Monday, October 02, 2006


Fourth Outing of 2006: Zuurbrak and Swellendam
Organiser Juletha Zietsman and special guide Braam van Zyl of RSA fame.
Zuurbrak, a delightful village with interesting small square houses near Swellendam is a strange place no longer. Thanks to Maggie Jantjies, who runs the Publicity Office, we were soon all the wiser about its character and learnt that, on occasions, the original Kakoen name Xairn, meaning Paradise, is still used - saw it on some jam labels. The story goes that when the London Missionary Society arrived the locals lived in round huts, but once they had converted to Christianity they rebuild their houses into a square with a neat gable - and we saw a few through the mist and the rain. Of course, today there is a the Dutch Reformed Church on the town’s square and the Anglican Church of typical 19th Century design built in 1837 after the freedom of the slaves.
Braam van Zyl, our raconteur, a broadcaster and historian, was our guide. He related the sad saga of a mixed race village living a rural life, changed once the whites were forced out due to the Group Areas Act. The lifestyle of the locals changed due to buying funeral policies and other amenities of modern living. The men began to go to the cities to work, and Zuurbraak became a dormitory village. The houses were dilapidated as they needed so much upkeep. Luckily the Swellendam Trust stepped in and restored the old Church and the Pastorie, but as usual funds are needed as they always are; and Maggie longs for a butchers shop and a bakery to open up again. She told us about the chairs which were made locally. Our planned walk became a slow drive through the village, thanks to the gentle rain.
We drove past Lismore, the old Dutch house of many and varied gables and the first farm to produce its own electricity, and we stood in the shearing shed where the sheep were once shorn with electrically driven hand cutters. Joseph Barry and Nephews, general merchants, were the great entrepreneurs of this area in the mid-Victorian era when wool was king. But they fell on hard times due to a slump and over-speculation and also the sinking of their coaster, The Kadie, in 1864, but what they built they built to last. They left their stamp on Lismore, Auld House in Swellendam, the old warehouse and also left their name in the village of Barrydale nearby. They left a legacy of many stalwart descendants that have enriched the Overberg.
We drove on in procession past a monument which for a brief moment was the boundary of the DEIC, over the national road. There was a gem of an old Cape Dutch house, thanks to the Fraser-Jones family; a restored and loved Rotterdam. Our guide here was the owner, Andrew Fraser-Jones. This most historic house of the Overberg was a loan farm belonging to JA Horak between 1749 and 1766. It was then granted to H van Vollenhoven in 1783. The house, with a holbol gable dating from 1794 was built by the Landdrost Antonie Faure, who owned 29 slaves and horses, sheep and cattle. The house has had many owners in its long history, including Dr Joseph Mackrill, the botanist who wrote a treatise on yellow fever and was the first to introduce the buchu plant to Europe. Next came the Holtzhusen family and a Captain Buchanan of the Madras army who renamed the farm, `The Vale of Endric’. When the Steyns lived there an exact daily diary was kept in clear detail. After the De Vos family owned the place for a couple of generations it fell into disrepair, but thanks to the Fraser-Jones family who rescued the property in 1983 it was restored and is a delight to visit. We also heard about Jan Andries Auge, Governor Ryk Tulbagh’s master gardener who had retired to the Gamtoos Valley only to be left destitute when Xhosas invaded the Cape in 1799. He was rescued by the kindly Faure and spent his last years on Rotterdam.
We had our lunch, an excellent soup and bread, in the new wing which blends in very well with the old house, tastefully prepared by Anneke Fraser-Jones. Then it was off to visit the third oldest bridge in South Africa – all stout pillars but alas nothing to ride on. It’s called the `sugar’ bridge because the builders discovered that plaster of paris mixed with sugar is harder than without. But what all this has to do with those stout stone pillars we saw is a genuine scientific mystery.
We went back to Swellendam and wandered around the environs of Auld House soaking in atmosphere. That evening we spent with Braam van Zyl and enjoyed his hospitality and a bring and braai. Taffy and David gave us a look back at the sixties with pictures of their wedding, still in black and white, which happened right here in Swellendam in 1962.
Sunday was too wet for our Swellendam walkabout. The visit to Malgas had to be cancelled due to the state of the roads and the pont was also out of operation. So we contented ourselves with a tour of the Drostdy Museum and enjoyed our tour guide, Jomien Havenga. Afterwards at the Museum Coffee house we had such vast slices of carrot cake and melk tart that we departed lunchless after an excellent outing. Many thanks to Juletha who went down to Swellendam and checked the whole route with Braam van Zyl.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


