January 28, 2022 at 9:30 pm #6264
From Tanganyika with Love
continued ~ part 5
With thanks to Mike Rushby.
Chunya 16th December 1936
Since last I wrote I have visited Chunya and met several of the diggers wives.
On the whole I have been greatly disappointed because there is nothing very colourful
about either township or women. I suppose I was really expecting something more like
the goldrush towns and women I have so often seen on the cinema screen.
Chunya consists of just the usual sun-dried brick Indian shops though there are
one or two double storied buildings. Most of the life in the place centres on the
Goldfields Hotel but we did not call there. From the store opposite I could hear sounds
of revelry though it was very early in the afternoon. I saw only one sight which was quite
new to me, some elegantly dressed African women, with high heels and lipsticked
mouths teetered by on their way to the silk store. “Native Tarts,” said George in answer
to my enquiry.
Several women have called on me and when I say ‘called’ I mean called. I have
grown so used to going without stockings and wearing home made dresses that it was
quite a shock to me to entertain these ladies dressed to the nines in smart frocks, silk
stockings and high heeled shoes, handbags, makeup and whatnot. I feel like some
female Rip van Winkle. Most of the women have a smart line in conversation and their
talk and views on life would make your nice straight hair curl Mummy. They make me feel
very unsophisticated and dowdy but George says he has a weakness for such types
and I am to stay exactly as I am. I still do not use any makeup. George says ‘It’s all right
for them. They need it poor things, you don’t.” Which, though flattering, is hardly true.
I prefer the men visitors, though they also are quite unlike what I had expected
diggers to be. Those whom George brings home are all well educated and well
groomed and I enjoy listening to their discussion of the world situation, sport and books.
They are extremely polite to me and gentle with the children though I believe that after a
few drinks at the pub tempers often run high. There were great arguments on the night
following the abdication of Edward VIII. Not that the diggers were particularly attached to
him as a person, but these men are all great individualists and believe in freedom of
choice. George, rather to my surprise, strongly supported Edward. I did not.
Many of the diggers have wireless sets and so we keep up to date with the
news. I seldom leave camp. I have my hands full with the three children during the day
and, even though Janey is a reliable ayah, I would not care to leave the children at night
in these grass roofed huts. Having experienced that fire on the farm, I know just how
unlikely it would be that the children would be rescued in time in case of fire. The other
women on the diggings think I’m crazy. They leave their children almost entirely to ayahs
and I must confess that the children I have seen look very well and happy. The thing is
that I simply would not enjoy parties at the hotel or club, miles away from the children
and I much prefer to stay at home with a book.
I love hearing all about the parties from George who likes an occasional ‘boose
up’ with the boys and is terribly popular with everyone – not only the British but with the
Germans, Scandinavians and even the Afrikaans types. One Afrikaans woman said “Jou
man is ‘n man, al is hy ‘n Engelsman.” Another more sophisticated woman said, “George
is a handsome devil. Aren’t you scared to let him run around on his own?” – but I’m not. I
usually wait up for George with sandwiches and something hot to drink and that way I
get all the news red hot.
There is very little gold coming in. The rains have just started and digging is
temporarily at a standstill. It is too wet for dry blowing and not yet enough water for
panning and sluicing. As this camp is some considerable distance from the claims, all I see of the process is the weighing of the daily taking of gold dust and tiny nuggets.
Unless our luck changes I do not think we will stay on here after John Molteno returns.
George does not care for the life and prefers a more constructive occupation.
Ann and young George still search optimistically for gold. We were all saddened
last week by the death of Fanny, our bull terrier. She went down to the shopping centre
with us and we were standing on the verandah of a store when a lorry passed with its
canvas cover flapping. This excited Fanny who rushed out into the street and the back
wheel of the lorry passed right over her, killing her instantly. Ann was very shocked so I
soothed her by telling her that Fanny had gone to Heaven. When I went to bed that
night I found Ann still awake and she asked anxiously, “Mummy, do you think God
remembered to give Fanny her bone tonight?”
Much love to all,
Itewe, Chunya 23rd December 1936
Your Christmas parcel arrived this morning. Thank you very much for all the
clothing for all of us and for the lovely toys for the children. George means to go hunting
for a young buffalo this afternoon so that we will have some fresh beef for Christmas for
ourselves and our boys and enough for friends too.
I had a fright this morning. Ann and Georgie were, as usual, searching for gold
whilst I sat sewing in the living room with Kate toddling around. She wandered through
the curtained doorway into the store and I heard her playing with the paraffin pump. At
first it did not bother me because I knew the tin was empty but after ten minutes or so I
became irritated by the noise and went to stop her. Imagine my horror when I drew the
curtain aside and saw my fat little toddler fiddling happily with the pump whilst, curled up
behind the tin and clearly visible to me lay the largest puffadder I have ever seen.
Luckily I acted instinctively and scooped Kate up from behind and darted back into the
living room without disturbing the snake. The houseboy and cook rushed in with sticks
and killed the snake and then turned the whole storeroom upside down to make sure
there were no more.
I have met some more picturesque characters since I last wrote. One is a man
called Bishop whom George has known for many years having first met him in the
Congo. I believe he was originally a sailor but for many years he has wandered around
Central Africa trying his hand at trading, prospecting, a bit of elephant hunting and ivory
poaching. He is now keeping himself by doing ‘Sign Writing”. Bish is a gentle and
dignified personality. When we visited his camp he carefully dusted a seat for me and
called me ‘Marm’, quite ye olde world. The only thing is he did spit.
Another spitter is the Frenchman in a neighbouring camp. He is in bed with bad
rheumatism and George has been going across twice a day to help him and cheer him
up. Once when George was out on the claim I went across to the Frenchman’s camp in
response to an SOS, but I think he was just lonely. He showed me snapshots of his
two daughters, lovely girls and extremely smart, and he chatted away telling me his life
history. He punctuated his remarks by spitting to right and left of the bed, everywhere in
fact, except actually at me.
George took me and the children to visit a couple called Bert and Hilda Farham.
They have a small gold reef which is worked by a very ‘Heath Robinson’ type of
machinery designed and erected by Bert who is reputed to be a clever engineer though
eccentric. He is rather a handsome man who always looks very spruce and neat and
wears a Captain Kettle beard. Hilda is from Johannesburg and quite a character. She
has a most generous figure and literally masses of beetroot red hair, but she also has a
warm deep voice and a most generous disposition. The Farhams have built
themselves a more permanent camp than most. They have a brick cottage with proper
doors and windows and have made it attractive with furniture contrived from petrol
boxes. They have no children but Hilda lavishes a great deal of affection on a pet
monkey. Sometimes they do quite well out of their gold and then they have a terrific
celebration at the Club or Pub and Hilda has an orgy of shopping. At other times they
are completely broke but Hilda takes disasters as well as triumphs all in her stride. She
says, “My dear, when we’re broke we just live on tea and cigarettes.”
I have met a young woman whom I would like as a friend. She has a dear little
baby, but unfortunately she has a very wet husband who is also a dreadful bore. I can’t
imagine George taking me to their camp very often. When they came to visit us George
just sat and smoked and said,”Oh really?” to any remark this man made until I felt quite
hysterical. George looks very young and fit and the children are lively and well too. I ,
however, am definitely showing signs of wear and tear though George says,
“Nonsense, to me you look the same as you always did.” This I may say, I do not
regard as a compliment to the young Eleanor.
Anyway, even though our future looks somewhat unsettled, we are all together
and very happy.
Itewe, Chunya 30th December 1936
We had a very cheery Christmas. The children loved the toys and are so proud
of their new clothes. They wore them when we went to Christmas lunch to the
Cresswell-Georges. The C-Gs have been doing pretty well lately and they have a
comfortable brick house and a large wireless set. The living room was gaily decorated
with bought garlands and streamers and balloons. We had an excellent lunch cooked by
our ex cook Abel who now works for the Cresswell-Georges. We had turkey with
trimmings and plum pudding followed by nuts and raisons and chocolates and sweets
galore. There was also a large variety of drinks including champagne!
There were presents for all of us and, in addition, Georgie and Ann each got a
large tin of chocolates. Kate was much admired. She was a picture in her new party frock
with her bright hair and rosy cheeks. There were other guests beside ourselves and
they were already there having drinks when we arrived. Someone said “What a lovely
child!” “Yes” said George with pride, “She’s a Marie Stopes baby.” “Truby King!” said I
quickly and firmly, but too late to stop the roar of laughter.
Our children played amicably with the C-G’s three, but young George was
unusually quiet and surprised me by bringing me his unopened tin of chocolates to keep
for him. Normally he is a glutton for sweets. I might have guessed he was sickening for
something. That night he vomited and had diarrhoea and has had an upset tummy and a
slight temperature ever since.
Janey is also ill. She says she has malaria and has taken to her bed. I am dosing
her with quinine and hope she will soon be better as I badly need her help. Not only is
young George off his food and peevish but Kate has a cold and Ann sore eyes and
they all want love and attention. To complicate things it has been raining heavily and I
must entertain the children indoors.
Itewe, Chunya 19th January 1937
So sorry I have not written before but we have been in the wars and I have had neither
the time nor the heart to write. However the worst is now over. Young George and
Janey are both recovering from Typhoid Fever. The doctor had Janey moved to the
native hospital at Chunya but I nursed young George here in the camp.
As I told you young George’s tummy trouble started on Christmas day. At first I
thought it was only a protracted bilious attack due to eating too much unaccustomed rich
food and treated him accordingly but when his temperature persisted I thought that the
trouble might be malaria and kept him in bed and increased the daily dose of quinine.
He ate less and less as the days passed and on New Years Day he seemed very
weak and his stomach tender to the touch.
George fetched the doctor who examined small George and said he had a very
large liver due no doubt to malaria. He gave the child injections of emertine and quinine
and told me to give young George frequent and copious drinks of water and bi-carb of
soda. This was more easily said than done. Young George refused to drink this mixture
and vomited up the lime juice and water the doctor had suggested as an alternative.
The doctor called every day and gave George further injections and advised me
to give him frequent sips of water from a spoon. After three days the child was very
weak and weepy but Dr Spiers still thought he had malaria. During those anxious days I
also worried about Janey who appeared to be getting worse rather that better and on
January the 3rd I asked the doctor to look at her. The next thing I knew, the doctor had
put Janey in his car and driven her off to hospital. When he called next morning he
looked very grave and said he wished to talk to my husband. I said that George was out
on the claim but if what he wished to say concerned young George’s condition he might
just as well tell me.
With a good deal of reluctance Dr Spiers then told me that Janey showed all the
symptoms of Typhoid Fever and that he was very much afraid that young George had
contracted it from her. He added that George should be taken to the Mbeya Hospital
where he could have the professional nursing so necessary in typhoid cases. I said “Oh
no,I’d never allow that. The child had never been away from his family before and it
would frighten him to death to be sick and alone amongst strangers.” Also I was sure that
the fifty mile drive over the mountains in his weak condition would harm him more than
my amateur nursing would. The doctor returned to the camp that afternoon to urge
George to send our son to hospital but George staunchly supported my argument that
young George would stand a much better chance of recovery if we nursed him at home.
