The Karoo Food Festival, a feast of food and fun, takes place in Cradock from April 29 to May 1. Festivities kick off with a carnival, which promises to be highly entertaining, at the Meeting Ground at Cradock High School. Tickets cost R20 per person and children under 5 will be allowed in for free. “Live music and great food will set the pace,” says organizer Lisa Antrobus. “Visitors will be able to “build” their own feasts and choose their own portions. Among the typical Karoo dishes on offer will be skaapstertjies, bazaar-sosaties, gourmet boeries, Karoo Sushi, melktertfudge, lamburgers and much more. For those who want to add an extra touch of fire there will be Tequila Tasting (R50 per person) at the Demo Stage at 19h00. Here visitors will also be able to see demo-cooks preparing some spectacular concoctions.” During the following two days visitors will be encouraged to wander around the Deli Market where they will find many taste treats, a variety of classes and courses, plus special items such as secret biltong spices and arsenal sausage. The festival closes on Sunday night with a buffet dinner at Victoria Manor Hotel. Tickets cost R180 per person and booking is essential – (to book call 048 881 1650).


The first leg of the second Swaershoek Mountain Bike Challenge sets off from Cradock High School at 17h00 on May 1. The next stage begins at 06h30 on Sunday – both legs begin and end at the school. This year’s route has been changed and includes a variety of interesting challenges. The “sting” of the infamous Swaershoek Pass is still a major feature, but in addition to awesome breathtaking scenery, some interesting jeep tracks and technical rocky descents have been added. There is also a winding, shady section through some trees. The new route has a total elevation gain of approximately 1420m say the organisers. Cyclists have a choice of riding 85km, 45km or 16km and there is also a short section for children. The organisers add “This pass is not to be trifled with as it gains a substantial 470 meters in altitude over 8,19 km, producing an average gradient of 1:12. Some of the steeper sections are as tough as 1:9.”


This year’s J M Coetzee\Athol Fugard Festival promises a formidable line-up of speakers. Literary enthusiasts should thus not miss being in Richmond from May 26 to 28. The festival programme features theatre, new films and some excellent reading. The theatre bill includes David Butler in two performances as Herman Charles Bosman, as well as Marc Kay and Friends, who will be responsible for three individual plays. Malcolm Gooding will discuss his once well-loved programme Going Gooding and two award winning films will be screened. These are Anchien Troskie’s, Dis Ek Anna, and Jans Rautenbach’s, Abraham. Among the speakers will be Thomas Mollett talking about his book discuss Oscar Vs The Truth – The Reeva Steenkamp Murder and Bloody Lies – The Inge Lotz Murder. Other speakers will include Francois Griebenow, Magriet Stemmet, Irene Fischer, Hendrik Mentz, Richard Calland (The Zuma Years), Judge Kathie Satchwell (The Battle of Delville Wood), Pumla Gqola (Rape – A SA Nightmare), Antony Osler (Mzansi Zen), Mike De Jongh (A Forgotten First People: The Southern Cape Hessequa), Anel Heydenrych (Malhuis), Peter Browne (Van Gogh’s Curse) and Darryl David (Roy Campbell and J M Coetzee). Most of these authors have entered for the S A Independent Publishers Awards. Linda Reinstorf, Linda Mitchell, Paul Meade, Tod Collins, Linda and Ashleigh O’ Shea as well as some others will discuss web books

REMINDER : The third sitting of the Karoo Parliament is scheduled for Laingsburg from September 14 to 16 this year. SA’s first Medical Humanities Literary Festival which will be held in Richmond at the end of October. An excellent programme with top class speakers is being prepared. Field trips and other festivities are also on the cards.

