Caracal

A Few More Historic Photos - 1920s & 1930s - Zambia

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When I visited Sheilah yesterday she had her parents’ photo album to share with me.

I was intrigued by the above photo. It was taken in February 1931. That’s Sheilah on the pony. The photos had been stuck onto the album pages but I said to Sheilah that if we could prize the photo off and if she agreed I would take it home and see how it scanned. Sheilah was able to carefully prize it off and we found the following written on the back by Sheilah’s mother:-

 

Bobbie the Pony

Spark the Dog

“Sheilah” 3yrs old Feb 1931

@

“Kazangula” River

&

“Wankie” the Messenger

“Spark” was taken by a Crocodile that afternoon at the river

Kazangula is on the Zambezi in Zambia about 70kms west of Livingstone.

Wankie is in the Messenger uniform – a fez, tunic, shorts and bare feet.

We discussed the role of messengers in the early days of European settlement in Zambia and their amazing achievements. Sheilah said they were very proud of the uniforms that were issued to them. We talked of the feats referred to in the book Vet in Africa Life on the Zambezi 1913-1933 by John Smith edited by Tony Bagnall Smith.

One such feat was when John Smith gave his messenger Mohenda an urgent message to be taken from Sesheke to Livingstone. After collecting three assegais Mohenda set off at 9.00am and delivered the letter at 7.00pm the very next day after apparently stopping only three times to eat and drink a little. All this bare foot traversing rivers and crossing all sorts of country with all sorts of wildlife. The author says the distance was 180 miles. Today’s references say Sesheke is approx. 200 kms or 120 miles from Livingstone and maybe that’s a more direct route. Either way a phenomenal achievement.

 

Sheilah was born in Livingstone. Her father was a vet who worked with John Smith and was then appointed to head a research station at Mazabuka.

 

Sheilah gave me permission to upload the photo on Safaritalk if it scanned OK.

 

I emailed the photo to her yesterday afternoon and she was very pleased to see how it had scanned. I will return the photo when I visit next week.

 

I have been visiting Sheilah for approximately 11 months now – she is a wonderful lady with a phenomenal memory and has many great stories told and to be told.

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I have been continuing to enjoy regular visits to Sheilah since my previous post in February.

 

We have wide ranging discussions across many topics although the main focus is of course on Africa.Recently Sheilah showed me a few more photos that her father had taken in the 1920’s and 30’s.

I thought they might be of interest to some STers and Sheilah is happy for me to post them.Not sure whether this is the right place to post – maybe an historic section? – but here goes.

 

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This photo of these two Ila tribesman was probably taken somewhere on the Kafue flats. The Ila were also known as the Mashukulumbwe and indeed that is the name that Sheilah knew them by.

Apart from the men’s fantastic hairstyle (known as isusu) they also had the practice of knocking out the front upper teeth. Sheilah recalls that when she lost her front primary teeth her father teased her by jokingly saying she looked like a Mashukulumbwe.

The making of the hairstyle was a lengthy, intricate and painful process and towards the top a long thin strip of sable horn was sown into the hair. I read somewhere that they were useful in identifying each other in the tall grasses of the Kafue swamplands. In Travel and Adventure in South-East Africa Selous tells of a narrow escape he had from a night time raid on his camp by a party of Mashukulumbwe.

 

 

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This photo of a cattle raiding lion was taken by Sheilah’s father at Kalomo in 1929. Sheilah’s not sure whether her father or someone else shot the lion.

 

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This photo is a real mystery. Three young harnessed rhinos with two keepers/attendants.

 

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Could be somewhere near Kazangula but not sure. No idea how the duiker came to be on the car bonnet or why.

 

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Two aerial photos of the Falls in 1933 at a time when aerial photos were also being taken over Mazabuka in connection with the establishment of the agricultural research station.

 

Sheilah has recounted to me her memories of the train journey she took on her own as a 12yr old from Cape Town to Livingstone in December 1940. The journey took 3–4 days. She was met at Livingstone by her mother. She has written down her memories of the return passage to Africa with her mother on a camouflaged Union Castle Liner in June 1940. She is also jotting down memories from her childhood in Northern Rhodesia and later in Southern Rhodesia.

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How fascinating to see these images @@Caracal !

