A Triumph

After five years of roughing it, initially in a very cold tent and then in rat riddled rondavels, Edgar Whitehead was finally able to move into Witchwood with his brindled dog, Magne.

A Triumph
Witchwood: Edgar Whitehead's home near the haunted forest in the Vumba bundu.

Best of all was luxuriating in a six-foot-long hot bathtub after a hard day’s manual labor in the field and sinking into his leather chair beside the fire to read economics by lantern light.  He sent home for an ever-growing list of books to stock his beautiful bookcase. It wasn't easy but, little by little, he expanded Sumajeri's repertoire in the kitchen.

None of Edgar's workers could speak English. He compiled a dictionary as time went on. The stonemason, McAlistair, had long gone and Ferguson had taken long leave to sew up some personal business in England, so he endured a six-month spell without English conversation and took to singing Gilbert and Sullivan at the top of his voice just to hear the sound of the English language reverberate in his ears.

When Edgar did finally get to Umtali with a list of chores he headed afterwards for the bar at Brown’s Hotel. There, over the froth of beer and the babble of conversation he wondered how a town which produced almost nothing, set in a district that produced almost nothing could pay it's way?

Umtali's biggest employer was the Rhodesia Railways repair workshops. Rail served the mines and farms inland all the way to the Congo. Meikles had made big real estate investments in the town with stores and three handsome hotels. Like East Coast fever, building was infectious. It had the look of prosperity but in the last 20 years it had only grown at the pace of seven new residents a year. It boasted a grand total population of 2000. Looking at the patrons at the bar he reflected that none of them had succeeded markedly at anything.

He was confident he could change that. What he needed was a quick cash crop to tide him over while his cherry trees matured and his timber industry took off.

Umzimtuti Series

Check out both books on Amazon


The historical novel Whitewashed Jacarandas and its sequel Full of Possibilities are both available on Amazon as paperbacks and eBooks.

These books are inspired by Diana's family's experiences in small town Southern Rhodesia after WWII.

Dr. Sunny Rubenstein and his Gentile wife, Mavourneen, along with various town characters lay bare the racial arrogance of the times, paternalistic idealism, Zionist fervor and anti-Semitism, the proper place of a wife, modernization versus hard-won ways of doing things, and treatment of endemic disease versus investment in public health. They are a roller coaster read.


  • Sir Edgar Whitehead's Unpublished Memoirs, Rhodes House, Bodleian Library, Oxford University, by permission.
  • Numbers: Special Correspondent to The Rhodesia Herald. Clipping undated (1930's)
  • Photo credit: Sir Edgar Whitehead's Unpublished Photograph Albums, Rhodes House, Bodleian Library, Oxford University, by permission.