Few travellers would grant Hutchinson a second look. It appears to be just another abandoned, forlorn, rundown, dilapidated little railway station, but it hides an important peek into Karoo history. Started in 1883, 12 km from Victoria West, the station developed into a thriving little village with a school, hotel, small businesses and a variety of shops. Its name changed from Victoria Road to Hutchinson in 1901 to honour of Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, an Anglo-Irish diplomat and the last British governor of the Colony. (The post disappeared with the formation of Union in 1910). The station became a junction when the line was extended to Carnarvon, Williston and Calvinia. In its heyday, Hutchinson was a coal and water refuelling stop for almost 50 passenger and over 100 freight trains a week. Then, death blow was struck in 2001. The station was closed and Hutchinson simply mouldered away. It is now back on centre stage. New life has been brought to its story in a 60-minute documentary, Shunted, made by Eric Miller and Laurine Platzky. Shunted will be launched at the Apollo Theatre in Victoria West on Heritage Day, September 24, at 14h00 and, because this film captures an important part of Karoo history, they hope to see a huge audience. The film views the joys, trials, tribulations and heartbreak of this little village over the last 40-50 years through stories of current and former residents, teachers, principals, shunters, drivers, policemen, managers, postmasters and many others who were central to town life. “While this film describes the background to their fortunes and predicament, it poses a challenge to both Government and Transnet to take responsibility for the impact of changes to the lives of such communities and indicates that there are slender possibilities of a brighter future,” says Laurine. More from


Several special functions are being planned to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the Anglo-Boer War. Central to events in the Northern West Cape were the battles of Belmont, Graspan/Rooilaagte, Modder River/Tweeriviere, and Magersfontein. These all took place near the border of the Orange Free State. At Modderfontein British Lieutenant-General Lord Methuen and his men fought their way northwards against the Boers – led by Generals P A “Piet” Cronje and J H “Oom Koos” De la Rey – to relieve the besieged town of Kimberley. “It is now proposed to erect a special memorial to commemorate the Boers who fell at Modder River and, to this end, a committee has been appointed to raise the R89 000 which is needed,” says Kimberley Boer War tour guide and historian, Steve Lunderstedt. Among those who will be remembered are men like General de la Rey’s son Adriaan. The memorial, which will be made of cut granite stones from the original Modder River railway station, will be placed in the garden of the Crown and Royal Hotel for safety and security. This hotel was used by the Boers as an artillery observation post and a temporary first aid dressing station. Anyone interested in contributing towards this cause should contact Steve at


At the time of the Anglo-Boer War all British troops were issued with the khaki drill service dress which had been introduced in India, states Martin Marix Evans in The Encyclopaedia of the Boer War. The men arriving in South Africa, however, still had buff-coloured belts which they soon learned to stain with tea or tobacco juice for concealment. The Scottish regiments were issued with khaki aprons to cover their kilts, but these only concealed the front. The helmet was later replaced by the slouch hat and visible distinctions of rank between officers and men virtually disappeared.

REMEMBER the 120th Commemoration of the Anglo Boer War at the War Museum in Bloemfontein from October 9 to 11. For details contact Telephone: 051 447 3447/ 051 447 0079


There are some points on Joseph Crowe’s story (Round-up August, 2019) that require correcting, says author and historian, Ian Uys. “In 1970 I researched his life in London and my wife, Barbara, rediscovered his grave in West Norwood Cemetery and took a photo of the headstone which appears in my book For Valour. Dr Felix Machanik and Colonel George Duxbury of the SA National Museum of Military History read this and organised his reinternment. They wanted him buried at the Johannesburg War Museum, but I objected as he was not just another exhibit and had come from my home town, Uitenhage. I felt he should be buried there with his parents. While I was serving in the Heidelberg Commando on the Border in 1977 he was reinterred outside the MOTH Hall in Uitenhage. I knew Professor John Phillips well and it was done with his permission, as well as that of the Lovemores and the Lister sisters. I was present when a plaque was placed on his birthplace, a house alongside the Swartkops River. Sadly, it was subsequently demolished! You are correct in stating that he was the second South African to be awarded the VC. In 1973 when the plaque was unveiled, I was unaware of his being the second. In 1957 the words ‘First South African winner of the Victoria Cross’ had been added to his tombstone, so I believed that and repeated it. He was born in 1826 and Christopher Teesdale was born in 1833, so one could argue that Joseph was the first South African-born recipient of the VC.


