The Manure Factor

The roses grew so profusely that a rose petal confetti filled a white bougainvillea bell constructed by Mr. Nimo at the machine shop at the Globe and Phoenix Mine for my wedding. A lovely surprise.

Roses, as well as everything else, grew profusely in our garden in 1967.  Mom filled a white bougainvillea bell with rose petal confetti for my wedding.  The bell was constructed by Mr. Nimo.  He made many of the props for the pantos at the machine shop at the Globe and Phoenix Mine .

The Manure Factor 

Colin Tyzack’s stories of Stanley House’s blood bank last week reminded me of another story.

Dad said I couldn’t get married until I qualified as a Medical Technologist.  You just never knew when you might need to fall back on it.   Once I moved out to Harare Hospital and became the only med. tech in the nurses residence it was smooth sailing.  Except for the weekly hockey game we played against other government departments and businesses at the various sports clubs around town, there weren’t the usual distractions of the big city lights of Salisbury.  The course was tough and the work was over whelming with the press of numbers.  Pathology in all its forms consumed me.  I passed top of my class in April 1967 and was married the following month, headed for America.  The future couldn’t look rosier.

The Manure Factor

Six months before my wedding I did my final rotation through the Blood Bank.  It was the biggest blood bank in the country.  Banks of big 4˚C refrigerators with glass doors housed the one pint glass bottles of blood.  Blood expires in three months, so there is a need for regular bleeds to replenish supplies.  Big businesses, factories, farms and mines round about Salisbury kept the stocks up.  We wanted to have plenty of blood on hand to cope with any emergency.

Water is precious in Africa.  When our new house was built in Hillandale Dad insisted on our sewage water being directed to the garden so as not to waste it. These taps were painted red.   (But at least one unsuspecting visitor quenched his thirst from one of these taps after the steep bicycle climb up our hill, in the hot summer.)

We had a rainwater tank installed to take the run off from the big expanse of corrugated iron roof to supplement our borehole.  Mom and I would always take a jug full for the final cold rinse of our hair.  It gave our hair its silky shine that everybody noticed.  The occasional rat would wash down the gutters.  The smell alerted us to the necessity of a flush.  We used this water on the garden, especially on the paw-paws, Dad’s favorite fruit.

The best gift Mom could receive from Mr. Philipson on his Forestvale Ranch was a lorry load of manure.  When it was fresh it would burn the plants.  She had our garden boys, Sugar and Agrippa, mix it into the compost heap.  Here it smoldered away just below flash point.  Over time it made the richest soil, but it was a slow process.

Sometimes a tea was steeped out of the manure.  This was poured judiciously around the roses.  It too could burn.

At Harare Hospital, with lots of dark red rich expired blood going down the drain, I hit on the idea of bringing it home for the garden.  Being physiological, it wouldn’t burn the plants.

My fiancé was the tallest, thinnest man I’d ever met, which was strangely part of the attraction.  Every weekend, he would wind himself down into his pale yellow Austin Mini Cooper and we’d hurtle on down the 150 miles from Harare.  Fully loaded we’d arrive home in record time.

That was the secret of how our garden grew and bloomed so exceptionally, especially the roses, that year, May 1967.  It was every bit remarked on as my dress and the unusual wedding cake.

Those are other stories….


  • Colin Tyzack

    Reply Reply September 24, 2011

    Your story about the blood being poured on the roses aso reminds me of the times when the blood expired at Stanley House. Elaine would bring it home and we would pour it on the grape vines and the back of our house in Baines Crescent. The most beautifl grapes ever!! I don’t anyone else ever knew when they ate our grapes!!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply September 24, 2011

      Colin, What we don’t know doesn’t hurt us! No sense letting the blood go to waste. On the grape vines was the best use ever. Currently touring around the Hood River Valley/Columbia River Gorge and their wonderful vineyards….so productive here. Diana

  • Felicity Garde

    Reply Reply September 26, 2011

    I love these stories!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply September 30, 2011

      Felicity, I’m so glad you are joining in. Diana

  • Carolyn Edmond-Mack

    Reply Reply October 15, 2011

    Hello Diana,
    I found your blog today while trying to find information on the court case between Globe and Phoenix and Gaika mines regarding the encroachment of one or the other on the gold reefs being mined. I remember being told my grandfather, Peter Bertram Mack was sent to Rhodesia from England as the investigating geologist.
    I grew up in Que Que and while being reminded of your mother and father, whom we knew well as a family I remembered being at your wedding and the large bell of rose petals that opened as you stood at the top of the steps in the garden. Lo and behold, I opened The Manure Factor and there was the picture in my mind. I was 10 years old at the time.
    You may remember my mother, Pat Edmond-Mack who taught at Que Que High School. She may have started there when you where a senior or had just left. She loved the theatre and was involved with so many stage productions at both the Que Que High School and the Reps Theatre that was eventually built. I remember the years of fund collecting that went on to build it. She was a very active community member and many of the people you mention were known to us.
    What great memories you have and I admire your ability to remember so much. Perhaps I will remember more about my time in Que Que and the people as I read your stories.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply October 15, 2011

      Carolyn, Yes, If I remember your mother correctly she was small and round and no nonsense but everyone learned a lot! I think she came my last year, Form 4. I went to St. Peters Diocesan School in Byo to finish up (+/-1962)

      My mothers early Girl Guide Thinking Day skits (early 50’s) morphed into the annual pantomime performed by kids (not all of them were in the Scouting or Guiding movement—it was a way to keep the Ducktails and Teddy Boys off the streets amongst other things in the Christmas holidays, but with the passing years the adults wanted in on the act too and so they got more and more sophisticated. Finally they joined forces with Reps which was quite professional and tackled serious plays. I think they called themselves jointly the Masqueraders. Long after i was gone they acquired the old Town Hall and made it into the theater.