 

The harnessed young rhino.............. potential beast of burden?

 

Looking forward to hearing/seeing more. Please pass on thanks to Sheilah.

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Absolutely fantastic @@Caracal Please pass on to your friend how very much appreciated her father's photos are and how we enjoy reading her recollections.

 

I think it's worth merging the two topics to keep all Sheilah's archive images and stories in one place for us to enjoy.

 

Matt

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I've shared the link with some Zambia contacts who I'm sure will be very interested to see these photos.

 

Matt

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Fascinating record of how it was and still is to some extent in Kafue National Park and the land of the Mashukulumbwe/baIla pasroralists who continue to herd their cattle in the traditional way on the Kafue Flats nearby…I wonder whether Sheilah’s album contains any more photos of wildlife? M/tks

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Posted (edited)

I have very much enjoyed looking at Sheilah's photo's and reading her recollections. What a life she has led! Please offer my thanks for allowing these to be shared when you next see her @@Caracal.

Edited by Whyone?
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@@Caracal fantastic many thanks to you & Sheilah.

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Fantastic stuff!

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Wow, What recollections and photos!

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amazing stuff. I have showed the pictures to the staff here - most of whom are Ila.

 

Thanks for posting this.

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Wow! Thanks to you both. Loved this.

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Thanks to all for the replies and likes. I phoned Sheilah yesterday to pass on the thanks and she was absolutely delighted to learn that her recollections and the photos are appreciated here.

 

Thanks @@Game Warden for merging the topics - I visit Sheilah most Thursday afternoons and with her agreeance I hope to post many more of her recollections.

 

@@wild dog - I hadn't thought of the possibility of beasts of burden - I just can't fathom what it was about. Will chat with Sheilah again to see if she can recall anything her father might have said that could throw some light.

 

@@Peter de Vere Moss - most of the photos I've seen have been of officials and persons. There are a couple of photos of a pontoon at Kafue and also a boat on the Kafue but unfortunately I don't think there are any of wildlife - however I'll check this with Sheilah.

You might be interested to know Sheilah's father JPA Morris has an article in Vol V 1 1962 p71- 73 Northern Rhodesian Journal Early Days of the Veterinary Depart http://www.nrzam.org.uk/NRJ/V5N1/V5N1.htm

Sheilah recently told me her father was known by the Africans as Matepeta (not sure how spelt but pronounced matterpeter) which means The man who walks quickly.

I'm sure you're familiar with these journals but other STers might like to know they have a wealth of stories, photos and early history of Zambia.

(Also to any STers who are looking at Kafue - Peter's A Visitor's Guide To Kafue National Park is a must have).

 

@@KaingU Lodge - could any of your staff through any light on those harnessed rhinos?

Edited by Caracal

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@@Caracal Do tell Sheilah that the link to this topic and her photos was shared on Facebook by a New York Times journalist who was previously written about Safaritalk :) Along with a number of Zambia based folks and I hope Rolf Shenton will be following up with me about some of the details.

 

Matt

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@@Caracal

 

Wonderful, magic time travel stuff. More! :)

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Rolf Shenton has sent me a link which may be of interest to both Sheilah and those members reading this topic:

THE ILA-SPEAKING PEOPLES OF NORTHERN RHODESIA (Opens a PDF version of Ila-speaking peoples of Northern Rhodesia, published by London, Macmillan and Co., 1920, written by Edwin William Smith; Andrew Murray Dale)

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@@Game Warden I'm sure when I see her Thursday Sheilah will be amazed and delighted at the extent of the interest taken in her photos and stories.

 

I actually have a 1968 reprint of the this book (2 vols) but I had no idea that it was online and that's a very interesting site.

 

I find it amazing that such a comprehensive study was undertaken at that time in such a relatively short period. All enhanced with photos.

 

Would have taken me a few years just to learn the language before I could even embark on the start of the project!

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Sorry, no further light on the harnessed Rhinos from our end...

 

I have always had my eye on this, but always found it too pricey, although I am sure it would be fascinating:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Ila-Usage-Monographs-International/dp/3825847675

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As you say @@KaingU Lodge - that certainly looks fascinating and much more than a normal dictionary.

 

Hmmm.............. only the other day I was saying to myself no more African books!

