24 July 2011 by Chris Marais

Tale of the Hapless Mrs Cloete

When you visit De Hoop Nature Reserve on the southern Cape coast, spare a thought for one Mrs Cloete, who lived here briefly more than 200 years ago.

The area used to be a farm called Melkkamer (milking room), and it was once the scene of a very, very sad wedding. The bride, who was later known as ‘the hapless Mrs Cloete’, was given a huge oyster by her husband at their wedding feast on the farm.

Unfortunately, she choked to death on the oyster, right there in front of all the guests and her horrified husband. The oyster shell was mounted above the front door of the old homestead house and remained there for many years.

Records infer that the ghost of the ‘hapless Mrs Cloete’ danced in the attic, while the ladies of the Anderson family - who later owned Melkkamer - danced below in their bare feet to the stirring concertina tunes played by one Oom Frikkie. These festivities were, apparently, made even more memorable by the cask of sweet wine that a certain Oom Serfaas would bring over from Wellington from time to time.

But the real character of this farm was not the ghost of Mrs Cloete. It was Mr Biddy Anderson, a man of great spirits, fortitude and appetite for a good party.

In the local floods of 1906, Melkkamer was submerged. Anxious neighbours rowed out to see if the Andersons were OK. They even took along a picnic lunch for emergency rations.

The Andersons were slightly more than just ‘OK’. Biddy and his builder, a Mr Dickson, had moved the family piano from the flooded ground floor of the house up the stairs to the first landing. They also hauled up a case of whisky. And when their rescuers arrived, they found a merry old sing-along in full swing…

Category: Culture & History

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