Ghwarriespoort to the Gariep Dam

Continued from Hermanus to Keurfontein

Friday 4 September 2015

We woke up in chilly Keurfontein, at Ghwarriespoort, and continued our journey North and East along the N9. Keurfontein, the place where we stayed, was selfcatering accommodation rather than a B&B, but that was OK — it was was a fast day, so we had baked beans on toast for breakfast.



About 50 km up the road we passed the Grootrivier Dam — the road goes over the dam wall. Four years ago it had been dry, and we expected that after the rain of the last few days it might have had some water in it, but there was none, and the river was the merest trickle. A bit further on we saw puddles at the side of the road, so there had been rain, but obviously it had not affected the river. Perhaps the “Groot” name was irony.

Grootrivier Dam -- as empty as it was four years ago

Grootrivier Dam — as empty as it was four years ago

We bypassed Aberdeen, and reached Graaf Reinet at 11:43, 197 km from Keurfontein. We dropped in to visit my cousin Ailsa Grobler, and this time she was at home. Last time we had visited (in 2011) she was away visiting her son Bruce, who works as a chef in Dubai. Interestingly enough another cousin on the Hannan side of the family, Ceri Duff Henderson, lives in Dubai, where she is a diving instructor.

Steve Hayes, Ailsa Grobler, Val Hayes, Nick Grobler: Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

Steve Hayes, Ailsa Grobler, Val Hayes, Nick Grobler: Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

There was a bonus on this visit, as Ailsa’s other son Gavin, who lives in Cape Town, was there as well. We had coffee with them and chatted for a while. Nick and Ailsa run the Villa Reinet Guest House in Graaff Reinet, and we stayed there on our trip in 2011, though only Nick was at home then. We can also recommend it as a very good place to stay, and not just because it is run by our cousins.

Steve Hayes, Gavin & Ailsa Grobler. Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

Steve Hayes, Gavin & Ailsa Grobler. Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

Our Hannan great grandparents, William Hannan and Ellen McFarlane, lived in Glasgow, and four of their children emigrated to southern Africa, including Ailsa’s grandfather Stanley Livingstone Hannan and my grandmother Janet McCartney Hannan, who married George Growdon.

Graaff Reinet, Eastern Cape. 4 September 2015

Graaff Reinet, Eastern Cape. 4 September 2015

We left Graaff Reinet about 12:45, and crossed the Lootsberg Pass at 1:20 pm, 262 km from Keurfontein, and probably, at 1781 metres (5843 feet), one of the highest places on our route this day. In some places we followed the railway line, which on our previous visit had looked neglected and disused, but this time looked as if it could be in use again. The road was wide and smooth, and seemed to go almost effortlessly over the hills. Last time we had been here 4 years ago we had travelled this section in the dark. At Middelburg, which we reached at 1:48 pm, 306 km from Keurfontein, they were working on the road, and there were a couple of stop/go sections, but they did not hold us up for long. The road clearly needed working on, as it was narrow, bumpy and much patched, They had completed the sections from Noupoort to Colesberg, which were wide and smooth.

Toverberg, the Magic Mountain, also known as Cole's Berg, named after Sir Lowry Cole, sometime governor of the Cape Colony.

Toverberg, the Magic Mountain, also known as Cole’s Berg, named after Sir Lowry Cole, sometime governor of the Cape Colony.

Henry Green, the brother of Val’s great great grandfather Fred Green, was resident magistrate and civil commissioner in Colesberg in the 1860s, so we visited the town museum to see if we could find out where he had lived at that time, and it appeared that the drosdy (magistrate’s residence) was next to the Anglican Church, where most of Henry Green’s children by his second wife, Countess Ida Von Lilienstein, were baptised. The drostdy is now a restaurant, but it wasn’t open when we passed through. The Anglican church next door has services once a month, when the rector of Middelburg visits.

The old Drosdy in Colesberg, now a restaurant

The old Drosdy in Colesberg, now a restaurant. Henery Green apparently lived here when he was resident magistrate in the 1860s.

We then followed the southern shore of the Gariep Dam to Oviston. The Gariep Dam is the biggest dam in South Africa, used for water storage, power generation and irrigation. It is on the Orange (Gariep) River, which we had seen further downstream earlier in our journey when we crossed it from north to south at Kakamas, and saw it at the Aughrabies falls.

Gariep Dam, 4 September 2015

Gariep Dam, 4 September 2015

We went to Oviston, on the southern shore, where we spent the night at the Aan Die Water guest house.

Sunset over the Gariep Dam at Oviston

Sunset over the Gariep Dam at Oviston





More cousins & friends in Cape Town

Continue from Visiting more old friends in and around Cape Town

Saturday 29 August 2015

We finally packed up and left the Sun 1 Hotel at the Cape Town Foreshore, and went to spend a night with Jean & Paul Gray, Val’s cousins whom we had not met face to face before, only on Facebook and by e-mail.

But first we went to see another old school friend of Val from Escombe, Cheryl Verrijt and her husband Theo. There wasn’t quite such a long time of not seeing them as with some of our other friends, as they had lived in Eshowe when we lived in Melmoth, and we had also seen them on a previous visit to Cape Town in 2003.

While waiting for them we observed life in and around the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, a large shopping centre built next to Cape Town docks.

