PO Box 41
1 September 1990
Will send some photos when they
Have been developed and printed
Annette and I have just returned from a week in Namaqualand, looking at the
spring flowers. While in Springbok I made enquiries about the farm, Keerom,
where your father and my grandfather were born, and was directed to the
Hondeklipbaai road. There, between the Messelpad and the Wildeperdhoekpas
(two sections of a contiguous mountain pass) we turned on to a road signposted
Kanariesfontein and climbed a rand. We followed a road which branched left
and founnd ourselves on a farm belonging to a Mr Beukes. He said we had come
to the right place. It was Keerom.
The word means a dead end, cul-de-sac, and one immediately realises how aptly
the name was chosen. The road leads down into a valley between granite hills
and dwalas, the only exit from which is a rock-bound ravine. The present dwelling
was built by the Kotze family in the early days of this century but nearby is an old
stone building which Beukes said was the original homestead. A portion of it is
now roofless and one can see that a part of the sructure has been demolished.
It is apparent that originally it was a long building and the width of one room.
There were six interleading rooms and probably a stoep but the only evidence
of a stoep is the remains of a floor, now occupied by a row of pepper trees and a
ery old wagon.
About 50 yards from the old house is the ‘put’ or well, a hole sunk in the granite .
The water is eight feet below the surface and obviously derives from the large
dwala south of the house. Nearby is an old circular threshing floor where animals
were used to tread the grain out of the wheat crop. About a mile away is the
‘ou koper pad’ which led from the copper mines to Hondeklip Bay and over which
copper ore was transported before the construction of the Messelpad. I told
Beukes that I had heard that the wagon drivers of those days, faced with a long
climb, often lightened their loads by dumping copper ore in the bushes along
the road. He grinned and pointed to some bushes and there we found a pile of ore.
[ Notes: edition 30.01.2007 NF]
Letter to my father. The photos were seen, either at Zimbili when Hugh visited
once, or when Elwyn and I visited Hugh in the Cape.
PO Box 6
5 May 1997
I was somewhat dazed with fatigue when you were here and therefore forgot
to tell you some of the things which I should have told you about Keerom.
1. The original copper road to Hondeklip Bay ran more or less parallel to the
present road, but somewhat to the south of it – over the hills. The owner of
the farm took me along the old road and showed me several places where
copper ore had been dumped in order to reduce the load on the wagon. The
copper carriers were local farmers who used their own wagons and oxen
and, oddly enough, were paid by the weight of copper loaded at the mine,
not for that which they delivered at Hondeklip Bay. A couple of kilometres to
the west of the Keerom homestead the old road passes through a valley
where there was (sometimes) water in the river bed. There an enterprising
blacksmith established himself. He repaired wagons and at night the
outspanned oxen were safe in his stone-walled kraal. In the granite on the
river’s edge he drilled holes into which he hammered iron pegs, the rusted
remnants of which are still there. Apparently these were the jigs for bending
2. I should have told you that the farmers in that part of the world do not care
to live there in the summer. At that season they retire to their farms in the
3. The current owner of the farm lives there in a fairly modern house. PF’s
old house is still there but is used for storage.
4. The owner showed me the waterhole, obviously blasted in a fault in the
granite, where “die ou mense het sy water gekry”. It seems likely that this
was PF’s water supply.
5. I should have referred you to the owner of the Springbok Café who, being
interested in local history, is a fountain of information about the old days. A
chap called Kotze, the headmaster of the local secondary school, is very
knowledgeable about the local history.
6. The births of R A and ‘Pater’ are recorded in the Springbok Town records.
7. The Concordia copper mine, not far from Springbok, was where PF nearly
ruined himself. It was a mine which later produced a lot of copper but I think
PF must have gone in with insufficient capital.
That’s about it, except that, apart from the vegetation, the geology of Keerom
is so similar to parts of Zimbabwe that RA and ‘Pater’ must have felt quite at
home when they arrived in Matabeleland.
The avalanche of orders for our products is now diminishing with the
approach of winter and I have almost caught up with them. Since January we
have supplied over R40,000 worth, which, given my daily (15 to 16 hours)
output of about R700 worth, represents a lot of effort. We were using a
waterproofing product called Concrim, a very finely powdered hydrated lime.
This, all of a sudden was no longer available and we had to experiment with
other propriety waterproofers, none of which were saatisfactory. One brand
delayed the setting time of the cement by six hours. I therefore experimented
with ordinary hydrated lime and found that 3.5kg to a bag of cement gave the
desired effect, provided that the sand contained enough fine material. We
order sand by the truck load but no two deliveries are the same, probably
because the sand is pumped out of the Breede river. I therefore have to have
several piles of sand. I mix them in order to get the optimum waterproofing
I enclose an article which I think will interest you. I have often thought of
powering a car ith a water-burning engine – now it seems that this
possibility has drawn a little closer, awaiting only, perhaps , the discovery
of catalyst to reduce the power required for electrolysis.
The Grahamstown farmer for whom I formerly worked managed to claw
his way out of bankruptcy and went into ostriches on a large scale – if 15
thousand birds constitute a large scale. He built a computorized incubator
which holds 20,000 eggs but now that Europe has banned the importation
of ostrich meat he finds himself up the creek without a paddle. The SA
market for ostrich meat is limited and the local price is lower than the export.
Annette’s brother is in a similar position but on a smaller scale. He has
taken over a local (disused) abbatoir and is slaughtering his own birds
and transporting the skins to Joburg. The feed costs him R7000 a day –
so it is a matter of urgency to get rid of as many birds as possible.