Thursday 31 October 2013

Duke of Connaught's Tour of Rhodesia - 1910

Duke of Connaught
Earlier the Duke had toured South Africa and thereafter the tour moved on to Rhodesia.

The arrival at Livingstone, a few miles north of the Falls, in time for lunch, was marked by the heartiness of the welcome from the three hundred white inhabitants holding this outpost of civilisation among black and still primitive tribes. In a stirring speech the Duke addressed them as pioneers of Empire, and encouraged them to persevere in their splendid work

In the course of the afternoon his Royal Highness walked and drove all over the town, and expressed surprise and admiration at the three years' growth. The party visited the hospital, where all three talked with the patients, and took a great interest in the excellent equipment The Duke recognised a sergeant of the local police as a man who served with him at Aldershot, and commended him for the brave conduct which caused his injuries. His Royal Highness also had a long chat with an old Dutchman who fought on the Boer side at Majuba. "I have come," said his Royal Highness, "on an errand of peace. We must forget our old quarrels."

Livingstone, November 18. This morning service was held on the verandah of Government House, the new Cathedral not being ready. This afternoon there was a launch trip with a tea-picnic on the river, and a sham hippopotamus fight.

Several canoe-loads of chocolate-coloured hunters, with their heads decorated with gaudy tufts of feathers, and wearing little else, showed intense eagerness in stalking and spearing the straw hippo, and there were barbaric songs of joy, accompanied by tom-toms, as they towed the corpse home. This greatly amused the Royal party.

Livingstone, November 14. Rain at night cooled the air for the parade of the fine body of native military police at nine o'clock this morning. The Duke congratulated the officers on the men's smartness and steadiness, and the evident enjoyment with which they drilled. The exercises proved an instructive contrast. The men had a very soldierly appearance in their neat uniforms, when compared with a number of natives composing the bodyguard of Lewanika, the Barotse chief. It is marvellous how a few months of British training transforms naked savages into excellent soldiers, who are neat in appearance, self-respecting, warmly attached to their officers, and proud of their regiment When the royal salute was given on the Duke's arrival, the National Anthem blared out, and the Royal Standard was broken at the flag-stafi; it was impossible not to feel a deep thrill of patriotic emotion at the great work Britain is doing here.

That it is being done, thanks to the Native Commissioners with the full co-operation of the native rulers, was emphasised this afternoon by the striking interview between the Duke of Connaught and King Lewanika, whose chieftain ship is acknowledged by a hundred and twenty thousand Barotses.

At four o'clock a procession of five hundred warriors escorted the old chief to Government House. The native drums and other instruments made a tremendous din, which increased when the Duke appeared on the verandah. There were yells and roars of welcome, and the whole body dropped on their knees in the road and clapped their hands, the Barotse form of salutation. Lewanika did not make obeisance. He was in a uni-form covered with gold lace, with a large curved sword and gold spurs,both of which he found very embarrassing. He was allowed to approach reverentially, and shake the Duke by the hand, but his son and Prime Minister knelt and clapped his hands, according to custom.

An interchange of complimentary speeches and presents followed, the latter including a blue monkey in a cage.

The chief departed amid clouds of dust and renewed uproar. He has killed many bullocks, and will hold a great feast to celebrate the honour done him.

He told me afterwards that he was deeply touched by the Dukes fatherly kindness, and would keep a vivid recollection of the courtesy of King George when he visited London.

The Royal party are immensely popular with everybody. In spite of the heat they visited the golf and rifle clubs this morning, and late in the afternoon gave a general invitation to the white people to a tea-party and the planting of a commemoration tree in the public gardens.

November 15. Just after dinner this evening (on the journey from Livingstone to Salisbury ind Bulawayo) a glare was seen in the sky, and voices singing in a stentorian volume were heard. In a few minutes the train stopped at Wankie's Colliery, a township in the midst of the limitless veld, with an output of 500 tons of coal per day.

A huge bonfire blazed on the hill close to the line, and the royal salute was fired. The white population (about seventy) crowded round the saloon of the Duke, who immediately appeared, and thanked them for coming. He asked about the health of the place, and chatted of the prospects of the mines and the country generally for ten minutes. Meanwhile five hundred native colliers continued to sing "God Save the King" unceasingly, and when the train pulled out they cheered in genuine British fashion.

The Duke's ready response to, and frank pleasure in such demonstrations of loyalty is doing a great deal to rivet the ties of Imperial sentiment.

