Cape Holiday 2015: a lonely Falkenberg grave

We left for our holiday in the Cape, and intended to travel down the N14 to Springbok, along almost its whole length, but a couple of months ago we had had a phone call from Ikey van Wyk, who said he had discovered the grave of Sarah Whitaker Falkenberg on his farm. We stopped for breakfast at a Wimpy in Ventersdorp, and then drove down to Klerksdorp to join the N12. The road was quite fascinating, as there were lots of unusual trees. They looked like gum trees, but of a kind we had not seen before, with small shoots sticking out in clumps at odd angles.

Tree we saw between Ventersdorp & Klerksdorp

Tree we saw between Ventersdorp & Klerksdorp

After Klerksdorp the country was completely different, mostly bushveld, the only variety being smaller and larger trees. This was Falkenberg country, at least the branch of the Falkenberg family that we were following up at this stage of our trip. The “stamvader” of the South African Falkenbergs was Christian Falkenberg, who came from Brandenberg in Prussia in 1858 with his wife Dorothea (born Lüthow) and son Friedrich, then aged about 3. Dorothea died in Stutterheim about a year after their arrival.



A few years later Christian Falkenberg, who was a shopkeeper at Tylden in the Eastern Cape, married Jessie Schultz, Val’s great great grandmother. Young Friedrich would then have been about 10, and he seems to have left home as a teenager and gone to try his luck on the diamond fields. He married twice — to Dorothea Louisa Ferreira and Sarah Whitaker Holt, and the family’s marriages took place in the towns we passed through down the N12 — Bloemhof and Christiana, where Friedrich was a diamond digger in the alluvial diggings in those places.

Christiana -- one of a string of diamond-digging towns along the Vaal River

Christiana — one of a string of diamond-digging towns along the Vaal River

We passed through Jan Kempdorp, and saw the Vaal-Harts Irrigation Scheme, with notices advertising its 75th anniversary. It was one of the things we remembered learning about in school geography lessons. We found Matopi Farm, about 20 km our of Jan Kempdorp on the way to Delport’s Hoop, and Ikey van Wyk kindly took us to see the grave. It was a single grave on the farm, surrounded by an iron railing, and the gravestone was in good condition and quite legible.

Ikey van Wyk showing us the grave of Sarah Whitaker Falkenberg on Matopi Farm, near Jan Kempdorp

Ikey van Wyk showing us the grave of Sarah Whitaker Falkenberg on Matopi Farm, near Jan Kempdorp

It seemed that Sarah Falkenberg had had another child we did not know about, who died in infancy.

Grave of Sarah Whitaker Falkenberg and her infant daughter

Grave of Sarah Whitaker Falkenberg and her infant daughter

I tried to take a photo of the grave on my cell phone for Billion Graves, and, as usual, the program crashed. I put my phone back in my pocket, or so I thought, and took some photos with a camera, and we went on our way, back to the N14, and on to Kuruman. But when we got there, my phone was gone. I asked Ikey if I had dropped it in his bakkie when he took us to the grave, but apparently not, so I must have dropped it by the grave somewhere. R300.00 reward for its safe return!

At Kuruman we stayed at the Azalea Guest House, and went out for supper. The only place open seemed to be the Spur, and it so happened that they were offering two hamburgers for the price of one that night, and since we had ordered two Appletizers, they gave us a free glass.

Azalea Guest House, Kuruman

Azalea Guest House, Kuruman

The story of our holiday travels is continued at Ironveld and Aughrabies, for those who may be interested.

Ria Mcfarlane Hannan Reddick 03/11/1921 – 15/06/2015

I was saddened to read this on Facebook this morning:

Ria Mcfarlane Hannan Reddick
03/11/1921 – 15/06/2015
Our lovely Mum, Grandma & Great Grandma sadly passed away yesterday. She was the last of a very special generation & will be greatly missed by us all.

posted by my second cousin, Fiona Hannan Reddick Smyth.

Ria was my mother’s first cousin, and I only met her twice, but both were memorable occasions.

