Freelance photojournalists and hinterland adventurers, Chris and Julie Marais, have just launched a new book in their highly-acclaimed Karoo series which has introduced this region to people across the world. To celebrate the arrival of Karoo Keepsakes II, which follows on the success of its predecessor, they are offering three of their popular books for the price of two – titles include Karoo Keepsakes I (and now II), 101 Karoo Towns, Karoo Knapsak I and II. All are available in print or e-book format Karoo Keepsakes II continues the story of unusual people and little-known places in the arid zone. It reveals more legends, traditions and cultures of real Karoo people. Like all books in the series it is a delight to read and it makes a fascinating travelling companion.


Under The Moon is a delightful collection of poems by Leslie Howard, who was commended for her work at the 2012 Dalro Poetry Awards. An excellent mixture poetry, some previously published in New Coin, as well as in Leslie’s own books Country Road, Quirky People and Overberg Tapestry, the Sunday Times Book of the Month in November 2004. Several poems capture the spirit of the dryland. The book also features a touching tribute to artist and poet, Peter Clarke. Leslie, who now lives in Barrydale, taught English literature for many years before turning to writing. Under the Moon is available at The Village Bookshop in Plettenberg Bay, and at outlets in Barrydale for R90.


Well-known Prince Albert resident, Barbara Castle-Farmer has written a fascinating account of the life of a woman, born in the late 1940s, who discovers she is a lesbian. Finding My Own Way To Happy And Gay tells a witty, wry and sometimes poignant tale of the complexities and challenges that have to be faced. It covers societal views, choices, actions, and lessons. “This book is a record of gay and lesbian life in South Africa. It answers the questions you would never dare to ask,” says Bokkie Botha who reviewed the book for The Prince Albert Friend


“Cycle the Great Karoo for the ride of your life,” says David Southey of Great Karoo Cycling. There is no better way to explore this beautiful, ancient, unique landscape of rolling plains, rocky valleys, flat-topped koppies and dry, pre-historic river beds, he says. “We have developed five routes, which take either four or five days to complete. Each offers breathtaking, awe-inspiring scenery, over easy and challenging terrain for groups of eight (minimum) to a maximum of 14 riders capable of cycling 40 to 50 km a day. For those who feel up to it there is a 90 km challenge. All gear is carried by a trail-support vehicle, which will assist any cyclist who runs out of steam or is just not quite up to a specific part of the route. Sleep-overs and top-class meals are provided at farmhouses. There is a variety of activities for those who still have unspent energy at the end of the day including photography, geology and palaeontology workshops.


Much of Olive Schreiner’s life is linked to the Karoo. Fascinating details of day-to-day trails and tribulations are detailed in her letters, now edited by Liz Stanley and Andrea Salter, and the subject of the latest Van Riebeeck Society book. Entitled The World’s Great Question: Olive Schreiner’s South African Letters 1889–1920, this volume covers Olive’s stay in Hanover from September, 1900, when, free of asthma, she was able to walk in the veld. But, it did not last long. It was wartime, and by December that year, Hanover, like many Karoo towns, was subjected to Martial Law. Olive’s letters became infused with a sense of isolation. She felt confined, beleaguered, ‘just waiting’, for attacks by the Boers or reprisals by the British. Martial Law restricted residents to specific areas. The constant armed military presence was oppressive; movement in and out of the village, even for work, was curtailed and letters were severely censored. Poverty increased, jobs like carting were impossible; drought, locusts and food shortages, led to severe health problems. Olive struggled to cope. Extracts from this book are included at the end of this Round-up.


Squadron Leader Marmaduke Thomas St John Pattle, the top scoring allied fighter pilot of WW2, almost never made it into the air force. Born in Butterworth on July 23, 1914, he was the son of Jack Pattle, a British soldier who came to South Africa during the Anglo Boer War. At the end of the war Jack studied law, qualified and opened a practise in Willowmore. A visit to a client took him to Butterworth where he met and fell in love with Edith Brailsford, a nurse in the local hospital. They married in 1912 and had two sons, Cecil and Marmaduke, who was known as Tom to his family and Pat to his buddies. Hilary van der Vyver recently told his story to the Cape Military History Society. “Pat was virtually unknown except among comrades in the desert and in Greece,” she said. Pat’s father served in the German South West African during WWI and was given a commission in the SWA Police. The family moved to Keetmanshoop, where the boys went to school. Pat was later sent to Grahamstown, where he matriculated in 1931. Jobs were scarce, so he went to work in his uncle’s garage in Komga, but his heart was set on flying. He applied to join the SAAF but wasn’t accepted. He went to college to improve his skills, found a job selling fridges, then one in Sheba Gold Mine assay office. In 1936 he joined the SSB (Special Service Battalion) hoping to use this as a door to the SAAF. Again, his plans failed. When the RAF started in 1935, he applied and was told he would have to go to London for a medical and interview. He instantly bought himself out of the SSB and sailed for London. The RAF accepted him. He went to Scotland for training, passed all tests with flying colours and in 1937 was assigned to No 80 RAF squadron. Sadly, he was shot town on Hitler’s birthday, April 20, 1941. He was last seen hurtling down in flames. His victories totalled 51 – some say 60. His story appears in the SAMHS August newsletter.


