Gold medals went to two Prince Albert farms in the 11th Annual South African Olive Association award presentations in September. Kredouw Olive Estate won a gold medal for its Frantoia oil, as well as silver medals for their Italian Blend and Favalosa oils, while Fred and Hein Badenhorst of Prince Albert Olives were awarded a gold for their Karoo Blend. This well-balanced, soft, medium-style extra virgin olive oil is blended from a seasonal selection of Frantoia, Leccino, Coratina, Barnea, Dor Carlo, Koroneiki or Favolosa cultivars. Fred and Hein also grow figs, grapes, pomegranates and citrus on their farm which has sheep, cattle and game. Cultivars on Kredouw Olive Estate, which belongs to Ian and Louise Punt, include Frantoia, Leccino, Coratina, Favalos and Mission. This farm, which offers fully-furnished self-catering accommodation in a guesthouse and three cottages, also produces pecan nuts, almonds, apples, cherries and figs. These products are sold in the farm shop alongside the olive oils, and table olives – black Mission and Calamata, Spanish Manzanilla and green Sicilian Nosalara del Belice. The shop also stocks an animal-friendly, olive oil-based, skin care range. When Ian and Louise bought Kredouw in 2013 there were no olives to harvest because the trees had been so badly neglected. They nurtured them back into production and created the prize-winning products.


Nicla Nortje, a man who greatly loved the Karoo, died after a long battle with his health on October 11. One of God’s gentlemen, Nicla was a one of a kind, humble man with a captivating, larger than life personality. Gregarious and friendly, he an infectious sense of humour and one of the heartiest laughs ever heard. He was widely known, greatly loved and highly respected across the hinterland area. In his capacity as administration director at the Central Karoo District Municipality he proved himself to be an excellent peoples person. He was always there for his staff. He supported them, was always ready to listen to problems, help find solutions and go in to bat for anyone whenever necessary. He had a great depth of wisdom, an excellent sense of what was right, fair and just and an uncanny knack of ferreting out the truth. A true son of the Karoo, Nicla loved nothing more than a good story. He read them, he told them. He reveled in the history of the hinterland and this lead to him becoming a staunch supporter and encourager of Round-up. A good father, colleague and dependable friend, Nicla was also a true son of the soil. He enjoyed escaping to the peace and tranquility of his Fraserburg farm where he could ponder the stars and soak up the silence. He will be greatly missed.


Entries are now open for the 2017 Swartberg100 Gran Fondo and Medio Fondo gravel road bike races. These are scheduled to take place around Prince Albert on April 29, 2017. In addition to racing plenty of entertainment is scheduled for that weekend.


A great hinterland need would soon be satisfied, stated The Cape and Natal News of April 4, 1860. This was bathing. It seems not every hinterland dweller could regularly afford the luxury of a good bath, so Captain. A H Taylor, had purchased a piece of ground and announced that he intended erecting bathing machines there so that hinterland dwellers could bath more regularly than was currently the common practice. Taylor’s initiative was saluted. “It will prove to be profitable enterprise because frequent and regular baths are necessary to health and good temper,” stated the newspaper. (Bathing machines were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. These roofed, walled wooden carts were common at the seaside resorts where they allowed people to change into swimming attire. They were wheeled into the water to afford maximum privacy.)


