Published in The Star Newspaper South Africa January 1932.
“From the lone shieling of the Misty Isles
Mountains divide us and a waste of seas
But the blood is strong and the heart is Highland
As we in dreams behold the Hebrides”
from the Canadian Boat Song
Saturday’s ceremony of “Trooping the Colour” brings to mind that four months ago the trooping of the Appin banner and its dedication to Scotland’s National Naval and Military Museum links the traditions of the Transvaal Scottish with the romantic incidents of the Jacobite Rising 1745.
It is the Atholl tartan which the Transvaal regiment wears by the favour of the Duke of Atholl and by virtue of descent through the Scottish Horse from the hereditary regiment His Grace is privileged to maintain. The Duke through his ancestor James Lord High Steward of Scotland is also the head of the once powerful Stewart clan of Perthshire and from the common origin is a cousin to the famous Scottish West Coast clan of the Stewarts of Appin.
When the hopes of the exiled Royal House of Stewart was smashed forever by the soldiers of the Hanover monarch and the great Clan Campbell both the clans of the Highland Stewarts were conspicuous for the ferocity of their charges against the English regiments.
The Stewarts of Appin lost a hundred and fifty-seven men storming their way into what it is now the King’s Own Regiment then commanded by Colonel Barrel. Ten clansman in succession died carrying the banner of their chief until when the redcoats and dripping bayonets of Barrel’s men swept victoriously over the shattered Highlanders an Appin man Donald Livingston an ancestor of the African Explorer Missionary tore the bloodstained rag from its staff wrapped it around his body and hacked his way through to open country.
For a hundred and eighty-five years the family of the Appin chiefs have cherished the heirloom but economic pressure, at last, caused the present Stewart of Appin to appeal to those of his name to take over the valuable and historic relic of their race.
The Stewart Society headed by the Earl of Galloway responded immediately and after purchase unanimously decided to obtain the Culloden Colours of Barrel’s regiment and in conjunction with the King’s Own Regiment lay the flags in honour in Edinburgh Castle.
It is seldom nowadays that so picturesque a ceremony is seen as that of the dedication. Thousands flocked to the same viewpoints which nearly two centuries ago other thousands saw with mixed feelings the standard of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, son of a long descended kings carried by a common hangman and a dozen ancient clan banners born ignominiously by the Citys’ chimney sweeps to their burning at the Market Cross.
Time has changed the memory of bitter feud to the honoured remembrance of the sacrifices made by ancient foes to idealism. In 1745 Edinburgh citizens scowled or slunk in terror from the sight of Highland tartan. From the grey castle, cannon roared angrily at clusters of kilted soldiers gathering below the naked rock.
There was a Duke of Atholl with the Stewart Prince and a Duke of Atholl with the Hanoverian Monarch. Murrays and Stewarts, McDonalds and Camerons panted with bloodlust to get at the throats of Campbells, Rosses and Munroes. Scarce a year later and the bonnie Hielan’ heather was filled with hunted outlaws, the glens reddened with the blood of their sons, filled with the wailing of women and little children, the star of the Stewart race sinking in a chaos of blood and fire and terror.
Not two centuries have passed. There is yet Highland folk whose great grandfathers fought at Culloden yet what is more honoured in the wide-flung British Empire than the Highland tartan?
Highland regiments from Fontenoy and the taking of Quebec to even beyond the ending of the great 1914 to 18 drama have played a foremost part in the upholding of the Royal Standard of the reigning British House. It is only fitting therefore that the memory of the valour displayed on a thousand battlefields should be marked by the ceremony of the 1st of August 1931.
So in the presence of many thousand loyal citizens, the Atholl Regiment of Highland descendants of Prince Charlies’ soldiers paraded the historic square of Edinburgh Castle as a guard of honour to an ancient rebel banner and the colours of the English regiment which broke their ancestors.
To the salute of the Atholl pipers and the Present of the clan soldiers, men in the glittering dress of Highland chiefs entered the square to take positions of honour. Men whose names and titles a hundred and eighty five years ago were those of proclaimed traitors and outlaws whose very national dress was forbidden to their people, Stewart of Appin, Stewart of Achnacona, Stewart of Fasnacloich, Lord Elcho, with them the Duke of Atholl, descendant of Lord George Stewart Murray, Commander in Chief of the rebel army and of his brother who preferred loyalty to a ducal title honour rather than lands and riches.
Next to them gathered Lieutenant General Sir Percy Ratcliffe, General Officer commanding the Scottish Command. Major General Barrett, Colonel of the King’s Own Regiment, the Very Reverend the Dean of the Thistle Lieutenant Colonel Balfour Paul, Falkland pursuivant Major Alan MacGregor Whitten A.D.C.
