Being such a small community we led a very social life, with sundowner parties, dinner parties and wild dances at the club to a wind-up gramophone – dances that only ended when the pressure lamps ran out of fuel and flickered and faded. Our favourite record was “We’re having a heat wave”, it got very worn and scratched but I remember how furious we all were when a relative newcomer hurled it to the ground and broke it because she said it sounded so awful. There was a primitive golf-course at the Club where the greens were made of crushed red ant-hill as were the tennis courts. These anthills grew to 10 or 12 feet high and were a great feature of the landscape.
The big social event was the visit of the Governor of Northern Rhodesia. The D.C. (District Commissioner) had to move out of his house into his little guesthouse, and there were very strict rules of procedure and protocol. We were usually invited to the Dinner Party, which was not a really enjoyable affair as everyone was afraid of making a faux pas. The first we went it was a new D.C. and his wife had carefully instructed and rehearsed the staff, for example His Excellency had to be served first before even his wife. Well, the soup was hot and delicious, then, oh horrors, instead of the fish H.E. was handed a bowl of strawberries because for some unknown reason the houseboy thought it would be a good idea for them to come next!
On another occasion the Governor was on leave and it was the Acting Governor who came to Abercorn. As it happened Bim was the senior Civil Servant at the dinner party. At an official function nobody could leave before the senior official present, but we were told that even though H.E. was staying in the house nobody could move until he made a move. So after dinner we sat and sat and conversation became strained. Eventually after some anxious whisperings the D.C. murmured to me that I must make the move. Who was in the wrong I do not know but it was most embarrassing for Bim and me.
Soon after Mark was born the Governor’s lady entertained us after dinner with horrifying stories of babies who had been attacked in the prams by soldier ants and killed! We were on tenterhooks to get home although we knew Mark was quite safe, not only with our reliable cook to baby-sit, but we also had the legs of his cot standing in tins of paraffin so that even if the ants did get into the house they could not get up to the cot. You may think I am exaggerating about these ants – Mpashi ants as they were called locally – but they were deadly. They invade in a thick never-ending column, moving forward relentlessly. A neighbour had all of his chickens killed by them one night, stripped down to the bones. White ants were also a menace, eating practically anything and everything. Once when Mark was about 8 months old we were on tour in a very remote district and were offered an empty hut in the village for the night. So our houseboy set up our table and chairs and camp-beds and mosquito nets and the large “meat-safe” we had and made for Mark. In the morning when I came to dress him I could not find his little jersey. But by the table we saw on the ground a raised heap of course dust – this was all that was left of his jersey which must have fallen to the ground and been demolished by white ants.
There were of course various problems in living so far from the “line of rail” and one of our major ones was education. At that time there was no school in Abercorn. We knew that there were several excellent schools in Southern Rhodesia but they all had long waiting lists and we were told we stood no chance of getting a vacancy. Similarly the well-known Prince Edward School in Nairobi was restricting its intake to those living in East Africa. We had been told that the Correspondence Course operating from Salisbury was very satisfactory, so we enrolled the two boys there. I took it very seriously, working with them both every morning. But perhaps I was intolerant; perhaps the boys were above average – anyhow, for us it did not work out.
Children appeared to be graded entirely by age and not by ability, and the arithmetic set for Nicky consisted of adding and subtracting matches, which he found so easy that he got bored. One of Oliver’s lessons was about Julius Caesar, which was spelt throughout as ‘Ceasar’ and I remember writing a very pompous letter querying the competence of a teacher who could not spell! I was unable to get the boys transferred to a higher grade and so I abandoned the course.
Meanwhile we had heard of a school at Mbeya in Tanganyika, 200 miles away and we wrote off there. We were very fortunate as our two were the last to be accepted from Northern Rhodesia. The school was co-ed, and was run strictly and efficiently on English Prep. School lines. At meals the Headmaster, Mr Waddington, made the children sit alternately, boy, girl, boy, girl hoping to promote a true co-ed spirit. But in fact all the girls leaned forward to talk to each other and all the boys leaned back! The school was situated on a hill outside Mbeya at an altitude of over 6,000 feet, so it got very cold in winter. It would have been impossible to heat all the scattered buildings, so there were only two terms a year with a long break from (as far as I can remember) the middle of June to the end of August, and another long break during the worst of the rains in December and January. There was also a short break at Easter for those children who could get away.
Fortunately for us there was a Vet in Mbeya (the nearest one to us for over 500 miles) and Bim was able to make a clever arrangement to visit him for ‘consultations’ three or four times a year. This meant we could drive the children to and from school in Government time and in Government transport. Oh how we enjoyed those trips. The journey took two days and we always spent the night in Tunduma on the border, 100 miles away. Here there was an attractive and rather unconventional Rest House where the bathroom was in a rickety old caravan. At Mbeya we had the luxury of staying in the Hotel – a splendid building run in the real old colonial tradition with lovely food, huge fires and well trained African staff. If we were lucky we would get a cottage with its own bathroom and sitting room in which there would be a most welcome fire, as it usually got so cold at night.
On one or two occasions we were invited to have breakfast at the school before collecting the children, and this we always found alarming, as Mr Waddington was rather intimidating. Although luckily he approved of Oliver and thought him extremely intelligent! The first time we went I was nervously trying to make conversation when the huge waiter in his long white kanza and red fez came up behind me and bellowed: “Kahama Chai?” I wilted. He repeated it impatiently, and then Mr Waddington explained he was asking if I wanted coffee or tea!
If Bim could not manage to wangle a trip the boys had to go on the weekly Indian bus. The driver and passengers were always very kind to them, but we used to worry a lot as the bus invariably broke down and they would all have to spend a night by the side of the road, and it was known to be bad country for lions.
A large part of Bim’s time was spent on tour, going into the villages, inoculating and dosing the cattle, talking to the chiefs and the Kapasus (headmen) and trying to persuade them to improve the quality rather than the quantity of their cattle. He managed to get a series of dips built, overcoming a lot of prejudice in the process, and these had to be inspected at regular intervals. After Mark was born and while the other two were at school I was determined to go on tour also, plus the baby.
So we had a large sort of meat safe built, the size of a cot mattress and high enough for the baby later on to be able to stand up in, and all covered in strong mosquito gauze. Then off we would go in the old Chev 3-ton lorry – meat safe, bell tent, camp beds, mosquito nets, canvas bath and wash stand, camp chairs and table, 44 gallon drum of petrol, lamps, food, plus either cook or houseboy and one or two veterinary messengers in their dark blue tunics, shorts and black slouch hat. When we reached our camping spot, near a village or one of the dips, I would sit on my camp-chair while the tent was put up, and in a short while a procession of women would appear – some carrying ‘kuni’ (firewood) on their heads or water in ‘debbies’ (4 gallon tins), others bringing eggs or scrawny chickens. They did not want money, but salt, tobacco or newspapers. Newspapers were much in demand for rolling cigarettes. Behind the back flap of the tent the Messengers built an enclosure of leafy branches for our bath, and another was made nearby with a hole dug in the middle as our ‘chimbusu’ (latrine).
