BRIEF TOWNSHIP TOUR ENDS IN A BOOKLET

A tour of Lingelihle Township during a Cradock Karoo Writers Festival led to a booklet. Some time ago, Brian Wilmot, curator of the Schreiner House Museum in Cradock joined a tour to this township and found it inspirational. “So much general information and first-person anecdotal material was shared, particularly about the part erased by Apartheid, that I felt it should be preserved in a booklet,” he said. He immediately went to work and now an informative 42-page, well-illustrated, full-colour guide, entitled In the Footsteps of James Calata and Matthew Goniwe – a Tour of Lingelihle Township, has been published by The National English Literary Museum. It costs R120. Once Brian’s material was ready, Stephen Mullineux, Chris Marais and David Goldblatt supplied photographs. Catherine Knox did the design and Amy Coetzer, a cartographer, drew the maps. “In my experience publishing is vital for the preservation of knowledge,” said Brian. “There is a never-ending need, particularly in hinterland towns, for authoritative guide books to serve the tourism market, however, such publications must meet the needs of present and future generations.” He added that Cradock, in common with other small South African towns, was under-resourced when it came to tour guides and the provision of reliable information “Nothing can replace a well-informed guide, but when no one is available a booklet will help people find their way around and ensure that the information they are given is correct.” The new booklet is designed to assist locals to share relevant information with interested visitors. “Also, because the new book is brief and presented in an easy-to-read format, with lots of pictures, I believe it will introduce more readers to works they might otherwise not have attempted to read,” says Brian.

ANOTHER GOOD READ

Somerset East born Chris Schoeman has just launched a new book. Entitled The Historical Overberg, it discusses progress in this region where history stretches back across thousands of years. Khoi people thrived here. Then came European settlers with different cultures, characters and events. People as varied as Bartholomew Diaz, Olof Bergh, Hendrik Verwoerd, Gregoire Boonzaier, Audrey Blignault, Breyten Breytenbach, as well as other writers, artists, explorers and innovators made their mark in the Overberg. Some of South Africa’s oldest towns and missionary stations are found here. The area’s treacherous coastline caused of hundreds of shipwrecks and has a wealth of tales. The Historical Overberg costs R285.

GOT THE EASTERN CAPE IN YOUR SIGHTS?

Chris and Julie Marias’s Eastern Cape Road Tripper just keeps growing in popularity. Designed to get armchair travellers out of their comfort zones and on to the road it covers 14 towns and includes 130 special items – which might result in a treat. The publication covers a 1 000km, oval-shaped route and offers a sneak peek into the lifestyle of the people of the Eastern Cape/Karoo. At the back of the book, a directory lists more than 240 products and services. Aimed at full-time or part-time road trippers, motorcycle groups, caravan clubs, families, couples and young adventurers, this is the book to get if you want to holiday in this fascinating, historic area. It’s available in print and e-book formats.

FLASH FLOOD CAUSES HAVOC

A violent thunderstorm and flash flood in the first weekend of April caused havoc in the Prince Albert area. It severely damaged the historic Swartberg Pass and compromised the town’s water supply infrastructure. Prince Albert is also mourning the loss of Desiree Saas, 17 who was trapped in one of the vehicles travelling from Klaarstroom that had to be abandoned as occupants fled. Her body has just been recovered. Extensive damage was also caused to Meiringspoort where a passenger bus was trapped. Technical teams from the Central Karoo District Municipality are assessing the damage and undertaking repairs.