      I remember your mom was very involved as well with the QQHS Gilbert and Sullivan plays that were terrific.

      In 1914 Amalgamated Properties of Rhodesia Ltd. sued the G & P for half share of the gold extracted from a vertical of the John Bull Block that intersected the Phoenix Parallel The court case was the longest and most costly in the history of SR and at the time in England also. This went all the way to the House of Lords in 1919. It was known as the “John Bull” case.

      The second case was in 1933 when Rhodesia Corporation Ltd, (successors to Amalgamated Properties) claimed the G & P Phoenix parallel was encroaching on their extra parallel right on a Northern Extension Reef.

      The courts ruled in favour of the G & P in both cases. Does this help you any? I have some names involved in the court cases and brief details if you want them to plug into your search. The John Bull case should get it. It was world famous, even entering the Guinness Book of World records!.

      The Gaika Mine was pegged in 1894 on ancient workings said to be probably the most extensive in the country. With a recovery rate averaging 8.7 g/t. it was never as profitable as the G & P.

      Lovely to hear from you! Stay in touch.

      • Carolyn Edmond-Mack

        Reply Reply November 11, 2011

        Hello Diana,
        I would appreciate you sending me the information you have. You appear to have a lot on information on the case.

        I am in contact with someone who knew your father really well and would like to contact you. He is leaving for the USA on Monday, 14th November, to see his daughter who is in Florida.

        He is Alderman Abraham (Abe) Menashe ex Mayor of Bulawayo at around the same time your dad was Mayor of Que Que.

        I do hope you are able to make contact with him. His email address is, and as far as I am aware he will be there until March 2012.



        • Diana

          Reply Reply November 11, 2011

          Carolyn, I will scan in the bits of info I have on the law suit for you. I dont have a blow by blow account of the law suit that went on for years…but these leads may help you in your search.
          Thanks for putting me in touch Abraham Menashe. I look forward to making contact with him. The internet is a wonderful thing! Diana

  • Ken Wilson

    Reply Reply July 5, 2013

    Dear Diana:

    I can across your delightful blog – with what lightness you write – while searching for a different aspect of the history of Almagamatic Properties of Rhodesia Ltd: their ownership until 1946 of Laing’s Syndicate Block down in Shabani. (I ask only because your knowledge of the case seemed pretty stunning coming out of the blue – it’s from the Robert Cerer Smith book, right?) I am an amateur historian trying to write a history of that area. There seems to have be much more information about their mining operations than their land holdings. I know in the earliest days they ran 10,000 cattle on their million plus acres, but later i think they mainly rented. Do you know any of that history? Best wishes, Ken

    • Diana

      Reply Reply July 6, 2013

      Ken, Thanks for the compliment. I am wrapping up the novel based on our Que Que experience 1946-1965. I got the information about the John Bull case and other mining stories from a variety of mining publications eg. Mining in Rhodesia, Heritage of Zimbabwe, Gold Mining of Rhodesia, World Mining, a book called Avondale to Zimbabwe as well as the Mildlands Observer (Que Que’s local weekly paper). Many of these were generously shared by Bob Atkinson and his sister Val Barbour (whose father Bill Atkinson was the last manager of the G and P) and also Ed Goldberg whose father was the mine geologist in the early 50’s. I am not familiar with the Robert Cerer Smith book. The G and P Mine had many land holdings in the early days…they were self sustaining (the village arose as an appendage to the mine) supplying their own water by damming the local rivers, growing their own crops, supplying their own meat etc. I am sure this was representative of the other big mining concerns but I am not familiar with the Shabani mines specifically. I am sorry I dont have any info to share with you on Amalgamated Properties Shabani interests. I will keep a look out for info that may still come my way and pass it on to you. Good luck with the project. Keep me posted.

  • Ken Wilson

    Reply Reply July 7, 2013

    Thanks Diana, this is actually quite helpful as another take on why the mining houses actually nearly always had such large land holdings… even if (as far as i know) none of them quite followed a food self-suffciiency model in Shabani and Belingwe (too dry??). Good luck with your novel. You have such thoroughness and yet you write with great lightness! best, Ken

    • Diana

      Reply Reply July 9, 2013

      Ken, I’m glad it’s helpful. The G and P purchased three farms of roughly three thousand hectares each for one thousand pounds each (before the turn of the 20th century). (Heritage of Zimbabwe, No 16, 1997). The mine was so rich that the company experienced difficulty in buying the farms as owners felt they might be selling future gold mines.
      I just looked up the Economic Geology of the Country around KweKwe by A Du Toit (1998) deals only with the mining aspects of the entities with no mention of the land holdings present or previous…). I think your best bet is to feret out from locals the history of Shabani farms and work back from there.
      The G and P sunk a number of boreholes to supplement the Sebakwe River water during drought periods and had a monopoly on the water, which was a bone of contention when water was desperately short and it was denied the Gaika Mine. (Quite a story there.)
      The G and P was even still supplying the village with electricity when my father arrived in QQ in ’46. Soon after he became mayor and embarked on the long uphill battle to modernize QQ and make it into the industrial hub of SR. I wrote about this in blogs entitled Challenge, Change, Thinking Big, and Perseverance Pays Off (November 2010) as well as a Contribution Not Etched in Stone (March 4, 2011).

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