Dear Mum and Dad – Sesheke 19 January 1954

(Have you found me an 1/1,000,000)

Dear Mum and Dad

Thanks for your letter received today. You will know by now why I was so late writing, and having sent you that letter I now feel I can rise to a longer one.

You know time is roaring past like an express train six feet away – it’s so close then it’s gone. It doesn’t seem like six and a half months since I sailed from England – it is like yesterday. Perhaps it’s always like that here. John Alder used to amuse me (us) by saying The other day “or” just the other day – “when, John?” he’d reply “oh…about three years ago now” and perfectly seriously! That’s how it is – it ALL seems like yesterday. Perhaps it’s because we live so widely – our schemes spread over years, our journeys are often 100 miles at least in a day – and not a thought of, our tours may be a hundred miles away before we start. Speaking of tours, they always mean just so many “last days” which have knocked out of the month. Never 10 days, nooo, 10 days +0! If time flies so fast it’ll be 3 years and home without thinking – I hope so anyway!

You’re right I must write to May. Had a Christmas card. I’ve written to and had letters from Peter Hall, George and Tony Savage.

All thriving. Peter Shortly to set sail in a different kind of craft (incidentally, that’s a very good photo of Gill and he) Tony’s “having a bash” like Bob Bell. It’s good to have info from right inside – I must write Nick and get even more! Thanks for the cutting – I hope Bob does make it. He send me a card, to which I must reply before “the choice”

Looking back at your Christmas time letters I note Which and drawing have been showering presents on dear mamma as usual. Why does it happen to some people?! Also that decoration of the old homestead has made it look “cosy” – I don’t know when it didn’t. Toby Sugs sounds O.K. – Harry did tell me. Tell him from me I might have heard of the band – leader he mentions if only I could decipher the name. He seems to have had a typical Christmas/New Year (did you Harry?!) – as I see you all had. And Aunt Ruth’s cake wasn’t spoiled.

I don’t know where to put all my calenders ! John and Ailsa’s mother sent one, you did and there’s one from a local firm. There are sufficient in my office too!

What is Shesheke like? The river is at the bottom of my garden – very close indeed – The Zambezi. It’s quite a lovely spot. The banks are high – rather like Werheral Woods, only not so steep – it is in some places – with sand in place of rock. The sand is thank goodness much more of a soil than the newark variety and there’s even rock here and there!

I have a garden – but this is not the time of year for vegetables, though the flowers are O.K. – quite an effort poor Shelia Cowie put into them (did I tell you Jim Cowie went to Namibia in my stead?) The house is a big one – bungalow of course – with an immense lounge, a dining room, (cum verandah) and a v.large bedroom and two smaller, a large back verandah where at present my washing is hanging – it’s a useless spot really, 2 stores and a huge kitchen, bathroom and bucket W.C. !!

The place has 5 doors opening outside. I’ve shut off the lounge, turning the bedroom into one, because it got very hot in there from the way it faces – but now of course it’s been raining for 3 0r 4 days and I’m wearing a tie and pullover and sitting in front of a fire tonight. Not to worry. To help you I have drawn a sketch overleaf – so continue reading next page but one.

This is a two man station – the D.C and myself only. He Ian Eldridge – is married with a small son and daughter. They’re very pleasant people )wouldn’t it be hell if they weren’t) Over the river, no bridge, but paddle-barges. I’ve the Magistrate of the Caprivi Strip (Union) and Liz his wife and a Dr. Jameson and his wife – father downstream on the other side and the R.C Mission. Upstream about 4 miles and again on the other side is Katima Malilo, about 31 whites. Here there is a vehicle pontoon much in use as the Livingstone-Sesheke-Senanga-Mongu route of Zambezi River Transport passes across  it (ZRT motor transport partly Govt.) You might think life could be pretty lonely – but it isn’t – at the moment! I have more than enough work to do (I’ve just put away the 1953 Prison Return in despair, -what do they want to know!) and I’ve got to get this place really shipshape too. A hen-house – both my chickens (hens) are now laying. I’m wandering which of the cocks to keep! oh – lots of things!

Sesheke District – could include Wales and half of it again. African pop. about 35,000 European about 50-60. Does that sound wild and woolly enough?! I’m off on tour on Thursday, down to Murandi Kuta, a lesser lealui – i.e. the boss-boys hide out, and to do a tour of Mabumbu Silalo. This is the most densely pop. part of the lot – but very close villages, so shouldn’t take long! Down there is like the Bulgi Plain, I believe it’s 60 miles West.

