Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia school travel Wildlife, Game Reserves

South West Africa Tour

Sheila sent me a surprise postcard. So I have re-posted this blogpost from 2015 about a magic 1969 tour, and attached the postcard at the end. Enjoy!

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The Kestell bus was like a half-loaf, but still the metropolis of Kestell couldn’t roust enough boys to fill it, so we Harrismithians had been invited along. Johan Steyl announced in the hall one assembly that Kestell was inviting Harrismith boys to join their ‘seunstoer’ to South West Africa. It would be fifteen days in the July holidays, and the cost would be twenty five South African Ront. Leon ‘Fluffy’ Crawley, Harry ‘Pikkie’ Loots, Pierre du Plessis, Tuffy Joubert and I said YES! and then our parents said yes and forked over the cash, so we were off! (The new postcard tells me Jan van Wyk – who would be head boy in matric the next year – also went along).

– an actual pic by Fluffy, care of mother Polly’s Kodak! –

It was boys-only, a seunstoer, but Mnr Braam Venter of Kestell took his daughter along. She was about Std 4 we were Std 7 to 9. She was very popular and soon became like the tour mascot, second only to Wagter the tour dog – who was actually a found holey corobrick with a dog collar through one of its three holes and string for a leash.

The short bus had a longitudinal seating arrangement. Long rows running the length of the bus so you sat facing each other, sideways to your direction of travel.

We all bundled in and set off. After a few hours we had the first roadside stop. Mnr Venter lined us all up outside the bus and said ‘Right, introduce yourselves,’ as the Kestell ous didn’t know us – and we didn’t know them. Down the row came the names, van Tonder, van Wyk, van Niekerk, van Staden, van Aswegen, vanne Merwe, van Dit, van WhatWhat, Aasvoel, Kleine Asenvogel, Marble Hol. Fluffy standing next to me murmured ‘Steve McQueen’ but when his turn came he let out with a clear ‘Leon Crawley’ so I said ‘Steve McQueen’ out loud. Without a blink the naming continued before I could say ‘Uh, just kidding’, so I became ‘Ou Steve‘ for the duration.

Aughrabies Falls
– Augrabies Falls – by Leon Fluffy Crawley –

Our first stop was Kimberley, where we camped in the caravan park and had some fun; then on to the Augrabies Falls on the Gariep (Orange) River, stopping at the roaring dunes near Hotazel in the Kalahari. On from there to the borderpost at Onseepkans.

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When we entered SWA we headed straight for a pub. The first pub we found. Us fourteen to sixteen year-olds. Read about that here.  

We went to the Fish River Canyon. Like all canyons, it was billed as the biggest, longest, deepest, whatever in the (insert your area, your country, or ‘world’ here). We stood on the rim and gazed down. Then Pikkie Loots and I couldn’t stand it; so – against orders – we zipped down the pathway, slipping and sliding down as fast as we could. Before we got to the bottom we decided we’d get into big kak if we took too long, so we reluctantly stopped and returned to the top, slowly.

– Steve Reed’s pic from 1993 when he did the full hike –

We camped next to the Vingerklip, or Mukorob (or Finger of God) near Karasburg, a sandstone rock formation in the Namib desert, while it still stood (it fell down nineteen years later on 8 December 1988, so its obviously it wasn’t our fault, nê). About 30m high from the vlaktes at the base, the little neck it balanced on was only about 3m by 1,5m, making it rather precarious.

SWA_mukorobvingerklip-before-it-fell
– vingerklip as we left it – promise ! –

Later we camped near Windhoek where my Dad had arranged that I got fetched by some of his relatives I had never met. Third or fourth cousins, I suppose. In the car on the way to their home they had lots of questions, but before I had finished my second sentence the younger son blurted out “Jis! Jy kan hoor jy’s ’n rooinek!” (Boy, You can hear you’re English-speaking!) and my bubble burst. All of my short life I had laboured under the mistaken and vain impression that I was completely fluent in Afrikaans. Hey! No-one had told me otherwise.

