FESTIVAL AGAIN SET TO BE A WINNER

Visitors to Prince Albert’s annual Olive, Food and Wine Festival will be warmly welcomed this month. Karoo cuisine will be the main focus of the festival from May 6 to 7. Visitors will be able to savour Karoo flavours at a variety of restaurants. Taste treats will include olives, dried fruits, award winning cheeses, wines, witblitz, Karoo lamb, ostrich, venison and a variety of traditional dishes. Some food stalls will host cooking demonstrations by local chefs. There will be bread baking, ‘potjiekos’ and ‘potbrood’ competitions, a beer tent, a fairground, puppet shows, and some special activities to keep youngsters amused while parents enjoy demonstrations, art exhibitions or excursions organised by the Cultural Foundation. There is a choice of sundowner trips. One goes to Weltevrede Fig Farm and the other to Bergwater Vineyards and its breathtaking 4 x 4 trail. “Both excursions promise to be popular, so it would be wise to book,” said tourist information officer, Charlotte Olivier. Evening entertainment includes dancing, cabaret and a ghost walk.

A NEW LOOK AT HERITAGE

Prince Albert is taking a closer look at its heritage. Some time ago the local council decided that part of the village was worthy of declaration as a heritage site, however, just to be sure that this met with the approval of all residents it recently commissioned Environmental Governance Trust (EGT) consultant, Kallie Erasmus, to facilitate meetings with all communities. He is soon to report back on his findings. The local municipality is committed to the preservation of the cultural heritage of this historic village.

ANDERSON & CO ARE UP TO DATE

The Anderson family website has been updated. Genealogical researcher Ralph Anderson says: “The latest information was added on March 24. So, anyone interested in the Anderson Clan, the Anderson-Davel extended family of Zimbabwe, Blyth, De Jager, Du Plessis, Edmeades, Forsythe, Helm, Jackson, Melville, Pretorius and Weeber families, should visit http://griquatownandersons.com.”

FREE SERVICE FROM AN ODD DOC

Beaufort West schoolboys gave the local doctor’s rooms a wide berth in the mid-1880s. The reason? He often took pot shots at them. Cecil Alport tells this tale in his autobiography The House of Curious. “One of Beaufort West’s characters was Dr Henry William Drew, an Irishman, generally a favourite among townspeople, but he did some extraordinary things. As children we never passed his surgery without running for our lives if the door was ajar. He had an air-gun and used it to fire at our legs as we passed to and from school. This, of course, was done in fun, and he usually missed. However, if he did put a pellet into one of us, he was always prepared to take it our again without charging a fee.”

ATTRACTIVE WAY TO FRESHEN THE SEWERS

Odd-looking, free standing, slim black poles, with crowns at their apex, intrigued visitors on a special tour of the Greek Orthodox Church in Bloemfontein recently. They appeared to have no purpose. They were not linked by electric cables or telephone lines. “They had a very important role in all old suburbs, such as this one, Hilton, the oldest in Bloemfontein,” said researcher Joan Abrahams. “Known as ‘poof poles,’ they are specially designed to suck in air through the crown, down their hollow ‘stems’ and into the sewers below street level. Erected at the turn of the last century, when Hilton, Bloemfontein’s first suburb came into being, these poles ensured sewers were well ventilated, with no build-up of gas.”

SA PILOT’S HIGH AND LONELY GRAVE

A South African pilot, killed in a severe Scottish snow storm in 1943, is buried in the highest and loneliest war grave in the United Kingdom. Flying Officer James Steyn, 23, and five crew members, all from 19 Operational Training Unit, at Kinloss, were on a routine training flight in a twin-engined Avro Anson, before being transferred to bomber squadrons. They took off from Kinloss, turned west towards Sutherland and flew straight into the worst snowstorm the area had seen in 100 years. Visibility was nil and they hit the side of Ben More. Three crew members were killed instantly. The other two, who were badly injured, tried to shelter in one of the aircraft’s inflatable dinghies. Conditions were so dreadful that they too soon died of exposure and their injuries. The wreckage was found only by accident, six weeks later. Because of the hostile terrain and dangers of trying to move the bodies, the men were buried at the crash site. With James Steyn, holder of a Distinguished Flying Cross, were Pilot Officer, William Drew, 28; Observer, Sgt Charles Mitchell, 31; Training Observer, Sgt Jack Emery, 20; Wireless Operator, Flight Sergeant, Brendan Kenny, who was due to leave for home after the flight to celebrate his 21st birthday, and recently married Air Gunner, Sergeant Arthur Tompsett. In March, this year, the Royal Air Force’s 202 Squadron, from Lossiemouth, flew family members to this isolated grave, just below the summit of 3 243ft Ben More Assynt, reports Scotland’s Press and Journal. Ingrid Paterson, of Inverness, who thought this story would assist Col Graham du Toit with his research into graves of South African soldiers, said: “The RAF mission allowed the families to lay wreaths at the stone cairn and metal cross, which marks the grave, and say a prayer there. For most it was an emotional trip, their first and last visit to the burial site.” There is also a memorial in Inchnadamph churchyard at the foot of the mountain.

