Outlawing the In-laws on Both Sides

Gervas' parents Charles and Cecily Hughes on one of their many visits to Que Que standing outside Gervas' office 1930

Gervas’ parents, Charles and Cecily Hughes, on one of their many visits to Que Que standing outside Gervas’ office 1930

Outlawing the In-laws on Both Sides    

It was 1937 and after the trip to see the Seventh Wonder of the Natural World, Victoria Falls, Barbara returned with her parents to her childhood home of Herschel in the Cape that she loved so much, to await  the birth of her first child.  

Outlawing the In-laws on Both Sides

But on arrival at Herschel Barbara’s mother Ursula, a painter,  not  the least bit maternal, invited an artist friend  having a show of pictures in the Durban town hall, for a weekend’s painting at Herschel. She brought her son Brian who was living with his mother in a Johannesburg flat.  His first year in engineering at Witwatersrand University had finished in failure to his great disappointment.

Brian collapsed after dinner on the night of his arrival.  Diagnosed with measles he was quarantined in the studio rondaval.  This was most inconvenient.

The baby was late. The nurse engaged  left before delivery.  Barbara’s father, a doctor, was in attendance for the home birth of beautiful auburn haired Angela.  Barbara’s younger sister, Joan, eight years her junior came from Cape Town and  took on the job of caring for the new mother and newborn day and night. When Angela was six weeks old,  Joan accompanied them back to their Rhodesian farm.

Angela always yelled at night.   Joan would take the pram down the bush track and push it till the baby slept.  Once, being stalked by a leopard, Joan left the pram and ran home, baby cradled in her arms.

Joan stayed three weeks at Greenham and Gervas’ parents Cicely and Charles Wylde Hughes came to stay from England too, which was very difficult. Cicely was the most terrible snob. Charlie was lovely but very deaf. The house had hessian ceilings, so all conversations could be heard at night from the bedrooms.

Cicely shouted, “Who would have thought the lovely Barbara we met on the voyage would have a gauche South African school girl for a sister.  And to put her in charge of the darling baby!”

“What did you say?” asked Charlie.

“Gauche sister, in-charge of the darling…”

“Yes, Gorgeous sister.”

I don’t think the baby looks well do you Charlie?”

“What’s that?”

“Baby not well.”

“Baby wonderful too!”

“Terrible food we had tonight.”

“What’s that about food?”

Not a good housekeeper.”

“Yes, house keeps lovely and cool.”

It was the longest three weeks of everyone’s lives.

Many Thanks to Tim Hughes of Queensland, Australia for the  picture and the excerpts from his unpublished manuscript  Matambega and Son written in the 1980’s.


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