END OF THE ROAD – A NEW BEGINNING?
For the first time in 13 years, Richmond’s immensely popular, annual BookBedonnerd Book Festival will perhaps not take place at the end of October. It has had to be cancelled, not being because of COVID, but because the Northern Cape Provincial Government has refused to fund the project. Organisers, Darryl David and Peter Baker, say that they fear that this might be the end of the road for the only Booktown in South Africa. They have, however, not totally given up hope. “Perhaps with a bit of financial support we will be able to plan for a future.” On a brighter note they added: “We are proud to announce that Book Town Richmond, in partnership with the University of the Western Cape, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, will host the 2020 Madibaland World Literary Festival from November 20 to 30. “We hope that this will capture the imagination of all book loving South Africans because it is truly a book festival with serious international credentials. With about 150 writers taking part this will, without doubt, be the biggest literary festival this country has ever seen,” says Darryl. For more information and news on participating writers contact Darryl on firstname.lastname@example.org /Whatsapp 066 455 8822 or visit the website www.richmondnc.co.za.
HOPES TO RETURN A BIBLE
A Vancouver resident would like to return a Bible to the descendants of an Oosthuysen family who lived on a Standerton farm during the Anglo-Boer War. His grandfather took the bible to preserve it when the 13th Hussars were clearing farms and moving people to concentration camps. He could not bear to see it burned. There are several names and birth dates in it. Among the original owners were Barend Gabriel Oosthuysen, born 1850, and his wife, Catharina Agatha Kemp (nèe Scheepers), born 1852, who had at least six children.
ALL FOR A TASTE OF HONEY
A desire for honey led to the naming of the little hill, Goliatskop, near Graaff Reinet. The story goes that a party of Voortrekkers, under the leadership of Jacobus Potgieter trekked from “Addobos” (Addo) in 1819 with 102 wagons. Mountainous terrain forced them to spend a few weeks building a road over Naudesberg. While they worked their stock was cared for by shepherds, one of whom was named Goliat (Goliath), states Alan McIver in Graaff Reinet Stoep Stories. “While out in the veld one day Goliat saw a beehive on a high cliff. His longing for honey was so great that he decided to rob it, so he fashioned wooden pegs and inserted these into the crevice cracks to create as makeshift stepladder. He climbed up to the hive and set fire to some twigs to smoke out the bees. He then cut the combs and packed them into a container. It was painstaking work and to maintain his balance, he wedged his elbow into a crevice. Suddenly the peg, on which he was standing, gave way. The container fell to the ground, but Goliat remained suspended by his elbow. Powerless to free himself he was unable to ward off the angry bees. By the time he was found he was dead. The koppie was then was named Goliatskop in memory of him.”
WHAT AN ODD NAME
While researching her old home town, Dr Taffy Shearing discovered a fellow with a most curious name -Mynhardus Jacobus von Nuldt Onkruydt. Born in 1797, he was the eighth child of Constantyn van Nuldt Onkruydt, who was born in Amsterdam in 1745. Constantyn worked as a magistrate at the Castle and dealt with loan farms. Before he died in 1813 he served as President of Cape Town’s Burger Raad. Mynhardus bought two erven in Paulet Street, Somerset East, in September 1825. He was a founding member of the Dutch Reformed Church, and later served as magistrate of the village from 1830 to 1834. He sold one erf in 1833, and the other in 1843, then he moved to Stellenbosch, to take up the post of Commandant of the Stellenbosch Burghers. He served in the Frontier War of 1846-1847 and died in Stellenbosch in 1852.