Continuing on the path towards Richmond’s Medical History Literary Festival in October


In the early 1800s wealthy invalids came to Cape town to “restore their shattered constitutions”. In1843 a visitor said many handsome villas had been built principally for Indians who came to restore their health and spend loose cash. “They live in an absurd way surrounded by hosts of servants and caring not for costs.” These invalids benefitted many a local medical practice. One doctor, who was said to have been attracted to the Cape “by the prospect of practising among the wealthy invalids” was Dr Henry Bickersteth, states Edmund H Burrows in A History of Medicine in South Africa. Henry was, however, destined for bigger things. He began his medical studies at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London, however before qualifying he came out to the Cape as an assistant to Dr. Samuel S. Bailey, resident surgeon of Somerset Hospital. Henry, 17, arrived on December 31, 1831, with his wife, Jane Shuter Boswell, but with no official appointment. Bailey supported him out of his own pocket for a while before requesting, (in 1834 that the government give Henry a full-time salaried job. This was done despite strong objection from other medical men in Cape Town.


Henry later served for a year as assistant staff surgeon with the Seaforth Highlanders in the Sixth Frontier War. He then returned to England to complete his medical degree and by 1845 was back in South Africa to succeeded Bailey as resident surgeon at Somerset Hospital. He held this post until he died in 1862. Henry turned this appointment into one of the earliest hospital teaching posts in South Africa. He gave regular lectures, conducted students around the wards, and invited civilian as well as military doctors to attend his rounds and operations. He was an early user of ether as an anaesthetic. He took a great interest in the health of lunatics and lepers and it was at his suggestion that these patients were transferred to Robben Island. In August 1853, Henry went overseas on sick and study leave and, after completing some examinations, became the first person from South Africa to be admitted as a Fellow to the Royal College of Surgeons. He was a very talented man. In addition to his surgical skills and sound knowledge of medicine he was remembered as a Greek scholar, poet, musician, actor, artist, writer and composer of psalms and hymn tunes.


Alex Ernest George Langschmidt studied medicine at Edinburgh University and qualified in 1884 with an MB ChM degree. In the same year his name was added to the Edinburgh registers of Scottish surgeons and physicians. After qualifying Alex came to South Africa and was licenced to practice medicine in the Cape Colony on October 27, l884. He moved to Calvinia, bought the farm De Hoop and began practicing as a doctor in that area. He married Catharine, daughter of George William and Delphine Human in Cape Town, on February 9, 1886. He later returned to further his studies in Edinburgh and in 1899 was awarded his MD from the University of Edinburgh.


Black doctors who qualified from foreign medical schools between 1883 and 1940 were pioneers in the history of South Africa. Many were trailblazers in academic medicine, and several made meaningful contributions to the struggles against colonialism, apartheid and racism in healthcare, says Prof. Bongani M Mayosi, Head of the Department of Medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital in an article entitled The First Black Doctors and Their Influence in South Africa. “Some bequeathed remarkable legacies to South Africa,” he says. Among them was William Anderson Soga, the son of Tiyo Soga and his Scottish wife, Janet Burnside. William, the first black South African to qualify as a medical doctor came from a family of “firsts”. His father, Tiyo, who came from Tamarha near Butterworth in the old Transkei, was the first black South African to be ordained as a minister of religion by the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland on December 10, 1856. His brother, Jotello, became the first black South African to qualify as a veterinary surgeon. Like his father, William was an ordained minister. He practised as a medical missionary at the Miller Mission in Elliotdale and wrote a series of articles which had far reaching effects on local medicine. In one he discussed the role of climate, nutrition and housing on health. In another he wrote about the epidemiology of local diseases, as well as of persisting problems such as rheumatic fever, tuberculosis and leprosy. He also provided a mixed assessment of the effectiveness of traditional medicine, praising some methods of treatment while lambasting the wily and deceptive practices of some traditional diviners. In 1912, William’s son, Alexander R B Soga, became the seventh black South African doctor to qualify in medicine from Glasgow University.


