END OF AN ERA

The postal Round-up has come to an end. Sadly, this was inevitable because so many of its loyal readers were having trouble reading the reduced type. Also, those with access to e-mail had opted preferring a speedier service with copies that could be printed out in larger type. So, the post list dwindled and the drama of getting to the copy shop, stationers and post office seemed hardly worthwhile, particularly after I wrote off my car. So, I decided to stop producing the postal version. However, some staunch supporters flatly refused to accept this, saying they had saved all the copies of Round-up since it first appeared in January 1993. They have simply paid their subscriptions and insisted that I mail them copies – A4 if need be. One even suggested they be called The Dinosaur Club because they had no access to modern technology and absolutely no intention of ever acquiring e-mail. I am so touched and humbled by this loyalty, that I will honour the request of this little band. Please let me know if you are one.

GATHERING OF THE CLAN

Almost 250 years have passed since the first De Beers arrived to make their home in the Karoo. Brothers Zacharias, Mathys and Johannes, established farms at the foot of the Zwartberg, raised families and put down deep roots to anchor their descendants in South Africa. Over the years their descendants have regularly met in tranquil Prince Albert, the lovely village established on Zacharias’s farm Queekvallei. Each get-together has been memorable, but now a special celebration is being planned to mark the 250th anniversary in 2012, so if you have links to the De Beers and would like to be part of this great occasion, contact the Prince Albert Tourist Bureau.

ALWAYS SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE

It seems there is always something to celebrate in Prince Albert and 2012 will be no exception. A year of celebrations is planned. The municipality turns 110 and January will see the mayor, Councellor Goliath Lottering, making some “special announcements”. Ernst van Jaarsveldt will present a slide show to honour the Garden Club’s birthday in February and to herald the start of a new garden for the village. In March, the ACVV celebrates its 100th anniversary and Huis Kweekvallei turns 40. Traditionally the extremely popular Olive Festival is held in April and next year the Friends of the Museum turns 30 that month. This will be celebrated with a photographic exhibition entitled “Then and Now”. Astrological tours and creative art workshops are planned for May. The Library celebrates its 150 anniversary in June and Patchwork Theatre will stage Oliver to mark this occasion. “This is especially appropriate as Charles Dickens published the first installment of this famous work 175 years ago,” said a spokesman. A mid-winter moonlit market is scheduled to complete the Library anniversary. A Winter Feast and Victorian Market are on the cards for July. August celebrates the Dutch Reformed church’s 150th bazaar with a Boere Sport Day to mark the congregation’s 175th anniversary. The De Beers will gather in September for their 250th anniversary and special Heritage Day, National Braai Day and Arts Festivals are planned. The local newspaper, The Prince Albert Friend, celebrates its centenary in October and the quilting club, Patchwork Dolls, is creating a heritage quilt in honour of this occasion. It will be exhibited at St John’s Flower Festival. The Harvest Festival is traditionally celebrated in November, the month for Stars and Stories outings. And finally, an exciting series of seasonal markets and celebrations are planned for December.

ORGAN STILL MAKES A JOYFUL NOISE

The first organ of the Murraysburg Dutch Reformed Church was inaugurated on July 7, 1871. The organist was W P de Villiers from Beaufort West, who regularly played until Miss J P Herholdt was appointed as organist in January 1872, at a salary of £25 a year. She held this position until she married B B Keet in 1877. When the church was enlarged in 1907 the organ was sold to the Elliot congregation and a new organ was ordered from Vowles in Bristol, England. It was one of six delivered to South African and it was inaugurated with the new church on December 14, 1907, when Jan S de Villiers gave a recital which according to The Graaff-Reinet Herald was “grand, perfect and truly heavenly.” Initially pumped by hand, the organ was refurbished in 1945 and an electric pump was installed. The organ has 1 594 pipes, of which 53 are the symmetrically arranged, decorative pipes visible to the congregation. The organ has 31 different registers. It is regularly serviced and tuned by Cooper, Gill and Tomkins and their agents. Experts consider this organ to be “reasonably young”. Similar ones in Europe, they say, are over 300 years old and still deliver first class sound. Murraysburg’s longest serving organist was Mymie Burger, who stepped into the post just before her marriage in 1896 and continued playing for 59 years until she retired in 1955. She was the daughter of Charel van Heerden who farmed at Brandkraal. His wife was the sister of Rev A A Louw, who served this community for over 15 years.