The arid hinterland at times like a magnet draws people and challenges them to pit their wits against nature. And so it was in 1929, when Sir Malcolm Campbell chose a flat salt pan in a particularly dry area to have a stab at the world land speed record. At this place “the Sak River despairingly surrenders to the Karoo,” states travel writer, T V Bulpin. But, he adds, this does not happen without a final show of spirit. “In 1961 a flash flood inundated the tiny town of Brandvlei with so much water that it was cut in two and it took ages to dry out again.” Near here – well comparatively so in Karoo terms – is Verneukpan, a place that rocketed to fame when Sir Malcolm made an unsuccessful attempt at breaking the world land speed record in Bluebird I. If you visit this historic spot, which is not easy to reach as it involves travelling a rough road with many, many gates to open and close, you will understand why Sir Malcolm chose this spot, states a tourist information brochure on the area. The 57 km long by 11 km wide salt pan, renown for its mirages, is vast, hard, dry and completely flat. Sir Malcolm found just getting to this spot was trying. He lost his briefcase, which contained valuable and important papers. His plane crashed into a tree on landing near Calvinia and his crew found preparation of the track quite daunting task. Willem Louw, who was in charge sweeping the pan, said temperatures soared to over 40 deg C. His crew found this heat overwhelming, dust devils were a major hazard. Also, they were constantly threatened by puff adders. A tortoise on the track was named Bluebird II.


The setbacks were severe, disheartening and demoralising. Sir Malcolm first saw Verneukpan from the air and declared it to be “the most wonderful stretch of flat country” he had ever seen. No-one told him about the “tyre biters” – razor-sharp rubber-cutting stones on the surface, but he found out and they robbed him of his dream. The coarse surface damaged his tyres and he failed to break the land speed record, nevertheless, he did set two records on the final day. The Bluebird started her last run on January 25, 1929, at 05:00, under the moon and early light. She flashed like a silver bullet along the white line that stretched beyond sight and Sir Malcolm set two records on that run. The first for the 3 miles (5 km), reaching 211 mph (340 km/h) and the second for the 5 miles (8 km), reaching 212 mph (341 km/h). He promised to come back, but he never did. Verneukpan is also the place where South African land speed record holder and former fighter pilot, Johan Jacobs, was killed on June 27, 2006. During a practice run his jet car, Edge, went out of control and flipped while travelling at approximately 311 mph (500 km/h). Although the little towns of Brandvlei and Kenhardt claim Verneukpan their ‘neighbourhood’ it is, in truth, in the middle of nowhere.


The Cape and Frontier Times of March l, 1860, reported the arrival of the barque, Ascendant, with Captain Robert Spencer and 252 souls, under the charge of Surgeon-Superintendent Goullet. She arrived after a rather tedious passage from Southampton. At the commencement of her voyage, she experienced a good deal of heavy weather and contrary winds. Her progress was also considerably retarded by the “trades”. The newspaper was delighted to report that the emigrants who arrived on this vessel “appeared to be a very respectable lot of people”. The report stated that: “Their conduct throughout, despite the long passage and the fact that there was a good deal of sickness among them, was of a very satisfactory character. The surgeon was kept on his toes attending to no fewer than 40 cases of measles and 25 of whooping cough. Fortunately, mortality was low – only 5 of the over 250 died.” One succumbed to measles, one to pneumonia, three died from diarrhea, and one from gastro-enteritis. There were four births during the voyage, one engagement and one marriage. “Most of the emigrants will proceed to the Graaff-Reinet and Fort Beaufort areas.”


The volunteer movement continues with unabated spirit despite a very sad and fatal accident that recently occurred, stated the Cape and Natal News of April 4, 1860. “This event has thrown the Colonel-in-Chief of the drill parade and the entire community into gloom. In one of the cavalry charges, E C Turpin, from the firm of Turpin, Puzey & Company, was struck by a piece of lead that had adhered to one of the rifles during ball practice. It was so thin and was undetected on loading. This shard passed through Turpin’s belt and entered his intestines, causing mortification, which terminated in his death two days later. His captain remained with him from the time of the accident until he passed away. His funeral was conducted with military honours and was the largest that was ever witnessed in the Grahamstown area. Every respect and regret was expressed for his untimely fate,” stated the newspaper.