By emphasising the common allegiance of all Britons to the throne and flag, he brings home to these pioneers of civilisation the pride and responsibility attaching to British citizenship, and makes better citizens of them. The spirit in which the Duke regarded his mission is illustrated by his re- quest that as many officials as possible should be invited to lunch and dinner at the Government House, Livingstone, instead of merely a few heads of the Administration, as arranged before arrival This course adds considerably to the fatigue of an unusually toilsome tour, but the Duke never permits himself to appear tired, and leaves everywhere the impression that he is keenly interested in everything affecting the country and the Empire, and glad to meet all helping on the development of the Imperial idea.

Salisbury, November 17. Salisbury has spared neither trouble nor money to mark its delight at the first visit of any member of the Royal Family to the capital of Southern Rhodesia. A new Government House has been built for the occasion, the builders working day and might for weeks past, the finishing touches being put on only yesterday, just in time.

In the pleasant gardens surrounding the house a reception was held this afternoon, when the Duke and Duchess filled large numbers of loyal hearts with joy by shaking hands with all the guests.

The other events of the day were of the usual character, and included the presentation of addresses and a Volunteer review; but all went off with remarkable spirit

Salisbury is going ahead at a great pace, and is anxious to profit by the opportunity of showing what an energetic and advanced community it is. The local paper, in an article of welcome, says:" We believe Rhodesia is destined to become one of the most important parts of King George's dominions."

This is the general feeling of Rhodesians. Their optimism is like that of the Canadians, and doubtless equally well grounded. It is only twenty years since Rhodes's pioneer column camped here. There was nothing then but bush. The progress in the short time that has elapsed is marvellous. Mining experts report most favourably on the gold deposits, agriculture is steadily advancing, and Salisbury itself is a triumph of the British genius for colonisation. Heading citizens assure me that the Royal visit will have an excellent effect.

Salisbury, November 19. To-day's doings began early with a meet of the Salisbury hounds at five o'clock. There was a good field sharp to time in the exquisite freshness of a Rhodesia morning. The hounds, of genuine English breed, were in the pink of condition. Several of the Duke's suite were out but the Royalties, in view of the heavy day, were obliged
to forego the sport.

The most interesting event of the morning was a visit to the Government tobacco factory. This bids fair to be a great Rhodesian industry. The present year's crop is calculated at half a million pounds. The industry has now passed the expoimental stage, and is certain to increase rapidly.

The Duke saw how the leaves were unpacked, steamed, graded, tied up into bundles, and pressed into bales, and asked a number of questions about the methods of cultivation and treatment, also about the possibilities of the market in England. He expressed great pleasure at the favourable reception of Rhodesian pipe and cigarette tobaccos in the Mother Country, and at the prospect of a large consumption in a few years' time.

In the afternoon the Royal party drove out in motors to see the fine view over the rolling park like landscape stretching away to the mountain ranges, and later the party spent an hour at a gymkhana on the polo ground. Although the Duchess and Princess were tired they would not disappoint the people, and their thoughtfulness was recognised and appreciated.

They had a great ovation when they drove away. After dinner they motored the mile and a half from Government House to the Town Hall between living lamp-posts: natives carrying torches lined each side of the road. The effect of the flickering light on the statuesque figures and black faces of the torch bearers was very striking. Afterwards all joined and marched past, the procession dancing and waving torches and chanting weird war songs.

Bulawayo, November 21. A picturesque feature of the Duke of Connaught's arrival here this morning was a large array of natives lining the road from the station. As the party passed they raised loud cries of wild welcome and threw themselves in the dust, writhing and beating their hands together — At their own particular method of salutation to the "great white chief."

Later there was a procession of Matabele warriors, whose heads were decorated with huge pink ostrich feathers. They were naked except for their leopard skins. All shufiled along with rhythmic jumps and contortions, shaking their assegais and chanting a deep-throated, monotonous song.

The first thing which the Duke saw when he arrived at the charming Government House, which is reached by a three-mile drive, most of the way along a beautiful avenue of fir-trees, was the tree under which Lobengula, the Matabele chief, sat when he pronounced his bloodthirsty decrees. It is almost incredible that so much has been done towards civilisation in twenty years.

