Richmond’s Boekbedonnerd Book Festival is calling on all self-published authors to enter the annual Self-Publishers’ Awards Competition. This event, the only one of its kind in South Africa, honours authors in more than 25 categories. Entries close on June 30, 2019. More from Darryl David at Winners will be announced at the Boekbedonnerd Book Festival in Richmond on October 26th and 27th. This extremely popular event, filled with good books, good food, and good vibes, is the oldest book festival in the country. The programme always features a line-up of top speakers who discuss the latest literature scheduled for South African bookshelves.


Young Jan Daniel Momberg, who once lived in the small Karoo village of Aberdeen, joined a Boer commando in September 1901. Before long he was captured by the British, deemed to be an enemy of the state and a marauder, tried as a traitor and with high treason, states Alan McIver in Graaff-Reinet Stoep Stories. Jan was sentenced to death, but this was commuted by Lord Kitchener, when he agreed to give evidence in the prosecution of other “rebels”. Once he had done this, he was free to go. The Commandant at Graaff-Reinet was, however, obliged to keep him in the guard tent to protect him from the wrath of the locals. The British then attempted to “get rid of him” by trying to persuade him to enlist in the navy, but he didn’t fancy that. De Beers was approached to give him a job as an apprentice, but he did not fancy that either. Job offers went on until Lord Kitchener, in a fit of exasperation, “disowned” Jan and ordered that he be released. It was, however, stressed, that anyone who molested him would be punished. Jan moved to Pretoria, where he qualified as a printer and vanished from the pages of history.


After the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War many Cape Colonists allied themselves with the forces of the two Boer Republics. The Colony was, however, under British Rule and they were British subjects, so by joining up, they became traitors and guilty of high treason. They faced execution if they were caught. One man, however, thought there were extenuating circumstances. He was Octavius Vermooten, a lawyer and a leading rebel from Dordrecht. He made a sad mistake. “He thought he would be exempted from charges if he was on professional duty,” said the late Dr Taffy Shearing, an expert on the Cape Rebels. “Octavius was arrested on his way to see a client in Queenstown. He was under the false impression that professional representation of a client would give him immunity from prosecution, but he was wrong. Fortunately, he was not executed. He was sentenced to four years in Tokai jail and released only in November 1902.” 


A Cradock man’s sympathies for the Boer cause, during the South African War, led to his trial for treason. He was Johannes Petrus Coetzee of Paardekraal, outside Cradock. He was 21 years old and the first man to be executed by the British. He was tried by a British court in Dordrecht on June 26, 1901, found guilty of high treason under arms and of attempted murder. He was hanged in Cradock on September 13, 1901, said Cape rebel expert, the late Dr Taffy Shearing. Johannes’s death led to an outcry in Britain. One of the strongest protesters was Earl Grey who decried the public manner of Johannes’s death in a speech to the British Parliament. Johannes was initially buried in Dordrecht, but later reburied in the Cradock cemetery.

NOTE: Find out more about the Meiringspoort MTB Challenge, De Rust Walking Trail Booklet (Cost R35) and plans for a heritage festival to be held next year to celebrate 120th anniversary of the establishment of this beautiful little Klein Karoo village (in March 1900), by calling 044 279 2532.

Find Rose’s Round-up back issues and stories


Scotsman, John Henderson Wright, led an interesting life filled with happiness, hardship and adventure. He saw service in the Karoo and hinterland as a surgeon with the 27th Imperial Yeomanry during the Anglo-Boer War. In a strange way he loved the harshness of this land. For this service the Queens South Africa Medal with clasps was presented to him at Aldershot on October 31, 1902. John’s parents, Reverend John Grant Wright, of the Free Church of Scotland, and his mother, Alice Henderson, were extremely proud of him. The couple had married on June 19, 1850, and John was born on December 11, 1854. As soon as he was old enough, he joined the local militia, the 1st Roxburgh (Border) Mounted Rifles. He served with this unit until it was disbanded 20 years later. For this he received a long service medal. He later joined the Lothians and Berwickshire Yeomanry. Quite early in his life John decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps, so when he left school, he went to Edinburgh University to study medicine. At the age of 21 in 1876, he qualified with a Bachelor of Medicine degree. He moved to London to further his studies. By August 1878, John had fallen in love with 24-year-old Nellie Alice Charlotte Hamilton Reddie, daughter of an East India Merchant. He proposed, she accepted, and they were married on August 27, that year. The couple moved to Scotland where his practice flourished and their children, John McDonald, William and Alice, were born.


