Jessie Lovemore was born and raised on the Lovemore’s Farm at Bushy Park. Her father, Charles Lovemore, was the son of Henry Lovemore, the original Lovemore owner of this farm. In writing her memoires, Jessie has left an invaluable depiction of life of one of the prominent families in the nascent Port Elizabeth. Most of her reminiscences cover her life in Port Elizabeth which she was forced to leave when her husband took up sheep farming in the Middleburg district.
Main picture: Children of Charles & Margery Lovemore circa 1879, L-R Back: Charles, Walter, Alfred & Harry, L-R Middle Hector, Florine, Jessie, Mary & William L-R Front Ian & Sinclair
Jessie Maria Lovemore (27 January 1859 – 1954)
Married: Charles Lewis Reece Allen (1857 – 22 October 1935)
Children: Alfred Peregrine Allen (d. 1939)
Graham Charles Allen (1879 – pre-1947)
Hugh Bowen Allen (b. & d.1882)
John Murray McKillop Allen (d. pre-1947)
Donald Walter Allen
Angus Torrens Allen (d. 1939)
Neville Durant Allen (1888)
Charles Arthur Allen (1894 – 12 March 1919)
From Escombe: –
“Yes, life indeed! To strive, to seek, to find,
Give of one’s best and at the setting sun,
To pass upon one’s way and leave behind
The glorious memory of work well done,”
Jessie at 90
Growing old and being one of the few left of the third generation of Lovemores, I feel I should leave for the generations following all I have gleaned and all I can remember of the family life. I was one of a family of 12 children and was born at my grandfather’s home, Bushy Park, near Port Elizabeth, which he bought in 1820 and left to his youngest son, my father, Charles Lovemore.
My mother, the daughter of Captain Benjamin Moodie, were married, 6th August 1856, in her brother Tom’s house at Freshfield, near the mouth of the Breede River, C.P. They travelled, after their wedding, in a tented ox wagon, through the Lang Kloof, over mountain passes, and crossed rivers and arrived at Bushy Park, after the long journey, at night. They were received there by my father’s sisters, Maria and Sophie, “in night gear and dressing gowns”, so my mother told me. She also told me how nervous she was in crossing rivers and the mountain passes, so that at night she could not sleep, and often sat up near the driver of the oxen, and looked out on the wild scene, whilst my father calmly slept. He was about 30, mother 22.
I was told how the meeting of these two young people came about. My father, wishing to improve his stock, took the adventurous journey, to the Cape from Port Elizabeth, in the Post Cart, the only means of travelling such a distance by land. Having to travel day and night, he was too stiff from long sitting to be able to move his legs when he arrived in Cape Town, and he had to be lifted from the cart. If only I had asked more questions, I have no doubt I might have learned how he happened to journey to Swellendam and to hear of Tom Moodie’s cattle, apparently the object of his journey, and so met my mother. When I went to Cape Town, many years later, I was told by a Mr Pearce, who had lived at that time in Port Elizabeth, that when my parents went into town and he met my mother, she was the loveliest girl he had ever seen.
I must tell of my grandparents and how they all came to be in South Africa. Both our grandfathers and our grandmothers came with their children to South Africa from England. My father’s parents arrived at Port Elizabeth, we think from Sussex, in the “Chapman”, in June 1820. Grandfather Lovemore was in charge of a party of settlers and they, he and his family, were passengers. The family consisted of Grandmother Lovemore, Eliza, about 15 years of age, a daughter by my father’s previous marriage, sons Robert, 8 years old, Henry 6, Annie 3.5, Maria 2.5, Sophia 1.5, so the passenger list tells us.
Nothing is known of Henry Lovemore’s previous history. His sons apparently never enquired about his life before coming to Africa, and if his daughters did know, that he had lived in any part of England, or who his forebears were, they never spoke of it to their brothers or brother’s wives, and I suppose they were not questioned. In later life I have often thought how foolish children are not to ask more questions, yet as a young person I was very interested in hearing about my mother’s young days, and from Uncle Harry Lovemore about the Frontier wars and how the families fled from their farms when a Kaffir Frontier was imminent.
It has been proved from the archives in Cape Town, and also from the remembrance of the eldest son, that on the day of his arrival in the S.S. John Chapman in Port Elizabeth, or Algoa Bay, as it was then called, grandfather rode with two men out into the country and evidently decided to buy Bushy Park, then called “Klaas’s Kraal”, and moved out there with his family. The people living on the farm gave up the 3 roomed stone building to the new owners and moved into the Mill cottage. I remember the old Mill. It stood in the long land inside the growing hedge. A few stones were there until removed to enable the land to be ploughed for wheat growing.
On coming to South Africa, Henry Lovemore must have been a wealthy man, and had good taste, as all the furniture, pictures, books, etc., that he brought with him showed. He either brought with him, or had sent out, masons, carpenters, etc., to build his large house at Bushy Park. Once one of my brothers met a young man who, on hearing the name “Lovemore”, told him that his grandfather had been one of these brought to build the house. It originally had 14 large rooms, 4 in front, and a wide hall running across from front to back doors – the walls very thick, built of stone brought from the sea shore, three miles away, and large windows with deep window seats. A veranda 90 feet long and 10 feet wide, with pillars. The roof of the house was of thatch and of the veranda iron. All the woodwork in the house was of teak, very large shelves of teak – floors of yellow wood. In later years, as my father’s family increased, four more rooms were added – a large room outside the main building for the boys, called the Barracks, dairy and larder, were built separately. My grandfather built large stables, coach house and storeroom, and stables were added later. There being no running water, two underground tanks were made, serviced with pumps. In my very young days, I remember casks placed round the house which caught rain water from the roof, and in all the years there was never a shortage of water. Horses were watered at a trough fed from a pump in a well, and the overflow of the water from the well gave drink to the cattle.
The Moodie part of the family has a very long history, all told in the Moodie Book, so I need only tell what I know about Captain Benjamin Moodie and Mrs. Moodie. He and two brothers, all military men, after they returned from the army, and at a time when Scotland was going through a rough time, all left the Orkneys and emigrated to the Colonies to better themselves. Grandfather Benjamin (Captain) Moodie and grandmother came from the Orkney Islands, where the name of their house was Melsetter, in 1817. I cannot say how many children they brought out, but he brought with him 3 chartered ships with mechanics. He brought Grootvadersbosch, a large property near Swellendam, and there he and his family lived until his death. His son Donald inherited the property. He married Helen McIntyre and had a large family who are still in possession and farming it.
My mother was a daughter of the said Captain B. Moodie. Grandmother Moodie evidently died when her children were very young, and after her death Captain Moodie went to England and his children (Thomas, Donald, Harriet, Isabella, Margery, Jessie and Malcolm) were left in the charge of a family named Honey (Ballston) on a farm named Sweet Milk Valley, somewhere in the Caledon district. They were given a special ration, which was arranged before their father left, of so many sheep, and so much meal, sugar, coffee, etc. From the few stories I heard from mother they were allowed to run wild.
In England he married a middle-aged lady, very well educated and learned, and then an accident happened to him. It is said he fell down six flights of stairs and had to undergo the operation of trepanning and a silver plate put into his skull. He was unconscious when taken on board to return to South Africa and remained in that condition until they had been at sea for six weeks. On arrival at Grootv adersbosch, the children returned home and this good lady set about bringing up, educating and training this large young family, and in this was helped by a good and excellent young woman named Emma Melville, also from Scotland. My grandfather had a great taste for books and reading. He had a study and spent most of his time reading and writing. He was one of the parties of men who helped to get the Freedom of the Press in later years. The farming I have no doubt was done by hired help under his guidance.
The Lovemore family, when my mother as a bride came into it, consisted of my Father’s two elder sisters, who had brought him up after his mother’s death when he was four years old; his father’s widow, Mrs Hudson when he married her; and two young men, Edward Clough and Joseph Lovemore, both nephews of my father and his sisters who had brought them up. Edward Clough was left as a small child with his grandfather at Bushy Park when his mother, Annie, and father, Edward Clough, went to England and were lost at sea. Also, there was the youngest of the family, Elizabeth, grandfather’s child by his third wife, Mary Ann Day, who had died when she was a small child – also brought up by the aunts. She had married Alfred Ogilvie and was another bride. So, into this family circle presided over by the sisters came my young mother and her ever-loving Charlie.
It must, to anyone reading this, seem a rather complicated relationship, so to explain: Grandfather Lovemore married very young, was widower at 22, and we surmise, was left with his wife’s child, Eliza, she having been a widow with a child. We never heard his wife’s name. His second wife way Ann May, and by her he had the children I mentioned who came with him from England, a son, James, said to have died in the Frontier Wars, and Charles, my father*, born after arrival in Africa. Ann died and he (Henry Lovemore) married Mary Ann Day and had the child Elizabeth. Mary Ann died when Elizabeth was very young. He later married the widow, Mrs. Hudson, who survived him. Grandfather died some time before my parents were married, his widow a few years later. All these were buried in the cemetery at Bushy Park.
*Mrs Allen seems to have been mistaken in saying that her father was the son of Ann Way. He apparently was the elder of the two children of Mary Ann Day, and thus Elizabeth was his full sister.
Everything in my grandparents’ time, so I am told, the household was done exactly as it would be in an English home, the parents having always conducted the family life in the same way, and then having trained servants, the children knew no other way, and carried on the tradition in both the Moodie and Lovemore families. I can remember the care taken of family linen, and each day’s duties for each member of the household. The daughters were instructed in all household arts and crafts.
My father was a gay young man and told us that he often (in his father’s lifetime) had ridden the twelve miles to Port Elizabeth to a dance after his day’s work on the farm and ridden back after the dance to be at his work at 6 o’clock the next morning. His father was rather a severe man, I think. In those early days there were wolves (hyenas) in the thick forests that surrounded the farm and as a small boy it was my father’s duty to see that all the horses were brought home to the stables in the daylight in the afternoons.
If he delayed, he was very often frightened, having to collect all the mares and foals when it was becoming dark. If ever a mare with a foal was left out, the wolves would have killed and eaten the foal before morning and then woe betide the poor child!
At the time of my parent’s marriage, Port Elizabeth was a garrison town and a very gay place, many dances, balls, theatre (amateur) parties, etc., and a good deal of entertaining was done at Bushy Park. I have heard the names of military men, such as Captain Coble and others, in my aunt’s talk of those times, and I have no doubt the two brides of the family, my mother and Aunt Lizzie Ogilvie, were shown off by their young husbands with great pride. I have a very fond memory of Aunt Lizzie from when I was a small child until my sons, while at school in Grahamstown, used to go to her hospitable home. She must have been a lovely girl, with soft brown eyes and hair and a sweet expression. Before she married Uncle Alfred, there had been another (Walford Harries) anxious to marry her, but she preferred Alfred.
A member of my father’s family I have not mentioned was the Governess of his elder brothers and sisters when he was too young to begin his schooling. She was a maiden Englishwoman, Miss Hester Marshal, and to the end of her life she was a wise friend of all the Lovemores. There is no doubt that she was the adviser and help of the three girls, Annie, Maria and Sophia, whose mother died while they were very young. Her youngest son, Charles, born in November 1825, was only 4 years old at that time and Annie not more than 12 or 13. When their stepmother, Mary Ann Day, died, they were only 4 or 5 years older and then Miss Marshal must have been their great help and probably took charge of the house.
From my mother I heard of a Mr. Handfield, but do not know if what she told me occurred before or after she married and came to Bushy Park, but I think it must have been before. He came to see Miss Marshal and used to read aloud to those sitting round the fire in the evening, as was the custom in those days. A little story is told of Robert and Henry peeping through the drawing room window and one exclaiming “By Jove, Bob, he’s biting her!” I cannot say how true this is.
They were married and he attempted to build a house in part of the valley near Port Elizabeth, which was ever after known as “Handfield’s Folly” or “Handfield’s Valley”. I can remember seeing the stones of the ruin there. When they were quite old, I knew them, as I was growing up, gave me an Ebony cabinet and ten shillings to furnish it with writing materials. It was my treasure for many years and had a sad ending. While we were away from home, camping, two small native boys broke into our house. I afterwards found my lovely cabinet in the stable, pounded to splinters with a large heavy stone. They were in search of money but there was none in it. I put the remains into the fire as nothing could be done with it.
Mr. and Mrs. Handfield lived for many years in Main Street, Port Elizabeth. On one side of the front door, he had a Ginger Beer and Bun corner, and on the opposite side she had a Fancywork shop. There they lived until she met with an accident. She was knocked down by a dog and broke her thigh and was ever after bedridden. Some society, perhaps the Benevolent, appointed a nurse, and in a large airy room the old lady, and later her husband, both bedridden, passed their last days. All members of the family constantly visited them. I, as a schoolgirl, always went once a week until I left school and went home to live.
My father told a story against himself. On visiting Mr Handfield one day, the old gentleman said “Charles, I have a single barrelled shotgun”. My father had long wished to own this weapon, and in his joy at hearing it mentioned, to his lasting shame he asked quickly “Where is it, Mr Handfield?” – and then knew how greedy it sounded. The result was, however, that he carried the gun home that day. My brothers, young boys at the time, were delighted to be able to use it, having learnt to use guns very early and to shoot game in the country. It was in use for many years. As younger ones grew up, it became unsafe to fire. They decided to load it and tie it to a tree with a string tied to the trigger, then at a safe distance to pull the string. It went off with a bang, but the barrel was split, and the gun had passed out! It is to the great credit of the boys, and of the many other boys and double-barrelled shotguns, who were always out in the bush together, that they were careful, and that no accident ever spoiled their pleasure in all those years.
Brothers and sisters
My eldest brother, Alfred Charles, was born on August 18th, 1857, my birth being seventeen months after, January 27th, 1859. After me came a long line of children, we were twelve in all. I shall name them now so that I need only mention them from time to time. We were a very happy tribe and united all our lives. I write in 1949, when two sisters and I are the only members of that large family still living. Alfred, Jessie, Walter, William, Charles, Harry, Florine, Hector, Mary, Ina, Sinclair and Maude. The first member of the family, since my parents’ marriage, to pass away, was my youngest sister, Maude, in 1881 – a very sad loss.
One of my earliest memories is of when I was three years old (1862) being carried in a chair to a boat in Port Elizabeth, and seeing the buildings recede as we were rowed to the ship. My brother Alfred and I were with mother on our way to Cape Town. Then I remember seeing ladies seated on chairs on the deck. One had on a red Garibaldi [A kind of blouse for a woman or child, usually red, called after the red shirts of the followers of the Italian patriot] and I thought it was Aunt Jessie Cox, mother’s sister, so, being a friendly little animal, I went up and spoke to her. My mother told me later that she was a Mrs Rock, Captain Rock’s wife. Those were just glimpses. Later I saw a railway train out in the open country in the Cape. That may have been, as history tells us the railway from Cape Town to Wellington was opened in 1859, and later to Simonstown.
A very striking memory is of the great fire in the Tsitsikamma forest in which elephants were roasted, and many white and coloured people were burned to death. At Bushy Park, 80 miles away, the smoke was so dense that my parents were prepared to take means to escape in case the fire came through the bush. The sun shone red, and doors and windows had to be kept shut on account of the smoke; washing laid out on the grass to bleach had to be quickly gathered and put into tubs of water as the smoke turned it brown. The fear of that fire has been with me all my life and in later years it has come to me in terrifying dreams.
I began to be a help to my mother while I was very young, being the only girl, and helped the nurses and governesses with the younger children. I loved them all so much (that) I could not bear to be parted from them for even a few days; my Aunt Lizzie having several little girls, and living in Port Elizabeth, I was sometimes sent there for my good to learn the ways of girls, and to play with dolls instead of climbing trees and running races with my brothers. My aunt was kindness itself, a dear woman, and well versed in the proper way to encourage girls to play and learn. She would read stories to us while we learned to sew, making doll’s clothes and threading beads for pincushions and pen wipers. Sometimes, dressed in our best, she would take us out in the afternoon “calling” on her friends who had children. On one occasion we went to Paterson’s Row to call on Mrs Sherman, a widow, whose child, Lily, was ill, and I can recall what a shock it was to all of us, sometime later, to hear of Lily’s death.
My cousins had a large nursery where we played in the mornings, and a nurse called Poppy, who took us for walks in the afternoon to places where she could meet other nurses with their charges, and she could enjoy the society of her friends while we played around.
On one morning Alice and Ella and I went to see friends of our parents, Mr and Mrs Phillipson. I believe he was a wine merchant, and she kept a school for little girls. This must have been a holiday as Mr Phillipson was at home and took us, with some other children, into what must originally have been a stable with a cobbled floor, and in which was a fine swing on which he gave us each a ride in turns. I, being six years old, sat on the swing dressed in the fashion of the time with drawers almost to my ankles and a crinoline, and as I sat my crinoline bobbed up in front. Thinking this unseemly I tried to push it down and in doing so I let go my hold on the rope and fell on the cobbles, hurting my back. At the time I took no notice, but it has caused my much trouble all my life and I shall have occasion to mention it again. Children did not mention any injuries they received in playing, afraid I dare say, that they might be blamed for being rough.
I had learnt to ride when I was about four years old, and on this visit my father came into town on horseback to fetch me, leading a pony, saddled, and I rode home with him in the afternoon. The twelve miles to Bushy Park was a long ride for a small girl of six years. I can remember that ride very clearly. It led down through Handfield’s Valley and going downhill, very steep, was rather frightening. A stream had to be crossed and the horses were given a drink. That, too, was fearsome. To the small person perched on the pony’s back, it was such a long way down to his head in the stream. Then, not many miles from home, a shower of rain came on, and my father fearing my holland riding habit does not protect me sufficiently, called at the cottage of an old mulatto woman living on his property and borrowed for me a wrap which was no other than her best Sunday-go-to-Meeting black silk shawl. That is all I can recall. I was probably very tired when I reached home. My saddle had been specially made to order for me and on that I rode until I outgrew its small proportions. My riding hat was a brown beaver and round the crown was an English cock pheasant’s tail feathers, which hung over the brim at the back. It was my great pride and joy – when I thought about it – but clothes never meant anything to me at that age.
While still on the subject of visits to my cousins, one very vivid memory is of one evening when the elders were at dinner downstairs and we children left to ourselves upstairs. I, in hunting about the floor for something, and holding the candle too near the muslin and lace covered dressing table in my aunt’s bedroom, there was a sudden blaze as the lace caught alight, and wild shrieks from all three of us which brought the grown-ups racing up the stairs. The shock of the flames must have been very great, as I cannot remember anything more about it after that.
Another memory worth mentioning, showing the great changes which have taken place in Port Elizabeth since 1865, was the decision to hold the Morning Market on the Hill where now the Jewish Synagogue* stands, instead of in the Square before the Town Hall in Main Street. All the Hill was then open country. My uncle took us three little girls to the market one morning where numbers of wagons stood, and there he bought some oranges. The idea was evidently not a success as the Morning Market was after that for a great many years held in the Square.
About 1867, when my brother Alf was 9 and I was 7 or 8, mother’s health failed, and the Doctor said she had sat over the treadle sewing machine too long and must give it up and use a hand machine. Earlier than that she used a Wilcox & Wheeler hand sewing machine, but being of a very progressive nature, she always tried the newest thing to come out. The Doctor also recommended horse riding, and from that time for a long time it was the habit of mother, Alf and I to go out riding every afternoon. I can remember her black horse, Dorwood, and our cream ponies with black manes and tails. Mother wore a round brimless hat and brown curls hung on her shoulders. I was very proud of my brown beaver hat, and I had a neatly fitting holland habit, long skirt, of course.
Those rides are very faint in my mind, but Chelsey House was a favourite one, and once, I can recall, we went up the high hill and then saw father riding far below us and looking so small in the distance. Living in such flat country it was an event to look down at any object. We soon attracted his attention and he waited for us to join him on the ride home.
As we rode up to the front door one day, returning from a ride, someone said, looking at Alf’s horse, “That horse has horse-sickness!” We had wondered that we could get no pace out of the horse, and thought he was lazy. I never saw a quicker dismount in my life! Alf dropped the bridle and ran to the pump to wash his hands, evidently with the idea that horse sickness was infectious! By early next morning the poor horse was dead, to our grief.
We had many experiences when out riding. Once I lost my stirrup shoe and could never account for it, and once we were on the verge of cutting the ornamental fringe off the bridle of mother’s headstall, and then discovered that the uneasiness of the horse was caused by the saddle hurting his back. We were all small children and there was no one to advise us or tell us what to do.
In the very early days, I was the only girl in the family and consequently I did nearly all the things my brothers did. Only one thing I was never allowed to do was to go into the bush with the boys when they took a gun. In later years my sister Florine was in the same position as I had been. She was nine years younger than I was and also surrounded by brothers and was not allowed to go into the bush with them when they took a gun. She was very angry at not being able to go and mother remonstrated with her and said, “They are boys, and you are a little girl!” But she was not to be persuaded! She said I don’t want to be a girl. Make me into a boy!” – weeping in her disappointment.
Up to about my 8th year, when I was at home, I and my brothers used to get up almost before daylight, and barefooted, in our nightgowns, race each other through the wet dewy grass, to the Black Gate. Then to the nursery, strip and jump into a large half cask of cold water outside the door, plunge in head and all, dried perfunctorily and put on our clothes, which overnight were put ready for us – sit on the doorstep to lace our boots and away to the kraal where the cows were being milked. (A great number of cows were milked every day and butter in abundance was made by maids under my mother’s superintendence). A drink of fresh milk and home for breakfast. Breakfast was ordinary wheaten meal porridge made with milk (I often wished I could taste that again), eggs and bacon, or liver and bacon, or chops grilled on a gridiron, brown bread and butter. No wonder that now, in 1939, there are still nine out of twelve of us still living, strong and healthy.
When the wheat grown on Bushy Park was threshed or tramped out, the tramp floor was a scene of great excitement. It was fenced round, ropes being fastened round the poles by which it was surrounded, horses were driven round, the wheat with stalks as it was cut, having been thickly strewed, and the horses trampled to separate the wheat from the stalks, which became chaff. The horses were kept trotting by men with whips on the outside of the floor, and after a certain time of tramping, they (the horses) were let out and then the men tossed up the chaff with wooden shovels and, according to the wind, it was blown into heaps outside the tramping floor where we, as children will, rolled in it and became thoroughly dirty. Burrowing under the chaff on one occasion we came upon a litter of piglets and their grumpy old mother, and we thought it fine fun to chase them under the chaff.
This process of winnowing and threshing often took more than a week. The wheat was winnowed by being tossed up by the shovels until all the chaff had blown away. Then it was put into bags, but later on was washed to get all the dirt out of it before being loaded on to a wagon to be taken to Uitenhage to be ground. Once on the way to Uitenhage, an old Hottentot woman named Jocamane fell off, and the wheels of the wagon went over her. She was lifted and put on the wagon as carefully as the Native boys knew how and they continued the journey. They stayed a week having the wheat ground and did not see a doctor, then travelled home again, taking three days to do the distance of about twenty miles. When they arrived home our Doctor Ensor, then a young man, happened to be on a friendly visit to the farm, and after Jocamane had been lifted off and laid on an improvised bed of grass and grain bags, father asked the doctor to examine her. He did so and reported “No bones broken” and she seemed to be getting well. Mother took good care of her for a few days and then she got up and very soon was at work again. That wagon, with 30 bags of wheat, must have weighed at least 3 to 4 tones. Let us hope the road was soft and sandy, for at least one wheel went over her.
In our very young days, a visit to Uitenhage was one of the great treats of our lives. We grew no fruit, and although a good deal was bought on the Market by our father, and brought to Bushy Park, going to Uitenhage meant a great feast of fruit to us young ones. The house was carefully locked up, the horse wagon ready, and we all piled in, small maidservants, parents and children. One native boy, Andries had the “four-in-hand” whip and Vellem the reins, and away we went – up the bush path to Landman’s Hill, past the lake on Kragga Kamma, then over a hill and there lay the long 20-mile road to Uitenhage. We stayed at the well-known Black’s Hotel and Oh! the joy of seeing running water, in canals called “sluits” at the sides of the streets, and the beautiful shady oak trees, and the visits to the Leisching’s garden, grapes and peaches and figs, and the Brehems, and other real gardens, none of which were to be found in Port Elizabeth or Bushy Park
I remember having had a dress made for me by Mrs Hellamore – a very fine alpaca, grey with black stripes, green ribbon and little glass balls.
I have a picture of 1867 depicting the results of a hunt on which are shown, my mother on her fine horse “Dorwood”, father with the then fashionable Dundreary Weepers (whiskers) standing next to her and holding a gun. His hat has a paauw feather in it and beside him were all the men who had been at the hunt, Mr Walford Harries, Willie Smith, Henry Deare, Orme Norris; the farm foreman, Masterton, and, lying on the ground, John Holland. Near him was my brother Walter, about 6 years old, and on the other side of the group, brother Willie, about 4 years, holding a dog lying in an uncomfortable position. Then there are Bob Pettit, Alphonse Taylor, Mr Mitchell, Alfred Ogilvie and George Hudson, dressed up for the occasion, native bearers, dogs, and many buck which had been shot.
The hunts took place on many occasions. One was my parents wedding day, 6th August, and another Easter Monday. Until I was an adult these took place, and as things have changed so much in later years, it may interest you to read how they were conducted.
The hunters who were invited were a regular party of old friends who were expected to come to all the hunts, and notabilities visiting Port Elizabeth were among them. They arrived in carts bringing with them riding horses and a few dogs. Then there was much talking and loading of guns on the wide stoep. The guns were all muzzle loaders and powder were measured and poured down the barrels, then wads were put in and firmly rammed with a ramrod, which had a metal holder in the hollow between the barrels. After that loopers or buckshot was measured and poured in and again wads were put in and rammed. Putting the cap on the nipple was usually reserved until away from the house.
Then, with a great bustle, the horses and carts and (riding) horses were brought round and all set off for the appointed bush. My father would give each man his station, and care had to be taken that no one should shoot across another. Only one accident happened that I ever knew of, and that was caused by the man leaving his place and creeping between the monkey ropes through the bush, when he was mistaken for a buck. He received a few loopers which did not cause a serious wound. It caused a great deal of excitement seeing a man being lifted out of a wagon and carried into the house and put to bed. Soon dear old Dr. Ensor was there and took out the pellets – ant there was B L O O D!! on some rags!
We, the women of the family (when I grew older, I was allowed to go) were taken in carts to the place where the warriors would assemble for lunch, and there was a great deal of chaff and fun. Liver was grilled and there were cold chicken pies and coffee. If any special boyfriend (present day language) was there, there was much interest in his experiences and prowess, and among the older men were many practical jokes – tickling a sleeping man with a feather, etc. There was a short session in the afternoon and then, with Hurrahs and thanks and dividing the spoil, our friends drove away to town and we to the farm.
End of a happy day!
The usual hunters who lived in Port Elizabeth presented to father a large silver urn on which all their names were engraved, in memory of happy days hunting.
About the year 1868, when I must have been 9 years old, my father fitted out an expedition to the diamond fields, lately opened, and sent five of our grown-up cousins in charge of it. There was great excitement seeing everything prepared for the long journey to Du Toit’s Pan, whither they were bound. When letters came from these nephews to my father we were all tremendously interested. By one of these came the sad news of the death of Marshal, the youngest of the five young men, which affected me very much. I remembered him as a fine, handsome youth, and I was distressed to think of dear old Aunt Aletta and dear old Uncle Robert Lovemore and how sad they would be. Later the expedition returned, but I do not know if that had anything to do with Marshal’s death. They found some small diamonds and one large one, which was sent to Holland to be cut. I never heard any mention of it later.
I have faint remembrance of our governesses. The first one I see was Aunt Harriet, mother’s sister, sitting in an armchair with a shawl over her shoulders. That is all. She married a Mr Marshal, but I do not know where they lived or died. Then came Miss Utting, Miss Wright and Miss Mason, of whom I have no memory. Of Miss Jerram I remember that she wore what were, to me, lovely dresses. She married a Mr. Jones and lived in Western Road, but I did not ever see her after she left us.
When I was ten years old, after having had these governesses at home, my brothers Alfred, Walter and I were sent to school in Port Elizabeth. My Aunt Sissie having taken a house in Parliament Street, we went to board with her, as also did two of my cousins, Etty and Annie Lovemore from Preston Park, daughters of my father’s brothers, Robert and Henry. They were four years older than I was and I looked upon them as very grown up. Both these cousins lived to be 90 years old, as I am now (1949).
A cousin, Alice Wylde, adopted by my Aunt Sophie (Mrs Alfred Wylde, wife of the Magistrate of Port Elizabeth) was at school with me and my cousins. She, too, was four years my senior and lived to be 90 years of age. All three cousins and I were confirmed when I was 14 years old, and when I became Godmother to my sister Mary.
Memories of school life, which I found very pleasant, were my first friends, Alice and May Walker. I had been at Miss Holls School a short time when, one morning, I saw two little girls in red cloaks at the door, and feeling quite an “old girl”, I opened it to them. Alice became a friend of very long standing, and she, and also her brother Ben, spent some holidays with me on the farm. (I was at her wedding many years after, when she married Walter Stanford. She became afterwards Lady Stanford. I kept in far-off touch with her and only missed seeing her before she died in Cape Town about 1937).
My most painful school memory was being “kept-in” after school because I did not know my poetry lesson, which was a poem name “Boudica”, and I have disliked the name ever since. I thought it a dreadful disgrace to be “kept-in” and cried bitterly. I could not read for my tears, so my teacher sent me home in despair.
At that school I first heard “Alice in Wonderland”, read aloud by the teacher on needlework days – a lovely experience!
My brothers were sent to Sandford’s School, which stood above a long flight of steps up from Russel Road. There they met girls and boys of whom we heard a great deal. There were Jessie Tee and a brother who, years after, was a foreman on Walter’s farm in the O.F.S. The Hills also we knew in later years.
We had very little communication with home and on one occasion my father being away visiting a farm he owned up country, the boys met a farm wagon on the road. The call of home was so great that they climbed on to the homeward bound wagon and were taken the 12 miles journey to Bushy Park, a 6-hour trip, and arrived there to the astonishment of my Mother. She could not feel very angry with the poor children but had to send a boy from the farm on horseback to relieve my aunt and me of the anxiety as to what had become of them. The next morning two little truants, in the care of old Meetje Roberts, a coloured woman, walked the 12 miles back to Port Elizabeth – an adventurous ending to their escape from school!
At the time we were living with my aunt, all men and boys made a practice of walking to the beach for a morning bathe – a two-mile walk. My three brothers went every morning, were back, washed and dressed for 8 o’clock breakfast and away to school before 9 o’clock at which time all schools opened. Alfred, the eldest, went to the Grey Institute. He did not remain with my aunt for very long, but boarded with the family of the Reverend Pickering, who had three sons, Teddy, Willie and Neville, the youngest being Alfred’s age.
While I and my brothers were living with Aunt Sissie and going to school there, I met two old friends of hers, the artist Thomas Baines and Captain Nicholson. Captain of the “Golden Fleece”, a small sailing ship in which she had gone to England, about 1864\65; with three old friends, and which took 2 1\2 to 3 months to make the voyage and the return voyage.
There had been only four or five passengers and my aunt’s three friends were of the John Owen Smith family, very well-known people in Port Elizabeth. When she returned from England, we children were thrilled at her accounts of what she had seen and done there, the Crystal Palace, the Tower of London, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Works, and for years that visit was a topic of conversation among us. The talk about London’s fog made a great impression on our childish minds. Once, when fog was passing along the hill, one of the small boys exclaimed, “Look at England passing!” That was my brother Willie.
I remember seeing the small ship “The Golden Fleece” at anchor in the Bay about 1870, when Captain Nicholson dined with my aunt and took her with a cousin and me on board. The vessel looked very small from the shore when lying at anchor, and as we were rowed out to it, the “Golden Fleece” figurehead seemed to us to look like the waved coat of the Angora goat but shining golden in the sunlight. The dining saloon was very small, about the size of a large dining table, but could accommodate six people sitting at the table, with room for the waiter to move round. The cabins were very small, but all very compact and neat and shining with polish. It was a delightful trip to me.
The artist, Thomas Baines, came on a visit. He and my aunt appeared to have known each other in earlier years. He dined with us, and we children took him for our favourite walk to the Lover’s Rock, overlooking Handfield’s Valley. He was charmed with the view and as he sat chatting with us on the rock, took sheets of paper from his drawing block and gave to us, telling us to put five dots, one to represent the head of a man, and four for hands and feet, in any position we wished, and he would draw a man to suit them. We tried to puzzle him, putting them in different positions, but he fitted in the man most cleverly to head, hands and feet.
Some of his pictures hang in the Port Elizabeth Library*, whose colours are sadly faded now from the brilliant ones I remember when they were first hung there. That was in part of the Town Hall. They are now in a later built library.
* There are, in the Port Elizabeth Library, four large sketches made by Baines to illustrate lectures he gave in the town. Two are drawings of the Victoria Falls and are at present (1965) on loan to the Rhodes-Livingstone Museum, Rhodesia. The other two illustrate early methods of washing for gold.
Holidays, after we were school children in town, were great times! In after years, I wondered how my mother managed to cope with the large numbers of children who were asked to join us for holidays at Bushy Park. Besides the school friends, there were often several members of a family asked to the farm for a week or two. I can remember Mrs Johnson, wife of the Reverend H.J. Johnson, and four little girls, spending more than a week with us and how she would gather us little girls and read aloud to us Sir Walter Scott’s “Lady of the Lake” and such improving books. Mrs Holland, with Ninna, Mabel, Ethel and Cuyler, spent a week with us. This family was forever after our very great friends.
As we grew older and had all been sent to dancing schools and learnt to dance, at holiday times, mother would take up the drawing room carpet, and when there was not anyone to play the piano (until we could play dance music), there was a musical box and an American music organ, and we danced every evening.
After two years at two different schools, the second year I had been put as a day scholar to the Holy Rosary Convent. Walter, Willie and I were at home again for a year when we had a governess, an Englishwoman, who had been in Port Elizabeth with Mrs Johnson as a Mother’s Help. This was Miss Staines, a well-educated person, and we loved her and learnt more from her in one year than all our previous teachers had hammered into our dull heads. Alf did not leave school with Walter, Willie and me. He boarded with the Reverend Pickering’s family in town. Walter and I were great pals and Miss Staines seemed to find pleasure in enlightening our minds. Our schoolroom had globes and atlases and had coloured pictures of people of all the countries of the world. She also took us walking and encouraged us to observe birds and flowers. After a year we had to part with her and return to school in town. I met her great many years after – a fine, dignified old lady, and how pleased she was to meet her first pupil!
Miss Staines had influenced our father to give us pocket money which, having no means of spending on the farm, she saved for us. Then mother, on a visit to town, bought with it a small service of China for tea parties. On Saturdays, Miss Staines prepared parties for us on the wide verandah and Mother provided the good things. Nothing of the sort had ever been thought of for the children by our elders before, and we thought it quite a novelty. Our dear parents, having so much in their daily life, with a large farm and household to attend to, had not the time they should have had to spend on small amenities, or giving time to arrange their children’s lives. They were the kindest nurses in illness, and I well remember my mother’s warm hand placed over an aching ear and her dear voice when one awoke in any pain.
My father was the most delightful teller of funny stories, which would keep the big family of children round the dinner table all laughing; and the kindest man in doing all he could to help young struggling farmers, by giving them a team of mules or plough to start them in life. As they grew older, he used to take his sons in his fine horse wagon to Grahamstown to St. Andrews School, there being no trains at that time. He would also take any other boys who had no means of going to Grahamstown and when he went to bring them home for holidays, would bring 3 or 4 girl cousins, the Ogilvie’s, as well. “Dear Uncle Charlie” was beloved by them all, and by everyone who knew him.
There were three families of Lovemores, those of Robert, Henry and Charles (my father). Robert and Henry being 16 and 17 years older than Charles, had married some years before he did. They married two sisters Aletta and Dorothy Grove, and their children were grown up before some of us were born. Each family consisted of several children. Robert and Aletta had seven, Henry and Dorothy ten, and Charles twelve. Then Elizabeth and Charles Ogilvie had ten so that when all were together, which very seldom occurred, they made a large number.
We know that my father’s sister, Annie married Edward Clough and had a son, Edward, and that he was left at Bushy Park with his grandfather and was brought up by his aunts there. I asked Aunt Maria once, when I was very young, “Where did Aunt Annie die?” She answered rather abruptly “They perished at Sea”. From that time, I can only surmise that she went to England with her husband and the ship was lost at sea. Not one of the many young people of the family ever asked for any more information.
Edward Clough farmed on part of the estate that was afterwards called “Cloughs”. He went away to Aliwal North and there married a Miss Austin and when he sent the photograph of his wife to my parents, I saw it. No mention was ever made in my presence, but I suppose Aunt Annie’s possessions had been left in my mother’s care when finally, my aunts made their home in Port Elizabeth. There were some pieces of jewellery and also some very precious small cups and saucers and other China, all of which my mother packed and sent to Aliwal North to Edward Clough. I saw her pack them but asked no questions. One teapot, very much cracked and chipped, was not sent, but was assigned to me after the breaking up of the home and is in my possession now. From that time the only thing I ever heard of Edward Clough was from my cousin Lettie Macomb, who told me that Edward Clough brought his wife to visit her father, Robert Lovemore, at his farm “Welcome” near Queenstown, when she was quite young. He was on his way to Hopetown. Why did not any member of our large family try to keep in touch with him? Now we shall never know.
The first sod of the railroad from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown was turned when I was 14. I was left at home in charge of the family, while my parents went to the “turning of the sod” and to meet the Governor, Sir Henry Barkley – about 1878.
My first journey by rail was rather a fiasco. The whole family, as was the fashion in those days, were to spend a holiday with an aunt and uncle near Sandflats. We were about ten in number, parents, brothers, sisters, young servants and a cousin who was a daughter of the family we were going to. We had to leave by train at 6 o’clock in the morning. We were all up a 3 a.m., had coffee and rusks, left the house in order and well locked up and started in a mule drawn spring wagon in plenty of time as we hoped. The morning proved dark and rainy, and bush paths were so dark we could only let the mules go at walking pace; finally, it became so dark my father had to pin his handkerchief across a native boy’s back and let him walk in front of the mules to show them the way. Mules wore blinkers, which caused them to be partially blinded. As soon as it was light, we hurried on as fast as we could but Alas! As we drove up to the station we were met by my brother and a friend with the sad information that the train had left five minutes ago. Our spirits drooped, but happily another train left at 2 p.m. and after sending a telegram to explain our non-appearance to our relatives, we dispersed to various friends to spend the morning, my parents, the children and nurses to a Hotel near the station.
We were all at the station in good time and in high spirits started on what was to us an adventurous journey. My father shouted to the Guard to whip up the black mare, meaning the engine, and made humorous jests and remarks in his jolly way, which kept up all laughing and enjoying ourselves. Arrived at Sandflats – found my cousin Harry waiting for us with a wagon and oxen, and a Cape cart and mules, in which he took my father and mother and the baby. The rest of us piled into the wagon with the luggage and set off for the farm about 8 or 10 miles away. We were in the first bush path, the cart having gone on ahead, when we heard the Natives talking and then silence and the oxen standing still – no movement. We waited and finally most of us fell asleep and were awakened about midnight by my cousin Harry’s voice calling out to the natives. There was a chorus of “Oh Harry’s” as we realized we had never moved, and Harry had come to see what had happened to us. He had to ride back to Sandflats to pull the boys out of the canteen where they were drinking. He brought them along at a run and then made one lead the oxen and the other run by the side, while he vigorously used the whip, and kept them at the trot all the way to the farm.
What joyful holidays those were!
The Girls’ Collegiate School was opened in about the year 1874 or 1875 and I was a foundation pupil and there finished my education. I left when I was 16, just before my brother Sinclair was born, and went home ostensibly to keep house for my parents – governess at Bushy Park, and either my cousin Annie Lovemore or Miss Lloyd went with me a governess to Mary, Ina and Hector. Florine was at that time living in town with Aunt Sophie, Mrs Alfred Wylde, Charlie and Harry were at St. Andrews, Grahamstown. Willie was serving his articles with Dyason and Carlisle in Port Elizabeth.
I cannot remember being very proud of my position as housekeeper, or anxious to do the right thing. It seemed quite a natural thing and I did all I knew while mother was in the care of a nurse. About 18 months after the birth of Sinclair, the youngest of our family, a little girl, was born, and on this occasion, mother went into Port Elizabeth and was nursed in Aunt Sophie’s house. At home my cousin Annie was Nursery Governess, and we managed the house and children between us, with the servants and father at our head.
All went well.
Sometime during this year mother’s youngest brother, a widower, came to visit us. He was Uncle Malcom, quite young and gay. At the same time two other cousins, Harry and Marion from Preston Park, were with us; and Mr J. Storr Lister, a Government Forestry Official, came from the Cape to inspect the work being done to prevent the harbour of Port Elizabeth being inundated by the sand blowing from the shore on the south coast. This being near our farm, and the branches cut from our bush being used for this purpose, my father invited this gentleman to stay with us, and so we were quite a party and had a good deal of amusement. Mr Lister was a cousin to our cousins on their mother’s (Aletta Crowe) side. We danced, there being someone to play the piano, and our party being three men and three girls. My parents joined in the fun and repartee which went on. Mr Lister said he had never laughed so much in his life.
When our visitors were leaving, I was invited to stay with my aunt in Worcester, Cape, and this being a good opportunity for me to travel under the care of my uncle, I was sent to Cape Town to visit my mother’s relations, the Moodies, in several homes in the Cape Province. On the way round the coast, I saw from the steamer what was being done on the beach and further inland to overcome the drifting sand which at that time was threatening to engulf Port Elizabeth. It appeared to be rows of what might be small trees, and was the Port Jackson willow, imported from Australia, and sown in rows on the sand after they had been covered with branches cut from my father’s forests, and pegged down to prevent them being blown away. The sands, called the Downs, which in places were in mounds as much as 30 feet high, were plainly seen from the sea. Then driving to Port Elizabeth from Bushy Park, in a few hours the action of the wind would alter a high pointed sand hill completely into along bank or remove it altogether. When the covering of the sands began, the Governor of the time visited on horseback and went with my father to the nearest point from which a good view could be obtained. Two of my brothers and I were present on the occasion and were much interested in the visit of the Governor. He was Sir Bartle Frere, and his two daughters also came on horseback with him.
To return to my visit in Cape Town:
This was the first voyage I had made that I could remember. I remember only portions of the previous one, when I was only three years old. I was very excited about preparations, dresses being made, hats, shoes, etc., and I enjoyed being on board a ship and all the novelty of it. We arrived in Cape Town on a Sunday afternoon and for the first time I saw docks crowded with people, mostly Malays, the women in gay dresses and shawls, all the colours of the rainbow, and men with broad high pointed hats. In the bright sunshine a very gay spectacle! There was not train that afternoon and as I was to stay with Mr Lister’s parents at Rondebosch, we took a cab and had a long drive to their home on the Camp ground. A very happy home and kind people, they did all they could to make my visit pleasant and took me driving to see various beauty spots. I took my first drive in a dogcart and saw the wonderful oaks in the Newlands Avenue (Drive). I had seen oak trees before but only in Uitenhage, there being none in Port Elizabeth. I was taken to visit neighbours, and up the mountain, all new to me.
I do not remember much else, except that I went into Cape Town to stay with friends of parents I had known in Port Elizabeth, Mr and Mrs Mallet (Wescott Morris). Their five sons were all old playmates who had spent holidays with us at Bushy Park and with whom I was quite at home. Their house stood in the Gardens. We entered by large entrance gates (Feb 1946 – I see in the Cape Times that these gates are enquired for, to be replaced), turned to the left, and on passing out at a side gate and looking up from the front of the house, we appeared to be directly before the Lion’s Head, towering above us. I have the memory still of the scent of tea roses, which stood round the lawn on standards, and of the warm mornings of the Cape. In later years I tried to find that house but could not. I was told it had been incorporated in some large building just outside the Public Gardens. I have not been in Cape Town since to verify this.
While there I saw a good deal of Cape Town and had a great deal of fun with these boyfriends, going out to parties with them and meeting people they knew. I also had talks with Mrs Morris, who always hoped I would marry one of her boys. But it evidently never occurred to them, and I did not meet them again for many years.
I then travelled by train to Worcester, to stay with my Aunt Jessie Cox. Uncle W. Charles Bayley Cox was the Magistrate of Worcester but was in England on leave at the time I was in Worcester. They lived in the Drostdy, to which the Public Gardens was then attached. It had been the shooting box of Lord Charles Somerset and was a very large building with a square courtyard. It was double storied and had a very fine garden across a street from it. I was fond of my aunt and her two girls, Constance and Isabella: her son I did not see but he was at school in Cape Town. I was taken to visit places of interest. One in particular was Brant Vlei, which was then only a hole in the ground in which was a large stone, out of which the boiling water bubbled and was led away in a furrow to a dam, or to irrigate lands.
While I was in Worcester, the Relieving Magistrate, Mr Rainier, brought from Cape Town a set of tennis racquets, balls and net, which he set up and taught young people to play the game – the first time I ever heard of it – and it was evidently quite new to the country. That may have been 1876 – 7, and now it is a worldwide game. I saw the mighty mountains round Worcester, and when rain fell, the cascade of water pouring down the sides.
My visit was very quiet and then our Uncle Donald Moodie sent for my cousins and me, his five nieces, for a visit to the old Moodie home “Grootvadersbosch”. I was, I think, the eldest. My cousins, Margery and Hettie, were at school at Worcester, and with Constance and Isabella, we were to drive in a Cape cart, drawn by four horses. The driver was a very respectable Coloured man with a small boy to help him with the horses. Any one can imagine such an event as this, which I had never experienced before. Five girls between the ages of 17 and 18 off on a long journey by ourselves. It was most exciting and amusing, leaving Worcester and travelling to different places where arrangements had been made for our accommodation. The four cousins knew the country and the people who would receive us, but to me it was all new and a great adventure, as I had never been away from home on such a trip. I suppose we were supplied with provisions, but of this I do not remember anything.
As far as I can remember, our first stopping place was to the nearest town, Robertson, where the Magistrate, Mr Fred Hodges, and his sisters took us in. They made us very welcome, and we spent the night with them. The next morning, we left early and drove until midday, then the girls directed the coachman to take us to a farmhouse whose owner they knew. Some people of the Barry family lived there. When we arrived, we were told that there was no one at home, but the servants gave us refreshments – tea, bread and butter. I am sure we must have been glad to have it on such a long day’s journey. We found it tiring travelling the whole day through in the hot weather and often sat with our legs hanging over the sides of the cart for air. The cart was of the fixed tent variety, so there were spaces between the crinoline wires of the hood.
Our next stop was Swellendam. We arrived about sunset and were driven to the family doctor’s house, where we were very kindly received by the Doctor, his lady and several children, so the meal we were set down to must have been quite a large party. Several young men came in and we were introduced. I met two of them again years after and remembered them from this slight acquaintance.
We spent the night there and early next morning continued our journey and, in the afternoon, arrived at Grote Vader’s Bosch, where Uncle Donald Moodie and Aunt Helen gave us a great welcome. I was shy, never having met them before, but my cousins knew them and had a great deal to talk about. They had a dear little flaxen-haired son “Benje”. He was to meet his end in the Anglo-Boer War, at Diamond Hill in the Transvaal. He gave his horse to an officer whose horse had been shot and he was killed shortly after.
We had a very pleasant visit of a few days at Grootvadersbosch. It is rather vague in my mind, but I remember that Uncle Donald read very long prayers at night and on Sunday night a sermon as well. Later our Uncle Tom Moodie came to fetch us to stay with him at his farm Westfield, near the mouth of the Breede River. He was not married, but was well cared for by a stout, good-natured Coloured woman, who received this crowd of young girls very happily. We were later joined by my brother Alfred, Ben and Dan Moodie (brothers of my cousins Marjorie and Hettie), which was a great addition to our pleasure. What a happy, merry party of youngsters with a dear old bachelor uncle we were. Of all that party, I am one of the only two still living (1947). Uncle Tom was evidently living where his father, Captain Benjamin Moodie, who came to Africa in 1817, had lived. The house, particularly the drawing room, was furnished in the most antique way and was quite lovely. The piano was very old, almost such as was called a “spinet”, which one reads of in the early 1800’s and sounded faint and sweet. The curtains, floor mats and furniture were as one could imagine those of a century older, delicate and fragile.
In my advancing years, I have often wished that I could have seen that room again.
Uncle Tom was a most cheerful host. The order of the day was – coffee and rusks were brought to each one of us in our rooms very early in the morning, and we were told to be ready in ten minutes to be taken for a bathe in the Breede River at Fort Beaufort. As far as I can remember it was only a short drive from the farm and was entered by the sea, so that it was really sea-bathing. There was no mixed bathing in those days, at least that we knew of, so the three boys went to a farther beach in one direction, and we five girls further inland. No bathing costumes – night gowns or some underwear was all we knew of, but that did not spoil the joy of the bathe. It is all a dream to me now, but it must have been great fun. The river is tidal, and the water has the sea freshness about it. There were some large buildings on the banks which were known as Barry’s Wool Stores, and at that time small vessels came to the Stores to load the bales of wool. Years later the river changed its course, and no vessel entered for a great many years, when again it was navigable for a short distance from the coast.
After our bathe, it was home for breakfast. How we amused ourselves I cannot remember, but being carefree children, I daresay we found ways. I remember reading Baron Munchausen’s adventures in that dear old drawing room with the wonderful old chairs, ottomans, sofas, etc. In the afternoons we all played games out on the grass before the house.
Uncle Tom gave us wine for dinner, wine that had a scent or taste of rose petals. I had not been used to having wine in my youth in the Eastern Province, but this was the Cape!
At 9 o’clock our candles were lighted by Uncle Tom and handed to us – I daresay by that time he had had enough of our society – and we all went off to our rooms.
I, being the eldest and a visitor, was taken by Uncle Tom to visit people whom my mother had known, while the rest of the party were left at home. On one occasion, we went to Heidelberg to the Herold’s, and on another to Devenish’s at Malaga’s on the river. Mrs Devenish had been a Miss Reitz, sister to President Reitz. I met their two young men of the name Dumbleton, and a great many years after heard all their history from a Mrs Tom Barry, then 93 years old. One of them had married her sister whose name was Garcia.
A friend came to visit Uncle Tom one day – a young doctor Biggs – and I being the most grown up was allowed to go for a drive over the flats with him, which was quite an event to me who was considered a child at home. The doctor drove a very smart pair of cream-coloured horses with black manes and tails in a very splash well set-up buggy. He had lately recovered from an illness and was evidently not strong enough to control these spirited horses which bounded over stones and bushes at a great pace. I, of course, did not realise the danger and quite enjoyed it, but Uncle Tom did not see it in that light at all. He was very upset and anxious and scolded the doctor, when he had brought me back safely from this perilous drive, for endangering the life of his dear niece. On the wide plains I saw bonte buck and wild ostriches. This is all a very happy memory.
After that Uncle Tom took me to Heidelberg and to Malagas to visit friends of my mother’s. I do not remember much more of that visit, but on returning to Grootvadersbosch, I found that a baby boy had been born in my absence. Aunt Helen had had her second child, who is now the Master of the Property and I know is 17 years younger than I am – Donald Moodie (Dobbin).
My brother and I, and our cousins returned to Worcester, I suppose by train, and then to Cape Town where we stayed a few days. All I can now recall is that we left Cape Town by ship, and that on the voyage my brothers talked to Mr Hazel, a young lawyer from Port Elizabeth, and that I went home to Bushy Park.
Life went on as usual there. We all attended to our household duties, rode out when we were inclined,
to visit our only near neighbours and went into Port Elizabeth occasionally. Our chief pleasure was horse riding. I rode from the age of 4 and at intervals until I was 60. Another pleasure was picnicking at the beach, to which we went either in the ox wagon or a very fine horse wagon, well upholstered, and drawn by mules. We, my cousin Annie, Alf and I, spent many evenings at the piano. We had a Broadwood. We all played, Alf the very much best of the three. He and I played many duets. He had a beautiful touch. I sang in an amateurish way. All our men friends played and sang. They were, to name a few, Mr Bietz, Mr Kirks (?), Russel Dear, John Schabbel and several others. They rode from town for Saturday to Sunday afternoon visits or on Public Holidays, when we all gathered round the piano and sang.
We went to dances in town after I was “out”. Father and mother took me to my first Ball in the Town Hall, and I danced the night through. It was a wonderful thrill to enter the Town Hall on father’s arm, mother on the other arm, and have my programme handed me, and to hear the brass band on the platform strike up. Those dainty little programmes, how they were treasured, with all the names of partners scrawled hastily across them! The excitement of seeing someone coming up with a bow and saying, “May I have the pleasure of a dance?”, which formality was never neglected! And having new young men brought up and “May I introduce my friend to you?” Then the dances, the Quadrilles and Lancers! What fun and yet what decorum and politeness and graceful bows, and after a dance the procession walking, hand on coat sleeve round the Hall and being returned to one’s parents or chaperon. The dancing was of a much more energetic style in those early days, and we were more carefree – not the solemn faces one observes in these days at a dance!
A great event was a dance at Bushy Park. Such preparations! First of all, the furniture was moved out of the room next to the drawing room, and the large folding doors were opened and the yellowwood floor prepared. One does not often see such a floor! The lighting arrangements were primitive – a chandelier lit by wax candles and sconces round the walls with candles. The 90 feet long verandah was made very comfortable, carpeted and enclosed with canvas, and seats were placed with sufficient room to promenade along – all the work of our dear cousin Harry, known as “Long Harry”, by reason of his height. He was also deputed to drive the horse wagon to town and, with all the addresses written out, to collect all the girls who had no other means of coming to the dance.
Then there had to be stable room for at least 50 saddle and carriage horses, if not more, and an army of native boys to attend to all the visitor’s horses. Some preferred to bring their grooms and these men too had to have some place to sleep and to be fed. Father undertook all of that part, and it took a great deal of organising.
The supper was mother’s and young girl’s work, and what fun that was! On the arrival of the guests, tea was served on the verandah with a light meal – plenty of cake and bread and butter and sandwiches. For the later supper at 11 or 12 o’clock, which was served both on the verandah and sit-down in the dining room – poultry, ham, tongue and other substantial meats, trifle, jellies, tipsy cakes and custards. Our guests and the family numbered sometimes 50. The drinks were of various kinds, champagne and claret cup (huge bowls of this, made by us from special recipes).
All my brothers were good dancers. We were taught to dance in town, and always in holiday times the drawing room carpet was taken up, and we danced almost every evening with our boy and girl friends. So, we had plenty of practice! Every one of our friends expected to have an invitation to a farm dance, and those who were in no need to be in town early, stayed on for breakfast. For this, kind mother had chicken called Spatchcock prepared. It was placed on a gridiron over coals and grilled, with griddle cakes. There were many servants in those days, some descendants of old slaves, and they did all the cooking.
We generally had young cousins staying with us, and someone would sit down to the piano and start a waltz. Presently half a dozen couples would be whirling round and all clearing up forgotten, although we had not been to bed and had danced through the night. Those were the days!
Among other amusements was donkey riding. Father had a great number of donkeys, most trained for riding, and as many as 10 young people would mount donkeys with any sort of equipment, and with one boy on a horse, with a long whip to keep stragglers together, we would trot through the bush paths and ride races on the hard beach sands! A real Irish fair! Those who fell off their mounts had to catch them and mount again without assistance – amid peals of laughter. Then to bathe in the sea. No mixed bathing in our young days. The boys had a beach to themselves and so had the girls and the bathing dresses were any garment that was handy – no special make or size. Afterwards, a ride home to a big dinner! What healthy boys and girls we were – never a doctor in our houses! I can remember only once Dr Easor being called in, when Willie had a fever of some sort which mother could not cope with.
In the matter of beer and spirits or wine, father took a small quantity of brandy and water, with sugar in, once a day – and my Uncle Harry and Mr Bullen did the same. There were always two decanters of wine at opposite corners on the dinner table, but I cannot recall that anyone drank any. A cask of wine from the Cape was occasionally brought from town. Old Mr Phillipson came to spend a few days with us, and he bottled the wine, which was packed in bins in the pantry. There were bins of ale and porter. We in the family did not take it, but young men from England surprised us (the children) by taking two or three glasses of stout or porter with dinner. There was a special drink called Syllabub, made by putting wine, spice and sugar in a jug, pouring in warm milk and stirring it well to a froth. On the few occasions we had it – very nice!
There were large dining tables in both dining room and breakfast parlour. When there were more children than the family for meal times, the younger ones were placed in the breakfast parlour in the charge of a nurse, the “grown-ups” being in the dining room. Tables were always laid with care, tablespoons across and salt cellars at four corners, with large, now old-fashioned, cruet stands in the centre of the table. On the sideboard some bottles of English ale, but none of the family in my young days took either wine or beer.
If visitors called in the morning, wine and biscuits were offered. In my youth tea was not taken at 11 o’clock, as it is now. We did not grow fruit, but father provided us liberally from the Market. Large bags of oranges were brought from town and rolled out on the place called the gallery, in the pantry. We climbed to it on a ladder kept for that purpose and carried out of doors as many oranges as we pleased – or quinces – or watermelons, sliced on a tray. We all sat round on the lawn and enjoyed them. There were many wild fruits growing in the bush, such as zuurberries, gocums, sour figs and others, and mother engaged native women to gather them for preserves. Honey, we had in abundance. A man was kept busy collecting wild honey from hollow trees in the bush, sometimes in comb, but as this became broken in getting it out, it was usually strained into large earthenware jars. Honey beer was made of the young bee combs and a substance called “Kerrie moer” (moes?) made on purpose.
A church for the coloured folk was established in one of the thatched homes in the native quarter. A clergyman, by name September Syster was engaged, and church going was the order of the day. Even the worst old drunkards became sober Christians! Father presented a bell, and a Bible and seats were put in the building. All the men and women appeared neatly dressed and all went well. September Syster rode from town every Sunday, was given breakfast and dinner in the kitchen, and a collection for some purpose was made. This went on smoothly for quite a long time when Alas! The pastor disappeared with the collection, and the poor flock was left to relapse into its evil ways.
The stableboys, after attending to the horses, always dressed in their best and danced before the stables on Sunday mornings. There were Andries, Wellum, Klaas, Littlejohn, etc. They were given a special gift of tobacco. The dance very much resembled some of the present-day Tango steps, and when I first saw that dance, it reminded me of those little stable boys!
On my 18th birthday, 1877, my two elder brothers rode away on their way to join up the soldiers who were going to fight against Sandile and Krieli (Sandile and Kreli), who were Xhosa Chiefs. After they were gone my father paid his annual visit to a sheep farm, he had bought in the Prieska district and where he had built a dam in which to water his sheep. Many years after, this farm became the Smarts Syndicate. My father travelled in his own cart and took with him two well-trained Coloured boys, Andries and Wellum, one to hold the whip and the other the reins of the four mules he had to drive.
On his return journey, wishing to call on an old friend, he dispatched his boys home, with the cart and mules, and took the post and passengers cart to Graaff Reinet. Unfortunately, the cart was upset, and his leg broken in the accident. He was taken to hospital in Graaf Reinet and was there for some time. At the same time, we heard that my younger brother, Walter, had been taken ill with enteric fever, an illness not understood in those days, and was in King Williams Town hospital with many others. Happily, he recovered, while many of his companions died there. Mother was very anxious about both her husband and son.
At this time a young European girl my mother was training as a servant chose to play a theatrical trick on the household. She had heard some talk of the escape of a native convict from prison in Port Elizabeth and thought it would make her very important if she said she had seen this convict. She knocked loudly at the front door and ran quickly to the kitchen and when the door was opened and no one was found there, she said she had seen a man answering to the description of the convict, and it must be him who had knocked. Then she set fire to a sofa curtain in an outside room, but the foreman saw the flame from his cottage and quickly raised the alarm so that no great damage was done. But in one way or another she kept us all anxious until an aunt came to see us. Taking this girl out, on the pretext of looking for eggs, aunt charged her with having set the curtain on fire and of having invented each circumstance when she alone was supposed to have seen the convict. She had to admit that she had done so. All this had so added to my mother’s anxiety, that she decided to dismiss the maker of alarms, and sent her back to her parents.
My father was a long time in recovering the use of his legs and thinking he might retire; he bought a large house on Castle Hill in Port Elizabeth. When Walter recovered from his illness and Alfred returned from the war, he (father) left these two young men to manage the farm, and the family which consisted then of five younger ones and I, the grown-up daughter aged 19, at home, and 4 sons at St. Andrew’s, Grahamstown, went to live in town.
Alf married Mabel Holland soon after and it became his family home
We took a little while to accustom ourselves to the change from farm life. The young children were sent to schools and mother, father and we children, all went to Church on Sundays and attended lectures in the Town Hall, besides other affairs. Housekeeping required some re-adjustment. There was more thought of amusement and attending concerts and other interests than those of our staid life in the country.
I went to many private parties and to the Roller Rink in the evenings and sometimes on holiday mornings. Young folk who had nothing else to do often spent their time in this pleasant exercise, especially if it happened to be raining. There were also riding parties.
After two years in town and a very gay winter, I found I was very tired and could scarcely exert myself. The old Dr. Ensor was called in, and the trouble was the injury to my spine incurred by the fall off the swing on to a cobbled floor when I was six years old. It had troubled me ever since but now became serious and threatened to deprive me of the use of arms and legs, if not of brain. The Doctor ordered perfect rest on a hard surface and with a low pillow for my head and so for four months I lay day by day on a strip of carpet on the floor out of draughts. I saw my friends but did not walk except to go downstairs after a cold bath in the morning, and upstairs again at night. I took cod liver oil and iron and my strength returned. Life circled round – I can’t say my bed – my carpet. People visited, the children learned their lessons, the boys sang the songs they heard at the theatres they went to in the evenings, and my sweetheart (C.L.R. Allen) talked to me. In time I moved about again. I had one very serious day when a friend of my father whom I looked on as old, asked me to marry him. I was terrified least I should give him an atom of hope, and so gave a very determined No. Because I was in love – and so another section begins.
Now I must tell a little of my husband’s history. His mother was Euphemia Jane Murray, younger daughter of General John Murray of Canada and Mrs. Murray, she married Captain George Russell Dear who was in the British Army in Canada.
Two brothers of Captain G.N. Deare, from England, were in business in Port Elizabeth and were very well known to the Lovemore family; but he himself was killed in battle in Canada before the birth of his son, who was also called George Russell Deare.
When her son was four years old, the widow, Mrs. Deare, went to Wales to visit Mrs. John Harries, who was the daughter of her eldest brother, Colonel Florence Murray, Secretary to the Government of the Island of Jersey. Mrs. John Harries lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and while there the widowed Mrs. Deare met John Allen and they were married and lived in homes in Wales. He was a M.F.H. (Master of Foxhounds), and the kennels were at Priscilley (?). They had seven children.
John Allen’s health became much impaired, and it was decided that they should go to the south of France to live. They were in a house in Haverford West, Pembrokeshire, with furniture packed on board at Fishguard, servants, governess and children all prepared to embark, when the mother, Mrs. John Allen, was taken suddenly ill and died very soon. The bereaved husband and children, after the funeral had taken place, went on board and sailed for France, but John Allen became very ill and had to be carried on shore at Dinard. He was taken to the house of his sister, Mrs Saunders, who had three daughters and a son – the father divorced – on a farm named “La Prairie”. The family and servants all had to be accommodated but I can only tell that John Allen died two months later. Such a tragic happening!
The family of John Allen was Elizabeth aged 13, Charles 12, Blanche 10, John 8, Nellie 7, Graham 5, and Euphemia, 6 months. History tells no more except that the brothers of Captain C.R. Deare constituted themselves the guardians of their late sister-in-law’s two eldest sons and sent them to school in Jersey. There was apparently money for education and setting out in life of all the children, as proved by John Allen’s will, which my husband had. Each of the five other children was adopted by relations Elizabeth, “Lizzie”, was taken by Mrs. John Harries, who had been Lily Murray, and she also went to school in Jersey, to be near her brothers. Nellie went to General John Murray’s daughter, Miss Sydney Murray, and was brought up in Toronto. At this time of writing, 1952, she is, at the age of 90 years, the last of the family of 7 still living. The son Graham was sent to sea as a boy of 12 by his Uncle Charles Allen of Camrose, Wales. In later life he came to the Transvaal, where he died at the age of 75, leaving a widow, an American Southerner, two daughters and one grandson.
The two sons, Charles and John, and also their stepbrother, came to Port Elizabeth to their Uncle Deare. Charles and John entered banking. John later went to America, California, with his sister Elizabeth, and there married and died, leaving 2 sons and their families, Nellie married a cousin, William Tench, and her family, as well as John settled in California.
When Charles Lewis Reece Allen married me, he had been in the Oriental Bank for 5 years and was in a very good position. Being a young and handsome man, and able to speak French fluently, he was an acquisition to parties, and particularly when French was required for visitors from France. The Bank Manager took a great interest in him. We met often at dances. He and one of my brothers also rowed in matches on the Swartkops River, in outrigger boats, and there were dances after the matches, picnics and race meetings. His stepbrother became Major of the Prince Alfred’s Guards, Port Elizabeth, and fought in Zulu and Basuto Wars. So, life was very bright. Then began the time I have written about, when my injured back brought me to the ground and I spent four months on my back regaining my strength.
I was married in August 1880, to my Bonny Prince Charlie, a truly love match. He had no worldly wealth, but was of good family, honest, hardworking, and with proper manners. In all the years after I knew I should never have seen any other man I could love or considered his equal. So, my dear parents allowed me to marry him, to my everlasting joy and happiness. Thus began 55 years of marriage.
About this time some of the young friends who were engaged at the same time were married. They were my Brother Alfred and Mabel Holland, and Waldo Blaine and Grace Ensor – a double wedding at which we, a married couple, were guests. Several other marriages took place then, among them that of Mr McDonald and Dora Kirkwood.
We lived for a time on one of my father’s farms. At that time, it had been left to a man name Mr. Starling and was known as “Starlings”, but we at one named it “Sunny Slopes” and it retained that name ever after. There my husband had cows, and began making camps for ostriches, which was at that time the most paying of all farming professions. We had no maid just at first, as I imagined I could do all that was necessary in a small cottage, and we wished to be alone and were so happy to think everything was easy. I found, although having done some cooking, that I had never made a fire in a stove, and one morning, when my husband had not prepared the fire for me, having been called out hastily, I could not light or make a fire burn in the stove and was obliged to go out to the cattle kraal, where he was attending to the milking of cows, to ask him, humbly, to come and light the fire for me. Having always been helpful at home, I had forgotten that there were always servants who did the work of sweeping and cooking meals, and I only made cakes and attended to the children’s meals, etc. So very soon I had a maid of about 14, whom my mother trained, to help me to do the necessary work.
My Charles was a very happy companion and we both enjoyed doing all to make our little home comfortable and used to take walks in the evening on the hills surrounding the cottage. There was a lighthouse on a point of good many miles away, and from the hills we could see St. Francis light shining out of the darkness.
My mother took me to town to stay a day or two to return calls which had been paid me by friends, but Charles could not bear me to be away and came into town (Port Elizabeth) very soon to take me home. There we lived very quietly until after the birth of my first son, Graham Charles. My husband often brought my two small sisters to stay a few days and he taught them card games, which were so interesting to them that I would find them sitting on the carpet in their nightgowns playing cards early in the morning. My youngest brother, Sinclair, then about 5 years old, came to stay with us, seated on a cushion on the front of Charlie’s saddle. He was troubled with rheumatism and indigestion and old Dr. Ensor advised Gregory’s Powder, which this small boy took regularly and even mixed for himself at a wash stand in the bedroom. He was a very dear little boy and we loved to have him and the other little sisters and brothers to stay with us. Writing about this reminds me that my young sister, Florine (always called by us silly young people “Florrie”), was ordered by this same Dr. Ensor to have rum and milk early in the morning, and this she used to prepare for herself, having it placed on a table near her bed overnight. Hearing a noise very faint in the early morning, I awoke and asked, “What are you doing Florrie?” “Only getting my yum and milk,” said a soft little voice.
After leaving the farm “Sunny Slopes”, we lived for a year at my father’s wish, in a comfortable cottage in the pleasant part of Port Elizabeth, and here I lost my second son, Hugh Bowen, at 5 months of age, a sad loss. My parents then wished to take a trip to England, the object of which was to take my sister Florine to school. My mother’s sister, Mrs. Cox, lived in London and had two girls, one a little older and one younger than my sister. She hoped to have her with her girls so that the cousins should become known to each other. We, my husband and I, were asked to take over my parents’ home and keep house for my brothers and two younger sisters, which we did, and lived there while they were in England. My third son was born there a short time before they returned home, so they were met by a busy household. (N.B. Cousin Marion from Preston Park was housekeeper for her at the house on Castle Hill).
I must pass over a year now. When I had been married four years and son, Murray, was just a year old, our lives were changed again. We migrated to an up-country sheep farm my father had bought between Middleburg and Richmond. Its name was “Zaaifontein”, and it was decided that we should rent it and begin to sheep-farm there, our first experience of sheep-farming. There were preparations to be made, farm requirements to be bought and also sheep and in this I had the good fortune to have inherited a little money from my Godfather who had died a month or two before this. We had to prepare for a railway journey of 300 miles and a further 8 miles by cart and horses to the town of Middleburg, then to travel 40 miles by cart and horses to the farm. All our household furniture – farming implements – dogs and food stocks – had to be taken from the train and loaded on wagons which were there to meet it and be started on their long, slow-moving journey to the farm.
Our cart and horses, which father had bought at the sale of the property, and which belonged to us, were at the well-known Thompson Hotel waiting for us, but Charlie had to go back to what was then known as Middelburg Road – now Rosmead Junction – and have all our goods taken from the train and loaded onto wagons and set the native boys off on the 40-mile journey to the farm. I undressed the two children and was preparing to put on an evening dress there was to be a dance at the hotel and an invitation was sent to us – when one of my small boys turned over a large jug of water on to the floor. Such a business! But happily, I had finished it before Charlie arrived and with a very bad headache! No dance for me! I had just to help him into bed as quickly as I could, and when the children were asleep, I had the mournful pleasure of listening to the dancing and music until I fell asleep too.
Our journey out to the farm through quite new country was very pleasant except that the horses would stop for conversation with every cart, wagon, or even native, walking along the road. Charlie was a good whip, and the slowness was his only trouble. Nothing he could do would persuade the horses to move until they considered we had exchanged views with the occupants of the carts, who on their part would have been quite ready to talk, if we could have spoken their language. We travelled on a few outspans for six hours. Charlie did not mind, but I had to keep a year-old child on my knees and up and down, and a boy of 3 years old to hold and keep safe. When at near sunset we at last arrived at the farm, I was very weary, and my husband and horses were all very tired. Our wagons, in which were our beds and all our belongings, were outspanned many miles away and did not arrive until late in the afternoon of the next day, so our first concern was to arrange for the night. The Dutch foreman, who, with his wife and children, had arrived before we did and who occupied and outbuilding, kindly shared their home and put us up “somehow” for the night – hospitality which I fear under the like circumstances, I could never hope to emulate. How they slept I do not know. I was too tired to think and too weary to care what happened if only I could lie down. I have often wondered, in later years, if I appreciated their unselfishness.
I could write pages of all that happened in those early days and, to me, quite a new kind of life. There was much to do as soon as we had settled down and that settling was full of interest. There was a new country, leafless trees, fountains springing out of solid rock where no water flowed in a dry riverbed, and from these fountains a dam was filled and being winter was often frozen over. Living on the coast I may never have seen ice on water before. The sheep arrived and my young husband had to learn the new art of counting them as they ran into the kraal, and to open their mouths and tell their age by the number of teeth. Very interesting to the male, but the woman must see that there was bread to eat, and we found the keen air made us all very hungry. I was happy in having a very good native servant provided for me in advance. She taught me many things and to notice the ways of the country – to see a native woman pile saucepans and all utensils into a large milk dish, put this on her head and walk to the water furrow, there to do all the cleaning process, returning in the same way with everything polished and shining! Then a barrel must be provided in the kitchen for water. Sheep were killed for food and rationing to natives, wheat grown for ourselves and also for rationing to the farm manager and labour. In those days all natives were fed on wheaten meal unsieved and called Boer meal. Evidently mealies were not grown in sufficient quantities for meal, only eaten as green mealies and to feed animals – this I do not know for certain – but only wheaten meal was used in those days.
We loved the life and lived for 10 years happily on that farm. Six months after we arrived another little boy, Donald, came to rejoice our hearts. The nurse, who came from Port Elizabeth, was the kindest and most conscientious person and took care of my children and everything from poultry to housekeeping. And how I missed her when she left! Three more little boys were born there, Angus, Alfred and Neville. Dear old Nurse Clark from Bethesda in the mountains towards Graaff Reinet was with me, and again when the 8th son was born, five years after the previous one.
An accident happed when Donald, about 5, fell off the kraal wall and broke his arm and we had to take him into town to the doctor. Another when Neville, 18 months old, fell into the sheep dip, which had a weak solution of nicotine dip. Alfred, 3 years old, called a servant, who rescued Neville.
A time came in 1891 when we had to leave the farm and move to another, Weltevreden, nearly 100 miles away. All the packing cases were bought from the loft and a great business began of packing after ten years of life at Zaaifontein. Besides the household goods, all farm implements, dairy utensils, cattle, sheep, ostriches, had to be moved. Graham 12 years old, and Mr Edelman(?) took the wagon with the biggest machinery and another was sent on with the next necessary things, mattresses and such. There these were dumped into the house and the wagon returned for another load. The Baas was roping the first wagon of furniture when there was an explosion and a scream. Our youngest boy, 3 years old, had found a brass cartridge, out of which the bullet had been taken. Holding it in his left hand, he placed the open part on a stone, and picking up a piece of iron, hammed the cap, which exploded the powder. The poor baby had his thumb blown to pieces, his first finger and second both broken and the top of each blown off. In a moment the father was down from the wagon he was roping, and mother ran out. The tutor brought a basin of water. We left the farm with the little boy in about half an hour – a three-hour drive to the doctor in Middelburg, who attended to him helped by our host T.D. Thompson of the hotel. Next morning, I was washing our poor little boy, and thinking how he would have to go through life without his thumb, I began to cry. He put his arm around my neck and said soothingly “Don’t cry my little mother, my little sweetheart mother!” Dear little boy! In later years we were all very tender about him, and Alfred used to help his dress. One day he said to me “Mother, you know I could really dress myself, it’s just sheer laziness!”
After we had taken Neville into Middelburg, my brother Charlie finished roping the wagon and started off to town. A native, who had nothing to do with it, in the excitement of a move I suppose whipped up the oxen on the wagon side as they were entering the first river drift, about half a mile from the house. The oxen ran up a bank and overturned the wagon so completely that the wheels were uppermost and everything in the wagon was smashed to bits. The wagon, dining table, chairs, boxes packed with linen, were simply flattened. My sister Mary, Brother Charlie and the tutor, besides the children, were left at the farm. You can imagine their feelings, with father and mother away and such a disaster! I was not told about this for some time after as I was in a rather poor state of health at the time.
My old cook had an adopted child who appeared to be ill. A little bed was made in the kitchen and Mary, kind dear, did what she could for the child. Her illness proved to be measles, and all our children took the infection, but at that time we knew nothing about this. All the members of the family came into Middelburg, and in time we prepared for the journey to the farm, which was called Weltevreden and was near 7 or 8 miles from Thebus station. The big English spider and mules were trucked to Thebus, and we went by train but had to travel in a guard’s van, as there was no other train that day. I was feeling very ill, and the shaking and noise were a great strain. Arrived at Thebus and the spider and mules detrained, we packed in and started for the farm. It was after dark before we got there. We had never been there before. I don’t know how we found candles and matches, but I was violently sick and stood outside clinging to a tree while Charlie and Mary started to find necessary things among those dumped into the house from the first load. We had no idea how to get water to boil a kettle but after a search some casks were found which caught rainwater from the roof. There did not appear to be any other, so we had to be satisfied with that. Mattresses were put out on the floor, pillows and rugs unearthed, but of that I knew nothing. I was so ill that, without undressing, I lay down on a mattress and went to sleep, leaving the family to struggle.
Next day bedsteads were put up and other wagons arrived. Mr. Edelman came to me and said “Mrs. Allen, I am afraid Graham is very ill, he seems to have inflammation of the lungs”. (As we called pneumonia in those days). I put him to bed and used all the usual home remedies a lot of water and washed his face many times. This proved to be measles! All the family went down with the disease, and all the neighbours who came to see us caught the infection and some carried it to Grahamstown and Uitenhage. My mother and sisters, Mary and Ina, came a few days after we had arrived and helped to nurse the children as I was really ill and had to go to bed. One day Mr. Eddleman, who stayed some time with us, took my sisters in a donkey cart to Thebus station to fetch some goods. All went well until they arrived at the station and were returning, when a heavy rain came on. The donkeys refused to move in spite of beating, the girls were drenched and so was their escort, and the consequence was that the two sisters went down with quinsy and were very ill, with mother to nurse them. Oh, what a time!
Then storms began. Every day rain, hail or violent thunder and lightning! Mother used to cover her head and say, “I can’t bear it” until she had to leave the farm, she was so ill with nervous strain. In one violent hailstorm we lost a great many sheep which had just been shorn. Fowls and turkeys were killed by hail.
I have forgotten to mention that in our early sheep farming days, Charlie was the first man in the Midlands to build a sheep dip. All farmers scraped off the scab insect with pieces of hoop iron and probably spread them on the ground, from which the sheep quickly picked them up again. The idea of a dip came to him from an Australian newspaper, from which he learnt all the dimensions of the dip and drying kraals. On the farm were slabs of stone 6 to 8 feet long and 18 inches wide, which were very suitable for the purpose. Neighbours who had been sheep farming for a great number of years came and took the pattern and built dips on their farms. This was in the years 1885\6 at Kaaifontein.
We moved to the farm Weltevreden in 1893 and then in 1894 my youngest son Arthur was born. There was a curse on that farm and our farming came to an end by loss. We lost everything; hail, drought, locusts, worm in sheep and burr in wool, all contributed, until at last we had to sell all our stock and go insolvent. We had a sale of all we possessed, and my husband took a position as a farm manager in the Graaff Reinet district for one year. We then left for the Transvaal to better our fortunes, and arrived a week before the disastrous Jameson Raid, 1896.
There is a great deal I wish to write about the years we spent on the Middelburg sheep farm and the years between the first move and the Anglo-Boer War, but my eyes are failing, and I must leave the story for others to tell, and all that has happened in the 53 years of the new century. I have lived in various parts of South Africa, the District of Middelburg, Swaziland, Graaff Reinet, the Transvaal, Klerksdorp, Middelburg, Steynsburg, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Nearly all my life has been spent on farms, but during and after the Anglo-Boer War I lived for five years before returning to the Transvaal.
The word Kaffir has been replaced by a more appropriate word
Spelling errors of place names & surnames
Various other errors in the grammar have been corrected