KAROO AWAKENS MEMORIES OF SCOTLAND

Lady Sarah Wilson claimed to have spent some of the happiest days of her life in South Africa. “Everything of interest happened to me there,” she wrote in South African Memories Social, Warlike & Sporting Diaries. She first saw the Karoo on her initial visit in 1895. “We started on our journey to Kimberley, in the last week of the old year. For a whole of one day we dawdled over the Great Karoo in pelting rain and mist, which reminded us of Scotland. The sandy desert was covered with brown scrub, for it was yet too early for the rains to have made it green. The only signs of life were a few ostriches, wild white goats, and, very rarely, a wagon piled with wood, drawn along the sandy road by ten or twelve donkeys. As to vegetation, there were huge clumps of mimosa-bushes, just shedding their yellow blossoms, through which the branches showed up with their long white thorns, giving them a weird and withered appearance. It must indeed have required great courage of the old Voortrekker Boers, when they left Cape Colony, at the time of the Great Trek, in long lines of white-tented wagons, to penetrate through this dreary-waste in search of the Promised Land. They had heard of green veld and running streams lying away to the north. I have been told that President Kruger was on this historical trek, a voorlooper, or little boy, who guides the leading oxen. Around Kimberley the country had a different appearance. Here we saw real veldt covered with short grass, just beginning to get burnt up by the summer’s heat.”

ECONOMIC REALITIES OF A DREAM

John Garlick’s dream sanatorium at Nelspoort did not materialize as rapidly as expected. Many had hoped that the steady flow of chest sufferers from Europe to the Karoo in search of a cure, would filter to this central point, but as a Mr Duminy pointed out at a conference on tuberculosis in 1924, this did not happen. The Minister of Public Health suggested that the sanatorium be thrown open to all four provinces, but Duminy said that was out of the question. Something would have to be worked out as regards payment and people from the Cape would have to be given preference. His reasoning was that the Cape was more highly taxed than other provinces owing to its system of local government. Also, it has contributed to the large farm at Nelspoort. There was still plenty of ground available in this area, he said and other provinces could purchase this for their own needs in respect of tuberculosis. This suggestion was greeted with applause. The East London Daily Dispatch reported that a Mr Turpin from Bedford opposed the regulation calling upon small towns to pay half the costs of patients sent. He felt this grossly unfair. An institution such as the Nelspoort Sanatorium, he said, should be open to all who could not pay. Mr Paul Cluver was instantly on his feet objecting to this. Such an arrangement he said would see the institution being swamped with incurables. He found the cost of 10s a day “most reasonable”, particularly if relations, or the province or town sending the patient, paid half. So much heated discussion followed, that the congress only ended at 20h00 that night, still with a stringent warning that if the Cape could not fill the sanatorium there would be no alternative but to throw open its doors to other provinces.

IRISHMAN EXPLORES THE WORLD OF THE SAN

Joseph Millard Orpen, a 20-year-old Irishman, immigrated to the Cape in 1848 and took up sheep farming in the Karoo. He later moved to the Free State where he became a surveyor and politician. As a self-taught geologist he became interested in rock art after meeting his brother Charles’s close friend, George William Stow. At George’s suggestion Joseph started copying rock art and thoroughly enjoyed it. Joseph single handedly tracked and found Qing, one of the last survivors of the Drakensberg San. With Qing he travelled to rock art sites. In the evenings while sitting around the camp fire, Qing, provided insights and meaning to many of the drawings that Joseph had made. Joseph diligently recorded these conversations and explanations and thanks to him, researchers today are able to understand the meaning of a great deal of the rock art. Despite being somewhat of an imperialist Joseph had a deep interest in the indigenous people of South Africa states an article in the African Rock Art; Digital Archive. In July 1874, he wrote an article entitled A Glimpse into the Mythology of the Maluti Bushmen for the Cape Monthly Magazine.

TEACHER MAKES A BREAKTHROUGH

At the turn of the last century a Cradock school teacher made a breakthrough in techniques used to record San rock art. She was Helen Tongue and she taught at Rockland Girls’ High from the late 1890s to early 1900s. It was there that she met Dorothea Bleek, daughter of famous San linguist and ethnographer, Wilhelm Bleek. Helen and Dorothea travelled widely visiting rock art sites in the Karoo and it was during this time that Helen developed a direct contact tracing technique to record painted and engraved images in their true proportions and relationship to other images appearing on the rock surface, states an article on the South African Rock Art Digital Archive. In this way, she took an important step beyond the pioneering work of George Stow. Helen made her first copy on a farm in the Molteno district and was delighted with the result. Other copies were made in the Eastern Cape Karoo area where she almost always worked alone, however, the bulk of her work was done during three fieldtrips with Dorothea Bleek. At the beginning of 1906, Helen and Dorothea made a train trip to the Free State to visit sites in Bloemfontein and Ladybrand. A later expedition at the end of that year took them to the Eastern Cape and Lesotho and on their third and last expedition they travelled by train to Fauresmith and to Luckoff by ox wagon.

PRINTED AND PRESERVED

In 1908 selected copies of Helen Tongue’s work were exhibited at the South African Public Library in Cape Town and later at the Royal Anthropological Institute in London. They were highly acclaimed. The following year a handsome book including many of these illustrations was published. Helen wrote descriptions for each site and plate, Dorothea Bleek contributed “Notes on the Bushmen” and Henry Balfour wrote the preface. The book, entitled Bushman Paintings, was Helen’s first and only rock art publication. Part of The Tongue Collection, including the drawings that were exhibited and published, is stored at the Iziko Museums of Cape Town. Helen’s original tracings and line drawings are housed at the Rock Art Research Institute. Many of these had originally been donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford in 1921, but these were returned to the Rock Art Research Institute in South Africa in 1990s.

