The Termite Mine

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Bill West Territory, Silobela District, Southern Rhodesia. Bill and his brother Sid were naming their gold mines after the big cats of the area but Bill had a theory…

The Termite Mine

Bill West, despite having no formal training, was a wealthy man.  He and his brother Sid owned the Jena Group of gold mines, the Lion, the Leopard and Leopardess in the Silobela District, way beyond Que Que, in the gramadoelas.

The Termite Mine

Bill and his wife Olga did everything well.  Olga had an amazing patch of rose bushes set out in neat rows in the vastness of the scrubby savannah.  She developed a number of new breeds that she registered with the Royal National Rose Society in St. Albans England.  She was working on a black rose, the ultimate challenge for rosarians.  Although I was interested in flower arranging, and successfully entered the annual flower show in Que Que, Bill was the main attraction for me.

He was a scientist at heart. I remember occasional family visits for political or medical reasons and spending much time in his museum in a shed behind the house. Rock specimens were laid on rough shelving along the length of the building. He was generous with gifts of specimens of sheets of raw asbestos, plates of mica, chunks of white and rose quartz.   I took some of them to America, not once but twice, and eventually gave them to my son, Jonathan.

Bill discovered that termites burrowed down to the water table to fetch water to cultivate the fungus that digested the grass they harvested. Like bees, the ones that fetched water were dedicated to this job. He had pictures from a camera buried in an “anthill” that showed termites with flat abdomens going down and others with enlarged abdomens coming up.

Gold in Rhodesia is found in very ancient greenstone belts, fractured and faulted.  Covered by geologically recent shifting Kalahari sand made prospecting rely on visible outcrops.  All the gold mines were situated on ancient workings with the exception of the virgin discovery of the Anzac Mine in 1939. Bill was sure there were others to be found if only one could prospect below the sands.  He convinced the Department of Mines to fund a program to prove his theory that termites brought up prospecting samples from the water table at the greenstone surface.

In 1970, Bob Atkinson and Martin Fothergill, mining cadets, were allocated to the program.  Gangs of local Africans cut transverse lines through the bush.  The cadets walked these lines dragging a measuring chain and carrying a magnetometer plotting and sampling the termite mounds along the way.  Leaf samples from deep-rooted trees that also reached the water table were also sampled for arsenic, a trace element associated with gold deposits.

The work was tough. Bob and Martin camped in the bush.  They were allowed back to town twice a month to stock up on provisions after delivery of samples for analysis.  Fortunately Bob was living at a mess at the time and one of the other guys at the mess was the Midlands rep for Rhodesian Breweries. He had unlimited access to beer so his Landrover used to return with its back axle hard against the chassis.

The hard work paid off.

In Gold Deposits of Zimbabwe the note is: “Termite [Mine]. White quartz veins, stringers and lenses in shear zones in carbonated metagabro. Main reef strikes NE, dipping up to 45*NW. Buried under Kalahari sands”.

Up to 1984 it had produced 298kg of gold at a grade of 9.6g/t, certainly a very small mine.

Bob wonders to this day if Bill ever turned a profit on it, but at least he proved his theory.

Many thanks to Bob Atkinson of Pretoria for detailed mining information.

For those who are interested in geological detail click here is an explanation directly from Bob Atkinson:



41 Comments

  • admin

    Reply Reply March 19, 2011

    Diana,
    This is a fantastic read! What an innovative approach to finding gold veins. Thanks for sharing this!
    – Andrew

    • Diana

      Reply Reply March 19, 2011

      Yes, Andrew,
      the gold price was fixed in those days at $32.00 an ounce. With gold at $1400.00 or so an ounce these days this method should be explored some more. I’m sure there is lots more gold out there and now it might be profitable to mine. The potential is still there.
      Diana

      • henry jones

        Reply Reply September 7, 2015

        hi Diana I’m a new miner in the leopardess area its also home to me im reopening old workings near the small river that spils into gwelo river about 10 km nw west of kwekwe road on the jena loreto short road the place is dense with many thorns I’ve recently picked up a 0.4 gram nugget if u would any pictures I wouldn’t mind sending uyou some memories