WRATH OF A WRONGED SOLDIER?

A gravestone outside a Pretoria military cemetery was constantly stuck by lightening until a wrong was righted. “Then, the lightening stopped, never to re-occur,” said Col Graham C L du Toit, MMM, who is researching service records. “Private M Letchford, of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, part of the British Occupying Force garrisoned in Pretoria after the Anglo-Boer War, was accused of misappropriating canteen funds. After being tried, found guilty and court-marshalled, Letchford was executed by a firing squad. On November 20, 1912, he was buried in unconsecrated ground outside the fence of Roberts Heights Cemetery (now Voortrekkerhoogte Old Number 1 Military Cemetery.) His family took legal advice and had the case re-investigated. For years, while new evidence was gathered, the headstone on Private Letchford’s grave was constantly struck by lightening. “It was continuously repaired,” said Graham. “Eventually the case was reheard and this time Private Letchford was found not guilty. His military record was cleared, his grave consecrated and the cemetery fence was extended to incorporate it within its limits. The lightening strikes stopped and have never reoccurred. No one can explain why.”

CAMPAIGN TO SAVE WINDOWS WITH SA LINK

The great niece of a young girl killed in South Africa in the early 1900s is campaigning to preserve her memorial in Scotland. Agnes Tafts Kerr was in her late teens when she came to Africa to visit her brother, Dr Robert England Kerr, in 1900. One day, while on an outing with friends the horses drawing their carriage bolted. Agnes leapt from the runaway vehicle and was killed. The other occupants all stayed aboard and survived. Agnes’s remains were shipped back to Inverness. She was buried in Tomnahurich cemetery and two stained glass windows were erected to her memory in the Inverness West Parish Church, which had been built in 1840. This building is now part of a complex being converted into flats. Inverness West Parish’s minister, Rev Alistair Malcolm, and his congregation have already moved to a new church at Inshes. Agnes’s great niece, Jean Kerr campaigned for the stained-glass windows, part of the rich heritage of the Inverness riverside, to be preserved. Her efforts have resulted in the development company considering their relocation, says an article in The Inverness Chronicle.

FROM ONE EXTREME TO ANOTHER

Bad weather often frustrated the British in the Karoo during the Anglo-Boer War. In a letter home, Lieut Lawrence Edward Grace “Titus” Oates, of the 6th Inniskillings Dragoons, wrote: “We have had fearful weather for days now: tropical downpours with lots of wind. As we have no tents and are lying in the open, we are having rather a wet time. I was out on patrol the other night and it poured the whole night: if I’d been in England I should have died of pneumonia by now.” Later he apologised for thumbprints on a letter. “Excuse the dirty paper. Water is very scarce. I have not had a proper wash for two days now.” Gradually he acclimatised. “Last night it rained. I am now sitting on my bed, which is drying nicely.”

UNFORGETTABLE TRAIN TRIP TO CIVILISATION

Train travel in the early 1900s was considered quite adventurous. When Cullen and Beryl Goldsberg left the then Northern Rhodesia for Cape Town at the turn of the last century, on their journey “home and to civilisation,” they felt a few twinges of regret. They’d spent a year “on the dark continent” while he served with the Northern Rhodesian Government. “Beryl suffered acute attacks of ‘Africanitis,’ a disease for which there is no cure, except the regular arrival of letters from home and the English Mail,” writes Cullen in An African Year. Personally, Cullen felt Africa held marvellous recuperative qualities. He wrote: “Here one can slink to bed at seven suffering sheer, detestable boredom and wake at dawn filled with radiant energy.” The Cullens’s “African year” was “a kaleidoscope of experiences.” The first leg of their homeward-bound journey was a seven-day train trip taken in the driest season. “The journey seemed to take years. Dust poured through every chink and crevice on the train. I could barely see Beryl across the carriage and would not have recognised her if I could. She was covered in dust. When the sun poured in, we pulled down the blinds, but it became too stuffy to breathe, so we lifted them again. Beyond the windows lay the ‘haunting beauty’ of the Great Karoo. It was breathtaking. There is no place on earth quite like it. We saw ostriches and ruined blockhouses, as well as enough game to ease the monotony. Yet, we were glad when the train eventually reached the terminus of the Cape to Cairo line in the shadow of Table Mountain. We felt we had “journeyed from savagery to civilisation.”

