‘SCOTT’S SURGEON’ REVISITS DISCOVERY

A new book about a Lutheran minister’s son, who was a major role-player during the heroic period of exploration when Nansen, Amundsen, Shackleton and Scott raced each other to the poles, becomes available this month. Written by Gus Jones, Scott’s Forgotten Surgeon will be launched on board the Discovery at Dundee Heritage Museum, in Scotland, on November 24. It has a link to the Karoo – Dr Reginald Koettlitz, is buried in Cradock beside his beloved French-born wife, Marie Louise (nee Butez). A poignant love story surrounds this couple who died within two hours of each other in the Cradock Hospital on January 10, 1916 – she of heart failure, he of dysentery. Reginald was devoted to Marie Louise and, it is said, quite literally wore himself out caring for her when she developed heart problems, and for other patients in this isolated place. He met Calais-born Marie Louise in Dover. They fell in love, married in London where he qualified as a surgeon at Guys Hospital. They were idyllically happy until their only child died in infancy. This was an immense tragedy because they both loved children. For eight years Reginald led a quiet, rather pedantic, life working as a general practitioner in a little English country village. Then suddenly a desire for adventure overtook him and, to the surprise of all who knew him, he began joining parties adventuring to the furthest reaches of the world. Each time he left Marie Louise missed him greatly and longed for his return. She was a smart, elegant and well-groomed woman. She kept up to date with the world of fashion by reading colourful French magazines sent to her in South Africa by friends and relations in Europe. An elderly Somerset East resident remembers Marie Louise making beautiful paper dolls for the village children from pictures in these magazines. Marie Louise found this the best one way of dealing with her love for children and her longing for her beloved husband when he was away.

DISAPPOINTMENT BROUGHT HIM BACK TO S A

Reginald was already 40 years old in 1901 when he was engaged as one of two surgeons to accompany Captain Robert Falcon Scott on his first expedition to the Antarctic. (Edward A Wilson, 29, who seven years later died with Scott on his second attempt to reach the South Pole, was the other.) Part of several key expeditions, Reginald learned some grim lessons, on the ice, among them the dangers of sledges in blizzards and the limitations of clothing and equipment chosen by Scott. The expedition ended in disaster for Reginald. He was blamed when Scott’s men contracted scurvy, and this was odd because he had done ground-breaking work on the prevention of scurvy on an earlier expedition to the North Pole. Distressed at this outcome Reginald and by the fact that he was snubbed in the preparation of his final reports, he moved to South Africa in great disappointment. He and Marie Louise took refuge on a Darlington farm, Grobbelaar’s Kraal. He later moved to Somerset East\Cradock area where he practiced as a doctor.

RAMBLED RIGHT INTO THE RIVER

A body found in the Breede River early in 1824, set tongues wagging. According to the S A Commercial Advertiser of February 11, an inquest revealed that the drowned man was Reverend James Small, a Scottish Presbyterian minister. Small had not accompanied a settler party. He arrived as a “solitary adventurer intending to preach” but was not able to find a suitable appointment and so ambled into the Karoo taking part time posts as a schoolmaster or letter writer and preaching only occasionally. Those who knew him said he had once “been a person of respectable character, but through misfortune or malady, had become unsettled in his habits and deranged in his mind.” Towards the end he had not taken care of himself, nor eaten regularly. It seems he just walked into the water in a disturbed, unbalanced state and drowned. A verdict of “death by misadventure” was recorded.

MURRAYSBURG GOES GREEN

Murraysburg has gone “green”. Inspired by an advertising board at the entrance to the village which proclaims “Mooi Skoon, Lekker Woon” (a lovely clean place to live) locals formed the Murraysburg Environmental Forum (MEF). This organisation instantly leapt into action planting trees and setting up a huge recycling programme. “We wanted to prove to the world that we were not a messy lot who didn’t care about our environment or the heritage of our descendants. We want our children to inherit the earth, so we are taking steps to keep our part of the Karoo clean,” said a spokesman. MEF’s aim for the year was to plant 2011 trees and they proudly say because they started in 2010, they have exceeded their target. In addition to major recycling projects for plastic, paper, glass, old electrical appliances and batteries, that are already underway, MEF aims to start a fuel-from-recycled paper plant, and a factory to manufacture a nifty three-in-one blanket-bag-cushion from waste wool. In the August issue of The Murraysburger MEF reports that their projects are well supported by the entire community.