  • betty

    Reply Reply March 22, 2011

    This is simply fascinating! I am amazed at all the the interesting theories and experiments going on in this untamed and wonderful land. Love the picture of the ant hill and the lions….just a little distance from your home!! You were so fortunate to experience so many things that we can only read about. We felt fortunate to see an armadillo or a roadrunner on the side of the road here in Texas! Thank you for sharing so many experinces and memories!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply March 22, 2011

      Betty,
      The cheetah’s in the picture give you a good idea of the size of the anthills. The termites were great excavators. It was tough terrain to work in, not forgetting the heat factor too. These particular mines were a long way from town. The last pride of lions around the Globe and Phoenix Mine where we lived was shot out at the turn of the century unfortunately. That’s quite a story before our time but perhaps I should retell it in my next blog. There were still leopard in the hills around our new house we built a few miles from town at Hillandale in 1956. Our bird life, like Texas, was simply marvelous. We had lots of aarvarks (ant eaters like armadillos but not armor platted).
      Diana

  • Nigel Prior

    Reply Reply March 22, 2011

    Enjoyed the story about the Wests and the anthill theory…..I remember it well All my older relatives were involved with gold minining one way or another and being a G&P boy I heard plenty of discussion as a kid. My mother was born on the Lonely Mine and my granfather was an enthusiastic prospector and once owned a mine called the Ryder.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply March 25, 2011

      Nigel,
      I’m glad the West story brings back your own memories. The Lonely Mine conjures up powerful images. The small workers lives were very lonely out there in the bush hoping for a lucky strike.
      I hope you get a chance to look through your photo albums and share some pictures with me and the bloggers.
      A.J. Leibenberg (?sp) was assistant compound manager when Dad first came in 1946 and Dad trained him as a hospital medical assistant at the Native Hospital. They had a great relationship. You haven’t got any pictures of the native hospital or the native compound have you?
      Diana

    • John Carpenter

      Reply Reply January 27, 2016

      Hello Nigel,

      I saw your post and am intrigued. My father was born at Lonely Mine in 1913 and the family lived there until 1928 when they moved back to Canada. My grand father was Gilbert Carpenter a mining engineer who went to the mine in 1902(?) Just curious as to the families that lived there.

      • Diana Polisensky

        Reply Reply February 9, 2016

        John,
        I’ll alert Nigel about your interest in the Lonely Mine. Stay tuned.

  • Val Barbour

    Reply Reply May 15, 2011

    Hi Diana
    The letter below is from my mom Mirle Atkinson. she writes:
    Val gave me some exerpts from your blog this am.
    Re the West brothers – Bill was the scientist but nobody could surpase Syd for ingenuity
    We were holidaying together in Tanzania, it was latish in the afternoon and we were booked to spend the night in chalets in the Ngororo Crater. We came upon a broken down South African car; which on investigation was found to have shifted off its shackles and was resting on the chassis. Syd had a look at this and looked around. Right next to us was a barbed wire fence. Out came the tool box, a length of wire was removed from the fence and the manpower assembled. There was Syd, Bill Atkinson, and Anthony and Bruce Kimble (Syd’s sons ) and the driver of the car.
    Syd oversaw the lifting of the car-body back on to the frame and then he wired the body of the car to its frame firmly putting it in place using the barbed wire! The driver was overjoyed and wanted to know what nationality Syd was – when told he was Rhodesian the driver said “I could have guessed it”!
    Syd told him to have the car properly fixed in Arusha and later Bill (Atkinson) said to me “I bet he went all the way back to South Africa like that”!
    In the meantime I had taken the rest of the party up the hair-raising drive to the chalets and Pat (West, Syd’s wife) sweet talked the gateman to stay open until Syd Bill and Athony and Bruce arrived. There might have been a bottle of brandy added to the sweet talk!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 15, 2011

      Val, It is so good to have a letter from Mirle. I still have a hand written letter or two of hers saved from her correspondence with my mom. This is such a priceless story of good old Rhodesian “can do-ism.” It was always part of the pioneer spirit that evolved into the idealistic days of Federation. The only good thing to come out of UDI was a flowering of this spirit into “make do” and it really gave a spurt to home grown industry to meet all sorts of needs. This so exemplifies the Rhodesian spirit.

