POP THE CORKS – THIS IS NUMBER 200
This is the 200th issue of Rose’s Round-up, so it’s time to once again pop the corks and let the bubbly flow. Round-up has come a long way since it started in January 1993. Initially only ten copies were printed to keep six town clerks abreast of the tourism plans of the then Regional Services Council. However, within only a few hours that changed because councillors also asked for copies. Within a year Rose’s Round-up was carrying news of the Karoo across the world. While residing in the Karoo I produced 116 issues and since moving to Bloemfontein, 7 years ago, 84 have been issued. The logo was Wally Kriek’s idea. A firm believer that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” he saw Round-up as the Karoo’s “knight in shining armour”, so he incorporated a brave, pen-brandishing little knight spurring a cynical horse ever onwards in the title. Producing Round-up has been a joy and the greatest fun. I love digging into history and finding long-forgotten stories to share with readers. I am eternally indebted to the many experts who have so willingly shared their knowledge and experience to enhance Round-up. My thanks also goes to readers who, over the years, have sent in stories and snippets of information to make the newsletter even more interesting. – Rose Willis
AN EXCELLENT READ
It’s a small, privately published book, and it’s an excellent read. James Hugo’s A Town Called Elders – Reminiscences of a Country Doctor, is a series of short stories that reflect experiences of a newly-qualified doctor in a small Karoo town about 50 years ago. Names of people and places have been changed, even James Hugo is a pseudonym, nevertheless the fondness that this now happily retired doctor felt for Karoo and his patients, many of whom became friends, shines through. These stories, originally written to entertain the doctor’s family, reflect amusing, poignant and even tragic incidents. The writer includes anecdotal information on politics, the weather, rugby and simple home remedies, some still popularly used in many small Karoo towns. Copies, cost R65 each, including VAT and postage
MAGIC GARDEN OF A DIFFERENT KIND
The people of Prince Albert use many kinds of indigenous plants to treat colds, fevers, pain and other problems. Many believe that sucking the leaves of the spekboom (Portulacaria afra) will lower high blood sugar levels or that placing a leaf of (Pelargonium peltatum) geranium in your ear will ease ear ache. Now, the Renu-Karoo aims to build awareness of the cultural value of indigenous plants and the long association between plants and people of the Karoo. So, with sponsorship from Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation in the UK, they have laid out a garden of medicinal plants near the Piet Basson Centre behind the Tourism Bureau and Fransie Pienaar Museum. The garden, started in July this year, includes 34 species of plants, such as Wilde als (Artemisia afra) and Dawidjieswortel (Cissampelos capensis), still medicinally used in the village. A free brochure, giving brief details of the plants and the ailments they are used to treat is available from the Museum and Tourism Bureau. “We hope that the garden, planted by staff and Nature Conservation students working for Renu-Karoo will make more people aware of value of medicinal and other indigenous plants of in the Karoo,” says Professor Sue Milton-Dean, who with her husband, Dr Richard Dean, runs the Renu Karoo project. However, she warns, it is not wise to self medicate with indigenous plants and herbs. “Always seek professional medical advice,” she says.
THEY TOOK PRIDE IN THEIR BIBLES
On her way to Littakoo, in the early 1800s Mary Moffat met many Boer families n the Karoo. She was greatly impressed by the respect they showed for their Bibles. In a letter to her mother she wrote: “Meeting with so many Boers afforded us a fine way of distributing tracts, with which they seemed well pleased. They seldom see a book, except for their old, massive finely gilt family Bibles. I have never seen so many fine-looking Bibles in my life as since coming to Africa. These people take a particular pride in them.” Mary (Smith) overcame her parent’s objections regarding her marriage to a missionary, travelled to South Africa and married Robert Moffat in Cape Town on December 27, 1819. She shared his trials, tribulations and hardships for 50 years.
FROM ONE COWBOY TO ANOTHER
Round-up reader, Peter Myles salutes fellow adventurer and “Canadian Cowboy”, Fred Stenson, (Round-up 82). Fred is coming to South Africa to address the Richmond Book Fair. “I was a ‘cowboy’ and ‘trekboer’ in my younger days,” says Peter. “I managed cattle ranches in Botswana for about seven years and trekked cattle for over 800 kilometers across the Kalahari from Ghanzi in the north to the abattoir at Lobatsi in the south. I also imported American quarter horses to South Africa when I worked for Gary Player for a brief period. I hope to go to the Richmond Book Town Festival and to meet Fred Stenson. Incidentally, I have visited the famous Hay-on-Wye Town of Books in Wales and it was a fascinating experience. Keep the stories rolling!”
