"My Greatest Desire"

"My Greatest Desire"

Beit Hall at Plumtree School was named after the philanthropist Alfred Beit.

“My Greatest Desire”

Alfred Beit had initiative, good judgement and generosity. His legacy is uncontaminated, unlike his friend Rhodes whom he assisted so much.

There is a memorial to him at the entrance to the School of Mines at the Imperial College, London.  His trust bequeathed 1.2 million pounds to develop the infrastructure of Rhodesia.  He contributed to the famous bridges over the Zambezi, Limpopo, and Sabi rivers. Plumtree School has its Beit Hall.

“My Greatest Desire”

Beit Hall at Plumtree School accommodated the daily school assembly, the town’s bioscope (cinema) as well as the  annual Gilbert and Sullivan play for which new boys auditioned tearfully in the school train.

The headmaster of Plumtree School, Mr Pattison, was an old school friend of John Millard’s dating back to the 1920’s. He often invited John and his wife Corinne to attend the shows.  Much to Tim’s embarrassment he was told to sit with his Uncle John and the Pattisons in the front row on opening night. Receiving preferential treatment from the headmaster, even if ordered, was good cause for derision from most of the boys.

Rhodesians could get their driver’s license at sixteen. Tim, who had been driving his ’39 Chev pick-up for two years already at home on the farm and the back roads around Que Que was extremely eager to take his test on his sixteenth birthday so he could  take to the open road legally. He arranged to borrow Hugh Raich’s father’s Austin lorry. The hand brake broke.

Initiative, good judgement and generosity saved the day. Tim visited the headmaster.

“Mr Pattison, Sir, I have an appointment to take my driving license. Mr. Raich’s lorry is unroadworthy.  Please may I borrow your car?”

The seconds ticked by.  “No schoolboy has ever asked to borrow my car. Since you are the first, I will allow it.”

Tim got his license and returned the car.


A month later, at home for school holidays, Tim asked Gervas, “Dad, can I use your car, please, to go to the bioscope?

“No, you can’t. Just because you have a driving license doesn’t mean you know how to drive a car.”

Nothing more was said for two days. Dorothy persuaded Gervas to allow Tim to collect some parcels from the railway station. Gervas said, “Alright, but if he makes a dent in it, he won’t use it again.”

Gervas kept the Melrose farm roads in good condition. One day he drove north in his Vanguard, past the big maize lands, doing about 50 mph. Tim was driving the old ’39 Chev pickup going west, after checking cattle water troughs. He had his foot flat doing over 60 mph.  Through the scrub he spotted the grey Vanguard churning up dust on his left.  He hit the brakes. He skidded to a stop just in time.

At lunch, Tim commented on the close call. “I don’t recollect seeing you,” said  Gervas. “I was in a hurry to check ploughing in the northern farm lands.”

Tim reduced his speed around the farm from then on.

Drivers Licence scan0001 (2)

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

Beit Hall photo http://oldprunitian.rhodesiana.com/Photos/Buildings/buildings_album.html#top