If you have any weather-related folklore or other stories to share Dr Peter Alcock, who lives in Pietermaritzburg, would like to hear from you. He is in the final stages of compiling a book on myths, legends and stories relating to climate and weather patterns in South Africa. He has a mass of material rooted in San, Khoi-Khoi and African culture, plus interesting facts relating to place names, plants, the rainbow, rain, hail, snow, etc. He has also collected stories on specific and peculiar behaviours of birds, insects and animals, as well as tales on water spirits, river gods, voices in the wind and creatures, like the Venda Python God, that need to be appeased before weather conditions will improve.


Two major fun-filled festivals will take place in the Karoo in October. The first, Prince Albert’s 7th Oktoberfest, sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe Institute, takes place from October 17 to 18. A German Brass Band from Hemslingen will provide the music and the menu includes boerewors, braaivleis, traditional Eisbein, Kasseler, Brockwurst, Sauerkraut, draft beer, schnapps and Bergwater wines. A huge tombola stall promises to be a draw card along with a raffle with prizes of up to R10 000 to be won. (More information from 023-541-1366.) Then Richmond’s Book Fair – from October 23 to 25 – promises to be a winner. “Books on every aspect of the Karoo will be on show and for sale from Africana booksellers or publishers of Karoo books,” say organisers Darryl Earl David and Peter Baker. The programme includes exciting talks and walks. Photo-journalists Chris and Julie Marais will take visitors on a “photo” walk from 07h00 “when the light is at its best,” to 09h00 “before conditions become too harsh.” A Heritage Walk with Len Raymond follows from 09h00 to 11h00 and a “kitchen crawl” with food writer Annetjie Reynolds. Well-known ecologist Sue Milton has arranged a “Karoo Crawl” to introduce visitors to interesting insects and “goggas.” Her husband, Richard Dean, will lead a full-day history tour to places like the old Anglo-Boer War hospital at Deelfontein. Karoo experts, such as Professor Doreen Atkinson, Braam de Vries, Wium van Zyl, John Kannemeyer, author Peter Stiff and ecologist, Dr Ian Player will deliver some interesting talks. Rose Willis’s Karoo Cook Book will be available at the fair together with Leon Nell’s The Great Karoo. Both books are published by Struik, who also published Leon’s other books on the Garden Route, Knysna and Oudtshoorn.


A Karoo woman has compiled a set of winning maps for walking tours through Fraserburg, Sutherland and Williston. She is Elna Marais, social developer for the Karoo Hoogland Municipality and former senior curator of the Williston Museum. “My experience in tourism has proved that the best way for tourists to explore any village is on foot, so I decided to make this as interesting and attractive for them as possible.” Now a beautifully compiled well-illustrated, well researched full colour A3 walking tour maps is available for at each village museum at the cost of R20 per map. These include historic and architectural data, as well as brief ecological highlights. “I decided to move away from traditional leaflets and provide visitors with something interesting, different and keepable. I have been congratulated on the idea by almost everyone who has seen them and visitors with links to the town are now purchasing them to put up in bars and family rooms at home.”


There was a time when accommodation establishments did not advertise. Then, a Beaufort West woman took a bold step which earned her great praise. Under the heading “Journalistic enterprise praised,” The Courier of September 18, 1902, remarks “the proprietress of one of the boarding establishments in Beaufort West has hit upon the happy idea of advertising the assets of her house up the line with our friends at The Worcester Standard. This is an excellent idea which other hotels and boarding houses would do well to follow up.”