Karoo Poppies, a perfect memento from the Heartland, are authentic South African dolls handmade and marketed by Michelle Mangaleze and Rose Wright of Graaff-Reinet. The project started when Rose started teaching her domestic worker, Michelle, to sew. “I designed a little rag doll based on as many locally produced products as possible, to keep her interested and entertained. Together we made several dolls and all to soon we found we were on our way to a business as people fell in love with the final product,” said Rose. The dolls are soft and light. Their bodies are made from calico, stuffed with unprocessed, unspun wool (known as ‘tops’) from Merino sheep sheared in the Camdeboo district. Their dresses are made of a locally produced traditional Shweshwe, woven and printed in the Eastern Cape Karoo and their hair is real wool, hand-spun on a traditional wooden spinning wheel. Their smiling faces are screen-printed in the nearby village of New Bethesda. The dolls retail from around R185 and are available from some outlets in Cradock, Graaff-Reinet and Port Elizabeth.


Woodford Pilkington is said to have the “honour of being the first colonial patentee”, states The Cape and Natal News of January 1, 1861. “His invention, which has been secured, is connected with a new system of forming and driving piles. Instead of employing the cumbrous teak logs generally used in the colony, Mr. Pilkington uses three, four, five, or six parallel iron roads, firmly connected by means of horizontal discs or plates, through which they pass. There are other peculiarities, which could scarcely be made intelligible without the aid of illustrations. It is reported that the invention will shortly be tested at some of the works under the management of the colonial engineer. It was also reported that the Seweekspoort road was progressing favourably and that preliminary steps were in progress for the new road across the Clanwilliam mountains, near Piketberg. Mr P Fletcher was in charge of this. When complete it would be a boon to farmers and others who need to get their produce to the ports for shipment, stated the newspaper.


A dreadful accident happened early in March 1861, when, towards the end of his term of office, Governor, Sir George Grey visited Worcester. According to a letter in the Argus, a salute was to be fired as he entered the town but, “the big gun went off unexpectedly”. A huge commotion followed, and it was soon discovered that because a vent on the gun had not been properly positioned, one of the artillery men, James Campbell, had one of his arms blown off. The other was fractured and he was also severely injured in other places. Sir George showed great sympathy for the unfortunate man and on hearing of the severity of the accident rode to the hospital with Lieutenant Le Sueur and some other cavalry officers. He did not leave until he was satisfied that the unfortunate man was being well attended to. The remains of the arm were successfully amputated by district Surgeon Diederich Heinrich Fraenkel who was assisted by army volunteer surgeons Glaser and Kuys. At the time of going to press, said the Cape and Natal News of March 5, 1861, young Campbell was doing well. Diederich’s father, Dr Siegfried Fraenkel, was the first conforming Jew to reside at the Cape and the first Jewish resident of Worcester. Most other Jews only began to settle in Worcester in the 1880s and almost all of them were traders. A plot of ground was purchased from the Municipality in 1902 to establish a Jewish cemetery. The first Hebrew congregation was founded in 1903 and in 1904 the synagogue was consecrated.


Long droughts are a common feature of the Great Karoo and rains the subject of great excitement. A letter in the Cradock News, of June 3, 1861, states: “Somerset East recently had an abundance of rain which resulted in an adventure for two post cart travelers. On Thursday last, at about nine o’clock in the evening, the mail cart, on its way from Somerset to Cradock, was washed away. It was a moonless night and when the accident occurred there were fortunately only two passengers in the cart. It had been raining heavily, but neither the driver nor the passengers realised the river was in flood. As the horses stepped into the stream, the cart became buoyant and was carried down stream. The passengers and post cart driver jumped into the water, caught hold of some projecting bushes and dragged themselves to safety. They proceeded on foot to the farm of Mr van den Fyver, who was happy to accommodate them and attend to their comforts. On the following morning the cart was found turned upside down about 30 yds (27m) below the drift. Fortunately, the horses were still alive. The mail bag was found about 200 yds (167m) away, but the Cape Town packet was missing. It was a providential escape both for the passengers, postman and even the horses, said the newspaper.


Richmond is said to be the most popular place name in the world. Some are named in honour of the British dukes, and others are simply a combination of “rich” (splendid) and “mont” (hill). South Africa has five – two towns, a Johannesburg suburb, Richmond Estate in Cape Town and Richmond Hill in Port Elizabeth. London has 46, Oxford 41, Manchester 36, Wellington and Bristol 35 each, Newcastle 29, Plymouth 24, Jamaica and Australia 4 each and Granada 2. The Grenadines, Bahamas, New Zealand, St Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago all have one each. There are some Richmonds in northern France; the USA has several. There is a Richmond in San Francisco, California and Virginia, which is home to Richmond University. There is a Richmond Hill in Ontario and another in Fiji. Sri Lanka has a Richmond Castle and Vancouver, a Richmond Heights. Richmond in British Columbia took its name from Charles Lennox, lst Duke of Richmond, the illegitimate son of Charles II, states Barclay Simpson in Richmonds of the World. The southwest London one was named in honour of Henry VII,who was Earl of Richmond before he ascended to the throne. South Africa’s Karoo town was named in honour a Duke of Richmond, who was Sir Peregrine Maitland’s father-in-law. The town in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, was initially named Beaulieu-on-Illovo in 1850 by British settlers from Beaulieu, seat of the Duke of Buccleuch in Richmond, North Yorkshire. The name was later changed to Richmond. The arrival of these settlers encouraged a slow return of African people who fled raiding Zulu impis. These refugees were called the “amaBhaca”, (people who hide). In February 1906, two British officers were killed at nearby Byrne, while collecting the hated poll tax from “recalcitrant districts”. Called the Trewirgie Incident, this precipitated the imposition of martial law and set off the Bambatha Rebellion. There is a group of people who have made it their mission to try to visit all Richmonds in the world, says Barclay.


Pieter Pienaar was more of a hunter than an explorer, however, when he heard that the French botanist Francois le Vaillant was planning a trip into the hinterland, he offered his services. Sadly, however, Pieter’s weakness for strong drink preceded him and Le Vaillant, a strict teetotaler, turned him down. As luck would have it a letter from France addressed to Le Vaillant arrived shortly after he left Cape Town and the intrepid Pieter offered to deliver it. He set off towards the Orange River and made such good time that he quickly caught up to Le Vaillant’s party. Although disturbed by Pieter’s arrival, the good-mannered Frenchman offered him hospitality. Pieter readily accepted and like a magician, he quickly produced three bottles of cheap Cape brandy. He offered drinks all round. Le Vaillant politely refused and retired to his tent, but the other members of the party – Swanepoel, the foreman and a group of Hottentots – accepted with alacrity. A great party followed, and to Le Vaillant’s disgust, a raucous row went on throughout the night.


When dawn broke, everyone, except La Vaillant, was in a drunken stupor. Foreman Swanepoel, was in such a state that he was unable to walk straight. He tripped and fell in front of one of the wagons as the inspanned oxen lurched forward. He did not move and appeared to have been killed instantly. In a fury La Vaillant accused Pieter of the foreman’s death, but just then Swanepoel moved. He was hurt, but clearly still alive. He rolled his eyes and demanded a draught of “rhino blood”, declaring that was all that would prevent his passing. La Vaillant was horrified. Where on earth would they find Rhino blood! Pienaar, quickly stepped forward with another barrel of cheap brandy. It was just as efficacious as rhino blood he declared and proceeded to administer drams of this “medicine” to the injured Swanepoel. It seemed to affect a temporary cure. So, Pieter said: “Whenever you feel a spasm coming on just call out and I will bring you some more.” This went on for a few days until La Vaillant saw through the scam and sent Pieter packing says an article in the Tall Tales column of a one-time tourist brochure called Update. When he threatened to send Swanepoel off with him, the foreman was instantly cured.


The Cape and Natal News of Janaury 28, 1861 reported that a the oldest woman in the country had died at Phiel Missionary Station. She was 113 years old. She was survived by her 85-year-old daughter, a 70 year old granddaughter and a considerable number of great-grand and after children.

What is more mortifying than to feel that you have missed the plum for want of courage to shake the tree? – Logan Pearsall Smith