We used to camp two or three nights at a dip and it was an idyllic time. Once the early morning inspection of the cattle was over the rest of the day was ours to enjoy, to read and talk and play ‘bezique’ or cribbage, and in the late afternoon to go out with the shotgun hoping (usually unsuccessfully) to find something for the pot. We toured very simply. I would make beforehand a large tin of curry biscuits, which we ate instead of bread, as Lameck’s bread went sour after the second day – he made a mysterious concoction of raw potato and water for yeast. So as our meals were simple we usually took our houseboy Gimian along.
On one occasion we were in camp not too far from the farm owned by Mark’s Godfather Tommy Martin, so he asked us over for the evening. Tommy had an African Grey parrot which flew free during the day but in the evening Tommy would holds out a handful of peanuts and whistle and his parrot would come swooping down from the trees – we always thought this most impressive. Anyhow after a cheery and bibulous evening we drove back to camp, luckily along quite well defined tracks, the only incident being a porcupine which waddled along in front of us and the trees were too thick for us to get past and it was too bemused by our lights to move off into the bush. When we got back Gimian hurried towards us waving a hurricane lamp. “Look Bwana”, he said “Come and see,” and on the end of a spade he held up a huge and dead puff adder. Apparently he was tucking in our mosquito nets just before it got dark and noticed a slight movement of the blankets on Bim’s bed. With great presence of mind he called one of the Messengers, then with long sticks they pulled back the bedding and found the puff adder, which they were able to kill. What a lucky escape! But I had a wakeful night as I had been told that a puff adder’s mate always came looking for it, though in this instance thank goodness nothing happened.
Another camping memory was far more amusing. We were camped for some reason I can’t remember in thick bush in a remote district. Just as we were settling down the D.C. appeared, said that he had heard the noise of us setting up camp and he himself was in camp not far away, so would we like to come across later for dinner. He was a friend and we were glad to accept. But what a surprise we had. His table was set with a white cloth and silver cutlery, and his houseboy was immaculately dressed in his white kanza, red cummerbund and red fez, and we had a three-course meal with the vegetables served in silver entrée dishes! We much enjoyed it but felt we were out of our class – but at least he wasn’t wearing a dinner jacket.
Once when on quite a long tour I said I thought that Mark seemed hungry as if Farex was not enough for his needs. So after much discussion we agreed to try him on our staple diet of bully beef and baked beans – the experiment was an unqualified success and he never looked back! I think it was on this tour that we were in a very remote district on the Northern Rhodesia edge of the Nyasaland border. We came to the outskirts of the village where we proposed to camp. The Veterinary Messenger chose the campsite, my chair was placed nearby and I sat with the baby on my lap while the truck was being unloaded and the tent erected. I suddenly found myself surrounded by a mob of excited pointing and giggling and chattering. It turned out that they had never seen a white baby and hardly ever a white woman, and their primitive clothes were made of bark and skins. I felt I was becoming engulfed. But then the Kapasu came to my rescue, he cracked his little ‘chikoti’ or whip of authority and made them file past me. Their excitement was intense. Many of the bolder ones touched the baby’s arms or legs and even lifted his clothes to see what he was like underneath. For me it was a most moving experience, I knew what Royalty must feel like, and I felt privileged at being able to bring them such pleasure.
In September 1948 when Mark was just over a year old Bim was ordered to go to Fort Jameson to help out the Livestock Officer there. At that time owing to staff shortages there was no vet at ‘Fort Jimmy’ but a Senior Livestock Officer. To get there from Abercorn took us over a week and we had to cross the border into Nyasaland near Old Fife and back again into Northern Rhodesia at Fort Manning about 20 miles from Fort Jameson. The route was totally unknown to us and no information appeared to be available. I don’t think we saw another European on the whole trip and the native villages seemed very scattered. Unfortunately I kept no note of this journey, but I remember our feeling of isolation all the time and I also remember the lovely scenery of forest and mountain. We passed several roads on the left leading down to Lake Nyasa and to Mission Stations and we wished we could have made the steep diversion to visit that historic lake. But of course we were out of our territory and we had to keep to our route. Another intriguing feature that we could see in the distance was the imposing bulk of Mount Mlanje, which I think is over 9,000 feet high. At last, however, we came to a well-appointed Government Rest House and to the beginning of civilisation. Now I quote a letter dated 12th September, which I wrote to Oliver and Nicholas, who were of course at school in Mbeya.
“We got here last Monday after a bad journey. We kept having punctures and to add to matters Daddy found that O’s friend Samuel had gone away without mending a puncture in the spare tyre. Then the self-starter went wrong and then the battery went flat because Godwin left it switched on all night! Finally we were running out of petrol, but we managed to get to Lundazi and borrow some there. So we were very tired and fed-up when we got here. The Uptons kindly asked us to stay with them, which was luck as the Tobacco sales were on and the Hotel was full. We went to the cinema on Wed. night (they have one twice a week here) and a play on Friday night and tonight we are dining with the P.C.
All of which is great fun but nothing compared to the marvellous weekend we have just had. About 80 miles from here is Luangwa River – it is very difficult to reach as there are no proper roads and also the whole district is thick with tsetse fly. Consequently there is a lot of game there, and the valley is now a Game reserve which can only be entered by permission of the Game Warden.
Mr Upton got this permission, so early on Saturday they left in their Jeep Truck (NRG 832) and we left in our Jeep Truck (NRG 830) and off we went, very excited. We took beds and bedding and food etc. but there were two rondavels for us to sleep in. We stopped on the way to make a pot of tea and the tsetse flies just fell upon us – I was astonished to see such clouds of them, and we all got bitten quite badly. We arrived at the river in time for lunch, having seen nothing but a herd of Impala, but there were any amount of buck droppings all round, and great mounds of elephant dung which looked just like a lot of footballs scattered over the ground!
We had a sleep and an early tea and the boys told us there were a lot of hippo in a pool ¼ mile up the river. So we walked along and heard a noise like some pigs snorting, and there in the river just below us were 5 hippos – as we watched we saw more heads appearing until there were ten altogether! It was a thrill. The sun was beginning to set, so we crept along through the bush to see what we could see. The next thing we saw was a bush-pig trotting along, then we saw masses of water-buck, roan antelope, and senga cob (which are very rare and only live in that district).
