LAWRENCE GREEN’S KAROO TO BE REPRINTED …

Lawrence G Green’s ever popular book, Karoo, first published in 1955, is to be reprinted. In this work Green captures the essence of this vast arid land – the Great Karoo, Little Karoo, far corners of the North Western Cape and Namaqualand. He writes of inventors, indigenous people, patriarchs and other fascinating characters, who have all lived in the solitude and silence of this fascinating area. They are all as essential a part of the Karoo as the mountains, plains, dry river beds, baboons, jackals, sheep, springbok, trekbokke and the San rock engravings. Originally this work was illustrated by about a dozen black and white photographs and sketches, but the new version will be fully illustrated by a range of superb colour as well as black and white pictures and paintings. Thumbnail pictures also adorn virtually every page. The beautiful Dorelle painting of a farmer and Hottentot shepherd among the sheep, which was used on the original, will be retained on the dust cover of the reprint. The man behind this project is publisher Tony Westby Nunn. He says: “The text, of course, will remain unchanged. The only updates will be references to dates mentioned by Green when referring happenings that were current 50 years ago.” The reprint of will be limited to 1 000 copies in hard cover with dust cover. The book will be ready by the end of the year.

Note: Tony Westby-Nunn Publishers and Elephant Head Publications specialise in books on South African history. The range includes books on the Anglo-Boer War, Simons Town, Graaff Reinet and Hout Bay.

…AND, THERE’S MORE

Edna and Frank Bradlow’s book, Here Comes the Alabama, is also being reprinted by Tony Westby Nunn. “Edna has revised the book bringing it up to date with the salvaging of the wreck in waters outside Cherbourg and the reinternment of Lt Simeon W Cummings from Saldanha Bay to the United States in 1994.” For over 130 years Lt Cummings, assistant engineer on the CSS Alabama, was the only known Confederate serviceman to be killed during the War for Southern Independence and buried outside the United States. He died on August 3, 1863, as a result of a shooting accident. He had gone ashore with three other officers to hunt game in the woods near Saldanha. Late that evening, while shooting ducks from a dingy, Lt Cummings attempted to pull a gun towards himself by the muzzle. The hammer caught on the thwart and the lieutenant was shot, at point-blank range, through the chest and heart. He exclaimed: “Oh me!” and died instantly with a “never to be forgotten look of appeal and despair on his face.” The ship’s commanding officer, Admiral Raphael Semmes, who purportedly brushed away a tear from his weather-beaten face on hearing the news, ordered Cummings buried in a private cemetery on Kliprug Farm. As usual, as many interesting paintings, lithographs and photographs, all obtained through rigorous research, have been included in this reprint. Here Comes the Alabama will be printed in hard cover with dust cover and will also be limited to 1 000 copies. It will be available in June. Tony also hopes to reprint the late Professor Colin Coetzee’s Military Villages in the Eastern Cape – The unfortified Military Villages of Sir Harry Smith 1848 – 1850. This publication will be limited to 500 copies in soft cover and all illustrations will be in black and white. It is scheduled to be available by the end of this year.

A MEETING OF CULTURAL MINDS

The Annual General Meeting and Symposium of the Heritage Foundation of South Africa will be held in Prince Albert on August 10 and 11. “The focus is the conservation of all aspects of heritage including elements of built environments, contextual landscapes and intangible heritage, such as oral traditions, histories and traditional skills,” said Dr Judy McGuire, one of the organisers. “There will be three separate sessions. The first two will cover archaeology and rock art, village life and specific heritage protection problems encountered in small villages. The third, a discussion session, will gather input on aspects of cultural identity and what it means to various groups.” Hosts for the event are Prince Albert Cultural Foundation assisted by the local Fransie Pienaar Museum and Simon van der Stel Foundation.

TOO OLD TO WORK, SO HE STEALS HEARTS

A 30-years old donkey is stealing the hearts of all who see him at McGregor Donkey Sanctuary. He was sent there from Zoar, near Ladismith, because he was too old to be of any further use to his owner. “He was not the handsome fellow he is today when he arrived on Easter Monday,” say Sanctuary officials. “He was a sad sight, thin, tired and dejected. A rope was tied so tightly around his neck that it had to be cut off with a knife. However, ten days of love and kindness soon had Adam, as he was named, trotting to the gate daily in search of food, strokes and pats. He absorbs attention like a sponge and has allowed himself to be groomed. We also trimmed his chipped hooves.” As part of its fund-raising project The Sanctuary has produced seven different notelets with envelopes, featuring cute drawings of donkeys. They cost R5 each and are available from Mulberry Studio or the McGregor Tourism Bureau. The Sanctuary is now clearing and fencing a paddock so that 13 rescued donkeys from Somerset-West can be transferred to its care.