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Some more photos

 

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Another photo of those mystery rhinos

 

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Moving or rescuing cattle

 

 

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Kafue Show Grounds

 

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That's Sheilah's father JPA Morris on the horse.

 

The following two photos are also taken at the Kafue Agricultural Show. The Prince of Wales opened the Kafue Show on his African Tour in 1925 but Sheilah can't say whether these are then or a later date.

There are however some four or five photos of his visit to Livingstone just days beforehand which I am in the process of scanning.

 

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I am suggesting to Sheilah that she should join Safaritalk so that she can record some of her experiences. I would be happy to help her if needed but doubt if that’s needed as she is an excellent speaker and a very descriptive writer.

 

Stories to tell might be:-

 

Returning to Africa with her mother on a Union Castle Liner in June 1940 ( Sheilah and her parents had returned to Ireland on leave in June 1939 and then got caught when war broke out. Her father returned in November but they had to wait);

 

The 3 to 4 day train trip Sheilah made as a 12year old on her own from Cape Town to Livingstone;

 

Holidays Sheilah and her husband took in the 1950s driving from Kitwe Zambia to Beira Mozambique;

 

A 1961 holiday when Sheilah Paddy and 2yr old daughter drove from Kitwe to Abercorn then took the Liemba up Lake Tanganyika to Kigoma train to Tabora then to Mwanza then up Lake Victoria to Kenya where met by friends and to Sotik where their friends had a tea and coffee plantation.

 

Some feedback would be appreciated as to whether such stories would be of interest to STers.

 

In the meantime I thought I’d set down a few fragments from our chats:-

 

The Mail Train

In the 1930s the mail train would come through Mazabuka 3 times a week. It started at Bulawayo thru’ Livingstone and on to Lusaka and the Copper Belt. The train stopped at Mazabuka for about an hour and its arrival was a social event with many people attending the station just to see who was getting on or off.

When Sheilah was about 6 she remembers vaguely being lifted up and seeing the flames and feeling the heat of the engine. She recalls the intense heat and the smell of hot metal and she remembers the engine driver was a huge man in girth and height. Her father knew the engine driver and had asked him if he could put Sheilah on the footplate.

The engine driver was Roy Welensky who was active in the railway union, was knighted in 1953 and from 1956 to its break up in 1963 was prime minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

 

On another occasion around 1934 Lady Baden Powell alighted from the train and presented Sheilah and other brownies with pins. Sheilah was told this was a great honour.

 

The Brownie Pin

That pin was subsequently used in a rather unexpected way. Sheilah was suffering from malaria at a time when she needed to start school. She needed to stay home to recuperate and have daily injections of quinine. After discussions between her parents and Mr Gunn the headmaster it was agreed that she could attend the boys only Codrington Primary School so she found herself the only girl in the school and the boy behind her in class to her annoyance was continually pulling her hair. When she had had enough she turned around and jabbed him in the arm with her brownie pin.

The taunting ended and I like to think that Lady Baden Powell would have congratulated Sheilah on her initiative in the use of the brownie pin had she known!

 

The Schoolboy Admirer's Present

Sheilah discovered she had an admirer at the Codrington School. She was given “a very dead bird” which her admirer had found in the games room and said “this is for you ‘cos I like you”.

It was pretty with an irridescent green sheen but her mother was horrified as it was covered with “mites and crawlies”.

Sheilah laughingly says “ ït was the first present ever from the opposite sex”.

 

Sachitema – the Ghost Elephant

On a visit last year I mentioned to Sheilah how I’d read in a GRI newsletter that an elephant which had been raiding crops in Mazabuka was being relocated to Kafue. http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=f36a148a19c907c6d0cdc7b83&id=247ffb2eae

 

This prompted Sheilah to tell me about Sachitema an elephant whose stamping ground was from Livingstone to Kalomo. It had a bad foot (probably injured in some trap) so its spoor was easily identified. Throughout its territory it cause havoc raiding villagers gardens tramping down hedges and eating mealies, crops and vegetables. It would raid at night and be gone by daylight. The Africans said it was possessed by a demon and that’s how it got away. Sheilah was told about Sachitema when she was a young child in Mazabuka and was worried that it would come into their garden at night and eat the mulberries and mealies. Sachitema was a very well known character in its day.