Cape Town docks, 29 Aug 2015

Cape Town docks, 29 Aug 2015

It was interesting interesting to see how modern life encourages new outdoor activities.

New outdoor activities: smoking and cell phones

New outdoor activities: smoking and cell phones

And there are also more traditional outdoor activities, like this little girl and her father eating fish and chips, with the gulls waiting around in the hope of titbits, and whenever they got too close the little girl would jump up and shriek and wave her arms to chase them away.

When ze seagulls follow ze trawlair, it is because zey sink fish with be thrown into ze sea (Eric Cantona)

When ze seagulls follow ze trawlair, it is because zey sink fish with be thrown into ze sea (Eric Cantona)

There seemed to be a fair amount of activity of small craft docking and moving away, including this one

Cape Town docks

Cape Town docks

.When Theo & Cheryl Verrijt arrived from an exhibition they had been attending nearby we had lunch at the San Marco restaurant.

Cheryl Verrijt, Val Hayes, Theo Verrijt, Cape Town, 29 Aug 2013

Cheryl Verrijt, Val Hayes, Theo Verrijt, Cape Town, 29 Aug 2013

We then went back to Paul and Jean Gray and talked about the family history. Jean is a cousin on the Stewardson side of the family, and we had recently discovered several new generations of Stewardsons going back to Duffied in Derbyshire, England. It was quite a breakthrough, because we had known of Val’s great great great grandparents, Mr & Mrs Stewardson, we did not know their first names or where they had come from. There were references to them in books and journals about Namibia in the 1840s and 1850s, but they were always referred to as “Stewardson” and “Mrs Stewardson”. One frustrated author, writing a historical novel of their times, made up names for them, Ian and Norah, which got misleaqdingly incorporated into some serious historical publications, but we eventualy discovered that they were Francis Stewardson and Frances Morris, and they were married in Donisthorpe, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire in England, in 1838.

The Stewardsons went to Damaraland in the 1840s, and were involved in the beef cattle trade (some members of the Morris family were butchers in Cape Town, and at one time they had a contract to supply beef to the British garrison on St Helena).

The Stewardsons’ daughter Kate married first to Fred Green, Val’s great great grandfather, and then, after Fred Green’s death, to George Robb, from whom Jean Mary Gray is descended.

Val Hayes, Jean Mary Gray, Paul Gray, 29 August 2015

Val Hayes, Jean Mary Gray, Paul Gray, 29 August 2015

Though Val and Jean are the same age, they are half second cousins once removed, since Kate Stewardson was Val’s great great grandmother, and Jeans great grandmother. Kate had 16 children, of whom only four survived to adulthood.

Continued at Cape Town to Hermanus.

The Tapscott family

Henry Green, the brother of Val’s great great grandfather Fred Green, and was British Resident of the Orange River Sovereignty before going to Kimberley as a diamond prospector, and later becoming a farmer.

His first wife, Margaret Aitchison, and their two children all died in 1860, and in 1862 he married Ida Carolina Johanna von Lilienstein, whose father was Count Carl Arthur von Lilienstein, who was a customs official in Holstein 1839-1848. He joined the British German Legion and led a party of 100 military settlers to Berlin in British Kaffraria in 1857. He returned to Germany in 1860 with his wife and youngest daughter, but Ida Carolina Johanna married Henry Green and stayed.

Their daughter Ida Margaret Catherine Green (1865-1948) married George Arthur Montgomery Tapscott (1854-1918), and they had 10 children.

The Tapscott boys: Back: Norman and Sidney. Front: Lionel Eric (Doodles); George Lancelot (Dustry); Cecil Leander.

The Tapscott boys: Back: Norman and Sidney. Front: Lionel Eric (Doodles); George Lancelot (Dusty); Cecil Leander.

Several of the children made names for themselves in sport, with “Dusty” and “Doodles” both playing cricket for Griqualand West, and Eric Lionel “Doodles” Tapscott playing both cricket and tennis for South Africa. Ruth Daphne Tapscott was good tennis player and was a quarter finalist at Wimbledon, and the first woman to play at Wimbledon without stockings.

Family Group Report
For: George Arthur Montgomery Tapscott  (ID=  549)
Date Prepared:  9 Sep 2014
NAME: TAPSCOTT, George Arthur Montgomery, Born 13 Sep 1854 in
Clifton, Bristol, Died 9 Sep 1918 in Kimberley at age 63;
FATHER: TAPSCOTT, Samuel, Born ??? 1804, Died 22 Nov 1860 at
age 56; MOTHER: HILL, Elizabeth, Born 14 Dec 1811, Died 20 Oct
1883 at age 71

MARRIED Feb 1882, to GREEN, Ida Margaret Catherine, Born 3 Dec
1865 in Colesberg, Died 23 Feb 1948 in Plumstead, Cape at age
82; FATHER: GREEN, Henry, Born 23 Aug 1818, Died 29 Sep 1884
at age 66; MOTHER: VON LILIENSTEIN, Ida Carolina Johanna, Born
4 Dec 1835, Died ???

1. M TAPSCOTT, Lancelot George (Dusty), born ??? 1879 in
Barkly West, died 13 Dec 1940 in Kimberley; Married to
STORE, Kathleen
2. F TAPSCOTT, Violet, born ??? 1883, died ??? 1883
3. M TAPSCOTT, Sidney, born 25 Nov 1885 in Barkly West, Cape,
died 28 Aug 1943 in Simonstown; Married 19 Nov 1913 to
TOWNSEND, Helen Burnett; 4 children
4. F TAPSCOTT, Daisy Margaret, born ??? 1887 in Barkly West,
died ??? 1901?
5. M TAPSCOTT, Eric Lionel (Doodles), born 5 Mar 1889 in
Kimberley, died 7 Jul 1934? in Kenilworth, Cape; Married
to LOTTER, Hazel Christine
6. M TAPSCOTT, Norman von Lilienstein, born ??? 1892? in
Barkly West, died Nov 1966 in Cape; Married ??? 1936 to
ADAMS, Alice Rebecca Thorn; 2 children
7. F TAPSCOTT, Winifred Elfreda (Elfie), born 24 Nov 1895 in
Kimberley, died 12 Sep 1981 in Cape Town; Married to
OAKELEY, Arthur Eckley; 1 child
8. M TAPSCOTT, Cecil Leander, born ??? 1900 in Kimberley, died
??? in George, Cape
9. F TAPSCOTT, Elaine Rowe, born 11 Jun 1901 in Kimberley,
died 25 May 1980 in Umhlali, Natal; Married ??? 1936 to
ROBBINS, Ronald Arthur; 2 children
10. F TAPSCOTT, Ruth Daphne (Billy), born 31 May 1903 in
Kimberley; Married ??? 1930 to ROBBINS, Colin John James;
4 children

Most of our knowledge of the Tapscott side of the family came from Jack and Peggy Stokes, who stayed with us in Melmoth in 1979. Peggy was the daughter of Sidney Tapscott (seen in the picture above, taken about 1912. He became a mining engineer, and worked on the Nkana Mine in Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia).

Peggy and Jack Stokes and Val Hayes, at Melmoth, Zululand, 22 January 1979

Peggy and Jack Stokes and Val Hayes, at Melmoth, Zululand, 22 January 1979

When the Kariba Dam was built, and began to fill with water a boat called The Ark was used to capture marooned wild animals and take them to safety. When the dam was full, and no more rescues were needed, Jack and Peggy bought The Ark and used it to take tourists for cruises on Lake Kariba. When they retired, they sold The Ark and bought a caravan, and travelled round Southern Africa visiting family and friends. Thus it was that they spent a few weeks in our backyard, and when we had time we pored over the family history documents we had.

Jack Stokes with their caravan and the old 1956 Chev van they used to pull it, in our backyard in Melmoth, January 1979.

Jack Stokes with their caravan and the old 1956 Chev van they used to pull it, in our backyard in Melmoth, January 1979.

Since then we have been in touch with a few more people on the Tapscott side of the family, and learnt a bit more. There are probably many more stories to be told, and people could use our Wikispaces pages to tell some of them, or start their own.



The Bristow and Green families

Squadron Leader John Follett Bristow was born in Belfast on 8th May 1907 of Church of Ireland faith.

Bristow joined Northern Bank on 11th May 1925 in Head Office. Transfers followed to Antrim Road 1925, Head Office 1927, Connswater 1931, Head Office 1933 and Lisburn 1940.

In 1928 he joined the RAF Special Reserve.On 2nd December 1940, he joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve RAFVR. His Service Number was 89053. Promotion came in July 1941 to Pilot Officer, Flying Officer in December 1941 and Flight Lieutenant in December 1942. The London Gazette records him as being a War Substantive Squadron Leader from December 1943.

He relinquished his commission in July 1963 with a rank of Flight Lieutenant, RAF Secretarial Branch. Following demobilisation, Bristow resumed duty in the Bank on 15th November 1945 in Head Office. Transfers followed to Markets 1945, Donegall Square 1948 and Head Office 1966 as Sub Chief Accountant.

He retired on 31st May 1970.

via Northern Bank – War Memorials / Roll of Honour : Bristow, John Follett.

Thanks to Ione Evans in New Zealand for finding this.

John Follett Bristow was the son of Samuel Follett Bristow, and Alice Maud Green, who were married in the Cape Colony in about 1905. They had two other children, Follett Berkeley Bristow and Harry Walsham Follett Bristow.

Alice Maud Green was the daughter of Henry Green and Ida Carolina Johanna von Lilienstein.

She married Arthur James McLeod, a lawyer of Bulawayo, who died in Barkly West in the Cape Colony in 1904, and then she married Samuel Follett Bristow, who came from Northern Ireland. They seem to have returned to Ireland for a couple of years, because their middle son, John Follett Bristow, was born there, but the youngest, Harry Walsham Follett Bristow, was born in Krugersdorp in the Transvaal, in 1908.

Alice Maud and the three Bristow boys - 16 Sep 1937

Alice Maud and the three Bristow boys – 16 Sep 1927. Thanks to Jane Kenny & Ione Evans for the picture.