THE MAN WHO WOULDN’T COME TO DINNER

In 1824 the S A Commercial Advertiser decried the habits of small hinterland town dwellers. An article stated that a resident of one of these little inland towns, who invited a neighbour to dinner, ended up being disfigured for life. The incident happened on Friday, March 12, 1824, when Mr Shee, invited Mr. Tilley, the saddler from across the road, to a meal. Tilley declined, but for some unknown reason, later that evening burst into Shee’s home and “behaved in a most riotous manner”. The report stated that Shee asked him to leave, but Tilley refused to do this. “At length he was turned out and that seemed to be that, but once outside and on the verandah, Tilley turned and leapt upon Shee, striking him several times. Shee did not strike back, but merely held tightly on to Tilley,” wrote the reporter. They fell to the ground, where Tilley, “finding himself mastered”, screamed for help. Upon hearing the noise Mrs Tilley’s ran across the road, grabbed Shee by one of his arms and tried to tug him away from her husband. “The ruffian Tilley took advantage of this,” stated the newspaper. “Seizing Shee by the throat with both hands, he exclaimed ‘I know I cannot fight you; so now I’ll mark you for life!’ He then actually bit off the end of Shee’s nose and spat it out on the stoep. The piece has since mortified and Shee is, of course, disfigured for life. The perpetrator of this brutal deed will appear soon to answer for his actions.”

FARM RENAMED TO HONOURED GOVERNOR

Ignatio Leopoldo Ferreira is said to have been the first Portuguese to settle in South Africa. Quite simply Ignatio, a British East India Company sailor, and his friend, Manuel João D’Oliviera, swam ashore when the Bengal-bound Chandos, ran aground in a storm on May 16, 1722. The Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa states that the Dutch East India Company took Ignatio on as a soldier and that he later turned to farming in Stellenbosch. Years later in April 1776 another Ferreira, Thomas Ignatius, arrived in Algoa Bay. He started farming on nearby Papenkuilsfontein and early maps show Ferreira’s River on this farm. On December 4, 1782, six sailors from the wrecked Grosvenor reached Ferreira’s farm – one was William Hubberley who walked 500 km in four months. A search party went out and found 12 more sailors. The Ferreira farm was attacked on August 10, 1799, and again in September 1802. The family sought refuge at Fort Frederick several times but by 1806 had enough. They left and Thomas Ignatius was the co-leader of the Henry-Steyn Trek, the last official trek to Rhodesia, in 1896. In January 1812, Frederick Korsten, a Dutch merchant and owner of a whale fishery, bought this farm. He won a contract to supply 300 barrels of salted beef to Fort Frederick. He extended his interests into the Eastern Cape Karoo area by opening trading posts. When Governor Sir John Francis Cradock visited Korsten renamed his farm Cradock Town. It later became Cradock Place. Korsten’s only daughter, Maria, widow of John Damant and second wife of John Centlivres Chase, inherited the farm. It became a ruin. The farmstead burnt down in 1909. Ferreira’s descendants played meaningful roles in the development of early Johannesburg and mining by establishing Ferreira’s Camp.

COSTLY MISTAKE

Aberdeen, once a watering point for horses, was visited by Voortrekkers on their way inland. The town was built on a natural water reservoir, with springs on the nearby farms, writes Anne Lemkuhl in one of her early newsletters. In 1898 a stone post office was built in Aberdeen in 1898, by accident, she says. “It was intended for Grahamstown. Builders arrived and, being unfamiliar with the area, believed they were in Grahamstown, so set to work. Because of their mistake they weren’t paid a cent for their efforts.” A similar mistake was made at Deelfontein.