Prince Alberters are organising an art festival to top all art festivals. Scheduled for September, the theme is “bring art back home”. This has a variety of interpretations, say the organisers, but the aim is to make art part of the fabric of the village and use it to reach out across social barriers. A variety of top artists have been invited to share their thinking, art and ideas, so the festival will be interesting, different and have something for everyone. Twenty artists will work at the show grounds for two weeks starting on September 11. Alex Hamilton will host a show of the works of Falco Starr, Hannelie Taute, Conrad Botes and Brett Murray. Usha Seejari, whose award-winning public art includes the official portrait of Nelson Mandela in Qunu, will create a large collaborative pebble mosaic to connect the town’s two communities. She is inviting all Prince Alberters to participate. Derek McKenzie, Roger Young. Louis Botha, Henry de Zitter, Neels Coetsee and Neil Jonker will hold individual shows and there will also be a show of Peter Magubane’s works. He published 20 books of photographs documenting various aspects of the Struggle.


Looking for a Karoo break with a difference? Try the Plains of Cambdeboo Private Nature Reserve created by Vincent and Ann Mai. A love for the Karoo led them to obtain a magnificent tract of land north of Pearson in 2009. There, on the farms Rustenburg, Buffels Hoek, Donker Hoek, Onverwagt and Welgedagt, near the Camdeboo and Sneeuberg Mountains, they established this 8 827-ha reserve, and inspired by Eve Palmer’s well-known book, named it Plains of Cambdeboo Private Nature Reserve. The aim was to establish a reserve which would serve as a benchmark for future similar initiatives. The creation of this reserve enabled the Mai’s to fulfil a long-held dream of conserving and where necessary restoring the natural landscape, its constituent habitats and the area’s cultural heritage. They formed partnerships with local communities who now benefit from job-creation and capacity building. The long-term success of the reserve will, however, ultimately be secured through the implementation of appropriate protected areas policies and management programmes. The Mai Family Foundation was also immensely honoured to have Dr Ian Player’s significant and extensive collection of Africana and Conservation Literature bestowed into their trust. Over the years, Dr Player, founder of the Wilderness Foundation, collected many invaluable first editions, personally signed copies, papers, and hand-written journals. These, together with his own books and the Mai Family Trust’s growing private collection of current and historically significant South African literature, are housed in a private library for guests and researchers.


The Plains of Camdeboo Private Nature Reserve includes six distinct vegetation types and three of South Africa’s seven biomes. It is set in an amphitheatre that includes the western edge of the plains of Camdeboo (Nama Karoo Biome), a large portion of Karoo escarpment (Subtropical Thicket Biome) and some high-altitude karoid grassland on the plateau of the Groot Bruintjieshoogte Mountains (Grassland Biome). Groot-Bruintjieshoogde is a climatic transition zone between the Boschberg and the rest of the Sneeuberg. This mountain complex is recognised as a floristic centre of endemism along the great escarpment. The area is rich in bird life and game such as gemsbok, eland, springbuck, black wildebeest, kudu, blesbuck and klipspringer. The Mai’s plan to introduce mountain zebra and red hartebeest. The reserve also has a wide range of nocturnal animals including aardvark, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal and small-spotted genet. Leopard tortoises, baboons, secretary birds and rock monitors abound. The geology of the area includes Karoo Supergroup, mainly of the Beaufort Group (Middleton & Balfour Formations), with some Karoo Dolerite. Rock engravings and artefacts such as bored stones, percussion-made hand axes, scrapers, blades and grinding stones prove the existence of early, middle and later Stone Age people in this area. There is also clear evidence of early Khoi Khoi herders. Research has revealed that the Inqua tribe inhabited this area in the late 1600’s. Their leader, Chief Hykon, is claimed to have been the wealthiest Khoi Khoi leader.


Farmers began to settle in the area of the Plains of Camdeboo Private Nature Reserve during the 1770s. Early explorers, writers and naturalists, such as Francois le Vaillant and William John Burchell, wrote of the bird, buck and plant species they saw here. A further cultural influence was introduced by the 1820 settlers. The town of Pearston, founded in 1859, was laid out on a portion of the original farm Rustenburg, which has been restored and now provides superb accommodation in five spacious en suite double bedrooms. The extended homestead features a lounge, with fire place for winter, meeting room and the Dr Ian Player library. Meals are provided by celebrated resident chef Janet Telian, who has always had a deep love for the Karoo and its simple, traditional, fresh, tasty food. Menus are designed around seasons, local produce and the reserve’s ample store cupboard which includes homemade jams, pickles and preserves. “When we buy, we always try to support local farmers and industries,” says Janet.