I must say Dr Spiers took our refusal very well and gave young George every attention
coming twice a day to see him.
For some days the child was very ill. He could not keep down any food or liquid
in any quantity so all day long, and when he woke at night, I gave him a few drops of
water at a time from a teaspoon. His only nourishment came from sucking Macintosh’s
toffees. Young George sweated copiously especially at night when it was difficult to
change his clothes and sponge him in the draughty room with the rain teeming down
outside. I think I told you that the bedroom is a sort of shed with only openings in the wall
for windows and doors, and with one wall built only a couple of feet high leaving a six
foot gap for air and light. The roof leaked and the damp air blew in but somehow young
George pulled through.
Only when he was really on the mend did the doctor tell us that whilst he had
been attending George, he had also been called in to attend to another little boy of the same age who also had typhoid. He had been called in too late and the other little boy,
an only child, had died. Young George, thank God, is convalescent now, though still on a
milk diet. He is cheerful enough when he has company but very peevish when left
alone. Poor little lad, he is all hair, eyes, and teeth, or as Ann says” Georgie is all ribs ribs
now-a-days Mummy.” He shares my room, Ann and Kate are together in the little room.
Anyway the doctor says he should be up and around in about a week or ten days time.
We were all inoculated against typhoid on the day the doctor made the diagnosis
so it is unlikely that any of us will develop it. Dr Spiers was most impressed by Ann’s
unconcern when she was inoculated. She looks gentle and timid but has always been
very brave. Funny thing when young George was very ill he used to wail if I left the
room, but now that he is convalescent he greatly prefers his dad’s company. So now I
have been able to take the girls for walks in the late afternoons whilst big George
entertains small George. This he does with the minimum of effort, either he gets out
cartons of ammunition with which young George builds endless forts, or else he just sits
beside the bed and cleans one of his guns whilst small George watches with absorbed
The Doctor tells us that Janey is also now convalescent. He says that exhusband
Abel has been most attentive and appeared daily at the hospital with a tray of
food that made his, the doctor’s, mouth water. All I dare say, pinched from Mrs
I’ll write again soon. Lots of love to all,
Chunya 29th January 1937
Georgie is up and about but still tires very easily. At first his legs were so weak
that George used to carry him around on his shoulders. The doctor says that what the
child really needs is a long holiday out of the Tropics so that Mrs Thomas’ offer, to pay all
our fares to Cape Town as well as lending us her seaside cottage for a month, came as
a Godsend. Luckily my passport is in order. When George was in Mbeya he booked
seats for the children and me on the first available plane. We will fly to Broken Hill and go
on to Cape Town from there by train.
Ann and George are wildly thrilled at the idea of flying but I am not. I remember
only too well how airsick I was on the old Hannibal when I flew home with the baby Ann.
I am longing to see you all and it will be heaven to give the children their first seaside
I mean to return with Kate after three months but, if you will have him, I shall leave
George behind with you for a year. You said you would all be delighted to have Ann so
I do hope you will also be happy to have young George. Together they are no trouble
at all. They amuse themselves and are very independent and loveable.
George and I have discussed the matter taking into consideration the letters from
you and George’s Mother on the subject. If you keep Ann and George for a year, my
mother-in-law will go to Cape Town next year and fetch them. They will live in England
with her until they are fit enough to return to the Tropics. After the children and I have left
on this holiday, George will be able to move around and look for a job that will pay
sufficiently to enable us to go to England in a few years time to fetch our children home.
We both feel very sad at the prospect of this parting but the children’s health
comes before any other consideration. I hope Kate will stand up better to the Tropics.
She is plump and rosy and could not look more bonny if she lived in a temperate
We should be with you in three weeks time!
Very much love,
Broken Hill, N Rhodesia 11th February 1937
Well here we are safe and sound at the Great Northern Hotel, Broken Hill, all
ready to board the South bound train tonight.
We were still on the diggings on Ann’s birthday, February 8th, when George had
a letter from Mbeya to say that our seats were booked on the plane leaving Mbeya on
the 10th! What a rush we had packing up. Ann was in bed with malaria so we just
bundled her up in blankets and set out in John Molteno’s car for the farm. We arrived that
night and spent the next day on the farm sorting things out. Ann and George wanted to
take so many of their treasures and it was difficult for them to make a small selection. In
the end young George’s most treasured possession, his sturdy little boots, were left
Before leaving home on the morning of the tenth I took some snaps of Ann and
young George in the garden and one of them with their father. He looked so sad. After
putting us on the plane, George planned to go to the fishing camp for a day or two
before returning to the empty house on the farm.
John Molteno returned from the Cape by plane just before we took off, so he
will take over the running of his claims once more. I told John that I dreaded the plane trip
on account of air sickness so he gave me two pills which I took then and there. Oh dear!
How I wished later that I had not done so. We had an extremely bumpy trip and
everyone on the plane was sick except for small George who loved every moment.
Poor Ann had a dreadful time but coped very well and never complained. I did not
actually puke until shortly before we landed at Broken Hill but felt dreadfully ill all the way.
Kate remained rosy and cheerful almost to the end. She sat on my lap throughout the
trip because, being under age, she travelled as baggage and was not entitled to a seat.
Shortly before we reached Broken Hill a smartly dressed youngish man came up
to me and said, “You look so poorly, please let me take the baby, I have children of my
own and know how to handle them.” Kate made no protest and off they went to the
back of the plane whilst I tried to relax and concentrate on not getting sick. However,
within five minutes the man was back. Kate had been thoroughly sick all over his collar
I took Kate back on my lap and then was violently sick myself, so much so that
when we touched down at Broken Hill I was unable to speak to the Immigration Officer.
He was so kind. He sat beside me until I got my diaphragm under control and then
drove me up to the hotel in his own car.
We soon recovered of course and ate a hearty dinner. This morning after
breakfast I sallied out to look for a Bank where I could exchange some money into
Rhodesian and South African currency and for the Post Office so that I could telegraph
to George and to you. What a picnic that trip was! It was a terribly hot day and there was
no shade. By the time we had done our chores, the children were hot, and cross, and
tired and so indeed was I. As I had no push chair for Kate I had to carry her and she is
pretty heavy for eighteen months. George, who is still not strong, clung to my free arm
whilst Ann complained bitterly that no one was helping her.
Eventually Ann simply sat down on the pavement and declared that she could
not go another step, whereupon George of course decided that he also had reached his
limit and sat down too. Neither pleading no threats would move them so I had to resort
to bribery and had to promise that when we reached the hotel they could have cool
drinks and ice-cream. This promise got the children moving once more but I am determined that nothing will induce me to stir again until the taxi arrives to take us to the
This letter will go by air and will reach you before we do. How I am longing for
With love to you all,
Leaving home 10th February 1937, George Gilman Rushby with Ann and Georgie (Mike) Rushby:
We had a very warm welcome to the family home at Plumstead Cape Town.
After ten days with my family we moved to Hout Bay where Mrs Thomas lent us her
delightful seaside cottage. She also provided us with two excellent maids so I had
nothing to do but rest and play on the beach with the children.
After a month at the sea George had fully recovered his health though not his
former gay spirits. After another six months with my parents I set off for home with Kate,
leaving Ann and George in my parent’s home under the care of my elder sister,
One or two incidents during that visit remain clearly in my memory. Our children
had never met elderly people and were astonished at the manifestations of age. One
morning an elderly lady came around to collect church dues. She was thin and stooped
and Ann surveyed her with awe. She turned to me with a puzzled expression and
asked in her clear voice, “Mummy, why has that old lady got a moustache – oh and a
beard?’ The old lady in question was very annoyed indeed and said, “What a rude little
girl.” Ann could not understand this, she said, “But Mummy, I only said she had a
moustache and a beard and she has.” So I explained as best I could that when people
have defects of this kind they are hurt if anyone mentions them.
A few days later a strange young woman came to tea. I had been told that she
had a most disfiguring birthmark on her cheek and warned Ann that she must not
comment on it. Alas! with the kindest intentions Ann once again caused me acute
embarrassment. The young woman was hardly seated when Ann went up to her and
gently patted the disfiguring mark saying sweetly, “Oh, I do like this horrible mark on your
I remember also the afternoon when Kate and George were christened. My
mother had given George a white silk shirt for the occasion and he wore it with intense
pride. Kate was baptised first without incident except that she was lost in admiration of a
gold bracelet given her that day by her Godmother and exclaimed happily, “My
bangle, look my bangle,” throughout the ceremony. When George’s turn came the
clergyman held his head over the font and poured water on George’s forehead. Some
splashed on his shirt and George protested angrily, “Mum, he has wet my shirt!” over
and over again whilst I led him hurriedly outside.
My last memory of all is at the railway station. The time had come for Kate and
me to get into our compartment. My sisters stood on the platform with Ann and George.
Ann was resigned to our going, George was not so, at the last moment Sylvia, my
younger sister, took him off to see the engine. The whistle blew and I said good-bye to
my gallant little Ann. “Mummy”, she said urgently to me, “Don’t forget to wave to
And so I waved good-bye to my children, never dreaming that a war would
intervene and it would be eight long years before I saw them again.January 28, 2022 at 1:10 pm #6260
From Tanganyika with Love
With thanks to Mike Rushby.
- “The letters of Eleanor Dunbar Leslie to her parents and her sister in South Africa
concerning her life with George Gilman Rushby of Tanganyika, and the trials and
joys of bringing up a family in pioneering conditions.
These letters were transcribed from copies of letters typed by Eleanor Rushby from
the originals which were in the estate of Marjorie Leslie, Eleanor’s sister. Eleanor
kept no diary of her life in Tanganyika, so these letters were the living record of an
important part of her life.
Having walked across Africa from the East coast to Ubangi Shauri Chad
in French Equatorial Africa, hunting elephant all the way, George Rushby
made his way down the Congo to Leopoldville. He then caught a ship to
Europe and had a holiday in Brussels and Paris before visiting his family
in England. He developed blackwater fever and was extremely ill for a
while. When he recovered he went to London to arrange his return to
Whilst staying at the Overseas Club he met Eileen Graham who had come
to England from Cape Town to study music. On hearing that George was
sailing for Cape Town she arranged to introduce him to her friend
Eleanor Dunbar Leslie. “You’ll need someone lively to show you around,”
she said. “She’s as smart as paint, a keen mountaineer, a very good school
teacher, and she’s attractive. You can’t miss her, because her father is a
well known Cape Town Magistrate. And,” she added “I’ve already written
and told her what ship you are arriving on.”
Eleanor duly met the ship. She and George immediately fell in love.
Within thirty six hours he had proposed marriage and was accepted
despite the misgivings of her parents. As she was under contract to her
High School, she remained in South Africa for several months whilst
George headed for Tanganyika looking for a farm where he could build
These details are a summary of chapter thirteen of the Biography of
George Gilman Rushby ‘The Hunter is Death “ by T.V.Bulpin.