      I didn’t know Syd as well as Bill. We visited the Leopardess Mine on a number of occasions. I think Bill was quite supportive of Dad’s political ideas, and Olga got ill at one point so we used to visit on a Sunday and cover both topics. She gave me a lovely cook book as a wedding gift which I still have.

      A bottle of fire goes a long way to bending the rules as only anyone in Africa can fully appreciate!

      Thanks ever so for the story. Send more!

  • turtlejw

    Reply Reply January 3, 2012

    My aunt, Olga, treated me to painted or decorated boiled eggs once, while Bill regaled me a set of toy soldiers… I was just a tot then but I have this vivid memory!

    I ventured down the Termite on a few occasions and learnt to set the dynamite – in fact, I once stood within a few feet of exploding dynamite, quite an experience! I also remember carrying sticks of sweating dynamite in the car, from the Leopardess to the Termite!

    Oh, and Olga showed me her pride and joy, the ‘Star of Africa’, impressively black it was!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply January 6, 2012

      You must be a member of Sid’s family! Lovely to hear from you. Olga and Bill were wonderful with children. I too have vivid memories of the few encounters I had with them as a child. Olga gave me a cookbook for a wedding gift in 1967 which I still use. On the inside cover is some valuable advice from her.
      I love the sense of humor, the Star of Africa! She did work hard on her roses with admirable results so far from the Royal Rose Society.
      Tell me why does dynamite sweat?

      • Lyn Ellis

        Reply Reply November 15, 2012

        I was made up reading all of this about the mines etc and Olga’s Star of Africa, but for a different reason than some. Many years ago I went to boarding school with Linsay West and not being able to return home at the half terms, the West’s invited two of us to come and spend our holiday with Lindsay at Leopardess. I remember so clearly that holiday and can only send to the family a big thank you for their kindness. We were treated like princesses from start to end, which was something I will recal always. We experienced a life so different from our own….what a wonderful and generous family. Linsay if you read this please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

        • Diana

          Reply Reply November 15, 2012

          Lyn, I am so glad that you have great memories of the West families. Olga gave me my first cookbook when I got married in 67 and I still have it today. She wrote some pithy sayings in the inside jacket. It makes it a very special reminder of her. The Syd West’s I didn’t know as well, but there are some letters from Syd in my parents memorabilia. I will look for Lindsay’s address and forward it to you.

          • lyn ellis

            November 18, 2012

            It is strange that such objects like your cook book from Olga could be such a valuable source to adages and memories etc. I have a personal notebook that I inherited from my Grandfather, who was a keen amateur gardener and in it he has mentioned all types of garden tips which are either a cheaper or more organic ways of gardening. I went into horticulture as a career and as you know we all try and err more on the ‘green’ side of cultivating in this day and age, so I have often referred to it when looking for more basic pointers at garden problems. Saying that, one of the suggestions is to make your own nicotine spray for aphids…not recommended these days, nor the collecting of cigarette butts to make it with!!!!
            Lindsay wouldn’t have known me as Lyn Ellis, that being my married name, but she and I went to St.Peters school in Bulawayo…(SPUDS). I was only there for a short time.

          • Diana

            November 19, 2012

            Lyn, Yes, I think we have come full circle on a lot of things and realized simpler is better. I still make the hot cross buns at Easter from that cookbook and we’ve come back to making our own homemade bread and marmalade. Some things I still do are part of “keeping up British Standards” and I make a Christmas fruit cakes every year and save one for our anniversary in July though we no longer make a plum pudding. I’m astounded by how much fat, suet, was used those days!!! I also went to SPUDS for a short time….1962 I think it was and was best friends with Doffie Newham who was head girl and Rita Wigg who was a day scholar.