John had a great interest in the local communities and served on many wherever he lived. He spoke out against the use of alcohol and “the excessive use of tea”. He said tea was causing more sickness and death than alcohol. He deplored the fact that milk and oatmeal had “gone out of use”. A dramatic incident occurred during a church service one Sunday. The Evening Standard of October 16, 1882, reported that a retired draper and silk merchant collapsed and died in the church before Dr Wright was able to help him. John was greatly distressed because this man was one of his neighours. A kindly man always willing to go the extra mile meant that John had patients who were not able to pay. This put a strain on his marriage and caused him to fall on bad times, but the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War “rescued” him. He was appointed as the medical officer to the 27th Imperial Yeomanry Battalion, which consisted of the 123rd, 124th, 125th and 126th Companies under Lt. Colonel Wight-Boycott. This posting took him across the Karoo and harsh South African hinterland.


At the end of the Boer War John was invalided out of the army. He returned to Scotland only to find that his wife had taken the children and left him. This affected him so badly that he took a job as a “travelling” surgeon – a ship’s doctor – with the P & O Line. While at sea he saw many adventures. One of his voyages took him Quebec and Montreal in Canada where on September 18, 1912, he left the ship. John settled in British Columbia, and there, in a small settlement, known as Alexis Creek, set up a practice as an “allopath” – a homeopath. He was assisted by a nurse, Mary Mayer Good and a former patient, Olive Mary Agnes Edis. He lived quietly and happily until he retired. He died in Vancouver on June l, 1975, aged 72.


Towards the end of the 18th century the population of South Africa was composed of ½ Dutch, 1/6th French and 1/6th German, plus some other nationalities. All spoke simple Cape Dutch, states Professor J du Plessis, in The Life of Andrew Murray. By 1806, at the time of the second British occupation of the Cape, the population numbered 2 500 and only 70 or 80 were British. By 1820 there were 40 000 colonists. They opted for the return of Dutch, which had been banished from Government and the law courts. By 1838 the population was about 100 000 and there were about 23 schools. Yet, by 1840 it was reported that education at the Cape was at its lowest ebb. The 1822 boost by Ds Thom, to bring Scottish preachers and teachers to South Africa, had faded and died. Salaries were too meagre. School teachers were offered £40 year with an additional £5 for every ten pupils over the first 20 that they took on. In way out places, such as the Karoo, parents clubbed together to find men capable of teaching Latin and mathematics. Such men could demand £120 a month. “School master was a term of reproach in the hinterland” said famous astronomer Sir John Herschel in a memorandum on the state of education. “Many men tramp from farm to farm masquerading as teachers and farmers are forced to be content with the services of malcontents, layabouts and discharged soldiers, who are intellectually and morally incompetent to impart even the most elementary instruction.”

NOTE: The 8th Annual 50 km Hike and Hobble for Hospice takes place on May 11 and 12. Route starts at the top of Ouberg Pass and follows farm roads to New Bethesda. Call 049 891 0262 or 072 565 3715.