TREKBOKKE SOON ON THE ‘MOVE’ AGAIN

Philip Kiberd, an archaeologist from the United Kingdom, will arrive in June on a reconnaissance trip for a Travelling Trekbokke Exhibition he is to set up for the Bo-kaap region. A familiar face in the area, he has spent 10 years researching trekbokke and the Nama Karoo. “He is searching for relevant photographs of the animals, the hunts and other game. These are very scarce, and we would value any input from anyone who can help,” says NamaKaroo Foundation information officer Marina Beale. “Also helpful would be extracts from old diaries giving accounts of springbok migrations of the late 1800’s. The last trek in 1896 was said to be one of the biggest tourist events ever in SA.” Marina would also like to hear from people who would like this travelling exhibition to visit their town. She has copies of Chris Roche’s Springbok Treks in the Karoo on CD for a donation of R100 per copy towards helping cover the costs of setting up the exhibition. 

STAMPEDED IN THEIR MILLIONS, THEN MYSTERIOUSLY STOPPED

One man who was sorry to have missed the springbok migrations, “those cavalcades of fur and flesh,” was author Lawrence Green. He devotes a whole chapter to this phenomenon in Karoo. “People heard the drumming of the hooves of these vast herds’ hours before they saw them,” he writes. “When they heard the sound and saw the huge clouds of dust kicked up by the hooves of the stampeding buck most sought the high ground and from vantage points watched as all other animals, such as hares, jackal, buck and even snakes, went rushing past ahead to the stampede, oblivious of human presence.” At times it took hours for the sea of seething buck to pass. And, when they were gone, the veld was littered with exhausted, crippled and bleeding creatures, which had been swept beneath the hooves of this on-coming springbok tide. Long after the main herds had vanished hundreds of stragglers continued to pass. Many famous men saw these stampedes or migrations as they were called. Among them were Francis Masson of Kew, the Swedish naturalist, Dr Thurnberg, Thomas Pringle, the poet, Andries Stockenström, magistrate of Graaff Reinet, the red-bearded, kilted, Scottish hunter, Gordon Cumming and Major Cornwallis Harris, who said they “pour down like the devastating curse of Egypt.” Sir John Fraser wrote an account of them passing through Beaufort West and in 1896 Samuel Cronwright-Schreiner made a determined attempt to solve the mystery. “Travelling by Cape cart in the wake of the migration he found every homestead festooned with biltong,” writes Green. The millions of springboks were followed by lions, leopards, hyenas, jackals and vultures that picked out the eyes of those that fell. They trampled anything and everything in their path. Then suddenly they stopped. No one has ever been able to explain why they stampeded, nor why they stopped.

BYE-BYE JUMBO

Early settlers had some strange things to contend with. There is a tale of a farmer in the Kariega River area who heard his dogs barking one night. He went out to investigate, but it was a moonless night and he could barely see his hand in front of his face. So he walked towards his kraal to find out what was wrong. He saw a shape ahead of him and took to be his horse standing with its rump and tail towards him. He put out his hand to stroke it and to his horror found he was touching an elephant. He instantly turned and fled. Running as fast as his legs would carry him back towards his house. Jumbo did not take kindly to being so rudely awakened and, in a highly agitated state, set off in pursuit. Miraculously the farmer made it back home in the dark. As he sped around the corner heading for the back door and safety, the elephant shot past. It was so close it struck the corner wall of his house, knocking out several stones. The relieved farmer heard the elephant crash on across the river and up the bank on the other side. It vanished into the night and was never seen again. Almost as an anticlimax, Rev H J Batts matter-of-factly reported in The History of the Baptist Church: “And, so disappeared the last of the elephants that used to roam this area.”