KAROO LAD’S RISE TO SUCCESS

A man with roots in the Karoo rose to leave an indelible mark on South Africa history. James Benjamin Robinson, who claimed to have found the first payable diamond deposits at Hebron, was born in Cradock. After giving his name to Robinson Koppie on Adamantia farm, outside Hebron, he rose to become one of the country’s most aggressive and disliked mining magnates. JB, the son of Robert and Martha Robinson, was tough, ruthless, aggressive and extremely difficult, writes Robert Crisp in The Outlanders. He started out as a trader in Dordrecht, and then he became a soldier and helped defend the Free State against Basuto invaders in 1865. “By July, l868, he was a travelling salesman, plying highways and byways in a wagon loaded with a huge variety of goods. On one of his seemingly endless journeys, he was crossing a little stream when he noticed thousands of tiny pebbles shimmering beneath the water. At the time “diamond fever” was rife, so he scooped up a handful. That night in the dark of his room, he worked for hours testing each against a piece of glass. None made an impression, but just as he decided all were worthless, one suddenly scratched the surface. He knew it was a diamond. He lit his candle, examined the scratch and leapt into the air, yelping with joy. His astonished host ran into the room to find out what was wrong. JB quickly pulled himself together and said he’d had a nightmare. Next day he registered his claim. Over the years Robinson amassed a vast fortune. His wealth almost rivalled that of Cecil John Rhodes. Money, drive and persistence led him to Parliament and to fame. His company became the largest single mining operation in the world and its with dumps grew to be six times the size of the Great Pyramid of Egypt.”

TEACHERS VANISH INTO HISTORY

Two people who taught Kuilspoort Farm School in the 1890s seem to have vanished without trace. Miss Grout and Mr Jobstone, whom Clarence de Jager mentions in his diary, are giving researcher Alwyn Smit severe headaches. He can’t trace them. “Clarence, son of Hendrik Johannes de Jager, of Kuilspoort, was born in Beaufort West in 1877. Later a partner in Schultz & De Jager, a legal practise in Colesberg, Clarence left an interesting and detailed diary.” Alwyn is trying to find out more about the people he mentions. A former Beaufort West attorney, Ray de Villiers, has a copy of a letter sent to Miss Grout, via Hendrik de Jager, by Ben Pritchard. “Ben and his father, Charles, were partners in an early Beaufort West legal practise, Charles Pritchard & Son,” says Ray. “The letter, dated June 20, 1893, addressed to H de Jager esq, Kuilspoort, reads: ‘Dear Sir, Kindly inform Miss Grout that one trunk, one portmanteau, one sewing-machine case, plus one bundle addressed to her, are at my office.’” From this it appears the family were still in touch with Miss Grout. Perhaps these were articles she had inherited. “Ben played the organ in the local Dutch Reformed Church,” says Ray. “He also loved tortoise stew. Willie Krügel used to ride out on the Fraserburg road to catch mountain tortoises so that Ben’s mother could prepare her son’s favourite dish.” Teacher Jobstone is another mystery. “Was his name not perhaps Johnstone or Jobson?” asks Alwyn. The Beaufort West Courier of February 23, 1883, advertises that the Jobson Brothers, of Uitspan, sell “Delicious Normandy butter at 2s. per lb, Shetland ‘Ling’ Fish at 6d. a lb, sultanas at 1s a lb, and golden Syrup at 1/3d a 2lb tin.” “Perhaps one of them was a teacher,” says Alwyn. “Can anyone help me unravel this puzzle?”

