Milking a Recovery

Dorothy Crowther-Smith (far L) and Gervas Hughes (far R) baling hay at her farm during his recovery from polio at Bordon in Hampshire. (N.B. Gervas' withered R arm and shoulder)

Dorothy Crowther-Smith (far L) and Gervas Hughes (far R) baling hay at her farm in Bordon, Hampshire during his recovery from polio.  (N.B. Gervas’ withered R arm and shoulder)

Milking a Recovery

After a month at the  two-bed G&P Mine dispensery in Que Que under the care of Dr. Davey, Gervas Hughes could walk a little. With the diagnosis of polio from Dr. Godfrey Huggins confirmed in Salisbury, he wired his father Charles in England.

Milking a Recovery

Charles came out to Que Que again (in his lifetime Charles would make sixteen trips to visit his three sons in Rhodesia). He sold everything, other than the farm and the industrial site Gervas had acquired.  For the second time he  took him back to England.  Gervas was under instruction to lie in bed and rest to recover, which was the standard treatment of the 1920’s.   He was wasting away.   He did not want to live.

But while recuperating, he spent a lot of time with Dorothy Crowther-Smith, the daughter of a local doctor.  She was an independent woman with her own farm and herd of Jersey dairy cows. She supplied fresh milk to the Hughes family daily.  She had modern ideas and persuaded him to exercise.  He responded.  Soon she had him driving a car and riding a horse again.

But his shoulder muscles never recovered which meant that he could not lift his arms above waist height. He could still reach his head with his right hand, by pushing upwards with his left, under his right elbow. To drive a car, he would swing his hands onto the steering wheel and use his fingers to position his hands on each side of the steering wheel. If the car was being driven slowly and the steering wheel was hard to turn, a passenger would be asked to help.

After eighteen months he was headed back to Que Que for the third time in seven years, alone.  What he did not realize, of course, was that Dorothy was very much in love with him.

Many Thanks to Tim Hughes of Queensland, Australia for the story excerpt from his unpublished manuscript  Matambega and Son and for the photograph.

P.S. Tim writes since I posted this blog: In the  photo they were making a “Hay stack”. It is poetic licence for you to say “baling hay” but hay baling was only invented in 1937. Gervas had an early stationary baler in the late 1940’s driven by a belt from a tractor belt pulley and the rectangular bales were hand tied together with wire.

A hay stack was usually built in the open and made water proof as it was constructed needing considerable skill and sometimes thatched to keep rain out. The men in the background of the snap were building the hay  stack. When needed slices of hay would be cut off with a large “hay/silage knife”. (like a large toothed saw).


  • betty

    Reply Reply September 7, 2012

    I love romance stories, based on healing and the power of encouragement and love…..but it is usually the patient who falls in love! Can’t wait to hear how this unfolds. Hope there is more!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply September 8, 2012

      Betty, Yes, this is going to be a series, one chapter a week.

  • sue knight

    Reply Reply September 8, 2012

    The boys’ hostel at Que Que High was named after Doctor Davey. Every year the hostel had a Davey Day when the doctor and his wife were present. After the doctor passed away, his wife continued coming to Davey Day each year until she too passed away. I often wonder whether Davey Day is still part of the tradition of the hostel today. Doctor and Mrs Davey and later Mrs Davey on her own always stayed with us as my father was the headmaster of Que Que High at the time.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply September 8, 2012

      Sue, The G and P’s first Doctor was Dr. W.S. Lunan who died on the job in 1901. He was followed by a series of doctors who didn’t stay more than a year or two until Dr. Davey who began at the G&P Mine in 1907 and stayed until retirement in 1937. He was much loved by the community by all accounts. Tweedy Davey (Dr. Davey’s daughter) became a nurse and worked for my Dad at some stage. Her two sons, John and Lawrence, have been in touch with me in the past. Perhaps they know if the tradition persists…we’ll wait to hear from them.

  • Rosemary Webb

    Reply Reply September 3, 2016

    I have just come across this article about Cousin Dorothy and Gervase. Dorothy Crowther-Smith was my father’s cousin and we visited them in Rhodesia at least 3 times. My father (Sydney Charles Crowther-Smith son of Horace Francis C-S) and mother (Betty) emigrated to South Africa in 1948 (I think we arrived on the 1st January 1948!)
    Auntie Nell was living with them at the time of our visits and my favourite memories of Melrose and Giraffe are of jersey cream on our porridge and there being a frog in my sister’s slipper one morning!
    Lovely, lovely people!

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