  • lyn ellis

    Reply Reply November 19, 2012

    I am sorry to sound so awful Diana, but I can’t recall you at all….I was at Spuds then as well, so I haven’t an excuse but a bad memory perhaps. I was way down in Cecil House, so a junior. My best pal was Debbie….she stayed on to the bitter end and after I left I think she made friends with a girl called Sylvia, but I returned to Britain in 1964, so only did two years at Spuds. I still write to Debbie as I knew her before we both started at Spuds at the same time…that turned out quite strange, although for us both it helped us along. Sister Grace Barbara was in charge of us lot, poor woman. I played in the junior netball team with Phillipa, Penny and that group, starting off as GS, but Miss Guerris (unsure of spelling) put me into GA to my delight!! In my dorm were Vivienne Bowker (someone mentioned her on the spuds site, but spelt it Vivian however, I remember that she was asked to spell her name on one occasion and she said it has 2 V’s, 2 E’s, 2 I’s and 2 N’s…mmm very handy!) she also had a sister in the lower dorm called Lynne. There was Fiona and Gillian, Ann, Grace and others of course…. I have a feeling that there was a Maggie Adams who was older than us…she would have been a prefect in 1962/3, so in the senior section.

    I think you are wonderful keeping up the traditional British cooking. My husband is on a Gluten free diet, so cakes are wasted on him and although I have made a GF fruit cake it isn’t as moist and yummy as the proper thing. None of us really bother with jams, preserves or jellies although I do jam some of our home grown fruit if there is a glut and use it in GF Victoria sponge cake. I do agree that puds are a tad fattening, but I think that in the olden days folks didn’t get the quantity of food as we have available, so they burnt off more of the saturated fats. Certainly my Mum often spoke of having a nice dripping buttie when she was young…we would throw a wobbler at one of those sitting on our plates!!!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 20, 2012

      Lyn, I was a great swimmer, but was eclipsed when I went to SPUDS by Jenny Woods and Jenny Darby who were younger than me but went to the Tokoyo Olympics I believe representing Rhodesia. The only other junior girl I remember was Nicola Currie who was “pashed” on me to my great embarrassment. Sweet girl. She was a great tennis player. Her father was, like mine, a Member of Parliament at the time.
      Rita Wigg’s father was the Treasurer I think of the Bulawayo Municipality…and my father knew him through Municipal affairs. She and I went on a Musgrove and Watson European tour December 62 for six weeks.
      My grandfather, father, brother and younger son are all celiac’s. Today there are all sorts of wonderful gluten free flours etc…and the breads and cakes are wonderful. I even make a reasonable pastry. And ofcourse a flourless chocolate cake is sinful. Enjoy the holidays.

  • lyn ellis

    Reply Reply November 20, 2012

    Hi Diana,
    I wish I could say I was a great swimmer, but that would be far from the truth. At Spuds I was always one of those trailing somewhere at the back, but when I came back to this country I found that many children my age couldn’t swim at all. To my dismay and horror I was often picked on to swim in school teams, which gave my no joy at all. I always had a swimming pass though, which enabled me to go swimming at any time in the local pool and I spent many happy hours there…it was also a great place to escape the local low life that enjoyed bullying!! On one occasion, when I was out with my own British cousin and we were meeting up with her friends, she said “don’t speak…they will pick on me because they will hear you’re a foreigner”. I can now speak with the sloppy local accent…sadly losing my Rhodie one to quite a degree.
    No none of the names trigger any recollections….to my loss not even Nicola Currie. I used to go for extra tennis lessons and enjoyed that, but would never have become a star at it. I just loved the netball and was quite good at that I suppose. Sadly when I came to Brit I asked if I could play for the school team, but was told that they had no intentions of moving anyone out of the team to make way for me…I soon came to realise that the school team was so rubbish that I wouldn’t have been happy in it in any case…they never won a game to my knowledge. There is a photo of the junior spuds netball team….I think either 1963 or early 1964, which I am in.
    The GF cakes sound yummy and I did used to make them more often than I do now…putting on weight just looking at them has reduced my inclination to making them quite so often. Now that my husband has retired, he has taken up with the cake making for himself…probably in desperation, but the problem he finds, is that my son helps him to eat them up!!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 21, 2012

      Lyn, Likewise, my mother taught Jan to make the marmalade and he does that ritual every year for us. WE make a rather bitter one, with lots of lemons and grapefruit and its really really good. Into Thanksgiving traditions…and headlong into Christmas…family coming for that. Joy to the world.

