Kate Smith

We left England when I was a mere 7 years old. My father had gone ahead some months earlier and mum, sister (Trish), and I followed in September 1955. We had lived in a terraced house in Oldham – nothing special and, like most kids then, played in the street as we had only a very small yard at the back of the house (and an outside loo – which was the norm then).

We sailed to Cape Town and then took the train for a 4-day trip to NR. Even at that tender age the vastness of the place made an impression on me, and Africans would approach the train selling woodcarvings etc.

Upon arriving at Kitwe we travelled to Itimpi to live on a farm that our parents had rented and there began the most fantastic childhood I could have ever wished for.

I went to primary and secondary school in Kitwe and eventually took a job as a trainee Tracer/Draughtsman (after much soul searching). I loved my work and was sorry to leave what had now become Zambia, but as my father worked on the copper mine and his job was being ‘Zambianised’ the whole family was uprooted and brought back to UK. Being only 18 then, we did what our parents told us – in those days!

Finding a job along similar lines proved very difficult but eventually I was taken on as an apprentice with a local engineering firm. I was left very much on my own to fathom out what I needed to do college-wise so enrolled at a technical college to do a course in very basic engineering. As I passed this with flying colours, the firm then took a little more interest in me and put me on course for an ONC and subsequently HND in Mechanical Engineering. Again, I passed with good marks and considered an MSc. in Fluid Mechanics. However, I had recently married and decided to forego this and work to earn some money.

Basically, I feel that I’ve had the best of both worlds in that my upbringing in NR was second to none (despite many ups and downs along the way) and my education there was great. In addition, the technical education I have had in UK was also extremely good. Had I stayed in NR/Zambia it would have been necessary to go to University in SA to achieve a similar qualification. Whether I would have achieved status as an engineer in Zambia is dubious, but in UK I was able to do this and hold down a responsible position as MD for an engineering company.

Although I consider that I have been extremely lucky and count my blessings, my innermost feelings are quite unsettled. I miss Africa with a passion and would love to return but circumstances dictate otherwise (in the form of a hubby and all that goes with that). When I think about my time there, I have an ache and longing that is indescribable and I have told no-one of this as now it is time to move on……

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