To the stirring Jacobite tune of The White Cockade, the colours of the Atholl Highlanders were born onto parade by Lieutenant Neil Ramsay escorted by an armed guard. Rifles dropped to the Present – a halt – then as the guard came back to the slope the pipes wailed the saddest of laments Mo Dhachaidh and slowly the colours were carried to their position on the west side of the Castle Square.
Through the following stillness broke the piercing battle scream of the old Highland warpipes “Gabhaidh sinn an rathad mor” to which the clan was piped into the Culloden charge filled and rolled about the stone grey castle walls, echoed in the ancient towers as Sandy Stewart the veteran hereditary piper to the Dukes of Atholl played in the guarded faded banner of his race. Torn by English bullets, stained with Stewart the colour looked proudly from its chaplet of the Stewart emblem of oak leaves resting on a bridal bed of pure white satin.
This sheet music for the Clan MacIntyre march ‘Gabhaidh siun [sinn] an rathad mor’
(We will take the high road) is part of the Grant collection.
As the pibroch stilled the drums and fifes of the King’s Own Regiment rung from without the gates. In their guard of red-sashed Colour Sergeants two lieutenants of the 2nd battalion of the King’s advanced the ancient colours of their regiment followed by the present regimental colour strongly guarded.
A combined salute with Colours advanced to the War Memorial with its many Afrikaner names amongst the Scottish heroes. A dedication service by the Dean of the Thistle then again the parade was called to attention.
Moving across the Square came the battle flags of “Barrells Blues” wheeling before the saluting parade the colours halted then one after the other were handed by General Barrett to his Grace the Duke of Atholl. Borne by Major Lord James Stewart Murray brother of the Duke the Colour-party of the Appin banner moved out from the Atholl regiment wheeled and halted before Stewart of Fasnacloich at the Museum door.
Taking the banner in his right hand from Lord Stewart Murray Fasnacloich handed it to Achnacone who in turn gave it to the Clan Chief Stewart of Appin who presented the banner to the Duke.
Then forming a column of a route the feudal regiment of Atholl Highlanders with the regular soldiers of Britain marched from the old Castle drums beating present day colours flying bands playing.
And in Edinburgh Castle repose in peace the emblems of two ancient and fierce antagonisms which, as the Dean of the Thistle in his stirring address pointed out, though once they distracted the Scottish nation were reconciled in that honour which generous hearts recognised was justly due to loyalty, self-sacrifice and duty.
“A good country and a cheery crowd” is almost invariably the opinion voiced by visitors to Rhodesia.
The expression is apt. Less than forty years ago it was a savage wilderness rotten with fever, a thousand miles from anywhere, inhabited by two races of natives, one a great ruthless military organisation, the other one of wretched cowardly tribes everlastingly being harried by their neighbours.
Today Rhodesia is a land of modern cattle ranches, citrus estates, tobacco plantations, maize and dairy farms and every branch of mining.
Modern towns have been built, costly hotels erected and the life of the community is organised on businesslike lines.
For ten out of forty years of its history, practically the whole of Rhodesia’s manhood has been engaged in the war against Black and White. Rinderpest swept the country clear of cattle, East Coast Fever has ravaged the herds again and again. Blackwater and malaria have taken a heavy toll of life and health. Gold mining, tobacco growing, and cotton planting have caused wonderful booms and disastrous slumps.
“What I do like about the country,” one Englishman remarked to me on one of my visits to his farm ” is that there’s always a crowd arriving for a new boom so that the people have been ruined in the last month can always sell their farms and start again.”
One hears a great deal about chequebook farmers and young fools easily parted from their money. As a matter of fact, the average Rhodesian is of the type who formed Britain’s officer class in 1914, 15 and 16. Rhodesians take farming in the same spirit as they took the war. When possible the majority jump at any excuse for “a spot of leave” and whilst only they live. On their farms, however, no men could be more enthusiastic over their jobs.
Unlike the majority of those born and bred to the land Rhodesians handle their labour and work on Army principles. It is an easy matter to be wise after an event and criticism come naturally to us all. The various booms in agriculture received the strongest possible support from not only the Rhodesian Government but all qualified to speak on the subjects.
Unfortunately, the world’s economies are not ruled by the laws of supply and demand but by great vested interests whilst in agriculture, the vagaries of weather and disease are factors impossible to foresee.
Rhodesia has proved itself to be capable of producing almost every product needed by the world. It is divided into so many different types of a country that scarcely a district can say that what suits its neighbour suits it.
Vast areas are magnificent cattle country where prime beef can and is being reared at a negligible cost. Tea and coffee have proved suitable in one or two districts, sheep in another, maize in belts, citrus in some areas, cotton in many. Tobacco equal to the finest grown in America over much of the country.