The next morning we went out before six and here is what we saw: hundreds of zebra, hartebeest, duiker, reedbuck, warthog, bushbuck. Hundreds of impala and waterbuck, 2 kudu, a few roan, and then what do you think – buffalo. First we saw an old bull come down to the river to drink (luckily on the opposite bank) then we saw a herd of 9 bulls and we stalked them until we got quite close. I was very frightened as the Game Guard (an African) said he had been chased by this herd and had to climb a tree in a hurry!
Oh I forgot to tell you when Daddy went to the P.K. that morning he found a great mound of warm elephant dung! So they had been all round us in the night, as near as Gimian’s house is to our kitchen. All that morning we watched different kinds of buck coming to the river to drink, and we saw plenty of crocodiles too.
That evening we went out to look for rhino. As it is a Game Reserve you aren’t allowed to carry guns, and it was getting dark and the bush was very thick and we kept finding its footprints, and I was so frightened and quite relieved when we didn’t find it. This morning we planned to get away about 6.30 and I was drinking my tae at 5.30 feeling very sleepy when Joseph rushed in shouting “Bwana, come quick!” Out we rushed in our nightclothes, Daddy with Mark in his arms, and there in some bushes not 100 yards from the camp was a RHINO! He stood and stared at us for several minutes, twitching his ears, then began to walk towards us – was I scared. But the Game Guard clapped his hands and the Rhino turned round and trotted off! Wasn’t that a wonderful experience – we did wish you both had been there.
…. Mark misses you both so much. He is cutting his back teeth and is in an awful whining mood. I’ve had great difficulty to get this letter written. The Shepherd of the Hills sends his love, heaps of love to you both my darlings.”
In Fort Jameson we found that water was a problem. All the garden boys seemed to spend much of their time going to a nearby standpipe with wheelbarrows, joining a queue and waiting their turn to fill their ‘debbies’ with water – then the procedure was repeated. (Debbies were used throughout Central Africa as a unit of measurement. They were the 4-gallon tins in which one bought paraffin and petrol, and for instance a debby of rice would weigh about 40 lbs).
I vividly remember being taken to a tobacco auction held in a long shed. The auctioneer moved slowly along the rows pointing to the bales and keeping up a continuous and utterly incomprehensible stream of words. Burt buyers raised their fingers, his clerk made notes, and presumably the tobacco was being sold, although the auctioneer never ceased his patter.
When Mark was still a small baby we decided we had enough money in our War Savings Certificates to buy a car. After much discussions and negotiations we arranged to fly down to Broken Hill in the little weekly plane to collect the car, and of course taking Mark with us.
It may seem peculiar but we took several large bottles of Abercorn water with us! This was because we knew that the water in Broken Hill was not only hard but was also full of minerals or chemicals or something which not only discoloured it and gave it a nasty taste but it also made a queer deposit when added to one’s brandy, and we did not want to risk upsetting Mark’s tummy by mixing it to his bottles. All went well. The car was (as far as I remember) a baby Austin and it coped bravely with both mud and corrugations, and served us nobly during the rest of our time in Abercorn. It gave me a degree of independence and I was often able to drive with Mark the twenty or so miles out to Sunza to stay on their lovely estate to stay with Twigga and Kathleen Rogers whose son John was a few months younger than Mark.
Then at last we were told that our overseas leave was due. It was a bad time weather wise to be in the UK as our leave was from February to June 1949. We had a cheery Christmas with a children’s fancy dress party at the D.C.’s where I made Oliver an outfit of a compendium of games with a hat shaped like a dice, and Nicky went as a fierce pirate.
I had also written a short pantomime called ‘Alice in Abercorn’ in which the pretty D.C.’s wife played Alice, Bim was the Mad Hatter and I was the Red Queen. There were plenty of references to local characters, and I was particularly proud of my adaptation of the walrus and the Carpenter’ which began: The Walrus and the Carpenter were walking hand in hand, Over the corrugations and through the drifting sand. ‘If only we could get a lift’ they said ‘it would be grand.’
Then a succession of local people turned up in their vehicles including the Veterinary ox cart. We gave the show in the club and made a raised stage out of empty beer crates. Everybody turned up and it was a huge success.
Because of schooling we reluctantly had to leave Oliver and Nicky for our leave and we arranged for them to spend the Easter holidays with our Missionary friends the Phillips, who lived 17 miles out of Abercorn at Kawimbe a picturesque LMS (London Missionary Society) station. We also lent our car to the Phillips – a generous gesture we later regretted when we saw from the speedometer how many miles they had driven it!
So Bim, Mark and I left on the mail lorry for its four day journey to Broken Hill where we caught the train for Cape Town. Before we left Abercorn we had been assured by the one and only police Officer (known ironically as Happy) that as Mark was under five he did not need a passport. The mail train got to Livingstone about 8 p.m. and stopped there for an hour while the Immigration Officer came on board to check passports. To our horror he announced that we could not leave the Territory until Mark had been entered on one of our passports! What were we to do? He then told us that on train days the Passport Office in the town stayed open until 9p.m. and that we could get there by taxi.
We were frantic. After a hasty consultation we decided that I should go with Mark and Bim said that he would stay at the station, if I was not back by the time the train was due to leave, he would lie on the line in front of the engine! And knowing Bim I am sure that is what he would have done. It seemed an eternity driving in the dark to an unknown building, but the Passport Officer was sympathetic and efficient and I got back in time. I think mine had been the easier job as I was doing something positive, whilst poor Bim had to wait and hope a and worry. What a hair-raising start to our leave!
We arrived in Cape Town a couple of days before our boat sailed, and booked into a cheap hotel. We had arranged to meet Bim’s half-sister Cherry (fifteen years older than him) and her son Duncan who was in the South African Air Force. This was the first time that we had met Duncan and his bride Doreen and they later became (and indeed still are) our greatest friends. We had to be on board by the following evening, so Duncan said we could spend the day with him taking us for a drive around the peninsula. It was a beautiful, but hair-raising drive at great speed, via Chapman’s Peak, and it was quite late when he finally drove us to the docks and we went on board the elderly ‘Llandovery Castle’.
We went along to our cabin, and imagine our feelings when we found it empty – not a sign of our luggage! The Purser told us that as we had not been present to clear it through Customs it was still locked in the go-down! What time is the ship due to sail? we asked anxiously. Quite early the Purser replied, as soon as the tide was right. Would the shed be open then? He said he hoped it would but he didn’t really know. So we had an absolutely miserable night worrying, as we literally only had the clothes we were wearing. At dawn we went ashore and waited forlornly at the Customs shed where our little pile of belongings was stacked alone in the vast space. But all went well – our luggage was cleared and put aboard and we sailed.