      • lyn ellis

        Reply Reply November 21, 2012

        Hi Diana. I think that the very reason I’m not a great fan of jams is that they are too sweet, so I love the sound of your tangy marmalade. Of course, we can forget growing citrus fruits here…marmalade comes in jars or the costs are ridiculous for buying in the fruit etc, but I do make a passable tangy crab apple jelly that is popular and they grew in the garden for free. I do miss my auntie’s lemon tree though…she lived in Ndola NR…over here there would be much hysterical waving of arms for the tree grew immediately outside their bathroom and got all the bath water it required, but I guess that it would be considered as unhygienic these days, however we all appeared to have survived!! The fruit was always large and juicy…wonder what sort of soap they used!!??
        Sadly, my mother died a couple of years ago at the grand age of 92 and not due to lemon poisoning!…she was a primary teacher and I think her first posting was at Gwelo. Her best friend Frances W. who lived outside Gwelo at a farm called Plumtree with her family. Over the years Mum & Dad moved up into NR (my father is still alive) and for some time, especially when I was a toddler living in Livingstone, Victoria Falls was our every weekend jaunt for afternoon tea, which I took for granted…pity I can’t pop there so easily now. Mind you, the baboons were a nuisance if you happened to have a cake with your tea!

  • Lindsey Dodson (West)

    Reply Reply November 24, 2012

    I have so enjoyed reading all the posts and memories on this blog. Val Barbour kindly forwarded it to me. I am Syd and Pat’s daughter, lived on the Leopardess and yes went to SPUDS! It seems like a century has passed since those wonderful days in Rhodesia, the mine and Bulawayo.
    My mum is still alive and with us here in the UK, she is now 93, but sadly ailing.
    It seems we have all become spread out globally and these memories and past friends are a wonderful reminder of a beautiful era now lost.
    I too have memories of Olga and Bill and spent many Christmas mornings on the Leopard Mine together with the Lawerences, the Atkinsons, the Giles family, and the Johnsons.
    My other uncle who was also mining the Termite was Jack West and he lived with my grandmother who’s home was through the orchard by the tennis court on the Leopardess mine.
    Diana your father Dr Hirsch delivered me in Que Que and also removed my tonsils! I can remember him well.
    After leaving St Peters in 1971, I left Rhodesia and went to Cape Town tech to study accounting, there I met my husband, Donald, and stayed there working after college, for two Australian dentists. Don and I were married in 1974 in Bulawayo, and lived in South Africa. We have 3 sons who are all married, and 6 grandchildren, with a new one on the way. Two of our sons live here in the UK near us and our middle son lives in Chicago. We came to the UK in 1999. We brought my mum over 10 years ago, as Zimbabwe was not the place for an elderly lady on her own anymore.
    I look forward to hearing from all of you

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 24, 2012

      Lindsey, Its wonderful to hear from you. I have a letter or two from Syd in the files giving my Dad the low down on the political situation as it progressed after my parents left QQ. It seems the families living out there in the ‘back of beyond’ never-the-less enjoyed a wonderful sense of community; their lives were rich.
      Yes, the Rhodesian diaspora is global and it’s wonderful to connect again. Amazing that your mum is still going at 93. You should tape record her memoirs.
      I have a good picture of Olga and the test rose garden in particular and Bill had the first Citroen with the pneumatic suspension and soon after Dad bought one too.
      I wonder how you are enjoying England. I was at Oxford for three weeks this spring and absolutely loved it. If you ever come to the West Coast do give us a heads up. We have a lovely place on the edge of the Pacific.
      Enjoy your lovely growing family. Congratulations.
      Diana