Samuel Follett Bristow died in Krugersdorp in 1911, and Alice seems to have taken the children to Ireland. According to another family member, Lawrence Gillespie, she then married someone called Boscombe, though other sources give her third husband’s name as Campbell-Brown. According to this record of the youngest son (also found by Ione Evans), her name last married name was Campbell:

Campbell College Register 1894 – 1954
being the Fourth Edition of The Campbell College Register

Bristow, Henry Walsham Follett (B), b. 28th October, 1908, son of Mrs. A. M. Campbell, Esdaile, Ashley Gardens, Belfast.  U.V, July, 1925.  Articled Clerk, Messrs. Jackson, McCann & Co.  Superintendent Eldoret Municipal Council, Native Location.  1939-46, King’s African Rifles.  Municipal African Affairs Officer.  Address: Box 40, Eldoret, Kenya Colony.  (M.q.)

It is interesting that her house name was “Esdaile”, a name that crops up again and again in the Green family history, either as a name given to children or to houses. Thomas Esdaile was the stepfather of William John (Goodall) Green, the grandfather of Alice Maud Green, described by William John Green in his will as “the kindest man I have ever met” — and therefore honoured by succeeding generations. In view of her surname, I also wonder if her third husband was related to the founder of Campbell College.

Fred & Mary Greene

One of the things that was missing from our family history was a picture of Val’s great grandparents, Fred and Mary Greene. A few weeks ago, however, Jean Mary Gray sent us one. Jean’s grandmother, Connie Semple, was the half-sister of Frederick Vincent Greene.

Frederick Vincent Greene (1868-1949) and his wife Mary Frances  Crighton (1868-1957)

Frederick Vincent Greene (1868-1949) and his wife Mary Frances Crighton (1868-1957)

Frederick Vincent Greene was the son of Frederick Thomas Green, the Canadian elephant hunter, trader and partisan leader in Damaraland in the mid-19th century. He was born at Ehangero, Damaraland, on 21 November 1868. His mother was Catherine Agnes Ann (Kate)  Stewardson, who was born at Rooibank, near Walvis Bay (now part of Namibia).

After Frederick Thomas Green died in 1876, his widow, Kate Stewardson, married George Robb. With her two husbands she had at least 17 children, of whom only five survived to adulthood. So Fred Greene (Junior) had two sisters, Mary Elizabeth Green (1865-1952) who married Frederick Thomas Abbott, and Alice Isabella Green (1871-1945) who married John Martin Cuthbert O’Grady.

He also had three half-sisters, one from his father’s earlier wife, and two from his mother’s later husband (it gets complicated).

The eldest half-sister was Ada Maria Green (1864-1926), born at Otjimboro, Angola, of Frederick Thomas Green’s second wife, Sara ua Kandendu (his first wife was a Dixon, name unknown). Ada, also known as Ida and Kaera, was the ancestor of Mburumba Kerina, the inventor of the name “Namibia” (“Kerina” was the Herero pronunciation of “Green”).

Frederick Vincent Greene’s other two half sisters were the children of his mother, Kate Stewardson, and her second husband George Robb. They were Agnes Mary Elizabeth Robb (1878-1959) who married Charles Ernest Peers, a Cape Town artist, and Constance Sweetingham (Connie) Robb (1889-1964) who married John Semple, and is the grandmother of Jean Gray who sent us the photo.

Frederick Vincent Greene was 7 years old when his father died, and was brought up by his mother and stepfather, who moved to the Cape Colony about 1881 or 1882, and later moved to Johannesburg. At some point he married Mary Frances Crighton — we don’t know when or where, but their first child, Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Greene, was born in Ladysmith, Natal, in 1890. His father, Fred Vincent, was shown in the Anglican baptism register there was a “mechanical engineer”.

Mary Frances Crighton was the daughter of William John Crighton and Anna Maria MacLeod of Cape Town, where the family were saddlers and leather merchants. On her mother’s side there were also Canadian links, as her grandmother, Mary Kerwick, like Fred Vincent Greene’s father, was born in Quebec. See here for more on the Crighton family.

They had eight children, but they are the generation we know least about.

  • Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Greene (1890-?)
  • Charles Stanhope Greene (1891-?)
  • Arthur Walpole Francis Greene (c1893-c1943)
  • Allan Dudley Greene (c1893-c1942)
  • Edward Lester Greene (1897-c1950)
  • Frank Henry Greene (c1899-?)
  • Royden Braithwaite Greene (1905-1971)
  • Gladys Winifred Greene (1907-1997)

Val’s grandfather was Allan Dudley Greene, but he died before she was born, and when her father was a prisoner-of-war in Italy. He died of TB, but Val’s grandmother Emma le Sueur couldn’t remember when it was. She was good at remembering what pills they took and what diseases they died of, but was rather vague about dates and places. But she thought he had died in the King George V Hospital in Sydenham, Durban. So we went there and asked at the reception if they could find the record of someone who had been a patient 30 years before. They found him in the index, and said that because it was so long ago, his admission card would be in the basement. It took them all of 10 minutes to find it. So we got his date of death. We were delighted, because we had just spent the morning hunting through the records of the Master of the Supreme Court in Pietermaritzburg (for which I had to get special permission from the magistrate, being banned at the time) and had found no death notice or any other estate files for him. And we still don’t know when or where he was born.

