Tall Tales and Long Drops


Philip, the cook, standing outside Gervas and Dorothy Hughes’ new house on Giraffe Farm.

Tall Tales and Long Drops

Peter Hughes, the son of Gervas Hughes’ half-brother, Tom, returned from the North Africa campaigns of WWII a tough soldier, still only twenty three years old.  He came to work at Melrose Farm and told Tim many tall tales.

Tall Tales and Long Drops

Tim’s favorite story revolved around details of the heat of battle.  In the midst of it, a pig appeared running loose.  Short of food, they chased it with their tank.  Peter jumped out and caught it, before they rejoined the fight.

Peter had an eye for girls with various girlfriends in Que Que. He was keen on two beautiful girls, identical-twins, not quite twenty.  “They are so similar, I never know which one I am taking out,”  he admitted.

Peter was a very good farmer.  Gervas and Dorothy encouraged him to apply for a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, to study Agriculture in England. He won.  After congratulating Peter, Gervas said, “Do not get married while you are away, I will not provide married accommodation for my European assistants.” It was quite clear, if Peter brought home a wife he would not have a job.

Peter returned from England, married to Jean.  Until he found a job, they stayed in the guest’s rondavel at Melrose.

Years later Peter and Jean came to visit Uncle Gervas with their five children. Just before they came through the door, Gervas was heard to say, “Some people just breed like flies.”  Dorothy, as calm and welcoming as usual, produced large quantities of home-made biscuits and cups of tea for everyone.

When Gervas and Dorothy moved to their new house at Giraffe Farm Peter was invited to manage Melrose Farm for a period.  There was a fifty meter walk into the veld to a ‘long-drop’ toilet which had been made deep enough never to fill up.  Dorothy, Angela, and Tim would often have to ask Philip, the African cook, to dispose of a snake lying on the toilet brick wall close to the warm tin roof.   Gervas never seemed to worry.  Jean was not going to put up with this.  She quickly arranged for the walk-in pantry to be converted to a modern toilet, connected to a septic tank.  Gervas was most upset when he was presented with the account for the expensive flush-toilet.

Tim appreciated the new arrangements, years later, when he managed Melrose Farm

Many Thanks to Tim Hughes of Queensland, Australia for the  picture and the excerpts from his unpublished manuscript  Matambega and Son written in the 1980’s.