A special conference to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the Anglo Boer War is being planned by The Friends of the War Museum. “In recent years the study and interpretation of this war have created new insights,” says chairman Dr Arnold van Dyk. “We are inviting people who wish to address the conference to let us have abstracts, no longer than 300 words, by April 30. These should be e-mailed to vicky@anglo-boer.co.za Presentations of 20-minutes with 10-minutes for interaction, question and discussion may be delivered in English or Afrikaans.” He added that the programme would include foreign as well as local speakers and that the British High Commissioner has been invited. Highlights will include an Olympiad for schools, an excursion to Sannaspos, a horse parade, a philately exhibition, choirs, concerts, musical recitals and a re-enactment by the Oorlogspoort commando. There will also be a church service, a formal dinner at Onze Rust and possibly an unveiling of a memorial to President Steyn. A similar programme is planned for Kedar Lodge Hotel on President Kruger’s former farm, Boekenhoutfontein.

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The Friends of the War Museum is also planning several other interesting excursions this year. Among these will be a two-day Easter Weekend trip to Phillipolis, (April 19 to 21), with visits to General Renier Grobler’s grave, outlying farms and skirmishes sites. Lectures will take place at Bankfontein, a venue owned by Dr Joop Fourie, an expert on stones, trees, Karoo bossies and herbal medicines. The cost will be about R600 p p, excluding transport. In June l, Dr Willie Pretorius, will discuss the war experiences of General P R Viljoen’s sons Ouboet and Henning. Museum Board chairman, Dr Garth Benneyworth, will talk on Traces of Forced Labour During the S A War on July, 25. There will be a tour of the Cape Midlands in September and, on November 2, Vicky Heunis will talk on Prisoner of War Art. Chairman, Dr Arnold van Dyk reminds ABW enthusiasts that the museum has a range of inexpensive, bilingual publications on buildings and battlefields.


During the Anglo-Boer War sympathy for the Boers reached the furthest corners of the world. In faraway Canada Reverend Samuel Kennedy Niven, minister, at St Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Manitoba, openly supported the Boers and was forced to resign, states the Ecclegen list of ministers of the Free Church of Scotland. He moved to Idaho in 1900 where he died a year later. Samuel, the son of Neil Niven, a stone miner, and his wife, Ann (nee Gibson) was born in Auchinleck, Ayrshire on October 4, 1847. He qualified as a box maker before enrolling as a theological student, at the University of Glasgow in 1871. On qualifying he was licensed by the Free Presbytery of Hamilton, on July 2, 1874, and ordained in Bannockburn, Stirlingshire, the following year. Something went wrong and on July 7, 1896, 150 members of his congregation brought charges against him and he was suspended for eight weeks. The situation could not be resolved, so he resigned on November 10 and went to Canada, but more trouble lay ahead and this cost him his job.


Way back South Africa had some most amusing taxes. “In the 1700’s a tax was levied on windowpanes,” states historian Marthinus van Bart. “In those days glass panes, although small, were a new technological development and extravagant luxury. If you had such windows you were seen to be wealthy. Inspectors actually prowled about counting windowpanes, and writing out bills. Before glass linen dipped in melted bees wax was used to cover the window openings and wooden shutters closed these off at night. This led to Cape Dutch Town Houses having imitation windows and even imitation doorways painted onto blank walls. A tax was also levied on blue-and-white Deft tiles used as fire-place surrounds!


The 1800s were tumultuous times in South Africa. The Boers trekked out of the Colony and settled between the Caledon and Orange Rivers. Britain set up a residency in this area and sent Captain William Sutton, to take office on December 8, 1845. His brief was to take care of government affairs and keep peace among the tribes living beyond the frontier. He could not manage and within a month, on January 6, 1846, he was succeeded by Captain (later Major) Henry Douglas Warden. Then, on February 3, 1848, Governor, Sir Harry Smith, annexed the territory. Enraged Boers chased Warden out of Bloemfontein and Charles Urquhart Stuart took control until July 3, 1852, when Henry Green, 34, a man destined to play a vital role in the affairs of Colesberg, was appointed. Henry, served the Sovereignty until it was “abandoned and renounced” on January 30, 1854. He then left for Kimberley to become a diamond prospector and later a farmer. He loved horses, and specialised in horse breeding. Some, like Young Express, did extremely well at the races at Colesberg.