The mineral resources of Rhodesia are incalculable value – Coal of excellent quality, iron ore of the best type exist in inexhaustible supplies, and their sources as regards the second mineral have not been touched and in the first only in one area has been opened. As an asbestos and chrome producer, the country is rapidly heading the world. Mica, scheelite and other minerals abound.
Naturally, Rhodesians knowing the potentialities of their country are so optimistic regarding the future that the ups and downs of the present hardly have any effect on their good humour. “Any old job will do to tide us over a bit of a slump” – the bit referred to being one that would break most hearts.
So a formal wealthy Tobacco grower cheerfully goes firing on the railways, tends a bar counter, goes lorry driving or road making. He puts up at an excellent hotel and simply refuses to admit that he’s a ruined man. “Once the tide turns there’ll be plenty of jobs where a man can make a bit of money,” he thinks “What’s the good of whining anyway.”
A race of optimists – men who have handled men – men who have faced too much to worry overmuch about financial depression.
And the government is worthy of the race. The Opposition is only an Opposition because Rhodesians being British of the British reckon that it is a fit and proper thing to have one. Few Rhodesians could give the name of the Opposition party. They know there is one and that they vote against the Government to prove that they are fulfilling their duty, and Rhodesians are content to leave it at that.
During the last election, every Opposition meeting was crammed with enthusiastic supporters – at the Poll, however, Rhodesians voted solidly against all but a few of the Opposition – these they put in just that there should be an Opposition.
Rhodesia is the only mining country in the world where any man can buy all the dynamite and detonators he wants and blow up his whole form without any qualifications regarding his knowledge of explosives.
On many farms sticks of dynamite are thrown about anywhere, are half-eaten by rats and nothing ever happens. Boxes of detonators are kept in the pantry or bathroom and though now and again a child gets killed or mutilated nobody worries.
One can buy strychnine, arsenic or cyanide anywhere with the same ease that one can buy candles.
Any Rhodesian at any time by taking out a £1 prospecting licence is at liberty to wander over anybody’s farm, dig holes, divert water, chop down timber and go away again – if he finds anything worth finding it is shared between the British South Africa Company and himself, the owner getting nothing unless it is a big paying proposition when he received a very small royalty.
Except for buying railway and bioscope tickets money is seldom used – in ordering a drink one usually is given a card marked I.O.U. and a pencil when the drink is served.
When having a drink one almost certainly tosses to see who pays, a leather bottle and set of dice being supplied by the bar. If one has no friends or acquaintances to toss with the barman or barmaid is willing to oblige. He or she invariably wins and one pays for two drinks and then is introduced to other inmates of the bar and another gentle flutter follows.
The drink bill of Southern Rhodesia is £24 a head – It’s a sober country, however – with cocktails at 2/6d each, whiskey and soda 2/9 beer 1/- it costs a fortune to get drunk – one whiskey and soda per day is £36 per annum – and what about one’s friends’ drinks.
Last year the Railwaymen went on strike – why they themselves didn’t know. Anticipating trouble the Government called for special constables and paid them £1 per day. The mass of strikers enlisting was one of the noblest sights I’ve seen.
Rhodesia’s great Southern neighbour latterly attempted to readjust the existing Customs agreement. Rhodesians demand not only the cake but jam on it as well. On their request being refused, they blithesomely arranged to turn their backs on the South and do their business elsewhere. They got their jam.
FREEDOM: JUSTICE: COMMERCE:
The old British South Africa Company’s motto is played up to in Rhodesia.
Two essentials to successful farm management are trustworthiness and organising ability. It is easy to select and train a Native to become an excellent foreman but can one rely absolutely on any statement he makes? No! And in consequence, nobody would employ a native as a manager even if he possessed the intellectual ability.
Unless a farm manager is able to visualise all his work all the time he is quite useless. Unless he possesses organising ability both his own and his employer’s time is being wasted. Always a manager must be asking himself – can I do with less or with cheaper labour on this, that or the other job? Can it be done better another way or with other implements? If it were my farm would I consider this worth the trouble or that worth the expense?
A Manager’s job is to extract the maximum of efficiency at the minimum of cost from every employee, animal, land or implement. Unless he soaks himself in an atmosphere of trying to obtain efficiency he is certainly little good to his job.
Early rising is a necessary portion of any farmer’s job. If he is the last to come on the scene of farm labour and the first to leave it is obvious that his employees won’t do their full share unless he possesses more than ordinary powers of handling labour.
Any intelligent native can carry out an ordinary farm job if shown how to do it. The white man’s task is to see that every job is done and done properly.
