Cross-country trail running is becoming popular across South Africa. To meet the needs of this market Fernkloof Wine farm, outside Prince Albert, has created a new 15km trail. This inspiring, challenging route, the brainchild of trail runner and winery owner, Diederik le Grange, passes through some picturesque and breathtaking scenery – kloofs, vineyards, water tunnels and streams. It includes steep climbs and demanding declines. The focus is on the enjoyment of running, so the trail meets the needs of beginners and experienced enthusiasts. The inaugural run, on Saturday, June l, will be sponsored by Fernkloof Wines and MediClinic. The entrance fee is R260 per person over 18 and R80 for younger runners.


Former Prince Albert resident, Carol Campbell, has written a suspense-filled novel about the “karretjiemense” (donkey cart people). Published by Umzini, it was launched in March, and is already receiving high praise. Entitled My Children Have Faces, it tells a touching tale about of a free family who live off the land and their commitment to protecting themselves. The book has all the emotions which make it a good read – rape, murder, violence, revenge, love, bitterness and forgiveness. It is set in the area of Leeu Gamka – a place that Muis, the central character – “never wanted to see again.” Reviewer Mike Nicol says this is one of the most heart-breaking stories he has read in a long time.


“Have you found out more about who planted the first flag on Compassberg?” asks Tiny Middleton. “I am most interested to know having done that climb several times myself as a teenager. Last time you posed this question to readers I contacted my cousin David Trollip in America, but he was not able to help. His father Louis Trollip farmed there in the 1940’ 50’s perhaps even 60’s and was a very good friend to Mr John Acock who was a brilliant veld and bush control man. My late husband Gerald also followed the Acocks method of farming.”


The 4th Karoo Outdoor Festival – Veld and Clay Shooting Competition – will be held at The Vale, about 30km north of Beaufort West on the NI towards Nelspoort on June 1. This one-day event, proudly organised by the Beaufort West English Class, is mainly for Guys who love their guns. It promises to be entertaining, say the organisers. In addition to shooting the programme includes a motorbike breakfast run, spa treatments for wives and daughters, an air rifle event for children, tea with Antoinette Pienaar, an archery and cross bow demo, lunch with Minki, a spit braai and dance. Over R7000 in prizes is be won as well as a rifle valued at R6500, sponsored by Safari and Outdoor.


During the Anglo-Boer war a British soldier passing through the Karoo found a retriever. The dog attached itself to him and he loved it. His sergeant did not. On the way to the Orange River, he told the trooper to “Bake the dog, or shoot it”, states The Graaff-Reinet Herald. The soldier allegedly managed to leave it on a farm but replaced it with a kitten which he called “Emergency Ration”.


Early one Saturday morning, well before breakfast, according to The Midland News, of October 25, l892, 14-year-old Jas Collet and Mr Heathcote’s herdsman rushed into Cradock with bad news. John Trollip, a Daggaboer farmer, they said, had been washed down Holz Spruit, only four miles from town, during a severe thunderstorm on previous afternoon. Jas reported he and his Uncle John had left Daggaboer in a buggy at about noon on Friday, intending to visit Cradock, do some shopping and return home on Saturday. Soon after they departed, however, it began to rain, lightly at first, but later much more heavily. By the time they reached the Holz Spruit cutting a heavy thunderstorm had broken out, so they outspanned to wait for the rain abate and the flood waters to subside. After about half an hour they inspanned and moved down to the river. The waters were still running strongly, so John got out, walked down and into the water. He considered it safe enough to proceed despite the fact that on a previous journey to town he had remarked that Holz Spruit was difficult enough to get through in dry conditions, let alone when it rained. His decision was mainly based on the face that the next river might also be in flood and difficult to cross, said Jas. “Uncle John was driving, and he carefully guided the horses into the water.” said Jas. “It was cool, and we were both were wearing our overcoats,” said Jas, who could not describe what happened next. All he could remember was ending up in the river and swimming for his life.