Terrifically exciting news! I’ve just become engaged to an Englishman whom I
met last Monday. The result is a family upheaval which you will have no difficulty in
The Aunts think it all highly romantic and cry in delight “Now isn’t that just like our
El!” Mummy says she doesn’t know what to think, that anyway I was always a harum
scarum and she rather expected something like this to happen. However I know that
she thinks George highly attractive. “Such a nice smile and gentle manner, and such
good hands“ she murmurs appreciatively. “But WHY AN ELEPHANT HUNTER?” she
ends in a wail, as though elephant hunting was an unmentionable profession.
Anyway I don’t think so. Anyone can marry a bank clerk or a lawyer or even a
millionaire – but whoever heard of anyone marrying anyone as exciting as an elephant
hunter? I’m thrilled to bits.
Daddy also takes a dim view of George’s profession, and of George himself as
a husband for me. He says that I am so impulsive and have such wild enthusiasms that I
need someone conservative and steady to give me some serenity and some ballast.
Dad says George is a handsome fellow and a good enough chap he is sure, but
he is obviously a man of the world and hints darkly at a possible PAST. George says
he has nothing of the kind and anyway I’m the first girl he has asked to marry him. I don’t
care anyway, I’d gladly marry him tomorrow, but Dad has other ideas.
He sat in his armchair to deliver his verdict, wearing the same look he must wear
on the bench. If we marry, and he doesn’t think it would be a good thing, George must
buy a comfortable house for me in Central Africa where I can stay safely when he goes
hunting. I interrupted to say “But I’m going too”, but dad snubbed me saying that in no
time at all I’ll have a family and one can’t go dragging babies around in the African Bush.”
George takes his lectures with surprising calm. He says he can see Dad’s point of
view much better than I can. He told the parents today that he plans to buy a small
coffee farm in the Southern Highlands of Tanganyika and will build a cosy cottage which
will be a proper home for both of us, and that he will only hunt occasionally to keep the
Mummy, of course, just had to spill the beans. She said to George, “I suppose
you know that Eleanor knows very little about house keeping and can’t cook at all.” a fact
that I was keeping a dark secret. But George just said, “Oh she won’t have to work. The
boys do all that sort of thing. She can lie on a couch all day and read if she likes.” Well
you always did say that I was a “Lily of the field,” and what a good thing! If I were one of
those terribly capable women I’d probably die of frustration because it seems that
African house boys feel that they have lost face if their Memsahibs do anything but the
most gracious chores.
George is absolutely marvellous. He is strong and gentle and awfully good
looking too. He is about 5 ft 10 ins tall and very broad. He wears his curly brown hair cut
very short and has a close clipped moustache. He has strongly marked eyebrows and
very striking blue eyes which sometimes turn grey or green. His teeth are strong and
even and he has a quiet voice.
I expect all this sounds too good to be true, but come home quickly and see for
yourself. George is off to East Africa in three weeks time to buy our farm. I shall follow as
soon as he has bought it and we will be married in Dar es Salaam.
Dad has taken George for a walk “to get to know him” and that’s why I have time
to write such a long screed. They should be back any minute now and I must fly and
apply a bit of glamour.
Much love my dear,
S.S.Timavo. Durban. 28th.October. 1930.
Thank you for the lovely send off. I do wish you were all on board with me and
could come and dance with me at my wedding. We are having a very comfortable
voyage. There were only four of the passengers as far as Durban, all of them women,
but I believe we are taking on more here. I have a most comfortable deck cabin to
myself and the use of a sumptuous bathroom. No one is interested in deck games and I
am having a lazy time, just sunbathing and reading.
I sit at the Captain’s table and the meals are delicious – beautifully served. The
butter for instance, is moulded into sprays of roses, most exquisitely done, and as for
the ice-cream, I’ve never tasted anything like them.
The meals are continental type and we have hors d’oeuvre in a great variety
served on large round trays. The Italians souse theirs with oil, Ugh! We also of course
get lots of spaghetti which I have some difficulty in eating. However this presents no
problem to the Chief Engineer who sits opposite to me. He simply rolls it around his
fork and somehow the spaghetti flows effortlessly from fork to mouth exactly like an
ascending escalator. Wine is served at lunch and dinner – very mild and pleasant stuff.
Of the women passengers the one i liked best was a young German widow
from South west Africa who left the ship at East London to marry a man she had never
met. She told me he owned a drapers shop and she was very happy at the prospect
of starting a new life, as her previous marriage had ended tragically with the death of her
husband and only child in an accident.
I was most interested to see the bridegroom and stood at the rail beside the gay
young widow when we docked at East London. I picked him out, without any difficulty,
from the small group on the quay. He was a tall thin man in a smart grey suit and with a
grey hat perched primly on his head. You can always tell from hats can’t you? I wasn’t
surprised to see, when this German raised his head, that he looked just like the Kaiser’s
“Little Willie”. Long thin nose and cold grey eyes and no smile of welcome on his tight
mouth for the cheery little body beside me. I quite expected him to jerk his thumb and
stalk off, expecting her to trot at his heel.
However she went off blithely enough. Next day before the ship sailed, she
was back and I saw her talking to the Captain. She began to cry and soon after the
Captain patted her on the shoulder and escorted her to the gangway. Later the Captain
told me that the girl had come to ask him to allow her to work her passage back to
Germany where she had some relations. She had married the man the day before but
she disliked him because he had deceived her by pretending that he owned a shop
whereas he was only a window dresser. Bad show for both.
The Captain and the Chief Engineer are the only officers who mix socially with
the passengers. The captain seems rather a melancholy type with, I should say, no
sense of humour. He speaks fair English with an American accent. He tells me that he
was on the San Francisco run during Prohibition years in America and saw many Film
Stars chiefly “under the influence” as they used to flock on board to drink. The Chief
Engineer is big and fat and cheerful. His English is anything but fluent but he makes up
for it in mime.
I visited the relations and friends at Port Elizabeth and East London, and here at
Durban. I stayed with the Trotters and Swans and enjoyed myself very much at both
places. I have collected numerous wedding presents, china and cutlery, coffee
percolator and ornaments, and where I shall pack all these things I don’t know. Everyone has been terribly kind and I feel extremely well and happy.
At the start of the voyage I had a bit of bad luck. You will remember that a
perfectly foul South Easter was blowing. Some men were busy working on a deck
engine and I stopped to watch and a tiny fragment of steel blew into my eye. There is
no doctor on board so the stewardess put some oil into the eye and bandaged it up.
The eye grew more and more painful and inflamed and when when we reached Port
Elizabeth the Captain asked the Port Doctor to look at it. The Doctor said it was a job for
an eye specialist and telephoned from the ship to make an appointment. Luckily for me,
Vincent Tofts turned up at the ship just then and took me off to the specialist and waited
whilst he extracted the fragment with a giant magnet. The specialist said that I was very
lucky as the thing just missed the pupil of my eye so my sight will not be affected. I was
temporarily blinded by the Belladona the eye-man put in my eye so he fitted me with a
pair of black goggles and Vincent escorted me back to the ship. Don’t worry the eye is
now as good as ever and George will not have to take a one-eyed bride for better or
I have one worry and that is that the ship is going to be very much overdue by
the time we reach Dar es Salaam. She is taking on a big wool cargo and we were held
up for three days in East london and have been here in Durban for five days.
Today is the ninth Anniversary of the Fascist Movement and the ship was
dressed with bunting and flags. I must now go and dress for the gala dinner.
Bless you all,
S.S.Timavo. 6th. November 1930
Nearly there now. We called in at Lourenco Marques, Beira, Mozambique and
Port Amelia. I was the only one of the original passengers left after Durban but there we
took on a Mrs Croxford and her mother and two men passengers. Mrs C must have
something, certainly not looks. She has a flat figure, heavily mascared eyes and crooked
mouth thickly coated with lipstick. But her rather sweet old mother-black-pearls-type tells
me they are worn out travelling around the world trying to shake off an admirer who
pursues Mrs C everywhere.
The one male passenger is very quiet and pleasant. The old lady tells me that he
has recently lost his wife. The other passenger is a horribly bumptious type.
I had my hair beautifully shingled at Lourenco Marques, but what an experience it
was. Before we docked I asked the Captain whether he knew of a hairdresser, but he
said he did not and would have to ask the agent when he came aboard. The agent was
a very suave Asian. He said “Sure he did” and offered to take me in his car. I rather
doubtfully agreed — such a swarthy gentleman — and was driven, not to a hairdressing
establishment, but to his office. Then he spoke to someone on the telephone and in no
time at all a most dago-y type arrived carrying a little black bag. He was all patent
leather, hair, and flashing smile, and greeted me like an old and valued friend.
Before I had collected my scattered wits tthe Agent had flung open a door and
ushered me through, and I found myself seated before an ornate mirror in what was only
too obviously a bedroom. It was a bedroom with a difference though. The unmade bed
had no legs but hung from the ceiling on brass chains.
The agent beamingly shut the door behind him and I was left with my imagination
and the afore mentioned oily hairdresser. He however was very business like. Before I
could say knife he had shingled my hair with a cut throat razor and then, before I could
protest, had smothered my neck in stinking pink powder applied with an enormous and
filthy swansdown powder puff. He held up a mirror for me to admire his handiwork but I
was aware only of the enormous bed reflected in it, and hurriedly murmuring “very nice,
very nice” I made my escape to the outer office where, to my relief, I found the Chief
Engineer who escorted me back to the ship.
In the afternoon Mrs Coxford and the old lady and I hired a taxi and went to the
Polana Hotel for tea. Very swish but I like our Cape Peninsula beaches better.
At Lorenco Marques we took on more passengers. The Governor of
Portuguese Nyasaland and his wife and baby son. He was a large middle aged man,
very friendly and unassuming and spoke perfect English. His wife was German and
exquisite, as fragile looking and with the delicate colouring of a Dresden figurine. She
looked about 18 but she told me she was 28 and showed me photographs of two
other sons – hefty youngsters, whom she had left behind in Portugal and was missing
It was frightfully hot at Beira and as I had no money left I did not go up to the
town, but Mrs Croxford and I spent a pleasant hour on the beach under the Casurina
The Governor and his wife left the ship at Mozambique. He looked very
imposing in his starched uniform and she more Dresden Sheperdish than ever in a
flowered frock. There was a guard of honour and all the trimmings. They bade me a warm farewell and invited George and me to stay at any time.
The German ship “Watussi” was anchored in the Bay and I decided to visit her
and try and have my hair washed and set. I had no sooner stepped on board when a
lady came up to me and said “Surely you are Beeba Leslie.” It was Mrs Egan and she
had Molly with her. Considering Mrs Egan had not seen me since I was five I think it was
jolly clever of her to recognise me. Molly is charming and was most friendly. She fixed
things with the hairdresser and sat with me until the job was done. Afterwards I had tea
Port Amelia was our last stop. In fact the only person to go ashore was Mr
Taylor, the unpleasant man, and he returned at sunset very drunk indeed.
We reached Port Amelia on the 3rd – my birthday. The boat had anchored by
the time I was dressed and when I went on deck I saw several row boats cluttered
around the gangway and in them were natives with cages of wild birds for sale. Such tiny
crowded cages. I was furious, you know me. I bought three cages, carried them out on
to the open deck and released the birds. I expected them to fly to the land but they flew
straight up into the rigging.