The first time I met her was in 1966 when I scarpered from South Africa to the UK to avoid the attentions of the Security Police (you can read more of the story of that here), passing through Ian Smith’s UDI Rhodesia on the way. I met Ria’s brother, Willie Hannan, who was then MP for Maryhill in Glasgow, and he helped me find my way through the tangled bureaucracy to get a job to support myself while waiting to study st Durham University.

Ria had been living in Rhodesia but when Smith made his UDI she wanted out, and returned to Scotland, and I went with Willie to meet her at the airport. UDI caused great divisions in the family. Another Hannan cousin in Rhodesia, Betty Stewart, had met Ria there, and wrote to my mother referring to their cousin Willie as a “one-man-one-vote bastard and a sick leftist”. So when I first went to the House of Commons to meet him I pictured a wild-eyed revolutionary, a sort of Che Guevara figure, and was rather disappointed to find that he was very mild and rather conservative, and his main concern was not Rhodesia but getting Britain to join the European Union, which he thought would encourage international peace and understanding.

Here’s what I wrote in my diary on the day I went with him to meet Ria at the airport, 4 February 1966:

I went by train and underground to the West London Air Terminal, where I met Willie Hannan. His sister Ria was flying in from Rhodesia with her two children, and were returning to settle again in Scotland. Her plane was due to arrive at 12:20, and then she was going up to Glasgow with Willie at 3:00. On the way to the airport on the bus Willie told me about his family, and how he had met Tommy (Mum’s brother, who died 2 and a half years ago) when he was in the merchant navy during the war, and he said I looked like him. He also told me of his father, who during the First World War was a pacifist and  a socialist, and had spent two years in jail. I told him that Mum had said that my pacifism runs in the family, but did not enquire about the nature of the socialist Sunday School she had said her uncle (Willie’s father) had sent his children to.

At the airport we found the plane with Ria, a South African Airways Boeing, would be late, and we sat having tea and sandwiches, and I told Willie something about the Liberal Party and its policies, and a little of the way in which our activities were hampered by Special Branch intimidation and so on. He said he was not a religious man himself, and I said I wouldn’t have expected it. “Oh, why do you say that?” he asked. “Because so few people are,” I replied. He said he admired John “Honest to God” Robinson, and thought he might be able to accept those views. I then told him how issues in South Africa were sufficiently clearcut to enable one to make a political speech using biblical texts, but that here it was make a political speech using biblical texts, but that here it was not so.

When the plane with Ria arrived at about 1:20 we had to go over to another building for them to get the plane to Glasgow (there are 3 terminal buildings at Heathrow — one internal, one European, and one intercontinental) and there we had tea and talked about Rhodesia. Ria said that she had had a Rhodesian passport and citizenship, and felt that she could not stay after UDI, so had got a British passport on the 9th of November, two days before Smith went mad. Two of Willie’s parliamentary colleagues joined us while we were waiting, and Ria showed us a letter she had had to get from the government giving her permission to resign from her job with Shell Oil. Then Willie and Ria and the children left. The kids were quite sweet — a boy of about 15, called Carson, and Heather, about 12. Both had dark hair, like their mother.

I stayed talking to the other MPs, and showed them my letter instructing me to call at the magistrate’s office for my warning. They wanted to make a copy of it to show round the House, and I resolved to try to get them a copy of a real banning order, which would be of far more interest and value. One of them, the Lancashire whip of the Labour Party, when he heard that I was an ordinand, wanted to know whether my political views arose from my Christian convictions, and was interested in my use of the Bible as a political textbook, or, more accurately, text book. Later, when the two of us were alone together, he said that he himself was a Christian, and seemed quite keen that we should meet again and talk.

I really would like to have known what went on at the Socialist Sunday School, but I got the impression that Willie was rather embarrassed by all that, and had indeed been embarrassed when his father was arrested and jailed as a conscientious objector, and preferred not to talk about it, while I was quite proud to have a great uncle who was a conscientious objector.

Ria’s eldest daughter, Fiona, had stayed in Rhodesia, mainly because she had a boyfriend there, and only returned to Scotland a few months later when she broke up with him, so I did not meet her then.