Nearby, however, was Jan October, Mr Heathcote’s drover. He watched in horror as events unfolded and was able to furnish an eye-witness account. The horses carefully moved into the strong stream, he said, but as the buggy started to float it turned and started drifting down stream, directly towards the drift. The horses struggled against the current, buy could not hold the vehicle. Before Trollip could do anything get things under control the buggy capsized, flinging both men into the water. Jas was washed towards the Cradock side of the stream and managed to scramble ashore. His uncle, however, became tangled up in the trappings of the buggy and was dragged downstream. The vehicle lodged against and obstruction and, still holding the reins, Trollip managed climb up and onto a wheel. It seemed as if he would be safe until one of the horses plunged forward and according to the herdsman, knocked Trollip back into the water. Fighting the strong current he struck out strongly for the shore where Jas was running along the bank shouting. All to soon, however, Trollip was lost from sight. Jan raced towards a narrow point, where he often managed to jump across when the river was in flood, hoping to catch hold of Trollip as he passed through. But when he got there nothing was floating on the surface. Trollip must have been dragged under by the current which rushed his body towards the Great Fish River, about 200 yards away. Neither Jas nor Jan saw any trace of him. They were forced to spend the night between the two rivers with Heathcote’s herd. On Monday morning about ten o’clock Trollop’s body was discovered near Bloemfontein Siding. A coffin was prepared and sent to collect it. He was buried on his farm.


Cradock residents “flocking to the town hall” to hear an address by a Mr Douglas, were greeted by sad news. The Queenstown Free Press of September 9, 1892, states that “shocking intelligence, which grieved the townsfolk flew from his mouth”. He opened by saying that a well-known, old and highly respected Karoo resident, James Cogan, had been literally stung to death by bees. It appeared that Cogan had been working in his garden and needed a syringe-type sprayer for his orange trees. He went to borrow one from his son and on his return, he found that a large beehive had been tampered with by passing vagrants who had tried to steal some honey. The infuriated insects were attacking his dog which was chained up in the orchard. James rushed to rescue the unfortunate animal but, while in the act of unbuckling its collar, a great cloud of bees settled on his head, neck and face. Some even entered his mouth and stung him on the tongue and throat. His screams for help attracted the attention of his brother-in-law and neighbour, Mr Pankhurst, who raced to his aid and dragged him into the house. James was in a state of shock and quite badly injured. Sadly, he died before the doctor could render any medical assistance.


The Cape and Natal News of January 4, 1859, reported that Cape wool was being well received abroad. Before 1838, stated the article, with few exceptions, the only sheep to be found in the colony was the broad-tailed Cape sheep, which bore no wool. Then, Captain Robb, the commander of a vessel trading with Australia, brought some merino sheep back to South Africa. (This breed had first been seen in this country when the King of Spain sent some to the Cape of Good Hope as a gift. He later asked for them back, but their progeny remained in this Colony and were cared for by Commander Robert Jacob Gordon. After he committed suicide his wife sold this little flock to some Australian farmers.) Merinos soon found their way to the Karoo where they were found to be much superior to the fat tailed sheep. They were admirably suited to the country. “In 1833 wool exports totaled about 113,077 lbs, now it is upwards of sixteen million pounds,” stated the article. “Flocks of the finest wooled sheep are now to be found grazing in almost all districts, where recently the Angora goat has been introduced and is also fast becoming a favorite.


The Colony congratulated itself in January 1859, on acquiring its “first horse whisperer”, even though they did not call him that. He was Dr W J Otto, son of John Otto of Swellendam and he had recently returned from Europe where he studied the Rarey discipline of horse-taming. A correspondent of the Cape Argus reported that while in London Otto had taken lessons from the celebrated, internationally-known, horse-tamer John Rarey that he was now able to tame even the most vicious horse. He could even perform the “Rarey test” of lying down right next to the horse’s hooves and rising unharmed, stated The Cape and Natal News of January 4, 1859.


John Solomon Rarey was considered to be one of the world’s first horse whisperers. Before the invention of motorised transport horses were a vital means of transport and men who could calm and train them were invaluable. Rarey was one of these. Born in Gravesport in the United States in December 1827, he grew up in among horses and developed a great love for them. He was given his first horse at the age of 12 and within short everyone saw that he had a great affinity for these animals. By the time he was 25 Rarey had written a book and was giving lessons on horse training. He went to England and “tamed wild horses” before the Queen, who was greatly impressed with his talents. He sealed his eternal fame when he tamed Cruiser, the Earl of Dorchester’s “infamous, wild, foul-tempered, half mad stallion”. Cruiser was a killer. By the time Rarey arrived in England Cruiser had kicked two grooms to death and maimed several stable hands. No one could go near him. He was kept tied up in a brick stall with a stout oak door. The Earl wanted to breed from Cruiser, who allegedly was the fastest horse in England, so he considered blinding him. Then, the small, gentle, meek-mannered, mild-tempered Rarey arrived on the scene. Ignoring all warnings, he walked into Cruisers’s and closed the oak door behind him. Those present expected screams from both horse and man, but they heard nothing. Three hours later Rarey walked out with Cruiser following him, meek as a lamb. The Earl was so impressed he presented Cruiser to Rarey who took him back to the States. The two were inseparable until Rarey died of a stroke at the height of his career in 1866. Much of Cruiser’s grumpiness returned after his master’s death. He was put out to pasture and used for stud purposes, and grooms were eternally careful around him.


