Special Christmas Birthday

Harry Magewu of Thembalesizwe, Aberdeen, will have a very special Christmas this year, as he will celebrate his 100th birthday on December 25th!

Harry was born in Pearston, but moved to Aberdeen in 1960 for economic reasons. He was a shearer by trade, and by all accounts was one of the best. Cllr Willem Säfers of Aberdeen first met him when he was as a young boy growing up on Skietfontein farm.  “Harry could shear over 100 sheep in one day with hand clippers – he was the only one who could do that,” said Säfers adding that at that time, the rate of pay was 5c per sheep.

He continued working well past what most people would consider retirement age, only finally hanging up his clippers at the age of 92. Keeping busy helped him keep healthy, and he always looked after his body. He never smoked or drank alcohol, and is a greatly-respected member of his community. Harry is still an active member of the Bantu Church of Christ, where for many years he held a leadership position.

His wife Jane passed away in 2003, and of the couple’s eight children, only their daughter Buyiswa Ngcongco survives. There are many grandchildren and great grandchildren, but none of the family seemed sure of exactly how many!

Last Friday, a party was organised for Harry by the local ANC branch, attended by about 40 friends and family members. Although his body is now frail and he can only walk short distances on crutches, Harry’s mind remains sharp, and he took great delight in reliving the excitement of the party with one of his young relatives afterwards.

A large official party is due to take place later this week, organised by the District Municipality.

Book club Christmas lunch

The members of the Aberdeen Book Club enjoyed a splendid Christmas lunch last week at the Kamdebo Stal in Aberdeen.

The Book Club was started about 13 years ago, and four of the original members are still part of the group. Unlike some more ‘serious’ book clubs, where all members read a copy of same book one month and discuss it in depth, the members of the Aberdeen group all pay in every month, and have a turn once a year to buy books of their choice. The ladies meet once a month, ostensibly to discuss the books read since the last meeting, but the refreshments provided by the hostess are always a key attraction too! Members then borrow the books that interest them. As the ladies have an age range from 35 to 87 and very varying tastes in books, this method works much better.

At the lunch, the ladies enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by Hannelie and her team, and the unanimous verdict was that it was definitely better than risking life and limb on the busy N9 to eat in Graaff-Reinet!

Bridge Painting for Christmas

About six months ago, two young men from Aberdeen decided that they needed to give something back to the town they grew up in. Zettie Darries and Rolavian ‘Lollo’ Jackson saw many areas where ordinary people could make a difference, and also saw many youngsters with time on their hands and nothing constructive to do.

Their first project was to repaint the stones on the hill outside Aberdeen, which spell out the name of the town. Once this was achieved, they joined forces with some other residents who were working with children to clean up certain areas of the town -one of their early successes was repainting the kerbs and clearing up the litter in the small gardens around the Dutch Reformed Church in the centre of the town.  The men are very organised, and have reflective jackets for the youngsters, who feel proud to be part of a team at work in the town.

Their latest project was to paint the road bridge on Hope Street, linking the town to Lotusville and Thembalesizwe. About three years ago, another resident had donated paint to brighten it up, but over time, the bright rainbow colours had faded, become chipped, and attracted graffiti.

A lady who was in town to renovate a house donated some blue and white paint to the men, and on 1 December, armed with paint and brushes, they set about revitalising the bridge. “We wanted to make the bridge look good before everyone comes home to visit their families over Christmas,” explained Jackson, adding that they had received some good-natured flak from people who asked why they had used DA colours! “We never even thought of that, we were just grateful for the paint we were given,” he said. In fact it is far from a “DA blue”, and most people agree that it looks fresh and cool. 

For this project, Elandre Heynse joined up with Jackson and Darries, and he quickly became an integral part of the workforce.

The men still have some blue and white paint left over, and would like to use this to create a South African flag in stones, on the hill near the Aberdeen sign. They have seen something similar outside Laingsburg, and were very taken which how attractive it looked. The men are appealing for donations of small amounts of red, green, black and yellow paint, so that can be completed early next year, once the children are back at school. “It was just the three of us, painting the bridge, but we really want to involve the youngsters again when we paint the flag,” said Darries.

Anyone who would like to help with paint can contact Zettie Darries on 060 310 2895

Garden Club Christmas party

Last Friday evening the members of the Aberdeen Garden and Social Club held their final meeting for the year.