Many early writers considered ox-wagons “a most comfortable way of travelling” the rough, rugged routes to the interior. At each outspan men and lads would chop trees, collect wood and make fires, while women and girls set iron pots of coffee over the flames; cut pumpkin and venison for the supper stew and kneaded Boer meal for cookies. John George Fraser, son of Beaufort West’s Rev Colin Fraser, describes a trip Cape Town with his mother in the 1850s in Episodes of my Life. “Expert drivers and travellers jumped on and off while the wagons were in motion, but this was dangerous and many lost limbs or even their lives by slipping from the pole and falling under the wheels.” In Three Years With Lobengula and Other Experiences in South Africa, J Cooper Chadwick tells of seeing a boy’s foot crushed so badly by a wagon wheel that it had to be amputated. He also mentions coming across a man called Lingard, in a wagon stuck in a riverbed, on a lonely road. “His boys had run away yet, unperturbed, Lingard had outspanned his oxen. They were grazing far and wide. We heard Lingard before we saw him. He was comfortably sitting in his wagon, beguiling the time playing a banjo, while waiting for someone to eventually pass and help him out.” Cooper Chadwick, who came to South Africa with Sir Charles Warren’s 1885 expedition, lost both his hands in a gun accident in Mashonaland. He was sent home after several “unsuccessful operations in Africa,” and in England both arms had to be “re-amputated.” He wrote the book “to amuse his father” with a pencil tied to the stump of his right arm. He described the Karoo as “an unimpressive, very large, very flat desert covered with mimosa thorn bushes and coarse scrub on which sheep and goats seem to thrive. It has only a few Dutch farm houses.” At one stop officers told them to lay their blankets on the warm sand as “it was not worthwhile” to pitch the tents. His blanket was immediately covered in small black ants, but he was so tired he lay down and went to sleep. The ants didn’t seem to bite.”


Old photographs and a new interest set Sue de Hutton of Cape Town off on a search for information on her great grandfather, Robert Alfred Tarlton, after whom the Tarlton in the old Transvaal was named. “Until recently my interest in family trees was non-existent and limited to browsing through old photograph albums belonging to my mom (Dorothy May Tarlton, who married Harold Lister Kennedy),” she said. Then, one day while surfing the internet I typed in my great grandfather’s name and came up with the Launceston family album which gave details of him and three of his children. I was hooked and have since discovered many family members. I would love to share information with others researching the Tarltons or Kennedys. I have an old letter written by Leslie Tarlton concerning President Roosevelt’s lion hunt, and details of family members who served with Gorringe’s Flying Column during the Anglo-Boer War,” says Sue.


Johanna Nicholson, who lives in Canada, is searching for information on her grandfather, Thomas Edward Larner who, with the 2nd Worcestershire Regiment served in Bermuda, Malta and Ireland, then transferred to the Signal Corps and served in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. At this time, he travelled through the Karoo and was quite amazed at how dry and dusty it was. After the war he stayed on in South Africa and married Katherine Johanna Gerryts, who was of Huguenot descent. They had four daughters, Rose Elizabeth, Mary Anne, Clara Agnes (Johanna’s mother) and Katherine Johanna. “My mother was born in Senekal in the Free State in 1910, but the family also lived in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth while the girls were growing up. My Grandfather served with the Union Defence Force until 1922 when he took his family to Canada. My mother loved South Africa and her heart was always there. My grandmother left all her family behind in South Africa and apparently one of her cousins became a pilot and was eventually appointed a director of South African Airlines. One of my grandad’s treasures as a tiny gold Zulu Shield with the words ‘Umzintzani’ on it. My mother so loved this little shield that she had it put onto a chain and wore it constantly.” Johanna is now trying to find out more about the shield and her grandfather’s life in South Africa.


Heather Downing, who lives in New Zealand, is searching for information on John Nunn Eagle. He was her great, great grandfather on her father’s side and a great friend of Rev Colin McKenzie Fraser of Philippolis, son of Beaufort West’s Rev Colin Fraser. Rev Colin McKenzie Fraser served the Dutch Reformed community of Philippolis for 44 years, and during this time befriended the town’s doctor, John Nunn Eagle. Dr Eagle arrived with the Byrne Settlers who went to Natal, there he fell foul of the British administration and left for Cradock, where he stayed for a while. He then to Fauresburg and finally, he decided to settle in Philippolis where he practised as a doctor from 1860 to 1900. He was instrumental in the building of an Anglican Church there. “I believe he built a very smart house in Philippolis and that it became part of the property of Lourens Van der Post’s parent’s home after the Boer War,” says Heather.


