A country ‘just come from the hands of the Creator’ – 1898

Powerful feelings affect the mind of the traveler in the Karoo. He ponders the self-sufficiency of nature, the insignificance of Man, the mystery of the universe as he moves across the brown desert in shimmering waves of heat. But most of all he wonders how much of this high desert-like interior is fit for comfortable […]

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A Narrow Escape: Robert Pringle and the stock thieves

Robert Pringle narrowly escaped death when a stock thief fired at him.  Bullets hit him in the face, arm and shoulder.  According to a report in The Graaff-Reinet Herald on Saturday, November 7, 1851, rascals one night stole some sheep from Thomas Pringle’s kraal. When this was discovered a commando of 14 men – including […]

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A Narrow Passage And A Name Forever – 1884

When the railway line from the Karoo to Port Elizabeth was constructed in 1884, it had to pass through a very narrow pass between the Kikvorsberg and the Agter-Rhenosterberg mountains. The local Dutch-speaking community referred to this as “naauw poort” (the narrow pass). A village was established in 1894 in this strange little triangle of […]

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A Picnic in Cradock, 1850

The Somerset East/Cradock area was a dangerous place in the mid-1850s ,yet this did not put locals off. They often set off to enjoy a day picnicking in the veld. And so it was that on one Saturday in February, 1853, a group of 50 youngsters accompanied by “ten gentlemen” gambolled off into the veld […]

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Aberdeen farmer saved ostriches from extinction in Oudtshoorn, 1890

Max Rose, who arrived in South Africa in 1890 from Shavel, in Lithuania, started out in Oudtshoorn as a feather buyer. In time, he became such a successful ostrich breeder that he was known throughout the Klein Karoo as the “ostrich king.” He told reporters that the ostrich feather boom, of the early 1900s, netted […]

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Aching With Loneliness

During the Anglo-Boer War, Lt Austin mentioned suffering from intense loneliness: “I am in charge of a blockhouse with twenty men to guard a bridge 200 miles from Cape Town. Our HQ is at Worcester, a long way off, so I am my own master here. I have no troubles, except it is awfully lonely.”  […]

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AG Schoombee, settler near Middelburg

Rocks truly are the curators of history in the Karoo.  Way back in 1780, a Dane left his mark on a Karoo boulder. A G Schoombee was so delighted by the Karoo that he carved a message on a rock and settled right there despite the fact that the area was in the grips of […]

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An accidental death in Laingsburg

Anglo-Boer War researcher Allen Duff recently visited the graves in Laingsburg and was faced with a puzzle. The inscription on the grave of Private F Gardner, of the 5th Royal Warwickshire Regiment, stated: “Accidentally killed in the execution of his duty on 9.01.1902.” Allen wondered just how Private Gardener could have been ‘accidentally’ killed’ then […]

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And Now There Are Bones

The early travellers reported vast herds in the Karoo. They wrote of steenbuck, bushbuck, reedbuck, oribi, hartebeest, kudu, buffalo, lion, wildebeest, springbuck, ostrich, hippo and rhino, said Schwarz in The Kalahari or Thirstland Redemption. He dated the drying of the Karoo to the disappearance of the Kalahari lakes in 1820. He said the configuration of […]

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Anti-Establishment Early Doctor: Ambrose George Campbell

Early hinterland medics were a curious collection of men.  In Frontier Flames, F C Metrowich tells of Ambrose George Campbell, a cantankerous doctor who arrived with the 1820 settlers. The son of Major-General Campbell, he was a clever surgeon, good general practitioner and witty writer.  However, in those robust days of freedom of speech and […]

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