COLOURFUL SWEDE PASSES AS AN ENGLISHMAN

Hjalmar Petterson Janek, one of the most colourful Swedes to visit South Africa in the 1800s was a fascinating character. His superb self confidence and ability to speak English fluently helped him escape from British custody twice during the Anglo-Boer War. Janek, who was born in Helsingborg in about 1876, had an adventurous spirit. He went to sea at an early age, then hearing of opportunities in South Africa came here in search of adventure in the 1890s. As a volunteer soldier he served in a campaign to Swaziland in 1897. He almost died in the Transvaal Lowveld, first of thirst near Terra Mala and later of malaria.When the Anglo-Boer War broke out he was in Pretoria. He enlisted in the Scandanavian Corps supporting the Boers. He saw action at several sites including Magersfontein. Janek was captured in Pretoria but escaped. Recaptured, he managed to slip out of jail with a group of 137 Boers being sent to Cape Town en route to Ceylon. It was a dreadful day. Pouring rain made it impossible for the officer in charge to count the men, who were milling about. He gave up and herded them into the waiting train. Janek ended up in an overcrowded coupé. He instantly planned to escape. While others slept, he removed the roof light, found the aperture too small to crawl through, so he reattached it. Then he borrowed a blanket from a Dutchman called Slotema, and at about 03h00 threw himself from the window of the train, which was hurtling through the Karoo. “I hit the ground with such force I was sure I’d broken my left arm,” he said. “The pain in my elbow was intense, the arm swole up immediately, but it wasn’t broken. I was bitterly cold. Thick frost covered everything. Frozen I set off to find a station. All culverts were guarded; however, extreme cold had forced the guards to huddle around fires. They were thus easy to spot.” As Janek walked to Rhenosterkop station, near Nelspoort, one group of guards half-heartedly fired at him, but perhaps taking him for a farm worker, they let him go. At Rhenosterkop station, Janek passed himself off as an Englishman, made friends with the station chef, told a story about a stolen bicycle and was given clothes and hearty breakfast. He caught the train to Beaufort West, where he used the money he had secreted in his belt to buy a ticket for Cape Town. Aboard the train he befriended a British officer and his wife and joined them for lunch at Matjiesfontein. In Cape Town Janek bought a boat ticket for Durban, where he purchased a khaki uniform and passed himself off as a British Border Mounted Infantry volunteer. He made his way up the coast to Europe, where he found border guards sympathetic to the Boers, so he easily made his way home. Janek arrived in Helsingborg in November 1900. He revisited South Africa for the unveiling of the Scandanavian Corps Memorial at Magersfontein in 1927.

SA’S FIRST TAKE AWAY?

Company cooks baked all bread in South Africa in a communal kitchen outside the Fort until 1659. They were given “letters of freedom” which permitted them to “to sell bread, all kinds of pastry; roasted and baked food to the public,” only after they had baked and delivered bread to the Company. The first to set up a business was Louwys Richart, an indoor cook, who made small cakes, cracknels and delicacies “for those who wished to eat more daintily.” He and his partner, Lambertse, are said to have been the first free bakers to make a profit by selling food to strangers in South Africa.”

EXCELLENT ACCOUNT OF SEIGE WAS ALMOST LOST

A missionary, who wrote what is considered to be one of the most important diaries on the siege of Kimberley, had ties with the Klein Karoo. Carel Meyer, spent his childhood at Amalienstein Mission Station, near Ladismith. His diary, the only one written in German, was almost lost. By pure luck it was salvaged from the mailbag on the mail ship Mexican and delivered to Berlin in 1900, in a shocking state, and barely legible. It was printed as Days of Horror. Carl, born in Germany on November 15, 1850, spent his early childhood in Quedlinburg, while his father, Karel, a horticulturist, trained as a missionary. In 1857 Karel accepted a post as administrator of Amalienstein Mission Station. Carl was educated there until he was old enough to return to Germany to further his studies in Berlin. There he met the love of his life, Hanna Dietrich, who at the age of 18 travelled alone to South Africa to marry him. By then Carl had joined his father at Pniel Mission Station. He supervised the building of the first church in Kimberley, a Lutheran church. In 1963 it was presented to De Beers and today forms part of the Open Mine Museum. In the extreme heat during the siege of Kimberley Carel rode from one end of the town to the other doing mission work. This dedicated service took its toll and by December 1899, he had lost 32lbs. After the siege the German community presented Carl and Hannah with £40 to be spent on a well-deserved holiday, but by then he was critically ill with stomach cancer which led to his death in June 1902.


Those who speak don’t know and those who know don’t speak – A Vatican sayings