The roads in the Cape Province have greatly improved under the superintendence of Mr. A.G. Bain, stated the Graaff-Reinet Herald of October l, 1859. Rough, rugged, rocky tracks were fast disappearing under his hand. An excellent road from King Williams Town is soon to be opened. The Beaufort, Cradock and Graaff-Reinet roads are also much improved and the formidable pass, Woest’s Hill, which for many years has almost cut the Karoo off from the coast is being greatly improved. The bridge over the Konap River is progressing rapidly, and the one over the Little Fish River, near Somerset, is to be constructed without delay.


Towards the end of 1859 the Colony sent a man to England to study “the scientific principles of hanging”. An item entitled “Wanted a Scientific Hangman” in The Argus of December l, that year, states: “Fellons born not to be drowned may now congratulate themselves that they can be hanged according to scientific principles. The Colony recently sent a man to Newgate Prison to study the ‘techniques of Jack Ketch’, and to learn the very latest advances in ‘swinging off’ from this world people too bad to live in it. We are informed that the honourable gentleman was most civilly received by William Calcraft and taught him the tricks of the trade and secrets of this infernal art. Plans of the newly invented noose and pinions were also forwarded to the Colonial civil engineer. Colonial authorities are now convinced that wrongdoers can be disposed of before they know what has hit them. There will now be no more bad knots to unfasten.” It appears it was not unusual to hang a man twice because the Cape hangman’s knots were insufficient, stated the newspaper.

Note: John Ketch, generally known as Jack, was the infamous English executioner, who rose to fame during the tumults of the 1680s, during the reign of King Charles II. William Calcraft, the famous English hangman of the 19th century, was considered to be the most prolific British executioner of all time. A cobbler by trade, he too was rather incompetent, but “a great entertainer”. At times crowds of more than 30,000 turned up to watch his public hangings. Calcraft is estimated to have carried out 450 executions during his 45-year career.


Doornkuil, a picturesque Karoo farm in the Britstown area, is hosting a series of art courses. They began in March and will continue through to October. “These classes are ideal for beginners as well as competent amateurs,” says one of the artists and organisers, Johan Coetzee. “A good teacher can guide students in the use of colour, show them how to mix it correctly and apply it to canvas for best effect. The finished product will look much more realistic. These courses will help students to develop their skills for a more professional finish.” Johan’s field of expertise is fine art, oils, watercolor and drawing. Other teachers, all experts in their fields, include Theo Paul Vorster (printing and etching), Gordon Froud, (conceptual art) and Cathy Layzell (figurative, oils and drawing). Dates are: May 27-31, June 17-21, July 8-12, August 5-9, September 23-27, October 21- 25 and the cost is R5000, inclusive of accommodation, meals and art materials. Art exhibitions will be held during the courses. Delegates will have time to breakaway and enjoy tennis, cycling, swimming or walking in the fresh Karoo air and serene environment of this historic farm which belongs to the Jooste family. The owners also cater for events, break-aways, conferences, birthday and wedding celebrations.


At the height of the rock-‘n-roll era a Beaufort West Dutch Reformed Mission church dominee stood at the baptismal font ready to christen a child. Recalling the situation an old member of the congregation said: “The Sunday School children had been invited to join the congregation to enjoy the event. They sat on the floor beneath the pulpit, all trying to catch a glimpse of the baby. The dominee solemnly took the child from its mother, cradled it tenderly and looking at the parents said: “Name this child.” “Elvis,” they replied, but before the Man of God could repeat the name “Presley” rippled from the ranks huddled on the floor. “Well, that was that. From that day onwards the lad was known as Elvis Presley. No other name would stick.”


The Cape and Natal News of January 31, 1859, reported that people were returning to the hinterland. “Owing to the subsidence of the smallpox, country districts are again opened. Property and business sales in many places are showing favourable advances. Land and building value is good and farms which originally “sold for a song” are realising good prices.”

Speak for the ear, write for the memory and remember imagination is the eye of the soul – Never cut what you can untie – From The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert