Category: Uncategorized

  • Not Among The Enchanted

    In 1859 a young Swellendam man was invited to a Karoo wedding.  He was not one of those who fell instantly in love with the area. In fact, he called it “unique in its ugliness and wanting in everything to please the eye.” And, he declared: “Here the poetry of life is absent.” Simply signing […]

  • Tanner Turned Glass Artist

    Modern communications is not all it’s cracked up to be.   Over a bad cellphone line the name of the man who made the windows of the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral in Bloemfontein sounded like Leonardus Albertus. ”It is in fact Lambertus Emundus (Leo) Monsma.,” writes his son-in-law, Tony Nell. “ and he was responsible for…

  • Ups And Downs Of Post Cart Travel

    Post cart travel had little to recommend it according to John Widdicombe, a mid-nineteenth century traveler.  He described the carts as looking like a square water tank with rails on two wheels. “The mailman stored mailbags inside the tank and, when it was full, tied extra bags on top.  The carts, which were not covered,…

  • The Ship That ‘Sailed’ From Beaufort West

    In 1883 a steamer, shipped from Cape Town, arrived at Beaufort West station. Locals watched incredulously as bits and pieces of this 11m long steel-hulled ship, its 4kW engine and two propellers, were off-loaded, then packed and lashed onto two ox wagons, under the supervision of English adventurer, John Thorburn. As the wagons trundled off…

  • Parked In An Odd Spot

    Things happened very fast once gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand.  Virtually everything was in short supply in the fledgling mining camp that was to become Johannesburg.  Realising this, a Mr Van Rensburg from Colesberg set up a transport business, bringing much needed produce to the miners. On one trip he was stunned at the…

  • When A Live Show Turned Vile

    In the 1900s everyone who was anyone “took in a show,” when travelling theatre groups came to town.   Then, suddenly this social tradition was threatened by a spate of poor performers.  One of the worst groups, according to The Courier, was Will Morgan’s Australian Juveniles, a troupe of variety artistes. In Beaufort West a printer’s…

  • Quick Action Foils The Grim Reaper

    Travellers peacefully dozing, serenely watching the Karoo pass by through the windows of a luxury train narrowly escaped death near Beaufort West, early in May, 1903.  As the train cheerfully chugged along, billowing smoke and periodically shattering the peace with its shrill whistle, passengers, could never have imagined a brush with death waited at the…

  • Swartberg Pass Ghost Spices Courtship

    Long ago, a  romantic young Karoo man tried to impress his future in-laws, but instead ended up  in the company of a ghost. Hansie Odendaal, who lived in Prince Albert in 1949, offered to take his prospective bride and her parents on a drive across the Swartberg Pass.  On one of the steep gradients the…

  • Ancient Wall Discovered

    While out on patrol one day workers at Anysberg Nature Reserve, near Laingsburg, discovered the remains of an ancient wall. It instantly captured the attention of historic researchers as there was evidence to prove that a portion of the ruin dated back to 1700.  The general consensus was that it might have been the remains…

  • A Penny For The News

    The Beaufort West Courier, established in 1869, is one of the oldest newspapers in South Africa. A long-ago proprietor, James Bryant, did everything possible to keep  townsfolk informed of the very latest in local and world affairs.  So, in 1900, the Courier was published as “the first penny daily in the Karoo.”  An advert at…