Host Judith Dardis gave an overview of the events during the year. There were only two trips out of Aberdeen, to very contrasting farms. Harold and Catherine Steven-Jennings are fortunate to have water, and shared their passion for holistic gardening. Dickie and Colleen Ogilvie, on the other side of Aberdeen, shared their experiences of the grim realities of the current drought. Both visits were very thought-provoking.

Armchair travelling was also experienced, with Dick and Estelle van Wyk sharing the magnificence of the Sheikh Zayed Great Mosque in Abu Dhabi, and Sonette Müller ‘transporting’ the group to Hong Kong with tales of her recent visit.

The inclusion of “Social” in the name, due to the scarcity of gardens to visit during the drought, led to some other interesting meetings, on such diverse topics as making doughnuts and recycling. The year started with a High Tea, and on other occasions, members enjoyed pancakes, and a braai.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to find people willing to host ‘garden’ meetings, as there are very few gardens because of the drought,” explained Dardis, adding that most farmers are too busy feeding stock to host visitors. The way forward for the Club will be discussed at the first meeting next year.

After the business part of the evening was concluded, members and guests enjoyed a magnificent feast, made possible by contributions from many of those present. The spacious stoep and garden at the Dardis home was lit with festive lights, and the Christmas carols playing in the background set the scene for a wonderful evening for all.

Christmas service at St Mary’s and All Saints

Christmas came a little early for the congregants of St Mary’s and All Saints Church in Aberdeen last Sunday.

This small Anglican church is a chapelry of St James’ Church in Graaff-Reinet, and usually holds services once a month. Regular members of the congregation were delighted to welcome some guests to the annual Christmas service, as well as those who are unable to attend regularly due to other commitments.

The service was conducted by the rector, Archdeacon Dr Mark Marais, with readings and prayers by his wife Moyra.

After the service, a bring-and-share lunch was enjoyed by all at the home of stalwarts of the church John and Jean Watermeyer. A time of fellowship, catching up with old friends, and getting to know new folk brought 2019 to a fitting close.

Piping in a Karoo dawn

Residents in a quiet residential area of the sleepy Karoo town of Aberdeen were intrigued to wake up last Sunday morning to the haunting lament of the bagpipes- not part of the normal dawn chorus of screeching cockerels and braying donkeys!

Russell Mitchell from Port Elizabeth was in town as part of Annelie Botes’ production at the local Dutch Reformed Church, and was warming up the pipes, much to the delight of the locals who rushed out in their pyjamas. One resident was particularly thrilled, as his father had been a piper, and at his request, Russell played Flower of Scotland in his full uniform outside the guest house before heading off to the church.

Tortoise rescue

The severe drought in the Eastern Cape is crippling many farmers, and the devastating effects on livestock are well known and tragic to see. Sheep and goats are dying on a daily basis on Karoo farms. The plight of many wild animals is also severe, and often overlooked. Small buck are unable to reach water troughs, and become dehydrated, and many magnificent kudus are dying from starvation.

Animal lover Tanya van der Merwe, a farmer’s wife from Aberdeen, has been heartbroken to see the large number of dead tortoises in the veld.


Last weekend, the van der Merwes relocated 18 tortoises from an area that has been most severely affected by the drought to the farm house where they live, in the Camdeboo Conservancy. They loaded them into the back of a bakkie, took them home and released them into their garden.

The tortoises varied in size from a small one that could fit in one hand to some up to about 60cm across that were almost impossible for one person to lift. Despite the heavy weight, Tanya and her husband managed to lift out all the tortoises and put them on the lawn by their farmhouse.

The tortoises were soon munching away at the grass and plants, and a week later can be found all over the garden, mostly under bushes for shade. “My lovely garden is suffering, but it was far more important to save the tortoises,” said Tanya. “I am just so sad about those we had to leave behind, and the dozens that have already died, just on our land.”

The couple’s young sons Liam and Ryan have been fascinated to watch the tortoises, and have learned a valuable lesson on compassion for animals.

New Apostolic Church music

Most churches provide activities for the children and youth members of their congregations, and for the New Apostolic Church (NAC), music is a passion that is shared to not only develop talent, but also teach life skills such as discipline and punctuality.

