A CLOSER LOOK AT KAROO BATTLEFIELDS
In 2016 the Karoo Development Foundation received funding from the National Heritage Commission to establish a Battlefields Route. Work is now starting. “We aim to include Griqua and Anglo-Boer War history,” says Professor Doreen Atkinson. The battles of Swartkoppies (1845) and Boomplaats (1848), the Boer incursion of the Cape Colony, The Third “De Wet Hunt”, battles and skirmish sites as well as towns, such as Colesberg, Burghersdorp and Aliwal North, that were occupied, will be included. Concentration camps at Springfontein, Bethulie, Norvalspont, and Orange River will be on the route as well as places where Emily Hobhouse and Olive Schreiner were. There will be information on the “siege of Philippolis”, the action around Jagersfontein, Fauresmith, Koffiefontein and Jacobsdal as well as executions in towns, such as Hanover, De Aar, Graaff-Reinet and Cradock. Railway tourism at Springfontein, Noupoort, Bethulie and Norvalspont will be touched on and also some activities that took place after the war, such as the first weaving school established by Emily Hobhouse at Philippolis.
BOOK NOW FOR ANGLO-BOER WAR WEEKEND
The Lord Milner Hotel at Matjiesfontein, in collaboration with the Anglo-Boer War Museum, will host an Anglo-Boer weekend from April 7 to 9. The programme includes interesting speakers. Tokkie Pretorius, director of the Anglo-Boer War Museum, will present The Agterryer; Dr Arnold van Dyk will discuss the recently published Yeomen of the Karoo, the story of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein; Hélène Opperman Lewis will talk on the effects of Transgenerational Trauma; Dr Sydney Cullis will delve into the relationship between the Anglo-Boer War and the Antarctic Explorers and Dr Dean Allen, will present stories from his book Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa. The programme also includes a walking tour of the village, to give visitors an insight into the Victorian buildings and their fascinating links to the war. There will also be a tour to Monument Graveyard, 10km south of the village, to visit the grave of General Andrew Wauchope, (Red Mick), head of the Highland Brigade, who was killed at Magersfontein, but who is buried at Matjiesfontein. Several of the other interesting historic graves in this cemetery will also be discussed. There will be a star gazing tour and a Red Bus Tour of the village.
NOTE: Yeoman of the Karoo will cost R450 as from the end of this month
CAUGHT ON CAMERA!
A Riverine Rabbit nonchalantly hopped out of the undergrowth recently right in front of a Drylands Conservation Programme (DCP) team. They could not believe their eyes and everyone except Esté Matthews was frozen in their tracks with excitement. Esté quietly stepped forward and managed to photograph the bunny on her iPhone. This “shot of a lifetime” was first photograph of a Riverine Rabbit in its natural habitat ever taken by an Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) staff member. “These critically endangered rabbits are rarely seen, let alone photographed,” said Bonnie Schumann, DCP Senior Field Officer. The DCP team has now set camera traps in the Nama Karoo to survey for Riverine Rabbit presence. “A survey north of Williston, in a potential conservation area, revealed nothing, yet 16 other mammal species were discovered there in the first three weeks thus yielding valuable data on other wildlife in the riparian zone,” added Bonnie. “The team were delighted to find evidence of Riverine Rabbits 15 km outside Loxton. This new location is near a historical sighting, just upstream from our latest restoration site, where camera traps have been set up. We were delighted because the new location closes the gap a little between two known locations, separated by a degraded stretch of river. With the help of Rand Merchant Bank, we have set up cameras at several locations in the hopes of capturing new video footage of Riverine Rabbits. Recent finds confirm that our restoration work is targeted in the right places.”