The story of Lobengula’s gold (Round-up No 59) intrigued readers. Some asked how he came by it. In Lobengula Hugh Marshall-Hole explains. “For four years Lobengula had been getting £100 in sovereigns each month. Always it had been brought by Colenbrander or one of Rhodes’s men in a little canvas bag with black letters (Standard Bank of South Africa) on it. Always the King counted it and put it away in a secret place.” Lobengula spent a little of this money on presents for his wives, and to buy wagons and horses, but most, says Marshall-Hole, remained in the bags in which it was sent. It was kept safely locked away in the wagon-box on which the King normally sat. The box had a huge padlock and Logengula kept the key on a string around his neck.


A new book tracing nine generations of the Adendorff family in South Africa has just been published. Written by F R D Adendorff and Y Christie, Adendorff Tracks in South Africa, covers this family’s history dating back to1752, including biographical details, military records, citations, and medal entitlements. It is unique as it shows all medals and medal groups awarded to family members. The book also has about 200 photographs, historical pictures and maps. “The inclusion of individual military details together with medals awarded has never been done before,” says Col Graham du Toit, from whom this A4-size book, signed by the authors, is available in hard cover at R525 or soft cover R425, including postage and packing. “The book includes some information on Adendorff “in-laws,” such as Aveling, Brooks, Coetzee, De Chevonne/Maritz, De Waal, Rall, Rosseau and Uys, as well as interesting stories of family members involved in the Anglo-Zulu War (1877-1879) and the sinking of the Titanic. Also, of interest to genealogical researchers is Early pioneers of Greytown up to 1910 compiled by Y Christie. This A5-size book, also signed, is available in soft cover only and costs R80 including postage and packing.


James Douglas Logan believed in communications, so in the late 1800s he installed the longest telephone line in the country between Matjiesfontein and his farm, Tweedside. “This line caused a great deal of interest when it was installed in 1883 as most platteland people at that time had barely heard of telephones, let alone considered instruments on their farms,” said Logan’s grandson, Major John Buist, when he one day described the system to Round-up. “This telephone system consisted of two parts – a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter was a Blake-type, which had only been patented in 1879. It was in effect a metal diaphragm driving a platinum contact and carbon button and worked through an induction coil. The receiver was a Bell single-pole unit which was patented in 1876. It hung from a hook and it had a Liverpool switch bell. The system, powered by a battery of Lelanche cells, covered a distance of 15 miles, so the battery system must have been very large.”


When Beaufort West’s Dutch Reformed Church minister Colin Fraser heard of Anna Amalia Muller’s conversion, during a service conducted by Ds Abraham Faure in Graaff Reinet, he was immensely impressed. He instantly wrote her a letter proposing marriage. She replied: “Unknown is unloved. It is impossible for me to consider a marriage proposal from someone I’ve never met.” He immediately dashed to Graaff Reinet to introduce himself. She obviously liked what she saw, because they were married on February 27, 1828. In ten years of marriage she bore him three sons and four daughters (two of whom became teachers and worked in the Beaufort West.) The second son of this marriage, Colin McKenzie Fraser, (born on January 20, 1837) was the first boy born in Beaufort West to study for the ministry. He did this in Scotland and Holland and, after being ordained, returned to South Africa to take up a post in Philippolis. Anna died on September 22, 1838.


A large electronic bibliographic database on water and sanitation is now available free of charge. Of interest mainly to the scientific community, it covers a time span from 1900 to 1993 with special reference to KwaZulu-Natal, but it does include a wide variety of sub-topics, such as soil erosion, which refer to the entire country. The information, compiled by Dr Peter Alcock of Pietermaritzburg, includes a scientific report on the use of household greywater (wastewater) in South Africa.


Farmers and scientists recently enjoyed fruitful discussions on agriculture and conservation at a Farmers’ Day Workshop at Oudtshoorn Experimental Farm. The seminar covered a “green” approach to farming in the Karoo, managing game farming and the S A Ostrich Business Chamber’s biodiversity management project, as well as ways of instituting economically viable and ecologically sustainable farming practices.