Excuses are never convincing and are usually irritating. Lies defeat the very object for which they’re used. Once a superior catches a junior in a falsehood it’s a good policy for that junior to look for another job – he’s lost the confidence of the man under whom he is working.
So to gain the reputation of a good farm manager a man must needs:
(1) Be absolutely honest
(2) Be interested in his work
(3) Be able to get satisfactory results from it.
(4) Be able to win and hold his employee’s respect regarding
a. his character
b. his personality
c. see his devotion to his job
d. his results
Nothing is more irritating than working with a man in whom one hasn’t confidence. Inspire that feeling of confidence and it is amazing how quickly ones’ troubles disappear.
We refuse to believe that we are the mental deficients most Church Officers treat us as. What is wrong with the Christian religion of today (circa the 1930s) is that Christians are an ill-organised crowd wandering spiritually starved and chilled in an apparently impenetrable ghostly mist?
We know not where we came from, nor to where or what we’re aiming, and our leaders are certainly as befogged as we are. It was never the case before and it should not be the case now. Once upon a time, Christianity was a live force in the world. It’s units perfectly disciplined soldiers led by magnificent generals. For centuries the Christian religion swept on it’s conquering way and those who were its enemies were crushed into nothingness.
Christianity has not exhausted its power but today it is hard gripped by Bolshevistic influences and its officers are as helpless as it’s rank and file. Modern developments have paralysed the Staff responsible for guiding the Christian Army into positions favourable to renewing the offensive against paganism.
Church leaders are in a hopeless position as regards modern weapons for smashing modern defences of pagans. China cannot fight Japan with bows and arrows nor can Christianity win victories with childish promises and ghostly threats.
Modern reason revolts as much at pictures of halo crowned saints playing golden harps as at those of tailed and horned devils uniformed in scarlet, thrusting people we know into wickedly dancing flames.
No normal man who uses his mental powers denies the possibility of the existence of spiritual powers or that he himself is apparently a being in which a spiritual personality inhabits an animal body. It is only logical to presume that man was either created with or in the course of his evolution given his dual personality for some specific purpose by the being who rules the Universe.
There appear to be logical grounds for believing that the ruling power was and is in conflict with some other influence in the spiritual world. Consideration of the subject immediately results in the realisation that we are creations of a spiritual elevating power who is actively opposed by one of a debasing nature.
Man is the Child of Good who is wrestling in a life and death fight with evil. Man was therefore created to help Good. We call Good, God the Father and enlist in our Father’s army. Throughout our human life, we are recruits, cadets, soldiers in training. When considered to be fit for use we will leave the world, our depot, to proceed on active service.
So far we are on plausible grounds but what about the snatching away from life of young children, of life in all stages of preparation? Surely they are victories of enemy agents due entirely to our slow realisation of what our duties are, of the bad generalship of our leaders, and of our own grudging response to the rules and regulations of the Army in which we have enlisted. These are all undoubtedly owing to the idiotic system by which Christians of the Twentieth century are trained on methods found satisfactory to the First.
Jesus Christ a being of the power we call God came down to earth nearly 2000 years ago to reorganize the Army of God, to rearm it with modern weapons and revise its archaic code of rule and regulation. Church officers killed him then. Today they’d put him away in some other form if possible. God could only be recognised, be accepted, by an army so trained to his methods and personality that his presence in the world could not remain undetected.
To train humanity to recognise God, to fear him and to reverence him, it is vital to teach Man that he is a being under a modern spiritual military training, a recruit to the noble profession of Arms. That he or she is not a miserable sinner existing only through the infinite compassion of God but a very proper decent lad or lass who will revel in a spiritual army life once he or she understands the Whys and Wherefores of spiritual discipline “God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son to the end that man be saved.”
A soldier attends parades properly dressed, clean and smart in appearance. Absence from the parade, slovenliness on parade, improper attitudes are offences against army rules and regulations providing for the maintenance of discipline.
As soldiers of God, we commit an offence by being absent from Church, by praying in improper attitudes, by parading before our Commander-in-Chief in fatigue or undress uniform.
Our fathers understood this perfectly. We, so near the time of the Great War, so well organised in Defence Force systems, sporting organisations, Guides, Scouts, V.A.D.s and the like, surely we do not need to be told with what impatience God must regard the parades and drills by the present rabble known as the Christian army.
Prayer, fasting, abstinence, Good works, make up the spiritual drill necessary to turn us into soldiers. In ordinary armies half-hearted drilling is punishable and so it is in the Roman Catholic corps of that of God. But even here we find that Catholic officers, the priests, are afraid to enforce more than nominal penalties. An order to an ordinary penitent nowadays to walk ten miles with peas in his or her shoes would meet with a bitter and sulky reception if not with desertion from the unit.
