macho strong man competition, during which competitors will have to roll tractor tyres and carry bags of mealies. Local storytellers will gather on the museum steps to tell their tales and there will be street music, as well as some children’s theatre items. Historical, archaeological and botanical walks, picnics in the mountains, formal dinners, special star gazing tours and ghost walks will all go to making this an unforgettable weekend.


Sutherland is developing a new and interesting tourist route, the “Walking with Ancestors Route.” It will concentrate on five main areas of cultural history: astronomy, palaeontology, geology, anthropology, and history. The astronomy sector will, of course, include visits to the South Africa’s Astronomical Observatory, and the paleontology sector will ensure that visitors see the fascinating paleo-surface filled with fossilized trails and footprints in the Fraserberg area. Developing this route will be challenging, but as a major project it will be supported by the local municipality and council. Key role players are also looking forward to making meaningful contributions, writes Cindy Mathys of SKEP, the Succulent Karoo Eco-system Programme. “Working on this route promises to be tremendously exciting,” says co-coordinator Anthony Mietas. “A great deal of research needs to be done because we aim to create a route with international appeal.” The new route, which will start and end in Sutherland, will cover five major areas of the Karoo, including the Tanqua Karoo. It will be designed to give visitors a great deal of insight into this fascinating area.


Pam Avis, who shared tales of her youth in the Karoo with Round-up readers last year, died in England, after a short illness on March 3. Readers enjoyed these stories so much and many asked for more, but it was not to be. The publicity amused Pam. She was rather astonished that her stories had found such a ready audience back in the Karoo. “We weren’t,” says her son, Alan. “Our Mum was a great big storyteller. When Jamie and I were little she entertained us with wonderful stories of her childhood on a Karoo farm. Years later these same tales entranced her grandchildren and, to her surprise, found a larger audience when they were published. Mum’s whole life was a wonderful story, built on much kindness and a great deal of love. One day, when on her way to school in the Graaff Reinet she passed an orphanage. On the steps sat a pretty little girl. She would not rest until this child was taken into her family as her sister. The war brought a young man into her life who took her from the Karoo to be his wife in England. There they built a life together filled with love until he died ten years ago. Hers is a story of no regrets.” Round-up is pleased to have helped bring some of her delightful Karoo stories to a wider audience. Like many, we will miss her.


While browsing The Net recently Diana Doward discovered details of her great grand father’s grave in a Leeu Gamka Newsletter. She wrote: “I was delighted to come across this mention of J Lynn, and it was lovely to discover that the graves are still in reasonably good order. This is comforting as I have having never been able to visit his grave myself. One article refers to him as T Lynn, but his name was, James.” Private James Lynn lies buried in the tiny cemetery near the Leeu Gamka Hotel. Buried in the same grave is the first Australian to die in the war. He was Private Schultz, 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, and he stood 7ft tall. He was said to be the tallest soldier in the British Army. He and James Lynn were wounded at the Battle of Belmont on November 23, 1899. They died on the ambulance train taking them to Cape Town. The headstone, erected by their comrades, bears the poignant inscription “and there was no more war.” The only other soldier buried in this tiny graveyard is Sergeant P Fallon, 3rd Battalion Royal Lancaster Regiment, who was accidentally killed at Luttig Siding on November 2, 1901.


Lynn Lazarus is searching for information about her husband’s grandparents. “His grandfather, Louis Ruben Lazarus, who was born in October 1876, emigrated from Lithuania and ended up in the Karoo,” she says. “There it seems he met and married Anna Johanna Botes, who was born in the Merweville District on December 10, 1880. The marriage, I believe, took place in Beaufort West, around 1900, but I have not been able to find a date. I am trying to find Louis Ruben’s birthplace in Lithuania, and more of his life in South Africa, but we suspect he may have changed his name because Jews were being persecuted in Russia at the time.” Some time ago a Merweville newsletter included an item on a Cape Town businessman, Bernard Israel Nowitz, who moved to Merweville to prospect for coal. This request was turned down, but he nevertheless moved to the area and set up a general dealer store in Merweville. There he married a local lass and became a highly respected member of the Dutch Reformed Church. Nowitz in fact declared himself a “Christian Jew.” He did so well in the area that he apparently encouraged more Jews to settle there, among them were men called Lazarus, Katz, Magi, Samuel, Godlier, and Solomon. If anyone can shed more light on the Lazarus family of Merweville, please let us know.