Joseph Crowe, snr, was as very proud man when he learned that his youngest son, with whom he shared his name, had won the Victoria Cross for bravery during the Indian Mutiny in 1857. (Full story Round-up, August, 2019). In his Journal, on March 24, 1858, he mentions that he received the news eight months after Major-General Henry Havelock’s commendation was made and more than three months after news of the citation had been published in the London Gazette. He was given the news by the Bishop of Grahamstown when he visited Uitenhage to hold a confirmation service and administer the sacrament. Joseph, snr, wrote” “After the service the Bishop came up to me and enquired whether I had heard from mv son in India. I said, ‘No, my Lord, not for some time.’ He then said, ‘I have good news for you, he’s got the Victoria Cross and has been promoted for his bravery in India.’ I was delighted. I thanked his Lordship for this good news. He then kindly said he would call on my children at Quagga Flats on his way back to Grahamstown and tell them the good news of their brother.”


Joseph Crowe, snr, was born in Bally Bay in County Monaghan, Ireland, on July 22, 1775. On October 26, 1810, he was commissioned as an ensign into the 60th Foot Regiment, which sailed for the Cape in 1811. His family gleaned his life story from journals he started as soon as he joined the army. Joseph disembarked in Table Bay and, after a brief stay in the Castle, marched with his regiment to Simonstown. There he was promoted to lieutenant on March 29, 1812 and appointed to a unit dispatched to Algoa Bay in June 1813. Their task was to protect the roads between Uitenhage, Algoa Bay and Grahamstown. He went to Vermaak’s Military Post and along the route to Addo, dropped off small parties of soldiers at garrison posts, junctions, crossings and drifts. He lost his heart at Vermaak’s Post to Classina Vermaak, the lovely daughter of the farmer who gave the post its name. They were married on March 22, 1815, in Graaff Reinet and set off the next day on a 220-mile (384 km) ride to set up a new post at Assegaai’s Bosch. The trip took three days.


As soon as the 60th had completed its tour of duty on the Eastern Frontier, the Company returned to Cape Town where Joseph and Maria’s first two children were born. Thomas Coenraad arrived on August 3, 1816 and Maria Margaret in 1817. In January 1819, just before the 5th Frontier War, the 60th was recalled to England to be disbanded. Joseph found himself on half pay, with a bleak outlook for the future. He resigned his commission and returned to South Africa at his own expense. A second daughter Classina Catherine, was born along the way in 1821. Life was not easy and so Joseph decided to move to the Eastern Cape and there, on November 22, 1822, bought the farm, Essenbosch. Three more children were born there – Aletta Jane, on July 8, 1822, Dorothy Susannah, on October 7, 1823, and Joseph Petrus Hendrik, on January 12, 1826. Joseph soon found that his children, who were all Afrikaans speaking, were suffering in respect of education, so he moved his family into Uitenhage and placed them in the Free School run by Scottish educationalist, James Rose Innes. (It became Muir College one of the oldest high schools in South Africa.) Joseph’s last child Margaret Flemming was born in Uitenhage where he became a respected citizen, community leader and warden of the Anglican Church.

