By Alida van der Merwe, daughter of Attie van Lill, translated from the Afrikaans by Mandy Brückner, Feb 2004


Jacob van Lill snr originally applied for a grazing licence in this area in order to let his animals graze here. His third son, Jacob, took over from him in his twenties – in about 1947 – by means of a so-called “erfpagstelsel” (inherited lease/hire purchase?). This involved his having to pay three pounds a month for 30 years in order to make the farm his own property. Many farmers had to give up farming because the amount of three pounds was just unaffordable for them. Others had to apply to the state from time to time for extensions in the battle to keep their head above water.

The price for a karakul skin in the fifties was a meagre five shillings. In the late fifties and early sixties, a good skin could even earn two pounds and five shillings. The skins were mostly processed and stored(?) by the farmer himself. A sheep for the slaughter was sold in those days for two to three pounds.

Jacob jnr named the farm Stellarine (or “Stellerien”?) after his only child, Estelle, and his wife, Rina. The house on Stellarine was built by Jacob snr. Parts of it were later built on by Jacob jnr. And later still, Attie (his brother) built on a spacious skins room next to the garage.

Jacob van Lill jnr was a jovial man with beautiful blue eyes. He loved his family very much, had a good sense of humour and a wide circle of friends. He also knew the Namib well and accompanied more than one expedition to the Skeleton Coast. Jacob sold Stellarine in the early 1960’s to his youngest brother, Attie, and then he and his family settled on the farm Uitkyk. He died of cancer in August 1988 after a long illness and was buried in the family churchyard on Vanlillsville, the family farm near Maltahöhe.


It becomes mercifully cooler at Stellarine towards sunset as the barking geckos begin to call. The Land Rover stands parked under the prosopis tree by the reservoir; the staff has gone home, and we sit on the lawn behind the house. Ma comes out of the house with a tray, through the kitchen door. It’s tea-time. Time for a breather.

The red cannas are taller than Pappa this year. Purple “knoffelblomme” and petunias, and yellow and orange gazanias help to make the picture around us beautiful. The white and pink oleanders are intensified in the twilight. Young lilac-trees stand against the background. A cool breeze blows through the high pine trees against the perimeter wall.

Pa and Ma chat about the happenings of the day: a pump that has broken; rumours of rain on “Die Vloere”, near Maltahöhe…

Later, when it is dark, Ma sends Mart and me into the kitchen to prepare supper. In the lamplight, we pack everything that is needed onto a tray. Tonight we will be eating cold meat and jam rolls.

All the windows and doors stand open. The murderous midday sun has turned our little white house into an oven. As usual, tonight the whole family will sleep outside on the lawn. The kitchen helper has already carried five little beds out of the store-room. Later, when we make up the beds, each of us will also be provided with a warm blanket. Even the summer nights are beautifully cool here.

Deep in the night, I hear the sparrows fidgeting and chatting in the palm tree above my head. The wind has come up. The moon’s path is brightly illuminated. And on both sides of me lie Ma and Pa.


Jacob Jakobus van Lill, born on 13 March 1894, came to South West Africa in 1903 from Namaqualand, South Africa, together with his parents. On 7 September 1917, at the age of 23, he married the 16 year-old Martha Maria Elizabeth Esterhuizen. Out of this marriage were born six children.

Jacob lived most of his life on the farm Vanlillsville (now Makhubu) in the Maltahöhe district. Vanlillsville was previously part of the farm Gorab, where Jacob’s parents resided.

Jacob and his family initially lived under a “noeniebos” (a witgat or shepherd tree) on Vanlillsville, but in the early 1940’s, they moved into the spacious house that he had built for his family. His youngest son, Adriaan (Attie – Alida van der Merwe’s father), was then in matric.

As a karakul farmer, Jacob was frequently forced to seek better grazing, due to drought. He obtained grazing licences for this and each time moved deeper into the Namib. In the process, he was also forced to dig pits and later to drill boreholes in order to provide water for his livestock. Jacob’s initials and also specific dates were engraved in the cement at a number of these places.

Jacob passed away on 8 December 1977 and was buried on Vanlillsville. The inscription on his gravestone describes him as an “old pioneer of South West Africa”.