The quiet male passenger wandered up and asked me what I was doing. I said
“I’m giving myself a birthday treat, I hate to see caged birds.” So next thing there he
was buying birds which he presented to me with “Happy Birthday.” I gladly set those
birds free too and they joined the others in the rigging.
Then a grinning steward came up with three more cages. “For the lady with
compliments of the Captain.” They lost no time in joining their friends.
It had given me so much pleasure to free the birds that I was only a little
discouraged when the quiet man said thoughtfully “This should encourage those bird
catchers you know, they are sold out. When evening came and we were due to sail I
was sure those birds would fly home, but no, they are still there and they will probably
remain until we dock at Dar es Salaam.
During the morning the Captain came up and asked me what my Christian name
is. He looked as grave as ever and I couldn’t think why it should interest him but said “the
name is Eleanor.” That night at dinner there was a large iced cake in the centre of the
table with “HELENA” in a delicate wreath of pink icing roses on the top. We had
champagne and everyone congratulated me and wished me good luck in my marriage.
A very nice gesture don’t you think. The unpleasant character had not put in an
appearance at dinner which made the party all the nicer
I sat up rather late in the lounge reading a book and by the time I went to bed
there was not a soul around. I bathed and changed into my nighty,walked into my cabin,
shed my dressing gown, and pottered around. When I was ready for bed I put out my
hand to draw the curtains back and a hand grasped my wrist. It was that wretched
creature outside my window on the deck, still very drunk. Luckily I was wearing that
heavy lilac silk nighty. I was livid. “Let go at once”, I said, but he only grinned stupidly.
“I’m not hurting you” he said, “only looking”. “I’ll ring for the steward” said I, and by
stretching I managed to press the bell with my free hand. I rang and rang but no one
came and he just giggled. Then I said furiously, “Remember this name, George
Rushby, he is a fine boxer and he hates specimens like you. When he meets me at Dar
es Salaam I shall tell him about this and I bet you will be sorry.” However he still held on
so I turned and knocked hard on the adjoining wall which divided my cabin from Mrs
Croxfords. Soon Mrs Croxford and the old lady appeared in dressing gowns . This
seemed to amuse the drunk even more though he let go my wrist. So whilst the old
lady stayed with me, Mrs C fetched the quiet passenger who soon hustled him off. He has kept out of my way ever since. However I still mean to tell George because I feel
the fellow got off far too lightly. I reported the matter to the Captain but he just remarked
that he always knew the man was low class because he never wears a jacket to meals.
This is my last night on board and we again had free champagne and I was given
some tooled leather work by the Captain and a pair of good paste earrings by the old
lady. I have invited them and Mrs Croxford, the Chief Engineer, and the quiet
passenger to the wedding.
This may be my last night as Eleanor Leslie and I have spent this long while
writing to you just as a little token of my affection and gratitude for all the years of your
love and care. I shall post this letter on the ship and must turn now and get some beauty
sleep. We have been told that we shall be in Dar es Salaam by 9 am. I am so excited
that I shall not sleep.
Very much love, and just for fun I’ll sign my full name for the last time.
with my “bes respeks”,
Eleanor and George Rushby:
Splendid Hotel, Dar es Salaam 11th November 1930
I’m writing this in the bedroom whilst George is out buying a tin trunk in which to
pack all our wedding presents. I expect he will be gone a long time because he has
gone out with Hicky Wood and, though our wedding was four days ago, it’s still an
excuse for a party. People are all very cheery and friendly here.
I am wearing only pants and slip but am still hot. One swelters here in the
mornings, but a fresh sea breeze blows in the late afternoons and then Dar es Salaam is
We arrived in Dar es Salaam harbour very early on Friday morning (7 th Nov).
The previous night the Captain had said we might not reach Dar. until 9 am, and certainly
no one would be allowed on board before 8 am. So I dawdled on the deck in my
dressing gown and watched the green coastline and the islands slipping by. I stood on
the deck outside my cabin and was not aware that I was looking out at the wrong side of
the landlocked harbour. Quite unknown to me George and some friends, the Hickson
Woods, were standing on the Gymkhana Beach on the opposite side of the channel
anxiously scanning the ship for a sign of me. George says he had a horrible idea I had
missed the ship. Blissfully unconscious of his anxiety I wandered into the bathroom
prepared for a good soak. The anchor went down when I was in the bath and suddenly
there was a sharp wrap on the door and I heard Mrs Croxford say “There’s a man in a
boat outside. He is looking out for someone and I’m sure it’s your George. I flung on
some clothes and rushed on deck with tousled hair and bare feet and it was George.
We had a marvellous reunion. George was wearing shorts and bush shirt and
looked just like the strong silent types one reads about in novels. I finished dressing then
George helped me bundle all the wedding presents I had collected en route into my
travelling rug and we went into the bar lounge to join the Hickson Woods. They are the
couple from whom George bought the land which is to be our coffee farm Hicky-Wood
was laughing when we joined them. he said he had called a chap to bring a couple of
beers thinking he was the steward but it turned out to be the Captain. He does wear
such a very plain uniform that I suppose it was easy to make the mistake, but Hicky
says he was not amused.
Anyway as the H-W’s are to be our neighbours I’d better describe them. Kath
Wood is very attractive, dark Irish, with curly black hair and big brown eyes. She was
married before to Viv Lumb a great friend of George’s who died some years ago of
blackwater fever. They had one little girl, Maureen, and Kath and Hicky have a small son
of three called Michael. Hicky is slightly below average height and very neat and dapper
though well built. He is a great one for a party and good fun but George says he can be
Anyway we all filed off the ship and Hicky and Cath went on to the hotel whilst
George and I went through customs. Passing the customs was easy. Everyone
seemed to know George and that it was his wedding day and I just sailed through,
except for the little matter of the rug coming undone when George and I had to scramble
on the floor for candlesticks and fruit knives and a wooden nut bowl.
Outside the customs shed we were mobbed by a crowd of jabbering Africans
offering their services as porters, and soon my luggage was piled in one rickshaw whilst
George and I climbed into another and we were born smoothly away on rubber shod
wheels to the Splendid Hotel. The motion was pleasing enough but it seemed weird to
be pulled along by one human being whilst another pushed behind. We turned up a street called Acacia Avenue which, as its name implies, is lined
with flamboyant acacia trees now in the full glory of scarlet and gold. The rickshaw
stopped before the Splendid Hotel and I was taken upstairs into a pleasant room which
had its own private balcony overlooking the busy street.
Here George broke the news that we were to be married in less than an hours
time. He would have to dash off and change and then go straight to the church. I would
be quite all right, Kath would be looking in and friends would fetch me.
I started to dress and soon there was a tap at the door and Mrs Hickson-Wood
came in with my bouquet. It was a lovely bunch of carnations and frangipani with lots of
asparagus fern and it went well with my primrose yellow frock. She admired my frock
and Leghorn hat and told me that her little girl Maureen was to be my flower girl. Then
she too left for the church.
I was fully dressed when there was another knock on the door and I opened it to
be confronted by a Police Officer in a starched white uniform. I’m McCallum”, he said,
“I’ve come to drive you to the church.” Downstairs he introduced me to a big man in a
tussore silk suit. “This is Dr Shicore”, said McCallum, “He is going to give you away.”
Honestly, I felt exactly like Alice in Wonderland. Wouldn’t have been at all surprised if
the White Rabbit had popped up and said he was going to be my page.
I walked out of the hotel and across the pavement in a dream and there, by the
curb, was a big dark blue police car decorated with white ribbons and with a tall African
Police Ascari holding the door open for me. I had hardly time to wonder what next when
the car drew up before a tall German looking church. It was in fact the Lutheran Church in
the days when Tanganyika was German East Africa.
Mrs Hickson-Wood, very smart in mushroom coloured georgette and lace, and
her small daughter were waiting in the porch, so in we went. I was glad to notice my
friends from the boat sitting behind George’s friends who were all complete strangers to
me. The aisle seemed very long but at last I reached George waiting in the chancel with
Hicky-Wood, looking unfamiliar in a smart tussore suit. However this feeling of unreality
passed when he turned his head and smiled at me.
In the vestry after the ceremony I was kissed affectionately by several complete
strangers and I felt happy and accepted by George’s friends. Outside the church,
standing apart from the rest of the guests, the Italian Captain and Chief Engineer were
waiting. They came up and kissed my hand, and murmured felicitations, but regretted
they could not spare the time to come to the reception. Really it was just as well
because they would not have fitted in at all well.
Dr Shircore is the Director of Medical Services and he had very kindly lent his
large house for the reception. It was quite a party. The guests were mainly men with a
small sprinkling of wives. Champagne corks popped and there was an enormous cake
and soon voices were raised in song. The chief one was ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’
and I shall remember it for ever.
The party was still in full swing when George and I left. The old lady from the ship
enjoyed it hugely. She came in an all black outfit with a corsage of artificial Lily-of-the-
Valley. Later I saw one of the men wearing the corsage in his buttonhole and the old
lady was wearing a carnation.
When George and I got back to the hotel,I found that my luggage had been
moved to George’s room by his cook Lamek, who was squatting on his haunches and
clapped his hands in greeting. My dears, you should see Lamek – exactly like a
chimpanzee – receding forehead, wide flat nose, and long lip, and such splayed feet. It was quite a strain not to laugh, especially when he produced a gift for me. I have not yet
discovered where he acquired it. It was a faded mauve straw toque of the kind worn by
Queen Mary. I asked George to tell Lamek that I was touched by his generosity but felt
that I could not accept his gift. He did not mind at all especially as George gave him a
generous tip there and then.
I changed into a cotton frock and shady straw hat and George changed into shorts
and bush shirt once more. We then sneaked into the dining room for lunch avoiding our
wedding guests who were carrying on the party in the lounge.
After lunch we rejoined them and they all came down to the jetty to wave goodbye
as we set out by motor launch for Honeymoon Island. I enjoyed the launch trip very
much. The sea was calm and very blue and the palm fringed beaches of Dar es Salaam
are as romantic as any bride could wish. There are small coral islands dotted around the
Bay of which Honeymoon Island is the loveliest. I believe at one time it bore the less
romantic name of Quarantine Island. Near the Island, in the shallows, the sea is brilliant
green and I saw two pink jellyfish drifting by.
There is no jetty on the island so the boat was stopped in shallow water and
George carried me ashore. I was enchanted with the Island and in no hurry to go to the
bungalow, so George and I took our bathing costumes from our suitcases and sent the
luggage up to the house together with a box of provisions.
We bathed and lazed on the beach and suddenly it was sunset and it began to
get dark. We walked up the beach to the bungalow and began to unpack the stores,
tea, sugar, condensed milk, bread and butter, sardines and a large tin of ham. There
were also cups and saucers and plates and cutlery.
We decided to have an early meal and George called out to the caretaker, “Boy
letta chai”. Thereupon the ‘boy’ materialised and jabbered to George in Ki-Swaheli. It
appeared he had no utensil in which to boil water. George, ever resourceful, removed
the ham from the tin and gave him that. We had our tea all right but next day the ham
Then came bed time. I took a hurricane lamp in one hand and my suitcase in the
other and wandered into the bedroom whilst George vanished into the bathroom. To
my astonishment I saw two perfectly bare iron bedsteads – no mattress or pillows. We
had brought sheets and mosquito nets but, believe me, they are a poor substitute for a
Anyway I arrayed myself in my pale yellow satin nightie and sat gingerly down
on the iron edge of the bed to await my groom who eventually appeared in a
handsome suit of silk pyjamas. His expression, as he took in the situation, was too much
for me and I burst out laughing and so did he.
