Monday, April 25, 2011

A little bit of South African and family history

The father of my mother in law Eva Annie Saunders (Nee Gover) and mother of my husband Edward was sent from the U K to work on the mines in the Transvaal in 1895. Eva and her sister Martha remained somewhere near Bristol until they were called by Charlie Gover, their father to come to South Africa. The letter I am about to print was written by Charlie from a mine during the time of the Jameson Raid

The Jameson Raid (29 December 1895 - 2 January 1896) was a botched raid on Paul Kruger's Transvaal Republic carried out by a British colonial statesman Leander Starr Jameson and his Rhodesian and Bechuanaland policemen over the New Year weekend of 1895-96 . It was intended to trigger an uprising by the primarily British expatriate workers (known as Uitlanders) in the Transvaal but failed to do so. The workers were called the Johannesburg conspirators. They were expected to recuit an army and prepare for an insurrection. The raid was ineffective and no uprising took place, but it was an inciting factor in the Second Boer War and the Second Matabele War. (taken from Google)

The original of Charlie Gover's letter is so old and written on very thin paper that photocopying was impossible.I have typed word for word and without punctuation his letter.

Middle Vlei

Deep Level Gold Mine Co

Jan 3rd 96

My Dearest wife and children.

I must now take great pleasure in writing you a few lines trusting they will find you quite well as I am thankful to say that I am the same. We are having exciting times out here but I expect you know more about it by the papers than I can tell you as we are so far from town we cannot get any news of the operation except from the Dutchmen who are riding home from the fight and they tell us so many different tales we cannot believe what we hear. All the mines are shut down ours included but 3 of us had the offer of stopping out here to keep the water out of the mine, one engin driver, the compound manager and myself and I decided to stop because if I went to the town I should have to take up arms and fight or starve and out here we have no arms to fight with so if we go under it will be out of sheer spite as we shall not be able to defend ourselves, but I don't think it is at all likely that will happen as there are several friendly Dutchmen here. You mut not fret or pine about me as I am in Gods hands and what he wills is best so let us put our trust in Him and if you do not get another leter from me for sometime you must not give up for lost as all communication will be cut off from us. The Manager promised to come out as often as he could and bring our letters and take the same but he could not promise when he would come. Very likely the row will stop in a day or two and it might keep on for months.We cannot tell. You must see the papers and then you will be able to tell how we are getting on better than we can tell ourselves, we are right out of the way of the fighting and we shall run run rather than fight.. You must remember me to all enquiring friends and remember me to father and mother and miss Eva and Martha and tell them to be good girls and God Bless you all from your loving husband Charlie.

I think the next bit was probably a P S.

Dear Annie you must tell Dave that I wish him joy in his married life and hope that he and Amy will have many happy years together and tell him I bought a body belt from one of the boys* it is a money belt what the boys carry round their body with their money in and as soon as things get settled I will send it to him.

We have killed a sheep today to feed on and we have got 9 sacks of mealy meal that is Indian corn ground so we shall not starve.

* black mine workers.

This is a photo of Charlie Gover

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Owl boxes for Woodside

A few residents in Woodside Village decided it would be great if we could attract owls back to Woodside. An appeal was sent out for cash to have owl boxes placed in certain areas in trees on the perimeter of the village. A gentleman from Pretoria, can't remember his name, came and gave us a talk on how owls would benefit us by keeping the rodent population at bay.

Two owl boxes were eventually placed.One to attract Eagle Owls in the Cork Oak tree near the entrance of Woodside and the other for Barn Owls somewhere on the Berm.While it is lovely to have squirrels in residence here they decided that the Eagle Owl box was the perfect home for them and proceeded to stuff the box with their nesting material of leaves and twigs. I am not sure how the Barn Owl box has fared, I can only see the one in the Cork Oak tree. I do know now though that there are Barn Owls around here as I often hear them at night.

It is a pity that Rattex is used to keep the rat population at bay as I fear that an owl devouring a rat that has consumed the poison would probably kill the owl as well as domestic cats around here. There is an owl friendly type of poison for rats but it is very expensive to use.


Before Woodside Village was built the Marsh Memorial Homes had a large tract of land that they owned which was covered in nasturtiums and old oak trees. When this piece of land was offered on a long lease to the developers of Woodside Village a retirement village was established which meant removing the oak trees that I believe were the perching spots and probably the nesting areas of Spotted Eagle Owls.

Behind my cottage is a block of flats three stories high.One evening when we first moved in a Spotted Eagle Owl was perched on a pinnacle of a section of the flats. Sadly this was to be the first and last sighting of an owl around here.

I am adding an image of a Spotted Eagle Owl taken by cell phone at Stellenbosch University from art student Oliver whose accommodation faced onto an old tree where the owl was perched. Oliver also produced a drawing of the owl.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

More of Kgalagadi

One evening after dark when I was in bed & Charles was out looking for owls in Mata Mata Gale was resting on the stoep she noticed something moving across the paving making it's way towards the door of our bungalow.Next to the door that was open the step for me to use when getting in & out of the landrover was placed.It is a heavy box type step with fairly large holes drilled in its side to make it lighter in weight.
Gale soon realised that this was indeed a snake but luckily did not panic. She informed the neighbours who immediately recognised it as a Puff Adder.They noticed that it was entering through the holes of my step luckily.It could have entered the bungalow without being noticed where Charles had made his bed on a blow-up matress on the floor, or if it had not been noticed entering the step Charles would surely been bitten when lifting the step handling it through a slot in the top of the step.These snakes have deadly venom.

Parks Board officials were called & asked to remove the snake from the step that was no easy task as the box part of the step was enclosed which meant that the Puff Adder had to be coaxed out through one of the holes.It took some time but eventually took the hint & slithered out,was caught & placed in a bucket & taken back to the veld.

We saw a cobra slithering up a bank on one of our outings that was about 7 feet in length & bright yellow.I have never seen such a beautifully coloured snake & such a length before.I am not fond of any type of snake, have not studied them so could not identify it.

A rather tragic event was that of a wildebeest giving birth to it's calf as witnessed by Carroll, a friend of Charles. The wildebeest was struggling with it's effort of delivering the baby when it suddenly collapsed and died.For two days we went back to the spot where the wildebeest lay dead hoping to see vultures or other animals feeding off the carcass.Only on the 3rd day we noticed that some attempt had been made to eat it and sure enough there was a huge lion lying on the side of the road in the shade of a tree looking very full and contented, almost with a smile on his face. He had certainly had his fill and there was plenty left.

When I wrote about the ground squirrels and the mongoose I should have mentioned how they came to drink from a downpipe that often dripped water from the roof due to condensation.Will show a photo of that as well as pictures of wonderful sunrises and sunsets at Nossob and Mata Mata.

I had a look of the preview of all of this. Not quite as I thought it might be but it's O K at least I can say from My Fair Lady, "My God, at last she's got it"

Monday, February 28, 2011

flowers of Kgalagadi after rain

These lowers appeared overnight after rain.The lilies only lasted 24 hours but the yellow Devil Thorns along the roads & in the veld last much longer.The yellow flowers are actually the thorns and will stick in your feet if you are bare footed.
This is my 3rd attempt at trying to post this with the photos.If this doesn't work I'm giving up until I can get some advice. Things have changed from past posting when I had no trouble at all.

Kgalagadi Tranfrontier Park cont

I don't know what happens but every time I try to add a photo everything goes wrong.Will try again.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Charles, Gale & myself left Cape Town 30th Dec 2010 at 7am.The journey was long & hot arriving in Upington about 5.30 that evening.Our first night was spent on a farm just outside the town.It rained nearly all night which the days following much cooler.

A visit to this park was new to me.I found it rather bleak with many dead trees in the dry river course.Water is scarce but many people had contruibuted to the sinking of boreholes to provide water to the animals. These were located near to the wide river bed where the water table is most likely to be high.

The main camp Twee Rivieren is the largest camp situated at the main gate.We stayed one night & began our journey though the park early in the morning with overcast skies.A blessing as this is the hottest time of the year.It remained cloudy nearly ever morning usually with a little rain at night thoughout the 7 days in the park.
Charles & I went out in the mornings when it was cooler for 5 - 6 hours looking mainly for raptors although were pleased to see animals mostly Red Haartebeest, Springbok, Wildebeest,cheeter(from a distance)a few giraffe & 3 huge lions.Gale remained in camp as she is not all that keen on a lot of travelling especially on the dreadfully corrugated roads in the park.

Nossob was the next camp.We stayed 3 days. We were lucky & had a corner bungalow.All around us were many ground squirrels & their burrows as well a 2 mongoose.The squirrels were a delight & so tame.Although they were not to be fed, they were by others and myself on biscuits & even crisps that they took from our hands standing against us on their hind legs.

Nossob is a well run camp. The sunrises & sunsets were spectacular I suppose because of the clouds that gathered in the early evenings until morning.Charles went on an early morning walking trail for 4 hours once that he found very interesting & informative.The raptors became more frequent especially the beautiful chanting
goshawk that out numbered the others at about 4 -1.Occasionally we spotted lion spoor but none were sighted in this area until we left Nossob on our way to the next camp Mata Mata.