I like this place – it’s been cleared so as to look very like the park of an England country house – well-spaced trees etc.

Au! I’m getting tired. Must be late. Look at those ridiculous photos – I printed Quater-Plate in large letters on the envelope I gave Robin, too.

Stand by for next time- and despite everything I did enjoy my Christmas, and even New Years Eve, mainly because then I almost forgot – it helped pull me through. Anyway, I’m fit and well and happy again, so don’t do any worrying.

Musiale hande ko – meaning stay well over there –

Love Brian

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Dear Mum and Dad – Sesheke 29 September 1954

Dear Mum and Dad

Just as Autumns gales blast England’s coast, summer is a- comin’ in darkest Sesheke. Not a day in the last ten has the mercury been below 95F at 1 p.m. AS I said last time – it’s getting warm. Nest month is known in N.R. as “suicide month”, though I must say that I found it exceedingly hot this time last year I never felt like succumbing to THAT craze!

October is like a long-drawn prelude to a thunderstorm – in fact that is just what it is!! My Bougainvillea is lovely – wish I had a colour photo of it. Am taking gardening a little more seriously and have written off for a hose pipe to replace cans! Lots of seedlings, but not in flower yet.

If all goes well I may leave something like a garden in the making when I’m next transferred. I have great plans for re-orientating the garden to suit the lounge now it’s useable. (You honestly wouldn’t believe this house till you saw it – it has just occurred to me to mention that this lounge is long —-30ft x 14ft wide) Sorry I didn’t tell you I passed the lower language exam – it was just before I went on tour, two tours ago I got to know. I didn’t get in for the higher – but I intend to take it AND pass it in April – I’ve that and a General Orders to do by then. With any luck I will also find time between April and August to swot law – I’d like to do everything my first tour, but very few can find the time and law is a big subject to tackle.

Tim is just now bothering me to assist him in murdering an old tennis ball. (readers, Tim is the dog) He stands 26” at the shoulder and is 57” from tip of nose to tip of tail, by the way.

It’s not cruel to walk him – he still has puppy fat – and besides his breed is used to the heat (more of less!).

Lusy and “Shanty” are O.K. too – the younger lives in the kitchen and is rarely allowed in the lounge. Presently he will have to be trained too.

They’re good company, though. Speaking of company. Beside John Lawrance, Eamon Donohue the Exec. Water engineer from Mangu came down twice recently.

There is a scheme to blast a way up to the Zambezi from the Buma to Katima because the clot who signed the Caprivi agreement put the rapid the S.A. side of the border, so we can’t land our goods there (rather we don’t want to).

No Space left. Hope the sun shines a bit – thanks for the letter ex Torquay.

Love Brian

P.S. Prints not arrived from photographer yet


Sent from Mukumwa Kumwa, Mabumbu, Sesheke – May 17th 1955

Dear Mum and Dad

I am at present on tour here having had only a couple of days at the station at the end of the previous tour. During that short break I got your letter, dad, for which many thanks. I hope the specialists report is favorable and the remedy of rest being of help. It is always disheartening to be ill, and it must be very much so when you have to stop “gadding” about and working and working as you have been accustomed, Mum but I repeat what I said last time, that it was about time you had a long holiday from all the worrying you used to do on our behalf, on behalf of institutes etc and so on. I have always thought it would be difficult to persuade you to take that holiday so please DO rest now, and don’t get tired of it and decide you MUST spring clean the upstairs rooms all of a sudden, for after all they don’t matter in comparison. Were I at home I would be pleased to do the said rooms myself, but as I’m not I’m hoping the enclosed chq will help towards having it done. Don’t resent the inactivity – but I know you will – and have a good holiday.

I still haven’t won the Rhodesian Sweep, so your trip out here can’t come off yet, but I’m keeping trying. you’d love the sea trip, I should think – I did, and I’m also looking forward tothe next one I’ll be making! It’s just over a year now, and I’m hoping my leave asked for for July will be approved, which will shorten the time considerably.

It’s cooler today – there’s been a strong and (to me) very pleasant breeze blowing, making the walking and working very much more palatable. It is, in fact, rather like a Blackpool day. Well,as I say, I’m on tour – in Mabumbu, the first area I toured in Shesheke in Jan 1954. This makes me feel quite a veteran – not that I’ve toured every area in the district yet, but I’ve still git the impression of having completed a circuit.