IN PURSUIT OF LAW AND ORDER
Circuit courts, established in South Africa in 1811, brought the highest level of justice to the outlying areas. In time the Cape was divided into three districts and the first Eastern Circuit – the longest and most arduous – according to a Government Gazette of April 11, 1828, was scheduled for Uitenhage on May 1; Graham’s Town May 8; Somerset May 23; Graaff-Reinet May 27 and Beaufort (West) June 6. It was to be held under the auspices of Judge Burton, who at 34 was the youngest of the three judges (the other two were Judge Menzies, Western Circuit and Judge Kekewich, Midland), states H J Erasmus, Former High Court Judge and Professor Private Law, Stellenbosch University in Circuit Courts in the Cape Colony. Court sittings were open to the public and members of local communities played a vital role by participating in the proceedings by way of jury service. This contributed not only to the administration of justice, but also to the social fabric and “judicial conscience” of the people in outlying areas, states Judge Marius Diemond in Brushes with the Law. The arrival of these courts in the various towns was always a great occasion. Judge Burton’s trip from Cape Town to Uitenhage, Grahamstown and Graaff Reinet, in his own private wagon, which he had named Hartebeest, received extensive and favourable publicity in The Colonist from May to July, 1828. At each stop he was received with great enthusiasm. At Graaff-Reinet local officials with civil commissioner W C van Ryneveld and some other horse men rode out to meet him. When he departed there was a rousing farewell with a discharge of firearms as his party rode off.
THE HAZARDS OF THE ROADS
Presiding in the court rooms was one thing, travelling quite another. Many judges complained about the hazards of the roads, accidents and mishaps. There were plenty. Before the coming of the railways, and even afterwards until the coming of the motor car, the principal modes of transport were by ox wagon, horse cart and on horseback. Also, the roads in the Colony in the early 19th century were mere tracks. Early in the century court officials travelled in Cape carts. Later conditions improved but, Jose Burman pointed out, “the improvements only speeded up transportation from the pace of the ox to the pace of the horse” i.e. from 2,5 miles per hour to 6 (or at best 10) miles per hour. Mountains, dust. rain, hail, snow and flooded rivers added to the problems. One official once had to swim across the swollen Gamka River, near Beaufort West, to get to court in time. On another occasion a judge arrived with only the clothes he was wearing, having lost all his baggage in a flood. Chief Justice Hodges was thought to have drowned after being washed away in a flooded river, but then he appeared and apologised for his late arrival. During the second half of the century, more sophisticated vehicles like Phaetons, spiders, buggies, and surries, came into use. Much of the court transport was provided by Cape Malay contractors who were skilled horsemen. In the last quarter of the 19th century the transport for judges was upgraded. By 1878 a judge travelled in style. His equipage, provided by contract, included a huge wagon for luggage, provisions and travel requisites, a tented spider and two riding horses.
JONAH OF THE CIRCUIT
Judge Sampson said that “accidents by any cart in which I travelled were so frequent that I was regarded as the Jonah of the Circuit” Judge Cole described the roads as “generally bad and often dangerous”. While on circuit as an advocate, he was involved in an accident in which his cart capsized and he was dragged along for quite a distance by the frightened horses. Judge Sheil was seriously injured when horses bolted and his carriage overturned. He was taken to a nearby trading station on an improvised stretcher made from a broken door. In 1865, Judge Cloete said that the road between Clanwilliam and Calvinia was “in an execrable state and quite a disgrace to any civilized society”. He added that “on one occasion the Chief Justice met with such a serious accident, that it nearly killed him”. The dangers were always there. Chief Justice De Villiers once saved his own life by shooting a cobra he had stepped on while shooting quail for breakfast.
TRAVEL MEASURED IN HOURS
Judge President Laurence pointed out that distances in the Cape were reckoned not by miles but by hours. Each journey from Uitenhage to Graham’s Town and also from Graham’s Town to Somerset East took 14 hours. Trips from Beaufort West to Graaff-Reinet and also from Graaff-Reinet to Colesberg took 24 hours each. A Fort Beaufort resident said the distance from Murraysburg to Graaff-Reinet was 10 hours and that it took the same amount of time to travel from Colesburg to Middelburg while Middelburg to Graaff-Reinet took 12 hours, As far as recommended stopovers went, Rankin’s in Meiringspoort was high on the list, followed by Ben’s at George. Judge Burton, expressed his satisfaction with the hotel at Grahamstown.