Whose fault is it? The fault of those who refused to treat the men and women of today as reasoning beings and train them properly. Of those who strive to officer educated men and women as though they were children. Who is so afraid of desertion and so distrustful of their rank and file that they prefer training for the parade ground rather than the battlefield.
Small forces of badly trained soldiers accompanied by hordes of derisive spectators never won a great war. Big offences have never been successful without cadres of well-trained soldiers in good heart and spirit. To train such for God’s army it is little use eternally impressing men in the training depot with their natural rottenness, with their dependence on God’s charity but to imbue them with the knowledge that they are being honoured by their selection for training to help in God’s offensive action against Evil in the world beyond the mists.
Every South African newspaper contains advertisements for travelling representatives and with the cry of Buy British a field of unlimited possibility is open to the English Public School Boy and well educated and adventurous Britons of both sexes.
Britishers abroad are full of British sentiment – a travelling representative of an agricultural machinery firm will often do a large amount of business simply because he was at Christchurch. He will meet hundreds of Public School fellows in a country like Rhodesia or Kenya and an evening spent laughing over Bluecoat scraps with those who jeered at their uniform might nett him a tractor sale.
British-built Vickers tractors in the early 1920s were equipped with a sunshade
for export to Australia
His host will probably introduce him to Rugby men – to Winchester chaps – to a stray from Eton or Harrow – and all will give him orders.
Unlike the American trained salesman, he will endeavour to arouse clannish instincts rather than make direct appeals to business considerations. He will feel that he is a member of the British Diplomatic Corps and that his mission is to show the world that British workmanship is worth more than glaring advertisements – that a few pounds more or less in buying a car or tractor don’t matter when such a purchase is a help to Blighty.
Let us take direct instances. I myself found that service with the 9th Division gave me a standing with every Scotsman in the district I was working for an agricultural implement firm. My lines were British implements of undoubted excellence, but travellers far more experienced than myself were busy selling American implements at cheaper rates than my firm could consider.
At one farm I was offered accommodation for the night but told that I hadn’t a chance of pushing the tractor my employers were handling. I left the subject of agricultural machinery and remarked that my hosts’ accents gave me a memory of South Uist. I wasn’t allowed to leave for two days. Sold a tractor, a windmill and some hundred feet of piping – was introduced to a dozen Highland folk and tipped as to their requirements.
Comparing notes with a fellow traveller I found that he had secured orders amounting to thousands of pounds solely because he had met a man who like himself had been at the Merchant Taylor’s School.
Salesmanship and Journalism are kindred spirits. In both human appeal is irresistible and there are few unsophisticated folk left these days and a man knows that no trashy article can possibly survive the strain of competition.
Ten travellers may work a district with the same type of article – one will place all the orders he can deal with and nine will fail – why simply because the successful traveller is of the people with whom he is dealing.
By AN EX-COMMERCIAL TRAVELLER
21st October 1930
An article published in the Rand Daily Mail, South Africa circa 1930s.
Every stockman handling valuable animals requires to know something about food values. The subject is a fascinating one and a student instinctively compares the haphazard treatment accorded human stomachs with the carefully worked out feeding methods used in feeding animals.
Human bodies need very much the same essentials as do those of animals. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, mineral salts and water are required by both and wrongful proportions immediately cause harmful reactions. Instinct guides us roughly to the food our bodies need but a little knowledge is of far greater help than instinct if we would get the utmost value in the cheapest way.
An average man requires about three and a half ounces (100grams) of Protein, 1 pound (450grams) of Carbohydrates, an ounce of mineral salts (28grams) and two ounces of fat (57grams) to maintain himself in a healthy condition. If a manual worker, he requires more food than one engaged in a sedentary occupation. Old people require less and children more than middle-aged and young, women, less than men.
One often hears and knows of small men with remarkably large powers of food consumption. In such cases, there can be no doubt that the small man’s body or diet is deficient in some essential – in the majority of cases a mineral salt.
Most ills to which mankind is subject are digestive or bodily disorders caused by wrong dieting. Meals consist of too much of one element, too little of another resulting in the over-accumulation of waste matter, non-renewal of tissue and a general choking and fouling of the system. Again it might be that deficiency of fat, of protein or of mineral salts is responsible for upsetting the functioning of the digestive organs.
A meal of oatmeal with sugar, eggs, milk, bread and butter is an example of a well-balanced feed. The salts and protein are present in the eggs, oatmeal and milk, the carbohydrates in the sugar and bread; the fat in the butter and milk. Cheese and bread make an excellent combination for cheese is the most valuable concentrated foodstuff man knows and ordinary bread is almost pure carbohydrates.
Every individual’s diet should be considered from the maintenance and productive sides. So much fuel is required to maintain health so much to create the necessary energy to do his work. To ensure proper assimilation of vital elements meals must be sufficiently appetizing to enable them to be eaten with relish.
When however excess fuel has been loaded the body demands that it be used or got rid of. Long walks or any extra exercise will consume the surplus but neglect will always result in some disorder of mind and body.
The importance of the various salts needed by the body is seldom sufficiently emphasised. Lime, common salt, iron, phosphorous, sulphuric acid, chlorine and magnesia are vital to the human and animal body and cheese, milk, eggs, pulses, fresh fruit and green vegetables are the chief suppliers.
We all know how often cod liver oil, Parrish’s food and various manufactured foods are ordered by doctors for children and invalids. In many cases, they are given as being more economical and easier than attempting to reorganise a diet.
Often neglect of properly balanced food has so strained or impaired the digestive organs that only concentrated foods can be given.
After eight years adventuring in the bush and four years soldiering war disabilities forced me into a tobacco warehouse. Through the windows, I could see a patch of unspoilt bush and granite crag. It was just the friendliness, the homely feeling given by that bit of wild that kept my heart from wilting under the deadly monotony, the foreign atmosphere, the unliked occupation of tobacco grading. So often it is some girlish sunbeam in an office that holds the ex College athlete, the Rugby man, the fellow with personality to the dull routine of the ledger and cash book.
Office romance is not necessarily office neglect. The clerk sees his dream girl in the typist and the typist feels the clerk needs her mothering, feels he would be the good companion down the long trail. He knows to support a wife he must get his nose to the grindstone, she knows that if both make themselves nearly indispensable her man’s position in life is more or less assured, that the memory of her devotion to his interests will always weigh favourably with her employer’s view of her husband.
Even calf love in an office tends to greater efficiency. The office boy deeply smitten by the winsomeness of his employer’s secretary becomes a very knight without reproach. That beauty is only skin deep is just as quickly realised in office companionship as in that of marriage.
Romance disappears very quickly if the atmosphere created by Beauty is unpleasant and the pretty typist whose first week in the office created a chaos of love feelings soon finds her sex appeal has vanished at the almost instant realisation that her inefficiency has brought more than ordinary burdens on her fellow workers.
“Phyllis is leaving to marry the boss and we won’t be sorry to lose her,” is often heard even from the male section of the office who have helped patch up her work – but “Ann is marrying young Jones at the end of the month and we’re awfully sorry to lose her still having a topping kid like Ann to look after will be the making of Jones” is even more often heard.
Living as the only white man on a hundred thousand acre section on a Rhodesian cattle ranch has its drawbacks.
Most people one talks to about the Wilds seem to think the chief disadvantages are lions, snakes, malaria and natives – shows what strange ideas people get from reading books and going to picture houses.
Lions and snakes are a cattleman’s friends really – they help account for a lot of losses it would grieve him to admit to the manager were due to not preserving grazing from fires, or to feeding off grass near permanent water at the wrong time. It looks for more interesting too in one’s returns putting down ten deaths to snake-bite rather than Quarter Evil.
Loneliness is the disease that counts in the Bush. Malaria doesn’t worry a man any more than headaches seem to do a woman, whilst as for natives – my experiences is that whatever savagery takes place is done by the man who catches brother black doing what he shouldn’t.
Most trials and troubles in this world can be conquered by the exercise of a little willpower or a dose of Epsom Salts but loneliness has one beat every time – there is no cure for loneliness and no preventative – the only thing to do when it grips you is to break out of its clutches and run.
I’d passed a month without seeing a white man when the disease came along – I wasn’t new to its effects but the trouble was where to go if I wanted to escape. On one side of my section there was a country in which one might travel for years and not see a white, on another I knew there wasn’t anybody bar natives for forty miles, behind was Main Camp and if I called there just because I was lonely the probabilities were that I would get the sack and the Manager have heart failure. There remained one side – the East and I’d heard from my natives that there was a white man living about twenty miles from my house.
I rode over one day and found a strange crowd – answering to the good old name of Smith – father, mother, two sons and a daughter, all from Seven Dials. Father was nominally manager of a large Company owned Lodge but it seemed that Ma was the real boss – “she ‘adn’t ‘arf choked the Managing Director off last toime ‘e was raound abart the plice she ‘adn’t.”
The daughter looked healthy – some poor devil will lead a hell of a life one day I thought – anyway she’s yet young and nice to play with.
I rather liked the two boys – good strapping English lads. The whole family were friendly and more than hospitable while their Cockney wit and humour kept me laughing like a schoolboy.