A recent environmental educational camp in the Klein Karoo filled both teachers and learners with awe. Organised by the Succulent Karoo Environmental Education Programme and funded by the Critical Eco-system Partnership Fund, these camps were designed to allow participants to discover the special features of this region. The camps were scheduled to be held on Minwater Farm, near Oudtshoorn, however, shortly before they were due to start a flood caused quite some damage to the proposed camping area. Undaunted, the organisers chose another place, set up the camp and used an old mill for meetings and educational puppet shows. All this just seems to have added to the atmosphere. One of the Southern Cape Eco-school’s node coordinators, Lorraine McGibbon said: “Highlights of the camp included finding medicinal plants in the veld and then, by playing the role of a roving TV reporter, sharing knowledge of them with fellow learners. This afforded the groups a great deal of fun and revealed some quite good actors among them. Both teachers and learners alike were surprised at just how much there was to learn about the Klein Karoo, one of the world’s 34 globally declared “hotspots.”


Two plants traditionally used to assist those with stomach problems are being featured this month by Leeu Gamka Indigenous Nursery. One is the well-known and widely loved wild garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) and the other is the Sagewood (Buddleja salviifolia). “The wild garlic is a bulbous plant with long, narrow leaves arising from several white, fleshy bases,” says information officer Charlotte Bothma. “All parts of the plant emit a strong garlic smell if damaged. The attractive purple flowers occur in groups of about ten or more at the tips of a slender stalk.” Wild garlic is traditionally used as a remedy for colds, fever, asthma and tuberculosis, as well as for enemas and stomach problems. According to Medicinal Plants of South Africa the leaves have been used to treat cancer of the esophagus. “Freshly harvested bulbs are boiled in water and the decoctions either taken orally or as an enema. The leaves may also be eaten as vegetables.” The sagewood is a large shrub with lush silver-gray foliage. It has beautiful small white to cream or lilac to purple flowers. These attract butterflies, bees and insect-eating birds. Its wood is dark brown, finely grained, hard and strong. It is traditionally used for fishing rods and spears. “Game enjoy browsing this shrub and humans enjoy a type of tea made from the leaves,” says Charlotte. “Those who drink this tea say it is best when a little honey is added. A decoction made from the roots is said to be good for coughs and colic. Decoctions made from the flowers are said to be an excellent antiseptic wash for sores.” This drought resistant shrub grows easily and quickly in almost any kind of ground. It should be regularly pruned to keep it neat.


Dr John Almond will be taking a special trip to South Western Namibia from May 5 to 12. This eight-day programme will focus on diverse aspects of Namibian landscapes, geology, fossils and plant life and plenty of time will be allowed for exploring the veld rather than just the road sides. “The trip starts and ends at the Namibian border. We will concentrate on getting to know the area between the Orange River, Keetmanshoop and Luderitz at the coast,” said John. Highlights will include weird Precambrian fossils, mesosaurid reptiles, the Fish River Canyon, the Kolmanskop ghost town, granite koppie walks and lots of lovely desert scenery and arid-adapted plants. Participants will need to share vehicles as far as possible and, while these must be high clearance, they need not necessarily be 4x4s. This is a self-catering trip, so shopping opportunities will be included in the programme. Participants must provide their own camping and cooking equipment. “During the trip we’ll be staying at five different campsites with ablution facilities – in some cases rather basic. Simple accommodation is available near most sites for those who don’t want to put up a tent, but naturally this will add about R1350 per person to the total expenses,” said John. Total costs of the self-catering camping trip are R2300 per person and this includes entrance fees per person to parks and other sites of interest, field guiding and an illustrated handout background material. In addition, participants will need to share Namibian cross border fees of R140 per vehicle as well as entrance fees of R175 per vehicle to some of the parks.


Nicolette Solomon, Executive Director and Strings Specialist of Suzuki Institute of Dallas, was born in Laingsburg and spent much of her youth there. So, she was delighted recently to be invited to a “Dames Tee” in Dallas. “It was a fabulous occasion, complete with ‘melktert’ and ‘koeksisters,’ and it made me quite homesick,” she says. “Pianist Petronel Malan was the guest speaker and her talk was enjoyed by all who heard it. There are so many South Africans now living here – I was astounded to learn there are about 50,000 South Africans in the Dallas Fort With area alone. In Dallas at least four butcheries sell excellent ‘boerewors,’ Kosher as well as ’au natural.’ We can also buy Ouma Rusks, Marmite, Fish Paste, ‘Kaapse Kerrie and Kerrievis in ‘n blik’, almost everywhere – total nostalgia!”


A young man, born in Neyland, Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 1939, loved nothing more than travelling in the Karoo. After learning all the ins and outs of the drapery trade in his home town, William Thorne, 20, (later Sir William), decided to emigrate to South Africa. Shortly after his arrival in Cape Town he joined the firm of Fletchers. Then, in 1864 he went into partnership with S R Stuttaford but continued to operate on his own account because he “loved travelling among the Boers of the Karoo.” According to Eric Rosenthal, Thorne, Stuttaford and Company became one of the most important departmental stores in the Colony. In 1893 Thorne was elected to the Cape Town City Council and served as mayor from 1901 to 1903. He was a Progressive member of the Cape Parliament from 1904 to 1910.


After the discovery of diamonds, an American named Freeman Cobb, made a name for himself “running” prospectors through the Karoo to the diggings in his Concord coaches. His story so fascinated Brenda Riontini when she went to live in Brewster that she began a research programme on him and eventually donated a huge file to Brewster Historical Society. “This man who lived in Brewster, but who is buried in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, interested me tremendously and, after much research, I was even able to find a ‘family link,’” says Brenda. She found Cobb was also well known in coaching circles in Australia. “He went to Australia shortly after gold was discovered there, imported Concord coaches from New Hampshire in the United States and carried people to the goldfields. He made a packet, and after a few years sold the business. It seems a viable transport industry grew from his efforts because, to this day there are buses in places like Melbourne, which belong to Cobb and Co. After his success in Australia Cobb returned to Brewster, married a local lass and had a couple of children. He then heard of the discovery of diamonds in South Africa and with his family set off for Port Elizabeth where he hoped to duplicate his earlier success. But he wasn’t quite so lucky this time. His coaching venture was badly hit by the rhinderpest. Teams of animals were killed, and, at the same time, his own health failed. I was able to access some wonderful newspaper articles of the time about his coaching business and I found some firsthand travelogues written by passengers, who overnighted on farms along the route. But this is not all. My maternal great grandmother from Boston accompanied her older sister, who had married the U S Consul, to Port Elizabeth. They all lived there for years – the Consul opted to stay when his term of office expired, and my great grandmother met the man of her dreams there. However, while busy with my research project, I discovered that the Consul was one of pallbearers at Freeman Cobb’s funeral, so it appears that our early family knew this fascinating man. Perhaps they were even helpful in assisting Cobb’s widow and children get back to Brewster. I’d like to think so.”


Beaufort West Jews often smiled and said that their Benevolent Fund exist mainly “to care for Jewish tramps who annually migrated between Johannesburg and Cape Town.” In 1947, M Bellon, the Fund’s chairman and editor of The Beaufort West Courier, said: “There are quite a number of these fellows on the road and most have interesting tales to tell. These chaps take to the road for a variety of reasons. One, a Dickensian character of an ample girth and with a magnificently deep voice, is very well spoken. For all the world, he could have stepped out of the pages of Pickwick Papers. Another, a tailor by trade, simply prefers the freedom of the road to the restrictions and deadlines of a workshop. Yet another was once a leading ostrich feather merchant. He fell on bad times after the feather slump of 1914 and since then has had no fixed abode. He prefers to live that way. There is also a lawyer among their ranks. He got himself into difficulties and was forced to change his lifestyle. Then there’s a wizened old ‘rogue’ called ‘Tiny.’ He often appears to be ‘searching’ for a job. He seems so earnest, yet whenever he’s offered work the townsfolk discover that’s the last thing he truly wants. Suddenly a bad back, arthritic hip, sciatic pain in the leg, or neuralgia in the shoulder, prevent him taking it. Tiny must be the most work-shy person in the country. He can hardly even hold down a job for a day but, he’s such a happy-go-lucky chappie, always laughing, joking, kidding and smiling, that people feel sorry for him and feed him anyway. Everyone sees through his tricks and no one holds this against him.” Yet another “king of the road” often seen in old Beaufort West was a man who claimed to have worked as a “cabbie to the British officers during the Anglo-Boer War.” He would explain the joys of being a ‘wandervogel” to anyone who’d take the time to listen and if they’d buy him a beer “to whet his whistle,” so much the better. Another told Mr Bellon that he had managed to attend all the country’s important race meetings by arranging “free rides” on the trains. “I didn’t need much imagination to work out how he accomplished that,” said Mr Bellon.

NOTE: Mr Bellon claimed to be the only Jewish editor of a general hinterland newspaper – and one of the oldest in the country at that. (The Courier was established in 1869) He worked as a journalist, editor and representative of the South African Press Association (SAPA) in the Karoo for years. Mr Bellon was a qualified printer who could attend to the technical side of the Presses whenever necessary. He was also an author of repute and has several plays and short stories to his credit.

Every dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world.” – Harriet Tubman