Posted by Swellengram

Down Memory Lane - Swellengram then and now

  • Posted 5 months ago
  • Local Stories


First published on March 23, 2013 

Click the footnote numbers for what has happened since …..

Coffee at The Old Gaol on Church Square 1  in Swellendam can too easily turn into lunch, accompanied by a glass or three of Blush from Bon Courage.  Sitting on the deck in the shade of some wonderful old oaks and overlooking the stunning much photographed NG Kerk, one often finds oneself in conversation with interesting creative people. Here it was that the idea of “Swellengram” was born, brainchild of Henk Klijn (part owner of Augusta de Mist Country Retreat 2

Little did I realise that this innocent conversation around a simple concept and an excellent name would become my child to rear – and little did I realise that this sweet infant would grow into a monster of gigantic proportions!

 Swellengram is an online community information service – it started with a small database of local friends – and has now grown to a participant reach of over 1000. 3

It is picked up by other local information services and so its viral reach is possibly twice that.  

 Initially the idea was to make sure people in Swellendam knew what was going on in the town: events and specials.  By offering free advertising to restaurants and businesses only if they were doing something special, the community would benefit from the increased amount of special deals. 4

 As a community service I decided to add requests for local information and opportunities for lift sharing.

This grew exponentially into lost dogs, lost parrots (there was a veritable rash of escaping parrots a few weeks ago) jobs wanted, jobs offered, accommodation, and all the usual stuff. But the difference from this and any other information service, is the persona of “Mrs Gram,” who adds her own spin to the information and to the titles awarded to the most interesting Grams. 5

The pseudonym of ‘Mrs Gram’ was awarded early on in the procedure and she grew her own personality. She was admired by many, and once people realise who it is, they will hug her (me) or press gifts into her (my) hand on meeting in the street, and ‘Mrs Gram’ received far more Christmas emails than I did.

‘Mrs Gram’ organised a charity do called SwellenGlam 6 (luckily she has a willing husband 7 who plays in a band) where yet another alter ego arrived, introducing “Mrs Glam”  (Martyn Turck, local fruit farmer  from  Wildebraam Berry Estate)  on the back of a Harley Davidson) dressed in Pink Lamé with shiny purple wig and feather boa, long false eye lashes (also pink)  set off delightfully with a pair of green wellies and a pipe.

‘Mrs Gram’ also took it upon herself to play Cupid on Valentine’s Day and suggested that if people emailed their Valentine messages,  she would send them anonymously.  A Swellengrammer then offered a prize for the best one, and ‘Mrs Gram’ suddenly found herself the recipient of some of the worst poetry in the world.

During a few days of unrest, Swellengram acted as a bridge for communication of facts.  Rumours were flying and occasional panicky moments occurred, but Grams were based only on fact (‘Mrs Gram’ sent long-suffering husband out into the streets to assess the situation and report back)

Like me, ‘Mrs Gram’ struggles with Afrikaans, and has to rely on “Google translate” for many of the incoming Afrikaans grams. If they arrive in English, that is how they stay, as Mrs G does not want to risk ridicule by trying to translate the other way. She already suffered slings and arrows when she wrote about Tow Trek.


But most of all she struggles with the temptation to send out Grams that arrive with spelling mistakes that have passed the spell check and given a total different meaning to the original Grammer’s intention.  Occasionally she has missed one or two.

One local restaurant was shocked at the outcry caused when Hot Steaming Cinnamon Nuns were presented as their special of the day.  After an apology for the mistake,  a greater outcry ensued because it turned out everyone WANTED Hot Steaming Cinnamon Nuns on the menu. So do visit Pennantwing 8 when you are in Swellendam and ask for their Nun speciality. If nuns are off that day, at least the rest of their stuff is excellent! 

Recently a gentleman was searching for two roosters, which he wanted very badly.  ‘Roosters’ was not the word he used but TWO COCKS WANTED BADLY did not seem to be the right turn of phrase.  The above mentioned green wellies also suffered an unfortunate vowel change when ‘Mrs Gram’ was ‘gramming’ her news about SwellenGlam, causing much hilarity and a red face for Mr Turck.

Apparently studies have been done which show that the perception of a quizmaster is that he/she is more intelligent and well informed than those participating contestants, despite the fact that all he is doing is reading out the questions and has the answer on a card.  It would appear that the same thing is true with ‘Mrs Gram’. She is considered erroneously to be the fount of all knowledge. She (dressed as me) is frequently accosted on the street and asked such things as When was Swellendam declared a republic? Is there someone here who can service my boiler? Where can I get two cocks? When does the pub open?  Can you give me ten rand for some bread? (OK that last person may not have realised that he was speaking to ‘Mrs Gram,’ but he soon did when ‘Mrs Gram’ showed him a very empty purse.

There is no9 money in it for “Mrs Gram” but she enjoys the goodwill it engenders, and also is always first to know about events and bargains. 

  1. (now Grace and Merci)  ↩︎
  2. Henk has now relocated to USA but the other part owner, Michele, is still living in part of this beautiful property having downsized a little ↩︎
  3. (it now runs at over 2500 by daily email, and over 5k on Facebook page with 3 other associated groups and social media totalling 22K. It has spawned a website, which is listed third on Google when searching for Swellendam) ↩︎
  4. Because of its success the associated costs and time multiplied, so eventually the service became one for which advertisers pay – (when I remember to send invoices) ↩︎
  5. I don’t even remember adding spin, but I can tell you that the creature who has taken over the ‘spinning’ is my cat Lyra who will complain about businesses when matters need to be attended to, in her own gloriously cat like manner) ↩︎
  6. It’s amazing to me to think that this took place in Checkers Garage which has since been incorporated into Checkers as the bakery and wine shop) ↩︎
  7. Mr Gram sadly passed in 2020), he was an amazing support for the Swellengram and acted as back up when needed, His spelling was atrocious though,,,,, ↩︎
  8. Pennantwing is sadly long gone and still  missed–the property been through several transformations – the latest of which is when beloved book store Bokmakiri will take up residence next month)   ↩︎
  9. very little ↩︎

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2024: Oh the innocence or those days! The fact that the email Swellengram continues to gain support and subscribers, facing down the challenges of much widely used media and communications methods – Whatsapp Tiktok instagram etc, is a mystery to me. I can only put it down to the fact that many people enjoy the personal touch, and the fact it is curated, archived, contains useful info and is sometimes funny…… I dont know. After 12 years – still hanging in there!

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