Richmond is hosting a Fugard Festival in May. The aim is to pay tribute to Athol Fugard, the greatest living dramatist in the English-speaking world who turns 80 this year. Fugard’s home town New Bethesda, launched the festival last year, but was unable to continue due to lack of funding. The Fugard Festival will run back-to-back with Richmond’s J M Coetzee Festival from May 23 to 26 and organiser Darryl Earl David says: “Richmond is immensely proud to be hosting this top South African literary event and so has planned a bumper weekend. The festival will be opened by Ross Devenish, who collaborated with Athol Fugard on film adaptations of his plays. During the festival such classics as Marigolds in August and The Guest, as well Ross’s documentary on Fugard. Then, Thokozani Kapiri will be bring cast from Nanzikambe Arts, a top Malawi theatre company, to perform Blood Knot. A keynote speaker will be Hilde Roos, from the University of Stellenbosch Music Department, who will discuss Eoan, Our Story, a wonderful book about grassroots opera, ballet and theatre in South Africa. She will also discuss long forgotten theatre companies.” On Sunday visitors will be able to enjoy a drive along the scenic back roads from Richmond to New Bethesda, for a walk and talk on the great man on his own turf. Booking is essential as this trip includes lunch at the Sneeuberg Brewery. In New Bethesda John Nankin will share some of his riveting research in to the life of Helen Martins at the Owl House.


In 1840 an East India Company officer, Walter Sherwill, climbed Compassberg to plant a flag and “claim” the summit. However, when he got there he found a flagpole already planted on the peak. He was never able to find out who “conquered Compassberg, nor has Cape-based historian Dr Steve Craven managed this. “I have spent hours in the Cape Archives, S.A. Library and the University of Cape Town African Studies library trying to find the answer,” says Steve. “Also, letters to the Graaff-Reinet museum did not yield any information. If anyone knows, please share the answer.”


The 110th Anniversary of the Anglo-Boer War will be commemorated in Richmond from May 30 to June l. Organiser John Donaldson says: “This promises to be an exciting, action-packed event.” It kicks off with a special programme for the youth by the War Museum. This will be followed by an afternoon field trip to Merriman. The second day includes talks on the Womens’ Memorial in Bloemfontein by Johan van Zyl, on the Havenga Report by Dr Jan van der Merwe, the Black involvement in the War, by Rodney Constantine, the register of the Transvaal Hotel by Professor Fransjohan Pretorius and the involvement of the USA by Emeritus Professor Louis Changuion. In the afternoon there will be a field trip to Deelfontein, the site of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital, as well as a visit to Mynfontein. This will be led by Kobus Nel, Dr Arnold van Dyk and Darrel Connolly. On Saturday, Arnold will deliver an address on Colonel Scobell, Edwin Conroy Jnr, will talk on the Boer Rebels of Britstown and Johannes van der Walt will discuss the Boer rebels of Middelburg. Professor Louis Changuion will present a DVD discussion on Fritz Joubert Duquesne. the man who allegedly killed Kitchener, Dr Ron Bester will deliver an overview of weapons used during the war and John Donaldson will discuss Boer rebels and their executions. There will also be some re-enactments.


Reacting to the item entitled “Setting Matters Right” in the February Round-up Anglo-Boer War expert, Taffy Shearing wrote: “Sergeant-Major A `Terror’ Young of the Cape Police was awarded the Victoria Cross for his action at Ruiterskraal on August 13, 1901. Commandant Joseph Erasmus with 20 Boers had held a koppie at Ruiterskraal near Venterstad. Galloping alone 50 yards ahead of his five companions, Young rode into 20 Boers. He shot one and captured Erasmus who fired at him three times from a point-blank range. Troopers Maasdorp, R Currie, Sergeant Ray Brotherton with two Tasmanians, Sgt DN Lynne and A Coombes, attacked the Boers (later they all got a Mention in Despatches). They captured I Roux of Somerset East, S D Naude of Graaff-Reinet, P Hugo, a Free Stater, and Commandant Pieter Kritzinger’s Secretary, P Roussaeu of Molteno. He was run down by Trooper Maasdorp who was wounded in the neck and chest. Other Cape Police casualties at the action at Ruiterskraal were Lance-Corporal J N Neyland, severely wounded, Major Marsh, slightly wounded, Capt E W Wood, severely wounded and died August 22. 1901. Privates E D Dawson and S Bram who were wounded. Commandant Pieter Kritzinger’s commando was shattered and fled for the Orange River.”