William Guybon Atherstone is hailed as the first doctor to use anaesthetics in South Africa. But “was he really the first?” asked Dr Elizabeth van Heyningen in the March issue of Round-up. It seems not. According to the S2A3 Biographical Database this honour goes to Alfred Raymond, a Cape Town man who termed himself a “surgeon-dentist”. According to De Verzamelaar, of April 20, 1847, Alfred used ether vapour to draw two teeth from one of his patients. His experiment was based on “a procedure which had been introduced in the United States in 1846”. During the next few weeks Alfred is said to have administered ether from an inhaler with great success during tooth extractions and, on one occasion, he cut a large wart from the finger of one of his patients. The patient described his experience of the effects of ether vapour to a newspaper reporter a few weeks later. H.A. Ebden is also said to have used ether in minor general surgery in April 1847 and Jacobus Esterhuyse, a vet, used it in May that year states an item in the Database, but adds that WGA performed the first fully described major surgical operation under ether on June 26, 1847. This operation was fully reported in the Grahamstown Journal and the South African Commercial Advertiser. Two years later, in May 1849, WGA became the first person in South Africa to use chloroform as an anaesthetic during an operation.


When Alfred Raymond first came to South Africa, he advertised his services in the South African Commercial Advertiser of July 1837. He did not specify his qualifications. He only gave the address of his rooms. He left South Africa for a while and then, in February 1842, again advertised stating he had had ten years experience on the island of Mauritius, in Paris and in a major hospital. In another advertisement, in 1846, he claimed to have qualified as a surgeon-dentist at the University of Paris. Then, it seems Alfred moved to Port Elizaberth where he continued to practise as a dentist, but not always with success. In September 1863, a newspaper reported while attempting to extract a single tooth, he inadvertently extracted two teeth and a portion of gum, as well as a piece of the jaw. A pretty painful error!


Jacobus Esterhuyse, was the first veterinary surgeon in South Africa, to use ether as an anaesthetic. A Cape Town newspaper reported that on May 10, 1847, Jacobus successfully removed a tumour weighing over a kilogram from the lower eyelid of a horse while the animal was under the influence of sulphuric ether. Jacobus designed a cone from a sheet of wax cloth and fitted the wider end around the muzzle of the horse. The narrow end was attached to a bottle containing ether. This was placed in hot water and within 1½ minutes the animal became unconscious and remained motionless for 18 minutes. During this time the growth was excised, and a hot iron applied to the wound. Jacobus practised at Paarden Eiland, near Cape Town


Charles Edward Herbert Orpen played a major role in the history of early Colesberg and its surrounds. He was a qualified doctor but decided to give up medicine in favour of religion in South Africa. However, in the Karoo he did double duty as minister and doctor because there were no other medical men in the area. Orpen was born in Cork, Ireland, where his father was the vicar. He was the youngest of three sons and when his father died, he was apprenticed to the local doctor, Dr Gibbings, to study medicine. Sadly, at the end of his apprenticeship, when he went to write his exams at the College of Surgeons in Dublin, he discovered that Gibbings was not a licentiate of the college and that his apprenticeship was invalid. He was forced to carry out a second five-year apprenticeship with Surgeon Todd. After qualifying he took a job at the workhouse in Dublin and there found at least 21 deaf or mute children. In an effort to communicate with them he selected a 10-year old mute, Thomas Collins, for intensive tuition. In the following year, Orpen publically demonstrated the success of his efforts and, as a result of this, the National Institution for Education of the Deaf and Dumb Poor in Ireland was formed. Orpen then devoted his time to teaching and training teachers for the school attached to this institute. The news of his success led to a demand from rich parents for their deaf children to be educated. In 1818 Orpen was appointed as a medical inspector in Dublin. This entailed visiting the homes of thousands of poor people during the fever years of 1818/1819. He was shocked by the living conditions and criticised the landlords for the unsanitary conditions of their properties. He later wrote a pamphlet based on his experiences. A deeply religious man Orpen was also familiar with Irish dialects and during the course of his visits to the homes of the poor also did his best to spread the Scriptures. In 1823 Dr. Orpen was referred to by his biographer as “a truly good man”. He married Alicia Frances Coane and they had nine children.


