More lessons for a Jo’burg Lad

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A City Lad Gets Down to Work 

Gervas Hughes, in addition to his office on Main Street, bought the first industrial site east of town, made available by the Lands Department of Que Que (see location on aerial photo published last week).  One acre in size it cost  £50, with a building clause (improvements) of £250. He  built stables for the mules, a cow shed and a dairy,  two huts for the two men who ran the mill, and for the mule driver and the leader.  A four mule team pulled a four wheel trolley for town transport.  There were two mule teams.

A City Lad Gets Down to Work

Gervas also made burnt-bricks, advertised at the local cinema, to sell to builders in town.  The rest of the site was a dumping ground for mining plant and wood from his transport business.  He showed his new assistant, Brian Freyburg, how to manage it all. His men delivered milk on bicycles that had  boxes fore and aft. They carried extra bottles in canvas waistcoats with rows of pockets at the back and front. He made butter from cream separated from surplus milk to sell to the local baker, Mr Baretta, who also used fire wood ad lib. from Gervas’ stack in the town yard.  Mr Baretta’s chickens  would stray into the yard.  Brian would slay one with a half brick if he could, and cook it for lunch.

Gervas and Brian bought a gold mine.  It didn’t pay. When the shaft was only seven metres (about 25 feet) deep, they sold it.

Gold mining was dangerous work. J.D.Wakefield, a small mine worker, blasting one day as usual, drilled a number of holes, charged them, and set the fuses. The practice was to light the slow fuses, run to a safe area, and count the blasts. If all the charges had gone off,  the ore could be removed.  Otherwise the miner would wait twenty four hours before examining the blast area. Usually he found a detonator improperly connected to a fuse.  J.D. didn’t wait. He was killed.

Brian was often bawled at for his shortcomings but received excellent training from Gervas, on the job and off.  One Rhodes and Founders holiday, Gervas took Brian ‘rough camping’ in the bushveld; a tarpaulin tossed on the ground with an old mattress and two blankets, a log fire to keep lions away, and a place to cook, was home for the night. They made coffee in a billy and settled the grounds by quenching a burning twig.

Many Thanks to Tim Hughes of Queensland, Australia for the  picture and the excerpts from his unpublished manuscript  Matambega and Son written in the 1980’s.

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