On the subject of Anglo-Boer War concentration camps many might argue that it’s all been said. Not so Elizabeth van Heyningen. For years she waded through long-forgotten, dusty archival material in South Africa and Britain to produce a fresh perspective, a social history of the camps. The result is a comprehensive, well-balanced and immensely interesting 400-page book covering everything from overcrowding, poor rations, malnutrition, disease, death and orphans, to music and inmate employment. Elizabeth also scrutenised camp mythology. “These were not simply places to which women, children and old men were sent. Neither were they filled with genteel families whose pianos, silver and chandeliers had been tossed into fires by British troops. Primarily the inmates were landless bywoners, rather than middle class people,” she says. “Also, the camps accommodated thousands of young men from 18 to 35 whom Afrikaners termed cowards, traitors and hensoppers.” This is the first book in 50 years to analyses the reasons for establishing the camps and to delve into their poor management. The Concentration Camps of the Anglo-Boer War: A Social History tells a richer, fuller tale than its predecessors which mostly focused on tragedy. Elizabeth views the Boers in a less monolithic way and takes a fresh look at their outlook on life, their allegiances and their desire to fight. “Many knew the war could not be won.” Elizabeth blames Lord Kitchener for the scorched-earth policy. “He had no interest in civilians. He created the camps without knowing who and how many had to be accommodated. Frankly he did not care. No provision was made for black people and, sadly, their stories were never recorded.” This book, published by Jacana, is an excellent read. Professor Albert Grundlingh hails it as the work of a master historian and a major reference work. It costs about R280 at most bookstores.


Karoo Keepsakes II has arrived. This book brings the Karoo into your world. If you’re a fan you’ll enjoy a “magic carpet” ride through the dry, heartland of South Africa and, if you are only getting to know the area, you’ll be able to gently indulge in armchair exploring. As you turn the pages, you’ll almost smell the dust as the Namaqualanders dance their “riel” and Johannes Willemse crushes veld herbs in his gnarled brown hands to release pungent aromas. This book offers a pictorial trip through several dorpies to see the sights, meet the people, discover the innermost thoughts of donkeys, frolic at festivals and find the best, most tasty foods. Chris and Julie Marais have again produced a winner at an affordable price – only R275 at bookshops, but Round-up readers can save by buying the book at a special, discounted price of R250, inclusive of postage.


Tony Westby-Nunn has transferred his writing and publishing skills from the semi-desert to the sea. His latest book Tug At My Heart, written in collaboration with Captain Okkert-Ernst Grapow has been a run-away success. It tells the stories of S A’s supertugs, Wolraad Woltemade and John Ross, the most powerful vessels of their kind in the world and the people who sailed in them. A concise history this soft cover, 256-page book, illustrated in full colour, takes readers through interesting waters like the Magellan and Malacca Straits, and Sakhalin Island in Russian territory telling tales of salvage and rescue tows.


A new novel for lovers of Boer War stories has just been published. The Bugle, written by Derek Thomas, set in the Nuweveld and Tanqua Karoo areas, is based on fact. “The story relates to an early military practise, nearing the end of its life during the Anglo-Boer War, of recruiting boys as drummers or buglers,” says Derek. “These lads held the rank of private and wore a patch on their service dress indicating that they were military musicians.” In The Bugle two 15-year old boys on opposing sides both face charges of treason. One is Albert Allgood, a bugler with the Yorkshire Dragoons, and the other, Willem Lategan, is a Boer boy and Cape Rebel. It’s an emotion-laden story that explains why the Boers did not wish to live under the yoke of British rule. “It is in no way intended to be a factual account, but all references from which it was sourced are given,” says Derek. Copies costs R150.


Military musicians were an integral part of the army, writes Willem Steenkamp in Assegais, Drums and Dragoons, A Military & Social History of the Cape. Trumpeters, buglers, pipers (fifers) and drummers fulfilled many roles and were essential to the smooth running of the army. They signalled time, orders and the tempo of the march. They marched in regimental colours through smoke, noise and the general clangour of action and were considered fighting soldiers. In the field they sounded out general manoeuvres and in the barracks, they behaved rather like a public address system sounding action stations, parades, meals and time to retire or rise. Later flutes, hautboys (a forerunner of the oboe) clarinets, hunting horns and kettle drums provided music for official occasions and private functions. Then small groups and “chamber ensembles” appeared.