      • lyn ellis

        Reply Reply November 24, 2012

        Hi Lindsey,
        Lovely to hear from you…I’m so glad your mum is still alive, so that I can send my thanks to her. It might be extremely belated, but I’ve never forgotten her kindness letting us stay with you at the Leopardess that ‘century ago’. What part of Britain do you live in now? I’m on the Wirral. My dad is also still alive and nearly 93, though he lives very much in the past. He is rather dependant on my husband and me these days, so we rarely get away far, even if our intentions were to travel around Brit and the Cont.
        I remember the Leopardess and our few days there…what a brilliant place you grew up in. If I recall you had an older brother or two…Am I correct in that? I think one was at St Stephen’s wasn’t he?
        I still keep in contact with Debbie L…we knew each other from infant school in Kitwe NR before we both landed up at St Peter’s together on the same day. This seemed a good enough reason to stick together from the start, but poor Debs had to find a new pal as I only went to SPUDS for a couple of years before my family returned to Brit…my Grandparents were getting old by that time. However, I never forgot Debbie left there at boarding school, but of course in those years we had to rely on the snail mail with the rowing boat between!! E-mail and texts bring so many of us closer and I agree that it seems we appear to be scattered all over the world…just shows what a versatile lot we ‘displaced’ girls are.

        • Diana

          Reply Reply November 26, 2012

          Here is a response from Valarie Barbour:
          Hi The 2 Lins! I remember 2 girls who stayed with Olga and Bill, (who
          had no kids of their own,) during the school holidays They were from
          Fairbridge Home in Bulawayo and I stand to be corrected but I think
          the girls were war orphans from UK. They must have been older than you
          – nearer to my age I guess.I think one ended up nursing in KweKwe
          where mom knew her, I cannot remember their names!
          I remember Xmas “at the Wests” ! Always a highlight! Syd’s Xmas tree
          was the tallest in the whole of Rhodesia I think! An awesome sight to
          behold.
          And of course Mana Pools, Sinyati Gorge, Fothergill Island. It was
          near the gorge and in Kariba dam where I fell off the back of the boat
          and dad nearly left me floating down the river. I think your boat was
          behind us Lin – just as well – I might have been been croc food. And
          then years later after Bill Atkinson died (my dad) Bob and mom and
          family went to Andora Harbour got the boat out of storage ready to
          cross the lake for a fishing trip,, only to have it blow up under
          their feet. Luckily it blew up in Andora harbour and they all had to
          swim for it. Lost all their possessions except the car which was on
          dry land. But no one was injured. Whilst the boat was in storage the
          fuel line had perished and there was fuel sloshing around the bottom
          of the boat. Bob went to the police station to report the loss and was
          reprimanded for not wearing a shirt. He had to explain that he didnt
          have a shirt to wear All the luggage had been in the boat as well as
          passports, money, the lot. A spare set of car keys was taped in Bob’s
          secret place on the body of the car so at least they could drive the
          car!

          • Diana

            November 26, 2012

            Valarie, Great memories of Kariba adventures. You had a lucky shave with the sinking of the Andora!
            I wonder if anyone is in contact with any of the Fairbridge children? It was part of the British Migrant Program and I thought there were only boys…but evidently not. It was a grand idea, but later came under a lot of criticism. It would be nice to know the inside story.

            Diana

          • Lyn Ellis

            January 7, 2013

            Sorry to be late with this, but a very happy New Year to you all. Hope you, your family and dear Mum have a wonderful 2013 Lindsey nee West. Regards Lyn

          • Diana

            January 9, 2013

            Lyn, Thanks for the good wishes. Wish you a happy 2013 too. We have fond memories of Syd and Bill and Olga West in particular. Unfortunately my Dad died suddenly, unexpectedly, in Aug 1999 and my Mom in Sept 2006. Sadly missed.