Somewhere in the small hours I woke up. The breeze had dropped and the
room was unbearably stuffy. I felt as dry as a bone. The lamp had been turned very
low and had gone out, but I remembered seeing a water tank in the yard and I decided
to go out in the dark and drink from the tap. In the dark I could not find my slippers so I
slipped my feet into George’s shoes, picked up his matches and groped my way out
of the room. I found the tank all right and with one hand on the tap and one cupped for
water I stooped to drink. Just then I heard a scratchy noise and sensed movements
around my feet. I struck a match and oh horrors! found that the damp spot on which I was
standing was alive with white crabs. In my hurry to escape I took a clumsy step, put
George’s big toe on the hem of my nightie and down I went on top of the crabs. I need
hardly say that George was awakened by an appalling shriek and came rushing to my
aid like a knight of old. Anyway, alarms and excursions not withstanding, we had a wonderful weekend on the island and I was sorry to return to the heat of Dar es Salaam, though the evenings
here are lovely and it is heavenly driving along the coast road by car or in a rickshaw.
I was surprised to find so many Indians here. Most of the shops, large and small,
seem to be owned by Indians and the place teems with them. The women wear
colourful saris and their hair in long black plaits reaching to their waists. Many wear baggy
trousers of silk or satin. They give a carnival air to the sea front towards sunset.
This long letter has been written in instalments throughout the day. My first break
was when I heard the sound of a band and rushed to the balcony in time to see The
Kings African Rifles band and Askaris march down the Avenue on their way to an
Armistice Memorial Service. They looked magnificent.
I must end on a note of most primitive pride. George returned from his shopping
expedition and beamingly informed me that he had thrashed the man who annoyed me
on the ship. I felt extremely delighted and pressed for details. George told me that
when he went out shopping he noticed to his surprise that the ‘Timavo” was still in the
harbour. He went across to the Agents office and there saw a man who answered to the
description I had given. George said to him “Is your name Taylor?”, and when he said
“yes”, George said “Well my name is George Rushby”, whereupon he hit Taylor on the
jaw so that he sailed over the counter and down the other side. Very satisfactory, I feel.
With much love to all.
Your cave woman
Mchewe Estate. P.O. Mbeya 22 November 1930
Well here we are at our Country Seat, Mchewe Estate. (pronounced
Mn,-che’-we) but I will start at the beginning of our journey and describe the farm later.
We left the hotel at Dar es Salaam for the station in a taxi crowded with baggage
and at the last moment Keith Wood ran out with the unwrapped bottom layer of our
wedding cake. It remained in its naked state from there to here travelling for two days in
the train on the luggage rack, four days in the car on my knee, reposing at night on the
roof of the car exposed to the winds of Heaven, and now rests beside me in the tent
looking like an old old tombstone. We have no tin large enough to hold it and one
simply can’t throw away ones wedding cake so, as George does not eat cake, I can see
myself eating wedding cake for tea for months to come, ants permitting.
We travelled up by train from Dar to Dodoma, first through the lush vegetation of
the coastal belt to Morogoro, then through sisal plantations now very overgrown with
weeds owing to the slump in prices, and then on to the arid area around Dodoma. This
part of the country is very dry at this time of the year and not unlike parts of our Karoo.
The train journey was comfortable enough but slow as the engines here are fed with
wood and not coal as in South Africa.
Dodoma is the nearest point on the railway to Mbeya so we left the train there to
continue our journey by road. We arrived at the one and only hotel in the early hours and
whilst someone went to rout out the night watchman the rest of us sat on the dismal
verandah amongst a litter of broken glass. Some bright spark remarked on the obvious –
that there had been a party the night before.
When we were shown to a room I thought I rather preferred the verandah,
because the beds had not yet been made up and there was a bucket of vomit beside
the old fashioned washstand. However George soon got the boys to clean up the
room and I fell asleep to be awakened by George with an invitation to come and see
our car before breakfast.
Yes, we have our own car. It is a Chev, with what is called a box body. That
means that sides, roof and doors are made by a local Indian carpenter. There is just the
one front seat with a kapok mattress on it. The tools are kept in a sort of cupboard fixed
to the side so there is a big space for carrying “safari kit” behind the cab seat.
Lamek, who had travelled up on the same train, appeared after breakfast, and
helped George to pack all our luggage into the back of the car. Besides our suitcases
there was a huge bedroll, kitchen utensils and a box of provisions, tins of petrol and
water and all Lamek’s bits and pieces which included three chickens in a wicker cage and
an enormous bunch of bananas about 3 ft long.
When all theses things were packed there remained only a small space between
goods and ceiling and into this Lamek squeezed. He lay on his back with his horny feet a
mere inch or so from the back of my head. In this way we travelled 400 miles over
bumpy earth roads and crude pole bridges, but whenever we stopped for a meal
Lamek wriggled out and, like Aladdin’s genie, produced good meals in no time at all.
In the afternoon we reached a large river called the Ruaha. Workmen were busy
building a large bridge across it but it is not yet ready so we crossed by a ford below
the bridge. George told me that the river was full of crocodiles but though I looked hard, I
did not see any. This is also elephant country but I did not see any of those either, only
piles of droppings on the road. I must tell you that the natives around these parts are called Wahehe and the river is Ruaha – enough to make a cat laugh. We saw some Wahehe out hunting with spears
and bows and arrows. They live in long low houses with the tiniest shuttered windows
and rounded roofs covered with earth.
Near the river we also saw a few Masai herding cattle. They are rather terrifying to
look at – tall, angular, and very aloof. They wear nothing but a blanket knotted on one
shoulder, concealing nothing, and all carried one or two spears.
The road climbs steeply on the far side of the Ruaha and one has the most
tremendous views over the plains. We spent our first night up there in the high country.
Everything was taken out of the car, the bed roll opened up and George and I slept
comfortably in the back of the car whilst Lamek, rolled in a blanket, slept soundly by a
small fire nearby. Next morning we reached our first township, Iringa, and put up at the
Colonist Hotel. We had a comfortable room in the annex overlooking the golf course.
our room had its own little dressing room which was also the bathroom because, when
ordered to do so, the room boy carried in an oval galvanised bath and filled it with hot
water which he carried in a four gallon petrol tin.
When we crossed to the main building for lunch, George was immediately hailed
by several men who wanted to meet the bride. I was paid some handsome
compliments but was not sure whether they were sincere or the result of a nice alcoholic
glow. Anyhow every one was very friendly.
After lunch I went back to the bedroom leaving George chatting away. I waited and
waited – no George. I got awfully tired of waiting and thought I’d give him a fright so I
walked out onto the deserted golf course and hid behind some large boulders. Soon I
saw George returning to the room and the boy followed with a tea tray. Ah, now the hue
and cry will start, thought I, but no, no George appeared nor could I hear any despairing
cry. When sunset came I trailed crossly back to our hotel room where George lay
innocently asleep on his bed, hands folded on his chest like a crusader on his tomb. In a
moment he opened his eyes, smiled sleepily and said kindly, “Did you have a nice walk
my love?” So of course I couldn’t play the neglected wife as he obviously didn’t think
me one and we had a very pleasant dinner and party in the hotel that evening.
Next day we continued our journey but turned aside to visit the farm of a sprightly
old man named St.Leger Seaton whom George had known for many years, so it was
after dark before George decided that we had covered our quota of miles for the day.
Whilst he and Lamek unpacked I wandered off to a stream to cool my hot feet which had
baked all day on the floor boards of the car. In the rather dim moonlight I sat down on the
grassy bank and gratefully dabbled my feet in the cold water. A few minutes later I
started up with a shriek – I had the sensation of red hot pins being dug into all my most
sensitive parts. I started clawing my clothes off and, by the time George came to the
rescue with the lamp, I was practically in the nude. “Only Siafu ants,” said George calmly.
Take off all your clothes and get right in the water.” So I had a bathe whilst George
picked the ants off my clothes by the light of the lamp turned very low for modesty’s
sake. Siafu ants are beastly things. They are black ants with outsized heads and
pinchers. I shall be very, very careful where I sit in future.
The next day was even hotter. There was no great variety in the scenery. Most
of the country was covered by a tree called Miombo, which is very ordinary when the
foliage is a mature deep green, but when in new leaf the trees look absolutely beautiful
as the leaves,surprisingly, are soft pastel shades of red and yellow.
Once again we turned aside from the main road to visit one of George’s friends.
This man Major Hugh Jones MC, has a farm only a few miles from ours but just now he is supervising the making of an airstrip. Major Jones is quite a character. He is below
average height and skinny with an almost bald head and one nearly blind eye into which
he screws a monocle. He is a cultured person and will, I am sure, make an interesting
neighbour. George and Major Jones’ friends call him ‘Joni’ but he is generally known in
this country as ‘Ropesoles’ – as he is partial to that type of footwear.
We passed through Mbeya township after dark so I have no idea what the place
is like. The last 100 miles of our journey was very dusty and the last 15 miles extremely
bumpy. The road is used so little that in some places we had to plow our way through
long grass and I was delighted when at last George turned into a side road and said
“This is our place.” We drove along the bank of the Mchewe River, then up a hill and
stopped at a tent which was pitched beside the half built walls of our new home. We
were expected so there was hot water for baths and after a supper of tinned food and
good hot tea, I climbed thankfully into bed.
Next morning I was awakened by the chattering of the African workmen and was
soon out to inspect the new surroundings. Our farm was once part of Hickson Wood’s
land and is separated from theirs by a river. Our houses cannot be more than a few
hundred yards apart as the crow flies but as both are built on the slopes of a long range
of high hills, and one can only cross the river at the foot of the slopes, it will be quite a
safari to go visiting on foot . Most of our land is covered with shoulder high grass but it
has been partly cleared of trees and scrub. Down by the river George has made a long
coffee nursery and a large vegetable garden but both coffee and vegetable seedlings
are too small to be of use.
George has spared all the trees that will make good shade for the coffee later on.
There are several huge wild fig trees as big as oaks but with smooth silvery-green trunks
and branches and there are lots of acacia thorn trees with flat tops like Japanese sun
shades. I’ve seen lovely birds in the fig trees, Louries with bright plumage and crested
heads, and Blue Rollers, and in the grasslands there are widow birds with incredibly long
black tail feathers.
There are monkeys too and horrible but fascinating tree lizards with blue bodies
and orange heads. There are so many, many things to tell you but they must wait for
another time as James, the house boy, has been to say “Bafu tiari” and if I don’t go at
once, the bath will be cold.
I am very very happy and terribly interested in this new life so please don’t
worry about me.
Much love to you all,
Mchewe Estate 29th. November 1930
I’ve lots of time to write letters just now because George is busy supervising the
building of the house from early morning to late afternoon – with a break for lunch of
On our second day here our tent was moved from the house site to a small
clearing further down the slope of our hill. Next to it the labourers built a ‘banda’ , which is
a three sided grass hut with thatched roof – much cooler than the tent in this weather.