ROYAL RELATIVE CAPTIVATED BY PLANTS

The first woman to take a strong interest in the natural history of South Africa was the well-educated, but highly eccentric, Lady Anne Monson, a granddaughter of King Charles II of England. She never made it into the interior, or the Karoo, but she left her name among the country’s plants, some of which appear in the dryland. Anne, and her husband, Colonel George Monson, called at the Cape en route to Bengal in the early 1700s. She was apparently quite captivatingly beautiful, and the story goes that while at the Cape she met the Swedish botanist Carl Thunberg, who “was charmed by her”. She collected specimens with British plant collector Francis Masson who found her “delightful and beautiful,” and she is said to have so fascinated the Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus, that he named the South African plant genus Monsonia in her honour. The Monsons left for Calcutta in 1774 and there too she stole many hearts, but alas, Lady Anne died less than two years after her arrival.

FROM SWITZERLAND TO THE PLAINS OF THE KAROO

A young girl, who was born in Basle, Switzerland, developed an interest in South African plants, studied the vegetation of the Karoo and later died at the age of 79 at an old age home in Bloemfontein. She was Dr Marguerite Gertrud Anna Henrici. After completing her schooling Marguerite spent some time in France, but then returned home in 1913 to study botany, chemistry and zoology at the University of Basle. She later specialized in plant physiology and was awarded a doctoral degree in 1917. She went on to work as an assistant and researcher in the university’s botanical institute and from there was recruited by Arnold Theiler to join his team at Onderstepoort. She arrived in South Africa in November 1922. Her brief was to study seasonal variations of phosphate, deficiencies of which were causing “lamsiekte”. To accomplish this she was put in charge of the Armoedsvlakte experimental farm, near Vryburg, at a time when almost no women were being appointed to professional or managerial posts. This research developed into a life-long study of the food value of South African veld types and grasses. She also studied the cystine and sulphur content of Karoo shrubs. In time a veld reserve was established at Fauresmith and a special field station was built there for the study of Karoo vegetation. Considering she spoke German, French and very little English, Marguerite adapted particularly well to South Africa’s Afrikaans-speaking communities where she did ground breaking work despite the fact that controversy surrounded her statements on the effect of indigenous and exotic trees on ground water sources. She reached retirement age in 1948 but continued to work on her research for a further 20 years, until poor health forced her take up residence in an old age home in Bloemfontein. When she left Fauresmith in 1968 the local farming community honoured her with an illuminated address. She died in Bloemfontein two years later at the age of 79.

BABOON BARKS FOLLOWED VISITORS TO TOWN

Baboons were reported in great numbers on the Nuweveld Mountains from as early as December 1839. Missionary/explorer James Backhouse reported seeing huge troops all along the range north-west of Beaufort West. Their harsh, distinctive barks followed most early travellers right into the village, he said. The sharp bark led to baboons acquiring the unusual name of chacma. Professor C J Skead, who studied the incidence of mammals in the early Cape says, “The word, chöachamma, or cho a kamma, is of Hottentot origin. It imitated the sound made by the baboons and gave them their name.”

PRAISING THE LORD – IN FOREIGN WAYS

Getting the word of the Lord to the far flung corners of the hinterland was a daunting task in the early 1800s. Scottish clergy arrived to preach to Dutch farmers of the interior, but a true Anglican service was a rarity and, when these services were held, they scared the locals, it seems states an item in the Van Riebeeck Society’s recently published, The South African Letters of Thomas Pringle, edited by Randolph Vigne. A letter, thought to have been written by Pringle from Graaff-Reinet in August 1825, states that Rev Wright from Wynberg had braved a trip into the interior to preach in this largely Dutch-speaking town, but that his visit had a rather overwhelming effect on local residents. The old Dutch inhabitants of the town “were a little startled” by the appearance of an English clergyman with a white surplice, in their Presbyterian pulpit, stated the writer. Also, the formalities of the English service, the kneeling, etc, were all very strange to them, but this was not surprising as such rituals had not been seen in this part of the Colony for at least the last 20 years. People discussed the service for several days, fervently asking each other “whether this service and dress did not retain some of the ‘airs of Antichrist’ and ‘rags of Rome’!” However, after witnessing the service for three successive Sundays, observing the impressive earnestness of the preacher, and the devout solemnity of their English counterparts, and also after ascertaining from their own worthy zealous Presbyterian clergyman that “the Church of England liturgy was the work of excellent, sound and pious men” the prejudices, of even the sternest, seemed to relax. The white surplice lost its horrors, no stools were hurled at the missionary and it was generally agreed that despite the man’s peculiar dress, all was fine. In the end the service was merely written off as “the manner of the English church” and in time forgotten.


The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.Albert Einstein.