NEW HORIZONS FOR ROUND-UP
Rose’s Round-up has moved to Bloemfontein, but its coverage of the Karoo will continue. Readers welcomed this news and letters of encouragement poured in containing pleas to “keep writing the stories we all so love.” It was gratifying to discover that so many enjoy the glimpses of history, pre-history, conservation and ecology that they find in Rose’s Round-up. In its new format Round-up will no longer concentrate solely on promoting the tourism-based happenings of the Central Karoo as the District Municipality has not retained its exclusive right to the newsletter. Round-up’s base will be broadened to include a wider range of stories of general interest to lovers of the Great Karoo. Initially launched in 1992 to keep six town clerks abreast of tourism affairs, Rose’s Round-up has carved a unique niche for itself among readers of cultural history. The publication now reaches thousands of readers in South Africa and abroad in its printed and e.mail forms. Over the years the readership of Rose’s Round-up has grown into a loose brotherhood of the Great Karoo with readers constantly contributing stories for publication. A characteristic of those who love the Karoo is that nothing pleases them more than sharing its secrets with like-minded people. So, now as Rose’s Round-up moves into a new phase, I sincerely hope all who have opted to stay on the mailing list will find increased enjoyment in the stories. Thank you all for your support, good wishes and encouragement. Rose Willis
OMVATTENDE BOEK OOR ABO-WAPENS GELOODS
‘n Nuwe boek oor die wapentuig van die Anglo-Boere oorlog is onlangs op Onze Rust die familieplaas van ou Vrystaat president M T Steyn bekend gestel. Die omvattende, ten volle geillustreerde, 386-blad boek, getietel The Small Arms of the Anglo-BoerWar is deur Luckhoff veearts, Ron Bester, ‘n bekende deskundige en skrywer van ABO wapens, geskryf. Die werk het nege jaar geneem om te voltooi. Ron is bygestaan deur nege mede werkers, elk ‘n deskundige op sy gebied. Almal behalwe Duncan Noble, van Wallis, en plaaslike skrywer, Johan Hattingh, het die geleentheid bygewoon om boeke te teken. “Om die boek die dag te laat sien was nie maklik nie,” sê Ron. “Een uitgewer na die ander het kop uitgetrek toe die ABO-herdenking minder mense as verwag was na Suid-Afrika toe gelok het. Uiteindelik het dit daar toe gelei dat ‘n uitgewery in Brandfort in die Vrystaat gestig moes word.” Kraal Uitgewers, onder eienaarskap van Paul Alberts, is in die lewe geroep. “Dit was ‘n wyse besluit,” sê Ron. “Die eerste 100 spesiale versamelaars eksemplare is onmiddelik deur oorsese kopers opgeraap.” Die rede hiervoor is dat die Boere-oorlog nou eers in Amerika begin ‘mode’ word. Daar is ook ‘n groeiende belangstelling in Australia en ander lande. Die boek kan bestel word vanaf Kraal Uitgewers, Posbus 328, Brandfort 9400, teen ‘n koopprys van R525 plus BTW en posgeld. Kraal Uitgewers het nog heelwat ander publikasies in die pyplyn.
- COMPREHENSIVE BOOK ON BOER WAR WEAPONS
A new book on the weaponry of the Anglo-Boer was recently launched at Onze Rust, the family farm of old Free State president M T Steyn. The Small Arms of the Anglo-Boer War is a comprehensive, beautifully illustrated 386-page book, which took nine years to complete. It was written by the well-known expert and writer on Boer War weapons, Luckhoff veterinary surgeon, Ron Bester. He was assisted by nine co-authors, each an expert in his own field. All except Duncan Noble from Wales and local writer Johan Hattingh, attended the ceremony to autograph the books. “Producing this book was not easy,” said Ron. “One publisher after another withdrew when the commemorative centenary of the Anglo-Boer War brought less people to South Africa than originally expected.” Eventually Kraal Publishers was set up in Brandfort in the Free State to handle the task. “This was a wise decision because the first 100 special collectors’ editions were snapped up by overseas buyers,” said Ron. The reason for this is that the Anglo-Boer War has recently become “fashionable” in the United States. There is also a great deal of interest in this war in Australia and other countries at present. The book can be ordered from Kraal at P O Box 328. Bramdfort, 9400, at a cost of R525 per copy, plus VAT and postage. Kraal has several other publications in the pipeline.