NO SUBSTITUTE FOR GOOD, OLD-FASHIONED SERVICE

Moshe Beinkinstadt opened the earliest and longest single family owned Jewish bookstore in South Africa in Cape Town in 1903. By 1905, this shop, which operated from the same place for almost 100 years, listed customers in the Karoo, Eastern Cape, Free State and the then Transvaal. Regular orders were received from Beaufort West, Bloemfontein, Colesburg, Graaff Reinet, Middleburg, Moorreesburg, Oudtshoorn, Paarl, Piketburg, Port Elizabeth, Riversdale, Roodepoort, Simonstown, Stellenbosch, Uniondale, Wellington, and Worcester. The company imported all the basic religious requirements needed by Jews in South Africa. These included taleysim (prayer shawls), tsitsit (prayer vest), tefilin (phylacteries) and mezuzas. Most were imported from Katzenellenbogen in Vilna, in Poland. Beinkinstadt also imported secular books in Yiddish, both for purchase and for circulation from the shop’s private library. Among the items found it the store when it closed were copies of the Six-Penny Library Series of English and World-Famous Classics. Beinkinstadt produced regular catalogues which included a Yiddish section that listed 271 titles from the Groshn Bibliotek. These were published in Warsaw in the 1930s. In 1910 Beinkinstadt took over the City Printing Works, in Bree Street, and offered services “for all kinds of printing, bookbinding and kindred lines”. At about this time they also started importing kosher foodstuffs. The company’s reputation was based on excellent service. It had a “courtesy” Google address in which it stated that it only did business by telephone and did not have a computer in the shop, nor at home, so consequently no e.mail orders could be handled.

EVERYTHING FOR A PERFECT PESACH

Beinkinstadt service was highly praised across South Africa. Their printed list of Passover foods included Manischewitz‟s Matzos from America, cake mix from London, German potato flour, Schmaltz – rendered chicken or goose fat – from Russian, Colonial horse radish, Palestinian cognac, wine and spirits. Also listed were favourite Jewish foods such as sauerkraut and cucumbers in tins, herrings in barrels, almonds, prunes, pomerance peel, poppy seed. Bob, the traditional flat bean used in the making of cholent, a Sabbath dish of meat, potatoes, beans and barley and cooked overnight for 12 hours, was always available. So were tinned fish delicacies which came from Arnold Sorenson in Riga, and salt herrings from Yzermans in Holland.

WHEN TIME CAME FOR WORSHIP

Beinkinstadt’s letter books state that before synagogues were built in the country towns, such as Beaufort West, enough men were sought to make up a minyan (prayer quorum) so that services could be held in private home or village hall. A member of the community would act as rabbi. If sufficient men could not be found, members of the community had to go to the nearest town where there was a shul or to Cape Town.

WORDS OF ADVICE FOR HUSBANDS …

The May 26, 1849 issue of the Grahamstown Journal published recipe for maintaining a wife’s affections. Under the heading How To Dress A Wife, the newspaper claimed the method could not fail and was sure “to preserve a wife’s first affections through all changes of life.” It advised husbands to take equal quantities of affection, refinement, and generosity; and to mix these with a full cup of perfect confidence, to which the root of the plant good temper had been added. “Put the mixture into a jar of consistency and tenderly place this near the wife. Surround her with particles of comfort and evergreen kindness. From time to time add leaves of those innocent pleasures which she enjoys and garnish abundantly with the most blooms of that sweet flower delicacy. This will preserve the original beauty and attraction of her affections. Serve with a sauce of affectionate politeness – an indispensable ingredient. It this recipe is followed it will repay the attention tenfold with the brightness and fragrance shed over the domestic hearth.” The writer, Matilda, concluded: “I only wish my husband had pickled or preserved me in this manner.”

…AND FOR WIVES

The same Journal included a recipe on How to Cook A Husband. It stated: “Some smother their husbands in hatred, contention, and variance, while others keep them in pickle all their lives. These ladies always serve them up with tongue sauce. Now it cannot be supposed that husbands will be tender and good if managed this way. But they are, on the contrary, very delicious when managed as follows: “Get a large jar of carefulness (which all good wives should always have on hand) Place your husband in it, and set him near the fire of conjugal love.”