MERINOS MAKE THEIR MARK

By 1830 experts considered the teething stages of the Cape Merino industry to be over. F W Reitz, the man destined to become president of the Free State, actually stated that 1830 was the turning point for the South African wool industry. He was proved right, states Edmund H Burrows in Overberg Outspan. In 1830 the Colony exported 30 000 pounds of wool; 20 years later the figure stood at nearly six million pounds and, in 1872, the boom reached 48 million. The Merino had made its mark and the George Greig, the scholarly, 23-year old partner of Michiel van Breda visualized the future accurately when he wrote a pamphlet entitled Observations on the Merino in 1834. By then Overberg farmers were selling sheep in the Karoo. Burrows states that “sheep from historic studs, belonging to Reitz, Van Breda and Joubert, were already being shipped and transported overland to start the industry in the Karoo”. The Handbook of the Cape of Good Hope of 1885 states that among the hinterland men who came to the Overberg as “Jasons in search of golden fleece” were Willem Burger from Calvinia, William Kinnear from Beaufort West and Dirk de Wet from Victoria West.

GIFT FROM THE KING

South Africa was the first country outside Europe to own Merinos. This history stretches back to 1789, when the Dutch Government donated two Spanish Merino Rams and four Spanish Merino Ewes, to the House of Orange. The sheep came from the King’s famous Escoriale Merino Stud, but they did not do well in the damp conditions of Holland, so they were sent to the Cape and given into the care of Col. Jacob Gordon, the military commander. At the time the King of Spain, had the sole right to export Merinos and when he heard they had been sent to South Africa, he asked for them to be returned. Col. Gordon had realized the potential of the little flock and had sent them to Groenkloof, the Company farm, 55km from Cape Town. When the King asked for his gift be returned, they sent back the original sheep and kept the progeny.

NEW WASHERY GUARANTEED CLEANEST WOOL

In 1855 M J Adendorff started washing wool on his Karoo farm, The Erf, as a service to farmers and buyers. He advertised this in The Graaff-Reinet Herald of May 5, 1855, stating farmers in Richmond, Colesberg, Middelburg and Graaff-Reinet, would be charged only 3/8ths of a penny per pound for this service. He also offered a free collection and delivery service to any Graaff-Reinet store and stated he was prepared to load wool for direct transport to Port Elizabeth, so saving farmers storage costs. “A constant stream of clear water runs through the washing dams, so the wool is cleaner than any product washed at any other establishment,” he said. Adendorff stated he had already washed upwards of two hundred bales and given the highest satisfaction. “Every care and precaution is taken to ensure no wool escapes out of the dams,” he said.

A DREADFUL ACCIDENT

Severe gun-related accidents regularly happen in the far-flung hinterland. The Graaff-Reinet Herald of Thursday, September 12, 1889, described an accident which happened while a Mr. Cotterell, Steve Marshall and his ten0-year-old brother, John Henry, were out shooting. “Yesterday afternoon when Marshall turned suddenly to speak to his young brother, his gun, which unfortunately was at full cock, went off and blew off the leg of young John Henry. Mr. Cotterell at once ran off to the house of the boys’ father, Peter Marshall, who raced into town to fetch Dr. Hart. He dropped everything and left immediately, but by the time they got only about half way to the scene of the accident they were met by a messenger who told them John Henry was dead. We all sympathise with the Marshalls in this awful calamity.”

SECRET REVEALED

Aletta Catharina Reitz, sister of Free State president Francis William Reitz, is said to have wore a wig throughout her entire life. The reason? She had red hair and did not like it at all. Aletta Catharina, born on April 9, 1798, first married Advocate Josua Andries Joubert, of Nooitgedacht Gardens on April 11, 1820. The couple had two sons Gideon and Jacobus, and a daughter, Hester Johanna. The advocate died in 1830 and a short while after that Aletta Catharina married the Rev Tobias Johannes Herold, of Stellenbosch. She outlived him as well and buried five of her sons, before she died on September 21, 1871, states Edmund H Burrows in Overberg Outspan. After her brother, (who married Blanca Thesen of the shipping family), lost the Beaufort West election by a few votes, he accepted a repeated invitation from the Orange Free State to become its Chief Justice. He was later elected President.