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– a Welwitschia plant in the Namib desert – pic by photographer Crawley (Fluffy)
SWA_Brandberg

On to the Brandberg, where a long walk would take you to some rock paintings. I chose not to make the walk. Pikkie did, and remembered: ‘the terrain was barren, hot as hell, and rock strewn. The rocks had a rich red-brown colour, and I thought it was amazing that the local indigenous people had painted a white lady, which according to legend was the Queen of Sheba, who they would probably never have seen! Some people wanted to pour water on the paintings but I think Braam stopped them and of course today I realise that he was a hundred per cent right in not letting us do it. If we all poured water on it it would have been washed away by now!’

– new Okakuejo gate –

We got to Etosha National Park after dark so the Okakuejo gate was closed. We didn’t pitch our tents that night to save time, simply bedding down outside ready to drive in first thing the next morning. On spotting us the next morning the game ranger said Net hier het ‘n leeu eergistraand ‘n bok neergetrek.

– Namutoni camp, as we saw it! Fluffy’s pic again –

On our way back, we passed Lake Otjikoto, the ‘bottomless lake’:

SWA_Otjikoto lake
SWA_Lake Otjikoto
– cichlid fish, Tilapia guinasana
– that’s us at the ‘bottomless’ lake – Fluffy the photographer – with his Ma Polly’s Kodak –

The Hoba meteorite next. Weighing about 60 tons, made of iron and nickel, it is still the largest single intact meteorite known, and also the most massive naturally-occurring piece of ferronickel known on Earth’s surface. Estimated to have fallen 80 000 years ago, it was discovered around 1920.

SWA_Hoba meteorite
– this pic from July 1967, two years before we saw it –
– 1969 – Fluffy’s pic of the meteorite –

On the way out of SWA we reached the South East corner of the country, heading for the border with the Kalahari Gemsbok Park, when we spotted something tangled up in the roadside fences. Turned out to be a few springbok, some dead, some still alive but badly injured. As we spotted them one of the farm boys yelled out ‘Ek debs die balsak! He cut off the scrotum, pulled it over the base of a glass cooldrink bottle. What? we asked. When it had dried he would break the glass and he’d have an ashtray, he explained. Oh.

The alive ones were dispatched and all were taken to the nearby farmer who gave us one for our trouble. It seems some hunters are indiscriminate and less than accurate and the buck panic before the onslaught and run into the fences.

SWA_springbok
– looking at them I would never have guessed they had potential ashtrays a-hanging ! –

That night we made a huge bonfire on the dry bed of the Nossob river or one of its tributaries and braai’d the springbok meat. It was freezing in July so we placed our sleeping bags around the fire and moved closer to the bed of coals all night long. Every time we woke we inched closer.

A wonderful star-filled night sky above us.

~~~oo0oo~~~

edit: Updated since Fluffy found his 1969 pictures of SWA. Taken with Ma Polly’s Kodak camera. So now our story has real pics, not just internet pics. – Pikkie says: Even reading it a second time brings back great memories! Fluffy asks: Can you guys remember the freshly baked brown bread we bought from a plaas winkel… Twee Rivieren… On our way back… Pretty expensive if I remember well – 17 cents . .

That was truly an unforgettable fifteen days! We’re so lucky to have enjoyed such an adventure. We still talk about it. Pikkie tried to get us to go again in 2019 – fifty years later! Inertia, work, family put paid to that. No longer could we just say “Ag pleez Daddy!” and go without a backward glance!

~~~oo0oo~~~

seunstoer – boys tour;

Wagter – Rover; in America, Fido

– y’understand?

“Jis! Jy kan hoor jy’s ’n rooinek!” – Your Afrikaans Are Atrocious; or Boy, You can hear you’re English-speaking!

Ek debs die balsak! – ‘Dibs on the ballbag!’ or ‘I lay claim to the antelope scrotum’;

Net hier het ‘n leeu eergistraand ‘n bok neergetrek – Right here where you’re camping a lion killed an antelope the night before last; ‘be nervous’ was the message;

– another view of Otjikoto ‘bottomless’ Lake – about 100m deep vertically, but then leading off horizontally into caves beyond that – Fluffy pic
– a hillock covered with rocks – oh, and boulders – near Augrabies Falls – Fluffy pic

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April 2021 and a surprise from Sheila: A postcard I wrote to them on 7 July 1969 while on tour:

Can’t say I remember ‘Sorris Sorris’ at all, but I see it’s just north of the Brandberg, so maybe we camped there?

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Mary’s DreamLand

Hi Ma! How’re you doing?

Fine, thank you. I’m tucked up in bed already, waiting for the sister to bring my pain muti and eyedrops. They put a drop in my left eye and five minutes later another drop. Same eye. Only my left eye.

It’s 6pm. Early to bed, my Ma in frail care.

Do you sleep well?

Like a log. I’m warm and comfortable. And Kosie! I’ve been having the most wonderful dreams lately. Nice, happy dreams. I wake up smiling.

That’s so nice! Can you remember what they’re about, or are they too racy to repeat in polite company?

Laughs!!

No, they’re about the farm. The wonderful farm, the beautiful view, the walks with my Dad. It’s all underwater now, of course.

The farm Nuwejaarsvlei on the Nuwejaarspruit. Now submerged beneath the waters of Sterkfontein Dam. About ’15 miles’ from Harrismith towards Oliviershoek Pass and ‘on the Witsieshoek road.’

I was eight years old when we left the farm.

That was 1936.

~~~oo0oo~~~

muti – medicine;

Kosie – my nickname; Ma pronounces it the Afrikaans way, Kuwa-see; unlike Annie and her friends who all called me Koosie, rhyming with pussy or wussy; True fact; Accounts for a lot?

Nuwejaarsvlei – New Year Marsh or wetland

Nuwejaarspruit – New Year creek or stream

Sterkfontein – strong fountain

Oliviershoek – the place of the Oliviers, a surname

Witsieshoek – the place of the Basotho chief Witsie who lived there from 1839 to 1856.

The pic shows Mom floating on the water above her old farm in 1990. Its somewhere in the background in this pic:

Trish eskimo, Mom eskimo, Dad, Sheila semi-eskimo

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Turn the other Tympanum

We good people of the Harrismith Methodist Church would never have taken Mrs Brunsdon to court for her singing! Sure, her singing was awful, but church would have been duller and there would have been less giggling and less to skinder about without her. She would bellow off-key and at her own pace, sniffing loudly from time to time and gazing all round the church mid-hymn; sometimes through her glasses, sometimes over her glasses; sometimes turning right round to see who was behind her. The sniffs would put her behind, so soon she’d be a few words and then a few lines behind but no way she would play catch-up. She got her money’s worth, singing every single word. In fact, our Mom Mary Methodist, the organist, would wait for her, as would we all.

Not so the Methodists in Lumberton, North Carolina USA. They were considerably displeased when William Linkhaw sang hymns very loudly and very poorly. Deviating from the correct notes, he continued singing well after the congregation reached the end of each verse. On one occasion, the pastor simply read the hymn aloud, refusing to sing it because of the disruption that would inevitably occur. The presiding elder refused to preach in the church at all. Upon the entreaties of a prominent church member, Linkhaw once stayed quiet after a particularly solemn sermon. But he steadfastly rejected the repeated pleas of his fellow congregants to remain silent altogether, responding that “he would worship his God, and that as a part of his worship it was his duty to sing.”

In their defence it must be noted that some of the better congregants of Lumberton Methodist – like us in Harrismith – found Linkhaw’s singing hilarious, but the bitter lot won out and decided to show him! They had the law hand down a misdemeanor indictment against Linkhaw, charging that he had disturbed the congregation. Obviously the LumberMeths had never heard Jesus’ clear instructions in his sermon that we ‘Turn The Other Tympanum.’ Or if they had, they were ignoring him! No wonder Ghandi reputedly said, ‘I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.’ And if he didn’t he should have, as ‘Christians’ were mismanaging both his countries at the time: India and South Africa.

The case went to trial in August 1872. Several witnesses, including the church’s pastor, testified that Linkhaw’s singing disturbed the church service. One witness, being asked to describe the way in which Linkhaw sang, gave an imitation of it, singing a hymn in Linkhaw’s style. He provoked what the court described as “a burst of prolonged and irresistible laughter, convulsing alike the spectators, the Bar, the jury and the Court.” Witness testimony also showed, however, that Linkhaw was a devout and spiritual man, and the prosecution admitted that he was not deliberately attempting to disrupt worship. Linkhaw asked the court to instruct the jury that it could not find him guilty unless it found intent to disturb the service. He was right, but the judge rejected his request, ruling instead that the jury only needed to determine whether Linkhaw’s singing actually disrupted the service. The jury found Linkhaw guilty, and the judge fined him one penny.

Well!

William was not gonna take this lying down. He appealed the judgment to the North Carolina Supreme Court; the case was heard in 1873 and the court unanimously set aside the verdict. It accepted the jury’s ruling that Linkhaw had indeed caused a substantial disturbance. It also agreed that intent can generally be presumed when the defendant could have anticipated his actions. However, the court observed that the prosecution had expressly admitted that Linkhaw had no malicious intent. The justices therefore held that the presumption, being contradicted by uncontested evidence, did not apply. The court issued a writ of venire de novo, nullifying the jury’s verdict.

Well! We of the Harrismith Methodist Church liked our Mrs Brunsdon and we did not take her to court. We instead thought like the 1873 Supreme Court that since she was attempting in good faith to worship, she could not be subjected to criminal penalties. And we also thought thus:

“Although the proof sure did show / Ms Brunsdon’s voice was awful / us judges found no valid ground / For holding it unlawful.”

and

“While LumberMeths grumbled / and acted all nefarious / us Harrismithians benevolently / Thought it all hilarious.”

and

“If all things bright and beautiful / the Lord God made them all / Then sniffs and squawks discordant / Are welcome in the hall.”

and

“Old Brunsdon raised the rafters / some congregants did cringe / But she was screeching to her Lord / so we laughed, we did not whinge.”

I’ll stop now.

“Some thought that they could bellow / in holy tones so fine / but oo’s to know what the Mighty One / regards as a voice divine?”

I mean, how do we know the Good Lord likes it when he hears the famous Three Fat Blokes Shouting (some call them The Three Tenors)?

~~~oo0oo~~~

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_v._Linkhaw

The first poem at the end paraphrased and Harrismith’d from The Green Bag – self-described as “A Useless, but Entertaining Magazine For Lawyers.” Second and third limericks sommer made up.

~~~oo0oo~~~

skinder – gossip; juicy

sommer – just because;

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Rubenstein Mom Used to Play – Romance

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Mozart Mom used to Play – Fantasia

– Fantasia in D minor –
Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Mendelssohn Mom Used to Play – Consolation

Mendelsson’s Consolation, she called it

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Wildlife, Game Reserves

Swanepoelii

I notice I put an olden-day post about a fascinating old rooinek Swanepoel in my Bewilderbeast Droppings blog. It actually belongs here, so here it is.

Swanepoel, David Abraham (1912–1990). Swanepoel began collecting in 1925. Pennington’s Butterflies of southern Africa (Pringle et al. 1994) describes Swanepoel as follows: ‘Probably no other person has spent as much time and effort in the pursuit of butterflies in the field as this great collector, who had the tremendous gift of being able to excite others about butterflies. His immaculate collection is in the Transvaal Museum. He discovered many new species and subspecies and published many descriptions of new taxa.’

His list of publications includes the book Butterflies of South Africa: where, when and how they fly, published in 1953 in Holland at his own cost. At the time, it was the most valuable reference guide to South African butterflies, citing his many collection localities across the length and breadth of South Africa. He collaborated closely with both Georges van Son and Ken Pennington. Popular names for many of South Africa’s butterflies were proposed by him. (SANBI Biodiversity Series 16 (2010)6 ).

Swanepoel ended his book with these words: ‘In laying down my pen at the end of what has been to me a pleasurable task, I take occasion to dedicate this book to all naturalists and friends, without whose kindness and ungrudging aid it must inevitable have left much to be desired; and to those naturalists who may one day wander over the numerous paths that have afforded me so many happy, unforgettable hours – these would hardly have been possible without the grace of the Creator of all the beautiful forms described in this book. As mentioned in the introduction, this work is by no means complete, and if one day it is revised by some future observer, may he fulfil my dearest wish by building a great entomological castle upon this small foundation stone.’ (Epilogue of D.A. Swanepoel’s book, page 316).

Read more about David A Swanepoel and other pioneering flutterby enthusiasts here. And read some of what he wrote here.

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steve reed wrote: When we lived in Clarens we had an annual visitation by what must have been the self-same Swanepoel. Khaki clad solitary figure, fleet-footing round the village with his net like something out of Peter Pan. Regarded by the locals with great interest (and a good level of suspicion) . . .

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Mary and the Prinsloos

92yr-old Mother Mary told me a story tonight:

Ina Prinsloo came into the bottle store one day many years ago to get stuff for a party. Said, “Don’t tell Egbert. I’m arranging a surprise party for him.”

She bought plenty of grog.

Later Egbert came in. Tongue-in-cheek he said: “I don’t like this Harrismith tradition on your birthday. People fall all over you and you have to buy them food and drink!”

He also bought plenty of grog.

Dear old honest Mom was torn: I didn’t know what to say . .

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I didn’t know this: Mom met Ina when she first started nursing at the Boksburg-Benoni hospital – her very first hospital. Egbert was a houseman there and that’s where he and Ina met. Years later Egbert joined a general practice in Harrismith. They stayed and raised their kids and became a big and well loved part of the town.

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Ancient Caskie Connections

In February 2021, out of the blue, Leo Caskie Wade wrote:

Good morning Rob.
I thought the Caskies in SA were something of the past.
I am 81 years old and my Caskie connections were from Harrismith years ago.
Should you feel inclined I would like to hear from you.
Regards - Leo wade

Rob Caskie replied: Good morning, Leo,
Thank you for your email which arrived as a great surprise. Yes, indeed, our family also stems from the Caskie family in Harrismith. Our cousin Sheila Swanepoel knows far more about the family and early Harrismith days than I do.
Neither I nor my brother have children, so this line of the Caskie family unfortunately dies with us. Our father, Alexander Maynard Caskie (Taffy) died on 6 March 1989, aged 61. His brothers and both parents passed on early in our father’s life.

Enter Sheila, she with the family info: Hello Leo, What a delightful surprise to make contact with another Caskie.

Alexander (Alec) Caskie was born in Scotland in 1839. He married Mary Craig, and they came to Harrismith from Pietermaritzburg. He was my great-great grandfather and Rob’s great grandfather.

They had two sons and two daughters: 1. Robert (Bob) married Doreen (Doe) and Rob is his grandson; 2. James (Jim) married Ethel and they had four kids; 3. Mary who is my great grandmother – she married John Francis Adam Bland II. She was my Mum’s beloved Granny Bland, who died in Harrismith in 1959, so she had me as a great-grandkid till I was three; 4. Jessie who married a Mr Tapling and then a Mr Tarling – she had no children.

– Sheila has this old cracked daguerreotype ** of Great-Great Gran Mary Craig Caskie with Great Gran Mary Caskie Bland on her lap – see the many marys

Alec Caskie died in Harrismith on 14 August 1926.

My Mum Mary – grandaughter of young Mary on the lap above – is 92, still alive and well, and now living in Pietermaritzburg. She remembers all the Harrismith Caskies very well.  She and Taffy (Rob’s father) were both born in 1928 and were great mates when they were little.

There are three Caskie homes in HS – all beautifully restored, all in Stuart Street. We grew up in this one from 1960 to 1973. It had been owned by the original Alec Caskie .

– 95 Stuart Street –
– view from that front stoep – or veranda –

It turns out Leo Caskie Wade is the grandson of Janet Caskie, who came to Harrismith from Australia, and Harrismith’s well-known doctor Leo Hoenigsberger, who our gran Annie insisted on calling Dr ‘Henningsberg’. A great friend of her Dad, our great grandfather, Stewart Bain, he was the family GP as well as the Harrismith government doctor, or ‘district surgeon’.

One day, driving back to town from his duties at the prison, he missed the bridge and his car landed in ‘the spruit with the name.’ The Kak Spruit. Only his pride was injured. In the meantime, back in town, the hostess of the weekly bridge evening was getting a bit perturbed as Dr H hadn’t arrived yet and they couldn’t start playing bridge without him. She ‘phoned the Hoenigsberger home and was told by Dr H’s young son Max: “No, I don’t think my father will be coming tonight. He’s had enough bridge for one day.”

After decades of hearing this story from mother Mary, here’s Leo Caskie Wade to add some more detail:

“Leo Hoenigsberger, methodical, careful and pedantic as he was, was rushing in his huge German Sperber motorcar over the narrow bridge that led to the Harrismith Hospital. It was an emergency. He crashed over the side into the river and was admitted to his own hospital.

Now fast forward to the mid-1970’s. I am at university in Durban; I am asked to take an Italian female exchange student to digs where she would stay over the week-end on her way to Rhodes University. I dropped her at the gate to return later to take her out. When I arrived she was not ready yet, and in chatting to the elderly German landlady I discovered she was my grandfather Dr Leo Hoenigsberger’s theatre nurse! She had nursed him after the said crash. She wanted to know all about the Harrismith family etc. What a coincidence!”

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** The ‘Two Marys’ photo: To make the image, a daguerreotypist would polish a sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish, treat it with fumes that made its surface light sensitive, expose it in a camera for as long as was judged to be necessary, which could be as little as a few seconds for brightly sunlit subjects or much longer with less intense lighting; make the resulting latent image on it visible by fuming it with mercury vapour; remove its sensitivity to light by liquid chemical treatment, rinse and dry it, then seal the easily marred result behind glass in a protective enclosure. (thanks, wikipedia)

~~~oo0oo~~~

– Sheila’s ‘Two Marys’ daguerreotype: As is and ‘digitally doctored’ –

Mary Caskie Bland’s Stuart Street home:

– Granny Bland’s house 13 Stuart Street –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sheils found this handwritten note – most likely written by Alec Caskie himself – among her gran Annie’s effects. Annie was his granddaughter:

– H.M.S. Vanguard – In 1862 it left Liverpool, reaching Australia on 3 June, probably via SA –

Born at Kilmarnock Dec 1839. Brought up in Stewarton where his father’s folks lived for several centuries. Was sent to the parish school under Mr Sinclair Sincular ?. Graduated in the big college of the worlds.

” survived 4yrs to the (WHOLE LINE MISSING) ” in __ of the large __ __ __ questions involved __ __(HM ??)  Paul to release political prisoners.
” Am a JP for many years.” A freemason for 40 years, passed through the chair three times and am affiliated with several other Lodges. Belong to all the churches and a number of _____. I have served on the village management for 35 years barring 2 years I was out. I have been several times mayor retiring for good in March 1921. I have served on the Hospital board; learning / licensing? board; on the Library committee; the (?Ways – maybe ‘Ways and Means’) Board. The Literary Society. Have (?passed) the (?port) on many occasions. __ under Dr. and I. __. Married Mary Craig daughter of Robb Craig, High Street (?Stewarton__). Sailed on the Vanguard from Glasgow to South Africa – 1862 – 69 days passage. Was (?pro cantor) and organist Rev Campbell _____ Church for Maritzburg, where I have lived for about 10 years. Came to Harrismith in 1873 where I have lived since.
(those of you who can read old bullets’ 19th century spidery inkwell-and-quill handwriting, please click on the pic bottom right below and do some deciphering and add it in the comments!).

~~~oo0oo~~~

. . and a pleasantly flattering bio in Afrikaans (by historian FA Steytler’s Die Geskiedenis van Harrismith, 1932) which I translate here:

Grew up in difficult circumstances; not much schooling; worked on a farm as a boy; then apprenticed to a lumberjack (or timber merchant?); Came to PMB and started as a builder; poor health saw him seek ‘higher altitude’ and move to Harrismith for the climate in 1873; seemed to suit him! He built the landdroskantoor, the hofsaal (magistrates court and offices), and the town gaol; Disaster struck in 1874 when the house he was renting (the Ou Pastorie of Ds Macmillan) burnt down; he lost all he possessed; he then decided to take advantage of the increased traffic between Durban’s harbour and Kimberley’s diamond fields and open a hotel – the Commercial (later called the Grand National), which he ran as hotelier till 1899; He was described as pleasant in company, a keen debater, with many friends; He did an incredible amount for the town. Town Councillor; Mayor 1896 to 1899, 1904, 1910-1911 and 1920. For fifty years he was involved in almost everything the municipality established or started: eg. electric light, water supply, town hall, Victoria Lake in the park, the pine plantation on the slopes of Platberg, etc. A member of the Hospital Board, a director of the Building Society, the School Commission, Library Committee, etc. A prominent Freemason; Active in politics: he stood for the Unionist Party for the Harrismith seat in the Union Parliament, but lost the election to Kommandant Jan Meyer. Died 14 August 1926, aged 86.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sheila also has an undated newspaper article about the death of one John Caskie in Kilmarnock, Scotland – brother? cousin? He served in the 72nd Highlanders and saw action in the Crimean War (1855) and the Indian Mutiny. John was likely a relative, as Annie Bland kept this article amongst her papers.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Potted Caskie history (like all my history ‘lessons’: pinch o’ salt): The Caskies originated in the Galloway – Dumfries region of Scotland. The name is the anglicization of the pre-10th century Gaelic ‘MacAscaidh’ which derives from the Old Norse personal name ‘Asketill’, and translates as ‘The cauldron of the gods.’ How’s that!? The first recorded spelling of the family name is that of Thom McKasky, 1494, Edinburgh, during the reign of King James IV of Scotland. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation, so no wonder the Scots kept spellin’ them different! Stewarton seems to be known for Ayrshire cattle, body snatching and being a good place to leave, but of course – I may be wrong.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sheila made a Caskie Family Tree. Anyone with more info, please add / amend (as I have) so it can be improved / updated! Simply do it in the comments here, or email sheila@sheila.co.za

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia sport travel Wildlife, Game Reserves

A New Author!

We have a new book out! ( – get it on takealot.com – )

OK, the author has a new book out, his first. School friend Harry ‘Pikkie’ Loots is Harrismith’s latest published author, following in the footsteps of FA Steytler, EB Hawkins, Petronella van Heerden and Leon Strachan. There must be more?

So far he has it as an eBook – you can get it now already.

Real paper hard copies to follow. I had the privilege and fun as one of his proof-readers, of reading it as he wrote and re-wrote.

UPDATE 10 Feb 2021: It’s he-ere! In my hand!

Now you gotta realise, Pikkie is a mountaineer and trekker. These are phlegmatic buggers; unflappable; understated. So when he says ‘we walked and then crossed some ice and then we got here’:

– 5109m above seal level – the Drakensberg’s highest peak is 3482m –

. . with lovely pictures and fascinating stories along the way . . you must know what he doesn’t show you. And this is only the third highest peak he climbs in Africa! There’s more!

.

.

Those of us who climbed Mt aux Sources should also remember how we drove to within an hour or two’s walk from the chain ladder. To get to these higher mountains there’s days of trekking before you reach the point in the picture. And way less oxygen!

I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hand . . Goddit now. Here’s the back cover blurb: ( – get it on takealot.com – )

~~~oo0oo~~~