ATTENTION BOOKLOVERS – Diarise Richmond Bookbedonnerd Book Festival – October 26 and 27, 2019


At the age of 17 Joseph’s eldest son, Thomas Coenraad, joined the government as a translator. When martial law was declared at the outbreak of the 1834 Frontier War he obtained a commission in the Uitenhage Levies. His father was also recalled but neither saw any action. At the end of the war Thomas stayed in the army and was commissioned as an ensign in the Cape Mounted Rifles. He was promoted to lieutenant early in 1838 and sent to command Fraser’s Camp, a military post 40 km from Grahamstown. Unrest erupted at nearby Fort Peddie and Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Somerset had the leaders arrested. On the way to Grahamstown, on February 17, 1838, they stopped with their escort to overnight at Fraser’s Post. Some of their friends then planned to murder the officers and release the men. On a given signal the conspirators opened fire on the officers, who were sitting round a card table in their quarters. A bullet hit Thomas. He was mortally wounded and within four hours was dead. The perpetrators were arrested and convicted in Grahamstown. The two ringleaders were executed by firing squad on April 21, 1838, and the others were transported to Australia.


Christopher Teesdale was actually the first South African to be awarded a VC. “He earned it earlier than Joseph Crowe, as you correctly state, but he did not come to South Africa as a baby (Round-up No 308 August.2019),” states historical researcher, Brian Thomas. “Christopher was in fact born in Grahamstown on June1, 1833 and was baptised in the local St George’s Church on June 26, that year. According to the South African Almanac and Directory of the time, Christopher’s father was a young officer serving with the 8th Company 8th Battalion Royal Artillery at Grahamstown. He was there from 1831 to 1834. Christopher did serve during the Crimean War, but not with the British Army. He was with the Turks at the Siege of Kars for 5 ½ months from June, 1855, so he did not qualify for the British Crimean campaign medal. His VC was one of only a few awarded without an accompanying campaign medal. It was the last gazetted to the Army in September,1857. Two more VC’s were awarded to Navy men,” says Brian.


Freak accident cost the lives of two Colesberg railway employees within a very short space of time in 1886. Uncannily they both worked on the same train and were killed in the same way. The Grahamstown Journal of April 13 reported that railway guard Wilson had been killed while shunting and that only a few weeks later a similar fate had befallen F Cooper, a newly appointed guard on the same train. While shunting a long train he was about to detach some trucks when his foot caught between the flanges of the rails at a point where they crossed each other. Before he could disengage his foot the train jerked and he was knocked down. The trucks passed over him, “crushing his head into a thousand pieces”. Death was instantaneous. Cooper was widely known to the travelling public as he had worked as a conductor on a train from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. Buried by Rev W W Treleavan, he “was survived by a penniless widow and four children”, said the report.


Love sometimes leads to insane actions. Judge Marius Diemont found this out when presented with his first jury case at the Cape Bar. In Brushes with the Law he says he was thrown in at the deep end and given a pro Deo brief to defend a Cape blockman who had murdered his lady love in a butchery. “The man had fallen in love with the young lady who was the company bookkeeper. One day they quarrelled, he lost his temper, forced her head onto the butcher’s block and chopped it off.” He then marched down to the police station, gave himself up and made a statement. “I consulted with him at the Roeland Street Jail, but he wasn’t very helpful. ‘Yes,’ he said,’ I killed the girl’. In court I asked why, and he said, ‘I can’t remember’. ‘Surely you must remember,’ I said, to which he replied, ‘No I can’t and if I lie you will put my head on a block.’ The jury trooped back into the court and announced that they had found the man ‘guilty,’ but ‘enraged’. ‘Do you mean deranged, mad, insane,’ asked the judge. ‘Yes’, was the reply and so that was the verdict.” The man was sent to Valkenburg.


Anglo-Boer War rebels could not attend the Peace Talks, which led to the Treaty of Vereeniging in May, 1902, because as they were not legitimate belligerents,” explained Dr Taffy Shearing. “A proclamation issued in 1902 encouraged 3442 rebels to surrender, but rather than lay down their arms, 700 or 800 men, fled across the borders. When POWs from Bermuda and St Helena returned all the rebels were given partial amnesty. It took until 1905 before a General Amnesty was declared for the Cape rebels and they became eligible to vote again.”


