regretted that the money he had requested from his London bank had been delayed for some unknown reason, and he then produced evidence to prove his case, so the bank manager was asked for an overdraft of three thousand pounds. This was granted after consultation with higher officials. The adventurer draw out the money and made an immediate getaway, never to be heard of again! However, these events were the talk of the town and when the dust settled, their hopes having been shattered, the inhabitants of Umtali resumed their activities as before.
Rezende Mine was now at the peak of its production. The mining district of Umtali up to the end of 1907 had produced seven hundred and eighty two thousand, seven hundred and forty one pounds in value of gold. There were numerous small workings in the vicinity of Penhalonga. Crushing mills could be heard continuously day and night. This was all very encouraging. Far from being the usual mining camp the surroundings were picturesque, full of park-like trees and refreshing streams making their way down the mountain side. The whole surrounding district was well watered by the upper tributaries of the Odzi via Odzani, Umtali, Sakubva, Dora and Umpudzi rivers. The Odzani alone supplied water power sufficient to work the mines at Penhalonga and to irrigate a number of farms including Mountain Home and its adjoining farm, Inodzi. These farms were commenced in the early days. Mr. Jack Meikle came to Umtali in 1896. He realised the importance of afforestation on a commercial scale. Props were only one of the commodities necessary for mining. Being within reasonable distance of Rezende and Penhalonga mines it did not take long before Jack Meikle was able to supply most of their requirements. When trees were mature he put up saw mills on the farm which proved a great success. He also ran his store which he transferred from Old Umtali to the new site. It was profitable and eventually grew to be one of the largest stores in Umtali. Mr. Meikle as he said, was bitten with the mining bug, much to his regret as this depleted his earnings somewhat.
Mr. Strickland on the other hand realised the importance of supplying not only meat, but vegetables and dairy products to the mines. He did this all on a large scale, and with irrigation on hand, was able to produce two crops & year - wheat and maize. His farm Inodzi was a show place and so picturesque that it was reproduced on the one pound notes in use for many-years. Sir Godfrey Huggins, as Prime Minister, was often to be seen at Inodzi spending a peaceful and happy respite with his good friends. Thelma, their daughter, married Ian Wilson (Strickland's manager) who was an ardent politician. He became the Speaker of the Southern Parliament and afterwards was knighted. New-by Strickland, the only son died in an accident whilst rounding up a leopard. Mrs. Strickland, who outlived the whole family, bequeathed all her money to charity. Old people in Umtali benefited by a building known to all as Strickland Lodge.
Another project was started in the early days. This was the first large scale scheme inaugurated in Old Umtali, an Irrigation Board by Mr. E. Mcllwaine, K.C., the water court Judge of the Colony, who remarked, "It was one of the most important and encouraging developments in the agricultural policy of Southern Rhodesia". Old Umtali, the site of the first town of the district lies about twelve miles from the present town. It is situated in a picturesque well watered valley, the contour of which lends itself to the construction of irrigation furrows. Members of the Old Umtali Mission Combined with the farmers in the district in Implementing the scheme. It was a great day' when the furrow was opened.
Mr. D' urban Barry addressed sixty or seventy local residents and visitors from Umtali, Penhalonga and Salisbury. At that time he was chairman of the Old Umtali Irrigation Board. He introduced Mr. Mcllwaine at the official opening. He was delighted to see so many friends and expressed the appreciation of the Board's excellent work performed by the officials of the Irrigation Department. In that connection Mr. Robinson's name was mentioned. He had surveyed the furrow; Major Waller was commended for his construction of the scheme. Mr. Mcllwaine stated how pleased he was that Mr. Fairbridge was present as he was the first to conceive the idea of taking water from the Odzani for the irrigation of the land stretching down the valley in front of them. As a result of his initiative the Odzani Scheme was as carried out, which embraced some one thousand six hundred acres of irrigable land. Great credit was due to him and thelate Colonel Baker, who was associated with him in the matter. It all ended with them visiting the following notable farms and the Rhodes Estate - one hundred thousand acres mainly devoted to ranching and orchards, also Mr. D'urban and Smetham's progressive properties. Before proceeding we should get a picture in our minds of what Umtali resembled at this stage.
Let us take Main Street, for instances wagons were arriving laden from Melsetter, Inyanga, Penhalonga and elsewhere and these wagons made their way up and down Main Street. There was no such thing as a macadamised road; gravelling was used where possible, ' A tram line took up the centre part of' Main Street, and the wagons, carts, etc. drawn by oxen, donkeys or horses churned up the streets at times so that it resembled a quagmire. The roads must have given everyone headaches. In front of the Umtali Club there was a depression which filled up with water One worthy member of the Club put up a notice "Swimming and paddling free of charge - bathing costumes optional".
The Sanitary Board, which was responsible for the management of the town, had problems to contend with such as: Street lighting by paraffin lamps, and sanitation. Sewage removal was a major problem; with the flush system of today we do not realise what the nightly collection of sanitary buckets entailed. The Sanitary Board possessed a steam roller which moved at a snail's pace, and was supervised by Mr. Myburgh. This steam roller was used to harden the rough roads where possible. Mr. Myburgh was a very far-seeing man and eventually formed the well-known Hodgson & Myburgh Transport and Clearing Agency. The East Coast Fever and rinderpest had hit the country so badly and sadly depleted the trek oxen, that donkeys and mules had more or less taken their place, the former being hardier were invariably put to use. The mule being more, alive and alert was popular with Zeederberg in the early days for drawing his well known coaches, but right up to 1903 horse sickness was still rife, and mule drawn wagonettes were used to convey football teams to Penhalonga or elsewhere. In those days men's sporting hats were pith helmets, Stetsons or Boaters.
To give an example of hotels, the Cecil Hotel was originally constructed of wood and iron with brick outer walls, erected by Brooking & Clarke in 1897 on behalf of Messrs. Snodgrass and Mitchell. The site was chosen by them because Cecil Rhodes foretold that the railway station would bo very near the site, adjacent to Park River. The hotel was visited on many occasions by Cecil Rhodes, who tethered his horse on the old hitching rail constructed of railway lines; it remains there to this day. Rhodes never slept in the hotel as he preferred solitude and camp life. Across the road from the
The following were heads of Government departments in the early stages of Umtali:
Major Scott-Turner, Rex Myburgh, P.G. Smith, Chataway, Morkel, Powys-Jones, Yates, Pickton Miles.
Native Commissioners and Assistant Magistrates:
T.B. Hulley, Elliot, Bazely.
Jarvis, King, Coventry, Egerton-Harvey, Flinders.
Interpreter in Court:
On the opposite side of Main Street was a large modern building known as Phillips Building, built in 1912 (by what was thought to be an ambitious German firm). Just before the First World War the Germans were dealt with as suspects, and it was no surprise when, just before war was declared, they vanished and the Government appropriated their buildings and property. The building was used after the war as an entertainment centre and numerous balls were held there. Also on occasions it was used as a cinema by Mr. D.M. Martin, a loud speaker and gramophone supplying the background to the pictures. As regards cinemas or 'bioscopes' as they were originally called, Mr. Harry Perrem with foresight, envisaged the possibilities of the cinema as an entertainment. Gaslight operated 6mm projectors brought by travellers to Umtali but were ineffective and frequently broke down. Films were very inflammable and there was a serious risk of fire. However, this did not diminish the enthusiasm of Mr. Perrem. After investing in a small electricity plant which had just come onto the market and the requisite projector Mr. Perrem gave his first show on a tennis court in Penhalonga. The success of the show prompted him to give shows in the Masonic Hotel (now Brown's Hotel) every Saturday night, and in Penhalonga Hotel once a week. Owing to the irregularity of the mail train Mr. Perrem often arrived bock from the station without his films, to find his audience seated, singing songs and
amusing themselves whilst awaiting him. His apologies were made and the money refunded, and his audience dispersed, looking forward to the next performance. The projector was placed in the passage-way in view of the audience and a handle regulated the speed of the films. When a break occurred fir. Perrem took off his coat and got down, intent on repairing the fault. If unable to do so, in a loud voice he would remark, "Sorry, the show is bust"! As entrance fees were 1/- or l/6d many people did not take the trouble to retrieve their money. Mr. Chris Perrem, his son, became interested in early aviation, he distinguished himself by flying to and from Britain and visited other countries with his wife, in a two seater plane. This was no mean achievement in those days when there were no proper landing grounds and everything, including petrol supplies, had to be arranged before hand. Those were dangerous and hazardous undertakings, which Mr. Perrem accomplished successfully. The landing ground in Umtali has been named after him in recognition of his exploits.
Umtali in its advancement had to contend with numerous set backs, for instance the wild life around the town. There was no respect for it, as far as the lions and leopards were concerned, and they objected to their haunts being interfered with and became even a severe menace to town dwellers already stated a donkey was killed in Main Street in front of the Post Office, and its remains left there to be devoured later. A lion was killed at the top of the town and displayed in the Cecil Hotel bar. A young volunteer bugler living in Darlington (then in the wilds), with only a pathway surrounded by scrub, trees and long grass between his parent's home and the Drill Hall, was so terrified of lions that he blew his bugle as loudly as he could all the way to town and back!
One night Jack Meikle walking home saw something in the moonlight. Thinking it was his neighbours big dog, he decided to frighten it, so he put the brim of his hat in his mouth and crouched forward, walking slowly. The animal stood in defiance, glaring at him. To Mr. Meikles horror, when they were within reasonable distance of each other he realised he was confronted with a lion! He had to remain in his crouching position and face the consequences. However, the lion, after glaring at him, turned tail and disappeared into the long grass.
As there were no playing fields, residents played cricket in the streets, or football on grazed land. Most men possessed a horse or two so polo was popular and played on a level piece of ground in the present industrial area. This sport was for men only, and women spectators were discouraged, the reason being that the players became so intent on the game that a great deal of. swearing took place. On 3rd October, 1899 the following account of two polo matches took place.
A match was played between married and single men. The former won by five goals to nothing, which speaks well for the married. The game was hot throughout, but the single men were at a disadvantage, no doubt owing to the nervousness of one or two of their ponies. The game was played more in accordance with the rules than formerly, but the married scored a few times by being off side. However, as there was no umpire it made no difference to the play and the best team won. Riding off and clubbing sticks would be practised by a few of the players, instead of waiting outside the scrum for clean shots, and passing. The teams were; Married - Palmer, Hulley, MacQueen and Myburgh Vs Yates, Lyle, Baker and Dawson. Mr. J. Palmer provided the needful (drinks).
The last game of the season was played between the "Mother Country" and the "Colonials", Every man played for all he was worth and the ponies had anything but an easy time of it. The Colonials pressed very hard during the first part and were repeatedly stopped by the Mother Country side who at last had to accede one goal to their opponents. On change of side fortune seemed in favour of the Mother Country team after some very fast play. Eventually they won by three goals to one. The players wore wide sashes «- the suggestion of . Mr. T.B. Hulley - which was an advantage to both sides. The following were the teams! Mother Country - MacQueen, Dawson, Palmer and Baker. Colonials - Myburgh, Hulley, Lyle and Honey.
This was held at the Court House on January 14th with one hundred and twenty, one in favour of a Municipality, a majority of sixty five. A sub-committee, Messrs. P.G. Smith, T.B. Hulley and G. Dawson were appointed to draw up the petition to the Administrator, asking for a Municipality with three wards and six councillors. The Umtali Municipal Council met for the first time on August 12th, 1914 and so the old faithful Sanitary Board, which had held their first meeting on the 2nd February, 1893 in Old Umtali, closed down and so storms ceased to exist between members.
It had succeeded in establishing a new town under adverse conditions, without a railway, and depending entirely on ox transport. All their records wore methodically kept right from the beginning. It is interesting to compare agendas from the first-meeting of the Sanitary Board and the first Municipal Council meeting. .
The Sanitary Board - 2nd February, 1893. Present: Major Scott-Turner (Chairman), Captain Heyman, Harris, Lazarus, Hodgson and Crawford. Resolutions: Owners of stables, kraals and cattle sheds must remove stable litter and manure. Mr. Roger Green tendered for the supply of coffins, six pounds for white men and two pounds ten shillings for Africans, this included a blanket and digging of grave. (Accepted). Mr. Pickett was requested to find a suitable piece of ground for a graveyard. Mr. Rodwell's tender for making fifty crosses (accepted).
Municipal Council Meet for First Time on August 12th, 1914.
The following members elected: Mayor G. Dawson, W.J. Hosgood, A. Laing (Deputy Mayor), D. Barry, J.H. Jefferys, C. Eickhoff, A. MacDowal, F. Webb and W.J. Mcintosh. The agenda included the shortage of water and money for housing, the drought, floods and sanitation, the possibility of a terrible European war taking place, as war clouds were forming.
The new Municipal Council certainly had difficulties to contend with. Their first problem was the rainfall of 17,19 inches in 1915 -1916! There was not sufficient water to fill the new reservoir which had been completed, and up town people were not able to get a continuous supply. After that came unprecedented floods which damaged the Darlington bridge, and the Sakubva river completely washed away its culverts. This river frequently gave trouble and being on the lower end of the town, held up wagons and the mail and horse driven carts from Melsetter. Mr, E.E. Thurley, the park curator, reported that all young plants in the nursery were swept away.
In the Location, quarters were principally built of packing case linings and other rough materials. The living conditions were not up to normal Native standards. The dim lighting of the streets was due to oil lamps, and the Mayor reported, "I submit it is infra dig for the Acting Town Clerk to do such work as visiting privies and backyards. His duties should be wholly administrative".
The only highlight seems to have been that a new stretch of macadamised road from the railway gate to the top of the hospital hill was completed, but even this caused considerable trouble as ox wagons did a great deal of damage to the surface. People were getting accustomed to seeing cars on the roads. The excitement on the arrival of the first car in Umtali had now died down, but a photograph of one was being displayed in-ono of the first photographer's window, J.E. Mein. This vehicle had tall wheels and rather thin tyres. In front was a seat, and behind this the steering wheels and the driver had to look over the passengers' heads whilst driving, fit the back of the driver, evidently encased, was the engine, which seemed to take up the full length of the car. Above it was a platform for more passengers or for luggage. In the rear was placed another seat to accommodate two more passengers. To alight from that height iron steps were used. Those who were there to admire and have their photographs taken, whilst seated or standing beside the first car, were J. English, J. van Riot, Dr. Craven, Stapleton, Corduroy,
Kimpton, Gubbins, Chase, N.E. Dale.
It is well to mention here the difficulties of motor travel when the roads were still at pioneer level. This story of an old timer, Mr. Harry van Collar, is worth recording. When he first came to Manicaland in 1914 there was only one car in Umtali, and this belonged to the railway doctor, (Rumour had it that thore was another vehicle in the area which was chain driven.) Returning to the country after leave in 1918, Mr. van Coller found that there were a few more cars. He decided with nine other adventurous young people, to make the hazardous trip to Melsetter in a truck, a feat which had not been attempted before. Early on Saturday afternoon the party set off, and after making good time, they camped at seven o'clock that night, seventeen miles from Umtali, At daylight the group was on its way again, and by four o'clock that afternoon they had reached Cashel where the party stopped for a while, only to see the Umtali Postal Service (a cape cart drawn by six mules) come snorting and stamping its way past. The disgrace would not have been so great, but for the fact that the post had only left Umtali early that morning! Feeling greatly deflated the hardy group continued its journey, but eventually admitted defeat when, the worthy chariot rebelled against the slopes of Tom Hope's Pass and wheezed to a protesting halt. Around they turned and two days later, that being the time for the return journey, they arrived safely in Umtali, having failed to reach Melsetter. They succeeded in one thing though terrorising half the Africans in the area who had never before seen such a contraption!
The trip to Odzi, it seems, was even more eventful. Mr. van Coller. recalled leaving Umtali early in the morning and reaching the Odzi River late that night. Standard equipment when travelling was a spade, an axe and an African assistant, the purpose of which should be quite apparent!
Another incident related by Mr. van Coller was about a dance held in Umtali. The proud possessor of a Model T Ford (disguised with a Rolls Royce radiator and bonnet) arrived at a dance and parked his car. A party of lads took the opportunity of examining the steering wheel of the Model T Rolls Royce, and set the vehicle in motion. Around and around it travelled in circles, attracting so much attention that eventually the dance floor emptied. Groups stood outside, deliberating and suggesting means of stopping the runaway, to no avail. Eventually, shoulders shrugging, everybody returned to their dancing, leaving the machine to its own devices, which is about as cruel in these days of setting a modern computer to work out the value of 1 x 1 x 1, recurring, and leaving it until it blows its computerised brain.
It is well to record the account of the first reunion of the Old Timers of Manicaland, which took place after a lapse of a quarter of a century. This was held in the Cecil Hotel in September 21st, 1920, and reads as follows: "This reunion proved to' be a fait accompli" thanks to Mr. G.E.F. Dawson and his small committee of Old Timers. Absentees - Mr. Sandy Tulloch, Mr. Fairbridge, Mr. Crawford, Mr. McAdam, Mr. Ogilvie and Jack Patterson. The assembly met in the afternoon and a photograph was taken comprising sixteen men and six women, A dinner and dance had been arranged. Thirty four people attended the dinner, "But ye Gods, let it not be told in the shades of Old Umtali or the Christmas Pass, that when the soup had been brought up, one Old Timer looked at his neighbour and enquired 'What about it? Do you see what I cannot see? There is not a glass on the whole of the table!"' However, after protests the matter was
soon put right and everything went smoothly with the telling of jokes and reminiscences and dwelling in the past. The Chairman and pre-pioneer, Mr. Jefferys, proposed the Toast to the Old Timers; - it was replied to by Mr. D'urban Barry. Mr. G.F, Dawson gave the Toast to the ladies and Mr. Howatt and Mr. Strachan enthusiastically sponsored this. The Toast to the Mayor was undertaken by the Chairman and replied to by the Mayor himself, Councillor J. Meikle. After this the young descendants joined tho party. Mrs. J. Livingstone and Mrs. Bates entertained the appreciative gathering with songs and recitations and Mr. Livingstone and Mr. D.M. Mitchell provided some amusing anecdotes of the past. After this tho tables were removed and some of the Old Timers showed that they were capable of competing with the young.
The following were presents;
Mrs. Barry, Mrs. Cromas, Mrs. Bain, Mrs. Caughlon, Mrs. Strachan, Mrs. Dawson, J.H. Jefferys (Chairman), Mrs. Jefferys, Mr. J. Meikle (Mayor), Mr. D. Livingstone, Mrs. Blatch.
C.R. Caughlon, J. Cromar, M. Burn, W. Strachan, Norman Rutherford, Mrs. Paterson, Mrs. Fairbridge, E.M. Webster, J. Nesbitt, Mrs. Nesbitt, A. Howatt, J.A. Palmer, D.M. Mitchell, E.H. Compton Thomson, G.F. Dawson.
Wives of Settlers:
Mrs..Meikle (Mayoress), Mrs. Howatt, Mrs. Young, Mrs. Livingstone, Mrs. Bates.
End of Chapter
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Recompiled, by Eddy Norris, from a copy of the booklet made available by Neill Storey. Thanks Neill.
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