One was allowed two weeks local leave during a tour, and we planned in our innocence to drive in our little car to the Serengeti Plains in Kenya. Mark was 2 ¾ years old by now. We started off happily, going via Mbeya and visiting the boys en route. Then we had to climb about a thousand feet and drive along the edge of the escarpment staying at primitive Rest Houses on the way, until we got to Iringa where there was a good hotel. The owner’s wife seemed to do the cooking herself and we were greatly amused to watch her dash into the bar at intervals, swig down a tot of neat gin and rush off again. The dinner was excellent.
From Iringa we descended to the great Ruaha Plain where our troubles began. We had not realised that there were two rainy seasons in east Africa, and we had hit the shorter one. Not only did we run into rain, but the rivers and streams were flooded. We soon came to a wide stream with no apparent bridge and the usual builds up of ‘drift’ was under water and invisible. As we sat there wondering if we dared risk the crossing an Indian bus drew up behind us, and the driver said that he knew the way over and told us to follow him but to take care not to let the engine stall. So, with encouraging shouts from the bus passengers we got across.
Some time later we were confronted by a wide grey expanse of water. The rain was drizzling heavily and the light was getting dim so that we could hardly see the other side. Yet again our hearts sank. Suddenly, from nowhere we were surrounded by a band of Masai warriors, tall and arrogant, their hair was plaited and plastered in red ochre and they leant on their long spears and stared at us silently. “Hide our money!” Bim whispered urgently as he wound down the window an, with the aid of our little Swahili phrase book, he greeted them: Jambo, Jambo sana, and tried to explain our predicament. Still in silence and in no time at all they picked up our car and carried us across the river. Then all that they asked for in sign language was cigarettes. Fortunately we always carried cigarettes with us as we found that in remote regions they were more highly valued than money.
By now it was dark. We were tired and depressed and the engine was beginning to stutter and make disturbing sounds. After what seemed an eternity of driving we saw lights ahead. Electric lights – a town – civilization – Dodoma! Tired and dishevelled we felt most embarrassed entering the modern hotel at sundowner time under the supercilious stares of all the well dressed guests, but a hot bath, a noggin or two, and a good dinner soon revived our spirits.
Next day we realised sadly that we could not continue with our planned itinerary. For one thing the car needed urgent attention, then we learned that the road to the next town, Arusha, was temporarily impassable owing to heavy rains and that a bus was stranded somewhere on that road. How depressed we felt, especially as at the garage we were told it would be about a week before the parts could be obtained to fix the car. But – Dodoma was on the Railway and we could get a train to Dar-es-Salaam, so the next afternoon we set off by train for Dar.
We were not favourably impressed by East African Railways; neither as efficient nor as comfortable as South African Railways. However, Dar was fascinating. We managed to get a huge corner room with an efficient ceiling fan in the rambling old-fashioned and rather shabby New Africa Hotel. The smiling African chambermaid offered to baby-sit for us in the evenings, and I think we went to the cinema five times in seven days, which was a tremendous treat for us. In the day we explored the town, so different from any we had seen before, so colourful, noisy and cheerful and with many imposing buildings, which were a reminder of the German Colonial days. And of course we spent a lot of time on the sandy beach paddling with Mark. Bathing, however, was not very enjoyable as, to my amazement it was warmer in the sea than out and also there were a lot of coral rocks with razor-sharp edges.
Our time was up all too soon and we returned to Dodoma, collected the car and had an uneventful journey home. But we always kept our happy memories of our first local leave.
Earlier that year we had had to find a new school for Oliver, as he was now to old to continue at Mbeya where he had done exceptionally well. We were unfortunately unable to get him into any of the well regarded schools in Southern Rhodesia, and the only solution appeared to be the school at Lusaka which was expanding to take Form I boys. We could not get down to see the school nor the headmaster. Thinking about it in retrospect it seems incredible that we sent Oliver off ‘sight unseen’ as one might say. But as things turned out I think he had a satisfactory education there. The school opened a higher form every year and Oliver went with it right up to matric. He used to travel down on the old Dakota, which flew once a week from Tabora to Lusaka via Abercorn and Kasama. It was heart rending sending him off like that, wearing his new green blazer and smiling bravely.
Nicky continued at Mbeya and I would like now to quote an undated letter from him which I think must have been written=n some time in 1950 or 51. And once again, thinking in retrospect, it seems incredibly callous that we could send our little 9 or 10 year old boy off in an unreliable Indian bus on a 200 mile journey much of which was along a lion frequented road!
“Mbeya School. I got here safe and sound after a terrible journey so I will tell you about it. The bus did not begin until ½ past 12, our first stop was Lunzuwa, and we were just going when the brakes jammed against the back wheels, so we got out and in about ¼ of an hour it was fixed.
So we went off again and we stopped at Nsokolo (45 miles from Abercorn) and we found it was 84 miles to Tunduma. We went on all right till about 45 miles to Tunduma where the lights went in-out-in-out Phew Battery finished, by this time it was ½ past 7.
The Africans made a small fire with which they cooked some cassava and some tea. They offered Edick and I if we wanted any, anyway he gave us some. I didn’t feel up to much so I said “No” but still he gave me some. I couldn’t drink ½ of mine because as I said I didn’t feel up to much and gave it back to the driver who drank it all. We couldn’t sleep at all that night.
At ½ past 1 Jetha came and he put our luggage in and drove on till we came to the Customs where an Akari came out of the lorry (he had come with us) with a prisnar. We waited at the camp for ½ and hour.
We arrived at Tunduma at 10 to 5. Mrs Neale said we could sit in the sitting room while the boy brought tea and some firewood to make a fire. After breakfast which we had earlier than the rest we went to Mrs Neale and asked her how much it was for the food she said 1/- (if Edick wasn’t there I would have pressed her to more money). We went to Tunduma Ducahs and I bought 1 fountain pen 4 0
1 bottle ink 1 3
1 note pad 2 0
I pen knife 1 6
8 9 leaves 3d.
I do hope that’s Okai Dokai because it is a lovely pen.
We started in Jetha’s lorry at 8 and arrived here at 1 o’clock. I am in the top form in the school. Mrs MacBride took my petty cash to give to R. Archer. I asked him about this Easter and he said OK. On Tuesday the sixth (Pancake Day) I had my hair cut (I’m keeping account of my money. Although its pancake day they didn’t give us pancakes!!?)”
