Golf was first played at St Andrews in Scotland over 600 years ago, so it is little wonder that this venue is steeped in wonderful stories. According to Sporting Life’s Golf News some of the sand traps have very individualistic names relating to ginger beer, spectacles and the best spot to catch a lassie. One large bunker and two nearby smaller ones at the 10th hole have a historic link to South Africa and the Anglo-Boer War. The large one is the Kruger bunker, nearby is Mrs Kruger and Kruger’s mistress. The story goes that when war broke out Lt. Frederick Guthrie Tait, “the man who could smack a golf ball further than anyone else in the world,” was the darling of St. Andrews. Freddie an officer in Scotland’s most famous regiment, The Black Watch, was the British amateur golf champion in 1896 and 1898. In 1899 he was given a grand send-off at St Andrews when he left for the war in South Africa under the leadership of Major-general Andrew Wauchope, affectionately known to his men as “Red Mick.” Shortly after they arrived Wauchope was killed, and Freddie Tait wounded in Battle of Magersfontein. A few months later, in February 1900, Tait was killed on a battlefield near Kimberley. When his fans back home heard this news, it is said they built an effigy of Kruger and burnt it on this bunker.


Explorer Le Vaillant once said that in the inland areas of South Africa the huntsmen must be equally armed against an elephant or rhinoceros as small game. He said he seldom shot with a ball of less than two ounces. He mentioned taking a short hunting trip towards the mouth of the Great Fish River and shooting five hippos, eight rhinos, nine hartebeest and small game which he did not even bother to count. His booty in the shape of hippo fat, rhino skins and dried meat filled three large wagons, he said


Calvinia claims to have the largest and most photographed postbox in the world. Initially it was a disused old water tank near the Dutch Reformed Church, till one day the local doctor, Erwin Coetzee, mentioned to his wife that it was an eye-sore – she snidely remarked it looked a bit like a postbox. He mentioned this to the local business chamber and some residents all of whom had to agree that she did have a point, so the water tank became a postbox in 1994. The Post Office supplied the paint and developed special stamp so that all letters posted from this box could be hand-stamped with a flower emblem to celebrate the fact that Calvinia is in the centre of the Cape’s spring flower area.


When Dr Albertus Pieter Meiring died on March 23, 1934, after a brief illness, many Karoo people mourned his passing. He has served two towns well for years. He was highly respected and loved in both Graaff-Reinet and Aberdeen. Meiring, was born in Richmond, where he later married Miss Hartford. After graduating as a doctor from the University of Edinburgh in 1915, he immediately returned to South Africa and was appointed to the staff of the New Somerset Hospital. He held this post until the end of 1917 when, after doing some locum work in the Karoo he decided he loved the area, so he moved to Graaff-Reinet and opened a practice there. He later moved to Aberdeen to take up the post of district surgeon. Meiring, left the Karoo in 1921 and moved to Wepener in the Free State where he resided until death. He was held in high esteem by all his patients who described him as a gentleman, with quiet manners, a man who was well-loved and respected wherever he went.


Professor E H L Schwarz spent three months in the field to produce the first survey of the rocks of the Beaufort West area for the Geological Commission in 1896. He concentrated on the southern slopes of Nuweveld Mountains, because of “the extraordinary occurrence of coal at one point.” He also investigated the area from town to the farm Palmietfontein 70 miles to the west and made several excursions southwards from the mountains onto the flats of the Koup. He reported the sedimentary rocks of the Beaufort West district consisted of mudstones or shales and sandstones. He found the division of sandstone and shale on unweathered areas “extremely hard to delimit”. In his report he referred to “defining sandstone” and “intermediate sandstone” He found “defining sandstone” from the lowest exposed beds of the Koup to the top of the Nuweveld Mountains had one texture throughout. “In its unweathered state it is light blue (caused by iron sulphide) or sometimes it has a greenish tint. It is extremely hard and compact, it varies in thickness from just over 24 to 30 m. It is eminently suited for building and to this end has been quarried for use at places such as Adendorp and Graaff Reinet.” Prof Schwarz warned that care had to be taken because there was another type of sandstone which was totally useless for building. “On weathering the defining sandstone breaks down to a yellow colour and eventually crumbles to a yellow sand as seen at Kaffirskraal and Leeurivierspoort.”


At the base of almost every defining sandstone deposit Prof Schwarz found a curious conglomerate of clay pellets. Geologists call this “pudding stone” because it resembles the old-fashioned roly-poly raisin puddings. Schwarz often found bone fragments in this layer and later, when conducting studies at Middelburg, he found an entire dicynodon skull.