The finest snowfall in years blanketed the Swartberg as we drove to Prince Albert for our third outing this year. Today was a Lydia Barella and Dr Judy Maguire special.

Off we went to Jan Bothma’s to learn about olives at the Swartrivier Olive Farm. It was freezing cold and we clustered around his warm personality. I won’t tell you about the olives as I’m an oil fan actually, but he just loves those pippy things and talks about them so fondly. Jan actually has the finest farm werf I have seen since the rinderpest! A good old-fashioned farm werf where you save everything, because in the old days you had to make your own spare parts! My best says you can make a Model T Ford from the contents of my handbag. With Jan it could be a Nasa Space Rocket! No sweat!

Then we found Pat Marincowitz in a stony bit of veld. But where Pat is are treasures, and there they were – fields of tiny hide-and-seek lithops (Lithops peersii) and Prince Albert vygies (Bijlia dilatata). The crowd who stayed behind with their heaters and didn’t come on the outing missed a sight of members leaping lightly between the little lithops as they raced a sheet of sleet to their warm motorcars. I thought of Sanna Blou of Fraserburg who said, “Donkiekar ry is baie koue werk!”

Then off to the weavery where the spinning machines, the carders and looms stood silent and empty. Not to worry. The wonderful traditional process was brought to life by Dr Hannes van der Merwe, the textile expert. It was a moment of quiet epiphany to hear the great love of his craft expressed so eloquently through his voice and dramatic hand gestures. On the table were elegantly crafted mohair mats and rugs that stick to the floor like ticks because he designed them so that you could not trip over them. From there we went down to their shop.

After enjoying our picnic lunch in the Museum’s Dam, we visited the historic Seven Arches, recently restored. I paid homage to, of all things, a majestic bath and shower that once belonged to Cecil John Rhodes. Cecil Rhodes built the pillars upon which the orderly industrialization of this country rests, knowing his rotten heart would kill him before he turned fifty, like other members of his family. I enjoyed the thought of him making more plans and soaking slowly. Of the artworks my best was Prince Albert Road Station, and had I the rand and the wall it would not have stayed there at all!

At the museum I was faced with the awful decision whether to buy dried figs or Witblitz! The figs won. Dr Judy Maguire, social historian of note, played the pedal organ for us, and set it in historic context saying you could not play it fast, and this in turn set the metronome of the DRC dominees and their slow and deliberate sermons.

I could not find my favourite among the many homely great-granny articles. It is the sheet music of an old Edwardian song. Before World War I Charlie Chaplin’s mother sang in the music halls as the two small boys waited for her in the wings. One awful night she dried up and lost the words. In an instant the audience shouted catcalls down on her. Little Charlie ran onto the stage holding his small arms wide to protect his mother, and began to dance. There was silence as he sang
“You are my honeysuckle,
I am the bee.
I love to sit beside you,
And you do love me!
I love you truly, truly,
And you do love me.
You are my honey honeysuckle,
I am the bee.”
His mother came back to life and they sang for a delighted audience who thought it was only an act. It was Charlie Chaplin’s first public performance, and he was just eight years old. I hope I’ll find it in the Museum next time.

