The ever-popular annual Karoo Food Festival takes place again in Cradock this year from April 27 to 30. This event is a must for food lovers, particularly those who enjoy the special flavours of the Karoo lamb and venison. Remember, however, that this is an extremely popular event, so booking is essential. The programme, as usual, includes something for everyone. There will be paid and free food, wine and craft beer tastings, as well as a variety of food demonstrations and master classes. Several activities, especially designed to amuse and entertain children, also form part of the programme. And, for outdoor enthusiasts, there will be walks, rambles, farm visits, canoeing, abseiling, a mountain bike race, trail run and 4 x 4 challenge.

NOTE: Also diarise the Hantam Meat Festival in Calvinia on August 24 and 25.


The third Swaershoek MTB Challenge, which incorporates routes which pass through some of the most awe-inspiring scenery of the Bankberg Mountains, coincides with the Karoo Food Festival in Cradock at the end of April. The route, which covers challenging, sometimes bumpy ground, winds up and over the beautiful, Swaershoek Pass, and through magnificent scenery. It offers varying degrees of difficulty. The ascent is 1 045 metres over the first 21 km. It averages 1:12, but in parts the ascent is 1:9. There are some thrilling, sharp hairpin bends and switchbacks in the three different distance choices – 80 km, 45 km and 20 km. Kiddies races in three different age groups are also on the programme. Registration is essential. Proceeds from this race go a to welfare organisations in Cradock.



Williston is once again planning a wonderful winter festival. Scheduled to take place from August 30 to September l, this year it promises an exciting, jam-packed programme of entertainment, such as riel dancing and other local events. There will be an interesting array of stalls to visit and a variety of products and produce for sale.


Greta Wilson of Cape Town is keen to hear from anyone who knows (or knew) Danielle Jackson (nee Law), possibly the widow of Edwin Jackson of Omdraaisvlei farm between Britstown and Prieska in the Northern Cape Karoo. “While working on a project for a client I discovered that Edwin Jackson, a fourth-generation farmer, inherited Omdraaisvlei at the age of 21, after his father was killed in a small plane accident. This is a beautiful and historic farm with several interesting rock art sites. Years later, at the age of 51, Edwin was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and this led him to “take stock” of his life. He decided to travel and indulge his interest in a variety of cultures in remote parts of the world. His experiences of these travels, coupled to memories of a lifetime of farming in the Karoo, his interest in Tibetan Buddhism and the way in which he got to grips with his life-threatening progressive disease, are documented in his autobiographical novel, Flight of the Moth. The story is not a travelogue nor a saga of the effects of living with a terminal illness. It is a beautiful, poignant account of a man’s attempt to bring all the threads of his life together; to gain insight, reconciliation and understanding, as his life moves into its final phases. Flight of the Moth was awarded the Miriam Tlali Prize, in the highly contested autobiographical section, of the SA Independent Publishers Awards Competition at Richmond Booktown Festival in 2011. (This prize was named after the first black woman to publish a novel in English.) Greta would appreciate e.mail, landline or cellphone contacts for Danielle.



At the turn of the last century Dr Ernest Graham Little, a highly respected British physician, advised people to travel to South Africa for the sake of their health. Little was in charge of the Skin Department at St. Mary’s Hospital, in London, where he constantly explained the benefits of sunlight to his patients. He also, in his capacity as senior physician at the Last London Hospital for Children, constantly told parents how beneficial it would be if their children could play outdoors and while he was at St George’s Hospital and the London City Hospital for Chest Diseases he constantly sang the praises of South Africa’s fresh, clean, clear, Karoo air. He was confident that the opening up of the country by the British would result in a vigorous development of health spas across the hinterland, as well as extended growth in some then new fields for health workers. In Dr Little’s opinion the country’s natural therapeutic climate, soil, and environment would be able combat the advance of almost any insidious diseases. Only invalids, he said, should be dissuaded from going to South Africa because of transport difficulties. He prophesied that this problem would improve as population and health increased, and that it would in time “reach the standards required by Englishmen”. He added: “If you can imagine what London would have been like if British Rail had not run extra trains for the Coronation, then you will have an idea of the congestion and discomfort of transport systems in South Africa at present.”


“The voyage to South Africa, one of the most pleasant and healthy trips in the world,” said Dr Little. “In itself it is restorative to both mind and body. There are two excellent choices of travel – along the east coast by German steamers or by Union Castle, which has the monopoly of the west coast route. The east coast route is recommended for those who suffer from seasickness as vessels are never longer than five days at sea. Remember, however, that travel in February, March, or April, is oppressively hot and bear in mind that German cooking is not to the taste of all English palates. The sea can be rough along the Union Castle route, but the weather is mostly pleasant and food on these ships is comparable to that of a first-class European hotel. Both lines carry medical men.” He added that Bucknall Brothers, Rennie, White Star, German East Africa Lines and Shaw Saville were beginning to offer competition on “the South Africa run”. Persons suffering from severe influenza would regain their strength on the sea voyages he said and added: “I have also seen extraordinarily good results in cases of persistent insomnia. Most patients completely conquered their sleeplessness on these voyages. One patient, who showed signs of a nervous break-down and general paralysis, recovered his concentration and memory within a few weeks at sea.” Little advised patients suffering from phthisis to arrange to sleep on deck to avoid “the closeness of the cabins” at night. Most steamers carried a cow or two to provide infants with fresh milk, he said, but to comfort mothers added that a store of milk, was adequately sterilized for the steamers before they left England. “This milk usually lasts for the whole voyage,” he said.