Michelle Lotter is searching for her roots, and information on the Lotters who once lived in the Karoo. Among them was Christoffel Johannes Lötter, born on January 16, 1821, and who died on the farm, Matjiesgoedfontein, on June 18, 1892, and his son, Christoffel Johannes, who was born on June 9, 1863 and who died at a smallpox camp near Somerset East on June 3, 1902.


In his book Epidemics: The Story of South Africa’s Five Most Lethal Human Diseases, Howard Phillips states that an old San hunter once said smallpox took all the people and left only the stones. Howard discusses the smallpox outbreaks of 1713 and 1893, plague outbreaks in South Africa during 1901to 1907, the Great or Spanish flu, polio-myelitis and HIV\Aids, which he terms a catastrophe in slow motion. “As smallpox spread through the hinterland the Basters accused the Korana of bringing it to them, the Hurutshe Tswana blamed the Ndbele for provoking the outbreak because they ignored instructions from their ancestors and the Xhosa blamed the British for introducing the disease. The Muslims saw it as the Hand of Allah, and fiercely religious Christians considered it a punishment curable only by prayer and penance,” writes Howard. “Measures to control outbreaks were sporadic. In Kimberly cases toped 2 600 and mortality rose to 3,5% in 1883. Doctors, like Leander Star Jameson, who had links to the diamond mining industry, publicly denied the disease. In an incident hailed as one of the most diabolical mis-uses of medical knowledge Jameson and his colleagues diagnosed smallpox as a rare skin disease because they feared its cost to the industry. They waged a fierce war against their small-pox averring colleagues until government-appointed doctors confirmed “it is smallpox, pure and simple.” Sadly, by then about 700 people had died.


The speed and spread of Spanish flu was incredible. It is estimated that over 50% of the population contracted the disease in the space of a month, writes Howard Phillips. “About 300 000 South Africans, about 6% of the population, was dead within six weeks in 1918. Survivors termed the time “Black October” and many believed that the disease was carried across the country by the country’s well-developed railway system. Oddly this ‘flu affected more males than females. The Cape was heavily hit, particularly the small Karoo town of De Aar, which was a railway junction. The death of pregnant mothers and their unborn babies meant that far less children than normal registered for school in 1925. At least 16 new orphanages were opened across the country and many standing orphanages had to be enlarged.”


In plague-stricken areas teams of rat catchers were sent out, states Phillips. “The public was offered a bounty of 3d for every rat brought in to a municipal depot and sales of rat traps, rat poison and rat-proofing items soared. Some hinterland districts reported rats being destroyed by the hundreds. Researchers say over 250 000 rats were killed during the plague years in South Africa. Epidemi-ologists did not see this in a positive light. They stated that fleas simply sought new hosts.


In June, 1900, during the Anglo Boer War, Lt W S Power of the Eight (Derbyshire) Imperial Yeomanry Company wrote: “Out foraging I came to a house where there was a fine flock of geese, and also a fine flock of daughters. I was after the geese!! But one fine, pretty lassie persuaded me to have bread, milk and butter, so I went inside to talk with them. Quite was a nice girl, so I suggested that she marry me and come with me to ‘my castle’ in England. She seemed willing. In the end I had to go somewhere else for geese, for how could I rob defenceless women and children!!”

All change is not growth; as all movement is not forward.Ellen Glasgow

Excerpts from: The World’s Great Question: Olive Schreiner’s South African Letters 1889–1920
edited by Liz Stanley and Andrea Salter (Van Riebeeck Society)


While living in Hanover in the Karoo Olive Schreiner felt the grim realities of the Anglo Boer War. She was particularly affected when, on the evidence of an informer, some Hanover men were tried for treason. Three were executed. Her letters track these events and tell how she tried to seek help for their destitute families. She writes of Cronwright’s returned to South Africa in late July 1900. Something seems to have happened while he was away, in terms of his feelings or priorities, or both. He stayed in Cape Town, when he discovered that if he went to Hanover he would not be permitted to return. He visited only briefly in May 1901by special permit when Olive was seriously ill. All this is told in her letters. So are the antics of her meerkats, ‘Arriet, Tommy, In-bred Sin, Emma, Litty-Von and Sancho Panza. The last one died in 1913 at a time when an interesting phenomenon becomes the feature of Olive’s letter-writing. She begins to use the third person impersonal ‘one’ to refer obliquely to topics of personal importance. “She had used ‘one’ earlier, to distance herself from emotion,” say the editors, “but this time her use changed, referring to some deep hurt. ‘One’ both removes and at the same time situates Schreiner as the person who no longer has hope; the letter makes sad reading.”