LORDS OF THE SKIES
Several sons of the dryland became fighter aces in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), the Royal Airforce (RAF) and South African Air Force (SAAF) during WWI and WWII and were highly decorated. Among them were:
Henry “Duke” Meintjies, a flying ace with eight victories who was born in Colesberg on December 25, 1892. At the outbreak of WWI he joined the 14th Dismounted Rifles before going to England and joining the RFC. After flight training he was deployed to France, where he scored four kills. By December 1916, he was made Flight Commander, with the rank of temporary captain. Henry was described as a fine pilot. His commanding officer said: “You cannot keep him out of the air, he is one of the best pilots, and almost the most popular officer, that the 60th Squadron has ever had. He is a tower of strength. Nothing escapes him, nothing worries him. He can always be trusted to get the job done.” On February 22, 1917, he was posted to the No. 1 School of Aerial Gunnery and the following month scored another four kills with 56 Squadron. During a dogfight on May 7, 1917, British Ace Albert Ball was lost and Henry was wounded in the wrist. He lost so much blood that he had to be hospitalized for a considerable time. He was awarded the Military Cross and Air Force Cross. He was posted to Central Flying School on July 25, 1918 as an instructor, and after the war made officer in Charge at No. 1 Southern Aeroplane Repair Depot, at the Farnborough. He returned to South Africa and became Chief Pilot for Handley Page South African Transports until 1921, then joined the SAAF in 1922 and in 1931 joined the South African Police
Christoffel Johannes ‘Boetie’ Venter, who was born in Middelburg, distinguished himself in military and flying circles. In WWI he rose through the ranks to become major general and was highly decorated receiving CB, (Companion of the Order of the Bath), DFC and Bar and the Order of the Phoenix. He joined the Mounted Rifles in 1912, saw action in the then South West Africa, moved to SA Infantry in 1916, saw action in France, transferred to the RFC in 1917, was shot down and captured in 1918. He was credited with 16 aerial victories. He joined the SAAF in 1922. He served as Officer Commanding Wits Command in 1936. He was Director-General of the Air Force from 1940 to 1945 and after WWII became managing director of South African Airways..
Two Graaff-Reinet-born sons of Barend and Margaret Burger flew with the RAF. Malcolm Graham Stewart Burger, who was born on September 14, 1894 was a WWI flying ace credited with five victories flying while a Sopwith Camel with 54 Squadron. He became an acting Captain in November, 1918, and remained in the RAF after war ended. Malcolm rose to become a lieutenant and was awarded the DFC for displaying marked gallantry and devotion to duty on low-flying bombing patrols over France and for inflicting heavy casualties on numerous occasions. He destroyed three enemy machines, and forced another to land. His brother, Maurice Fitzgerald Stewart Burger also served with the RAF.
Born in Grahamstown on October 18, 1894, to Thomas and Anne Graham, Gray Gavin Lynedoch Graham, was credited with 13 confirmed victories during WWI. Gavin served with the 18th Hussars from April 1915 through August 1916 before transferring to the RFC. He put in 200 hours flight time as an observer in No 70 Squadron before being sent to pilot’s training in March, 1917. On December 14, he was assigned to the No 73 Squadron. After scoring his first win on May 3, 1918, he scored steadily throughout the war A winner of the DFC, French Legion of Honour, and Croix de Guerre, he was hailed as a bold and gallant officer, a skilful fighter, whose success in attacking troops and transport with bombs and machine guns was marked. Graham finished his war with over 250 flight hours as a pilot, nine destroyed enemy machines, three enemy fighters driven down out of control, and one enemy plane captured. He died on 17 June 1963, aged 68
Thomas Sinclair Harrison who was born in King Williams Town on January 8, 1898, became a major and double scoring ace who scored 22 aerial victories. He also claimed the title of “balloon buster” after single-handedly destroying two enemy observation balloons. This made him the fourth highest scoring South African. It was said that he never hesitated to engage the enemy no matter how superior the numbers. Before joining the RFC in April 1917 Thomas served with an artillery regiment in German East Africa. After qualifying as a pilot he was assigned to the No 20 Squadron in May, 1918. He was a steady scorer and became the squadron’s leading ace out of 26. He was awarded the DFC and Bar, as well as the Belgian Croix de Guerre. Thomas also served in WWII as an SAAF intelligence officer. He also served in Air Headquarters during the 1941 East Africa Campaign.