MEMBER OF SMALL FIVE MAY AID ASTRONAUTS
The elephant shrew, a member of South Africa’s “small five,” may soon make a huge contribution to science. This tiny mouse-like animal with a snout shaped like an elephant’s trunk, copes with energy stress by hibernating. This odd habit is being studied by Nomakwezi Mzilikazi, a 25-year-old student studying for a PhD in evolutionary physiology at the University of Natal. According to The Sunday Times of September 21, she hopes her work may in time aid space travellers. “There is reason to believe that if you can isolate the gene responsible for hibernation you will be able to switch it on and off. Astronauts would then be able to sleep to conserve energy,” she said. Nomakwezi recently received a grant of R100 000 from the Department of Science and Technology for her pioneering work in this field.
TOUCHING TRIBUTE TO THE FALLEN
In the stark, silent shadows of the old Beaufort West cemetery single, bright orange dots drew attention to specific graves. These were pinhead proteas. They had been placed on the graves of soldiers who died during the Anglo-Boer War by a group of researchers from George, who arranged a special visit to Beaufort West to enjoy a tour with Rose Willis, before she left for Bloemfontein. The group also laid proteas on the graves of three British soldiers buried at Nelspoort. A bouquet was presented to local resident Sarah Berg, who with her husband, Stuurman, cares for these graves. She was delighted. “Some time ago a man had visited these graves,” she said. “He stood for a while as if praying, then came across to our house and gave us R50 to look after the graves. I don’t know who he was, but I’d hate him to come back and find we hadn’t done a good job.” At nearby Ganna Siding, the visitors relived the Boer ambush of a British troop train. This took place on July 19, 1901. A series of reports of the event were read aloud. “The Boers under Scheepers were hungry, poorly clothed and without proper shoes when they attacked the train that night,” said Taffy Shearing, author of The Commando Series. “Horsemen slipped over the flats, avoiding Nelspoort Station and the blockhouses on the banks of the Krom and Salt Rivers. They made for Ganna Siding where a slight incline would slow the train and make it vulnerable. The train was full of soldiers returning to duty. It also carried some women and a few children under the care of their nurse, Miss Kemp,” Railway researcher Peter Greeff took up the story adding dramatic accounts of the derailment, the noise, screams and courageous men who ran for help. The group also visited Krom River and Beaufort West blockhouses and lunched at Lemoenfontein, once a convalescent centre. Here Rose entertained them with stories of British officers who had recuperated there. Taffy Shearing showed a series of slides, made from pictures previously in a private collection. All agreed this was a memorable day. A follow up visit including a walk guided by Bloemfontein Boer War researcher Johan Loock, is being planned. The group also plans to visit Uitspansfontein, next year.
DIE DAG TOE DIT VIS GEREËN HET
In Mei, 1932, terwyl ‘n Graaff Reinet egpaar in hulle tuin gestaan het, het ‘n silwer vissie uit ‘n wolklose blou hemel op hulle neergeval, berig Die Prins Albert Vriend van 1 Junie, daardie jaar. Verskrik het hulle opgekyk. Daar was niks te bespeur in die skoon, potblou hemel nie. “Eers het daar net een vissie van niewers vandaan voor hulle neer geplomps, maar toe hulle in verskriking en verwondering opkyk ‘reen’ daar nog ‘n halfdosyn of meer op hulle neer.” Somige dorpenaars het die eienaardige verskynsel aan voëls toegeskryf. Hulle het te hoog gevlieg het om gesien te word, het een man gesê. ‘n Ander het geopper dat vis-eetende voëls miskien mekaar aangeval het en die vissies hoog in die lug gelos het. Daar was ‘n heel klomp bygelowiges wat gemeen het dat dit ‘n goeie teken was en bedoel om die egpaar to bewys dat hulle nooit in hulle lewens aan ‘n gebrek van kos sou ly nie. Wat ook al die rede die voorval bly tot vandag toe ‘n raaisel.
- THE DAY IT RAINED FISH
In May, 1932, while a Graaff Reinet couple were admiring their garden a small silver fish dropped at their feet. According to a story in the Prince Albert Friend of June 1, that year, they were startled and looked up in amazement, but there was nothing to see – only a clear blue sky. “First one little fish fell, then suddenly half a dozen or so rained down,” wrote the reporter. “Some villagers attributed it to birds. They claimed fish-eating birds had squabbled so high in the sky as to be invisible and dropped their catches. However, there were a few superstitious types who said it was simply a good omen to the couple telling them they would never go hungry in their lives. Whatever the reason, no satisfactory explanation has yet been given.”