These days many more people are writing about the Karoo and to assist them Tony Westby-Nunn plans to establish a Small Publishers and Authors Association. He has much publishing experience, many contacts and excellent ideas. “The membership fee would be minimal,” says Tony. “The main aim would be to put small publishers and authors on the global map. The association would also advise on designers, printers, software, paper, bookbinders, book shops and other aspects relating to the publishing industry. An additional factor in forming this association would be advice on marketing and commission structures.”


It seems that one of intrepid miller, Isaac Wiggill’s mills (Round-up No 235) still stands. Richard Tomlinson, says: “On a tour of the Fort Beaufort area of the Eastern Cape with the SA Military History Society in 2005, we visited the remains of Wiggill’s mill alongside a dirt road between Fort Fordyce and Post Retief in the Klein-Winterberg. It is in the Kaal Hoek River area near a barn, with loopholed walls for defence, some sheds and a kraal with nicely built drystone walls.


Carl Kritzinger, one of old Isaac’s descendants, confirms that the mill still stands. “Isaac Wiggill’s circular tower mill, built of masoned stone, is on Brian Miles’s farm. Brian said his father once talked to an old man who described the mill as having horizontal, not vertical blades. It was a ruin by the end of the Eighth Frontier War, he said. Brian’s son, Robert, lives in the homestead near the mill.” Carl lives near Post Retief close to the old military barracks and Piet Retief’s farm De Goede Hoop (now Killaloe). “My maternal ancestors dominated this area. They were the Edwards and Smith families, the first English speakers to settle in the remote Winterberg areas. James and Ann Edwards, with three small children joined Retief Trek, escaped murder by Dingaan, beat a hasty retreat back to the Eastern Cape and settled on the farm that Retief had vacated. John Joseph Smith, one of Nelsons men, settled on the farm Hartebeestfontein (now Waylands) in early 1830s. The farm, besieged during the 8th Frontier War, has many graves. Nearby are ruins of the old barracks, officers’ quarters and stables. Lt Col Fordyce was buried here, but later exhumed,” says Carl.


In 1900 Bovril once claimed that Lord Roberts “wrote” its name across the map. An advertisement, entitled The Event of the Year and considered “a most ingenious promotion”, gave the product “a real push”. It showed how Lord Roberts’s march to Kimberley and Bloemfontein miraculously spelled the name Bovril, states a Reader’s Digest booklet What’s in a Name. The advertisement persuaded people that Bovril was good for them. The copy stated: “Careful examination of the map shows the route followed by Lord Roberts has made an indelible imprint of the word “Bovril” on the face of South Africa. This is proof of the universality of Bovril which has already figured so completely throughout the South African Campaign. Whether for the soldier on the battlefield, the patient in the sickroom, the cook in the kitchen or for those in full health and strength at home, Bovril is liquid life.” The article also states that “when Ladysmith was relieved ‘Bovril War Cables’ sent the news to schools throughout Britain.” Bovril was first made in the early 1870s by Edinbugh-born, Scottish meat merchant John Lawson Johnston. The name came to him “over a cigar” – “bo” from “bovine” and “Vril” a life force in Bulwer Lytton’s 1871 novel, The Coming Race.


Cape Town historian Steve Craven is still trying to find out who planted the flag on Compassberg. He writes: “I have found details of two early ascents but neither mention of the flag pole. In 1830 Charles Hudson Grisbrook, Rev. Andrew Murray of Graaff-Reinet, a guide named Du Plessis and some young local farmers climbed the mountain. Grisbrook described this climb in an article entitled Recollections Of An Ascent To The Compass-Mountain, published in the Cape of Good Hope Literary Gazette that year. Another ascent was made on August 15, 1834, by Andrew Smith, first superintendent of the South African Museum and detailed in his diary which was edited by P R Kirby and published by the Van Riebeeck Society. The original, kept in the Iziko Museum.


Round-up Reader Richard Tomlinson says: “Thanks for a most interesting issue of Round-up, (August, 2013),but the maths in the ‘Last Voortrekker’ doesn’t quite add up. If he was born in 1810, by 1924 he would have been 114 years old, not 107.” Oops!


If you are heading out in search of spring flowers don’t miss the Williston Winterfees from September 5 – 7. A highlight will be over 100 dancers performing the Nama Riel, but there’s lots of traditional food and local talent to enjoy.