In October 1950 Bim was given an arduous but fascinating assignment. He was required to go to the Mpanda Mine Railhead in Tanganyika to collect 300 heifers and then to walk them 270 miles to Abercorn where they had to be kept in quarantine before being distributed to other districts of Northern Rhodesia. Bim has vividly described this march in his account “A walk through the Rukwa Rift Valley”, and it is so interesting I am now going to relate this undertaking in some detail.
Bim had made several dummy runs before setting out in October (the hottest month of the year) in a 3-ton lorry carrying large quantities of veterinary equipment and rations for the herd boys, and he was accompanied by two African Zone Guards. Most of the journey was through the Rukwa Rift Valley, which was badly infested with tsetse fly, whilst Ufipa Plateau was riddled with East Coast Fever. (Tsetse fly causes Trypnosomiasis in cattle and is very deadly, and the equally virulent east Coast Fever ids tick-borne.) Often there were no proper roads, only tracks which had been made in German days for pack-donkeys.
On one of their first night-stops they stayed at an old German Boma, now a Rest House, where the roof was made of heavy tiles embedded in thick mud, as the local Africans had been addicted to the “nocturnal fire arrow”! Bim waxed lyrical over the dramatic changes of scenery and vegetation between the escarpment and the Valley and he was excited by the profusion of wild animals and birds around Lake Chada. The final day’s journey was through thick bush. It was very hot and the Tsetse flies were ‘numerous and aggressive’.
Mpanda Lead Mine was the railhead of a spur line, which ran from Tabora to Ujiji. When the train with the cattle arrived they had to jump from the trucks, as there was no unloading ramp. Nor was there any water to spare at Npanda, so a tanker had brought water from Tabora, which then had to be transferred to half-drums so that the cattle could be watered before their march. The party was now reinforced by a Scottish Livestock Officer and two African Veterinary Assistants.
Hoping to get through the worst tsetse belt of thick bush during darkness the party set off on foot at dusk, followed by the lorry carrying stores. But owing to the bright moonlight the fly were out in force and the young Livestock Officer with his fair colouring got badly bitten and suffered an allergic reaction. Water and grazing were scarce in the hot October weather and water points were roughly twenty miles apart. Bim’s plan was to march at night from one water point to the next and then rest for a day and two nights before continuing. In spite of the tsetse fly he wanted to stay in the Valley as long as possible before exposing the cattle to more deadly tick-borne East Coast Fever up on the Plateau.
The Rukwa Valley is very broad, but they kept close to the western escarpment as they were relying on finding water along its foot. During the night marches part of the herd frequently got lost having been frightened by predators, and much if the rest days were spent in rounding up stragglers. There was plenty of game about for the pot, also wild animals including elephant and buffalo.
Then some of the cattle began to founder. They developed severe laminitis with great pain in their feet and high temperatures. The ones that died could not even provide fresh meat as they were all heavily infected with measles. Although the heifers were all immature many of them were in calf and calved during the march. But the calves had no chance of survival even when lifted into the lorry and transported, as their mothers had no instinct to care for their offspring. Indeed none of those calves survived, and Bim realised from this and subsequent observation that indigenous calf seldom manage to rear their first calf.
When they reached the edge of the fly-belt all the cattle had to be dosed. This was a difficult undertaking as there was not enough wood around to make an efficient crush. They then reached Maji Moto, a spring which came out of the ground unbearably hot. Bim and his companions decided to bathe in it after dark by the light of a pressure lamp. Suddenly they heard disapproving noises in the surrounding darkness and they realised they were keeping the elephants from their evening drink, so they picked up their lamp and moved smartly away whilst the elephants moved in.
By the time they reached Sikalitu at the end of the Valley they had lost only about thirty from the laminitis, but now there was plenty of both water and grazing – also the first of the heavy rains. The escarpment was too steep for the lorry to negotiate, so it was decided that the Livestock Officer, Cunningham, would force the cattle up while Bim drove the lorry by a roundabout route. They had had a lot of trouble with the lorry going across the Plain which had recently been burnt and the radiator had frequently become clogged with ash and grass seeds and it was a long and tedious job to clear it each time. But now the trouble was water as, owing to the heavy storms, man6y streams had become almost impassable and Bim had to creep through them with the fan disconnected and the distributor ‘more or less’ water-proofed with the canvas washstand.
They all met up again at Lake Kwela, a long, deep and narrow lake, alive with waterfowl and abounding with hippo. Here they sprayed the cattle with Dubble Benhex, using stirrup pumps and having to cary the water from the lake by hand, all very laborious. However they had a much easier march across the Ufipa Plateau as it was much cooler and there was plenty of grazing. At last they crossed the border into Northern Rhodesia and established their first quarantine camp at Chilwa in early November. One night Bim was woken by shouting and the cattle bellowing. He seized his torch and rifle, expecting to be confronted by at least a pride of lions, but he saw his assistants dancing about and slapping themselves frantically. He soon joined in – cattle had been stampeded by Mpashi ants and the ground was crawling with them.
Sad to say East Coast Fever then broke out. This probably had been contracted by their delay at Lake Kwela while they waited for the lorry. Fortunately there were only a few fatalities, but strict preventative measures had to be taken – the herd had to be sprayed every three days with Dubble Benhex (using the stirrup-pump) and they had their temperatures taken every morning and evening.
My great excitement came when Bim said we could all join him in camp at Chilwa. We moved out in early December and remained in camp for about three months for what proved to be an idyllic holiday. But it was a tremendous upheaval. We had three bell tents for ourselves, two for sleeping and one for living. Our cook Lameck insisted on bringing the Dover stove from the house, so it had to be disconnected plus its long chimney and was duly set up in camp, where there was of course plenty of firewood. The lorry went into Abercorn every ten days or so for food. It was often hazardous because of the heavy rains and our camp was a long way off the road. I remember us getting stuck once in a vast expanse of dirty mud, the wheels churning helplessly. Bim and the Messengers got out to search for lumps of ant-hill to put under the wheels to give a bit of purchase and nine year old Nicky said wistfully: “Isn’t Daddy lucky playing in the mud, we’re never allowed to.”
Of course there were alarms about lions trying to get to the cattle in their high thorny enclosures, and there was a great commotion one night when Lameck found a hyena crunching up his favourite wooden spoon.
We had a happy Christmas under canvas. We had a large tinned ham and a Christmas pudding and cake, which I had made earlier. As a great extravagance we bought a wind up gramophone but had no records , though we were able to borrow four which we played endlessly. Our favourites were “I’m My Own Grandpa” and “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d Have Baked a Cake”. We were sent a set of Canasta which we loved, we had never seen it before and, once we had mastered the rules, we played innumerable happy games. Nicky was very good at it but his hands were too small to hold all hi cards so he laid them out on the ground-sheet under the table and kept disappearing before he played.