Henry, who was born on August 23, 1818, came to South Africa in the 1840s, aged 22, with his brothers, Fred, Edward, Charles and Arthur. Fred moved through the old South West Africa and Rhodesia hunting elephants and Edward joined the Cape Mounted Rifles, but later transferred to India and sent his wife, Emily, and family back to England. They were eventually reunited in New Zealand, states family researcher Stephen Hayes. In the 1850s Henry went to Kensington, in England, to visit his retired father, William John Green and, in 1856, married his cousin, Louisa Margaret Aitchison in Chelsea. They returned to South Africa where she produced twin boys – Frank Aitcheson Green and Henry John Aitcheson Green – in 1857. The twins, were just over two years old, when they died within days of each other in January 1860. Louisa was overwhelmed and in a weakened state when she heard Henry had been appointed as civil commissioner and resident magistrate in Colesberg from July 20, 1860. She was hardly fit to make the long and arduous road trip in June, but she insisted on accompanying him and that decision cost her her life.


By the time the coach reached Zoutekloof, the Laingsburg farm of Maria and Stephanus Greeff, Louisa was in a semi-conscious, delirious state. Henry carried her from the coach aware that she would be unable to continue. He begged her to get well and promised to return for her. However, despite the kind, solicitous attentions of the Greefs, Louisa did not recover. She died from dysentery without regaining consciousness. She was only 32. She was buried in the little farm graveyard where, today, a black marble stone, which should have marked her grave lies broken on the veld. Henry was devastated by news of Louisa’s death. He threw himself into his new post and was a prime role player in all public affairs and local projects. He became chairman of almost every enterprise in Colesberg. He laid the foundation stone for the new Dutch Reformed Church in November 1861, but soon afterwards a scaffolding fell down injuring some of the workmen. The stone was broken and lost, yet it is still commemorated in the church. Two years later Henry married Ida Carolina Johanna von Lilienstein, 27, who was born in Germany on December 4, 1835. Her father, Count Carl Arthur von Lilienstein, was a member of a light dragoon regiment on the Prussian/Danish border before coming to South Africa. Her mother was Catharina Elise Staeker. In 1857 her father, a member of the British German Legion, had brought a party of 100 soldiers, recruited for the Crimean War, to South Africa to settle in British Kaffraria, near East London, and to act as border guards because cattle rustling was rife. They created the little settlement of Berlin. Von Lilienstein and his family moved to Colesberg, but after a while decided to return to Germany with their youngest daughter after Ida accepted Henry’s marriage proposal.


Henry and Ida were married in January 1862, by Rev S de Kock. Miss De Kock was Ida’s bridesmaid and R A Green, Henry’s groomsman. Peter van Maltitz lent the couple his farm, Middelwater, for their honeymoon. The weather was excruciatingly hot and dry. The drought was eventually broken by very heavy rains which caused the Zeekoei River to flood and prevented Henry from attending a circuit meeting at Hanover. Three of their grandchildren (offspring of their daughter Ida Margaret Catherine and George Arthur Montgomery Tapscott) made names for themselves in sport. Lancelot George (Dusty) and Eric Lionel (Doodles) played cricket for Griqualand West. Doodles was also a South African cricket and tennis star. Their sister, Ruth Daphne (Billy), was an excellent tennis player and a quarter finalist at Wimbledon. She was also the first woman to play at Wimbledon without stockings. Henry died on September 29, 1884, aged 66.