  • Lindsey Dodson (West)

    Reply Reply January 18, 2013

    Happy New Year to you all too, and I hope 2013 will be healthy, wealthy and happy.
    I have just read this story from Val and my mum has filled me in with all the story about the Fairbridge girls. Mum remembers there was Pat Sallis and Irene (who became Campbell) not sure of her single name. She married a man from QQ and she was the one who was the nurse. Pat married a man from the mines and went to live in Bulawayo. Irene had a daughter called Maria who was killed in a car accident in her early twenties, very sad. Irene moved to Hartley and eventually she ran Greenway Care Home in Hartley and that is the last time mum saw her. Fairbridge was a home for both orphans or a home for children who’s parents could not afford to keep them.
    Reading Val,s letter from her mum, Mirlen mentioned Syd’s ingenuity and here is another story for you all.
    Syd, Bill, Mirlen and Pat went fishing one afternoon near Kariba Gorge and as men do, Bill was fiddling with the motor engine on his boat, when he let out a curse…..he had dropped a very important screw into the lake!!!! There was no chance of finding it, so Syd asked Bill if he could cut a piece off the wooden oar, which he did and with his penknife (small), he whittled away at the wood creating a screw fitting, and eventually after many tries managed to make it fit and they were able to start the motor…..all very shocked and surprised as they could not believe the engine had started again. They managed to get back to mainland Kariba, Bill then went with Syd to the engineering firms in Kariba to buy a new screw but there were none, so Bill used the homemade wooden screw for the rest of the fishing trip!!! When at last the correct part was found, Bill said that he could not throw the homemade screw away, and kept it in his fishing box as a momento.
    I hope you enjoyed that story, it was talked about for many years.
    Our family is situated in the south of England in Hampshire, and would love you to come and visit us.
    We are having amazing snow today and although I popped into work,thanks to my husband driving me there, we were sent home before lunch! Snow day for all! My grandchildren especially all enjoying it!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply January 18, 2013

      Lindsey, That is another marvellous West Story! Rhodesians especially after Sanctions were known for their ingenuity but I think the Wests were the best.
      I came across some very interesting materials at the Bodleian Library, Oxford when I was there in May for three weeks researching. Sir Edgar Whitehead and his sister Francis were very involved in getting the first batch of children shipped out after WWII to Induna, the retired airforce base outside Bulawayo before Fairbridge College in Umtali was established. Later the Child Migration Scheme to the Colonies was questioned, (the NZ, Australian and Canadian children were seen as cheap labor, whereas in Rhodesia the children were educated for administrative positions esp. in agriculture.) and it was scrapped unfortunately. I was interested in getting a first person account of what it was like from the inside.
      I’d love to visit you…I’m in the finishing stages of my book. Then I will be free and give you a heads up. I absolutely loved my time in England last year…even took in the Chelsea Flower Show and the Flotilla on the Thames and saw the Queen. If you ever come to the US let me know…
      Diana

  • Jeremy West

    Reply Reply August 11, 2013

    I knew the Termite Mine well, having taken part in blasting operations there. I even performed calculations for a new shaft while convalescing after an illness in Manchester, where I obtained my Ph.D. It was a time when a very young, freshly promoted and enthusiastic inspector of mines got it into his head to go down the Termite Mine without first seeking permission of the manager.
    Parts of the story above ring true. I well remember attending a seminar of Bill’s that presented his ideas on using observations on termites in searching for gold. And I remember, too, the black rose that Olga showed me.
    But the story also contains huge omissions. ..

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 11, 2013

      Jeremy, You cant leave us in suspense like that! Tell us all. Maybe we can do a follow up blog if you have enough information for it. I will send you my email address also if that is the case, so we can work on it.

  • Peter May

    Reply Reply January 1, 2016

    Hello Diana,
    This brings back fond memories of the area, my father Pat May owned and operated the nearby Vungu Gold mine until 1952 when he closed it down. He then purchased the Nando and Venice mines at Umsweswe near Gatooma now Kadoma.

    I do recall visiting Bill and Olga West family on a couple of occasions with my parents, I have a vivid memory of a beautiful garden and lawns. I last past that way in January 1966 when we visited the old remains of the Vungu mine and on through Nkai to Lonely Mine and then to Bulawayo.