There is also a little grass lav. so you see we have every convenience. I spend most of
my day in the banda reading or writing letters. Occasionally I wander up to the house site
and watch the building, but mostly I just sit.
I did try exploring once. I wandered down a narrow path towards the river. I
thought I might paddle and explore the river a little but I came round a bend and there,
facing me, was a crocodile. At least for a moment I thought it was and my adrenaline
glands got very busy indeed. But it was only an enormous monitor lizard, four or five
feet long. It must have been as scared as I was because it turned and rushed off through
the grass. I turned and walked hastily back to the camp and as I passed the house site I
saw some boys killing a large puff adder. Now I do my walking in the evenings with
George. Nothing alarming ever seems to happen when he is around.
It is interesting to watch the boys making bricks for the house. They make a pile
of mud which they trample with their feet until it is the right consistency. Then they fill
wooden moulds with the clayey mud, and press it down well and turn out beautiful shiny,
dark brown bricks which are laid out in rows and covered with grass to bake slowly in the
Most of the materials for the building are right here at hand. The walls will be sun
dried bricks and there is a white clay which will make a good whitewash for the inside
walls. The chimney and walls will be of burnt brick and tiles and George is now busy
building a kiln for this purpose. Poles for the roof are being cut in the hills behind the
house and every day women come along with large bundles of thatching grass on their
heads. Our windows are modern steel casement ones and the doors have been made
at a mission in the district. George does some of the bricklaying himself. The other
bricklayer is an African from Northern Rhodesia called Pedro. It makes me perspire just
to look at Pedro who wears an overcoat all day in the very hot sun.
Lamek continues to please. He turns out excellent meals, chicken soup followed
by roast chicken, vegetables from the Hickson-Woods garden and a steamed pudding
or fruit to wind up the meal. I enjoy the chicken but George is fed up with it and longs for
good red meat. The chickens are only about as large as a partridge but then they cost
only sixpence each.
I had my first visit to Mbeya two days ago. I put on my very best trousseau frock
for the occasion- that yellow striped silk one – and wore my wedding hat. George didn’t
comment, but I saw later that I was dreadfully overdressed.
Mbeya at the moment is a very small settlement consisting of a bundle of small
Indian shops – Dukas they call them, which stock European tinned foods and native soft
goods which seem to be mainly of Japanese origin. There is a one storied Government
office called the Boma and two attractive gabled houses of burnt brick which house the
District Officer and his Assistant. Both these houses have lovely gardens but i saw them
only from the outside as we did not call. After buying our stores George said “Lets go to the pub, I want you to meet Mrs Menzies.” Well the pub turned out to be just three or four grass rondavels on a bare
plot. The proprietor, Ken Menzies, came out to welcome us. I took to him at once
because he has the same bush sandy eyebrows as you have Dad. He told me that
unfortunately his wife is away at the coast, and then he ushered me through the door
saying “Here’s George with his bride.” then followed the Iringa welcome all over again,
only more so, because the room was full of diggers from the Lupa Goldfields about fifty
Champagne corks popped as I shook hands all around and George was
clapped on the back. I could see he was a favourite with everyone and I tried not to be
gauche and let him down. These men were all most kind and most appeared to be men
of more than average education. However several were unshaven and looked as
though they had slept in their clothes as I suppose they had. When they have a little luck
on the diggings they come in here to Menzies pub and spend the lot. George says
they bring their gold dust and small nuggets in tobacco tins or Kruschen salts jars and
hand them over to Ken Menzies saying “Tell me when I’ve spent the lot.” Ken then
weighs the gold and estimates its value and does exactly what the digger wants.
However the Diggers get good value for their money because besides the drink
they get companionship and good food and nursing if they need it. Mrs Menzies is a
trained nurse and most kind and capable from what I was told. There is no doctor or
hospital here so her experience as a nursing sister is invaluable.
We had lunch at the Hotel and afterwards I poured tea as I was the only female
present. Once the shyness had worn off I rather enjoyed myself.
Now to end off I must tell you a funny story of how I found out that George likes
his women to be feminine. You will remember those dashing black silk pyjamas Aunt
Mary gave me, with flowered “happy coat” to match. Well last night I thought I’d give
George a treat and when the boy called me for my bath I left George in the ‘banda’
reading the London Times. After my bath I put on my Japanese pyjamas and coat,
peered into the shaving mirror which hangs from the tent pole and brushed my hair until it
shone. I must confess that with my fringe and shingled hair I thought I made quite a
glamourous Japanese girl. I walked coyly across to the ‘banda’. Alas no compliment.
George just glanced up from the Times and went on reading.
He was away rather a long time when it came to his turn to bath. I glanced up
when he came back and had a slight concussion. George, if you please, was arrayed in
my very best pale yellow satin nightie. The one with the lace and ribbon sash and little
bows on the shoulder. I knew exactly what he meant to convey. I was not to wear the
trousers in the family. I seethed inwardly, but pretending not to notice, I said calmly “shall
I call for food?” In this garb George sat down to dinner and it says a great deal for African
phlegm that the boy did not drop the dishes.
We conversed politely about this and that, and then, as usual, George went off
to bed. I appeared to be engrossed in my book and did not stir. When I went to the
tent some time later George lay fast asleep still in my nightie, though all I could see of it
was the little ribbon bows looking farcically out of place on his broad shoulders.
This morning neither of us mentioned the incident, George was up and dressed
by the time I woke up but I have been smiling all day to think what a ridiculous picture
we made at dinner. So farewell to pyjamas and hey for ribbons and bows.
Mchewe Estate. Mbeya. 8th December 1930
A mere shadow of her former buxom self lifts a languid pen to write to you. I’m
convalescing after my first and I hope my last attack of malaria. It was a beastly
experience but all is now well and I am eating like a horse and will soon regain my
I took ill on the evening of the day I wrote my last letter to you. It started with a
splitting headache and fits of shivering. The symptoms were all too familiar to George
who got me into bed and filled me up with quinine. He then piled on all the available
blankets and packed me in hot water bottles. I thought I’d explode and said so and
George said just to lie still and I’d soon break into a good sweat. However nothing of the
kind happened and next day my temperature was 105 degrees. Instead of feeling
miserable as I had done at the onset, I now felt very merry and most chatty. George
now tells me I sang the most bawdy songs but I hardly think it likely. Do you?
You cannot imagine how tenderly George nursed me, not only that day but
throughout the whole eight days I was ill. As we do not employ any African house
women, and there are no white women in the neighbourhood at present to whom we
could appeal for help, George had to do everything for me. It was unbearably hot in the
tent so George decided to move me across to the Hickson-Woods vacant house. They
have not yet returned from the coast.
George decided I was too weak to make the trip in the car so he sent a
messenger over to the Woods’ house for their Machila. A Machila is a canopied canvas
hammock slung from a bamboo pole and carried by four bearers. The Machila duly
arrived and I attempted to walk to it, clinging to George’s arm, but collapsed in a faint so
the trip was postponed to the next morning when I felt rather better. Being carried by
Machila is quite pleasant but I was in no shape to enjoy anything and got thankfully into
bed in the Hickson-Woods large, cool and rather dark bedroom. My condition did not
improve and George decided to send a runner for the Government Doctor at Tukuyu
about 60 miles away. Two days later Dr Theis arrived by car and gave me two
injections of quinine which reduced the fever. However I still felt very weak and had to
spend a further four days in bed.
We have now decided to stay on here until the Hickson-Woods return by which
time our own house should be ready. George goes off each morning and does not
return until late afternoon. However don’t think “poor Eleanor” because I am very
comfortable here and there are lots of books to read and the days seem to pass very
The Hickson-Wood’s house was built by Major Jones and I believe the one on
his shamba is just like it. It is a square red brick building with a wide verandah all around
and, rather astonishingly, a conical thatched roof. There is a beautiful view from the front
of the house and a nice flower garden. The coffee shamba is lower down on the hill.
Mrs Wood’s first husband, George’s friend Vi Lumb, is buried in the flower
garden. He died of blackwater fever about five years ago. I’m told that before her
second marriage Kath lived here alone with her little daughter, Maureen, and ran the farm
entirely on her own. She must be quite a person. I bet she didn’t go and get malaria
within a few weeks of her marriage.
The native tribe around here are called Wasafwa. They are pretty primitive but
seem amiable people. Most of the men, when they start work, wear nothing but some
kind of sheet of unbleached calico wrapped round their waists and hanging to mid calf. As soon as they have drawn their wages they go off to a duka and buy a pair of khaki
shorts for five or six shillings. Their women folk wear very short beaded skirts. I think the
base is goat skin but have never got close enough for a good look. They are very shy.
I hear from George that they have started on the roof of our house but I have not
seen it myself since the day I was carried here by Machila. My letters by the way go to
the Post Office by runner. George’s farm labourers take it in turn to act in this capacity.
The mail bag is given to them on Friday afternoon and by Saturday evening they are
back with our very welcome mail.
Very much love,
Mbeya 23rd December 1930
George drove to Mbeya for stores last week and met Col. Sherwood-Kelly VC.
who has been sent by the Government to Mbeya as Game Ranger. His job will be to
protect native crops from raiding elephants and hippo etc., and to protect game from
poachers. He has had no training for this so he has asked George to go with him on his
first elephant safari to show him the ropes.
George likes Col. Kelly and was quite willing to go on safari but not willing to
leave me alone on the farm as I am still rather shaky after malaria. So it was arranged that
I should go to Mbeya and stay with Mrs Harmer, the wife of the newly appointed Lands
and Mines Officer, whose husband was away on safari.
So here I am in Mbeya staying in the Harmers temporary wattle and daub
house. Unfortunately I had a relapse of the malaria and stayed in bed for three days with
a temperature. Poor Mrs Harmer had her hands full because in the room next to mine
she was nursing a digger with blackwater fever. I could hear his delirious babble through
the thin wall – very distressing. He died poor fellow , and leaves a wife and seven
I feel better than I have done for weeks and this afternoon I walked down to the
store. There are great signs of activity and people say that Mbeya will grow rapidly now
owing to the boom on the gold fields and also to the fact that a large aerodrome is to be
built here. Mbeya is to be a night stop on the proposed air service between England
and South Africa. I seem to be the last of the pioneers. If all these schemes come about
Mbeya will become quite suburban.
26th December 1930
George, Col. Kelly and Mr Harmer all returned to Mbeya on Christmas Eve and
it was decided that we should stay and have midday Christmas dinner with the
Harmers. Col. Kelly and the Assistant District Commissioner came too and it was quite a
festive occasion, We left Mbeya in the early afternoon and had our evening meal here at
Hickson-Wood’s farm. I wore my wedding dress.
I went across to our house in the car this morning. George usually walks across to
save petrol which is very expensive here. He takes a short cut and wades through the
river. The distance by road is very much longer than the short cut. The men are now
thatching the roof of our cottage and it looks charming. It consists of a very large living
room-dinning room with a large inglenook fireplace at one end. The bedroom is a large
square room with a smaller verandah room adjoining it. There is a wide verandah in the
front, from which one has a glorious view over a wide valley to the Livingstone
Mountains on the horizon. Bathroom and storeroom are on the back verandah and the
kitchen is some distance behind the house to minimise the risk of fire.
