The Royal Karoo

karoo town 1


By Rose Willis

Photographs By Chris Marais


Lords, lairds, dukes, and Britain’s queen

Are forever linked to the dryland scene.

karoo town 3
Prince Albert

Victoria and Albert, will remain

With many governors on the thirstland plain.



Among these Lord Charles gave family’s names

To little towns across the plains.

Soon brilliant Beauforts, were a part

Of Africa’s great, growing heart.



Somerset, both East and West

Honour this Lord, at whose behest

Worcester, the Boland town so friendly,

Was named in honour of brother Henry.



Then Peregrine Maitland to Richmond granted

His in-law’s name – they were enchanted

Colesberg shared Sir Lowry’s fame.

A duke to Bedford gave his name.



George Grey, Cradock, Caledon

Gave their names a local spin.

Then Donkin and Chris Barnard play

Roles in Beaufort, to this day.



Donkin kept his wife’s heart forever

in a casket, like a treasure.

And Barnard, transplant pioneer

with brothers spent his boyhood there.



The Scottish clergy, who came to guide

far-flung flocks, all took pride,

Robertson, Fraser, Sutherland too

Added their names to the Great Karoo.



Graaff-Reinet was Murray’s home

karoo town 16

From there he far and wide did roam

Naming Aberdeen, Bethesda , Murraysburg

As he travelled preaching God’s own word.



Hanover, shares a German name

It also shares Olive Schreiner’s fame.

Afrikaners then tried for par

Naming Noupoort, Middelburg, De Aar.


karoo town 2

Vos, Brits, Loxton and Merwe, too

With Laing and Willis, are in the Karoo.

William Moore became Willowmore,

Sharing fame with men of yore.


Matjiesfontein – quite unique

karoo town 14
Matjiesfontein’s Lord Milner Hotel.

of a “Scottish Laird” and spa did speak.

Uniondale paid tribute to

the end of old, the start of new.



So shakers, movers, men of merit

Were honoured and in this zone got credit

People, weather, politics and chance

Wove a tapestry of rich romance.

  • Poem by the original Rose of the Karoo: Rose Willis, author of the popular monthly Rose’s Roundup newsletter. If you want to subscribe (R200 annually), email her on





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.