ROCK ART PIONEER WITH BEAUFORT WEST ROOTS

A South African woman, who was to become famous in botanical circles, was born in Beaufort West on April 29, 1867. Her name was Maria Wilman and oddly enough this arid section of the Great Karoo was to prove fundamental in shaping her future as rock-art collector as well as a researcher of San and Khoi cultures. After matriculating at the Good Hope Seminary in Cape Town Maria decided to further her studies at Cambridge University in England where she registered for a degree course at Newham College. She was the second South African female to attend Cambridge University in England, where she was awarded a Science Degree in geology, mineralogy, and chemistry in 1888, but it could not be conferred on her because before 1930 women were not eligible to obtain degrees. Maria Wilman’s degree was thus only formally conferred upon her by Cambridge University in 1933. Undeterred by this curious attitude, Maria returned to Cambridge in 1893, and completed a Masters Degree in Botany during 1895. She then came back to South Africa where she took up a volunteer position in the Geology Department of the South African Museum in Cape Town. Although she technically had a degree, she still did not have her father’s approval to work, so she would not accept remuneration for what she was doing and thus remained a volunteer until 1907.

HAVE WAGON WILL TRAVEL

During her time at The South African Museum, Maria Wilman reported to Louis Albert Peringuey, whose interest in the San people and their culture spurred him to send her on research trips into the Northern Cape Province and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). In 1908, when she was appointed the first director of the Alexander McGregor Memorial Museum in Kimberley, she traveled by ox-wagon through Lesotho and Botswana studying the San people and their cultural products. The artifacts and implements that she acquired on these trips are considered as most important of their kind. Maria eventually compiled her research into a book, entitled Rock-engravings of Griqualand West and it was the standard text on Southern African Rock Art for almost five decades. In 1939 Miss Wilman was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Law by the University of the Witwatersrand. Maria retired in 1953. She went to live in George where she died on November 9, 1957.

FOLLOWED A SIMILAR TRAIL

Mary Agard Pocock who was born in Rondebosch on December 31, 1886, was another great character in the field of botanical research. She followed a similar path to Maria Wilman and gained a great deal of international recognition. Mary started her studies in botany at London University and obtained a B.Sc in 1908, says E J Verwey, in The New Dictionary of South African Biography. She returned to South Africa in 1913 but went back to England four years later to study at Cambridge. Since Cambridge did not award degrees to women, her honours degree was only conferred on her years later. In South Africa Mary lectured at various universities and carried out much meaningful research. She also attended numerous international congresses and spent time in the USA researching algae. During World War II she was a member of the South African Women’s Auxiliary Service. Mary was part of the S A Association of University Women, and first president of the Grahamstown branch. She died in 1977.

TARANTULA IN CHURCH

A giant tarantula “lives” in the 51.2 m steeple of the Dutch Reformed Church in Aberdeen. It is not an insect, it’s an ingenious the maintenance lift installed to undertake repairs to the tower. Once it was operational it could (for a fee) give them an eagle-eye look at the world below. The church tower was built of raw stone and paint constantly peeled off. Research revealed that it would be too expensive to hire scaffolds to repaint – quotes far in excess of R70 000 were received and contractors kept shaking their heads at the immense height of the steeple. Then a Beaufort West farmer and air drill contractor, Retief van Rensburg, came up with a plan, says Anne Lemkuhl in one of her early newsletters. Within eight months he had designed and built an eight-legged steel structure and installed this at the base of the steeple. Of course, the eight legs led to the structure being called “tarantula”. On a test run the Tarantula pulled 14 passengers and 2 bakkies into the air. Its installation also meant that maintenance work could be done on an on-going basis and when as funds became available. The church was built in stages and the tower, its last addition, was completed in 1907. An olive tree in the church yard was cultivated from a sprig brought back from the Garden of Gethsemane by one of the ministers. The olives are regularly harvested, pickled and sold. Inside woolen tapestries depicting Bible scenes from the creation to the judgment day, line the walls.


Life is like a ten-speed bicycle – most of us have gears we never use – Charles M. Schulz.