CURES FOR ‘ALL THAT AILS YOU’
In the developing days of medicine in South Africa apothecaries, shopkeepers, home practitioners and “bossie” doctors dispensed a wide range of “sure cures”. Qualified doctors frequently complained that their incomes were threatened by these men. One, who was seen as a threat, was Jesse Shaw of Fort Beaufort. He advertised himself as a medical doctor, a member of the Eclectic College of Medicine of America, a medical botanist and a member of the Society of United Medical Botanists of Great Britain, as well as a specialist in Cape Material Medica, and medalist at the Indian and Colonial Queen’s Jubilee as well as at the Kimberley Exhibition. His advertisement also claimed that he had a sure cure for snake bites and that he dispensed Africanum Toothpaste, which was “carefully prepared in his own medical laboratories,” states Mike G Ryan, in his 1983 MA thesis, Aspects of History of Organized Pharmacy in South Africa. Shaw made application through his lawyers to the Cape Medical Committee (CMC) to be licensed to practice as an herbalist and to dispense herbal medicines. He was turned down and his qualifications were called “pure quackery”. Despite this he set up a practice and he was not the only man to do this. J E Hulling, a medical herbalist from Grahamstown was turned down when he tried to patent Philogyne, a “cure for skin and syphilitic diseases”. So was A R Welsh of Herschel, who claimed to have a similar cure. G E Cook of King Williamstown advertised Orsmond’s Great African Remedy, which he said was prepared from Cape roots, and could cure a wide variety of ailments. A pamphlet in English, Dutch, German and Xhosa accompanied each bottle.
SCANT ATTENTION TO HYGIENE
Scant attention was paid to health, hygiene, water supply and sewage removal in the early days of the Colony. The water furrows in most rural towns were open and, as a consequence, they became heavily contaminated by organic matter and stable litter. Cesspools were common and these often polluted the shallow village wells. Some villages, like Steynsburg, for instance, had only a few properties that possessed closets (toilets). “Mostly there was “indiscriminate defecation in the backyards”, states Mike G Ryan, in Aspects of History of Organized Pharmacy in South Africa. There were also reports that in Ceres, farm labourers made “use of any part of the town and that as late as 1885, it was common practice for Richmond residents to empty their bedroom slops into the street and to wash their clothing, even that of fever patients, in the stream which ran through the town. Such conditions led to the rapid spread of diseases such as leprosy, smallpox, cholera and typhoid. They quickly assumed epidemic proportions in some districts. In 1885 the government was forced to pass a Contagious Diseases Act and to erect special “Lock Hospitals” for the treatment of syphilis. Fortunately, by 1892 it appeared to be under contro1.
NEW PUBLICATION ON THE VOC
Protea has just brought out a new 552-page Afrikaans book on the VOC. Entitled Die VOC aan die Kaap 1652-1795, it examines the contribution made by the VOC to the development of the settlement at the Cape . The book includes a chapter on architecture and town planning by Gawie Fagan, as well as a chapter on water provision, written by Gwen Fagan. It is priced at R350.
Diarise: Woordfees, a celebration of South African written, visual and performing arts, that takes place at the University of Stellenbosch, from March 3 to 12.
POWERFUL TALE OF THE DANCE OF DEATH
Internationally-known novelist and journalist, Fred Khumalo, has just completed a powerful story of love, war and friendship inspired by the tragic sinking of the S S Mendi in 1917. This troopship, bound for Europe, was carrying a contingent of 802 black soldiers, 5 white officers,17 NCO’s, 89 crew members and 56 military passengers when it sank. There were not enough lifeboats to rescue all of these people, so the soldiers danced and sang as the ship went down. Dancing The Death Drill, the personal and political tale of Pitso Motaung, spans continents and generations, moving from the battlefields of the Anglo-Boer War to the front lines in France during WWI and beyond. With a captivating blend of pathos and humour, Khumalo poignantly brings this historical event to life and honours those who perished in the disaster and those who survived. The book costs R 169
RESCUED AND DOING WELL
The Prince Albert Karoo Donkey Sanctuary recently rescued 130 donkeys and 25 horses from slaughter by buying them at auction. These animals are reported to be doing well. Follow their progress on Facebook.