My sister Judy sent me four glove puppets, also a great novelty to us, but I could not think what to do with them. Then I got the idea of writing a puppet play and I remember walking up and down among the trees on sunny day days composing rhyming couplets for “The Devil in Disguise”, such as the immortal: “Oh what a dreadful clap of thunder, the chicken house is rent asunder.” And thus in this unlikely setting the future Trevor Puppets had its beginning.
Oliver loved helping with the routine of the cattle when they were driven daily into a long ‘crush’ to be treated. He became adept in thrusting the thermometer up their bottoms to take their temperatures. But he and all the others soon found that the constant shaking down of the thermometers caused great pain in their elbows. I imagine it was a form of bursitis but it was most unexpected and unpleasant.
After several weeks in this camp the cattle had to be moved to a fresh quarantine area, and for the final weeks we were able to move into a solidly-built but derelict little three-roomed cottage known as Buckle’s house. It was miles from anywhere but in good condition. Our life here was much more comfortable and I even brought out my sewing-machine and made pyjamas for Oliver and Nicky.
For a reason I have forgotten we had driven our little car out to Buckle’s house but did not use it until it was time to put Oliver on the plane for school, and then the car would not start. “It’s the battery!” said Bim. “I’ll fix a tow-rope and tow you along until it starts.” So I sat at the wheel and off we set. But still the car would not start. Bim said he would tow me into Abercorn and get the P.W.D. to have a look at it. Well it was still the rainy season and the dirt road was deep in mud which was hurled up onto my windscreen so that I could not see out, nor could I blow the horn to attract Bim’s attention as the battery was flat. Bim drove on, oblivious to my predicament because he could feel that the car was still attached to the tow-rope. It was very frightening for me, and when I opened the car window to try and see where we were going my face got covered in mud. Poor Bim was horrified when we got to Abercorn and realised what his darling wife had had to endure!
It must have been the previous Christmas that the Doctor’s driver came out of his house on evening to find out whether the Dr. would need him again that night, and as he turned the corner of his hut he came face to face with a lion. He beat a hasty retreat. Next day a notice was sent round to all the houses warning of a lion in the vicinity, and everyone was advised to take care when going to sundowner parties and generally not to walk about after dark. Then a lion hunt was organised. Bim made no pretensions about being a great hunter and was able to stay in the background, but our young Livestock Officer Pat was thrilled. The lion was tracked to a nearby ‘mushitu’ and was eventually driven out of a clump of elephant grass and shot. Pat claimed that his was the successful shot and that the skin should be his reward, and the dead lion was loaded on to the Veterinary truck to be driven to Abercorn to be displayed. Meanwhile all the Africans in the neighbourhood had appeared. They surrounded the truck, laughing and singing and pulling out tufts of the lion’s hair for good luck. So that by the time Pat got back to the Office his hopes of a fine trophy had vanished as the lion’s carcass had been stripped practically bare.
It was probably that same Christmas that I worked for a few weeks in Booths North. This was a recently opened second store similar to the ALC but perhaps more up to date. The Manager Vic Morton and his wife Hilda had become some of our best friends and I enjoyed helping them during the Christmas rush, especially as it ,meant getting first choice of the newly-arrived goods. One day a tall bearded White Father came in and told me in his heavily accented English (most White Fathers were German) that he would like to see some pants. I was rather daunted – how could I judge his size from his all-enveloping robe. “What size would you like?” I asked feebly. “Just pants,” he replied so I went to the back and asked Vic to take over. “Can I help?” said Vic. “Yes I want to see some pants.” “Pants?” “Yes, pants. Fountain pants.” And the mystery was solved.
By 1951 Abercorn was changing. We already had a new club building down near the airstrip. The Scottish wife of the manager of ALC had recently started a little school for the growing number of European children, and there were plans to build a church near the cemetery. But perhaps the greatest amenity was the installation of a piped water supply. Yes, Abercorn was changing and growing, but sadly our happy time there was coming to an end for we were due to go on our overseas leave in early September. Government policy decreed that nobody did more than one or two at the most tours in the same station and we expected to be posted to ‘the line of rail’. This would suit us education wise since Nicky was almost too old to continue at Mbeya, and we would like Mark to be able to go to nursery school.
I will next describe an adventure our family had in March 1951. I wrote an account of it while it was still fresh in my mind, entitled ‘No Pleasure Trip’ and here it is:
Oliver arrived home for his Easter holidays on the aeroplane from Lusaka at mid-day on Tuesday the 20th March. Nicholas was due later that day coming on the bus from Mbeya. As Bim wanted to go and inspect some cattle at Ntekko we decided to spend two or three nights there with all the children. (Ntekko was an abandoned Veterinary house 100 miles from Abercorn along the road to Mbeya. We often used to go there for a few days and always enjoyed it.)
So we loaded the old Chev lorry with beds, bedding, camp-table and chairs, cooking utensils and food, together with the faithful Lameck and Winbrod, one of Bim’s Messengers. We also had tow newborn calves from the Boma herd whose mothers had died and Bim was hoping to find foster mothers for them among the cattle he was going to inspect. So we were quite a load.
We met Oliver off the plane and stared off immediately hoping to get to Mtekko about 5pm. Soon after 1.30 we met up with Nicholas. He was not on the bus which as usual had broken down somewhere along the road, but luckily he had been able to get a lift in a P.W.D. lorry. Having thanked the driver we looked for a shady spot and had a delicious lunch of sausage and parsley pie, which I had made that morning. we then trundled along at 20 m.p.h. feeling very happy to be all together again.
From time to time we heard an odd grinding noise, but we thought it was part of the load rubbing. The noise became more frequent and was soon making the whole lorry shudder. So Bim crawled under the lorry and found that the propeller-shaft was red hot – a bearing had obviously gone and it was unmendable. Bim was however, a most resourceful ‘bush mechanic’ and he refused to despair. He decided to strip the whole thing down and see if he could improvise something. We had gone by now 84 miles and it was after 4p.m. Bim and Winbrod worked on the propeller shaft for three hours. At this time of year it gets dark by 6.30 p.m. so they finished by the light of my big torch. There turned out to be nothing he could do except to swamp everything in grease and hope that this would enable us to struggle on for the last sixteen miles to shelter. We all piled in and Bim switched on the engine. We moved slowly off – grind, rattle, and shudder. It was as bad as ever and quite impossible top continue. There was nothing for it but to make ourselves as comfortable as we could and hope for a vehicle top come along to take a message for us.
This stretch of road was always very deserted and there was no white man’s house within fifty miles from where we were. Apart from the P.W.D. lorry, and later the bus we had seen no traffic all day nor did we expect to. And, just to crown everything, we knew that there was a man-eating lion in the district! It had been killing natives round there for several weeks and they were all so frightened by it that the gangs of labourers who work on the upkeep of the road had refused to work along that stretch. I was very frightened and I think that Winbrod and Lameck were as well. They lit fires at each end of the lorry and luckily we had four hurricane lamps with us, which we kept burning all night. Fortunately it was almost full moon and a huge bright moon shone kindly down on us right up till 3.30 a.m..
We were all very tired and rather dejected. I got a meal ready while the staff collected firewood and Bim and Oliver coped with the beds. We had put a wooden settee in the back of the lorry for the children to sit on, and this made a comfortable though short bed. They also managed to get two camp beds fixed up in the back and rigged up mosquito nets. (The mosquitoes were terrible for we were quite near a swamp.) We also put blankets and pillows in the cab of the lorry. Suddenly we heard a car approaching and soon we saw its headlights. We all stood across the road and waved, and the car stopped. It was a friend of ours returning to Abercorn and we gave him a message to the P.W.D. asking them to send a lorry to tow us back. Our friend offered to take Mark and me back with him but, although I was somewhat tempted at the thought of a comfortable bed, I refused to leave Bim. Nicholas asked if he might go back as he was very tired and not feeling very well and, as it simplified the sleeping arrangements, we agreed and they drove off.
Food and a couple of stiff noggins of brandy made us feel more cheerful. Mark refused to sleep by himself in the cab of the lorry, so we put Oliver and the dog in there, then Mark had the settee and Bim and I the camp beds. Bim had his shotgun loaded and cocked by his side, but we felt horribly vulnerable perched up on the back. The wretched staff spent the night huddled in their blankets sitting by on of the fires. We did not sleep at all well. The dog was very restless which of course made us all jumpy, and the two little calves kept bleating at intervals. The Africans wanted Bim to kill them saying (quite reasonably in my opinion) that their noise would attract the lion, but his professional rectitude made him refuse. Sad to say, however, the pathetic little creatures died during the next day.
It was a wonderful sight to lie and watch the sun rise. At 5.15 a.m. it was still too dark to see the time by my watch, then at 5.30 it was daylight and all the eastern sky was lemon-coloured and swiftly turning a soft pink, while a minute or two later there was the sun already above the trees. Our spirits rose with the sun and the fears of the night already seemed remote and unnecessary. We had all been badly bitten by mosquitoes, so took a double dose of quinine or paludrine with our breakfast of porridge, tea and bread and jam.
After breakfast the r was literally nothing to do until our rescuers came. We sent the cook off with a bucket to fetch water from a nearby village, while we tried to find some shade. Although the bush appears dense it is most deceptive when one gets into it and tries to find a shady tree. However, by shifting a yard or so every half hour we managed to keep fairly cool. Oliver played with Mark, Bim read a book, I did a crossword and the morning passed very pleasantly. We had a huge lunch of steak and potatoes at midday followed by pineapple and coffee, and felt quite contented.
At 2.30 p.m. we heard a lorry and an unwieldy Bedford truck rumbled slowly round the corner. Nicky was sitting beside the driver and we were convinced (quite wrongly) that our troubles were over. The driver reported that (a) he was nearly out of petrol, (b) his oil was finished,(c) he had no tow-rope and (d) he had no brake!! Bim was able to remedy (a) and (b) as we were carrying a 44-gallon drum half full of petrol and we had two gallons of oil. To overcome (c) Winbrod cut down a long and slender tree, which we fixed to both lorries by ropes made from the bark of a certain tree (lushishi) which grows freely in the bush. As for (d) , well that was just too bad.
It was a quarter to four before we were finally turned round and lashed up and ready to start. Then we discovered disability, (e) – the Bedford’s self starter would not work, so the Ape had to toil away and crank it by the handle. The ‘ape’ was the creature who sat in the back of the lorry to warn the driver by banging on the roof of the cab when there was a car behind that wanted to pass. This is a common practice in East and Central Africa and the boys are called ‘tammy boys’ – the only trouble is they are usually fast asleep and do not see or hear you approach. I must explain that as the roads were all dirt roads any vehicle raised such a dense cloud of dust that the driver was unable to see in his driving mirror if there was anything behind him. This particular tammy-boy was an extremely moronic specimen and might easily have been the prototype for the skull of Homo Rhodesiensis, and I wished I could have shown him to those people who think that Black Brother is not getting a fair deal!
Anyhow, in a cloud of stinking oil-exhaust we crawled off at last. At the end of two hours we had gone 15 miles, and this was our best time for the whole journey! The road appeared to be on an uphill slope for much of the way and the driver never changed down in time, then he invariably muffed his gear change into bottom and stalled the engine. So we began to roll backwards at a faster pace than we had been going forward. Bim would jam his brakes, the Ape would throw a mighty rock out of his lorry then jump down to push it behind the back wheel, and we all stopped with a jerk. The engine then had to be coaxed into life again, the Ape had to retrieve his rock, and we would proceed until the next time. We went no faster when it was a down gradient for the driver still kept in low gear because of his lack of brakes, and in fact he hardly ever got into top. And all the time Bim and I were being half-choked by the fumes from the exhaust a few yards in front of us.
At 6.45 p.m. the driver came back to us to break the news of disability (f) – he had no lights! Bim shouted at him in fury: “Well you bloody fool, drive on in the dark” The moon was so brilliant that we could see easily, and we were going slowly that nothing could go wrong. So we crawled, stalling and stopping and starting again. I gave the children a bag of biscuits and told them to eat one every half-hour, and Bim and I did the same. Luckily I had made a huge tinful of wheatmeal biscuits, hard, crisp and sustaining.
Just before 10 p.m. we got stuck in mud on a hill. Everybody pushed, the wheels flew round, but we did not move. The driver said there was a road-gang’s camp at the top of the hill, so he and Bim went to knock them up and eventually about fifteen brawny Africans came and heaved and yelled and heaved again and finally got us moving. Bim was very tired by now and I tried to steer for him while he had a doze, but it was not very successful. Shortly after midnight we stuck again on a hill and the towrope came adrift, so Bim gave the order to stop until daybreak.
The children were cuddled together on the settee under their coats and later on Lameck put one of his own blankets over them. I had a tweed coat which Bim and I shared in front, but it was pretty chilly. We were so tired we managed to sleep in snatches but cramp and discomfort kept waking us. We got fire going just before dawn and a hot mug of tea all round did wonders. We found that or lorry was deeply stuck in sand and mud, so Bim jacked it up while Winbrod cut branches to put under the wheels. Lameck made porridge for us all while cut bread and butter. We ate heartily. The branches were put in position, the tow bar was mended and we were ready to go. But the driver came along to report that he had no more oil – he had used two gallons!!