Intermediate sandstones occur in the shales between the beds of defining sandstone, wrote Professor Schwarz. “They are usually about half a meter to a meter thick and seldom more than 8,8 m. In their unweathered state they are dark blue or green in colour and commonly have purple blotches although sometimes spots and stripes are found. Travelling from Beaufort to Prince Albert I came across a striking feature – alternating layers of yellow, red and brown rocks. The first two were evidence of decomposition of defining and intermediate sandstones, while the brown was due to weathering of impure dolomite layers, frequently found in the lower Karoo beds.” He also discussed limestones and dolomite nodules “with fantastic shapes.” He found a curious feature in the Nuweveld Mountains, about 60 m above the Koup. Here limestone nodules were replaced by clayey nodules. He could not explain whether they were typical or not.


Schwarz also described the beautiful colours of the shales. These were a series of parti-coloured hardened muds, he said. They alternated in stripes from blue and grey through to occasional shades of purple. The thickest mass in the district was 90 m thick and this was found at Leeurivierspoort. The shales appear hardened by a diffused heat produced either by pressure or intruded dolerite. “From this it appears that an enormous amount of sediment of the same quality was carried down contuinuously into the water. So, a rock more of the nature of mudstone eventually resulted. When exposed to air this turns almost completely black, he said.


To the delight of Professor Schwarz, a large quantity of Pareiasaurus bones were found in the lower beds of the Koup. They were left in situ because time constraints prevented the team from excavating them for later study. Prof Schwarz took only 16 vertebrae and a pelvis section with him for identification. “These fossils occured in the mudstone.” He said he had found fossils at Spreeufontein, Prince Albert, Fraserburg Road Station, directly under the Nuweveld Mountains, and at Hottentots River, Knofoock’s Fontein and Leeuwriverspoort, where there was also evidence of silicified wood. Schwarz said fossilised wood was frequently found lying on the plateau of the Koup, indicating that there once were forests or at least great trees in the area.


In the mid-1850s a Graaff-Reinet man started slaughtering animals in his backyard. The stench was unbearable. Neighbours were almost forced to flee. Verbal complaints both to him and the Municipal Commissioners went unheeded. By May 1856, his neighbours could take no more. On the 10th they wrote as follows to the Commisioners: “Gentlemen, we feel compelled to draw your attention to a nuisance which daily becomes more and more objectionable. A slaughterhouse has recently been opened in Parsonage Street by Mr F Joubert who has not provided any proper means of removing the daily accumulations of blood and offal. In consequence these disgusting substances gather and give forth the most continuous, filthy and sickening stenches, which cause great annoyance throughout the neighbourhood. In the evenings it is especially unbearable. It is impossible to remain upon the stoeps, doors and windows must be kept closed, in the vain hope of excluding these poisonous exhalations from our dwellings. We are unable to partake of our evening meals and the matter is now seriously affecting our health and comfort. We hope some serious and immediate steps will be taken to investigate this complaint and remove the cause. In addition to the constant annoyance from this extremely offensive nuisance, we beg to remind the Commissioners that should any epidemic or contagious disease visit Graaff-Reinet, persons who reside near such ill-regulated slaughterhouses (and this is not the only one) will suffer a greatly increased risk of infection. Serious responsibility thus rests upon the Municipal Commissioners, as the guardians of this town, to take steps to remove all slaughterhouses from the centre of the village to some suitable locality in the suburbs. In the meantime, however, we entreat you to investigate the particular nuisance and use your authority to abate it.”


In 1889 a hinterland farmer took great exception to people making disparaging remarks about his tobacco. Fred Verran, of the farm Longslopes, in Cathcart, was not prepared to take this abuse, so he wrote a letter to the Editor of the Farmers Chronicle – it appeared in the issue of January 10,1889. “Sir, It has come to my notice lately that some malicious person or persons are trying their best to injure the name of my tobacco by saying it is rotten muck. Such remarks are damaging to the sale of my produce, of which I have a large supply this season. I challenge the person to come forward, exhibit the rotten muck and give me a chance to see whether it is my tobacco, or if someone has again been filling a bag with my name on with some rotten stuff and passing it off as my tobacco. I offer my tobacco to purchasers on its merits. Of course, I do not expect everyone to take it. Some fancy fermented and some unfermented tobacco. My tobacco is well fermented and therefore not injurious to anybody. The person trying to injure me and an industry that is benefiting the district is nothing than a mischief-making coward if he does not come forward. As Beecher says: “when the absent are spoken of some speak gold, some silver, some iron, and some always say only dirt, for they have a natural attraction towards evil. Think of a cat watching for mice, it does not look up even though an elephant goes by, so these evil sayers are so busy mousing for defects that they let great excellence pass them unnoticed. I say it is un-Christian to make beads of the faults of others and tell them over every day.”

Note: Another newspaper reported in its September 12, 1889, issue that Fred Verran’s Gigantia tobacco had been awarded a prize medal at the South African Jubilee exhibition.


