Saturday, 17 August 2013

Alderman R.L. Phillips - Mayor Salisbury Rhodesia

By Glyn Hall

The advert for The Art Printing Works  from 1936. refers

Why it was of interest was because my Grandfather was the owner of it, having bought a controlling share in it in 1919! He was Robert Lawrence Phillips and was also the mayor of Salisbury in 1930/1931.
Alderman R.L. Phillips - Mayor Salisbury Rhodesia 1930.

I am attaching a couple of photographs of him - one in his mayoral garb and the other is on the steps of Salisburys Town House (1934) - he is on the left with my grandmother, middle is the Mayor, Reid Rowland and Prince George. Out of interest, my mother dug the 1st sod of the Town House when they built it. Also Phillips Ave which ran off 2nd Street was named after my grandfather and Lorna Avenue (in Mabelreign) after my mother. The photograph is the 'new' Art Printing Works is from 1934 with the decorations celebrating Prince Georges visit.
Art Printing Works circa 1934
HRH Prince George 1934     

Art Printing Works circa 1930
I have also included some articles from 1938 and the 1940's.

You previously ran some photos of my Dad, Jack Hall who was written up in the Pride of Eagles & was in the Southern Rhodesian Air Force at the beginning of the 39/45 war - interesting little story from the Rhodesia Herald about him shooting a lion while driving home! Imagine what would happen today?

The other rather tatty articles are from 1943 and 1948 about my grandfather.

Column which my mother got at a function in their honour on 14/09/1930. 

Rhodesia Herald Newspaper 1 Feb 1943.

 My great grandfather was Herbert Phillips and he was something to do with the Rudd Concession who went to see Lobengula in 1888 to see if the land that became "Rhodesia" was worth it. He started the Beatrice gold mine in Rhodesia in 1890 - from what records I have he was the "South African Inspector of Gold Mines".

Don't know if this is of interest to you but when I saw the Art Picture Works and it got me digging!

Alderman R. L. Phillips

Popular and Much Loved Public Man

IT is an indication of his character that Mr. R.. L. Phillips, J.P., frequently spoken of as " dear old Bob." That  does not mean that he is not a fighter. He is. But he always directs his attacks towards policies not persons.

In the long course of his public life he has has many opponents but not enemies. If " Bob " Phillip fought a cause  this antagonists knew that he believes in it but his strong blows were directed towards what he was convinced were  the weak points in the arguments of the other side not towards the individual supporting the other view.

He gave 22 years' service on the Town Council, including a period as Mayor, and It was Inevitable that he should be  selected among the first to be honoured with the title of alder- man. His farewell to the Council in 1941 was made  the occasion for a special meeting at which other tributes were  were paid to various aspects of  the life and character, and a presentation was made to him Mr.. O. P. Wheeler the then Mayor, said Mr. Phillips had achieved a record In Municipal service as a councillor.

Several ex-Mayors spoke and Mr. Reid Rowland said Mr. Phillips had been an outstanding member. Mr. J. E. Stone spoke of 'the strong position Mr. Phillips held in the estimation of the public.


The Hon. J. H. Smit, a former Town Councillor and then Minister of Finance, expressed his appreciation of the. influence "R.L." exercised. He had done a great deal to make Council meetings pleasant and had always urged the  adoption of the reasonable attitude .

"Mr. Phillips is a fine man who has done line work and assisted greatly in the development of the town," sad Mr. J.  Elsworth, whilst Mr. L,. B. Fereday believed there was no man more loved by the people of Salisbury who had placed  him higher in the polls than any other Councillor.

Mr. N. A. Phillip referred to his personal debt for the encouragement Mr. Phillips had given him and to the work he had done in the building up of a tradition of integrity and disinterested public service.


Col. D. McDonald added anecdotes of the time when "Bob" was a great horseman and, as the newest councillor, Mr. A. N. Gibb proposed the health of the guest who, he said, wan leaving the Council with a great record.

In his reply Alderman Phillips revealed a phase of his character when he said the tributes paid reminded him of when he was a small boy, and his mother told someone he was good. She did not know half of what he had done  when she was not there.

In summarising his policy for the Council, he said they must get good men, pay them well and keep them. "Bob"  Phillips was born in Nottingham in September, 1869, and finished his education at the Nottingham University. He  was intensely Interested in mining and travelled far in India, Germany, U.S.A. and South Africa.

He was interested in coal and gold mining, in commercial work, and even served a period as a cowboy and,  traditionally, sold newspapers in the streets of Denver.

He arrived in Umtali in 1897 and took up mining work which carried him to a considerable number of properties, such as the Alliance, Asp, Lily, Speculator, Amazon, Left Bower, Joker, Kimberley Reef and Kingsley. He worked as a distributor and also as manager, finishing mining as manager for the Indarama G.M. Co.'s Butter- fly Mine and  Cecil claim, Hartley district.

He then turned his attention to commerce. In 1919 he bought an interest in the Art Printing Works and during his  period as manager the business grew from employing- five white employees to fifty-five.


He was the first Rhodesian Mayor to use an aeroplane officially, travelling with Mr. R. L. Pollett, Town Clerk, to  Bulawayo to attend the unveilling ceremony of the statue in memory of Sir Charles Coghlan. Mr. Pollett sent the  gold chain by train as air service was not regarded as reliable in those days.

BTW: Robert Phillips was my Granddad not my Dad!)

He was also the first Mayor to use the Beam Station on an occasion when he sent greetings to the Mayor of  Salisbury, Eng- land, receiving a reply in less than an hour.

His daughter, Miss Lorna Phillips, dug the first sod of the present Town House.

His life has covered many activities, in all of which he showed energy and enthusiasm. In his early days in coal  mining he was dissatisfied and studied mining generally, obtaining honours which qualified him for important  posts in Rhodesia.


When he first arrived at Umtali, mining opportunities were few, but rather than be idle he sank most of the wells in  the present Umtali, and even became a master builder to the extent of putting up wood and iron shanties. In the  following year, on the advice of the late Mr. E. A. Begbie, he came to Salisbury.

He was . always a hard worker, and his final successes were undoubtedly due to his industry and enthusiasm,  which drove him to work a dozen hours a day and sometimes even sixteen. But through it all he maintained a level  head, believed in the power of sweet reasonableness and gave freely of his time and' money for the social  advancement of the citizens.

Source: The Sunday Mail dated 28/11/1948

The End

Another story:-
I am not sure if it is mentioned in those articles but in the 1890s he had finished a building some way out of Umtali  and was returning to the town on a bicycle along a path through Christmas Pass when he was confronted by a large  lion. He wasn't armed but fancied himself as a singer (he was the male solo in the local choir) so he started  singing a hymn at the top of his voice and evidently the lion bolted into the bush in fright!

Just another note of history - my mother was instrumental in the planting of the palm trees which went down the centre of Kingsway - I think they changed the name of Kingsway to something else but the palms endure. I seem to recall it was Samora Machel?

The autograph book started in the mid 1800 goes all the way through to the end of Rhodesia and the last signatures are Ian and Janet Smith and Clifford and ; Armenell duPont.


Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at 

(Please visit our previous posts and archives)


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At 20 August 2013 at 08:53 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Mike McGeorge Writes:-
Interesting to read about Salisbury Mayor, R. Phillips, and to read he was at one time the Manager of the Inderama G.M. Co operating the Butterfly Mine in Hartley.

My brother John McGeorge, and Bob Palmer-Owen put up a three stamp mill and james table on the site of the Butterfly whilst doing clean ups, in 1957, when gold was 12 pounds an oz!

Also I took the wedding photos of Clifford du Pont and Armanell shortly after the RF won their election. I do recollect that Armanell was an air hostess with BOAC, Capt Alan McAfee of CAA remembered her from his previous job. Perhaps someone could confirm this? Just some small anecdotes, have old cine of the stamp mill on the mine, also some cine of John Senior,s plane being pulled out of the umfuli river after he lost his life lowflying near the old Senior mine, Chip Kay,s sister was also killed. My brother and I had a bachelor mess renting from Mrs Senior, on Cul na Green on the Widdecombe Rd, on the left just past that Garage at the top of the road before Parkmeadowlands. Not far from the old Cranborne Hostel, where most immigrants found themselves as accomadation was very short. Please note I wasn,t Air Rhodesia as you mention after my name, but my association with the CAA pilots, I was assistant secretary to the Pilots Association of Central Africa, PACA, for 15 years, Alan McAfee was the editor of the PACA magazine, The pilots used to have their monthly meetings as my brother John and I had a photographic studio in Dalmatia House, next to Bradlows, cnr 2nd St and Speke, where we had a spare room for their deliberations. Consequently knew just about all the pilots, especaially on the council, during CAA days.


At 12 April 2014 at 13:09 , Blogger Stephen Deacon said...

Herbert Phillips is my wife's great great grandfather and we have tried to research his background as their are many myths associated with the Phillips. I would be doubtful that he was involved with the Rudd Concession and if he was involved with the Beatrice Gold Mine, I would guess it was after its start.
He was in India as a mine manager from 1889 to 1896 when he left for South Africa and by 1903 he was back in England. Beyond that, any facts have proved elusive to us and other researchers.
The above information about my wife's great grand uncle is very interesting and it is great to see that Rhodesian history at a personal level is being maintained.
As regards Mike's comments, I was also told that Armanell Dupont had been an air hostess. I worked for a prospecting company on a farm close to their's in the Featherstone area and had the pleasure of meeting them with our hosts who were pretty certain of this story.
Steve Deacon

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