Hannan family in Glasgow, 6 May 1967

Hannan family in Glasgow, 6 May 1967

Fifteen months later my mother came for a holiday in Europe and the UK and we went to Glasgow to meet the Hannan cousins, and that was when I met Ria for the second time, at a kind of family reunion.

Ella Hayes and Ria Reddick, Glasgow, 6 May 1967

Cousins: Ella Hayes and Ria Reddick, Glasgow, 6 May 1967

We gathered at the house of Willie’s sister Ella (Annabella Buchanan, born Hannan), and there was a whole family reunion there, as two others of his sisters, Ria, who had been in Rhodesia, mother of Carson and Heather, and Tilda, whose daughter Ives Duff and grandson Alastair were also there. Their mother Hannah, who was my mother’s aunt by marriage was there — it was her husband, Tom Hannan, who was twe socialist who had refused to fight in the First World War and gone to jail for it. We talked most of the evening after having supper.

We tried to see Ria when we visited the UK in 2005, but on the day we called to see her she had gone out on a bus trip, so we missed her, and were sad to do so. As Fiona said, she was one of the last of her generation, and I knew her for all too short a time.

Winter and a grave

Winter officially arrived yesterday, and so it’s time to rake up the autumn leaves, now that most of them have fallen.

WinterIn something entirly unrelated except that it happened on the same day, we had a phone call from Ikey van Wyk, a farmer in the Northern Cape, saying he had been clearing some bush on  his farm, and found a grave — the grave of Sarah Whittaker Falkenberg. He had found my phone number, presumably through a web search, and phoned to tell us about it.

We are planning to travel through the northern Cape in August — straight down the N14 from Pretoria to Springbok, but perhaps it might be worth taking a detour to look at this gravestone.

Val’s great-great-grandfather was Christian Falkenberg, who lived in the Queenstown district of the Eastern Cape. His first wife was Dorothea Luthow, and they had a son Friedrich Heinrich Falkenberg. Dorothea died young, and Christian Falkenberg remarried to Justine Schultz, who had dravelled on the same ship from Hamburg to the Eastern Cape.

Friedrich made his way to Griqualand West, probably attracted by the diamond rush, and was a transport rider. There he married Sarah Whittaker Holt in 1879. She too died young, and he remarried, but it would be interesting to see her gravestone.

Reshelving our books

The problem is not having too many books, but rather not having enough shelves. So now that we have a Wendy house, and have moved some of the stuff from the outside room into it, and put up some shelves in the outside room, we can think of putting up more shelves in the house and getting some of the piles of books off the floor.

Reshelbing the books in the passage to fit in more shelves

Reshelbing the books in the passage to fit in more shelves

We didn’t have any shelves in the dining room, so Val and Jethro added them/

Val and Jethro added new shelves, so we could put out some of our small books stored in boxes.

Val and Jethro added new shelves, so we could put out some of our small books stored in boxes.

Trimming a tree

Back in the spring we took some photos of the thorn tree in the corner of our garden, all over yellow catkins. Now it is autumn, and the catkins have all turned into seedpods. We thought it might be interesting to take pictures at various times of the year to show the changing of the seasons, but then a couple of weeks ago we lost half of it, when some of the bigger branches broke off and fell down.

Fallen branches from our tree

Fallen branches from our tree

So we had to get some people to cut up the fallen branches and take them away. They made pretty quick work of it with chain saws.

Workmen cutting up the fallen branches

Workmen cutting up the fallen branches

Within a couple of hours the fallen branches had gone, and they trimmed a couple of others that looked a bit dangerous.

FalTree3And now our tree reminds me a bit of Aslan, when he was shaved for the slaughter.

The trimmed tree

The trimmed tree


Losing half a tree

Last night it rained, and what with raindrops and seed pods it proved too much for the big tree in the corner of our garden, and with a loud crash two of the lowest and longest branches broke off.