NO MONEY, PLEASE, WE’RE GENTLEMEN
Graaff-Reineters boasted of becoming “quite a lively place” in 1854. The Graaff-Reinet Herald of Wenesday, July 19, 1854, stated: “What with Dissolving Views, the Races and now two Cricket Clubs we are going ahead surprisingly well. To be sure there is very little business doing right now and this melancholy fact doubtless accounts for a loss of gaiety. But, be that as it may, we have the satisfaction of announcing that on Monday July 31, a grand match will be played between our local clubs. The challenge, given by The Tradesmen was cordially accepted by The Gentlemen, with the proviso that the match should be for bats and balls and not for money. Most find this an agreeably English custom. The number of spectators is expected to be quite considerable, as the match has excited a good deal of interest throughout town. Both parties feel quite confident of winning.”
AHUNTING WE WILL GO …
In mid-July 1856 Robert Bain of Quagga’s Valley, one of William Southey’s farms, and George Murray of Naudesberg, with his youngest brother Walter, rode over the mountains to the extensive flats around Cephanjes Poort, Kol Hoek and Zaayfontein, to hunt mainly wildebeest and springbok. According to The Graaff-Reinet Herald of July 26, they were most successful, and in three days shot 88 springbok and two wildebeest, or gnus, which were nearly all in excellent condition. “Many of the springbok were as fat as such game can be. The strong wagon they had taken was so heavily laden with these 90 carcasses that some difficulty was experienced in getting all this quantity of venison back to the home of the hunters. Nothing, however, was left behind or lost. The weather was cold; and residents of the area proclaimed that fresh meat would keep for a month in such conditions without any salt.” Bain and the Murray brothers made plenty of biltong. A friend, R. Wilson, who was to have been part of the hunt, suffered a bad accident on the first day. His horse lost its footing as it started to gallop and fell. The stock of his rifle was smashed, and he was obliged to retire.
BE STILL MY HEART
An early Beaufort West’s Anglican clergyman was married to a real chatterbox. He was the inimitable Guy Gething, who once walked across Africa to ensure that a tired and frightened slave was returned to the bosom of his tribe, and she was his beloved, Louisa. Gething had a speech impediment and it was necessary for him to seclude himself in his study to practice his sermons before each Sunday service. One day while in the throes of theological composition his wife knocked on the door. There was no answer, so she knocked again because the matter required urgent attention. Once again there was no answer. “Open the door, Guy,” she shouted. Nothing. “Open up at once!” she cried in a frustrated voice. Still nothing. She continued hammering and shouting until she saw a note being pushed out from under the door. On it, in the reverend’s neat handwriting, stood: “Louisa, be still, you can if you will!” This defeated her, yet in the greatest of good humour she told the story to anyone who would listen.
NEVER LOST HER COMPOSURE
Louisa Gething was well past middle age by the time she acquired her first bicycle. She struggled to master “the infernal machine” but still persevered taking it “for an outing” each day. On one of her early outings she was nervously wobbling down Donkin Street when things got out of hand. She lost control and collided with the Indian vegetable vendor’s handcart which was fully packed with fresh produce. She and the bicycle parted company and she landed in a welter of vegetables in the middle of the road. “Oh my! Oh my golly goodness, Missus Gething,” driveled the alarmed, yet sympathetic, Indian. He really didn’t know what to do, so he grabbed the nearest vegetable and held it out to her. “Here,” he said, “I gif you this lovely cauliflower.” “Thank you,” she replied haughtily as she heaved herself up. “Please take it to the Rectory and give it to the Reverend.” She was totally lost when Guy Gething died. “I miss him so much,” she once confessed sadly. He was not only my husband, he was my pastor and my master.” He was indeed the light of her life and her main reason for living, said friends and family, who found her ‘only a shadow of her former self after he had gone”.