The annual Prince Albert Olive Festival turns 20 this year. This event, one of the most popular on the Karoo’s social calendar, is scheduled to take place from April 26 to 28 this year. Hospitality is a key focus area of this festival and the newly elected organising committee is advising enthusiasts to book early. They are confident that this year’s event is going to be the best yet. The committee promises an exciting programme with full focus on top quality craft-stalls and fabulous food served with panache and plenty of style. Each year the village uses the festival to showcase itself, to display its old-world charm and its awe-inspiring setting. All of these combine to attract visitors to town to have a good time, inject cash into the economy and create some much needed temporary for some members of the community. “There will definitely be something for everyone. In addition to many bargains, moonlight markets and a vast variety of culinary delights, there will country music, jazz, a coach tour through the beautiful Prince Albert Valley, wine and olive oil tastings as well as a cycle race from Abrahamskraal, plus, of course, a trip up the Swartberg and into the Hell.”


The National Congress of the South African Society for Cultural History (SASCH) will take place at the Langgebou, Dutch Reformed Church in Courtenay Street, George on May 24 and 25. The venue was specially chosen because this congregation celebrates its 200th anniversary this year. The congress will have two specific areas of focus. One will be devoted to the Cultural history of this church, other general churches and religious history and church architecture. The second area of focus will concentrate on George and its surrounds in the Southern Cape. However, once the programme is finalised other topics may also be included says one of the organisers, Prof M Burden


The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Riverine Rabbit Programme has been reassessed and renamed the Drylands Conservation Programme (EWT-DCP). This programme will continue to focus on the well-being of the rabbit and its habitat, but under its new “banner” will broaden the scope of its activities to include other species and ecosystems in the arid zone. The Programme also aims to work in closer cooperation with companies such as Lindt, who recently during an Easter Bunny promotional campaign made a meaningful donation to the Riverine Rabbit Project. Lindt SA also organised a Facebook auction, where the public can bid and buy on celebrity-signed porcelain gold bunnies and the proceeds go to the conservation of the Riverine Rabbit.


On February 4, 1900, Howard Tooth, a British doctor serving at a Cape military hospital received orders to travel to Modder River. It was “at the front” and he was apprehensive. He wrote to his wife stating that he was not taking much in the line of civilian clothing because he was to be in uniform “for a rather big job”. His mission was to visit the hospitals and report on typhoid. Tooth took a “soldier servant”, Barnes, from the Warwick Regiment, and “two cases of provisions so as to be independent in the matter of grub.” He also bought food “in the middle of the veld 600 miles from civilisation.” Two colleagues, Calverley and Wallace went to “see him off” and, with others on the station, stood waving and cheering as the train pulled out. Tooth shared a “comfy” compartment with Lieutenant Walsh of the Tasmanian Artillery, who was on his way to join a regiment, a commercial traveller, “who bought horses for sale to the army” and a Scottish telegraph man who “drank too much” but by the following morning turned out to “be a rather nice fellow.”


In his diary Dr Howard Tooth wrote: “All through the night the train climbed to higher ground. It went up 2 000ft, another 2 000 and yet more.” In the morning they looked out and saw the Karoo, “a country most desolate in appearance, with rocks, little bushes, a few goats and at long intervals a station and perhaps a house.” Here and there, he said, were beautiful red flowers like cockscombs, but generally the veld consisted of little scrubby bushes. His Scottish companion announced he felt it was “a fine country to be away from.” Tooth wrote: “There are a number of dry water courses and in them a few trees. It looks as though it must rain sometime, but it also looks as if it never does. The old Kimberley road runs alongside the railway line. It is little more than a track, but good for all that. One could easily ride a bike along all the way we have come so far. The line undulates up and down, there are no cuttings, but there are bridges. All of them are patrolled by fellows armed to the teeth. If it were not for them the bridges would have been blown up long ago.”


Howard Tooth found the weather trying. “The heat is something awful. There is a regular hot breath that blows over the land making you feel as if you were standing at the mouth of a furnace. Storms blow up with immense thunder and lightning and very heavy rain. These are only briefly refreshing.” He said they saw mirages from the train. “The whole landscape shimmers with heat and the sunsets are angry. We keep seeing mirages. They are most beautiful. Mostly they are mountains that move about, others are great lakes of water that just disappear. The air is very dry If you put you head out of the carriage window and into it, it quite chokes you.” Karoo stations greatly amused Tooth. “The train draws up solemnly at a board with a name on it. There is no platform and not a house in sight no station, nothing, just a name on a board, yet it is marked on the map.”