According to the international Worm Digest digital archives South Africa has the largest earthworms in the world. The biggest specimen ever found, a creature almost seven metres (22 feet) long, was seen on a road near King William’s Town in 1967. Fortunately, they are normally not all that big – most are only two metres long. They are usually found half a metre underground. Australians big worms – the Giant Gippsland Earthworms – are much smaller (only one metre long, on average) states an article on That country has devoted a whole worm-shaped museum to these creatures and in Australia they are protected because it is thought that pesticides are causing them to be endangered. “No one yet seems too concerned about our slimy Big Karoo earthworms which are also vanishing,” write Chris and Julie Marais. No one has even studied the extent to which they have added to the impressive fertility of the Karoo soils.” It seems these worms, Microchaetus skeadi are mostly found in Karoo and Eastern Cape. Giant earthworms are preyed upon by giant golden moles and also the odd person seeking fishing bait.


Comedian Nik Rabinowitz has a link with Prince Albert. Back in the 1990s he met Outa Lappies and developed an idea for a film. He returned in 2006 to make a movie about a white sangoma who’d lost goat and appropriately titled it Anyone Seen My Goat? At that time Nik met local farmer, Clive van Hasselt who helped him find a goat to “star” in the show. This led to a lifelong friendship. Now, Nik, who is widely known for his multilingual satire and passion for goats, is going back to Prince Albert on September 21 for the premier of his new show, Just Kidding. He said: “It is an amalgamation of goatscapades jokes and the title was inspired by Prince Albert’s superwoman, Gay van Hasselt, who is in the middle of her own kidding season. The show is a tribute to Clive van Hasselt, a huge-hearted, larger than life kind of a man.” Nik, who has produced and performed seven one man shows, presents The Week that Wasn’t on Talk Radio 702 and Cape Talk. He also impersonates a legion of characters on He has performed at the Royal Albert Hall and on the BCC show Mock the Week. Tickets costing R120 each and including wine and cheese tasting are available at the Tourism Office. Proceeds will go to the Prince Albert Community Trust, a youth leadership programme dedicated to uplifting youngsters with skills


A G Hales, the Daily News special correspondent, who visited South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War, found little to enjoy in hinterland towns. In Letters from the Front, he wrote: “A Boer town is not laid out on systematic lines, as in America, Canada, or Australia. The streets seem to run much as they please, where the exigencies of traffic takes them. I doubt if the plan of a town is ever drawn in this country. People arrive, settle down in a happy-go-lucky manner, and straightway build themselves a home. Their homes are places to live in; not to look at. There is an almost utter absence of architectural adornment. Dwellings, nearly all alike, are plain, square structures, plastered snow white. There is a double door, with a window at each side, in the centre of the front. A stoep, about six feet wide, rises a foot from the pathway. Nothing else is to be seen from the outside front. These houses look bare and bald, as expressionless as a blind baby.” Hale then compared the dry dusty towns to English villages “where a quiet walk at dawn gives an insight into the character of the dwellers; where through the windows in the evening one might see a maiden with the hopes of becoming someone’s darling.” He added: “In a Boer town most of the piety is knocked out of a man. You stare at the houses, and they stare dumbly back at you. There is nothing pretentious or rakish about any of them; no matter how riotous a man’s imagination might be, he could never conjure up a ‘wink’ from a Boer house. In other parts of the world a house can ‘cock an eye’ at traveller and invite him to the door”.


Hale found the Boers to be sober, rather dull, people. He thought them unimaginative. “They have only two styles of roofing for their dwellings,” he said, “either the old-fashioned gables, or the still older kind of “lean-to,” the latter being nothing but a flat top, high at the front and running lower towards the back, in order that the rain water may carry off rapidly. They paint their doors and windows a sober reddish brown. The true Boer has an utter contempt for anything gaudy or gay. He leaves that sort of thing to his servants. They make up for their master’s lack of appreciation in the matter of colour by rigging themselves out in anything that is startling in the way of contrast.” Hale concluded that one of the most charming things about a Boer town was the plenitude of trees in the streets. Often ornamental, sometimes useful, they always provided much-needed shade. “There is no regularity about their distribution; they seem to have been planted spasmodically at odd times and at odd positions. Also, there is little about them to lead one to the belief that they receive over much care after they have been put into the soil, yet they flourish and add beauty to the towns.”

DIARISE – The De Rust Eco Festival. It takes place from September 12 to 15 and promises to be a worthwhile event. If you are in the area don’t miss it.

The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten – Cesare Pavese