Intoxications at Que Que Hotel


Gervas and Barbara paddling in the Que Que River 1936

Intoxications at Que Que Hotel  

The Que Que Hotel, on Main Street, facing the Railway station, was run by ‘Hacker’ Matthews an ex-pugilist. Next to the hotel was a large wood and iron hall, where Hacker staged boxing matches. Foolishly, Gervas in his early days took on a local Afrikaner. He hit him.  Nothing happened.  When he hit back, that was the end of the fight.

Another tough local was Mr. Lucas, a ranch manager for the BSA Company, a tall powerful man, but lame.  His visits to town were by mule-cart; to stop, he would grab a wheel with one hand. He would sit in the bar drinking, but never spoke.  A young and too friendly police lad insisted on talking to him in the bar.  Mr Lucas became annoyed by this distraction from his drinking. He gave the lad a back hander without getting up, sending him across the room, through the swing doors, out for the count.

Intoxications at Que Que Hotel

One day Mr. Delacy H. Stowe came into the Que Que Hotel but before he joined the usual crowd in the bar he saw a lovely woman on the verandah.  She was not the hat, gloves and high heels type. From head to toe she was different, with her hair up in a plait and sandals on her feet.

She was on the staff of the School of Art at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, on tour  as a Beit lecturer and potter, to talk about the art of pottery to the Women’s Institutes all along the railway track in Southern Rhodesia.  Barbara Forster Millard had been reluctant to go but her father said “Perhaps you’ll meet your fate there.”  She laughed.  She had been madly in love with David Leach, the son of Bernard Leach the expert potter at the Camberwell School of Art in England.  Her father had dissuaded her.  Later, Professor Smith, discoverer of the coelacanth, the famous ‘living fossil’ fish, was very keen on her.  Her mother wanted her to be ‘ladylike and gracious’ and do the things that girls do, but Barbara loved the family home at Herschel in the Cape and was a real home bird.

Mr. Stowe asked her if she liked riding.  She said, “More than anything!  My father sat me on a horse when I was six hours old and said, ‘There–born in the saddle.’  I’ve been riding ever since.”

“I’ll take you riding” he said. He rushed off to Gervas to borrow horses to take this smashing girl riding.

“No,” said Gervas, “I’ll take her riding.” He  immediately fell in love with her.

On her way back to South Africa, knowing which train she was on, Gervas went to the station to wait for the 2 am train to pass.  He walked up and down the dark platform in the hopes she would wake.

She didn’t.

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.