FIRST CORRESPONDENT TO FALL

H H “Jack” Spooner, an Australian correspondent died at Deelfontein, during the Anglo-Boer War. His story is told in Yeomen of the Karoo (Now R450-00 from Firefly Publications palberts@telkomsa) One of Spooner’s colleagues, William John Lambie, a senior military reporter, who worked for the Melbourne Age, Adelaide Advertiser and Sydney Daily Telegraph. is hailed as “the first Victorian” (from Victoria in Australia) to be killed in the war. Buried in Colesberg, Lambie was fatally wounded at Jasfontein on February 9,1900. He and fellow correspondent A A G “Smiler” Hales of the Daily News, were out with a patrol that was attacked. As they tried to escape Lambie was shot in the head. Hales, was wounded and captured. He wrote a moving account of the event stating that despite the fact that Lambie’s “huge chestnut mare was making good time getting away from the Boers” he didn’t make it. They were about four hours from their base camp when they ran into trouble. They had dropped behind the advance party and without warning suddenly found themselves surrounded by about 40 Boer horsemen. The two correspondents were dressed in British military uniforms so, when they tried to make a run for it, they were mistaken for soldiers.

DEATH OF A NON-COMBTANT DEPLORED

Hales reported: “A rain of lead whistled around us, but we were racing. Lambie’s big chestnut mare had gained a length on my little veldt pony, but we were not more than a hundred yards away from the Mauser rifles. A voice called out in good English: ‘Throw up your hands, you d… fools.’ But the galloping fever was on both of us, and we only crouched lower on our horses and rode all the harder, for even a barnyard fowl loves liberty. All at once I saw my comrade throw his hands up in a spasmodic gesture. He rose in his stirrups and fairly bounded out of his saddle and as he spun round in the air.” The following day the Boers returned Lambie’s watch and a photograph so that these could be sent to his wife. They also allowed two other correspondents, Melbourne’s Major W. T. Reay, of The Herald, and J.A. Cameron, from Reuters and the Daily Chronicle to be taken to the place where they had buried Lambie. Reay and Cameron were blindfolded for this trip. General Koos de la Rey expressed deep regret at the death of a non-combatant. In his history, Australians at the Boer War of the war, R L Wallace reports that when the army occupied Colesberg some weeks later a white marble headstone was erected to mark the place where Lambie had fallen. After that a Boer family cared for the grave.

A PROPHETIC WARNING

Lambie married Clara Ada “Dolly” Church in Geelong, Victoria, on January 15, 1892. They had no children and friends said she had a dreadful time trying to get to grips with his death. Wallace describes Lambie as “one of the ablest journalists in Victoria”. Lambie was in his forties when he embarked for Cape Town aboard the steamer Medic with the first Victorian contingent. He was a veteran of several colonial campaigns. He was first wounded while carrying out his duties as a war correspondent in Sudan in 1885. There he was shot in the leg when the Arabs ambushed the New South Wales contingent to which he was attached. He took a contrary view when many Australians thought it best to be attached to Imperial regiments. He wrote: “I must regard the possible disruption of the Australian regiment as a calamity which the public will bitterly regret”. He rued the order obliging Australian troops to exchange their distinctive slouch hats for regulation helmets saying: “They can now be scarcely distinguished from British soldiers.” He was not wrong.

FASCINATING NEW WEBSITE

A new website covering the travels of Robert Jacob Gordon has been launched. A collaboration between Johannesburg’s Brenthurst Library and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum it brings together Gordon’s journals, letters and drawings. Gordon, an explorer, soldier, artist, naturalist and linguist, was of Scots descent and first with the Scots Brigade. He later joined the Dutch East India Company and transferred his allegiance to the Netherlands. He commanded the Cape Garrison between 1780 and 1795 and went on more expeditions to the interior than any other 18th century explorer. He twice visited the Prince Albert area. He was responsible for naming the Orange River (in honour of the Dutch Prince of Orange), for introducing Merino sheep to the Colony and for the discovery of the remains of Dias’s padrão at Kwaaihoek in 1786. In addition to French, Dutch and English, he spoke Hottentot and Xhosa. In 1795, when the British fleet arrived to occupy the Colony Gordon capitulated. He was accused of treason and became an outcast and target of derision. He committed suicide at his house Schoonder Sigt on October 25, 1795. He was only 53. His drawing of Prince Albert’s Kweekvallei farm is on the website.