BAGSNATCHER WITH HIGH MORALS

Way back in 1928 a woman in Beaufort West had her handbag snatched. The Courier of March 28, that year reported that on the day following the incident an anonymous letter, written in Afrikaans, mysteriously, pitched up at her home. It read: “Dear Madam, Yesterday, I stole your handbag and in it, among other things, found your wedding ring. As this is my first robbery, I felt rather bad about taking the bag. So bad, in fact, that I wanted to return it. Then, I got to thinking, why your ring was not on your finger where it should have been, and I wondered whether I could consider you an honest woman. I came to the conclusion that you were not, so I decided to keep the bag and the ring to punish you. Go forward and sin no more.”

SAD END TO A DREAM

Frank Norman Reckitt or Norman as he was known to family and friends, set off to war in South Africa in 1899, armed with a portable medicine chest. It was a gift from11 members of the outdoor staff of his father’s household. They felt it might serve him well in the field and hopefully there were times when it did. Norman was born in 1873 and was the fifth son of Francis Reckitt of Reckitt and Sons of Hull. He could not enter his father’s business due to a resolution passed by the Board stating no more than two son from any family could join the company. So, Norman decided to study architecture. Then, the Anglo-Boer War broke out and despite the disproval of his father, who was a Quaker, Norman enlisted. He set sail for South Africa on the Dunvegan Castle, as part of the XIII Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry, which consisted of four squadrons, the Duke of Cambridge’s Own or 47th company to which he belonged, the 45th Company, “mainly Dublin men” and the 46th and 54th companies, consisting mostly of men from Belfast. They arrived in Cape Town on March 26, 1900 and spent ten days training at Maitland Camp, where they were given horses. They then marched to Stellenbosch, where they stayed for two weeks and then on to Matjiesfontein. Here they spent five weeks training before being sent to Bloemfontein on May 15. By May 31, just when people in the British were saying “the war is over,” Norman’s company was attacked by Commandant Piet de Wet at Lindley, his commanding officer was killed and the 13th Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry was forced to surrender. This put paid to Norman’s dreams of soldiering. He saw no further action in South Africa and returned to England in 1901. His brief experience is told in his diary, The Lindley Affair, published in 1972 by his son, who said: “My father’s diary gives so vivid an account of what it was like to be a trooper in the British Army in the Second Boer War. It is typical of the experience of many volunteers who underwent long periods of travelling and boredom, then suddenly encountered the enemy and found that for them the war was over.”

WINE TASTING IN THE MAIN STREET

It’s a dream come true. Herman and Susan Perold now have their own wine cellar right in the main street of Prince Albert. And, from here they offer tastings of their special dessert wine, Soet Karoo. When they moved from Stellenbosch to the Karoo in 1995 and bought an attractive, historic Cape Dutch-style homestead in Church Street, Prince Albert’s main thoroughfare, they planned to grow nut and olive trees. However, a visit from an old friend and a wine-maker from Stellenbosch soon sent them along another path. “Why not make your own wine, right here in the Karoo?” he asked. And, they wondered, “Why not, indeed.” So, in went the vines and the hard work started. Then, after they walked off with a Double Gold Medal and Trophy at the 2005 Michelangelo International Wine Awards, they knew they were on the right road. The next step was a cellar, and now they have that as well. It has taken a great deal of hard work, but at last Herman and Susan can proudly invite all who visit this historic little village to: “Come in and taste our dessert wine right from the heart of Prince Albert!”

ABERDEEN – A POPULAR READ

Wendy van Schalkwyk has brought Aberdeen to life in her new book. Many people have found long forgotten stories of friends and family in it because, not only does it cover the little village’s history, interesting buildings, mohair and wool farms, it includes stories of Anglo-Boer War and personalities in the area. The Anglo-Boer War section covers a variety of stories. Among them are Commandant Carel van Heerden’s raid on Aberdeen, the skirmish in which Lieutenant Titus Oates’s was injured (these wounds did not heal well and ten years later led to the tragic end of Robert Falcon Scott’s trip to the Antarctic); young John (Jack) Alexander Baxter, the first Boer soldier to be shot for wearing Khaki, and Mrs Kranz, a terrifying Boer woman who was known as the “Boer Amazon.” There is a delightful section which covers some families of the area, such as the Nash-Webers who lived on Ludlow farm, The Slabberts who came from France, the Douglas’s and Robert Clunie Logie. And, there is also an interesting section on the cemeteries. This well illustrated book also includes details on where to stay while visiting Aberdeen.