The family surname was Green and remained so until the First World War. The eldest son, Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Green, changed his name to Greene when he enlisted in the army, and someone said it was because he had had a fight with his father. But by the end of the war all the sons were using the Greene spelling, and the father was too.

Some members of the family refer to the eldest son as Fred Skelm, because there are all kinds of rumours about him. He was arrested in South West Africa in the 1930s for illegal diamond prospecting in the Kaokoveld, and banged up in Outjo for a while. He claimed that he was heir to the land on which he was prospecting because it had belonged to his grandfather Frederick Thomas Green. His story was perhaps not as far-fetched as it may have seemed to the magistrate at the time, because his aunt Ada (Kaera) had sued the South West Africa Company for a farm that the German colonial government had given to the Company, which she maintained that the Herero chief, Samuel Maharero, had given to her father for her. She won her case too, and the deed, signed by the Herero chiefs’ council, may perhaps be the first written title deed in Namibia.

Fred Skelm seems to have married several times, and may or may not have had children by some of his wives, One story was that he worked on a mine somewhere in America, murdered someone, and escaped on a railway handcranked inspection truck. Another said he was run over by a bus in Clairwood, Durban, and yet another that it was in London.

The second son, Charles Stanhope Green was baptised in Johannesburg in 1892 when he was a year old, but we don’t know where he was born. He disappears after that. Perhaps he died young.

Arthur Walpole Francis Greene, the third (or possibly fourth) son was married in 1915 to Margaret McLaren, who left him 2 days later. He was said to have been drowned when the ship he was travelling on was torpedoed in WWII. Edward Lester Greene had a son Lester Frederick, who went farming in Zimbabwe. Frank Henry Greene went overseas as a soldier in World War I, but while in England was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for stealing articles from a house. He apparently committed suicide at about the age of 25.

Roydon Brathwaite Green changed all three of his names, becoming Royden Braithwaite Greene. He was born in Johannesburg and lived in Port Elizabeth.

The youngest child of Fred and Mary Green was Gladys Winifred Greene, who married twice. We found that she was living in Ixopo, and Val went to visit we with her father, who was thus meeting his aunt for the first time. She was the one who first told us about the Namibian connection, which enabled us to find Fred Green the elephant hunter in the history books, though several of them erroneously referred to him as Frederick Joseph Green instead of Frederick Thomas Green. Later we met Gladys’s daughter Dion Stewart, who lived in Empangeni when we lived in Melmoth, and she was the first one who told us about the family royal legend, which turned out to be false, but did put us on the track of the real Green family history.

So we were very glad to have the photo, which is the only one we have seen of Fred and Mary Greene.

Memories of several years in south western Africa

I’ve just finished reading a very interesting book that paints a picture of life in what is now Namibia in the 1860s and 1870s. It covers several interests of mine, like family history, because the auther was a friend of my wife Val’s great great grandparents, and missiology, because of his comments on the way missionaries behaved then.

Memories of several years in south-western AfricaMemories of several years in south-western Africa by Thure Gustav Een

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since Namibia became independent in 1990 there has been increased interest in its history, including its pre-colonial history. The problem is that there are few written sources for that period, and even fewer published ones, and many of those that were published (mostly in the 19th century) have long been out of print.

Captain T.G. Een spent some time in Damaraland (Hereroland) and Ovamboland between 1866 and 1871, and when he returned to his native Sweden published an account of his experiences in 1872. The archives of Namibia have been published some of their manuscript holdings, such as letters and diaries of European missionaries and traders who were in Namibia at that period. But diaries are personal documents, and tend to be quite sketchy.

Thanks to a grant from the Swedish Agency for Research Co-operation for Underdeveloped Countries, Eens books has now been translated into English by Jalmar and Ioene Rudner, and published with a new introduction and annotations by the Namibia Scientific Society.

Unlike a diarist, or even most letter writers, Een is writing for readers who have never seen the country he describes, and so he gives a vivid word picture of the places he visited and the people he met. In some ways the descriptions are superficial. Een was a sailor, not a trained anthropologist (actually there were no trained anthropologists in that period). He describes the everyday life and customs of the Herero and Ovambo people as he observed them, but he did not speak the languages of those peoples well, and communicated through interpreters who used Dutch, which Een did not speak well himself. So while he describes external customs, his interpretation of their inner meaning tends to be skimpy and shallow. One of his complaints was that the German missionaries, who had studied the languages, kept their knowledge to themselves, and were unwilling to share it with others who wanted to know the people of the country better.

He gives some interesting details of relations between different groups of people. When he first arrived in 1866 with C.J. Andersson, the Anglo-Swedish explorer and trader, they were based at Otjimbingwe on the Swakop River, which was then the capital of Damaraland (Hereroland). There were then at least four distinct groups of Herero-speaking people — the followers of Maharero, the followers of Zeraua, the Himba of the Kaokoveld to the northwest, and the Mbanderu of the east. Maharero and Zeraua and their retinues lived at Otjimbingwe, and they were occasionally invited to dinner by Andersson, but never at the same time. When Zeraua came to dinner, he sat at the table. But when Maharero came to dinner, he sat on a chair by the door, away from the table, because of his bad table manners. But Andersson did not want them to know of this different treatment.