There was only one thing to do, i.e. to drain the oil out of our sump and put it in the Bedford and pray that it would get us the last 27 miles into Abercorn. It must have been raining hard along this last section of the road as it was very muddy and skiddy in places. It took us 7 ½ hours to do 27 miles. There was one hill four miles long and we took two hours to get up it! By this time lack of rest, worry and fumes from the exhaust had given poor Bim a splitting headache and the journey seemed interminable. As an added exasperation, the tow-bar broke three times in the last two miles and it also came on to rain.
We got to our house at 2p.m. on Thursday afternoon. I made a huge jug of hot sweet cocoa, then Bim took three aspirins and went to bed and slept until 7 a.m. the next morning. That night there was one of the heaviest storms ever known in the district – it rained 2.8” during the night! As the rain clanged noisily down on our tin roof I blessed a kind Providence for at least giving us fine weather and a full moon.
By the way when Nicholas and the driver were coming to rescue us they saw a large lion on the road barely a mile from where we were waiting. Was it the man-eater?
I see I have not mentioned the spectacular Kalambo Falls on the Tanganyika border 21 miles from us and about an hour’s cross-country drive. On the way there we had to cross a stream by a very narrow and primitive bridge made of logs just lashed together with strips of bark and no side rails. I found it very frightening and was always tempted to say that I would get out and walk across so that I at least would be safe if the lorry went over the edge. – but I am glad to say that pride stopped me from being so cowardly.
The falls, although not very wide, are among the highest in the world with a sheer drop of 704 feet and falling another 2000 feet in six miles before reaching Lake Tanganyika. You came suddenly with no warning to the edge of the narrow gorge with its steep cliffs, and by lying on your tummy on a projecting rock you could look straight down into the gloomy depths. It was an awesome sight, and below on the narrow ledges of the cliffs the marabou storks came every year to lay their eggs and raise their chicks. We always marvelled at the way the chicks stayed on the ledge and never seemed to fall over. The marabou is an ugly bird. It has no voice and it was eerie watching them flying and soaring in the up-draught of the gorge in utter silence and the only sound was the snapping of their beaks as they caught insects.
There were some other falls equally remote, near Kasama and one day near them Bim encountered a sturdy elderly lady on a small motorbike. This was Dr. Hope Trant, a missionary doctor and a real ‘character’ who was much liked and admired by all who knew her. She had a covered basket on her bike and Bim asked her what she was doing there miles from any village. She explained she was taking her two pet monkeys to see the Falls as they had never been there and she thought they would enjoy it!
Two other eccentric ladies were the Miss Gamwells. Marion was stout and smiling and Hope was thin and stern with a sarcastic tongue. They had had distinguished careers in both the wars and Marion had been head of the FANYs. Now they farmed very competently and scientifically on the way to Lake Tanganyika growing essential oils, geranium etc. Not many women wore trousers in those days but they always wore khaki trousers and khaki bush jackets, and each carried a whistle on a lanyard and a sheath knife. Just before we arrived in Abercorn Marion had been awarded the O.B.E. and had to go to Livingstone to receive it from King George VI who, with Queen Elizabeth and the two young princesses was on a tour of Central and Southern Africa. But Marion did not possess a dress and apparently there was great drama in the village as the ladies all searched to find a dress in their wardrobes, which could be let out and altered to fit her!
I think that many people in and around Abercorn became slightly eccentric but in a harmless way, and we made excuses for ourselves by saying that it was the altitude. For example there was a farmer near Kasama with a peculiar hobby. He like d to catch snakes by pinning the head down with a forked stick, then he would seize the snake by the tail and crack it like a whip, which theoretically killed it. Occasionally however the snake was able to jerk round and bite him. Then of course he had to rush to the hospital to have injections, and we were told that the doctors got so annoyed that they threatened to refuse to treat him if he did it again.
His well-known and well respected brother farmed near Abercorn. One day when I accompanied Bim to have tea with them we sat out on their stoep and were introduced to a stranger who said he was visiting the area and our hosts had come across him and asked him to stay. We shook hands and chatted and thought no more about him. A few days later Abercorn was rocked by the dramatic news that an unknown European had held up the P.W.D. official who was out paying the road gangs and had killed him and taken the money. The next thing was that he had been traced and identified as the stranger who had been staying with our friends – so I had actually shaken hands with a murderer.
He was caught and arrested and our one and only policeman Happy, whom I have previously mentioned, had to drive him down to Broken Hill to stand trial. This was an almost unprecedented drama, and Happy duly set off in his Police Landrover with his prisoner. By the time they reached Mpika happy was tired of driving and told the prisoner to take the wheel while Happy had a sleep. Meanwhile the Magistrate from Broken Hill decided to drive out to find out where they had got to. He flagged down a NRG Landrover and to his amazement found the prisoner driving and Happy beside him sound asleep!
Now the time had come for us to say goodbye to Abercorn. There was the usual round of farewell parties. All our belongings had been packed and sent off to the P.W.D. store in Ndola. Our heavy luggage that we were taking to England had gone down earlier on the Thatcher and Hobson lorry to await us on Broken Hill railway station. And as it was term time, Oliver was at school in Lusaka. So Bim and I and Nicky and Mark squeezed ourselves into our little car with a large assortment of suitcases and clothes to last us until we boarder the mail-boat in ten days time.
Our journey was complicated by petrol rationing which was still very much in force. Nobody knew if we would be able to buy petrol on our way down to Broken Hill. So the only solution was to take it with us. Our own ration was not enough, so we handed over our next lot of coupons to various friends in exchange for their petrol. Even this was not quite enough, but we were told that a judicious addition of paraffin to the tank when the engine was hot would do the trick. Next problem – where to put it all and in what? We had a drive ahead of us of over 500 miles, but luckily we were able to arrange through friends a fill-up at Kasama.
So we left Abercorn with tins and even bottles of petrol and paraffin tied everywhere imaginable to the outside of the car, as there was obviously no room inside. We looked most peculiar, and how glad we were when we could stop and pour in say a bottle of paraffin, which meant one less item to rattle and bang as we proceeded over the corrugations.
Our problems were aggravated by a slight leak in the radiator, which we had been unable to get repaired before we left. And we did not wish to add the carrying of water to our load. However, we were told that the addition of curry powder always found its way to the leak and blocked it. I do not remember how much Bim put in, but it stopped the leak and we were accompanied the whole way by the most delicious smell of hot curry.
By the time we reached Broken Hill we were cramped, tired and dirty after our four-day drive, and even an unattractive hotel seemed like heaven.
– Betty Trevor