Robert Wallace, a world authority on agriculture, visited South Africa in 1895 to study farming practises across the country. Before this, he spent nine years and travelled over 150 000 miles conducting similar studies for the British Government in India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, Greece, Italy and Egypt. Each time he produced a comprehensive report “avoiding superficial generalisation” and well supported by photographs. In South Africa he lectured in Cape Town, then undertook a journey which “was more trying than his trip through in India in the summer on 1887.” His travelling companions were Eustace Pillans, the Cape’s horticultural expert and Dr Duncan Hutcheon, the Colony’s veterinary surgeon, a Scot from Peterhead, who, “when not discussing animal health, sang Scottish ditties or quoted at length from the Bible.” On far-flung farms he met the most amazing people, one of whom was Mr H R Hazelton, a retired sailor, turned farmer and poet. On his isolated farm Hazelton entertained Wallace and his companions to “a night of intellectual revelry and literary anecdotes.” Wallace found Hazelton’s familiarity with literature and poetry “absolutely amazing” and also appreciated his own poetic effusions.” He included An Address to a Mosquito, in his book Farming Industries of the Cape Colony, written in 1896, and in it maintains that the railways brought mosquitoes inland from the coast.


Wallace has great hopes for the Karoo – “if only water is available.” He reports: “James Douglas Logan’s place at Matjesfontein is like an oasis in the desert. The rainfall there is so scanty that nothing, but Karoo bushes would grow without artificial watering. Water for irrigation and the railway comes from springs. These water fruit and forest trees of many varieties which have been growing for three to four years in combination with tasteful floral cultivation. A water dam filled by a windmill accounted for a covey of Cape pheasants and many other birds.” He describes the journey from Matjiesfontein to Beaufort West through the Gouph as “uninteresting in the extreme with hardly a tree to be seen.” The only signs of life along this route, he said were “platelayer’s cottages every five miles and gangs of five men (one per mile of railway line) each with a ganger.”


Back in 1921 there was a Karoo farmer who, locals called “the rainmaker.” His name was Charlie Hall, he was a great inventor, and he was the first person in South Africa to attempt to produce rain by seeding clouds from an aeroplane. Charlie lived on a farm called The Willows, between Richmond and Middelburg, and it was there that he invented his “rainmaking machine.” But he couldn’t afford an aircraft to test his idea, so in 1921 he approached the Government for help. They agreed, but the experiments failed because the planes were unable to climb higher than 2 000 ft and so could not reach the clouds. Charlie did not give up hope. In 1965 he and his son, Ken, bought a plane and tried seeding clouds with 30 lbs of salt thrown out of a coal scuttle. Sadly, the clouds were too thin, and the result was a mere drizzle. Still they did not give up hope. “We built four coal-fuelled hydrogen generators to release negative electrons into the air in the hopes of stimulating precipitation,” said Ken. “Results were encouraging, but costs were prohibitive, so the idea was abandoned.”


In the late 1880s a farmer in the Richmond area became the unwitting pioneer of jackal-proof fencing. His son, Charlie Hall, the rainmaker of the Karoo, says that his father Maurice J Hall bought the farm Sephanjespoort from James Collett in 1881 and renamed it The Willows. “In 1887 my father imported wire netting to camp 400 morgens (300 hectares) to protect springbok from jackal and so became the unconscious pioneer of jackal fencing. He also imported a cream separator – at the time this machine had just been invented – and he bought the first steel windmill exhibited at the Port Elizabeth show. As soon as he erected it and found out how successfully it worked, he predicted that the country would soon be dotted with windmills.” And how right old Maurice was, in time they became an icon of the Karoo.


A ghostly British officer patrols The Willows. Locals say he is Captain Hicks, who during the Anglo-Boer War was in charge of a group of “poor whites.” The story goes that that these men “were only in the thing for the money.” Drunk, more often than not, and immensely inefficient, they were nicknamed the DMTs, for “Delirium Much Tremens.” Hicks had the great difficulties keeping these men in line. Exhausted, he stepped outside “for a breather” one day and was shot dead by a Boer sharp shooter. Many still claim to see his ghost around the front door way of the farm house.

To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying ‘Amen’ to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to keep your soul alive. – Robert Louis Stevenson