MODERN LOOK AT THE ANCIENT STRUCTURES

Early last year cutting edge 3-D laser scanning technology was used to study the Karoo’s historic corbelled houses. These buildings, the only examples in Southern Africa of an ancient and intriguing building technique known as corbelling, represent a special phase in the country’s vernacular architecture, writes Michelle Dye in Heritage Portal, March 24, 2016. “Because trees were scarce early pioneers in the Karoo found no suitable wood to make roof trusses, so they devised beehive-shaped structures using successive layers of flat stone. These were placed layer upon layer, each extending slightly further inward so that the whole met at an apex. The resulting hole at the top of the roof was then closed with a single slab. The structures were solid and sound, however, over the years some have been lost due to theft of the building stones, damage by shepherds and livestock, general weathering and earth tremors. Some structures deteriorated and collapsed, while others were ‘modernised’ for tourist accommodation. Most could not be saved because the art of corbelling has been lost. It is no longer practiced anywhere in the world.” So, this ultra-modern system was employed to assist in the conservation and preservation of these cultural gems. Behind the project is an American non-profit organisation, aims to document 500 significant heritage sites around the world. Members of this organisation, travelled to the isolated sites to visit nine specially selected corbelled houses. Their 3-D system bounces narrow pulses of light off as many as 41 million points, as it maps and collects data.

MUST SEE MUSEUM

Prince Albert has done it again. Both the Fransie Pienaar Museum and the town’s Library have been nominated as the best in the Western Cape. The Library is a very active organisation that does much to promote the love of literature, reading and research among people of all ages in the community. And the museum? Well it began as one young woman’s dream to preserve the history of the area. Fransie Pienaar collected so much memorabilia that she eventually could no longer house it and had to appeal to the municipality for help. They granted her a room. This turned into a fascinating museum. Today chairman Lydia Barella and her team of enthusiastic volunteers work extremely hard to keep standards high and exhibits interesting. Exhibits range from pre-history, through the discovery of gold to more modern items showing development from farm to village.

WHO DID IT?

Unsolved murders always intrigue. While searching for material for use in his book Karoo author Lawrence Green came across some intriguing murder cases in Graaff-Reinet. On one hot Karoo night a leading resident, Spiller, was sitting near the window of his home waiting for his wife to bring him a cup of tea. The daytime temperature had barely cooled, so he had flung the window wide to capture whatever evening breeze might be about. Suddenly, a hand holding a sharp knife reached out of the night through the open window and stabbed Spiller through the heart. Poor Mrs Spiller, who it was said only lived to please her husband, had just re-entered the room. She dropped the cup – one of her best – and screamed hysterically. Neighbours rushed to her aid. The police came, but no one ever found out who murdered Spiller, nor why. Then, there was a young couple, named Schoeman, who were found shot on the farm Oprysfontein. Their funeral was well attended and as mourners walked back from the graveside, they found the rifle with which the crime had been committed, lying in front of the farmhouse. Before that there had been no trace of a weapon. This, once again, remained one of the great mysteries of the Karoo. No one was ever arrested for this murder, writes Green.

LINKED TO AN INFAMOUS MUTINEER

The HB Christian Memorial Handicap, one of Port Elizabeth’s premier races, is named in honour of Henry Bailey Christian who joined John Owen Smith and Company in 1850. He quickly became a leading figure in local business, cultural and sporting fields in the Eastern Cape. A keen agriculturist he had a farm at Kragga Kamma. His nephew, Vyvyan Christian, born in King Williams Town in 1872 and educated in Grahamstown, became widely known in legal, sports and cultural affairs circles. Fletcher Christian, the leader of the mutiny on HMS Bounty in 1879, was a member of this family.

OFF THE GRID, LOW TECH AND LOW BUDGET

The latest Karoospace Newsletter has an excellent and amusing article on platteland living, how to cope when water fails, and the lights go out. It has general water saving and healthy living tips.


Belligerence is the hallmark of insecurity – Dwight D. Eisenhower