Carrying On

Dorothy Hughes spraying her pet Jersey Cows on Giraffe Farm for ticks 1962

Carrying On

Gervas Hughes, Matambega, The One Who Could Be Trusted, as the Africans came to call him after a while,  put his son Tim in charge of Melrose Farm when he returned from 4 years of agricultural college and seeing the world.  But Tim only stayed six months before emigrating to Australia.

He was sixty-one years old,  feeling his age, but had no wish to retire.

Carrying On

After a while, Gervas employed a manager, Mr Bird, who soon demanded more pay. Instead, he relied on his farm foreman, Philemon, who could handle most of the work at Melrose even with a reduced African workforce. So two or three days each week Gervas lived at the old Melrose house and Dorothy was left at Giraffe farm with only the servants for company. She never complained.

They received an invitation to Tim and Eleanor’s wedding in Australia. They didn’t go, but the old man replied to letters. He usually wrote about the latest drought. As the years rolled by, Tim was glad he wasn’t struggling alongside them. They never seemed to have holidays. When Dorothy did go away to England, it was to sort out problems with the dairy farm she still owned in Hampshire.

Hal Wiggins, a smallworker (gold mine owner) and ex-RAF fighter pilot, would sometimes toss the Sunday newspaper to them from his plane. Whenever he drove to the Giraffe Farm house he’d say “Gervas, you always build your love-nests on top of kopjes and the road up your hill is atrocious—all loose gravel.  I refuse to drive my good car on it.” They’d trudge the last half mile unless Gervas  gave them a lift in his four-wheel-drive.  Eventually he constructed a concrete strip-road up the hill, but lamented, “I don’t believe I have done the right thing. It will only encourage salesmen.”

After Tim and Eleanor’s three children were born and the family moved to Redland Bay, Gervas persuaded a retired farmer-friend to manage his properties and care for Dorothy’s cows.

Their first stop was Perth to visit their daughter Angela in Fremantle but she had flown away to England for a year!  They were given a warm welcome at Redland Bay and “toured the best of Australia”.

Much to his surprise, on return, Gervas was very pleased to see how well his friend had managed the farms and Dorothy’s pet cows.

Later, Tim and his family stayed a month with Aunt Joanie in Tanzania  and then toured Rhodesia’s top spots including a visit to cousin Peter Hughes, a section manager of the vast Triangle sugarcane estate.

After that, Gervas wrote more often, numbering his letters “to find out if any were censored by the government”.  He wrote in a bold hand using a red biro on one side of the onion skin paper and blue biro on the other to make for easier reading.  He admonished Tim, “Son, I don’t know anyone else who can cram so much news on one aerogramme.  I have to write a normal letter which costs more for postage.”

Often the old man would describe the Masked Weaver birds’ frantic activity in spring. They always built their neat pendulous nests in great profusion near his office window. He loved to write about his pet toy-dog Lottie. Sometimes he wrote about his version of right and wrong:

RELIGION One should always try to attend a church service at Christmas and Easter.  The Christian religion is well documented. There was definitely a fellow who walked around Galilee long ago.

TAX:  Don’t pay any more tax than necessary. Keep one book for yourself to record the way things are and one for the taxman to say how you want them to appear.

INSURANCE:  Don’t insure anything unless it is for compulsory vehicle insurance. (Tim found out after Gervas died that local insurance companies did not want any of his business. They said that he was too hard to deal with but agreed to insure again if there was a new manager for his properties).

GRAZING AND TIMBER:  Be happy to pay for the use of other people’s grazing and stands of timber before using your own precious supplies—especially in a drought year.

MONEY: He had adequate funds for Dorothy and himself in Rhodesia and didn’t want a nest-egg in Australia. (Dorothy wasn’t so sure and sent enough cash to Tim for their emergency requirements and air fares).

DEATH: He believed that death caught up with all the Hughes family in their eighties.

Many thanks to Tim Hughes for this excerpt and photo from his unpublished manuscript Matambega and Son written in the 1980’s.

 

4 Comments

  • Katharine Anderson

    Reply Reply June 11, 2016

    Very interested to read about Gervas.He was often mentioned by my mother ( his niece)

    • Diana Polisensky

      Reply Reply June 12, 2016

      Katharine,
      Extending the network one reader at a time. My historical novel, Whitewashed Jacarandas, will give you a much broader feel for the life and times…I look forward to a review when you have read it.

  • Eleanor Heenan

    Reply Reply June 15, 2016

    I am Katherine Anderson’s elder sister and was also very interested to hear stories of Gervas and especially his son Tim who I hear is in Australia.

    • Diana Polisensky

      Reply Reply June 16, 2016

      Eleanor,
      I am so glad the short,short stories continue to connect long lost family and I hope Whitewashed Jacarandas, my historical novel, reflecting those times, will have a long shelf life. Do let me hear from you when you have read it.

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