They wanted me to stay overnight but though I’d have liked to there were too many valuable bulls at my camp to risk slipping away without a sound excuse. Finding I was determined to move on the girl asked me whether I’d like a pup to take back with me.
The one thing I was badly wanting was a dog and I’d noticed a dozen animals of assorted breeds about the house. There were big lion dogs, little smooth hair and wired haired terriers with a couple of pointers to put in the medium element.
I’d love one” I answered, “but how can I get it over to my place?”
“Put it in your shirt,” she said “it’s only a tiny morsel of a thing, father a pedigree wire haired and mother purebred smooth terrier. They are both beautiful dogs and the pups ought to be grand.”
Accepting with thanks I accompanied Miss Smith round to the Stables to select the gift. I didn’t hesitate over which I wanted – there were four puppies, three typical fox terriers and one, a real wire-haired.
“You’re mine” I exclaimed picking him up whilst a dainty black and white mother dog whined anxiously at me.
“That’s the pick of the bunch,” said Miss Smith “He is just like what his father was.”
My horse objected rather strenuously to our passenger at first but gradually settled down so my homeward journey was uneventful. Puppy snuggling contentedly against my body.
Few things in this world are so near perfection as the friendship that can exist between a lonely man and his dog. From the first night, Donald, as I named him slept on my bed, shared my meals and within a couple of weeks, began accompanying me on short walks around my camp. Most of my work was range riding and naturally, a pup couldn’t run very far or keep up with a horse.
At first, the poor little beggar used to howl most dismally at having to remain behind. Then one day returning home after a long ride I found Donald gone.
I was afraid something had snapped him up – a little pup is an attractive morsel to a leopard or hyena and there were plenty about still it wasn’t likely anything would come near the house in broad daylight and Don wasn’t in the habit of wondering. An eagle might easily have taken him but my cook swore that none had been about.
What I worried about most was snakebite – a young animal is always inquisitive particularly a baby fox terrier, and if it was to see a snake basking in the sun there was a certain chance that a pup would go sniffing at the thing and find instant death.
We hunted around but found nothing so saddling up I went off the way I’d ridden that morning. Five miles from camp I heard a dismal howling and there was Donald too weary to move but gamely facing the direction I had gone.
After that Donald came with me – usually on my saddle with a spell of exercise when there was no need for riding beyond a walk, the runs got longer and longer as his powers developed. It was surprising how soon the wee doggie could do his five to twenty miles, though when hurried or on a long round, it was a nuisance to suddenly hear wild wailing behind and find Donald sitting in the veld announcing to the Heaven’s how tired he was.
Once he had had enough he would not budge a yard. The horse must come to him and his rider dismount to lift him on to the saddle.
The rains came. I had to ride over a swollen river to see a sick cow. Don followed as far as the stream and I shouted to him to go home then drove my mount into the current. Jove it was strong and deep. To my dismay Donald the wee rascal never hesitated – as we entered the river so did the dog. Naturally, he went whirling downstream and slipping from the saddle I followed. If anyone asked for trouble I certainly did and got it in full measure. Fortunately we had only entered the edge of the current but even so, there didn’t seem a hope especially with boots on – however, the little cherub up aloft remembered I came from seafaring folk and swung me into an eddy. I grabbed Donald and we scrambled ashore half-drowned.
In training animals, experience has taught me that the shaper the intelligence you are dealing with the harder is the trainer’s task. The pupil will persist in trying to anticipate what he is being taught with invariably false conclusions. To teach a mixture of two terrier breeds the work of a setter is above all things an ordeal of time and patience.
My food in those days was principally game and bread. Bird shooting always fascinated me so when time allowed Donald and I had many an hour tramping through the veld looking for Redwing or along the river after pheasants, wild duck and guinea fowl.
During our walks, we usually put up small antelopes and hares besides birds, and to Donald, everything that moved was to be chased. That sort of thing, however, did not keep our larder supplied so Donald had to learn that no matter what ran, his duty was to remain next to his master until the gun went off.
It was a superhuman job teaching the pup and I learnt that there was a lot of truth in the old saying that chastisement often hurt the administrator more than the recipient. I hated smacking the wee rogue but it had to be done though for weeks Donald couldn’t understand why.
He soon learnt that every time he returned from a glorious chase after buck or bird he got whacked but he could not understand the reason. After the first couple of punishments, the little devil on his return would sit just beyond my reach looking at me and wagging his tail – when I moved towards him he shifted carefully a little further away. Lord! I used to get mad as for a quarter of an hour I coaxed and wheedled him to come and be beaten.
Cautiously manoeuvring towards the pack saying “Doggie! Doggie! Come on Donald – Good Donald – come boy!” was only productive of more tail movements and as I got almost within reaching distance, another change of ground.