Once people had moved away from the environs of early Cape Town a balanced diet was difficult to come by. Otto Menzel, who arrived at the Cape unexpectedly in the mid-1700s, noted that “many a farmer who counted his cattle by the thousands had to go hunting to obtain lean eland, buffalo and buck meat to eat with his fat beef and mutton for want of bread.” Menzel, a German, who had enlisted in the service of the Dutch East India Company, had been asked to deliver some letters to a ship in January 1741. Bad weather prevented him from being taken off the ship and it had to sail with him aboard, so he arrived at the Cape from Holland in only the clothes he was wearing on the day he stepped aboard the Hartenlust. Menzel, who had been to the Cape before, loved this country and wrote widely about it. As regards travelling into the interior, Menzel said that “hospitality rules everywhere.” The people of the hinterland were always willing to share what they had. He mentioned that, even when the interior was plagued by droughts, the farmers were prepared to drive the cattle, horses and oxen, belonging to travellers, into their meadows so that they could find their own food, despite the fact that grazing was rather scarce.


“The traveller cannot rely on the length of his purse for service and entertainment,” said Menzel, “He must be content with the fare his host is able and willing to supply according to domestic circumstances. Still every farmer does everything possible to provide his guest with food and drink.” He mentioned that travelling was difficult. There are no inns and sometimes one has to journey two or three days without coming across a farmstead.” Also, he mentioned, it was difficult to take provisions for “oneself and one’s men” in areas where food was difficult to get. “This cannot be easily done, and one must therefore enquire carefully from one farmer to another to ensure one has sufficient provisions. Meat can be acquired everywhere in sufficient quantity, but bread is lacking. Tea, coffee, sugar and tobacco are used as ‘cheques’ which allow one to acquire all manner of things. Water, the indispensable drink for man and beast, is sometimes very scarce and cannot be had for any money. One must not suppose that all water called ‘brak’ is salty and undrinkable. There are fountains and streams, which inhabitants of the interior use daily for cooking and drinking, which are called brak and which are useable despite their salty taste. One gradually gets accustomed to the taste, but the water does impart an unpleasant flavour to tea.”


A tiny Karoo village, right in the middle of nowhere, has a link with Shakespearian theatre. This hamlet, Middelpos, on the R354, almost equidistant between Sutherland and Calvinia, in the Roggeveld Karoo, was the one-time childhood playground of Sir Anthony Sher. The origins of the settlement’s name are interesting. Way back in 1860, Daniel Tomlinson, a wandering trader, travelling merchant or smous, as the pedlars, men who were the lifeblood of the hinterland were called, walked all the way from Cape Town to this spot and set up a trading store. It was close to a fountain called Stinkfontein (Stink Fountain) so, for obvious reasons, he had to find a less offensive name. Because of its central location and link to several other little settlements, he settled on the name Middlepos (Middle Post). The store became quite the social hub as it was so conveniently placed along a barren route. During the Anglo-Boer War, another travelling salesman bought the trading store because Tomlinson wanted to move on to “better things”. He Anthony Sher’s grandfather.


The Sher family fled from Lithuania towards the end of the 1800s when anti-Semitism in Europe was rife and Jews were being widely persecuted. Anthony, who was born in Cape Town, on June 14, 1949, to Emmanuel and Margery Sher, grew up to become a Shakespearian actor, writer and theatre director. He has pleasant memories of carefree days at his grandfather’s shop, and playing with his cousin, Ronald Harwood, who became a playwright. These inspired Anthony to write a novel called Middelpos. He left for London in 1968, to join the world of theatre. His first audition was unsuccessful, but he was accepted at an academy of dramatic art and after some training, joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1982. He toured with many productions, was nominated four times for the Laurence Olivier Award. He won it twice. He appeared in many popular films and TV productions. During a Commonwealth Tour in 2017, Prince Charles named Anthony as his favorite actor. Middelpos is 30 km from the spectacular and challenging Gannaga Pass, the quickest route over the Roggeveld plateau, to the Tankwa Karoo National Park. It has 45 bends, corners and curves, which include four extremely sharp hairpin bends and three other corners sharper than 90 degrees.