Then it was time to go and David gave our heartfelt thanks to Lydia Barella for what will be a long-remembered outing. And as we raced the snow for the cars I knew I’d made a horrible mistake. I should have bought the Witblitz!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

“If you don’t live your heritage, you loose it!”


We have four outings a year, and try to get local speakers with local knowledge, as well as an end-of-the-year function.

Reports of talks, discussions, seminars and activities appear in our annual journal Outeniqualander. We visit places of historical interest from as far afield as Beaufort West, Uniondale and Swellendam, and plan for three “near” and one “distant” outing each year. All members are informed of an outing timeously by either email or snail mail, and must respond three days before the outing so that the caterers who will be supplying refreshments can know the numbers. Members are charged a small fee for refreshments to cover costs, and any visitors a little extra. Maps and/or directions are usually supplied.

Outings are usually held over the weekends, and end well before sunset. If you join us you will be responsible for your own lunch and refreshments, as well as you table and chairs. A nice spot for lunch is part of the planning by the Committee that meets between outings. There will also always be one or more co-ordinator to lead the event. Talks are in either English or Afrikaans.

Committee members are: David Shearing, Chairman; Prof Johan Olivier, Vice-Chairman; Pieter van Reenen, Treasurer; Dr Taffy Shearing, Secretary; Additional members, Aloise Lamprecht, Juletha Zietsman, Hazel Jonker, Martie Visagie, Christo Malan, Ferdinand Holm and Gonda Ennis.

If you wish to join our Society, contact our Treasurer, Pieter van Reenen at PO Box 925, Hartenbos 6520 or telephone (044) 695.1887 or , and costs are:
Family ………..……. R100.
Single person ………. R70.
If you join after 1 July, the cost will be half.
This subscription will include an Outeniqualander per family or member.

At the end-of-year function, merit certificates are usually handed out to individuals who have restored buildings or in some other way enhanced our cultural heritage.


"The New Amidst the Old : Building in the Klein Karoo" by Dr Hans Fransen.

Dr Hans Fransen's words of wisdom about new architecture in historically sensitive areas could not come at a more appropriate time for a region overheated with townhouse complexes.
There is a wealth of information aptly written in this book, and we can easily pick up the difference between a Cape Dutch house, a Cape Gothic style and a Victorian, and essentially where they differ. His overall plea, however, that it is not the time-consuming restoration of a single property that matters, but keeping the character of a neighbourhood that is the most essential task of any developer, architect or watchdog cultural society. Above all he warns that there is no single bigger threat to the integrity of an environment than the introduction of massive structures.
Above and beyond Fransen has happily opened our eyes to the secrets of the landscape and the townscapes of the Little Karoo. A visit to Prince Albert or Calitzdorp will be all the more rewarding now that we understand the dynamics of the village as a whole and the story of its development, which he reveals in clear, apt phrases. His section on the separate histories of this area can be easily read and absorbed.
For members of Simon van der Stel there is a remarkable list of historical buildings to visit, with their star ratings, for Oudtshoorn, Calitzdorp, Ladismith, Prince Albert, Uniondale and George. This will be a godsend for the committee who can now choose lesser known places to visit, and in this way bring fresh ideas to the planning of quarterly outings.
Die behoefte aan 'n publikasie oor die bewaring van die bou-style van die Klein Karoo bestaan reeds geruime tyd. Gedurende 2005 het die komitee Dr Hans Fransen, bekende kultuur-historikus en outeur van verskeie werke oor die ou geboue van die Kaap in hierdie verband genader.
The result is an attractive 40-page A4-size book, well-illustrated and in colour. We hope to re-coup our expenses with the sales.
"The New Amidst the Old " is nie net leersaam en aktueel nie maar beslis 'n aanwins vir enige boekrak of koffie-tafel.
We are proud to have undertaken this project to preserve and protect our cultural heritage in the Klein Karoo.
Members who have not had the opportunity to buy a copy can contact Hazel Jonker at 082 651 8037 or 044 272 7415. The cost is R95.