DROUGHT – THE CURSE OF THE ARID ZONE
These days radio and TV news bulletins bring distressing stories of the crippling drought in the Eastern Cape Karoo region right into our homes. Heartbreaking pictures of cracked earth and emaciated stock build a painful awareness of the plight of farmers in that area. Those who know the Karoo realize drought is a constant threat always lurking in the shadows. Nelspoort farmer Pieter Lund has monitored the recurring droughts of the Great Karoo. Intrigued by the many tales of hardship during drought conditions that have now and then appeared in Round-up he decided to share a series of stories. “In the 1920s, my late father, Gustav Lund, wrote to the Landbank outlining details of the trials and tribulations he had experienced during a three-year drought which started in 1925,” writes Pieter. “This drought was so severe that it led to a serious slump in wool and meat markets. As the drought spread there was mounting concern about the international financial relations and as its grip tightened South African commercial banks curtained almost all overdrafts. Months and months went by without any relief. Across the country people were hoping and praying for rain. There was no grazing, all veld resources were depleted, and water was scarce. The situation was desperate right across the arid zone.”
‘TREK, SAVE YOUR SHEEP’
Gustav Lund did everything in his power to save his sheep. Then, just as he was about to give up hope, he received a telegram from James Lamb of Lamb and Company in Port Elizabeth. It read: Trek. Save your stock. We will finance you.” According to an entry in his diary on May 18, 1927, he dashed off immediately. “I rushed off to Bechuanaland through Douglas and Kuruman, crossed the Ghaapse Berg and hired grazing at a place called Reivilo. I returned via Kimberley.” The trip took seven days and by the time Gustav got home he had 3700 sheep left. He arranged for them to be railed from Rhenoserkop to Taung. He also arranged for the shepherds and their families to accompany the flock and, because he knew they would all have to be at Reivilo for a long time, he sent a wagon and donkey carts as well. It was an arduous journey. Gustav wrote: “The sheep suffered badly on this 700 km journey. Then, once they were off-loaded, we had to trek for roughly 85 km across the Ghaapse Berg to reach our destination. All-in-all a month had passed since my initial search for grazing began.” Gustav thought that this was the end of his problems, but sadly it was only the beginning.
This re-location of stock did not work out as well as expected. All hopes of a new beginning were dashed when the grazing did not agree with the sheep. Gustav recorded: “Our hungry sheep started to die from eating the poisonous ‘vermeerbessie’ (Geigeria ornativa). Within six weeks we were forced to cut the throats of close to 1 000 lambs to save the ewes. All around were dead and dying sheep. We could not bury them fast enough. Yet, we had no alternative but to stick to our guns and in this polluted atmosphere to fight for survival, not only for the stock, but also for ourselves, our wives, children and Messrs James Lamb who had paid for it all.”
A measure of relief came when James Lamb visited. “I was touched that he had travelled to this far flung place to visit us,” wrote Gustav. “He was indeed a welcome visitor. His encouraging words, smiling face and deep concern for our plight made me even more determined than ever to fight through and not to disappoint the man and the firm who had had faith in me, my honesty, my ability and determination. A year later I arrived back home with 3025 sheep. We had battled the drought and won. I felt exhausted, but victorious.” Gustav had no way of knowing that an even worse drought was looming. In about five years, in 1933, a worse drought would come and force many farmers to their knees.
COLD CATCHES EXPEDITION IN THE KAROO
When C J W Janssens, Governor and Commander-in-Chief at the Cape, travelled through the Karoo towards present day Colesberg the area was hit by a severe cold front. Members of his party described the Karoo as a cheerless region utterly lacking in firewood or timber. “They had come across from the Sneeuwberg area in bitter cold,” writes Thelma Gutsche in The Microcosm. “They had endured discomfort and privation in freezing little trekker huts along the way. It is a tribute to the trekboers who had so little that they were always willing to offer hospitality and share their humble shelters and meager rations with travellers. The Governor’s party needed no convincing that many lambs and even adult sheep had died in the snow and icy gales. They were also convinced that every cattle owner needed several farms and more temperate winter grazing. The party passed Van Plettenberg’s damaged beacon, where so many Bushmen had been shot. Local farmers tried to entice them out of their skuilplekke (hiding places) for the strangers to see. When a hippo was shot at the Orange River the Governor’s party was amazed to see the genuine distress exhibited by the Bushmen at the plight of a drowning man. They attempted to save him with a “swimming log”. Many travellers later testified to their compassion.