AND THEN THERE WERE THREE

Just before the outbreak of World War II South Africa had six Hurricane aircraft. The first three arrived in Durban in February 1939, and three more came in April. They were all flown to Waterkloof Airbase in Pretoria at speeds “never before known in South African skies.” Sadly Hurricane 276 crashed at Waterkloof on June 12 (it was later sent to Nairobi for use as spares). Then the outbreak of war in Europe on September 1, 1939, brought South Africa to the cross-roads and Beaufort West into the fray. Britain entered the war on September 3 and the Union Defence Force reacted quickly. On September 5, it deployed the five remaining Hurricanes in No 6 Squadron and sent them from Waterkloof to the War Station at Youngs Field, near Cape Town. En route technical problems forced Second Lieutenants Brian John Lister “Piggy” Boyle and Stephen Armstrong, both of whom were destined to become leading fighter pilots, to land at Beaufort West, “Major J E O Marais, Lieutenant Barrett and Second Lieutenant Derick Tyler pushed on to Youngs Field,” writes Michael Schoeman in Springbok Fighter Victory. “On arrival Tyler’s plane, Hurricane 275, was seen to be trailing smoke as he turned downwind. It crashed through the boundary fence and into trees on the grounds of the Kenilworth Racecourse. The engine caught fire and within minutes the plane was an inferno. Tyler was killed.” The following day Hurricane 272, flown by Second Lieutenant Armstrong, tried to take off from Beaufort West. It suffered engine failure and was forced to land immediately. It ran into a ditch, ended on its nose and the undercarriage was bent. “This was an inauspicious beginning and then there were only three!” writes Schoeman.

NEED DETAILS OF SERVICE RECORDS?

Geneological research is growing in popularity as many people try to trace their family histories. Once they get started most people find this a fascinating hobby, but sadly many assume they’ve hit a dead end when trying to find out more about a family member’s military service This need not be so. Colonel Graham du Toit offers a reasonably priced research service, to fill these needs. And, if he finds no records there are no charges. “I recently asked Graham to research my father’s and grandfather’s world war service records and was pleasantly surprised at the quality and detailed information I received in neatly bound files,” said Rose Willis.

ENJOY AN ENHANCED ECO-EXPERIENCE

Enjoy a unique eco-experience in Namaqualand. Get closer to nature and discover the haunting beauty of this magnificent arid zone by staying in a tent. Not just an ordinary old tent, but a unique, top-class tented camp, due to open on June 1 in the heart of an 8 000-ha reserve, 10 km from Garies, right in the middle of the floral kingdom. This exclusive spot, Agama Tented Camp, is skilfully hidden in a secluded kloof. It does not intrude into the world of the wild, it is part of it. Seven elegant tents have been placed on wooden platforms, 1,5m above the ground. Each fully serviced tent has two beds, a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. All linen and towels are provided. Two tents can be converted to accommodate double or king-sized beds. Each tent has a spacious deck with wide, comfortable wooden chairs designed for relaxing and enjoying everything from unsurpassed views across the valley to a Continental breakfast – delivered to be enjoyed at leisure. These game viewing decks allows visitors to blend in, to become part of the environment, while watching a variety of game strolling past. Up to 14 guests at a time can relax, unwind and totally enjoy the refreshing experience of becoming part of the bush at this unique venue, where in addition to game bird life is abundant. The area also abounds with fascinating reptiles. In good seasons the veld around Agama Tented Camp is carpeted with flowers in breathtaking hues. Special trails walks and rambles have been laid out to encourage visitors to experience the beauty of nature on foot. Also, on offer are day, night and sundowner scenic drives.

MORE SNAKE THAN SKIN

Escorting a group of tourists one day, wildlife guide, George Richman, saw what he thought was an old snake skin. As he bent to pick it up, so that he could show it off and explain why snakes shed their skins, a forked tongue flashed out. He quickly stepped back only to hear the ranger who was with them say: “You lucky Bugger! That’s a Twig or Vine snake and there’s no anti-venom for it! One bite and it’s curtains!” This served to make him very much more aware in the open veld. George will share his experiences with Round-up readers from time to time.


Castles in the air cost a vast deal to keep up.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, (Lord Lytton) born in London on May 25, 1803, was the man who penned “The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword,” the motto on which Round-up is based. He was on of the most prolific writer, if not great writers of his time.