You can imagine how much I am looking forward to moving in. We have some
furniture which was made by an Indian carpenter at Iringa, refrectory dining table and
chairs, some small tables and two armchairs and two cupboards and a meatsafe. Other
things like bookshelves and extra cupboards we will have to make ourselves. George
has also bought a portable gramophone and records which will be a boon.
We also have an Irish wolfhound puppy, a skinny little chap with enormous feet
who keeps me company all day whilst George is across at our farm working on the
Lots and lots of love,
Mchewe Estate 8th Jan 1931
Alas, I have lost my little companion. The Doctor called in here on Boxing night
and ran over and killed Paddy, our pup. It was not his fault but I was very distressed
about it and George has promised to try and get another pup from the same litter.
The Hickson-Woods returned home on the 29th December so we decided to
move across to our nearly finished house on the 1st January. Hicky Wood decided that
we needed something special to mark the occasion so he went off and killed a sucking
pig behind the kitchen. The piglet’s screams were terrible and I felt that I would not be
able to touch any dinner. Lamek cooked and served sucking pig up in the traditional way
but it was high and quite literally, it stank. Our first meal in our own home was not a
However next day all was forgotten and I had something useful to do. George
hung doors and I held the tools and I also planted rose cuttings I had brought from
Mbeya and sowed several boxes with seeds.
Dad asked me about the other farms in the area. I haven’t visited any but there
are five besides ours. One belongs to the Lutheran Mission at Utengule, a few miles
from here. The others all belong to British owners. Nearest to Mbeya, at the foot of a
very high peak which gives Mbeya its name, are two farms, one belonging to a South
African mining engineer named Griffiths, the other to I.G.Stewart who was an officer in the
Kings African Rifles. Stewart has a young woman called Queenie living with him. We are
some miles further along the range of hills and are some 23 miles from Mbeya by road.
The Mchewe River divides our land from the Hickson-Woods and beyond their farm is
All these people have been away from their farms for some time but have now
returned so we will have some neighbours in future. However although the houses are
not far apart as the crow flies, they are all built high in the foothills and it is impossible to
connect the houses because of the rivers and gorges in between. One has to drive right
down to the main road and then up again so I do not suppose we will go visiting very
often as the roads are very bumpy and eroded and petrol is so expensive that we all
save it for occasional trips to Mbeya.
The rains are on and George has started to plant out some coffee seedlings. The
rains here are strange. One can hear the rain coming as it moves like a curtain along the
range of hills. It comes suddenly, pours for a little while and passes on and the sun
I do like it here and I wish you could see or dear little home.
Mchewe Estate. 1st April 1931
Everything is now running very smoothly in our home. Lamek continues to
produce palatable meals and makes wonderful bread which he bakes in a four gallon
petrol tin as we have no stove yet. He puts wood coals on the brick floor of the kitchen,
lays the tin lengh-wise on the coals and heaps more on top. The bread tins are then put
in the petrol tin, which has one end cut away, and the open end is covered by a flat
piece of tin held in place by a brick. Cakes are also backed in this make-shift oven and I
have never known Lamek to have a failure yet.
Lamek has a helper, known as the ‘mpishi boy’ , who does most of the hard
work, cleans pots and pans and chops the firewood etc. Another of the mpishi boy’s
chores is to kill the two chickens we eat each day. The chickens run wild during the day
but are herded into a small chicken house at night. One of the kitchen boy’s first duties is
to let the chickens out first thing in the early morning. Some time after breakfast it dawns
on Lamek that he will need a chicken for lunch. he informs the kitchen boy who selects a
chicken and starts to chase it in which he is enthusiastically joined by our new Irish
wolfhound pup, Kelly. Together they race after the frantic fowl, over the flower beds and
around the house until finally the chicken collapses from sheer exhaustion. The kitchen
boy then hands it over to Lamek who murders it with the kitchen knife and then pops the
corpse into boiling water so the feathers can be stripped off with ease.
I pointed out in vain, that it would be far simpler if the doomed chickens were kept
in the chicken house in the mornings when the others were let out and also that the correct
way to pluck chickens is when they are dry. Lamek just smiled kindly and said that that
may be so in Europe but that his way is the African way and none of his previous
Memsahibs has complained.
My houseboy, named James, is clean and capable in the house and also a
good ‘dhobi’ or washboy. He takes the washing down to the river and probably
pounds it with stones, but I prefer not to look. The ironing is done with a charcoal iron
only we have no charcoal and he uses bits of wood from the kitchen fire but so far there
has not been a mishap.
It gets dark here soon after sunset and then George lights the oil lamps and we
have tea and toast in front of the log fire which burns brightly in our inglenook. This is my
favourite hour of the day. Later George goes for his bath. I have mine in the mornings
and we have dinner at half past eight. Then we talk a bit and read a bit and sometimes
play the gramophone. I expect it all sounds pretty unexciting but it doesn’t seem so to
Very much love,
Mchewe Estate 20th April 1931
It is still raining here and the countryside looks very lush and green, very different
from the Mbeya district I first knew, when plains and hills were covered in long brown
grass – very course stuff that grows shoulder high.
Most of the labourers are hill men and one can see little patches of cultivation in
the hills. Others live in small villages near by, each consisting of a cluster of thatched huts
and a few maize fields and perhaps a patch of bananas. We do not have labour lines on
the farm because our men all live within easy walking distance. Each worker has a labour
card with thirty little squares on it. One of these squares is crossed off for each days work
and when all thirty are marked in this way the labourer draws his pay and hies himself off
to the nearest small store and blows the lot. The card system is necessary because
these Africans are by no means slaves to work. They work only when they feel like it or
when someone in the family requires a new garment, or when they need a few shillings
to pay their annual tax. Their fields, chickens and goats provide them with the food they
need but they draw rations of maize meal beans and salt. Only our headman is on a
salary. His name is Thomas and he looks exactly like the statues of Julius Caesar, the
same bald head and muscular neck and sardonic expression. He comes from Northern
Rhodesia and is more intelligent than the locals.
We still live mainly on chickens. We have a boy whose job it is to scour the
countryside for reasonable fat ones. His name is Lucas and he is quite a character. He
has such long horse teeth that he does not seem able to close his mouth and wears a
perpetual amiable smile. He brings his chickens in beehive shaped wicker baskets
which are suspended on a pole which Lucas carries on his shoulder.
We buy our groceries in bulk from Mbeya, our vegetables come from our
garden by the river and our butter from Kath Wood. Our fresh milk we buy from the
natives. It is brought each morning by three little totos each carrying one bottle on his
shaven head. Did I tell you that the local Wasafwa file their teeth to points. These kids
grin at one with their little sharks teeth – quite an “all-ready-to-eat-you-with-my-dear” look.
A few nights ago a message arrived from Kath Wood to say that Queenie
Stewart was very ill and would George drive her across to the Doctor at Tukuyu. I
wanted George to wait until morning because it was pouring with rain, and the mountain
road to Tukuyu is tricky even in dry weather, but he said it is dangerous to delay with any
kind of fever in Africa and he would have to start at once. So off he drove in the rain and I
did not see him again until the following night.
George said that it had been a nightmare trip. Queenie had a high temperature
and it was lucky that Kath was able to go to attend to her. George needed all his
attention on the road which was officially closed to traffic, and very slippery, and in some
places badly eroded. In some places the decking of bridges had been removed and
George had to get out in the rain and replace it. As he had nothing with which to fasten
the decking to the runners it was a dangerous undertaking to cross the bridges especially
as the rivers are now in flood and flowing strongly. However they reached Tukuyu safely
and it was just as well they went because the Doctor diagnosed Queenies illness as
Spirillium Tick Fever which is a very nasty illness indeed.
Mchewe Estate. 20th May 1931
I’m feeling fit and very happy though a bit lonely sometimes because George
spends much of his time away in the hills cutting a furrow miles long to bring water to the
house and to the upper part of the shamba so that he will be able to irrigate the coffee
during the dry season.
It will be quite an engineering feat when it is done as George only has makeshift
surveying instruments. He has mounted an ordinary cheap spirit level on an old camera
tripod and has tacked two gramophone needles into the spirit level to give him a line.
The other day part of a bank gave way and practically buried two of George’s labourers
but they were quickly rescued and no harm was done. However he will not let them
work unless he is there to supervise.
I keep busy so that the days pass quickly enough. I am delighted with the
material you sent me for curtains and loose covers and have hired a hand sewing
machine from Pedro-of-the-overcoat and am rattling away all day. The machine is an
ancient German one and when I say rattle, I mean rattle. It is a most cumbersome, heavy
affair of I should say, the same vintage as George Stevenson’s Rocket locomotive.
Anyway it sews and I am pleased with my efforts. We made a couch ourselves out of a
native bed, a mattress and some planks but all this is hidden under the chintz cover and
it looks quite the genuine bought article. I have some diversions too. Small black faced
monkeys sit in the trees outside our bedroom window and they are most entertaining to
watch. They are very mischievous though. When I went out into the garden this morning
before breakfast I found that the monkeys had pulled up all my carnations. There they
lay, roots in the air and whether they will take again I don’t know.
I like the monkeys but hate the big mountain baboons that come and hang
around our chicken house. I am terrified that they will tear our pup into bits because he is
a plucky young thing and will rush out to bark at the baboons.
George usually returns for the weekends but last time he did not because he had
a touch of malaria. He sent a boy down for the mail and some fresh bread. Old Lucas
arrived with chickens just as the messenger was setting off with mail and bread in a
haversack on his back. I thought it might be a good idea to send a chicken to George so
I selected a spry young rooster which I handed to the messenger. He, however,
complained that he needed both hands for climbing. I then had one of my bright ideas
and, putting a layer of newspaper over the bread, I tucked the rooster into the haversack
and buckled down the flap so only his head protruded.
I thought no more about it until two days later when the messenger again
appeared for fresh bread. He brought a rather terse note from George saying that the
previous bread was uneatable as the rooster had eaten some of it and messed on the
rest. Ah me!
The previous weekend the Hickson-Woods, Stewarts and ourselves, went
across to Tukuyu to attend a dance at the club there. the dance was very pleasant. All
the men wore dinner jackets and the ladies wore long frocks. As there were about
twenty men and only seven ladies we women danced every dance whilst the surplus
men got into a huddle around the bar. George and I spent the night with the Agricultural
Officer, Mr Eustace, and I met his fiancee, Lillian Austin from South Africa, to whom I took
a great liking. She is Governess to the children of Major Masters who has a farm in the
On the Sunday morning we had a look at the township. The Boma was an old German one and was once fortified as the Africans in this district are a very warlike tribe.
They are fine looking people. The men wear sort of togas and bands of cloth around
their heads and look like Roman Senators, but the women go naked except for a belt
from which two broad straps hang down, one in front and another behind. Not a graceful
garb I assure you.
We also spent a pleasant hour in the Botanical Gardens, laid out during the last
war by the District Commissioner, Major Wells, with German prisoner of war labour.