Roberto de Jager from Aberdeen was appointed as Area Music leader in June this year, and is responsible for the church’s music activities over a vast area of the Eastern Cape, even including some parts of the southern Free State.

De Jager is an extremely talented and versatile musician, largely self-taught, who is proficient on a variety of instruments including the organ, piano, euphonium, trombone, baritone horn, clarinet, violin, cello and recorder.

He was a late starter musically, singing in the church choir as a boy, but only starting his first instrument, the organ, in 1994. He attended classes in PE, East London and George, and after five years was playing at an advanced level. His approach to other instruments has been to buy an instrument, learn how to play it, and then teach a promising youngster to play. More often than not, if the youngster shows talent and determination, he then gives them the instrument.

De Jager’s wife Esteline is also a talented musician, and is responsible for the recorder training in the area. She also plays the flute and violin, as well as having the most beautiful soprano voice, having received training as a soloist in PE.

The Aberdeen congregation of the NAC currently has 15 orchestra members, and de Jager hopes to double that number next year. This year, the church has focussed on the recorder as an instrument for beginners, and over 30 youngsters from Aberdeen have completed the beginners’ course, also learning to read music. The culmination of this was a recorder jamboree last month, with players from Rietbron and Willowmore joining the Aberdeen congregations.

Animal welfare in Aberdeen

Maureen MacAndrew (77) has been involved in animal welfare work for many years, running the branch of the Karoo Animal Protection society (KAPS) in Ladismith before moving to Aberdeen in 2005.

At that time, there were kennels in Aberdeen run by the SPCA, and Maureen was an active volunteer with the organisation. When the SPCA closed due to lack of funding, Maureen’s sister-in-law, Lynn Holdt stepped in, and with Maureen’s help, ran a very successful operation until she passed away in 2013.

Maureen then took on full responsibility for the local township animals’ welfare, started the Camdeboo Animal Rescue Enterprise (CARE) and opened a charity shop to raise some much-needed funding. This shop is open every morning, manned by volunteers, and relies on donations of mainly unwanted household goods to resell.

Although legally the SPCA is the only organisation that has the power to confiscate abused animals, Maureen’s determination and forceful manner when encountering ill-treated pets has saved many animals neglected or abused by their owners.

Almost every day she deals with cases of sick or injured dogs and cats, provides dip, and deworms puppies. With sponsorship from KAPS, she has arranged for the sterilisation of 60 dogs and 30 cats so far this year.

Being in the Karoo, Maureen comes across cases not usually seen in the cities. One of the more unusual rescues this year involved relocating a monkey that had been kept as a pet, on a lead, to Monkey Matters in PE. She also keeps an eye on the working donkeys in the town, ensuring they have suitable bits, and helping with treatment of minor injuries.

Earlier this year, she was instrumental in saving an orphaned donkey foal. The mother was found in town with lockjaw, and died just a few days after being found by Maureen. With help from a local animal-lover, who hand-feed the foal after its mother died, the young donkey thrived, and was adopted by a local farmer.

Very few owners pay anything towards the costs involved in caring for their sick animals, and finances are always tight. Anyone who would like to help is asked to donate directly to Camdeboo Vet Clinic, Standard Bank account 082 528 799, using the reference CARE.

APK street market

Members of Aberdeen’s APK held a successful street market last Saturday in the town square.

Just after 7am on a hot Karoo day, those working at the sale started setting up tables and lighting braai fires. Despite having to compete with another mini bazaar and several informal vendors, the team’s lamb wors and sosaties sold quickly. Curry and rice was as popular as ever, and the traditional ‘bazaar puddings’ were quickly snapped up by those craving something sweet.

There was another church’s outreach group singing very close to the APK gazebo, which sometimes made it a little difficult for the church volunteers to hear the customers’ orders, but in true Aberdeen spirit, everyone just smiled and got on with what they were doing!

The men cooking the meat certainly felt the heat, but valiantly continued until the last piece of wors was cooked. Packs of raw meat and sosaties were also sold, that had been donated by members of the church and a local farmer.

By 1:30pm everything was sold out except for a few packets of raw meat – this mutton is available from Vroutjie se Koutjie.

The organisers are very grateful to all who braved the heat to support the event.