Letter to Alf Mattison from Hanover – 13 February 1901
Dear Mat,

I was ever so glad to get your letter & the photo. I haven’t got a photo I can send you here, but I’ll send you one “when the War is over” & I can go anywhere & get anything. I am now up here, hundreds of miles from the coast in a little village: with the war all about me. We are under Martial Law. No one is allowed to be out of his house after 8 o’clock, all lights must be out at 9; & we are not allowed to stray out of the village not even to go for a little walk. Cron asked for a pass from the military to come up from Cape Town but they will not give him one, so I have not seen him for two months, nor any of my friends. I have hired an empty room in a house here, & put in a stretcher & a table, & do my cooking on a spirit lamp, & I & my little dog Neta live together. There are said to be 20,000 English soldiers within a few miles of this place, & that de Wet with 3000 men is trying to come down & they are trying to surround him, & for ten days people have momentarily been expecting the village to be attacked. Troops with cannon are on the kopjes round, & there is watch keep [sic] up all night. But what the future will bring no one can say. One just waits week after week. Several people I know have lately been arrested, which is much worse than dying on a battlefield. It’s all a funny world! Give my love to Ed & tell him, & the Miss Fords my news. The military censor opens & reads all letters, but I’m glad to say he let yours come through all right. I’ve often wondered why & how the Christians came to invent Hell. But last night when I was lying in bed it struck me that the early Christians lived in a time very much like this under the Roman Empire, during its decline & fall; & of course the poor things believed in hell because they saw it. Hell is Martial Law.

Letter to Betty Molteno from Hanover – 18 March 1901
My dear Friend

I don’t quite know what I write to you today. Did I tell you that three Hanover young men are to be shot at ten o’clock tomorrow by the military at de Aar? I wired to General Settle to ask him to give me a permit to come & see him at de Aar. But he wired back that the men were to [be] shot tomorrow, & that he was acting under superior [orders]. You see I am so tied here under the martial law I can’t get to him. They are such poor ignorant fellows, real “tack-haars” & they had no one to defend them. I believe the man who turned Queens evidence is lying. I am going to put some sugar & coffee & rice in the woman’s room for her to find when she comes back, after they are shot tomorrow. Her husband’s brother is to be shot too. Olive

Letter to Betty Molteno from Hanover – 20 March 1901
Dear Friend,

The £6 has come. I have paid the woman’s rent till the end of next month 15/- a month, also bought her some groceries enough to last her for a month & have given £1 to the subscription list they are getting up for her. The money (most of it only 2/6 & 2/- as the mass of the people here are very poor) is to be given to Mr Hofmeyr the Dutch minister here, who will give it out to her at the rate 2/6 a week. The three men were shot last night a little after 6 o’clock. They died protesting their innocence, & that the man who turned Queen’s evidence lied, & that they had nothing to do with the attack on the train. I went this morning to see the wife of one she lives in a tiny mud floored house of two rooms, & has 5 little children all boys, the youngest 18 months, the eldest 10years, & she is expecting another. The other old man, ?Nienwoudt & his daughter seem quite heartbroken; one son of his was shot yesterday, & the two other sons both unmarried, one a lad in his teens, have been sentenced to five years transportation. I wonder if we could get the sentences revised, especially for the youngest one? I am keeping the rest of the money, not giving it all to Mrs ?Nienaber yet as there are many other people to be tried & who may be in need, as great as her’s. So far, I have spent only £3 odd. Olive

Letter to Isie Smuts from Hanover -. 4 June 1902
Dear Isie

I was so very very glad to hear from you again. Please write soon & tell me how all goes with you & whether there is any chance of your seeing your husband soon. Also please send me your mother’s address. I want to write to her & ask her to do something for me. On Monday morning the guns fired here & we were told it was because the Boers had surrendered, & there was going to be peace. Since that the last three days I am able to hear nothing. Of course, the village is full of reports. Some say the Boers have got their independence & the Transvaal flag is flying at Pretoria. The jingoes say the Boers have been beaten absolutely & had to surrender. One doesn’t know what is true, & what is not, & believes everyone lies. One sees no English papers. Soon it will Nagmaal, when, four times a year, Boer country people congregate in the nearest town for communion. Probably be months before we know the truth here. I heard your husband passed at de Aar close to this yesterday. What would I not have given to see him for half an hour. I have not seen the face of a friend except my husband’s for so many long months, but while I have him, I should be so absolutely contented when I think of all of you. I was one year & two months without seeing him & you have been two years separated from your husband & he was in the greatest danger all that time. I don’t know how you have lived through it, dear one. I hope you will be so well when the meeting time comes. Let me know that I may share your joy. Good bye dear. The world seems rather dark just now. But the sun will rise