During one of our recent visits to sister and brother-in-law, we got onto the subject of family stories and legends, and began bemoaning the fact that we hadn’t asked for chapter and verse or more details on them when we could have.
As some examples, the chat my aunts had with King George and Queen Elizabeth on their visit to South Africa, the merriment caused by my father to (then) Princess Elizabeth in (then) Rhodesia by tripping and falling while trying to take a picture of her, how it came about that Much Better Half’s grandmother was delivered by Florence Nightingale (although dates don’t seem to tally), how my mother came to dance with the Prince of Wales in India, and all that led to her having been accused in the press of killing Queen Alexandra (… sang before her and shortly afterwards she died …!) not to mention the full details of how, armed with a pistol when in the WAAFs (Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force), she had an entire platoon surrender to her.
Much Better Half had an uncle who owned a farm that Gandhi bought – what was that all about?
Her grandfather was brought out from UK to build Pietermaritzburg Town Hall, travelled from Kimberley to Johannesburg by stagecoach with Barney Barnato – a significant figure in early South African history after becoming a millionaire from diamonds in competition with Rhodes. Then, as refugees from Pretoria during the South African (Boer) War, on the way to Mozambique to take a boat to Durban, they had occasion to help an escaped prisoner of war by covering him with straw in a goods train truck. The name of the escapee was Winston Churchill.
Oh, to have a more detailed account of that incident!
Her other grandfather, who came to South Africa as a cavalryman, used to ride in the UK on Phillips’ Farm where ‘The Brook’ of Tennyson fame ran, and later in South Africa with Sir Percy Fitzpatrick during his transport riding days. Did he ever meet Jock of the Bushveld, one wonders?
We still have little idea how it came about that her father’s godmother was Lady Dunbar, wife of Sir Drummond Miles Dunbar who established the SPCA in South Africa.
Only when jotting down such things does one realise how sketchy the information is, and how much could have been added by some determined questioning.
© January 2013 Colonialist (WordPress)