HEARTS ARE TRUMPS IN THE KAROO
The little Karoo town of Hanover has a link to a medical researcher whose work benefitted millions of heart sufferers across the world. He is Lionel Henry Opie, co-director of the Medical Faculty at the University of Cape Town. Lionel was born in Hanover, where his father was the doctor, on January 1, 1933. But it was penicillin, which was accidentally discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928, that set Lionel on the road to fame. After Fleming’s discovery interest in this “wonder drug”, declined and it only claimed world headlines again after World War II when researchers Howard Walter Florey and Ernest Boris Chain picked up on Fleming’s work and found a way to purify penicillin. When their discovery hit the world headlines in 1945 and they, with Fleming, received the Nobel Prize, Lionel, then 12, was inspired. He vowed to pursue a career in medical research and set his sights on Oxford University in England where the penicillin research had been done. After school he studied medicine at the University of Cape Town and graduated in 1955 with first class honours and a gold medal. His dream became a reality in 1957 when he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford. There his research was guided by none other than Professor Sir Ernest Chain and another Nobel Prize winner Professor Sir Hans Krebs, who had developed the Krebs cycle to provide energy for the heart. After attaining his D. Phil in 1959 Lionel went to Harvard University Medical School in Boston to complete a two-year research programme into myocardial metabolism as a Samuel Levine Fellow. He then spent a year as an assistant resident at Toronto General Hospital in Canada before returning to South Africa in 1972.
BACK IN SOUTH AFRICA
Back home he was inspired by Professor Chris Barnard’s transplant of the first human heart. With funding received from the Barnard Foundation, created by a donation of proceeds from Barnard’s best-selling book One Life, Lionel continued his research into cardiac metabolism and drug use. This was a major breakthrough and led to an improved understanding of the causes of heart attacks and the better use of medication for heart disease. It earned him the highest Presidential award in South Africa – The Order of Mapungubwe in silver. This was presented to him in 2006 in recognition of his national and international contributions to cardiology. Lionel, who is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (in London), the American Heart Foundation, the European society of Cardiology and the International Society for Heart Research, was granted life fellowship of the University of Cape Town in 1976. He was president of the International Society for Heart Research until 1978. He moved to the States in the 1980s as visiting professor in the cardiovascular division at Stanford University Medical Centre and remained there until 1998. He was also visiting research fellow at Merton College at the University of Oxford. Since 2002 he has headed the Hatter Institute of Cardiovascular Research at UCT and this year was elected to head the university’s cardiovascular research unit. Lionel, who is considered one of the world’s foremost scholars of heart disease, has written 481 articles, published 31 books and contributed to 141 others. Two of his books have been translated into Chinese and one is a standard reference on the treatment of heart disease. His Glucose Hypothesis published in 1970 has proved durable and his discovery of the role of excess cyclic AMP in sudden fatal heart attacks made world news. In a later research he proved why and how exercise training protects the heart. With his wife, Carol Sancroft-Baker, and colleagues Richard Bind, and Henry Neufeld, he has established some new medical journals.
FAITHFUL SERVICE ACKNOWLEDGED
Juliana worked for the Van Ryneveld family for over 60 years. When she died, they honoured her long service in the Graaff-Reinet Herald of May 21, 1855. The newspaper carried a death notice which read: “Died on Saturday the 19th instant, after a short illness, at the residence of her mistress, the Widow W C Van Ryneveld, Juliana, an old and very trustworthy servant, after having lived and served in the same family upwards of 60 years. This notice is inserted as a slight tribute of respect to the memory of the deceased by those whom she so faithfully and kindly served during her lifetime.” Sadly, they did not include Juliana’s surname
When W H Rabone moved to Graaff-Reinet he found “a cultured society” there and so decided to offer art classes. To be sure he would not offend anyone he placed an advertisement in the Graaff-Reinet Herald of November, 29, 1854, “begging to inform the inhabitants” that he proposed to start classes for the instruction of “Drawing from Nature.” He could, he said, offer classes for pencil and chalk drawing, such as were taught at modern schools of art and design abroad. He would hold no combined classes but would devote one evening each week to teaching a limited number of gentlemen and, “in the interests of propriety” offer a completely separate class for ladies at a different date and time. He even arranged for ladies and gentlemen to call at his Parsonage Street home to book their lessons at different times.
We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are – Talmud