In 2002 a disused Roman Catholic church in Somerset East caught the eye of keen fly fishers, Alan and Annabelle Hobson. It was for sale because the congregation had outgrown it. By 2003, with permission from the Vatican, this couple converted the church into a whisky bar and dining room. The old confessional turned into a tackle shop, where flies are tied by local women, and the manse, together with some neighbouring properties, became a guesthouse. Trout fishing in this area dates back to the late 1800s. The Pirie Hatchery, the first in the country, was started in the Amatola Mountains near King Williams Town in 1892. By 1894 the Frontier Acclimatization Society was formed to assist with the administration of the Pirie Hatchery, but later handed over to the Cape Provincial Administration. Fly fishing is a popular sport in Somerset East, which proudly boasts that eight freshwater species that can be caught on fly, within 20 minutes of each other.


A little sweet pepper, touted as the newest fruit to hit world markets since the arrival of kiwi fruit, after its discovery in 1993, has roots in the Eastern Cape. However, the little peppadew is not indigenous to this country. In fact, its origins are a bit of a mystery. The plant was discovered in 1993 by South African farmer, Johan Steenkamp, who spotted a bush covered which fruit that looked “like a cross between a small pepper and a tomato” growing in his back garden. He tried it, liked the sweet, but sharp taste, and so he began to cultivate it. Some guess the plant came from Central America because the property’s previous owner, was a botanist who travelled quite extensively in those regions. Peppadews, which belong to the Solanaceae family of nightshade plants, and share the genus Capsicum with many other similar peppers, which range in taste from mild to hot, are now grown in the Tzaneen area, where they have become a job creators as the crops are picked by hand. The pepperdew’s mildly spicy flavor makes for delicious sauces, chutneys and pickles It is a popular addition to pizzas, pastas, salads, stews, pies, omelettes, chips and dips. It pairs well with cheese.


In 1856 a young German doctor in search of adventure volunteered for foreign service, Born in Hanover on July 6, 1831, he was Adolf Friederich Carl, the son of Adolf Arenhold and his wife, Caroline Antoinette Jacoby. Soon after Adolf graduated from the local university with a degree cum laude on January 20, 1855, he joined the British German Legion hoping to be sent to the Crimea. Instead he was given the rank of lieutenant with the post of assistant surgeon in the 2nd Regiment, offered a meager salary of 7/6d a day and posted to the other side of the world – to the wild eastern frontier of South Africa. He landed near the mouth of the Buffalo River in early 1857, with a group of settlers and instantly set off for Fort Murray. While on assignment in Bathurst one day he met the love of his life, Anne, the daughter of Walter Simpkins and within short married her on September 13, 1860. Life on the frontier was difficult and costly and, by the end of 1862, Adolf and several other officers, who were in financial difficulties, appealed for extra allowances, but were refused. He travelled widely attending to medical matters on behalf of the Legion. His daughter, Caroline Sarah Louise was born on June 4, l861, but died on January 26, 1863, when she was just over a year old. Soon after his second daughter, Ida Henriette Emma arrived in 1864, he decided to move into the Karoo, where more children, Adolf Simpkins, Alfred Frans, Arthur William, Hermann, Albert Karl, Alan Lueder and Adela Friederica Sara, were born. Adolf and Anne were extremely happy and loved their children dearly.


Adolf moved first to Aberdeen and later to Graaff-Reinet, where he played a meaningful role in Freemasonry and Temperance circles. A skilled amateur musician, he taught all of his eight children to play musical instruments and trained his wife’s singing voice. As a family they brought a great deal of entertainment into the region. His son stunned local audiences when he played a Von Weber violin sonata at a concert in 1883, states Robert Wood, who researched the history of this family. Adolf also trained others with musical talents and his efforts ensured that there was no shortage of local musicians by the time the town’s centenary came along in 1886. Adolf played the harmonium and inaugurated the first pipe organ in Graaff-Reinet’s little St James Church. He served as church musician for over 20 years. He also trained the choir and when Nathaniel Merriman, Bishop of Grahamstown, arrived to conduct a service, he was treated to a most impressive choral recital. Adolf died on July 19, 1861. He was only 57 years old.

Where words fail, music speaks Hans Christian Andersen