A MOST INTERESTING MILITARY MAN
After reading the February issue of Round-up Marthinus van Bart writes that he did “a bit of research on De Villebois-Mareuil, a most interesting military man,” during the Anglo-Boer War centenary. “I read up what the Boers had to say about him and then included it in my book Vir Vryheid en vir Reg. Now, after reading the summary in Rose’s Round-up about what the British wrote about him, I do declare him at least to have been a living example of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My chapter in Vir Vryheid en vir Reg states that the Boers recorded De Villebois dying from a serious shrapnel wound after a British missile exploded on the koppie where he and some Scandinavian volunteers were standing, against all Boer warnings that the place was very unsafe. The British unit who fired on them was Lord Chesham’s, Royal Horse Artillery. With him was also the Kimberley Mounted Corps and the Imperial Yeomanry. A British signalman, Felix Robert McLeish, wrote in his diary that De Villebois was seriously wounded in his side by an exploding shell. McLeisch found him dying on the koppie, tended to him, and collected his personal belongings to return to the French after the war.
HIS OWN VIEW
In De Villebois’s own diary he writes that while in the French Foreigh Legion he was overlooked for promotion and a much younger officer was appointed above him. Because of this he had a nervous breakdown and resigned. “When the Anglo-Boer War broke out, he dug out his old uniform, rusted sword and old-fashioned revolver and rode off to war like Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote. De Villebois was of the outspoken opinion that only he could lead the Boers into battle and conquer the British. The Boers good humourly welcomed him and made him a Field-General (Veggeneraal), but realised that he and the motly lot of half-crazy European volunteers, under his command, who were filled with a bravado, equal to his own, were fighting an unrealistic war. The Boers actually considered him (and his fellows) a danger to the Burgers, as well as to themselves. De Villebois was extremely authoritarian and would take no orders from anybody. He had not one good word for anybody whatsoever. He died as he had lived: a half crazy, windmill-storming military hero in his own eyes. His story bears out Charles Dickens’s philosophy that the British love brilliant, shiny, glorious stories about Great Britain. Of the rusty side they know nothing and are not interested to know it at all.”
RUB SHOULDERS WITH A WIDE RANGE OF GAME
The 14 000-hectare Otterskloof Private Game Reserve, on the banks of the Vanderkloof Dam, offers excellent game viewing opportunities. “Here, in a picturesque landscape between the Northern Cape and Free State, visitors can enjoy a rich biodiversity of fauna and flora,” say owners and well-known conservationists, Abel and Karen Erasmus. “Our reserve focuses on game management and the proliferation of rare animals,” says Abel former owner of Wintershoek Safaris, and a game farmer with over 28 years’ of experience. In 2006 he was involved in one of the biggest private game relocations in South Africa. When Wintershoek was expropriated and sold to the National Parks Board, Abel arranged for almost all of the game to be relocated to Otterskloof, an amalgamation of 14 stock farms, near Philippolis. This reserve, which was named for otters in the ravine, is now home to 32 species, including the rare roan and sable antelope, fish eagle, blue crane, various owl species, dassies (rock hyrax), blesbuck, white blesbuck, black wildebeest (white tailed), blue wildebeest (brindled tailed), bontebuck, Cape eland, common reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, gemsbok, gray duiker, impala, jackal, , red hartebeest, red lechwe, steenbuck, tortoise, waterbuck, zebra, Cape buffalo, kudu, nyala , springbuck and giraffe. Indigenous flora grows in protected areas across the reserve. Otterskloof also offers numerous other activities such as angling, fly fishing, hiking and mountain biking.
Note: The National Parks Board has since established the Mokala National Park on the land it acquired.
ONLY ONE SHEPHERD SAW THE LIGHT
Over a century ago a lonely shepherd on the farm Jakhalsfontein, south east of Beaufort West, saw a flash of light in the sky and saw something plummeting earthwards. It was accompanied by a strange rumbling sound and a followed by a great explosion. The noise caused a stir among local farmers, Beaufort Westers and Prince Alberters. The shepherd did not wait to find out what it was. He raced off to call T J Bothma, his employer. Bothma went to investigate and found portion of a huge meteorite which had split on impact. A portion weighing 486lb was in his fields, a bigger piece weighing 360lb landed on Jakhalsfontein and a smaller piece, weighing 180lb, was on the land of J S Marais. The huge piece is still where it fell.
