Print has not died. The Association of American Publishers say that e-books are having a tough time and that their sales dropped by about 10% in the first five months of this year. This was encouraging to the organisers of Prince Albert’s annual Leesfees. Their aim is to develop a culture of reading and a love of books. This year’s event, scheduled for November 4 to 7, includes talks by bestselling authors, but the festival is not only about books and publishing, the programme includes discussions of writing techniques, a workshop, poetry, performances, story-telling and the launch of Abraham, a new film by Jans Rautenbach. “As ever, there will be something for everyone,” say the organisers. The two-day thriller writing workshop will be presented by Leon van Nierop, one of South Africa’s top Afrikaans authors. His books Adrenalien, Plesierengel and Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling, are bestsellers. There is a story-telling, song, rhyme, dance and chat session, which promises to be great fun and a schools’ programme designed to encourage children to read. The festival will be officially opened by Anroux Marais, Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport. There will also be a short welcome by festival patron, Laetitia van Dyk, and youth patron, Caleb Swanepoel. After the opening, palaeontologist and historian, Dr Judy Maguire, will talk on the Khoekhoe pot logo and discuss Slow Down, a new book by photographer Louis Botha. This book, a rare collection of candid portraits of people who live in North End, is considered a cultural treasure.


The official cultural history of Prince Albert will be launched during the Leesfees. Local authors, Judy Maguire, MaryAnne Botha and Lydia Barrella, will discuss their contributions to this book with Professor Matilda Burden. The programme includes many other discussions. They include Randall Wicomb discussing aspects of his biography with writer Amos van der Merwe; author, journalist Rehana Rossouw talking about her debut novel, What Will People Say? with Carol Campbell, a former Prince Albert resident and Carol, discussing her own books with Sunday Times columnist, advertising copywriter and novelist, Paige Nick. Some previously unpublished authors will present their works and poets, Daniel en Pieter Hugo, introduce a new anthology. Cartoonist/comedian, Kobus Galloway will present Idees Vol Vrees and singer/actress Susan Coetzer, will entertain with Smarties vir die Siel and ‘n Tas Vol Mooi Songs. The question of whether South African English is a Colonial relic or whether it has a rainbow future will be debated by Jill Wolvaardt, executive director of the Dictionary Unit for South African English at Rhodes University. She will pose the question: “Did the end of apartheid mark the end of the road for the language of the privileged few in South Africa? Will the language of the colonial settlers be eclipsed by the country’s indigenous languages. Author, publisher, journalist and TV personality, Dine van Zyl will discuss Boerekos and there will be a special talk on colouring for adults by art therapist Tanya O’Connor. “Colouring is extremely therapeutic. It helps calm people, enables them to focus and relieves stress,” she says. There are now many books with beautiful, intricate designs for adults to colour on the market.


The Philipstown Draadkar (Wire Car) Festival, a highlight of the Northern Cape, takes place on October 10, in that little village. It’s quite something to see so, if you are a Karoo fan, don’t miss it.


It is interesting to note that rugby in South Africa owes its origins to clerics and schools. Reverend George Ogilvie (‘Gog’), a man born in Wiltshire, England, in 1826, is credited with introducing football to South Africa, after he was appointed headmaster of the Diocesan College at Rondebosch, in 1861. He taught Winchester football, a game he had learned at his ‘alma mater’, Winchester College, in Hampshire England. Soon, the young men of Cape Town joined in and, after the first competitive game on August 21, 1862, many local challenge matches were reported in the press. The first club was formed around 1875 and Winchester football was played until 1878 when William Henry Milton, a former England back came to South Africa and turned the tide in favour of rugby. Milton, (later Sir William and administrator of the then Southern Rhodesia) also represented South Africa at cricket when his rugby-playing career ended. Another minister is credited with bringing rugby to the hinterland. He was Canon R J Mullins, who is said to have introduced rugby to both black and white sportsmen in Grahamstown, when he was appointed principal of an educational institution associated with St Andrew’s College, in the 1870s. St Andrews is said to have played rugby since 1878. One of Mullins’ sons, Charles, was awarded a Victoria Cross during the Anglo-Boer War, another, Reginald, fondly known as Cuth, was a rugby player of note and served as a doctor at one of the Imperial Yeomanry hospitals, during this war.


A “curious thing” happened about two hours ride from Graaff-Reinet in 1841. Heavy rain, the first in months, fell on October 16, and at the same time there was a fall of snow on the surrounding hills, stated the Cape Frontier Times of November 4. Next day a small fish was found in a puddle of rain water. The fish, about 3,8cm long and 1,2cm in circumference, resembled a miniature salmon. It was dark coloured, perfectly fresh, with blue-ish back and sides, a white belly, a yellowish tinge near the throat. It had one fin on its back. The head, mouth and eyes were perfect. The newspaper reported that there was a similar occurrence, at the same place, during the previous year. At that time three fishes were found. There was no a fish-pond, lake or river within 96 km. “This phenomenon has been observed in other places, such as India and parts of Europe, where stones fell from the clouds. “There was no satisfactory explanation. Fish falling from the sky in the dry Karoo, is certainly unusual,” said the newspaper.