Grasplatz, in the Namib desert just inland from Lüderitz

Grasplatz, in the Namib desert just inland from Lüderitz

When I lived in Namibia over 40 years ago one of the things I wondered about was how traders back in the 19th century managed to travel with their ox wagons through the waterless Namib desert. A few miles outside Luderitz there was a railway halt called Grasplatz, because they used to store grass for the oxen there, for the next stage of the journey. The diarists described “wagon trains” going from Otjimbingwe to Walvis Bay and returning, but they don’t describe how they did it. But Een does describe it, in some detail. And that is the kind of thing that makes his book interesting.

Of course, like a diary, it is still a personal book. He praises the Damaras (Hereros) at some points, but criticises them at others. He thinks they are lazy, ungrateful scroungers, and makes no bones about it, and gives several examples. But he also writes of several that he regards as friends. When I was in Namibia a century later, I had several Herero friends, but none fitted that description. I did know one or two scroungers, but other Hereros thought they were weird too. But perhaps a hundred years of history can make a big difference, to all parties.

So we have Een’s view of people of other cultures, but his description of them for the benefit of Swedes also tells us something about 19th-century Swedish culture and values. One of the interesting sidelights was that, according to the translators’ notes, there were 137 white people in Damaraland at that time (though the number can’t have been constant, they were always coming and going). They were of various different national origins, but the missionaries were all Germans of the Rhenish missionary society. Een describes the differing responses to the news that the Germans had won the Franco-Prussian War.

All whites who were not of German nationality wished the French army to be victorious, and we awaited news from the front with intense interest. When the victories of the German forces became known, in their usual manner of course, started bragging and blustering and behaving arrogantly. Of course these wonderful victories with all their bloody deeds, which have taken the European civilization a big step backward, had to be observed and celebrated with German thoroughness here in the wilderness also. To begin with, Mr Hahn, the High Priest of the missionaries, took down the mission flag, a red cross on a white background, and raised the flag of the North German Federation instead. The holy sign of the cross had to be replaced by that of ‘das grosse Vaterland’. The common symbol of peace of the Celestial Empire for all peoples had to give way to the German nation’s flag of victory. That was not enough. The black Christian brethren must not be left ignorant and unstirred by the victories of the Germans… The Negro boys (presumably from the mission school) were surely less interested in their German brethren’s victories than in the slaughtered ox with which they were treated to mark the occasion… All we white men were upset by this deed which we found improper in a neutral country, and especially coming from men of the cloth who should preach peace or at least avoid open approval of war, which they otherwise condemned in their preaching to the natives…

Een responded to this by raising a Swedish flag over his house at Omaruru, and went on to say,

In order to counteract all influences of the German flag still further, I made another flag of my own design, a large white star on a blue background. I hoisted this flag and tried to explain to Old Wilhelm (Chief Zeraua) that it was the flag of the Damara people, the symbol of their unity and harmony about which they should gather in times of danger to defend their country.

It little details like these that make Een’s book an interesting read, and help to bring the past to life.

It was also interesting to me because Een was a friend of Fred and Kate Green, my wife’s great great grandparents, and throws some interesting light on the family history. Fred Green married Kate Stewardson, the daughter of Francis and Frances Stewardson.

The translators, in their notes, persist in repeating the errors of several published sources by referring to Francis Stewardson as “Ian” Stewardson (which is a name that was made up for a historical novel), and giving Fred Green’s middle name as Frederick Joseph Green, when it was actually Frederick Thomas Green. I mention this because of the persistence of these errors, which come from relying on secondary sources. The church records, in Namibia and Canada, show that Fred Green’s middle name was Thomas, and the elder Stewardson’s name was Francis, not Ian. Fred Green’s deceased estate file in the Free State Master’s Office also shows his middle name as Thomas, so he didn’t change his name in middle age as some people do.

Een (2004:74) reveals that Fred and Kate Green had another child that we didn’t know about before:

Last among the hunters to arrive [in Ovamboland in November 1866] was Mr Green with with his wife who had been born in Damaraland of English parents. Both of them were ill. Green already had the first symptoms of the fever [malaria] prevailing in the country, which he had first contracted some years ago and which characteristically recurs every year, and then often enough it reappears some time before the period of its general recurrence. Mrs Green could not, of course, be anything other than exhausted and sick as she had had a son some days previously. The child died soon after their arrival here without having been baptized, and was buried without any ceremony at the foot of a fig tree…

Green was an amiable and pleasant gentleman and known as the most proficient hunter in this part of Africa. He did not consider it worthy of a gentleman to shoot elephants from an ambush at night when they came to the water to quench their thirst.

Een goes on to describe the recent death of another Swede, Johan August Wahlberg, who was killed by an elephant when on a hunting expedition with Fred Green. In Wahlberg’s case, he was ambushed by the elephant.

In a couple of places Een refers to Francis and Frances Stewardson’s daughters as beautiful, and one of the last things he did before he left to return to Sweden was to attend the wedding of one of them, Fanny, to another Swedish trader, Axel Whilhelm Eriksson (Een 2004:187).