ATTENTION ALL BIKERS …
The Jakhals Karoo Battle of the Bikes takes place during the Laingsburg Karoofees from April 21to 23. Join in this competition and enjoy the beauty of the Karoo and Seweweekspoort. Then, there’s the TransKaroo one-day endurance mountain bike race that takes place in the Sutherland area on May 17, this year. Known as “the down ride” it starts at 07:00 at Jupiter Guest House in Sutherland and after covering 247 km ends later in the day at Kaleo Guest Farm in Ceres. The 7weekspoort / Ladismith cheese event is scheduled for September 2017 Later in the year enthusiasts can ride for Wildlife with the Endangered Wildlife Trust. Join Mwitu’s Pack and enjoy a fantastic race, on November 19, while raising funds for conservation.
… AND HIKERS
Those who love long walks should consider the Heuningland Karoo Walk from May 5 to 9 and again in September 15 to 19. The event hosts 18 hikers at a cost of R2 900 per person and follows an almost 100 km circle route, at times following the trail of Sylvester, the Karoo’s famous lion. Accommodation is in tents and three meals a day, plus refreshments, are provided. The first day has no walking, but includes registration and orientation, from 15h00 on the farm Rietfontein, 65 km from Beaufort. On Day Two the hikers will set off on a relatively easy 30km downhill walk across even ground mostly along the Koekemoers River, through an almost “roofed” glade of sweet thorn trees and for the last few kilometers through the Oukloof pass where a little winding river has to be crossed eleven times. Day Three – the 24km Tweefontein section – starts with an uphill climb out of the kloof and onto the plateau of the Nuweveld Mountains. This allows hikers to see the vast plains of the Great Karoo. Then on Day Four, hikers follow the 23,5 km Kareebos Route along the Leeu River and through Leeukloof, passing through breathtaking scenery and old river beds. The final section on Day Five follows Sylvester’s Route through a game rich area along the borders of the Karoo National Park near Brandywynsgat farm and back to Rietfontein.
ESCAPED CONVICT – WHO COULD TELL
Way back in 1861 a wild looking man rode into Burghersdorp and caused immense alarm followed by intense hilarity. The first people who saw him when he walked into the local pub swore, he was armed and that he was the notorious escaped convict William Smith. They had read all about this dangerous bald-headed hoodlum, who had a wreath tattooed on his wrist and a scar on his forehead in the Graaff-Reinet Herald. In those days the newspapers carried no pictures, yet the description seemed to fit. Most, either “by positive conviction or conjecture,” agreed that this was the wanted man, stated an article in the Cape and Natal News of August 30, 1861. There was a rush to the magistrate’s office to have the man apprehended, but the magistrate was not prepared to arrest anyone without positive identification. No one could do this as no one had ever seen “the genuine Smith”. So, from a safe distance some locals scanned the poor visitor from head to foot, while others rushed off to find the Government Gazette and Graaff-Reinet Herald which had carried the wanted man’s description. This done, they agreed, there could be no mistake, but there was a major problem – how could they closely examine the man’s tattoo and scar. Chances were, if he was the desperado, he would shoot anyone who attempted to touch him. The villagers then decided to make him drunk. This proved quite an expensive undertaking, but they plied him with booze until he passed out. Once he was softly snoring away, they took a close look at his arm and head. To their great disappointment, they found no wreath tattooed on his wrist. The mark was simply a smear of dirt and what had appeared to be a scar on his forehead was a red line caused by the pressure of his hat. Lastly, when they took his hat off, they found that far from being bald this man had a crop of dark curly hair. “enough to pad a saddle,” said one. They all agreed that getting him drunk had been a dreadful waste of their hard-earned money.
ACCIDENT TO THE GRAHAMS TOWN MAIL
On April 19, 1853, the Grahamstown mail arrived late. The driver explained that when he had gotten out of the cart near Sidbury one of the horses gave him a severe kick, depriving him of his senses. When he woke he was astonished to see the horses still meekly standing there. “This certainly was rather a suspiciously remarkable occurrence, ” stated a report in The Cape and Natal News.
The color of truth is grey – André Gide