Old Mr M J Adendorff, established a wool washing operation on his farm, The Erf, near Graaff-Reinet, in 1855. He served sheep farmers and wool purchasers in the Richmond, Colesberg, Middelburg and Graaff-Reinet areas. Costs were 3/8ths of a penny per pound and wool was collected and delivered to Graaff-Reinet farmers free of charge. Adendorff also delivered clean wool directly to Port Elizabeth merchants. He told the Graaff-Reinet Advertiser that there was a constant stream of clear water running through the dams in which the wool was washed, so that the end product was beautifully clean. He had, he said, washed upwards of 200 hundred bales, and given the highest satisfaction to all clients. He ensured potential clients that every precaution was taken to ensure that no wool escaped out of the dams.


Some time ago Ellen Stanton visited the Library of Congress in Washington, D C, to transcribe historic items for a local history website. “The South Africa magazine is housed in the Science and Business Reading Room,” she said. “You cannot go into the stacks at all. You have to fill out a request form, and librarians `bring the books to your desk. Each volume is about 8 cm thick and contains three months worth of magazines. Published weekly S A Magazine, has a great deal of business news. Each issue is at least 100 pages long and pages are extremely brittle.”


Veterinary surgeon, Professor William Catton Brandford, came to the Cape on October 6, 1876, on a three-year contract. He was an arrogant, ambitious, self-assured and litigious man and the first vet to work in this country, During his stay he was the only veterinarian in South Africa. Born in Thetford, Norfolk in 1837, he moved to London to train as a vet and qualified as a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS) in 1857. He set up a practice in Oundle, and specialised in the treatment of horses. He gained notoriety by suing Great Eastern Railways for the injury and loss of one of his colts. In 1858 he married Mary Kitchen, who was ten years’ his senior, by licence – rather than bann – because she was on her deathbed. She died of consumption month after the wedding and William lost little time in securing a new partner. Within a month Ann, Mary’s younger sister, had moved in as his housekeeper. They never married, because until 1907 there was legal prohibition against marriage to a deceased wife’s sister. However, in 1860, they had a daughter, whom they named Mary. During that year Ann’s father died and William inherited his farm in Upton. The couple had six more children, one of which died within three months.


In 1869 William was appointed professor of anatomy at the Royal Veterinary College in Edinburgh and by 1876 he was professor of veterinary medicine and surgery. However, he was not a popular teacher and there was much student strife in his classes. Due to this he was suspended without pay, then his post was terminated. This was too much for Ann. She died of “nervous fever”, depressive exhaustion, some said suicide, in 1871. Yet, just before coming to South Africa, William was elected an honorary Fellow of the Veterinary Medical Association of London. In South Africa William’s task was quite formidable. In very turbulent political times, he was single-handedly responsible for all veterinary work in the Colony. He had to report on the health of livestock, investigate mortality, ascertain causes of stock disease, take steps to remedy outbreaks and make suggestions to prevent the recurrence. William was horrified by what he saw. According to him flocks and herds were riddled with disease, says William Beinart in The Rise of Conservation in South Africa. He travelled extensively covering over 4 000 miles on horseback, by rail, post cart and steamer. He journeyed across the hinterland studying sheep ailments and conducting post mortems. This allowed him to discover a great deal about stock diseases, many of which were unfamiliar to him


William made many useful recommendations to government. He suggested that horses suffering from glanders should immediately be destroyed and buried. He also stressed that there should be a closed shooting season to protect the Colony’s bird life and that veld burning should be the prohibited so as not to destroy wild life and upset the balance of nature. Sadly, his great efforts at improving animal health and conservation were overshadowed by a bitter wrangle with the Government. He stayed on in Cape Town for a year at the end of his contract trying to get money which he believed was owing to him. He even submitted an unsuccessful petition to parliament. Then he was accused of fraud in a lottery involving a race horse. A humiliating court case followed, he was found guilty and jailed for 14 days. As a result, he was struck off the role of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1880. Ten years later he successfully appealed and was reinstated. Achieving this was costly and he was unable to pay his mortgage, so he left the country. Sometime later he returned to set up Zout Kom Nitrates Company in Calvinia. Sadly, this also failed. He died in a London Hotel in 1891, less than a year after being exonerated of fraud.


On April 9, 1900, the Brisbane Courier reported that train wreckers had been arrested at Beaufort West. It seems British authorities apprehended two men on the main railway line, on the outskirts of the village, attempting to wreck a train conveying Sir, Alfred Milner to Cape Town.


It was not unusual for circuit courts to hear cases at night. Way back, before electric lighting was available across the land, candles were provided in hinterland court rooms at night. The practice was to have a candle on either side of the judge, one on each side of the advocates, and one at the dock, states George Randell, in Bench and Bar. One day, when the Eastern Districts Court, was sitting in Cala, it was not able to complete its work load by the end of the day. No problem, the officials opted to continue once they had dined. A particularly good and sumptuous dinner was served and by 20h00 legal teams were ready to proceed. The advocates took up their places in the softly lit room. The judge, a Mr McGregor, entered, looked over the candles and asked the prosecutor, Advocate F B van der Riet: “Are there two accused or only one?” Van der Riet replied: “I see only one,” thinking the judge might have imbibed too much at dinner, but McGregor, maintained he was referring to the number of cases to be heard that evening. This story led to many laughs throughout the district for quite a longtime.