Unrest broke out in Cape Town in 1849 when the Neptune arrived carrying 282 convicts. It was feared that they might be allowed to settle in South Africa. In his History of South Africa from 1725 Georg McCall Theal mentions that the Anti-convict Association called for all stores to be closed to everyone except known customers and for there to be no dealings with the government. Dissention followed and, on October 10 twelve men – Benjamin Norden, B Alexander, Jacob Letterstedt, Edward J Hanbury, Richard Clarence, Esau Harrington, Adriaan Beek, S Osler, C Stadler, Paul Bester, Jan Thuynsma and Captain Robert Stanford – were accused of supplying food to the government, denounced in the press and ostracized from society. By October 15, rioting broke out and several people were assaulted. Among them John Fairburn, editor of the SA Commercial Advertiser. His house was wrecked and he was severely injured, when he was attacked by several men, including Andrew White, a servant, Alexander Weir Patrick, a public house-keeper, Timbo, a groom, Basso, a labourer, Domingo, a carrier, Flamingo, a labourer, Camdero, a showman, Pieter George, alias Kaatje Piet, a quarryman, Matinga, a labourer, Jan Bloomerus, a servant, and Sebastian Willem, a soap boiler. They used sticks, stones, their hands and feet during the attack, stated an article in The Cape Frontier Times. All the men were arrested and brought to trial. They were found guilty, but oddly enough escaped punishment when it was found that one of the jurymen had impersonated one of his brothers who had been summoned to serve on the jury. This was a serious offence and it led to the case being dismissed “without any punishment being delivered,” stated the newspaper.


Pastor Andreas Johannes Abrahamse played a very meaningful role in the Great Karoo. He began his work as a Sunday school teacher at the Lutheran Mission Church in Cape Town in 1930 and enjoyed this so much that he studied to become an evangelist under Reverend C G Kohl. When he qualified in 1936, he was placed at Calitzdorp, in the Klein Karoo. Because of his great love for children and his concern for their education, Pastor Abrahamse established a school (with a house for a teacher) at Kraaldoorns. His services extended to Groenfontein where he acquired an old stone building to use for Sunday and midweek services. He completed his qualifications in the 1940s and, in time, served congregations in Anysberg, Avontuur, Dwyka, Floriskraal, Grootplaas, Haarlem, the Koup, Korsten, Laingsburg, Matjiesfontein, Matroosberg, Misgund, Touwsriver, Worcester, He ministered to these communities on both spiritual and educational levels.


Pastor Abrahamse spent 26 years at Laingsburg, where, for some time, he was the manager of a little four-roomed school. In time he built attendance up to seven classes. It continued to grow and after a while the government took it over. He was responsible for the development of many other little schools across the Karoo. These included schools for the children of farm workers and railway workers. From Laingsburg, Pastor Abrahamse ministered to congregations along the railway line as far north as Deelfontein. Here he had a tiny two classroom school. In Beaufort West, he established a congregation of railway workers who had been transferred to the village from Three Sisters and Krom River. He helped this congregation acquire land on which to build a school. Pastor Abrahamse served as a member of the Lutheran Council of Churches. According to information supplied by his wife and daughter, he played an important role in the formation of many regional Lutheran churches. He was the first president of the Cape-Orange Diocese. He was a founder member of the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Southern Africa. He attended the All African Lutheran Church meeting in Tanzania, was a delegate to a meeting in Madagascar, and while in that country he served as a guest preacher in some other congregational churches. He also assisted in the re-location of the Lutheran Seminary. His wife, Cathleen, was a co-worker and eventually served as a leader of the Women’s League at diocesan, circuit and parish levels. She loved him dearly and constantly offered supported both moral and spiritual support. She was also an active and most successful fund-raiser.


It seems 1850 got off to a quiet start in the Colony. The Cape Frontier Times of January 22, states that there was no news except from the Grand Jury which had stated that it had decided to ignore an indictment, framed against two men by the Attorney General, due to insufficient evidence. The charges were brought against John Thorn and C C Mocke jnr. They were charged with riotously assembling and inciting others to disturb the public peace on October 5, 1849. It was stated that they used force and arms to injure and maltreat Benjamin Norden, Adolph Wagner, Mark Salom, Benjamin Alexander and Fredrick Sanderson. The men allegedly threw stones, mud, clay, rotten potatoes and garbage at their victims and inflicted a variety of injuries. Fortunately, the intervention of the Grand Jury meant they were spared the disgrace of a public trial