When Robert Jacob Gordon travelled into the Karoo, he met a man who had come face to face with a lion. Gordon was travelling along the Swartberg towards the Langkloof when he wrote: “I saw a certain Lindequast or Lindeque who had been badly wounded in the thumb by lion last December.” Father and son went in pursuit of three lion which had killed some of their cattle. The son shot one of them, breaking its jaw, whereupon one of the others that they were pursuing came towards them. The father stuck his gun into its mouth, but the gun misfired and at this the lion bit down on the barrel and into the father’s thumb. He lost his footing, rolled down a slope and the lion, which did not let go, fell on top of him. The son raced to free his father but stumbled and his gun went off. At this the lion left the father and sprang onto the son who stuck the stock of his gun into the lion’s mouth. He was driven against a rock by the lion but managed to hold it off. The lion could not draw breath or because of its pain, it could not harm him. Then, hearing people approaching with guns and dogs, it took flight. Fourteen days after this the wounded lion was killed in a trap by the son.


Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg, son of Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and Alberta Van Rooyen, was one of the brave pioneer farmers of the Beaufort West area. Born in 1750, he married Susanna Josina Scheepers on April 21, 1782, and after she died, he decided to marry her cousin Martha Magdalena Scheepers, the widow of Gerhardus Oosthuyzen. Their wedding took place on September 2, 1804, Hendrik then moved to the area of the Bamboesberg and 60 other families settled there. He later moved into the Beaufort West area where he served as a burgher commandant during the second border war. At times he had dealings with the rebel leader Coenraad Buys. On October 23, 1801, Hendrik led the protest action against Landdros H D Maynier and with 400 burghers took over the town.


Shortly after Governor Janssen was appointed he decided to take a tour of the country to acquaint himself with affairs in the hinterland. Hendrik met him on this journey and supplied him with a list of farmers whose houses had been burned down and whose farms were plundered. In his journal the Governor’s assistant Paravicina di Capelli mentions that Hendrik gave a beautiful wild bird, a Loerie, to the Governor as a present. At this time mention was made to the Governor concerning the alleged murder attempts made by Landdros Maynier, who it seemed appeared to have tried to convince Chief Gaika to carry out such a mission on behalf of the British Administration. Janssen’s party then had a meeting with Chief Gaika regarding unrest and quarrels in the border region. Gaika explained that Iambee, at the head of some of his men, had inflicted two assagai wounds on him, simply because he would not permit the murder of the Christians, with whom his father had always lived in good friendship. He also stated that a Hottentot ‘van Hallen’ had given him a lovely walking stick and a number of other presents and suggested that he murder Coenraad Buys and Hendrik van Rensburg. He was told that if he did this, he could receive a much more beautiful brass knob stick. Upon fulfillment of the murders, Gaika was told, he said that he would also receive cattle, sheep and horses. Gaika told the Governor he was willing to receive the presents but was not to cause the death of any Christian. Where upon according to D G van Reenen’s “Reisjoernaal” (travel journal) he stretched out his arm and pointing to it, said: “See I still wear armlets given to me.


When Colonel Robert Gordon was exploring the hinterland, he found the Khoisan played a game on the arid African veld that was similar to a game played by the “high rollers” of the Hague. On October 20, 1777, he had crossed the Buffelsjagts River and was travelling into the Klein Karoo, when he “saw some Khoisan men playing a game which local people called “’Hottentot cards”. Gordon wrote: “they call it ‘Gai’. It is curious to see and at first it appears incomprehensible, but upon investigation I found it very clear. They divide themselves into two rows, each consisting of five or six players, more or less, sometimes sitting and sometimes standing, as they will. Each man gets a thin little stick about an inch long in order the better to conceal it. It is called Gai hi hi, simply meaning ‘stick’. One group begins, one man after the other, to challenge the opposite row, each man starting with the one who stands opposite him and making a sort of buzzing and singing sound. They start by singing, first blowing and then droning through their lips thus: ‘veu brr, ho caméi!’ which has no meaning other than as an encouragement, so far as I can establish. Some. who had seen Hollanders playing cards said it meant the same as ‘Trumps!’ (Troef!). The whole idea of the game is that the challengers must each deceive the other group as to where the sticks are by making many twists of the body and hand. Each holds his hands closely together then the challenger separates his hands and the others must also do likewise. He then shows which hand his stick is in, between one or the other finger. If his group’s stick is now also in the same hand, for example in the right hand, the challenger wins it. But if the challenger’s stick is in the right hand, and the other groups is in the left hand then he loses it. Thus, the sticks cross in each others’ hands. Most of the time they do not play for any prize. They simply buzz, sing, twist, jump in a serious or jolly fashion all at the same time, but there are times when they play for dagga, their tobacco. They never play for high stakes as the players do at the Kleine Societeit Club in The Hague.

If man no longer had enemies, he would have to invent them, for his strength only grows through struggle. – Louis L’Amour