But he learnt in time – I’ve had pointers and red setters but never a better dog on birds than Don. Few wounded buck got away from him either and it was wonderful watching him tackle a heavy duiker or reedbuck whose wounds scarcely impaired and rather strengthened it’s fighting powers.
Of course, the big game no small dog dared attempt to fasten on to, but a hurt animal couldn’t run far with a wildly excited terrier yapping frantically all around it. In almost every case the buck would stop and desperately try to gore or kick the confounded little pest – which gave me time to get up and put in a bullet.
Four years past. I had a pointer given me also pedigree smooth-haired terrier, a lady named Betty, who almost supplanted Donald is my idol. Donald married Betty and the two presented me with many children amongst whom was Mick a perfect son of his father.
Hector, the pointer, was the odd man out as regards the family and his life was an unhappy one. He came of good stock and instinctively obeyed the traditions of his race. Donald and Betty scorned him, bit him and continually tormented Hector in the home, but when I took the three for a run into the veld, the terriers let Hector hunt around at his will.
Suddenly the Pointer would begin quartering the ground – halt and stiffen to the orthodox “point”. Betty and Donald who had stood watching his work would dash directly into the bush or clump of grass which Hector guarded – away would scamper a hare, or with a whirr up would fly a covey of Redwing – and Hector sitting down would howl with heartbroken sorrow.
One day I was out with Donald and rode into a mob of sable antelope – dismounting I stalked them and fired. One big cow, staggered but went off galloping strongly with Donald yapping furiously after.
Running back to my horse I swung into the saddle and dashed in the direction the cow was going. In some thick bush, I heard Donald’s battle cries and jumping off the horse ran into the thick thorn.
Everybody gets careless sometime or other and, though an old hunter I never worried about the danger of going after a wounded sable antelope into a broken bit of ravine thickly defended by ugly looking for thorn trees – my recklessness was paid for – breaking through some scrub I came right on the wounded cow at bay – I stopped simultaneously with her charge and blazed at her – shakey and panting with the run and sudden change of position one shot missed, the second grazed her neck.
Another second would have been my last – a tiny ball of white flung itself at the sable – with a lightning twist of the long deadly horns the cow transfixed and hurled the little annoyance in the air – but the instance’s pause was her death – two heavy bullets bit into her chest and with a convulsive spring she went crashing headlong to the ground.
I bent over Donald, wiping the blood froth from his lips – he wagged his stump of a tail once – God I lay down and wept like a babe.
Written on Valley Farm circa the 1930s
Based on an experience as a 17-year-old
Published in the Cape Argus circa 1930s
Well, I know them, the cattle rangers where it is a long day’s ride to a neighbour – the prospecting camp’s far in the fever-stricken Bush, the native trading store where a mounted trooper perhaps once in three months is the only link with the world of civilisation.
A lonely life – Aye – It might seem so to those who have never lived the life of the Bush. It never seemed so to me or to those I met in the lands beyond the Pale.
I’ve felt the loneliness more in enemy camps herded with forty thousand other captives than in the Bush – I felt it greater than ever today living on the fringe of a city.
It is strange indeed that one should feel desolate and alone in the midst of thousands. It is strange that discontent should reign where one’s wants are supplied by the mere lifting of a telephone receiver.
Out in the Wilds many were the meatless days because the grass was too long for hunting – often one lay wet and chilled to the bone, one has craved and prayed for a little shade, a drink of cold clear water, a pipeful of tobacco, news of the world – But there a man is free – changes of Government, Parliamentary Budgets, The Conventions of Man, the Laws of Nations all were but whispers in the wind.
When hungered a man sought for food when a thirst he looked for means of quenching it. The stars above, the Hills and rivers, the glades of the Bush and the never-ending, always changing pictures of Nature filled his soul with content.
Civilisation, a mess of potage – What can it offer for loss of man’s birthright – Freedom?
Not health of body or of mind – one eternal battle to pay butcher, baker, chemist. Pay, Pay and continue to Pay – friends who seek one to gain some benefit for themselves – Nothing for Nothing and little of value for what one pays.
Caged one from the Wilds lies watching the people go past his bars – sees them eat when hunger is far from their minds – live by the stroke of the clock, eye one another with longing to possess this or that.
Lonely – God in His Heaven alone knows how lonely is the soul who for fancied security for wife and child forsook the Wilds his home and betrayed his faith in Nature the Holy Father desolate and forsaken from behind his bars he watches his fellows – a herd born and bred to slave conditions unwitting of their fetters happy in the prison yard of Civilisation.
“I will arise and go unto my father and will say unto him Father I have sinned.”