    Over the years I have often heard of Mr Wests method of sampling tree leaves in a
    search for an indication of gold in the deep Kalahai sands of that area.

    happy memories
    Peter May

    • Diana Polisensky

      Reply Reply January 2, 2016

      Peter,
      I am happy this true story has prompted memories for you. You might really enjoy my historical novel Whitewashed Jacarandas which is available on Amazon US, Amazon Uk as softcover books and Kindle e-book. It is available on The Book Depository too which offers free shipping internationally (except Zim) You can read the first chapter and read reviews there too. Let me hear from you again when you have read the book and then pass it on!

  • Jeremy West

    Reply Reply September 2, 2016

    A reply to Diana’s lines (2012): I’m actually the son of John Leslie West,Syd was my uncle with whose son, Richard, I’m still in touch!

    • Diana Polisensky

      Reply Reply September 29, 2016

      Thanks for setting me straight. I just saw Bob and Marion Atkinson in Pretoria recently, before I took off for Botswana. They are also tootling around Bots at the momemt but will be back Sept 30 I think…

  • Ian Wright

    Reply Reply November 12, 2019

    Just wow,
    I am going through my dad’s slides. He (Bryan Wright) passed away recently so for the fitst time I am going through much of his stuff I had never seen. He was a close friend of Bill West (either through his early work at Goldfields or laterly Morrision Bros Que Que) and I can still remember going out to their home in the Bundu, beautiful old place with massive trees, possibly the Leopardess.

    I think Bill West ws responsible for adopting the termite mound prospecting for gold?
    Are you related to Mike Polisensky?

    • Diana Polisensky

      Reply Reply November 20, 2019

      Sorry to hear your Dad has passed, and along with it so much history.
      Yes, Bill was the one who realised you could let the white ants do the work of prospecting and just sample the mounds. The Leopardess was a lovey place. Olga was a member of the Royal Rose Society and had a show rose garden there and was developing a black rose.
      Are you related to Susan? She and I worked on at Harare Hospital and boarded at Saks House together. We played field hockey and I think that is where she met you?
      Michael Polisensky was my husband’s youngest brother who died of complications following a car accident in London at age 29.

  • Roul Mesquita

    Reply Reply August 2, 2020

    Thank you all for this great stories and history. I got inspired very much. With the current difficult situation I am financially in,I had the idea in my mind to try my luck looking for gold but not getting down underneath the earth as I’m afraid of mind collapses. I grew up at a children’s home in Kwekwe. So I had this idea in mind that it might be possible to find some fine gold from antills just like Bill’s idea, so as I was browsing on the internet if there is such a possibility and I came across an article mentioning Zimbabwe where I am and I got much interest when I learnt that the mine was named Termite mine. Most interestingly as I searched more I found out that its right in kwekwe where I grew up in. My father was a miner, he is late now.His name Anibal Monteiro De Souza Mesquita. So I’m interested in following my father’s foot steps, mining but I do not have much know how and any equipment.I just hope it will be my breakthrough.I do not have any map of gold prospected area which has not been mined yet. SO I would want to try my luck on anthills nearer to old gold mines in kwekwe or other places with gold mines even other places not known to have gold. I got the inspiration to go on.

  • Charles Castelin

    Reply Reply August 6, 2020

    Bill West sponsored my honours year in geology at UCR in the form of the Three Feathers Scholarship. He was a great benefactor and I gather lovely person. Regretfully I never met him or Sid nor did I visit their mines- a great pity. I only became really interested in gold mines in my post-retirement consulting years. Also a great pity as Alec Friend had invited me to join the gold mining and dump retreatment operation the he was involved in with John Lyon near KK.
    Bill West was famous for his anthill prospecting technique. ie The soil of Termite mounds could be sampled for gold brought up from depth – much cheaper than drilling.
    Roul: Be careful with respect to gold mining. It may be fun but can be a bottomless pit to 99 out of 100 small scale miners and you can sink a lot of money in it for little or no return. Have fun.

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