There are beautiful lawns and beds of roses and other flowers and shady palm lined
walks and banana groves. The gardens are terraced with flights of brick steps connecting
the different levels and there is a large artificial pond with little islands in it. I believe Major
Wells designed the lake to resemble in miniature, the Lakes of Killarney.
I enjoyed the trip very much. We got home at 8 pm to find the front door locked
and the kitchen boy fast asleep on my newly covered couch! I hastily retreated to the
bedroom whilst George handled the situation.
Eleanor.December 13, 2021 at 11:29 am #6222
George Gilman Rushby: The Cousin Who Went To Africa
The portrait of the woman has “mother of Catherine Housley, Smalley” written on the back, and one of the family photographs has “Francis Purdy” written on the back. My first internet search was “Catherine Housley Smalley Francis Purdy”. Easily found was the family tree of George (Mike) Rushby, on one of the genealogy websites. It seemed that it must be our family, but the African lion hunter seemed unlikely until my mother recalled her father had said that he had a cousin who went to Africa. I also noticed that the lion hunter’s middle name was Gilman ~ the name that Catherine Housley’s daughter ~ my great grandmother, Mary Ann Gilman Purdy ~ adopted, from her aunt and uncle who brought her up.
I tried to contact George (Mike) Rushby via the ancestry website, but got no reply. I searched for his name on Facebook and found a photo of a wildfire in a place called Wardell, in Australia, and he was credited with taking the photograph. A comment on the photo, which was a few years old, got no response, so I found a Wardell Community group on Facebook, and joined it. A very small place, population some 700 or so, and I had an immediate response on the group to my question. They knew Mike, exchanged messages, and we were able to start emailing. I was in the chair at the dentist having an exceptionally long canine root canal at the time that I got the message with his email address, and at that moment the song Down in Africa started playing.
Mike said it was clever of me to track him down which amused me, coming from the son of an elephant and lion hunter. He didn’t know why his father’s middle name was Gilman, and was not aware that Catherine Housley’s sister married a Gilman.
Mike Rushby kindly gave me permission to include his family history research in my book. This is the story of my grandfather George Marshall’s cousin. A detailed account of George Gilman Rushby’s years in Africa can be found in another chapter called From Tanganyika With Love; the letters Eleanor wrote to her family.
George Gilman Rushby:
The story of George Gilman Rushby 1900-1969, as told by his son Mike:
George Gilman Rushby:
Elephant hunter,poacher, prospector, farmer, forestry officer, game ranger, husband to Eleanor, and father of 6 children who now live around the world.
George Gilman Rushby was born in Nottingham on 28 Feb 1900 the son of Catherine Purdy and John Henry Payling Rushby. But John Henry died when his son was only one and a half years old, and George shunned his drunken bullying stepfather Frank Freer and was brought up by Gypsies who taught him how to fight and took him on regular poaching trips. His love of adventure and his ability to hunt were nurtured at an early stage of his life.
The family moved to Eastwood, where his mother Catherine owned and managed The Three Tuns Inn, but when his stepfather died in mysterious circumstances, his mother married a wealthy bookmaker named Gregory Simpson. He could afford to send George to Worksop College and to Rugby School. This was excellent schooling for George, but the boarding school environment, and the lack of a stable home life, contributed to his desire to go out in the world and do his own thing. When he finished school his first job was as a trainee electrician with Oaks & Co at Pye Bridge. He also worked part time as a motor cycle mechanic and as a professional boxer to raise the money for a voyage to South Africa.
In May 1920 George arrived in Durban destitute and, like many others, living on the beach and dependant upon the Salvation Army for a daily meal. However he soon got work as an electrical mechanic, and after a couple of months had earned enough money to make the next move North. He went to Lourenco Marques where he was appointed shift engineer for the town’s power station. However he was still restless and left the comfort of Lourenco Marques for Beira in August 1921.
Beira was the start point of the new railway being built from the coast to Nyasaland. George became a professional hunter providing essential meat for the gangs of construction workers building the railway. He was a self employed contractor with his own support crew of African men and began to build up a satisfactory business. However, following an incident where he had to shoot and kill a man who attacked him with a spear in middle of the night whilst he was sleeping, George left the lower Zambezi and took a paddle steamer to Nyasaland (Malawi). On his arrival in Karongo he was encouraged to shoot elephant which had reached plague proportions in the area – wrecking African homes and crops, and threatening the lives of those who opposed them.
His next move was to travel by canoe the five hundred kilometre length of Lake Nyasa to Tanganyika, where he hunted for a while in the Lake Rukwa area, before walking through Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) to the Congo. Hunting his way he overachieved his quota of ivory resulting in his being charged with trespass, the confiscation of his rifles, and a fine of one thousand francs. He hunted his way through the Congo to Leopoldville then on to the Portuguese enclave, near the mouth of the mighty river, where he worked as a barman in a rough and tough bar until he received a message that his old friend Lumb had found gold at Lupa near Chunya. George set sail on the next boat for Antwerp in Belgium, then crossed to England and spent a few weeks with his family in Jacksdale before returning by sea to Dar es Salaam. Arriving at the gold fields he pegged his claim and almost immediately went down with blackwater fever – an illness that used to kill three out of four within a week.
When he recovered from his fever, George exchanged his gold lease for a double barrelled .577 elephant rifle and took out a special elephant control licence with the Tanganyika Government. He then headed for the Congo again and poached elephant in Northern Rhodesia from a base in the Congo. He was known by the Africans as “iNyathi”, or the Buffalo, because he was the most dangerous in the long grass. After a profitable hunting expedition in his favourite hunting ground of the Kilombera River he returned to the Congo via Dar es Salaam and Mombassa. He was after the Kabalo district elephant, but hunting was restricted, so he set up his base in The Central African Republic at a place called Obo on the Congo tributary named the M’bomu River. From there he could make poaching raids into the Congo and the Upper Nile regions of the Sudan. He hunted there for two and a half years. He seldom came across other Europeans; hunters kept their own districts and guarded their own territories. But they respected one another and he made good and lasting friendships with members of that small select band of adventurers.
Leaving for Europe via the Congo, George enjoyed a short holiday in Jacksdale with his mother. On his return trip to East Africa he met his future bride in Cape Town. She was 24 year old Eleanor Dunbar Leslie; a high school teacher and daughter of a magistrate who spent her spare time mountaineering, racing ocean yachts, and riding horses. After a whirlwind romance, they were betrothed within 36 hours.
On 25 July 1930 George landed back in Dar es Salaam. He went directly to the Mbeya district to find a home. For one hundred pounds he purchased the Waizneker’s farm on the banks of the Mntshewe Stream. Eleanor, who had been delayed due to her contract as a teacher, followed in November. Her ship docked in Dar es Salaam on 7 Nov 1930, and they were married that day. At Mchewe Estate, their newly acquired farm, they lived in a tent whilst George with some help built their first home – a lovely mud-brick cottage with a thatched roof. George and Eleanor set about developing a coffee plantation out of a bush block. It was a very happy time for them. There was no electricity, no radio, and no telephone. Newspapers came from London every two months. There were a couple of neighbours within twenty miles, but visitors were seldom seen. The farm was a haven for wild life including snakes, monkeys and leopards. Eleanor had to go South all the way to Capetown for the birth of her first child Ann, but with the onset of civilisation, their first son George was born at a new German Mission hospital that had opened in Mbeya.
Occasionally George had to leave the farm in Eleanor’s care whilst he went off hunting to make his living. Having run the coffee plantation for five years with considerable establishment costs and as yet no return, George reluctantly started taking paying clients on hunting safaris as a “white hunter”. This was an occupation George didn’t enjoy. but it brought him an income in the days when social security didn’t exist. Taking wealthy clients on hunting trips to kill animals for trophies and for pleasure didn’t amuse George who hunted for a business and for a way of life. When one of George’s trackers was killed by a leopard that had been wounded by a careless client, George was particularly upset.
The coffee plantation was approaching the time of its first harvest when it was suddenly attacked by plagues of borer beetles and ring barking snails. At the same time severe hail storms shredded the crop. The pressure of the need for an income forced George back to the Lupa gold fields. He was unlucky in his gold discoveries, but luck came in a different form when he was offered a job with the Forestry Department. The offer had been made in recognition of his initiation and management of Tanganyika’s rainbow trout project. George spent most of his short time with the Forestry Department encouraging the indigenous people to conserve their native forests.
In November 1938 he transferred to the Game Department as Ranger for the Eastern Province of Tanganyika, and over several years was based at Nzasa near Dar es Salaam, at the old German town of Morogoro, and at lovely Lyamungu on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Then the call came for him to be transferred to Mbeya in the Southern Province for there was a serious problem in the Njombe district, and George was selected by the Department as the only man who could possibly fix the problem.
Over a period of several years, people were being attacked and killed by marauding man-eating lions. In the Wagingombe area alone 230 people were listed as having been killed. In the Njombe district, which covered an area about 200 km by 300 km some 1500 people had been killed. Not only was the rural population being decimated, but the morale of the survivors was so low, that many of them believed that the lions were not real. Many thought that evil witch doctors were controlling the lions, or that lion-men were changing form to kill their enemies. Indeed some wichdoctors took advantage of the disarray to settle scores and to kill for reward.
By hunting down and killing the man-eaters, and by showing the flesh and blood to the doubting tribes people, George was able to instil some confidence into the villagers. However the Africans attributed the return of peace and safety, not to the efforts of George Rushby, but to the reinstallation of their deposed chief Matamula Mangera who had previously been stood down for corruption. It was Matamula , in their eyes, who had called off the lions.
Soon after this adventure, George was appointed Deputy Game Warden for Tanganyika, and was based in Arusha. He retired in 1956 to the Njombe district where he developed a coffee plantation, and was one of the first in Tanganyika to plant tea as a major crop. However he sensed a swing in the political fortunes of his beloved Tanganyika, and so sold the plantation and settled in a cottage high on a hill overlooking the Navel Base at Simonstown in the Cape. It was whilst he was there that TV Bulpin wrote his biography “The Hunter is Death” and George wrote his book “No More The Tusker”. He died in the Cape, and his youngest son Henry scattered his ashes at the Southern most tip of Africa where the currents of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet .
George Gilman Rushby:
“Perhaps it’s an anagram,” Ricardo ventured tentatively, “Look: INNFOODAWFUL is an anagram of “I found lawn of”, see?” He cleared his throat nervously, demoralized by the agitated energy in the room. Everyone was looking at him expectantly, so he bumbled on: “All we need to do it work out the rest…”
Exasperated looks were exchanged around the room, making Ricardo feel a fool. He was just about to excuse himself for a trip to the lavatory to wring his hands in private (hangovers always had that effect on him), when Miss Bossy tart herself piped up excitedly, “Wait a minute, by George I think he might be on to something!”
Sophie cast a skeptical eye in her direction, as Ricardo plopped back down in his chair with an audible sigh of relief. He reached for his water bottle with a trembling hand and took a swig. God, his mouth was dry.
“AHOYSICKICONGRIN is “shack in Congo!” the Boss Tart continued. “Of course!” she said, slapping her forehead.
- “The letters of Eleanor Dunbar Leslie to her parents and her sister in South Africa
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