Eriksson returned from his expedition to Ovamboland in September [1871]. He wasd engaged to one of the beautiful daughters of Mrs Stewardson, and now the wedding was celebrated with the usual pomp and splendour. He marriage ceremony was performed by Missionary Viehe in the meeting-house or school-house of Omaruru, and was attended by a large crowd of black spectators. The bride, dressed in light-blue silk, was radiantly beautiful. There was a big salute [of guns] and the black spectators were given two fat oxen on which they could feast as they pleased.

Sad to say, the marriage ended in divorce 10 years later. Axel Eriksson and Fanny Stewardson had four children, and one of them was named Axel Francis Zeraua Eriksson, presumably after his father, his maternal grandfather, and Chief Zeraua, who was a close friend of Eriksson.

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The Boteti (or Botletle) River, Botswana

On Saturday 25 May 2013 we left the Island Safari Lodge at Maun, where we had stayed the previous two nights, and continued to follow some of the routes taken by Val’s great-great grandfather Fred Green.


Green’s Baobab, near Gweta, Botswana

When planning our trip we had looked at the possibility of going to Gweta on the road to Francistown, and trying to visit Green’s baobab, which is about 30 km south of the town. Two things made the possibility remote: first, there was no accommodation available in Gweta at the time we would be passing that way, and, secondly, we were told that the way to Green’s baobab lay along a sandy track, for which one needed a 4×4 vehicle and our little Toyota Yaris wouldn’t make it, so we had to make do with pictures found by Google. There is a video of it here.

Botswana cattle

Botswana cattle

In July 1858 Fred and Charles Green and George Bonfield left Hereroland with five wagons and went to Lake Ngami. Bonfield stayed there with one wagon while the Green brothers set off for Matabeleland with the other four wagons by way of the north side of the Makgadikgadi Pans, and at Gootsa Pan they carved on a baobab “Green’s Expedition 1858”. Apparently the inscription can still be read today, which is why we thought it might be interesting to see it. But it didn’t seem possible, so we tried to follow the course of the Boteti River instead.

Boteti River

Boteti River bridge at Makalamabedi, Botswana

After filling up with petrol we left Maun at 9:30 am, and drove east towards Francistown, and there were several herds of cattle crossing the road in single file, like the game in Etosha. We stopped to take photos of one lot, and those who had already crossed gathered and looked at us reproachfully, while those who had not yet crossed stopped, wondering when we would get out of the way, perhaps. We saw lots of people riding asses, usually in pairs, and they seemed to be cowboys, watching the herds.

Boteti River at Makalamabedi

Boteti River at Makalamabedi

At 10:12, 67 km after leaving the Island Safari Lodge, we turned south, where a sign pointed to Makalamabedi. The road was narrower, and looked less travelled. After about 8 km we came to the main object of this part of our journey, the Boteti River bridge, so we stopped to take photos of it and the river. The river was surprisingly large, and full of water. When reading about Fred Green travelling along it, I had always pictured it like a Namibian river or like the Taokhe River we had seen a couple of days ago, dry, with water in it only after rain. But the Boteti (or Botletle, as some called it) was wide and beautiful, and though not as large as the Okavango farther north, was similar, as the outflow of the delta. No wonder the Green brothers spent so much time here. As Tabler (1973:45) puts it:

Shelly, Bushe and Green, going to Lake Ngami, were on the Botletle River in September 1851, when they met Livingstone. Shelley and Bushe returned to Kolobeng late in December, and Green was at Winburg, O.R.S. early in March 1852, just returned from Ngami and intending to start for the Lake again as soon as he could.

Boteti River at Makalamabedi

Boteti River at Makalamabedi, looking upstream from the bridge

When travelling by ox wagon, drinking water for the oxen is always an important concern, and there was plenty of that in the Boteti River, at least at this point.

Boteti River at Makalamabedi, looking downstream from the bridge

Boteti River at Makalamabedi, looking downstream from the bridge

We drove on to Makalamabedi, and beyond the bridge the road was full of potholes of Albanian rather then Free State proportions, one drove into and out of them, and was lucky to be able to travel at 40 km an hour. The thought of driving all the way to Serowe on such roads was a bit daunting. Perhaps we should have been sensible and gone via Francistown instead.

Boteti River at Makalamabedi

Boteti River at Makalamabedi

At Makalamabedi there was another foot-and-mouth disease control point, and we had to drive through a dip and stand on a mat again. Val asked the bloke there how he was, as one does, and he said he wasn’t well, or “good” as people say nowadays. He had a headache. Val said “We’ll pray for you”, and he and the woman with him said, rather incredulously, “You know how to pray?’ He then asked why we were travelling on this road, which we had begun to wonder ourselves, and he clearly thought we were nuts to do so. So we told him about Fred Green hunting elephants along the Boteti or Botletle river, and how we wanted to see where he had been.

Halfway through the town the potholed tar road changed to gravel, and then we were able to travel a bit faster, 65-70 km/hour, which gave us hopes of reaching Serowe before midnight. The river was visible in glimpses caught through the trees.

We came to a tarred road again, and were a bit confused, as the map seemed to differ quite a bit from the territory. Though not as bad as the earlier bit, this one was still potholed, though in Free State rather than Albanian fashion, so we were able to travel at about 70-80, in a zig-zag course to avoid the larger potholes. Some had been repaired, and others marked for repair. From the maps it seemed that the road had only been tarred fairly recently, but the contractors must have done a shoddy job, and cut corners.