Speaking at a Reform Club dinner in London on his return from Anglo-Boer War, surgeon Sir William MacCormac said the war was one of the best things that could have happened to England. The South African War, he said, had “brought out the manhood and national character of young men and displayed their bravery in the face of evil circumstances.” However, in reality, this war gave rise to profound concerns about the British soldier’s “manhood”, physical and moral capacities. The “national efficiency” and “national physique,” of Britain’s young men was widely discussed. The Lancet was an energetic advocate of compulsory military training: “It not only seems right, but it is essential, that there should be some system of obligatory military training for young men in this country. It would prove highly beneficial. Military training would strengthen character and manliness.” In the field of public health there arose a moralistic, even domestic, concern to redeem the poor from squalor, states Michael Brown in an article entitled Like a Devoted Army: Medicine, Heroic Masculinity, and the Military Paradigm in Victorian Britain. A militaristic desire to ensure a healthy “stock” for national and imperial defense was expressed in many quarters. By 1904, Dr Henry Beale Collins, told the Home Counties Branch of the Society of Medical Officers of Health that the foundations of the Empire at last rested on individuals who were physically fit and morally sound.


In 1847 Thomas Southwood Smith, an English physician and sanitary reformer, (born in 1788) claimed that men in the medical profession lived the shortest lives. This, he said, was because so many doctors were engaged in a service as dangerous as that of any army officer. In his opinion members of other learned professions worked in comparative ease and safety. Many agreed with him. Shortly after Thomas made this statement, the Lancet carried a notice announcing the death of Dr Jordan Roche Lynch at his home in Farringdon Street, London. Lynch, 38, had died of a severe inflammation of the throat, the result of a typhus fever contracted during the course of his work with the sick poor of the London’s West End. He left a young widow and three children “to deplore his untimely death”. His friends knew that the family faced an uncertain financial future and so arranged a collection to help provide for them. While addressing those present at the subscription fund meeting, social reformer Edwin Chadwick, stated that Dr Lynch fell in a public service which had been designed to combat ravages greater than those of war.” He added that Dr Lynch had closely pursued work “which was attended with dangers far greater than those of military service.” Men, like Lynch, he said were heroes and martyrs, who constantly faced danger. Other commentators, particularly those discussing medical men of the Anglo-Boer War concurred.


Well known author, Frederick Charles Metrowich, was born at Cookhouse in the Eastern Cape in 1903. After matriculating at Selborne College, he acquired BA and BEd Degrees from the University of Cape Town. He then taught for over 30 years and retired as principal of Graeme College, Grahamstown, in 1958. Metrowich wrote five books – Assegai over the Hills; Blackboard around my neck; Frontier Flames; The Valiant But Once and Scotty Smith. The latter covers the life of George St Leger Lennox, born into a noble Scottish family in 1845 and who became a Robin Hood type bandit in South Africa. A well-known lover, cattle and horse thief, elephant hunter, gun runner, smuggler, illegal diamond dealer, highwayman, and friend of the poor, he was popularly known as Scotty Smith. Rich in romance and interwoven with legend the story states that George was unwilling to marry the girl his father had chosen for him in Scotland, and therefore did not receive his inheritance. He thus adventured off across the world as a soldier of fortune. He took part in the Australian gold rush and failed, went to America as a prize fighter and failed. Then as a trained vet, joined the Indian Army. After an officer was killed and he controversially took charge of a regiment he was court martialed and discharged. He came to South Africa in 1877 and got involved in several legal and illegal activities. He was a genius when it came to fooling people and it was said that there was no jail cell that could hold him. Metrowich also wrote many articles of South African historical interest for magazines like The Outspan, Femina, Personality and Huisgenoot


A great fuss is made over hinterland weddings, states The Cape and Natal News of Janaury 31, 1859, and on reflection, it seems, not much has changed. “Even those of middling-class circumstances, go to great lengths of make a wedding day a memorable occasion. Every private carriage in the town is borrowed for the occasion and the coachman to boot, who is certain to turn up in his best suit and his whip stick decorated with half an ell of narrow white ribbon. All parties invited to the ceremony expect a carriage and pair placed at their disposal. Of course, the best is reserved for the conveyance of the newlyweds after the priest has tied the mystic knot, while going to the ceremony they are quite prepared to chance any conveyance. The fashion is for the bridegroom to go first and not unfrequently he has to endure a most intolerable penance of an hour and a half before all the friends are assembled. His hopes, however, are somewhat freshened by the appearance of several young ladies, dressed to death, who are to officiate as bridesmaids and a numerous progeny of very small children dressed up and flounced like wax dolls. Last of all comes the bride, escorted slowly by her doting father – mostly he looks half repentant and would fain be off the bargain – but it’s too late. All then is at once again abustle. The parson commences operations and once, the “I will” is pronounced – his work is accomplished. The clerk says “Amen” and the new made husband gives his wife a kiss. At that a buzz runs through the building like a soft note of a bugle declaring his victory. Again, the whole of the city’s carriages, buggies and hackneys are put in requisition to convey all concerned to a jolly good breakfast.”

Study has been my sovereign remedy against the worries of life. I have never had a care that an hour’s reading could not dispel.” Baron Charles de Montesquieu.