Did you know?
Prince Albert, named for Queen Victoria’s consort, is more than 250 years old.
Prince Albert in the Western Cape is a village that knows how to tell its story – from many different angles.
In fact, over the generations, this little town at the foot of the Swartberg mountain range has become renowned for its storytellers, who use all manner of anecdotal devices to communicate the magic of Prince Albert to visitors.
One of the most beloved of them was the late 'Outa Lappies', also known as The Patchwork Man, although his real name was Jan Schoeman. He was an outsider artist who worked with discarded glass and tin. Outa Lappies, who was a firm favourite with overseas visitors, had an engaging way of talking and one always remembered his motto: ‘Make something out of nothing – every day.’
The most devoted of all Prince Albert storytellers, however, was the late Helena Marincowitz, a local farmer’s wife who managed to put together no fewer than 40 historical and cultural booklets on her favourite town and its environs. Marincowitz also fought successfully for the preservation of Prince Albert’s historic architecture.
Through her stories, many of them packed with humour, thousands of people have grown closer to the communities of Prince Albert and, indeed, have bolstered its bustling tourism industry.
And if you should be in Prince Albert for the Olive Festival, which normally takes place every year in late April or early May, you’ll see how well the town has carried on its traditions of storytelling.
Visit the Fransie Pienaar Museum, which is a treasure house of old fossils, Victoriana, local artwork, community archives and diaries. It also has a gun room full of exotic weapons, as well as its very own witblitz (moonshine) distillery.
Or take an early morning walk up the Robert Gordon Koppie with conservation ecologist Dr Sue Milton, and she’ll show you Prince Albert from a geological point of view. She also knows about the veld flora and the folk stories behind practically every plant you see.
Out at a nearby farm called Scholtzkloof, John Begg and Judy Maguire will tell you all about the palaeontological side of Prince Albert. John will take you deep into the mountain cuttings and unveil the story of the San, who lived here as the first people of South Africa.
Then there’s the Story Weaver of Prince Albert herself, Ailsa Tudhope. During festival time, she takes interested parties on ghost walks around the village. But her knowledge goes far further than a few juicy spook stories.
Highly trained in drama and history, Tudhope runs her own business called Prince Albert Walks and Stories. You can wander the streets of Prince Albert after dark with Tudhope, hear a couple of anecdotes over a glass of wine, go on a local architecture tour or, simply, climb a nearby koppie (hill) and time-trip to the mid-1700s, when the village was born.