A daring burglary was committed in Graaff Reinet in 1842. Thieves broke into the premises of W Kidson, a wine merchant. The lock on the store door was forcibly wrenched off and a pane of glass broken to allowing the window fastening to be withdrawn and the premises entered. This was only discovered next morning. Two cash boxes were missing, a wooden one, which had no lock, and a tin one. The former contained about £2 in cash, and a Commissariat draft for £1 5s. The latter, which had been locked on Saturday evening, contained a quantity of promissory notes, amounting to more than £2,000. This box also contained receipts and sundry little articles of value. The wooden box was afterwards found empty in a cart that was standing in the yard. The Cape Frontier Times reported that the police had arrested two men – Klaas Davis, who was an employee of the store and Jacob Lingfield, a lad who had formerly worked for Kidson. Davis proclaimed himself “an honest man” and, after being apprehended, led Kidson and the police to a bushy area where he had hidden the tin box. He said Jacob had told him to hide it there. A pair of shoes belonging to Kidson were found at Davis’s house and one of his neighbours reported she had seen him wearing these. The shoes were compared to marks on the wall below the broken window at Kidson’s store and the toe of the left shoe corresponded exactly with one of the marks. Almost all the promissory notes, documents, which had been in the tin cash box were found. As gold ring, which had been near the boxes in the store, was not taken. The newspaper reported that affair was still under investigation.


Members of the Graham’s Town Total Abstinence Society were riled when they met for tea on Friday, May 21, 1841, because Mr Wesley’s journal had poked fun at one of their members. He had been called dour, nine-tenths a Quaker, and one-tenth a Methodist. In support of the man Rev Shaw observed that he personally was nine-tenths a teetotaller, and one tenth belonged to temperance. The representative of The Cape Frontier Times tried to pour oil on the troubled waters and praised the society for its efforts stating: “Though we are not teetotallers ourselves, we feel your work is productive of good.” Mr. T. Nelson was called to the chair, and the assembly, which was numerous and respectable, according to The Cape Frontier Times of May 26, was addressed by the Chairman, Mr. R. Gush. After his talk, Rev. Locke persuaded several to sign the abstinence pledge. Among them were Mr. Hewitson, who had recently arrived in the Colony, Mr. W. Smith, Mr. N. Smit, and Mr Tudhope. “We also think, that those who bring the matter of alcohol abuse before the public eye are entitled to the thanks of the community,” stated the newspaper.

Astronomy was born of superstition; eloquence of ambition, hatred, falsehood, and flattery; geometry of avarice; physics of an idle curiosity; and moral philosophy of human pride. Thus the arts and sciences owe their birth to our vices.Jean-Jacques Rousseau


They say there’s oil,
Beneath the soil,
Of the Karoo’s vast placid plains.

There was a thrill,
They tried to drill,
But their efforts brought no gains.

To search for oil,
They had to spoil,
A landscape quite pristine.

Now they’re back.
They want to frack.
For gas that can’t be seen.

Hydro-fracking’s been done,
In more places than one,
Each time they thought they were clever.

But, sadly, not so,
You just have to go
And see what they’ve ruined forever.

Perhaps it’d be best,
To let the gas rest,
On its ancient, rock-shelf bed.

Because, across the world,
Where fracking unfurled,
The land left behind is quite dead.

Please spare our Karoo,
This land is not new,
Across time it stretches way back.

The earth was young,
Swamp creatures had fun,
Right here where frackers would frack.

Go! Leave today!
What more can we say
You’re really not wanted here!

Do not frack our land!
We’re firm on this stand!
Go now! Just Leave! Disappear!!

Will fracking be worth it?

“There’s gas, there’s oil!”
“Beneath the soil
Of the Karoo’s vast arid plains!”

The news rang out –
All about –
But, profits promised no gains.

Once before they’d drilled,
But no oil had spilled,
Now only the scars remain.

Today its gas,
That’s causing the fuss,
And bringing a great deal of pain.

The gas lies in cracks,
Reachable by fracks.
Many say that’s where it should stay.

What will it cost?
How much will be lost?
Will the frackers triumph one day?

Will the Karoo’s vast glory
Become but a story?
Will its beauty become useless sand?

Will the history of time,
A story sublime,
Be wiped from this ancient land?

Will hydro-frackers
Drive residents crackers?
Will they win, will they lose the day?

Can we hope the Karoo
With its beauty so true
Pristine and awesome will stay?

The Karoo is a treasure.
Precious beyond measure.
It’s not a dismal desert of dust!

Frackers go home!
Leave our land quite alone!
Find gas somewhere else if you must!

—o0o— RW —o0o—