Rhodesian Hospitality

The Que Que River strip road, 1960, one of Rhodesia's many lonely roads.

The Que Que River strip road, near Greenham Farm, one of Rhodesia’s many lonely roads, even in the 1960’s.

Rhodesian Hospitality

No one ever came to visit Greenham Farm.  One day, in town, Joan said straight out, “ Why haven’t you been out to the farm to see me all the time I have been there on my own with no car?”

The dear lady looked her up and down and said spitefully, “Why should I —living in sin with your brother-in-law as you are!” She walked off, head in the air.

Joan laughed.  Nothing could be further from the minds of either of them. Gervas was seldom home and so tired when he was. Then they were usually at loggerheads over something. 

Rhodesian Hospitality

At last he returned, to say a friend on another farm had invited her and the children to stay for a few days.  It would be a lovely change.  She packed excitedly.

After a long hot drive, he stopped at a side track and said, “the house is up the road.  I must be getting on—I’m late.”

Carrying the case, with a child holding each hand, they set off along a winding track, thick with dust, for about two miles.

They arrived at an unattractive little house with no garden in the middle of the bush.  She knocked at the door.  A woman came out.

“What do you want?” she asked.

Joan smiled sweetly and said, “I believe you kindly invited us to stay for a few days.  It really is so kind of you.”

She looked at them in horror and burst out “That bloody hubby of mine.  He is always doing crazy things like that. I haven’t got three beds and I knew nothing about it.  You can’t stay.”

The children burst into tears.  Joan said quietly, “I’m afraid we’ll have to.  Their father is  on the Green’s farm that he’s running, what with the war still on, and we have no transport.”

“Oh, alright, but we’re going to Bulawayo, tomorrow, so you’ll have to do for yourselves.”

The servants were hostile and furious when the husband and wife departed the next day and they stayed on.

She shared a bed with Tim. Angela had a narrow stretcher.  They survived for a day or two.  Then Tim became desperately ill suddenly, the way young children sometimes do.  His temperature soared.  She put him in a cold bath, with only Disprin for treatment.  He became delirious.

She was scared.  She wrote to his father, gave a reluctant servant some money and told him to ride his bicycle as fast as he could to find the boss on the Green’s farm.  He was so reluctant that she told him she was a witch and if the little boy died she would put the most awful spell on him!

He took off peddling at top speed, looking wildly over his shoulder until she was out of sight.

At that very moment Tim’s temperature began to drop and he at last slept.

When Gervas arrived, he was not amused.

“What a fuss.  The child is perfectly alright.  I just had to leave everything.  You certainly put the fear of the devil into that boy who brought your note!”

She explained they had been abandoned and she had panicked.

Grumbling, he drove them home.

It was their only excursion.

Excerpt taken also from Rain on the Roof, by Joan (nee Millard) Freyburg (1999) ISBN 0 646 38477 5 with  family permission.   Tim Hughes has electronic copies of this wonderful book that may be available on request via the comments section of this blog.


  • betty goolsby

    Reply Reply March 16, 2013

    Joan deserves a reward for all that she went through…cruel, hateful, judgemental people and others with no compassion or hospitality…the poor children, feeling like unloved orphans. I hope there is a marvelous miracle on the horizon for Joan and the children….reading your last articles have broken my heart!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply March 18, 2013

      Betty, I think we shouldn’t judge too harshly. It really illustrates the times–marital relationships were strictly respected way back then. The community jumped to conclusions which were quite unfounded. Extra marital relationships were taboo along with the fact that Joan was the late Barbara’s sister. Times were tough during the war with manpower stretched to the limit, in a country that was still very primitive. (Rhodesian men made a disproportionate contribution to Britain’s war effort from the very beginning). Development didn’t really take off until the post WWII influx of immigrants from war torn Britain.
      Rhodesia actually became known for its generous hospitality…endless pots of tea and baskets of scones, beer and boerewors on the braai and so on when the war time austerity was over.

  • Tim Hughes

    Reply Reply March 16, 2013

    Betty, Maybe I can help to mend your broken heart! I am one of those two children mentioned and I can assure you that Joan gave Angela and myself so much love all of her life that I for one hardly missed my mother. Maybe it is now time for you to ask me for an electronic copy of “Rain on the roof”.

  • Betty Goolsby

    Reply Reply March 18, 2013

    Tim, I would treasure a copy of your book! I love a good cry from a really beautifully written heart wrenching story! So glad you turned out so well from all the love received from your Aunt Joan! Send it on to bggoolsby@hotmail.com
    Thank you, Tim! Betty Goolsby

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