Sand and dust storms whirled about constantly and frustrated Howard Tooth. Mainly this was because his clothing and food seemed constantly full of sand. “Every now and then you see a whirlwind – a column of dust 50ft or higher. We were struck by a sandstorm – rain mixed with sand and driven at speed by a terrible wind. The carriage was full of sand before we could even shut the windows. I nipped out to the luggage truck, just in front of our carriage, to try to pull the tarpaulin over our baggage, but I was nearly blown overboard and, in an instant, wet through, so I gave up. My shirt is covered with great splodges of sand and rain. It was so peaceful a moment ago, but now the wind is howling round the train as if it would blow it over. What an awful thing to be caught in this when trekking across the veld. We have shut every window and ventilator and we still are covered in sand. He concluded: “The country is not worth fighting for.” On February 5 they reached De Aar, “an enormous place, a great sandy plain covered with tents”. It was extraordinarily cold. “They say it is fearfully cold at night in the tents. The soldiers look awful ruffians. Their khaki is in rags and everything is covered with red sand. The officers don’t look much better.”


Dawn Mary Glegg (nee Finch), a proud Beaufort Wester, died on January 15 this year. She was the daughter of photographer, Henry Finch and Irene Raath and enjoyed a carefree childhood in Bird St. She loved nothing more than reminiscing about the Beaufort West Primary School and later Victoria Girls’ High in Grahamstown. Throughout her life Dawn was immensely proud of father Henry, a professional photographer, who immigrated to the Karoo from London for health reasons, with his wife and two daughters, after doctors advised him to live in “drier” air. The little family moved to Beaufort West, where sadly Henry’s wife died shortly after their arrival leaving him with two little girls to care for. There he met Irene Raath, a music teacher, and asked her to teach his girls, Irene, (oddly enough) and Winifred, to play the piano. She did, but she also managed to strike a chord in his heart and soon Irene and Henry were married. They had two more daughters, Dawn and Wendy, who now lives in Johannesburg with her daughter Diane. In time Dawn moved to Cape Town where she met Roy Milne Glegg and married him in 1944. They had two daughters, Jennifer Dawn and Jocelyn Joy. The family lived in Bantry Bay until Roy Died in 1992 and then in later life Dawn went to life with her daughter Jocelyn Steyn. Throughout her life she carried about with her a lovely collection of photographs which Henry took in old Beaufort West. They were proud treasures and she eagerly shared them and memories of the old Karoo with all who cared to listen. Her daughters would now like to donate these black and white pictures to the Beaufort West museum in memory of both Henry and Dawn.


The intelligence of the horse is admirably depicted in a little incident which occurred just outside Ladysmith when the town was besieged during the Anglo-Boer War, states The Brisbane Courier of June 19, 1900. A Boer soldier had captured a handsome charger belonging to one of the Lancers. He was so proud of his prize that he mounted the animal and paraded it up and down showing it off to his comrades. Having finished this performance he jumped of, threw the bridle carelessly over the horse’s head and sat down for a chat. Just then a bugle sounded from Ladysmith. The charger pricked up his ears, looked in the direction of the sound and bolted off so fast that before anyone could catch him he was out of sight. His captor flew to his feet, as he set off but he was too fleet of foot and they were left staring at the dust kicked up by his heels.


Nick Yell, experienced off-road motorcycle rider and adventure motor bike columnist recently launching Space Riders, an adventure motorcycle guiding organisation. It is aimed at foreign and local adventure motorcyclists who don’t have the time or know-how to plan their own adventure tours in SA’s space-rich hinterland. We are offering an all-inclusive guiding service that will not only expose riders to some of our country’s most exhilarating and scenic dirt tracks, but will also include good meals, comfortable accommodation and even a back-up vehicle and trailer facility if required. All you need to bring is your bike, your gear and yourself,” said Nick, a man with an insatiable passion for the dirt tracks that criss-cross the space-filled landscapes of the Overberg, Northern Cape and Karoo. The idea was born after Nick completed his first-round trip of the Karoo on an old Yamaha XT250 in 2005. This resulted a book Circling the Great Karoo, and this in turn resulted in friends asking him to organise trips for them. Nick’s first trip is scheduled for May 13.

Did you know: French scientists have found dung beetles use the Milky Way for navigation. These amazing creatures play a key role in keeping Karoo ecology clean and healthy, writes Marina Beal in Karoo News Summer 2013

“We learn nothing by being right.” & “Irony is the hygiene of the mind.” Elizabeth Bibesco, daughter of a British Prime Minister Harold Asquith and his wife, Margot, who in 1919, at age 22, married the 44-year-old Prince Antoine Bibesco, a Romanian diplomat.