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@@Caracal I'm enthralled by these stories. I'd love to hear more.

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I had lunch with Sheilah today and she sends a big thank you to @@Geoff and to everyone else for the likes and positive words of encouragement which I’ve passed on to her.

The knowledge that there are others interested and enjoying her recollections has been a real boost to her. She has already drafted her story of the 1961 trip from Zambia to Kenya which she’s shown me and hopes to have this completed next week with a few additions.

 

In the meantime a couple of further stories and then a further post of some old photos.

 

The Marauding Leopard of Mazabuka

Sheilah recalls the wildlife around Mazabuka in her childhood days contained plenty of buck and lechwe. Lions tended to inhabit the Kafue flats which stretched for about 15 miles down to the river. The lechwe were plentiful on the flats.

Leopards however prowled around Mazabuka and there was one leopard that started taking young stock. It had a “taste for easy pickings” and would take down young stock – about 2 yr old – that were too big to carry up a tree or move – eat what it could then disappear into the night.

 

One night when Sheilah was a young child she was sleeping on the verandah. The verandah was enclosed with a low wall and mosquito gauze above. Sheilah’s father was out at a farmers’ meeting. Sheilah’s mother heard a cough and thinking it was Sheilah took a torch with her onto the verandah to check on her. She found Sheilah sleeping then hearing another cough outside walked out with the torch and shone it around. There was a little fig tree outside with a meat safe underneath and, seeing two eyes in the torchlight she beat a hasty retreat inside.

 

Sheilah’s father was furious when he returned home and was told by his wife how she’d gone outside – “How long have you lived in Africa?” – he shouted and grabbing his 303 he went outside. He saw spoor – pug marks in the sandy soil – but no leopard. Next day all were on alert and eventually the leopard was tracked down.

 

The Rabid Jackal

On coming home from boarding school for holidays at about 12 years of age Sheilah was upset to learn that whilst she was at school her father had shot a dog she was fond of. Her father sat her down and quietly explained to her that there had been a rabid jackal haunting Mazabuka. He went on to explain the reasons for his action and that as head of the Research Station he had to set an example for others to follow.

 

Rabies was greatly feared. Treatment for rabies was very painful and unpleasant and consisted of injections given into the stomach but they had to be given quickly after the bite.

Sheilah remembers a Scotsman who got bitten by a rabid jackal. He’d had injections - went back to Scotland but died six months later. The injections had been given too late.

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The 1925 Royal Tour of Livingstone

 

A luxury train was purposely built for the Prince of Wales tour in southern Africa.

The train contained luxurious saloons, rooms and accoutrements and was painted white with gold lining and lettering.

(I wouldn’t have thought white a very suitable colour for the dust of Africa and a steam engine but no doubt there were plenty of hands available to wash and clean!)

 

It became known as the White Train.

 

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This photo shows the Prince having alighted on his arrival at Livingstone.

 

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Sheilah tells me the car with the Prince is driving down Livingstone’s main street past the Barotse Centre. The Barotse Centre is in fact a park where some years later Sheilah would play as a small child.

 

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This shows an official occasion and presentation with the Prince, the Governor Sir Herbert Stanley and his wife Lady Reniera Stanley (nee Cloete) – a celebrated beauty of that era.

 

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This shows polishing of the dance floor that was laid on the tennis court in the grounds of Government House. In the excellent book Vet in Africa Life on the Zambezi 1913-1933 John Smith reports that the dance was such a success and hit with the Prince that he asked for the clocks to be put back an hour to delay the midnight closing time!

 

 

FOOTNOTE - The Kaross

Sheilah tells me that her father had a magnificent kaross made of jackal skins that he had acquired from Harry Susman. He received a request that the kaross be loaned to Government House so it could be used for the Prince’s visit. He readily agreed. For years afterwards whenever the kaross was admired Sheilah’s dad used to smile and say:

“You never know about karosses – this one has had a royal bottom on it!”

 

PS I haven't done the best of jobs scanning but many thanks to Sheilah for so willingly and graciously loaning me her father's album for this purpose.

 

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@@Caracal Marvellous stuff, thank you both. And please do inform Sheila that the link to this article has been shared numerous times via social media meaning lots of people have seen it and appreciated it.

 

Matt

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