The hot dry Karoo town of Richmond has been home to some truly beautiful women with rich, romantic tales to tell. Among them were Josè, the dazzling wife of mining magnate, John Dale Lace, the gentle Irish-born teacher, Helena Gilstain, and the chic, sophisticated Helen Tait, who married Henry Juta, a man destined to become a star in South African legal circles. Her great-great niece, Tessa Moore, noticed the typo regarding her surname in August Round-up and sent in some additional information on her life. Born in Richmond on April 17, 1862, she was named Helen Lena Johanna Theresa after her maternal grandmother, the daughter of General Mőlgg and the wife of Eldred Mowbray Cole. He hailed from Twickenham, Middelsex, England and was a cousin of Edward Stanley, the British Prime Minister. Initially Eldred came to South Africa to farm, but on May 1, 1847, he was appointed as civil commissioner and resident magistrate for Tembuland. He took up residence near the Shiloh Mission Station, however, within short he was given another government appointment, states The History of South Africa. Then, according to the London Gazette, he was appointed Auditor General of the Colony on February 16, 1859. He retired from that post on July 20, 1875, and died on March 23, 1888.


Helen’s father, Caledon-born Murdoch Morison Tait’s family came from Inverness and Leith in Scotland. (He was named for his grandfather, Murdoch Morison, who hailed from Stornoway Lewis, in the Hebrides). He was a slim, well-groomed, well-spoken, somewhat gruff, foreboding man, with a beard, moustache and bushy eyebrows. Filled with Gaelic stubbornness he came to South Africa in search of his fortune, but developed a reputation for losing fortunes faster than he made them and twice found himself penniless. He never lost his Scottish accent. By the 1890s he was the managing director of the Bank of Scotland, states Nigel Patten in a family biography entitled Under Table Mountain. Murdoch had a competitive, adventurous nature and, in his youth loved nothing more than playing cricket or scrambling over the rocks to play in the ruins of a castle where Duncan was said to have murdered Macbeth. Helen inherited her good looks from her mother, Henrietta Katherine Cole, who was born in Fort Beaufort, near Somerset East, in 1840. She was a direct descendant of Elizabeth, one of the exquisitely beautiful, famous and slightly scandalous Irish Gunning sisters. Helen had three younger sisters and five brothers. The apple of her father’s eye she often accompanied him to the legendary “healing” waters at Karlsbad Spa in western Bohemia and joined him in his box at the theatre and opera.


Helen was utterly charming, beautiful, dark-haired, slim, straight-backed, open-hearted and friendly. Her entire upbringing and education were focussed on preparing her to hold an eminent position in society. Her standards were English. She was always superbly turned out in the latest styles and fashions without a hair out of place. She had as sparkling personality and twinkling blue eyes that complimented her radiant smile which ensured that she easily made friends and kept them. She had a passion for gardening – which Henry shared – and she loved exotic hothouse plants, music and the arts. She played the piano really well, sang beautifully and regularly attended concerts. After she fell in love with the tall, well-proportioned, proud, handsome and debonair Henry she almost never left his side. They had four daughters, Helen Winifred (1986), Henrietta (Rene) (1887), Brenda (1878) and Louise Esme Alice, affectionately known as Luie (1891)), as well as a son, Jan Carel (1895) Helen rode well to the hounds and loved being driven about by her coachman and showing off the magnificent pair of bays bought for her by her beloved Henry. An elegant hostess, excellent dancer and good tennis player, she moved in the top social circles and was the perfect wife for a judge. An accident on the tennis courts caused a severe back injury which troubled her for the rest of her life and forced her to curb her social life.


Helen was awarded the Order Of The British Empire for her public services and for having done far more than most women of her time for her fellow man. She served as president of at least 24 charitable organisations and during the Anglo-Boer War organised The Cape Of Good Hope Society to assist both Boer and British sick and wounded. When Henry fell ill she nursed him and, with great dignity, took over many of his responsibilities. He reciprocated when she lay ill and dying, watching over her with tenderness and reading to her to keep her calm. With a breaking heart he took her to England in the hopes of a cure, but that was not to be. She slowly just faded away. He had the words “she never had an unkind word for anyone” carved on her tombstone.

Need help building your family tree? Contact Heather MacAlister –

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain