Tuesday, 12 October 2010




Now that the railway had reached Manicaland, it was a temporary disappointment to the inhabitants as no personal goods could be delivered by rail until the line was through to Salisbury. The reason for this was that railway building materials had priority.

It is interesting to note how newcomers found the country on arrival and the way they travelled. Such notices as the following appeared in the press:

Kimptons Service Cars
To and from Penhalonga,
Five shillings each way, also 20% of the takings of each taxi will go to charity.

Harrison & Company
Plumbers, Waterworks Engineers, Sanitary General Contractors.

W. Stephen
Carpenter and Builder, Main Street.

Rhodesian Advertiser
3 months Seven shillings
6 months Fourteen shillings
12 months One pound eight shillings

Mr. Johnnie Holland gives us a vivid picture of his experiences from the time he arrived in Beira in 1897 and the early days in Umtali. He was a well known character and afterwards took over the auctioneering firm from Mr. Barry and Mr. English and went into partnership with Mr. Huxtable in 1920. He was appointed Deputy Sheriff in 1919.

As a youngster he worked at Port Elizabeth for a wholesale firm and received a salary of seven pounds ten shillings per month! His brother, a Government Land Surveyor in Salisbury, informed him that he should approach Mr. Pauling's Company in Beira whose firm was constructing the railway line from Beira to Umtali, and offering a salary of twenty five pounds a month, including accommodation (a wood and iron building). Johnnie Holland tried to insure himself before proceeding, but was told that, as no one lived longer than twelve months in Beira, it was impossible!

Mr. Holland travelled on the "Donilly Castle" to Beira and on the voyage saw a number of whales. The passenger fare was fourteen pounds. Ho borrowed twenty five pounds from his brother, the Land Surveyor, who never expected to see it again, and was very astonished when it was returned to him. There was no harbour in Beira and boats had to remain out in deep water. When the time came to disembark, passengers had to take to rowing boats. Within about twenty yards off the shore it became so shallow that they were pick-a-backed the rest of the way by Africans!

Mr. Holland's brother-in-law was a friend of Colonel Beale, Assistant General Manager of Pauling's camp in Beira, and had given Mr. Holland a letter of introduction to his future boss, Mr. A.L. Lawley, then known as the uncrowned king of Beira. Having presented the latter, the Colonel instructed Holland as regards the hours of work. They were from 6„00 a.m. to 8.00 a.m., from 9.00 a.m. to 12.00 noon and from 2.00 p.m. to 6.50 p.m. He also warned him about conditions in Beira - malaria fever was rife and he was cautioned against drink. After this they went to a pub for breakfast and drank gin and ginger beer, and he had to follow suit and oblige, and all the

Page 57

time Mr. Holland had to listen to his host's discourse on the evils of drink. Colonel Beale died early in life; residents in Beira put it down to gin and ginger beer!

At that time there was only an untrained doctor in the town who was also the hospital orderly. He was with the troops in the 1896 Mashonaland rebellion, and was so unpopular with them that he was dismissed. He arrived just after the previous doctor had died, and Mr. Lawley gave him the job.

While Mr. Holland was in Beira a cattle-hand came over with horses from the Argentine for the expeditionary forces for the Boer War, and landed in Beira. The cattle-hand deserted and endeavoured to obtain work in the town but failed. He then repeatedly pestered the British Consul, but without results. At ten o'clock one morning he arrived at the Pauling & Company office and was refused admission. The cattle-hand then pulled out a knife, stabbed the young assistant in the arm, and went into the Consul's office and stabbed him. The doctor was called and when he arrived, he fainted at the amount of blood spilled and had to be carried out. The Consul died soon afterwards and in due course the culprit was sentenced to twenty two years in a Mozambique Mine, and died a couple of years later.

Johnnie Holland left Beira after spending thirteen months there. Pauling & Company had then completed the broad gauge line, and had handed it over to Rhodesia Railways. On the 15th August 1900 Mr. Holland arrived in Umtali. The Customs Clerk who dealt with him in later years became Judge of the Rhodesian High Court, Judge Speight.

All men transferred from Beira to Umtali for the Railways had meals at the Paulington Hotel. Afterwards, when rebuilt it was named the Marina, a wood and iron building the came as the Cecil Hotel. At breakfast Mr. Holland had two helpings of porridge and milk, the latter resembling cream. It was the first time for over a year he had tasted milk and vegetables. Afterwards he walked to the Cecil Hotel. Two men in uniform were' fighting oh the front verandah in front of the Bar. Mr. Holland asked his friend what it was all about. He replied, "Only B.S.A. Police - they have recently returned with the hut tax from Inyanga and handed it over intact, and had been celebrating at the pub". Mr. Holland considered this was the type of country he had been looking for, where Police could have a nice friendly scrap in public, then perhaps the general public could settle their differences without risk of interference!

So in time a venue was chosen for the settlement of all arguments in the yard of the Rhodesia Trading Company.

In the very early stages there mere three churches in Umtali, the first one being the Church of England. It was placed in the bundu surrounded by long grass, and no houses were anywhere in sight. Bishop Gaul, in the Church one Sunday morning, walked up and down the aisle preaching and reproaching the congregation 'for their sins. He told them that they were responsible for the laying out of the town. The Committee had seen to it that there were numerous pubs and after that some Government offices, the Post Office, Gaol and all other requisite buildings were provided for. Lastly one member of the Committee perhaps asked "How about a church" and they all agreed that it was necessary. The Bishop visualised them saying 'Put it out in the bundu so that it won't get in peoples way''. Brothers and sisters, that is how your Church came to be built."

Page 58

Bishop Gaul was known as the fighting Bishop and he stood no nonsense from anyone. On one occasion after service, he slipped off his robes, rolled up his sleeves and challenged one of his antagonists. Now we are equal" he remarked, "put up your fists. I am about to settle my account with you". The Bishop was of a medium size, but having been a boxer in his early days, was active and nimble on his feet. Although his opponent was a large man, inclined to be a bully, he was badly beaten up. In those days Manicaland was blessed with' some splendid Church members, and the clergy were greatly respected.

As previously mentioned, there were three churches. The Church of England was then known as St. John's, the Methodist Church and the very small Roman Catholic Church. The Rev. Roxburgh was the first Anglican minister in Umtali and behind him was an enthusiastic, helpful congregation who clubbed together, starting a subscription to which the whole town generously subscribed. Not only was there sufficient to build a church,, but between substantial wooden pillars was the first large bell, which could be heard all over Umtali summoning the congregation. 0n occasion this bell tolled for great men such as Cecil Rhodes, and. many other prominent people, including Queen Victoria.

Another well known character who often preached in the Church was a missionary J.H. Upcher. He and his assistant, N.C. Panilod, started the first school in Salisbury in 1894. Archdeacon Upcher in his latter years was a fine old patriarch with a long white flowing beard, resembling Abraham. He did remarkably good work amongst the Africans. They greatly appreciated him and recently an old chief remarked that he was the best preacher that he had over heard.

To the American Episcopal Methodist Church, when Old Umtali was vacated and came to the new site, Cecil Rhodes offered 13,000 acres of land and buildings, to Bishop Joseph C. Hartzell for the establishing of an industrial mission in Old Umtali. This was provided the mission would start a European school in the new town. The Rev. Morris U, Ehnes and his wife arrived from America in 1898, and started both school and church work. Owing to illness he had to give up the work and it was at a standstill for some time until the Rev. Robert Woodhouse and his wife arrived to take over. The school started in a private home, and it was in December 1901'that the Goldfields Hotel was bought for one-thousand five hundred United States dollars, and the Umtali Academy came into being.

As regards the Roman Catholic Church, it was rather a small insignificant building in the lower end of Fifth Street, not far from the Park. Children going to school at the Academy used to pass that way, and often stood and looked at it in wonder, to see if any dark gowned priests could be seen. However, from a small mustard seed grows a tremendous tree. This applies to that small community.. Later a suitable piece of ground was obtained in E Avenue, and the Holy Rosary, a large church, was erected. After that came the Dominican Convent. I quote: "The Dominican Sisters arrived in Umtali on 26th January 1926. On the 2nd February of the same year, the Sisters opened a School commencing with thirty pupils. The Parish Priest had made over his Presbytery and the Church to the Sisters. He himself lived in a rented cottage on the adjacent corner stand facing Third Street. As the number ,of pupils increased the Priest confined himself to only one room of his cottage and gave the other

Page 59

two rooms for use as classrooms. The Sanctuary of the Church was heavily curtained off and the rest of the building was also used as a classroom. Eventually, as the site on which the Sisters were living, proved unsuitable, a piece of ground - Plot N - at the foot of the mountains was purchased with the help of generous benefactors. The Sisters had three large classrooms built on this land to which they travelled each morning to school. At the earnest request of parents a few boarders were taken, the number gradually increasing to over thirty. A cottage across the road had been purchased to accommodate them. It might be of interest to note that all.the buildings occupied by the Sisters and children were wood
and iron structures.

The academic work of the school made steady and favourable progress. The classes, although small, wore extended year by year until the matriculation standard was reached. The first J.C. pupil won a Beit Scholarship. Two years later she won a Matriculation Bursary. This was Catherine Bell. Later in Scotland, she took her degree at the Glasgow University. Our pupils were all very happy and industrious, and the academic results were in proportion. From the very commencement of the school, organised games were started. Mrs. Harvey coached the girls in tennis at the Park courts. Soon fixtures for both tennis and swimming were made with the Government School.

On April 29th 1936, the first brick was laid of the Convent on Plot N. Half the building was completed by May 1937 and the Sisters were delighted to take up residence then. On completion of the rest of the building the Boarders moved in. This was a great day for all, as can well be imagined! For the first few years numbers of pupils were between fifty and ninety. The Boarders numbering between fourteen and twenty. Now in 1971 we have one hundred and fifty six pupils on the roll, with fifty Boarders.

A new Infants School and Music House was built in 1965/66. The new School building was completed on 2nd June 1954. In the year 1948 the School restricted their classes to Standard 5 duo to lack of teaching staff. Pupils were then drafted on to our Secondary department in Salisbury.

The Dutch Reformed Church, which played such an important part in the history of Manicaland, dated back to 1891 when Messrs. Wilcock and Thompson asked Rhodes for permission to start the East Central Mission in Gazaland. He studied the map and proposed the area near the present Mt. Silinda. Eventually a staff was appointed and consisted of Mr. and Mrs. S.H. Wilder, Mr. and Mrs. Bates and Dr. and Mrs. Thompson, all from Zulu Missions. On many occasions Dr. Thomspon, the mission doctor, was sent for by the helpless patient s who could not travel by wagon, and he never let them down. Mt. Silinda Mission soon spread, and towards tho end of the decade its pupils increased to such an extent that the settlers in the Chimanimani area approached the Magistrate and enquired whether it would not be possible for the Mission to start a school at Melsetter itself.

It was when a young man, Groenewald arrived in Umtali, that Martin sent three men to welcome him to Gazaland with his own horse, a valuable animal, as he was the only one that had survived horse sickness in the district. They were somewhat harassed on their return journey as the native carriers took up their own weapons and threatened the white men. Fortunately Rex Strasheim, a member of the party,

Page 60

armed with an unloaded revolver, pointed it at the aggressors, thus giving their guide, van der Merwe, time to load his own revolver. The carriers, realizing their determination to shoot if attacked, ran away into the surrounding bush leaving them with all their luggage. That night the white men slept at the huts of Mr. McAndrew and informed the Police, who rounded up the culprits, and dealt very severely with them, thus allowing the much relieved party to reach their destination, du Preez widow's house, where Martin welcomed them. From there they went on to Martin's home, 'Rocklands' with the guide riding on a donkey because his feet were too badly blistered to walk any further. Martin travelled with them. On the way it started to rain, and the party was soaking wet when they arrived on the farm. The carriers had vanished with all the luggage- and only turned up the following day after the Rev. Strasheim had to borrow clothes from Martin for his first service in Gazaland.

A few photos

Photo 1
Tennis Party, Umtali Park, 1901.

Back Row: Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, T.B. Hulley,

Mr. Reisharck, Dr. Craven, Unknown, Mrs. Eggerton Harvey, Mrs Livingstone, Mr. Mann,
Mr. A.L. Baker, Mr. Harry Allen, Dr. Harper.

Mr. Tom Gilbert, Mrs. Gilbert, Unknown, Mrs. Olgivie, Mrs. Myburgh, Mrs. Oliphant, Mrs. T.B. Hulley,

Photo 2
Internal Affairs Conference, About 1926.

Back Row:
E.G. Lenthal, Miss B. Fynn. W.A. Devine, D.M. Powley, J.W. Posselt, F.W.T. Posselt,
W.S. Bazeley, A.M. Bowker, H.M.G. Jackson, M.S. Keigwin, W.G. Palgrave, A. Harvey,
F.E. Hulley, I. Powys Jones, Miss N. Fletcher, Miss M. New.

Middle Row:
L. Bibra, Major R.C. Nesbitt V.C., W. Edwards, C.L. Carbutt, W.S. Taberer, Sir Herbert Taylor.
T.B. Hulley, F.G. Eliutt, L.C. Meredith, E.G. Howman, M.C. Mead.

Front Row:
? Green, J. Blagrove, C. Rose-Innes, F. Champion, E. Hulley, C.Y. Sissing.

Photo 3
Gathering of Umtali "Old Timers" 5th November, 1931.

Left to Right:
Archdeacon Upcher, Mr. Palmer,Unknown, Mr. Livingstone, Mrs. Meikle, Mr. J. Meikle,
Unknown, Mr. L. Cripps, Mrs. Cripps, Maj. Dennison, Mrs. Tilbrook.

Seated: Mr. Egerton Harvey, Mrs. Harvey, Miss Miles, Mrs. Tulloch,Unknown, Mr. Maritz.

End of Chapter

Click Here To Return to Index

Recompiled, by Eddy Norris, from a copy of the booklet made available by Neill Storey. Thanks Neill.

The recompilation was done for no or intended financial gain but rather to record the memories of Rhodesia.

The family of the author have given permission for ORAFs to load this booklet onto the Internet.
Thanks top the family and special thanks to Heather Curran.

Thanks to
Paul Norris for the ISP sponsorship.
Paul Mroz for the image hosting sponsorship.
Robb Ellis for his assistance.

Should you wish to contact Eddy Norris please mail him orafs11@gmail.com


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home