Then  we joined another tarred road, which from the map appeared to be an older one, and was in better condition. It went due south, though the river was somewhere on our left, and according to the map, we were somewhere around Khumaga. At one point we stopped to take a picture of a sign which showed that we were pretty far from anywhere. The next place was Rakops, 66 km ahead, though we had been seeing signs from about 130 km mark.  We still had 415 km to go to Serowe, and we had only covered about 200 km.

A long way from anywhere, and still a long way to go

A long way from anywhere, and still a long way to go

There was bush at the sides of the road, and the verges had not been cleared as on other roads. Every now and again there were long skid marks on the light coloured tar, and I wondered if these were where someone travelling at high speed suddenly braked to avoid an animal coming out of the bush. One might just see a cow, but a goat or even a donkey could be hidden until it actually came out into the road.

A bit closer to Rakops the bush opened out, and there was a vast flat expanse stretching over to the west, with a line of trees about a kilometre away to the east, which we took to be the Boteti River still. It took a while before we realised that this must be a westward extension of the Makgadikgadi Pans.

A bit further along we came across a congregation of vultures gathered around the carcass of a donkey that must have been knocked down by a vehicle. It wasn’t, however, in one of the places where the bushes grew along the edge of the road, but rather along a stretch through the flat pan, where you could see for miles to the horizon. There must have been 50-60 vultures, with more circling overhead, and a few crows dropping in to join them. I’d read somewhere about “carrion crows” but this was the first time I had seen them. The only animal actually eating was a starving dog. The vultures seemed to be waiting for someone to say grace or something, and more kept arriving as we watched.

Stray animals knocked down on the road are soon cleared away

Stray animals knocked down on the road are soon cleared away

I suppose donkeys are the most vulnerable of domestic animals when it comes to being run over. Goats are the most intelligent, and think twice about crossing a road when they see a car coming. Cows cross the road regardless. Sheep mill around. But a silly ass will stand its ground in the middle of the road and simply ignore approaching vehicles. When the vehicle is a 26-wheeler with a sleepy driver on a dark night, the vultures have a good brunch the next day.

A vulture and a carrion crow

A vulture and a carrion crow

We eventually reached Rakops, 247 km from Maun, at about 1:15 pm. The main road by-passed Rakops, but we drove in to the town to try to see the river again, still marked by the line of trees in the flat pan. We came to a bridge and crossed it, and the river still had water in it there, and several animals grazing along its banks.

Bridge over the Boteti River at Rakops

Bridge over the Boteti River at Rakops

We drove back to the main road, and continued, now travelling south-eastwards, still with the river on the left, marked by the line of trees and a string of villages. Though the main road (now a good one, with no potholes) by-passed the villages, it still had lots of speed limits of 80 or 60 km/h.

The Boteti River at Rakops

The Boteti River at Rakops

About 40 kilometres from Rakops the road crossed the river again, still with water, and still fairly wide, though only about half the width it was when we first crossed it a couple of hundred kilometres upstream. According to the map the Boteti River flowed into Lake Xau, and there was a road going round the southern end of the lake, but we did not go that way, as it was getting quite late and we still had a long way to go to Serowe.

The Boteti River, just before it reaches Lake Xau

The Boteti River, just before it reaches Lake Xau

We drove around the end of the Mopipi Pan, about 60 km from Rakops. The Mopipi Pan is a kind of eastward extension of Lake Xau, and that seemed to be the end of it, where the mighty Okavango eventually ended up. It was also the end of the flat open country, and we were back in the land of mopani trees, looking golden in the afternoon sun.

Mopipi Pan

Mopipi Pan

We had covered only about half the distance to Serowe, but the road surface was better now, and we drove faster. We looked for a sitplekkie beside the road, but there were none. We passed the town of Letlhakane with its mine, and an enormous mine dump, and after passing that there were fences on either side of the road At sunset we reached a place called Paje, and tried to phone Lentswe Lodge in Serowe, where we were supposed to be staying. The booking paper we received gave detailled instructions on how to leave Gaborone, and thereafter gave exact kilometre measurements to the turn-off over 200 km further on, and where to turn off from there, giving distances, but no landmarks, which was of no use to people coming from a different direction.The cell phones didn’t seem to be working, just as the credit card machines didn’t seem to be working either.

We reached Serowe in the gathering dusk, and came to the road from Palapye, which had a big shopping mall on it, and it seemed that that was where we were supposed to turn up the road we had just come down, managed to work out the way to Lentswe Lodge from there, 600 km from Maun. It was fully dark when we arrived, and there was also a mix-up with our booking, and they were only expecting us on Monday. The guy at reception, who introduced himself as Geoffrey, said he had been on leave, and the people who had filled in for him had left a bit of a mess. But he managed to sort out a room for us, and led us to it along a rough path, with steps going up and down, and then, when we were settled there, we went back the path to the bar, and had fillet steak and eggs for supper, which was excellent. Geoffrey brought us a packed breakfast for the morning, and we went to bed, as we were tired after a long day’s driving. It was the last night of our holiday — we had seen everyhing we had come away to see, and the next day we would be homeward bound.

You can see an index to all these posts of our travelogue of Namibia and Botswana here.


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