Bulawayo, November 21. The weather, which has so far been unusually fine for this time of the year, has broken, but fortunately held up until after the visit to that marvellously beautiful spot in the Matopo Hills where Rhodes was laid to

Brilliant sunshine prevailed in the early morning, when the Royal party inspected several of the schools. They were greatly struck by the large airy buildings and the strong, healthy appearance of the children, the best testimony to the climate. The Chartered Company have made large school grants, and are determined that the education here will be the best obtainable. The carpenter's shop was specially commended by the Duke, who was also keenly interested in the chemical laboratory. When the time came to leave the Boys' School the Duke had to be hunted for, and was found watching an experiment being made by two small boys.

A little before noon seven motors set off under a cool, grey sky for the Matopos, twenty-five miles distant The road passes the dam or reservoir made to irrigate the Rhodes Farms. Nothing but water is needed to raise splendid crops here. It was most instructive and encouraging to come across acres and acres of rich cultivated soil amidst the bush.

After lunch at the hotel close to the dam, we drove on through the fine park, dedicated by Rhodes to the use of the people, until we reached the foot of the great granite kopje, named World's View. Here rickshaws awaited the ladies, but the Duke, with the other men climbed the steep, rocky path to the tomb. At the sight of the slab covering the grave, guarded by a ring of immense boulders, the Duke took off his hat, and the example was followed by all. The Duke stood for some minutes in silent meditation, and then turned away to enjoy the magnificent prospect. The whole party was deeply affected by the weird beauty and the solemn associations of the spot.

The Royal Party of the Connaughts arriving at the triumphal arch in Broadway, November 17th 1910.
 Photo. National Archives of Rhodesia
 Broadway was later renamed to Kingsway.

    Duke and Duchess of Connaught arriving at the Drill Hall Salisbury
Duchess of Connaught, Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and Princess Patricia.
 Photo - National Archives of Rhodesia
The Duke as a Freemason
Additional photographs of the tour have been made available by Rob Burrett. Thanks Rob

Planting a tree at Livingstone
Lady Wallace is seen with the late Duchess of Connaught and Sir Lawrence Aubrey Wallace, who has resigned the Administratorship, is in the light suit

Barotse Indunas approach Duke of Connaught, Livingstone
Duke of Connaught being shown traditional crafts, Barotse Centre, Livingston
Shaking hands with the late King Lewanika
Tour then returned to South Africa

Extracted and recompiled by Eddy Norris from the digitised book South Africa To-Day with an Account of Modern Rhodesia By H. Hamilton Fyfe London - Eveleigh Nash 1911

ORAFs records its thanks to the History Channel, the author, photographer/s and publishers.

Bob Manser (RhAF) and Nick Baalbergen (INTAF)  made several photographs available and I have added them to the article as the original had none. Thanks Bob and Nick for their support.



Caption To Photograph
Surrounded by early Rhodesian Freemasons in their regalia, the Duke of Connaught, the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Order of Freemasons in England, laid the foundation stone of the new English Church of St, John the Baptist, Bulawayo, in November, 1910. Plans for the building were drawn up by Mr. F. Masey and when completed, but without the tower and furniture, the cost was $7 500. The old church stood on St. Gabriel's site and is known today as St. Gabriel's Chapel. This picture is one of a collection from a photograph album found in Norfolk, England, last year (1976 newspaper cutting).

Rob Burrett Writes-

 The way it is worded is unclear it seems to suggest to readers that this is built on the site of Saint Gabriel's. That chapel is in fact still there and several blocks away. This Church of St John, later upgraded to cathedral, is several blocks away and the Freemasons, lead by the Duke, had a ceremonial walk from one consecrated site to another before laying the stone.

 Saint Gabriel's Chapel is not well known and the original core section is hidden behind other buildings. The Chapel as it is now is used infrequently. It is a small and peaceful spot, musty with damp and with many dedications to the early Sisters who ran Saint Gabriel's Home. AMDG.


Thanks to Bob and Liz Manser for sharing their memories and special thanks to Rob Burrett for the additional information

Suggested Viewing
"HRH The Duke of Connaught leaving Portsmouth on SS Balmoral Castle For His South Africa Tour Oct 11th 1910".
Visit -

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at
(Please visit our previous posts and archives

Ref. Rhodesia

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Tuesday 29 October 2013

Whatever Happened to May?

By Angela Hurrell, Bob Manser and assisted by Eddy Norris
     May with flowers

MAY MANSON THOMSON   ( Allan Wilson's Fiancé’ )
May Manson Thomson was the second eldest of six children.

Born 6th October 1860 in Corskie, Garmouth'  Scotland,  she had three sisters and two brothers.     Her father was Andrew Thomson, a farmer of Corskie Farm, Garmouth, Scotland and her mother, who died when May was a young girl, was Charlotte Duncan (nee) Manson.


Major Allan Wilson
 (Commanding the Victoria Column)
 Born 1856 - Killed at Shangani 4th December 1893

Engaged to Major Allan Wilson of Shangani Battle fame she became known as the lady who later married James Dawson, a close friend and comrade of Allan’s.   It was he who retrieved and transported the remains of the Pioneer men after the ill fated battle against the Matabele.

   On his first,  very difficult  journey to the site,  accompanied by James (Paddy) Reilly and five Matabele,  he buried the remains and carved a memorial into the trunk of a nearby tree ‘to brave men’. Later he returned to the site and transferred the remains to Zimbabwe Ruins where they were reburied.    On that trip he also transported grain and other foodstuffs to the starving widows and children of the Matabele who had been killed by the Patrol. 

After some time those remains were again reinterred at Worlds View in the Matopos in the Bulawayo area where Cecil John Rhodes was later buried.

Site of the original burial place of Allan Wilson's patrol at Shangani

The remains were later removed and buried at Zimbabwe

The Shangani Memorial at the Matopos. The last resting place of Allan Wilson's Patrol

 In 1896 James visited his home town in Scotland.    A long time friend of Allan Wilson, he must have met Allan’s fiancé May much earlier during Allan’s lifetime.

Left to Right Mr. James Fairbairn and Mr. James Dawson

    James was reputed as knowing the native Matabele better than most, having enjoyed the complete confidences of Lobengula and Khama who he included amongst his friends.


He was one of the few trusted whites as it was said that he never 'trifled' with the natives.   His word was his bond and he did much to inspire the respect that the natives had for the Englishmen (all considered English, even the Scots!)    He was a brave man, courteous to a fault and bore himself like a true gentleman.   He appears to have been a caring man, one on whom unpleasant duties were often undertaken when no one else wanted to carry them out. 


Of interest was the foresight he had on the occasion of his wedding when he arranged to have his guests, locals and from Rhodesia transported in first class carriages from Garmouth to the school house where his marriage ceremony took place.

   Married in October 1896 when May was aged 36 and he 8 years older, the wedding attracted much publicity and descriptions of the wedding were published in the newspapers of Elgin, Scotland  and also in Bulawayo, Rhodesia.    James was described as a prosperous South African merchant.   A kind man as evidenced by his journey to rescue the starving Matabele widows and children after the Shangani Battle, transporting them back to Bulawayo.

   The wedding ceremony, considered something of a ‘modern romance’ took place in Fochabers and was celebrated by the townsfolk who revered Allan who was a son of the village.    Much interest was manifest in the burgh of Macduff when flags floated from the Municipal buildings, from the crafts in the harbour and from a large number of public and private houses throughout the town.   With the events of the Shangani battle still fresh in the townsfolk’s minds, it was reported that the story of their union was of interest the world over.

   May's father had passed away by this time so she was given away by her brother-in-law Mr Alexander Geddie.  May's three sisters and two brothers and families attended the ceremony.  Her nieces were bridesmaids.
Many gifts were given and of particular interest was a cheque  received from Holloway Gaol from Dr Jameson and Sir Willoughby. They had been jailed for the parts they played in the Jameson Raid in South Africa.

Leander Starr Jameson

Major Sir John C. Willoughby Bart.
 (Chief Staff Officer to His Honour the Administrator)

After the wedding James and May returned to Rhodesia where James, who had given up his military duties, revived his business interests while farming in Essexvale.   These, which he and his brother Alexander had previously established in the name of Dawson Bros. were based in an office on the corner of Fife Street and Market Square in Bulawayo.    James was the manager and Alexander, the London based buyer for the enterprise.   Eleven branches were formed in such places as Khami River, Filabusi, Geelong, Balla Balla, Fairview and Essexvale.   An early map of the Essexvale area shows a farm named Fochabers which was apparently the property of the Bechuanaland Charter for whom Allan Wilson had worked.   This same farm was later given to Allan and his family posthumously)

   Reports of parties held in the Dawson's home included friends such as the hunter Selous, Sam Lee (who had accompanied Livingstone to Lake Ngami)   Bill Finaughty,  ‘Old Mahogany’ Ware (who went with Dawson's brother Alexander when they penetrated the Chobe in 1872)  Edward Swimborne and van Rooyan, (who killed more lions than any other hunter including one put up for Randolph Churchill's last shot) Crewe and Farrell,  all talking the night away with their tales of hairbreadth escapes from wild beasts, drought, natives and disease.   

   It was reported that James pegged out Livingstone Falls as his farm but was persuaded by Rhodes and Jameson to give it up to the world.    He had no clear titles to the spot and the other men interested in the venture blamed his Highland munificence in surrendering the prize with no compensation.

   One wonders why the marriage did not last but sadly it did not appear to have been successful.  May returned home to Scotland in 1905 with son Ronald Maurice aged four (born in Bulawayo on 18th August 1901)  which is the  date that  James moved 800 miles away to Barotseland’s capital Lealui.    His friend  King Lewinika welcomed him and later when the king died his death notice described him as an old and staunch friend of  Britain and the missionaries in his country.   A description of a couple of Scottish men living there at the time, and another Scottish settler (unnamed) was included.  That was probably James.

   James lived in Barotseland some 16 years and is mentioned in records and books on Susman Bros. as one of their most important partners and the biggest cattle buyer in the Valley.   He later apparently experienced financial difficulties as a result of huge cattle losses from pleuro pneumonia in 1921  and shot himself when he was 70 years old.    He was buried in Mongu Cemetery near Lealui.

   May lived in Scotland and sent her son Ronald to school in Spymouth from where he progressed to Milnes Institution where both James and Allan Wilson had been educated. 

On leaving school in 1919 he went to Malaya where he worked for Penang Rubber Estates. He married Dolina Barbara Falconer  on 26th August 1937. 

According to the Garmouth Register he was a rubber planter, as registered on his marriage certificate. She was the daughter of Donald Falconer, clothier,  and  Christina  (nee) MacLennon.

Ronald and Dolina had a son James who was born in Malaya in 1941.   He never married and retired as a Dundee lawyer after which he moved to Forfar in Scotland.   Apparently he had no interest in the part that his grandfather played in Rhodesia and passed away aged 60 after a heart attack in 2003.

   The apparent lack of interest shown by both Ronald and his son James was only explained recently by a cousin of May’s, Ian Mackenzie.      He gave the reason for May having left James as being the result of his ill treatment of her, due he thought, to the worry and stress of losing all his cattle.   As he had moved to Lealui at the same time that May returned to Scotland, it is not clear whether he had suffered this loss in Rhodesia which led him to move to Barotseland .

   At the time of her death at the age of 86 May was busy writing another book dedicated to her grandson.    A lover of flowers she took care of the local war memorial in Garmouth tending it since its erection after the first World war.    She was survived by her son Ronald in Malaya.   He was reputed to have been a prisoner of war of the Japanese and at the cession returned to work in Malaya where he died some years later. May was well loved and recognised as a Moray authoress and a frequent contributor to journals and magazines, and widely read in the Northern Scott Newspapers and  the Milnes Institute magazines.   Of an arresting personality she was held in great respect in the district.


When Allan Wilson of Fochabers, Scotland died during the Shangani Battle in 1893 he left behind his fiancé May Manson Thomson who was a local girl from Corksie,  Garmouth in Scotland.   She must have suffered greatly upon hearing of his fate as Allan was considered a ‘man amongst men’.   One can only imagine her deep sense of loss.

I had so often wondered what had become of her so in 2010 placed an advert in a Scottish newspaper calling for information of her family.

Amongst people who responded were the grandchildren of her sister Isabella Geddie, Angus and Charlotte (nee) Christie.    Correspondence followed and I received photographs and copies of newspaper cuttings.     Another great nephew Ian Mackenzie had known May well in his young days.  He sent me wedding photographs of May and James.

Mays siblings were as follows.:-

   Jean, the eldest, was born 24th Feb 1859  and married Alexander Geddie, son of a Speymouth shipbuilder and  headmaster of Balnacoul School. 
    Isabella ‘Tibby’ Thomson born 21st October 1862 was married to  Dr. William Stewart  Geddie.   They moved to Queensland, Australia in 1894 but returned to Scotland in 1900.   In 1903 Phoebe (their daughter) was born and Phoebe had four children,   Angus and Charlotte (Sharley), Emma and Magaret

Angus is in Scotland, and his sister Charlotte, now living in Esperance, West Australia.    It was Angus, the family member most interested in genealogy, who contacted me and has proved a most helpful source of information.     He was able to procure copies of the two books that May wrote as well as many of her poems and short stories.  His other two sisters Emma and Margaret remembered May as being a ‘feisty lady and of fairly cheerful disposition’.   Some of Mays wedding gifts are still held by the family

    John Thomson born 13th April 1864 – no further details given. 
    Charlotte Thomson 4th April 1806 married Hugh Spencer.   
    Andrew Thomson born 17th April 1869 and married to Charlotte Duncan Manson, daughter of Capt. Sinclair and Mary Ann (nee Walker)

   I located the ‘engagement’ ring that Allan gave to May, (but described as a signet ring in A.J. Smits story ‘’The Shangani Story’’) It had been found amongst other Allan Wilson memorabilia that had been presented to the Allan Wilson School Archives in Rhodesia by May.   One wonders, however, whether there was a ‘proper’ engagement ring as the one in question does look rather more like a signet ring.    Was there perhaps another ring that May treasured too much to send to the school?

  Peter Dawson, of Fochabers (no relation to James Dawson) wrote an article ‘’There were no Survivors’’ which was published in the Northern Scot Christmas Number of 1989.   He forwarded many articles and newspaper reports that he felt were of interest and assistance to me, as have a few older folk who have stories of May and her son Ronald and grandson James.    Most of these have been handed down from their parents who lived near May.

   A biography of James Dawson was written by John O’Reilly and called 'Pursuit of the King’ but sadly I have been unable to find much relating to James after he left for Barotseland in 1905 where he lived until his death in 1921.

Hugh Macmullins book ‘An African Trading Empire Story of the Susman Bros and Wulfsohn 1901-2005’  in the chapter on the Sesheke War and the Cattle Trade 1909-1931 mentions James as the most important of their partners and the largest cattle buyer in the Valley, and a contemporary of George Westbreech who had been working in Central Africa since 1870.   Page 114 describes Susman's one time partner Jimmy Dawson as having ‘‘got into financial difficulties as a result of the collapse of the cattle trade and died tragically aged 70 in 1921.’’

Mays later life

According to Mrs. Jean Smith of Banff-shire, Scotland, whose parents lived opposite May on the Brae remembers May as a very gracious lady who owned a small dog called Tegas, which, Jean thought, was a Scottie.   She also recalled James, Mays grandson as a young lad always on his bicycle and later at Varsity where he qualified as a solicitor.    She saw him last at Mays funeral.. Jean reports that Ronald, Mays son was a Japanese prisoner of war who worked 'east' to where he returned at the cessation of war and died there some years later.   The gravestone in Essil states that he died in Malaya.   Jean sent me a copy of Mays signature and notes that she had written in Jeans autobiography book when Jean was about 12 years old.   Always interested in her reading May often suggested authors who she thought suitable for young Jean.

A few  snippets of May’s book as it is 139 pages long

Extracted from her book


Spring in Rhodesia! Away in the wide, solemn, lonely veldt; far from the haunts of men, spring comes to us in our peaceful solitude with something of home sweetness, and power, and charm. Nothing is just the same, it is true, but in fancy we try to believe it is April and spring in England, instead of September and spring in Rhodesia.

All over the ground is a faint flush of green;reminding me pleasantly of the "breer" (the briar) in the corn fields of Morayshire - the tender yellowy-green of the young mimosas, the deep funereal shade of the euphorbia, and the wonderful dazzling green of the wild fig trees - such a green as one never sees in our northern latitudes; a green that seems to have absorbed the very light of the sun into it and kept it there. Young figs, like tiny green

Mays books:

May wrote a small book called ‘Veldt and Heather’ described by Glass as ‘a trifling empty thing’ but which does give a glimpse of May's thoughts on her life in Africa at that time. 

 ‘Twa Tinkers’ was her book of poetry.   Many other short stories and poems were written over the years, most of which were published in the Northern Scot newspapers in their Christmas editions and the Milnes Institution magazine.

   Letters held by the family include one from the War Office in  Droitwich. Worcs UK dated lst Dec 1948 which records that ‘‘at the suggestion of the Rhodesian Sec. for Education,  (Mr J Cowie) memorials be erected to Major Allan Wilson and the gallant band who fought at Shangani on 4th Dec. 1893.  This has been done.   A series of British War medals all of them representative of acts of heroism by British Regiments, have been presented to the Royal Norfolk Regiment, a section of this regiment served as Mounted Infantry in the Rhodesian Campaign of 1896.   Mrs Dawson will doubtless agree that as the Regiment gained five Victoria Crosses in the war of 1939/45 they are the appropriate custodians of the memorial to the “These were men of Men and their  fathers were Men before them ’  of Wilson's last stand’
Secondly,  that the Regimental Assoc. has undertaken to forward to the Allan Wilson School at Salisbury, a memorial silver bugle (or drums if they prefer) for use with the Cadet Corps,  particularly on each anniversary of Shangani Day.   ‘Medals are displayed at the Royal Masonic School, Bushey, Herts in the hopes that some of the 400 boys there may be inspired by Major Wilson's example of devotion to duty in the service of the country’’

   Another letter from V.W. Hillier from the govt Archives in Salisbury dated 10th Nov 1942 wherein May was advised that ‘’in April 1939 I wrote to you regarding the late Major Allan Wilson's ring and medal.  At that time he was unsure as to whether they would be housed in the Archives or the Bulawayo museum.

He advised her that the medal, ring and a photo copy of a page from Major Wilson's diary,  bearing his signature, were still there.  It was formally presented to the Allan Wilson School at the end of their Shangani  Day service.   Accepting the gifts the headmaster of the school expressed his pleasure in accepting these items that would be treasured by the school stating that a small glass case was to be made to house them in  the assembly hall.

Allan Wilson School Badge
These were men of men and their fathers were men of men before them (M’Jaan the Induna) 

    Recently it was found that the ring in safe keeping, it having been removed from the school when  Zimbabwe became independent. With recent threats and discussions by locals in Zimbabwe of obliterating the Shangani and Rhodes graves and memorials in the Matapos  it is with gratitude that these precious memorabilia are being taken  care of.


Thanks to Angela and Bob, the long walk to get this story finished was well worth it Special thanks for your patience.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at
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Sunday 27 October 2013

Old Gwelo Town

By Angela Hurrell and Bob Manser

Herewith a few photographs of Old Gwelo (now Gweru)

    Gwelo Livingstone Avenue - Gwelo 

Smart Chemist - Gwelo

Boggies Cafe in Livingstone Ave Gwelo opposite Midlands Hotel before it was taken down and a supermarket built.
It was on the corner where the old Boggies memorial clock still stands.

Above - Gwelo Laager. News of the rising reached Salisbury on 25 March 1896 and a detachment immediately hurried off to Gwelo, then a small settlement with a population of about 400 Europeans. The defenders swiftly threw up a laager which consisted of five main buildings, tents and wagons, surrounded by fortifications of sand-bags and barbed wire. In May a more substantial force left Salisbury and then combined Salisbury and Gwelo columns then took the offensive against the rebels.

Above (top) - Horse Shoe Hotel from a sketch by our correspondent
Above (bottom) - Hewetts Store - Shangani- - unable to read further text. Apologies for this.

Horse Shoe Hotel - Gwelo

William Hurrell (Mayor)  and Prince of Wales during his visit to Gwelo
S. African Tour 1925 - Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and then Duke of Windsor) on Royal Tour of Africa - Rhodesia. See  (be advised video has no sound) Loved the way they tested cars in Rhodesia as seen in the footage in this video.

 Please visit


Thanks to Angela and Bob for sharing their memories with ORAFs.

Ref. Rhodesia, Zimbabwe

November 11, 2013
Angela has made three additional photographs available to ORAFs. Thanks Angela.

Rhodes note to Mrs Hurrell in Gwelo laager 1896
Prince of Wales meeting volunteers in Gwelo 1927

Sackie's shop in Gwelo Main Street (Date Unknown)

December 26, 1894 - First Paper, Gwelo, Rhodesia - The Northern Optimist, 26th December, 1894, edited by R. B. Nash. It ran for four months, and later became known as the Gwelo Times in 1895.

  Standing R B NASH and Mrs Nash
 Seated Sidney & Mabel Button 
Photograph made available by Syd Wheeler who advises that Sidney and Mabel Button were her Grandparents, the photograph is dated before 1945 (date of Sidney's death) and they were in Umvuma from +- 1910

Thank you Syd for sharing her photograph with ORAFs.

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