VANDALS DESTROY HUGE CHUNKS OF HISTORY
Graveyards are more than final resting places for the dead. They are valuable sources of cultural historic information and vital tourism drawcards. So, it is immensely sad when they are vandalised as has happened in Beaufort West. Hinterland cemeteries in particular are great sources of information. They tell researchers much of the multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-national aspects of each little town. They also tell of the loves and lives of the people who came to the hinterland to find happiness. Among these is Catherine Scot White, 47, the beloved wife of Thomas Fulton. She was killed in an accident in 1829 shortly after she arrived in South Africa from Glasgow in Scotland to join him. Her tombstone in Beaufort West states that Thomas “sorely missed her.” Nearby is a single grave of two young men, James Conmy, 23, and Willie Preston, 21, who accidentally drowned in Beaufort West’s dam on February 20, 1895. Their shocked fellow workers “chipped in” for a memorial. Yet another gravestone tells of the suffering of James Gillingham, who died at the age of 51. “Affliction sore/ A long time I bore/ Physicians were in vain/ Then God did please/ To give me ease/ And spare me from my pain.” Fortunately, the stone bearing this inscription still stands. But sadly, nearby a magnificent black marble one with lengthy Gaelic inscription has been smashed. The worst damage has been done in the old Wesleyan (Methodist) graveyard. When researchers Rose Willis and Christina Jikela, from the South African Heritage Agency (SAHRA) recently inspected the graves of the British soldiers’ they were appalled at the desecration. Marble memorials had been smashed, Guild Crosses torn out and flung away. “There is no way to understand such vandalism,” said Christina, “One can only wonder why people who do this kind of thing do not have the courage to strike out at those who can hit back?”
ANCIENT SETTLEMENT FOUND
Excitement abounded in Nelspoort recently when researchers found the site where the San people once lived. Curator of the site Lawrence Rathenham invited Dr Judy Maguire, a palaeontologist now living in Prince Albert, to inspect the area. “It truly is an exciting place,” she said. “It is sheltered, secluded and rich with artefacts. Of particular interest is the fact that it covers an area in time from the Stone Age to the 19th century.” Artefacts, strewn along both banks of the Salt River, indicate that the place was a preferred living area for many early, indigenous Karoo people. “The deflate surface bears traces of Middle and Late Stone Age activities, particularly tool making. But there are also ceramic pottery shards, which date to a much later time. They come from shattered utensils used by different people. The site shows clear areas of activity, distinct ‘factory sites’ where, for instance, tools were made, stones bored, ostrich shells cleaned, and shell chips threaded into necklaces and other items of body ornamentation. Clearly, over the years this spot has held a wide appeal among Stone Age, San and Khoikhoi people. Sadly, the whole area is rapidly eroding. Aerial photographs show much evidence of the general deterioration. In time it will simply vanish,” said Judy. “But the memory of the people will be retained in the rock art. Lawrence and his team have found engravings on all the hills and in secluded ravines.”
‘N DOU VOOR DAG BESOEK AAN BEAUFORT WEST
Sestig toeriste van Soweto, wat ‘n besoek aan die Klein Karoo en Tuinroete beplan het, gaan nou ook ‘n vroeë oggend besoek aan Beaufort Wes in hulle program insluit. Hul toer was deur Maureen Sharpe van Cape Escape Tours beplan. Toe sy onlangs vir Rose Willis ontmoet het tydens ‘n besoek van Kaap toergidse aan die Karoo, het sy besluit om iets uniek vir haar passesiers te reel. Hulle kom per trein na Beaufort-Wes waar hulle dou voor dag arriveer. ‘n Spesiale program is ontwerk om hulle aan die Groot Karoo bekend te stel. Dit konsentreer op die rol wat swartmense in die deel van die Karoo gespeel het. Rose het ‘n spesifieke nagevorsing gedoen om vir Maureen te help om die kort besoekie iets besonders vir hierdie toeriste te maak.