A humble woman, who accomplished a great work among the sick and needy was highly praised in Light For The Line, the S A Church Railway Mission Magazine, in October 1913. She was Mother Cecile, of St Peter’s Home in Grahamstown. “You must have heard of her work even though you may not have heard of her,” stated the editor. Mother Cecile began her “personal ministry” as an ordinary church worker at St Peter’ s, Eaton Square, London at a very young age then, in 1883, she answered the call of Bishop Webb for workers in the Grahamstown Diocese. Before leaving for South Africa she begged to be made a deaconess, and her request was granted. After she had been in South Africa for only a few months she discovered the deplorable state of local prisons and that waifs and strays from the streets were herded together with adult prisoners in common jails, simply because there was no other shelter for them. In these prisons these children were very poorly treated and abused. Mother Cecile she petitioned the Cape Government to set the matter right and she was successful. In 1884 she was granted permission to start a Church of England Free School in Grahamstown. After the success of this institution she started an Orphanage and Industrial Home and, later still, a Training College for female teachers. These projects were all immensely successful and Mother Cecile devoted herself and her energies to keeping those who lived in them out of trouble. “She is indeed a woman who has great love for her fellow man and who serves without counting the cost,” stated the magazine


In 1880 an 18-year-old German Jewish photographer, Franz Ginsberg, came to South Africa to escape the growing Anti-Semitism in Europe. He decided to settle in King Williamstown and this little Eastern Cape Town became his home for the rest of his life. Here he set up the Three Stars match factory, a soap factory and the first candle-making factory in the Cape Colony. In time he established other factories which made a wide range of essential household products. Franz was a public-spirited man and soon his concern for the welfare of the people of the area plunged him to politics. He was instrumental in establishing an African township which was named Ginsberg in his honour. He served the town as mayor between 1904 and 1907. He also served King Williamstown as its first Member of the Local Assembly (MLA), then as a member of the Cape Provincial Council and later – from 1927 onwards – as one of the 32 senators elected for Union of South Africa. Franz’s life story in now captured in a book written by Adam Yamey and entitled Soap To Senate: A German Jew At The Dawn Of Apartheid. “Franz, who was my great grandfather, was a remarkable man,” says Adam. “Affairs of the Eastern Cape interested him greatly and, throughout his political career he questioned law making procedures and constantly tried to mitigate the racist policies. Throughout his lifetime he constantly strove for better in a world that was not yet ready for change.” Franz died in 1936, Soap To Senate is a rich story which throws light on the legislation processes of the day.


According to Leipoldt Napoleon was fond of askoek – bread baked in the ashes of a fire. He is said to have devoured it with goat or chicken fat in such a greedy way that it invariably left him suffering from indigestion. But, this should not happen if the dough is properly prepared and the askoek well chewed, says Leipoldt in Cellar and Kitche. . Leipoldt states that an old tannie told him that the flour for this delicacy of camp and braai fires, need not be sifted, but that it should be “new and stone-ground fresh”. “From this I gathered that it should be common boer-meal that has not yet succumbed to weevils,” he wrote. The flour was then mixed with salt, bicarbonate of soda, water and milk and stirred in until a stiff dough formed. This was left under a damp cloth until it was time to “bake”. Then, pieces were pinched off, flattened to “about a hand’s breadth wide, and as thick as a thumb”, laid on warm ash, covered with more warm ash and left to “cook’ until top and bottom were “nice and hard”. They were then removed; the ash was dusted off and they were served immediately. “Camp guests cut them with pocket knives – herneuters, as the old people called them – and spread insides with butter, if there was any; otherwise, they were eaten with sauce. Even these days the important thing is that the outside of the cake should be brittle while the inside remains soft, dry and delicate. It is not necessary to add fat or egg yolk, for then the askoek would then become an ash bun,” said Leipoldt.

We must eat to live and live to eat. – Henry Fielding /  Eat to live, and not live to eat. Benjamin Franklin