Barney Worth, who was said to be the fattest man in the world, visited South Africa with Max Wax’s show in the early 1900s. He was 21 years old, weighed 686lb (311kg), stood 5ft. 6in (1,7m) tall and measured 6ft. 3in (1,9m) around the waist, said The Launceton Examiner of April 27, 1937. The show also featured Joy, 23, a fat lady. They were friendly rivals as both had been born in Cooktown in Queensland, Australia. The show was booked for the Empire Exhibition and to tour the South African hinterland, where people from across the Karoo flocked to see them. This pair got married in South Africa. When they heard that Max was going to England for the Coronation, and they begged him to take them along. They had difficulties boarding the ship. Barney was too fat to walk up the gangway. It was simply too narrow, so he had to be slung aboard by a crane. Joy was “thin” enough, but the gangplank, creaked, groaned and bent menacingly, under her weight. At the time she weighed 346lb (157kg) – she had just slimmed down from 526lb (238,5kg).


They were famished when they arrived in England, so they ordered a meal consisting of two chickens, 2kg of roast pork, two litres of soup, 1kg of beans, two large salads, one plum pudding, four pots of tea and seven litres of water. The couple, hoped to work across England, but Joy found that her slimming programme had damaged her career opportunities and she had to go on a fattening diet to get back into “carnival shape”. After disembarking at Folkestone Barney had to travel in the luggage van because he could not get through the train compartment doors. He also could not get on to buses. In England his left ankle began to give him trouble and “gave out under the strain of his immense weight”. He was totally helpless and could not move. Barney’s suits had to be specially tailored. Each needed eight yards (7,3m) of cloth and even a “rough affair” cost him over £20. The only ready-made articles he could purchase were collar studs, cuff links and boot laces. Joy easily got over her clothing difficulties. She simply made her own outfits, says Carel Birkby in The Pagel Story.


Some hinterland church bells have fascinating histories. A great bell was hung at Genadendal, S A’s first mission station established in 1738 by Morovian missionary, Georg Schmidt. Elegant pillars were built to hold the bell, which had previously hung in a tree. It was a gift from Jan Marthinus Theunissen, field cornet at Oude Post, the Company farm at Rietvallei, near Swellendam. Jan bought it for 40 riksdaalders on a sale in the Hottentots Holland area. Its peals echoed through the kloofs for only for a short while before they were stifled by the Dutch Reformed Church, which had long been opposed to “foreign” churchmen and missionaries states research on the Berlin Missionaries. The main objector was Stellenbosch’s Dominee Meent Borcherds who stated that “the ringing of the bell could be heard in Stellenbosch” and added that the “sect should be repressed”. The Lutherans were thus forbidden to ring their bell without official consent. They were also denied permission to build their own church. When they eventually won the day, they had to do without a belfry for their church bell. Only when the British took over the Cape in 1795 did Lord Macartney give permission for the bell to be used. The old bell still has pride of place and serves the community, and despite its small crack, still emits a clear note.


Graaff-Reinet DRC tower, which was completed in 1886, has two bells, one with a higher pitch than the other. Locals said these sang out: “Kom kerk-toe, bring n pennie saam” (Come to church and bring along a penny). The heavy bell in the belfry of St James’s Anglican Church in Graaff-Reinet is almost as old, says historian Teddy Whitlock. It was installed in 1894. Later James Reeve and Partners presented the church with “a ring of bells”, but these three were recast into a single large bell in London a few years later. “The Angelus bell hangs in a metal bellcote adjacent to the Roman Catholic Church in Bourke Street,” he said. The oldest bell in town came from the old Oefeningshuis (Activity Centre), once a school and mission church, now the Hester Rupert Art Museum. This bell was moved from Church Street during restorations in 1966 and placed at the original main entrance, now at the back of the building. Some say this bell came from the first DRC which was destroyed by fire in 1799,” states Teddy in Stoep Stories No 7. “Uniondale’s DRC has soft, muted bells. Apparently three Dutch bells were installed way back in 1883, but they were so heavy that they damaged the church tower. So a new tower was built and the bells were firmly fixed onto a wooden beam. They cannot move. A manual pulley system activates the clappers resulting in a rather gentle sound.”

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The tiny Eastern Cape village of Hankey is home to the largest sundial in Africa and the Southern Hemisphere. It weighs one ton, has a diameter of 34.6m and a gnomon (the pole that casts the shadow) of 18m. It was erected in 1989 just below Vergaderingskop Mountain by local farmer, Dirk Schellingerhout, to commemorate the town’s 160th anniversary. Hankey, the oldest town in the Gamtoos Valley, was established in 1826 on the farm Wagendrift owned by the Damant Brothers, and named in honour of the Reverend William Alers Hankey, an ex-banker, and the secretary of the London Missionary Society (LMS). Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, he was the son of Thomas Hankey, a London banker, merchant, Jamaica planter and treasurer of the Foundling Hospital. Wagendrift, a 1 427 morgen (1 619ha) farm, was purchased in 1822 by LMS superintendent Dr John Philip, when he visited the Eastern Cape in search of land to grow maize for the society’s main mission station at Bethelsdorp. The locals called him the man behind the “mielie scheme”. Hankey Mission Station grew out of this project. Initially 25 families with surnames as diverse as Windvogel, Diedrich, Abraham, Stuurman, Dragoonder, Armoed, Scheepers, Matroos, Mahtjies, Gerts, Konstable and Kettledas lived there, so did James Wait, Salmon and Stefanus Ferreira and the Damant Brothers.


Dr John Philip and the William Hankey were trustees of the original station. It was terminated in 1875 and restarted in 1876 as an independent mission. The first missionaries included Reverends Miles, Melville and Williams as well as Dr Philips’s two sons, William Enowy and Thomas Durant. The first irrigation scheme in this valley was started in 1827 by James Wait who started digging a canal from the Klein River with the assistance of 50 workmen and 50 head of cattle. A year later the canal was finished and 400 acres (162ha) of land could be irrigated. Dr Philip declared it the greatest work of its kind ever undertaken in the Colony. The area was plagued by drought and in April 1843, a second irrigation scheme, a 228m long tunnel, was dug from the Gamtoos River through the mountain by William Enowy Philip and members of his congregation.


Using picks, shovels, hammers and chisels. There were two work parties, one on each side of the mountain and progress was painfully slow. They managed to excavate only about 0,3m a day. The excavated rock was carried out in baskets. Light inside the tunnel was provided by candles and lanterns. There was no ventilation and rock falls were a constant danger. It was as tall as the average man and a metre wide. A shot rang out when the two sections met and the tunnellers were overjoyed to find the estimated the error in alignment was only about. 0,8m. The tunnel was twice extensively damaged by floods – once in 1847 and again in 1867. Both times it was repaired. On each occasion it took many months before the rockfalls had been cleared. The tunnel was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on March 28, 1969. When, the entrance caved in, it took 15 months to repair. This was the first tunnel scheme in South Africa. It was used for 125 years.


Tragedy struck shortly before the tunnel was opened. On July 1, 1845, a calm, sunny day, 31 year old William and his 10-year-old nephew, Johnny Philip, the son of newspaper pioneer, John Fairburn, who was married to Dr Philip’s daughter, crossed the Gamtoos River using a flat bottomed boat to inspect the diggings for the water channels. The boat capsized and both drowned states, Peter Philip in his book A Fifeshire Family. William, who at the time was in charge of the Hankey Mission, was a popular man. He had been sent to London for his schooling but ran away from College, joined the Royal Navy and later became a merchant seaman and navigator. After some adventures on the high seas, he returned to South Africa, studied surveying, then went back to Scotland to train as a missionary and returned again in 1841 with Alice Blair (nee Bell), his Scottish wife. Shortly after he took over the mission a serious drought hit the area and locusts destroyed the crops. Food became so scarce that people started leaving the mission station. William was desperate to keep his flock and to feed them. This led to his idea for a tunnel. William was survived by Alice and five children – four sons and a daughter.

FORTHCOMING EVENTS: Experience the quiet, tranquility of the Karoo on March 23, 2019 at the Murraysburg Stil Fees at Grootdriefontein, Tel No 049 854 9131. Also Victoria-Wes Wildsfees & Duiwe Fly-inn – June 14 – 15 – Contact 072 243 3597 – vicweswildsfees@gmail.com

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts – Winston Churchill