Category: Uncategorized

  • Meiringspoort Once Almost On The Rail

    In the 1930s, entrepreneurs planning economic development of the Karoo proposed building  a railway line through Meiringspoort to link Beaufort West and  Mossel Bay. This, they  felt, would create new markets for the south-western districts of the then Cape Province and so develop the infrastructures of settlements on both sides of the Swartberg.  A conference,…

  • Swindler Played A Charming Tune

    An amiable man of science, whom legendary policeman Colonel Ulf Boberg described as the cleverest criminal he’d ever met, once charmed Beaufort Westers with his piano playing.  Not one person in the enthralled audience realised that this man was a world class crook with Interpol and the FBI on his trail.   This refined man was…

  • Why Did He Borrow The Barrows?

    In 1865, Irishman Joseph Michel Gilligham,  borrowed five wheelbarrows from the Beaufort West Municipality to celebrate the birthday of  “our most gracious majesty” Queen Victoria.   Just over 30 years later his eldest son, Solomon William, helped form the pro-Boer Irish Brigade that fought against the British during the Anglo-Boer War.   Then, in July 1900, Solomon…

  • Business Booms In The Shadow Of War

    At the end of the 1800s the Karoo was brimful with entrepreneurs despite the fact that the winds of war were blowing across the country.   Even when the Anglo-Boer War was in full swing businessmen had sufficient confidence in the economy of the hinterland to launch new ventures and carry extensive stocks. Newspapers of the…

  • Lonely, But Mysterious Grave

    In a misty graveyard in Donacloney in County Armagh, Ireland, there is a mysterious and lonely little memorial with links to the Great Karoo.  The ancient stone, half hidden by undergrowth, proclaims it was erected in sacred memory of James Alexander, 23, who died in Beaufort West in 1854.  For years it has fascinated Alexander…

  • Wild Outlaw Cuts A Swathe Across Karoo

    Frontier outlaw Coenraad Buys, a  huge, powerful man, was an adventurer and smuggler who left a dash of wildness in the story of Beaufort West and  the Nuweveld farm.  Buys, also known as Coenraad de Buy or Buis, was born of Huguenot stock in Montagu in 1761. He clashed with the law and  took refuge…

  • Forests To Fuel The Locomotives

    When trains first steamed into the hinterland they ran on coal imported from Wales.   South Africa was considered deficient in coal. Small amounts were being mined at Cyphergat, Molteno and Indwe. Discovery of the country’s major fields, the largest in the southern hemisphere,  lay in the future. Dr Gustav Fritsch, a German traveller, in 1886…

  • Estate Agent, Boer Flag And The Titanic

    In 1912, Cape Town real estate agent Thomas William Brown was faced with a major decision.  The  market was “in serious decline”, so he had to either extend his real estate and land speculation business into the hinterland and  Karoo or return to America. Brown gave serious consideration to the Karoo,  but in the end…

  • Renaissance Man Honoured

    Well over two centuries ago a Dutch explorer stood on a Karoo koppie near the Swartberg Mountains and painted a tranquil farming scene in the valley below.  As he concentrated on details of the farm, Qweekvallei, which he was painting, little could he have imagined that in time this koppie would be named in his…

  • A Beaufort-Wester Rests Forever On Robben Island

    Rev Louis Hugo served Beaufort West’s Dutch Reformed community as a minister until he decided to become a missionary.  He then left the Karoo and moved to Robben Island to work among lepers and the metally ill. Hugo, who was of Huguenot extraction,  was born in Stellenbosch on November 22, 1846. He came to Beaufort…