- EARLY MORNING VISIT TO BEAUFORT WEST
Sixty Tourists from Soweto, who arranged a visit to the Klein Karoo and Garden Route are now also including a brief tour of Beaufort West in their programme. Their trip was arranged by Maureen Sharpe of Cape Escape Tours, however, after a meeting with Rose Willis when the Cape Tour guides visited the Karoo a few months ago, she decided to add something special to the programme for these visitors. Rose assisted her with some special research based on the role played by Black people in this part of the Karoo and together they were able to set up a special programme for the group.
ELEVEN MILLION TOURISTS GET NO INFORMATION IN SA
Information, the vital cement of effective tourism, is lacking in South Africa. Recent surveys show much work is needed in the spheres of marketing and information distribution. This was revealed recently by Dick Jones, director of the Community Tourism Association (CTA) in an address at a workshop in Kwa-Zulu Natal. “A recent critical analysis done by Peter Myles, head of the Centre for Tourism at the University of Port Elizabeth, reveals that while more than 10-million bed nights were sold in hotels last year, most guests left without information on what to see and do. An estimated 11-million tourists to South Africa did not receive information at all on their last trip. Tourist information bureaus are the weakest link in the S A tourism chain. Only 4% of visitors use of bureaus. Hardly surprising when one discovers that most stock no generic information of other towns and regions. Generally, bureaus struggle along on shoestring budgets and income from membership fees, sponsorships and donations. Funding is insufficient or non-existent, so bureaus try to become commercialised in an effort to survive. Staff often pay for essential services out of their own pockets. Salaries generally are low; training is minimal and general knowledge scant. Most bureaus have no corporate identity, strategies nor service standards. Record keeping is poor, data banks non-existent. No one can measure the impact of tourism in the area. “But all is not lost. We have to face the problem and set the situation right. The CTA can help,” said Dick.
WAAR IS DIE SPOKE?
“Wat het van die Karoo se spoke geword? Het hulle verdwyn, of is hulle maar net uit-gespook?” Die vrae is onlangs deur Johnny Murphy, boorling van Prins Albert gevra. Tydens sy kinderdae het grootmense haarrysende spookstories vertel., maar nou nie meer nie. “Hulle stories het ons kinders laat bewe van banghied. Die storie van die bobbejaan wat elke volmaan stoksielaleen gaan tennis speel, kompleet met kortbroek, pet, tekkies en raket, het ek nie so maklik gebyt nie, maar my suster Leah het natuurlik als vir soetkoek opgeeet. My pa het graag vertel van ‘n man met die bloed gevlekte verband om sy kop wat dikwels in Bosluiskloof en op die Swartbergpas, naby Fonteintjie Draai, ‘n verskyning gemaak het. “Een geleentheid sal ek nooit vergeet nie. Ek en pa moes ‘n swaar vrag koring in Gamkaskloof gaan haal. Op pad terug in die skemer, net duskant Teeberg , destyds ‘n gewilde uitspan plek, het ons ‘n rookie sien draai. Ons het vermoed dat dit ‘n padloper was wat rustig daar sit en vleis braai. Maar toe ons daar kom was daar geen teken van ‘n man of ‘n vuur nie. Nêrens was daar kole en die grond was ook nie warm nie. Die hare op ons nekke het regop gestaan. Ons het haastig die haas se pad gekies en eers weer asem gehaal toe ons onder en naby die dorp was.”
- WHERE HAVE ALL THE GHOSTS GONE?
What has happened to the ghosts of the Karoo? Have they all been laid to rest? These questions were asked by Johnny Murphy, a former resident of Prince Albert. In his youth he said, adults told hair-raising ghost stories, but now, no more. “Their stories had us children shivering with fright. I always scoffed at the one about a baboon that played tennis when the moon was full, togged out in shorts, takkies and a cap. My sister Leah, however, believed every word. My father loved to tell the tale of a man with blood stained bandages round his head, who often appeared at Bosluiskloof and on the Swartberg Pass, near Fonteintjie Corner. But. the day I will never forget was one when Dad and I had to transport a heavy load of grain from Gamkaskloof. On route up the mountain we saw a curl of smoke at a specific outspan. We thought someone was braaiing meat there over an open fire. However, when we got to the spot there was not sign of anyone, nor of a fire. There was no warm ground in the vicinity indicating a recent fire and there was a peculiar coldness about the place. The hair on our necks rose. We fled as quickly as we could not stopping for breath until we reached the village.”
AN ANCIENT CLOCK TICKS ON IN THE MOORDENAARS KAROO
Many who visit the Moordenaars Karoo, with its strangely emotive name, feel it is an Empty Quarter. Yet it is filled with fascination and history as three groups who watched the sun rise and set during the Spring Equinox with historian/researcher Dr Cyril Hromnik discovered. They found this an “emotional, mind blowing, exciting, experience.” Sunset and sunrise were observed from September 19 to 22 from special stone temple/observatories dating back to the First Millennium AD,” said Dr Hromnik. “These temples were built by the indigenous ancestors of the present-day Coloured people of the Cape who, before mixing with the Europeans, Malays and imported black slaves, lived in this land and called themselves Quena, meaning ‘red people’. They were Quena not because they looked red, but because they worshipped a god who was red, like the one called Shiva, who is worshipped by the Dravidian Indians. In their contact with the early Europeans the Quena liked to introduce themselves as Otentottu, which means ‘related’ or ‘mixed’ people. By doing so they indicated their awareness of the fact that at one time their ancestors had mixed with people like those coming from Portuguese, Dutch and other ships. Unfortunately, the Dutch corrupted this meaningful name into the meaningless word ‘Hottentots’,” said Dr Hromnik. “Who these foreign ancestors were, is indicated by the Dravidian name “Karoo” for the “dry land” and by the choice of places such as the Moordenaars Karoo for their temples.
ANCIENT, SACRED ACHITECTURE
The architecture of these temple/observatories displays features that are typical of the ancient sacred architecture of Dravidian India. They reflect the astronomy of the same provenance. This and other evidence leaves no doubt that the non-African ancestors of the Quena were Dravidian Indians, who in pursuit of gold explored the lands south of the Limpopo in the post-Christ centuries. Along the way they mixed with the local Kung (Bushmen) women, producing the physically slightly but culturally significantly modified Otenottu Quena. Their temples still stand in the Moordenaars Karoo and precise time measurements can still be taken from these. This was verified by the 43 observers, who watched the equinox sun setting precisely in the Pram of the west facing Abbu Lingam temple,” said Dr Hromnik. Five descendants of the ancient Indo-Quena, who shared the experience, were emotionally moved as they blew their kudu horns in the direction of the red setting sun. Early next morning, the group braved cold and darkness, not wanting to miss the exciting moment of the sun’s rising over two planted monoliths facing east, and it appeared precisely as had been calculated by the Quena priest\astronomers so many centuries ago. In days of yore a burning oil lamp carved in the temple stone, guided the meditating minds of the ancient Quena. In September this year the same ancient lamp directed the eyes of modern-day observers towards the correct spot on the eastern horizon. “Wonderful!” greeted the rising sun. “This proves the Moordenaars Karoo still ticks precisely in harmony with ancient times. This ticking is a part of the neglected heritage of the Otentottu Quena people of South Africa,” said Dr Hromnik.
NEW HOPE FOR CRITICALLY ENDANGERED RIVERINE RABBIT
Riverine rabbit researchers are jubilant. They have new hope for the species since a small colony of these rare and critically endangered creatures have been sighted near Touws River. “This is quite remarkable. The colony is several hundred kilometres away from the natural habitat of the species,” said Anita Wheeler of Cape Nature Conservation. “The normal distribution of this rabbit is in the Central Karoo region around towns such as Sutherland, Fraserburg and Victoria West. Recently, however, about 10 individual sightings were made in Hans Struik’s private nature reserve, Bijstein, north of Touws River. This is very significant. It represents a lifeline for these highly endangered creatures and gives us a whole new distribution area to research.” Genetic material has been collected and DNA samples have been sent to the University of Stellenbosch for analysis. This will determine whether these rabbits have developed naturally at Bijstein or whether they are from another population.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE BEAUFORT KIND
September 26, 1944 was a dark, moonless night. All was peaceful in Beaufort West as residents prepared for bed. Suddenly mysterious, brilliant light filled the night skies, “turning the darkness into day,” according to The Courier of October 11. “An intense white light appeared high in the sky over Beaufort West on a dark moonless night last week,” wrote The Courier reporter. “It was as strong as daylight and appeared to be travelling fast towards the Cape. Residents were terrified. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, it disappeared. Three minutes later there was a loud explosion. Some said was an approaching storm, but those who witnessed this strange phenomenon say it was neither lightening, nor thunder. The night was “clear as a bell,’ they claim. Few believe that it was an explosion. Generally, it is assumed it must have been a meteor, but no crater has been reported. So the mystery lingers on.”