Tree1Some years ago our neighbour, Mr Veldhoen, wanted to erect a thatched shelter in his garden, and he had to have our permission because he wanted to build it next to the wall. We were a bit worried that branches might fall off the tree on to it, and had some of them cut. Mr Veldhoen said that before we moved in, he was tempted to move the boundary wall so he could have the tree in his garden. It really is a magnificent tree.

Tree2Now it is autumn and it’s all over seed pods (a few months ago we showed pictures of it with catkins), and for the first time in the 30 years we have lived here, baby trees have started springing up in the garden. Perhaps we’ll try to plant some over the road by the railway line.

Tree3Mr Veldhoen moved away years ago, but the thatched shelter he erected is still there, behind the palm tree on the right of the picture. Fortunately the broken branch missed it, and landed almost entirely on our lawn, without causing much damage to anything else.


Proposed trip to Western Cape: August 2015

In August 2015 we are hoping to visit the Western Cape to do some family history research, and also to see living relatives and friends.

Since we are now both retired, it will probably be the last chance we will ever have to go on such a holiday trip, and to visit the Cape Archives for research.

If you would like to see us when we visit the Western Cape in August/September, please fill in the form below with your contact information.

We are hoping, in particular, to find out more about the Morris, Stewardson and Dixon families, and ones related to them. Members of all these families were traders in what is now Namibia from 1840 onwards, They would trade manufactured goods (cloth, knives, axes & guns) for cattle, ostrich feathers and ivory. They would drive the cattle overland to Cape Town for market, replenish their stock-in-trade, and return by sea to Walvis Bay.

So we hope to travel down the N14 to the Northern Cape, with stops at Kuruman and Aughrabies Falls. The N14 joins the N7 at Springbok, and we hope to spend a few days at Kamieskroon, exploring that area, which the old-timers passed through on their way between Damaraland and Cape Town. One of the places that has been mentioned in their journeys is Leliefontein, the Methodist mission station, and one member of the Morris clan, Thomas Morris, is said to have lived there at one time.


Greyton, Western Cape. May 2011

Another Morris, Abraham, also lived in the area when he was on the run from the Germans. He was one of the leaders of a rebellion against German rule in South West Africa in 1904. Sorting out the relationships between the various members of the Morris family is difficult, and a lot depends on compiling a chronology to show which members of the family were in which places at what times.

The area, called Namaqualand, is also famous for its wild flowers in spring, so we are hoping to see some of them too.

The families that livedf in or passed through Namaqualand are not the only ones we are interested in, of course. We’ll be looking up others — Green, Tapscott, Decker, Falkenberg, Crighton, MacLeod/McLeod, Growdon and many others in the archives as well, and, we hope, in real life too.

Devil's Peak, Cape Town, 2011

Devil’s Peak, Cape Town, 2011

When in Cape Town we usually stay at the Formula I Hotel (called something else now). It’s reasonably cheap, and very conveniently placed for going to the archives. The problem is, it’s very inconvenient for just about everything else — it’s in a semi-industrial area, so there is nothing to do there in the evenings, and nowhere in the vicinity where one can even get something to eat. But we hope that after the archives close at 4:00 pm we can visit family and friends, so if you know us, and wouldn’t be averse to a visit, please contact us and let us know (see form below).

While in the Western Cape, or possibly on the way home, we hope to pay another visit to the Orthodox Centre at Robertson, and perhaps also to the Volmoed Community at Hermanus, to meet John de Gruchy and put the finishing touches to our book on the history of the Charismatic Renewal in South Africa, which we hope to have ready for publication by the end of the year.

We are planning to return via the Eastern Cape and Free State, though with less definite ideas about the route. Quite a lot will depend on what we find in Cape Town, and whether we need to look at the Methodist Church archives in Grahamstown.

I’ve been twice up the N7 from Cape Town to Windhoek, in 1971 and 1972, but on both occasions I passed through Namaqualand in the dark, so neither of us has ever actually seen it before.

If you would like to meet us when we travel to the Western Cape in late August/early September, please use the contact form below so we can get in touch to let you know when we will be around and arrange to meet. Please note that whatever you type in this form will be seen only by me — it is not public! It will help us to see who we should try to get in touch with on our travels.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.