TWO MEN, MANY BUILDINGS
A great deal of drama surrounds the history of the building of the beautiful, neo-Gothic-style, sandstone Dutch Reformed Church in Oudtshoorn. Central to the story are two Englishmen – the designer, George Wallis, the architect, who was born in Bushy, in Hertfordshire on November 28, 1824, and stonemason John Thomas Cooper, who was born in Nottingham, on December 3, 1832. Both worked on many other buildings in the Cape and in the Karoo. George, who arrived at the Cape in 1848, worked mainly as a builder and overseer, while John, one of the 3 832 professional men recruited in Britain to help alleviate the shortage of skilled workers in South Africa arrived with his wife, Elizabeth (nèe Gulley – a lass who came from Stowmarket, a small town in Sussex), on June 17, 1859. He and Elizabeth moved to Oudtshoorn in 1860 because he had accepted the job as foreman of the stone masons building contracted to build the new DRC. Joseph Blake was the clerk works and building got underway on September 17, 1860.
ARGUMENT STOPS WORK
Work was abandoned on October 5, 1863, after an argument erupted between George Wallis and the church committee. In 1865 work resumed, but was soon halted again due to lack of money – the area was in the grips of a severe drought. When John’s son, John junior, was born in 1867, work on the church was still at a stillstand. In 1875 the church building committee negotiated with Cape Town master builder and architect Otto Hager, (who designed the DRC rectory, which was built in1881) to help see the job through. . In September, 1876, John approached the building committee suggesting that they contract five stonemasons and a “sawyer” (a lumberjack) from England to help finish the job. This was done. On arrival the British stonemasons were most impressed with the quality of the sandstone which came from a quarry near the Cango Caves. It was of such high quality that decorative flower embellishments were easily carved out of it. The church was inaugurated on June 7, 1879. Reverend G W Stegman was the first minister. As there was no resident architect in Oudtshoorn, John established a stone cutting and building firm. He entered into partnerships with some locals and worked on buildings, such as Barclays Bank, the Courant offices and the DRC church hall. When he died on October 19, 1909, John junior took over the business
MOVED THROUGHOUT THE CAPE
George Wallis, a mason by trade, initially worked for M Butler, in Cape Town as a builder. In 1854 he decided to seek his fortune and went off to prospect for copper in Namaqualand. This was not entirely successful, so he returned to Cape Town in 1856 and accepted a post in the Public Works Department. He tried to set himself up as an architect and tendered unsuccessfully for the Congregational Church in Caledon Square. Later joined by a man named Robb he built the churchyard wall and porch of the Holy Trinity Church in Caledon. After that he spent a year working as clerk of works on Cape Town’s new South African library and museum building, In 1859 he moved to George and supervised the erection of the local jail as well as those in Oudtshoorn, Mossel Bay, and Prince Alfred. His plans for Oudtshoorn’s DRC were accepted in 1860. Architecture professor Dennis Radford once stated that this was ‘the most ambitious piece of church building undertaken in the Western Cape in the late 1850’s – “a little too ambitious,” he added. It was started in 1857 and finished in 1879, thus taking 22 years to complete. He also points out that while George Wallis supplied the plans it is probable that these were actually drawn up by W Kohler.
ON THE MOVE AGAIN
After an altercation with the Oudtshoorn DRC building committee George moved back to Cape Town and accepted a job on the library and museum which, while, formally opened in 1860, was only completed in 1864. During the following year he worked on St Saviour’s Church in Cape Town and then the DRC in Cradock, which was design by J T Welchman and C E Read. Its design was based on St Martin’s-in-the-field in London, a frequent model for church buildings the world over. In 1871 George re-joined the PWD and supervised the buildings of jails in Swellendam and Beaufort West. He settled in Oudtshoorn in 1871, but continued to supervise, design and build many buildings in the Cape and Karoo, such as the tiny Anglican church in Klaarstroom. He died in Oudtshoorn on June 5, 1908 and was buried at St Saviour’s Church in Claremont.
Note: (Welchman and Read’s partnership began in 1861 when they won the contract for the sailor’s home in Dock Road, Cape Town. They were also responsible for the design of the little DRC in Colesberg in 1866).
The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you will see – Winston Churchill