Now that the rains are over I’ve bought my camera out – and my radio. It’s difficult to keep ’em dry during the wet weather. Hence, I hope to have some snaps shortly to send back to you. Mike Boddy, the livestock officer, says he’ll look me up while I’m on this tour (he’s out himself at the moment) So I hope to get some photos of myself too!

My last tour, just completed,was up the length of the Njoko River to it’s junction with the Kwemba, then part of the upper Kwemba and Njoko Valley’s, and way out to the nor’west the Ibolelo Silalo on the Ibolelo and Smso streams which fall into the Lumbe River. It was a fairly good trip, and being fairly remote and in parts very sparsely populated, I saw quite a bit of game. This included reedbuck, impala and wildebeast, one of the later which I shot for meat.

I was rather loth to do this,as a matter of fact, for the heards were a fascinating sight – wildebeast run as if they were always on the point of turning a somersault or wished they had a vaulting horse handy,and are a very distinctive-looking species. However it was necessary to feed my entourage “relish” (i.e. meat and veg) being difficult to get up there,and the meat, believe me, was very good, it being a young bull.

Coming back during the night (our Njoko “road” is very sandy for 50% of the way and I wanted to conserve petrol by doing so) we saw several pairs of eyes ahead of us in the lights. We thought they were lion, as we saw the beasts sitting, and blew the horn as we approached to scare them off. They were scared all night !

For the space of several seconds the road was a nightmare of un-weilding shapes racing across from side to side – the “lion” turned out to be hyena, about half-a-doz of them, and I’d never seen one previously. Had I realized in time I’d have got out and shot a few, for though they’re cowards, they do sometimes and especially when in packs, attack a man (normally from behind)

The .303 I was carrying however didn’t seem to me sufficiently heavy, especially with military ammo, to tackle such a number of “lion” !

Part of that trip I spent prospecting for th line of the new road linking us with Senanga in that area (Lbebelo) by a bridge over the Lumbe. In doing so I added another river to the map,which gives one the feeling at least of having done something! – and thereby had to change the original projected route. I was also engaged on checking upon our road gangs and arranging for the re-construction of two bridges destroyed in the floods – we make them of tree trunks, some (forked ones) being bedded in the stream to get as piers. You’ll find examples in the odd field engineering book if you care to see what they look like.

That having been done, as Caesar says, I came roaring home to prepare for the audit, only to find he’d postponed his visit and plans all upset, so off out here to Mabamba, which is the south eastern corner of the District. Pity is I missed a “men only” tennis tournament last weekend. I’m not getting as much tennis as I’d like! Because of this the “ladder” tennis system now operating is a bit of a bind, seeing I can’t get over often. So as my first challenge I challenged Master Finaughty, who had got to the top, and is our best player, the idea being that if I beat him I’d be sitting pretty and if I didn’t there was nothing lost. I didn’t beat him – was in fact very surprised to get 5-7, – but had a very enjoyable set.

As to other things, while on the Njoko I listened to the Cup Final – the Magpies were a wee bit lucky by the sound of it – and I’ve been following the cricket. reference the South African cricket (?) Colenbrander is consoling himself with the thought that the G.B. Rugby Team is due over shortly.y. (i.e. it will be his turn to crow!)

The Aussies have been doing well – either England were even better than we realized or the West Indies aren’t so good as they need to be. Soccer again -England beaten by France – nothing so ridiculous.

Musical festivals were always great fun to me – and I’ve been reading all about this one. Why no photograph or proper criticism of Upperby W.I. I wouldn’t know – but despite the Press slip-up, the conductor is obviously to be congratulated on another first-class effort. (I note S.W’s crowd didn’t fare so well) My uncle Frank is still at it I see, and Albert Armstrong, – just at the moment I can’t remember seeing mention of Male Voice Choirs – how many? how good? I like nothing better than Male Voice Choirs singing with “express-ism” in a multitude of parts.

Now sitting down to dinner in the tent. I’m facing the front flaps, the table between me and the entrance. Behind me and the entrance. Behind is my camp bed (and mosquito net). the tent is 15′ square inside and 7′ high, but of course it doesn’t seem big because of the slope of the walls. It is never the less quite large!. It’s dark (6.30 only) and outside a large fire is burning to keep out the cold and anything else that wants to get in !

My dog Tom by the way, is turning out to be a hunter and also a good night-watchman. No “unauthorized person” can get into the house when he’s there, and in camp if there’s anything or anybody walking about at night he’s up and barking at once – rushing out too. He sleeps all right, but somehow is alr to wake up, fully, at the slightest sound or scent, a thing which constantly amazes me.

May 18th

Up before dawn, get warm at the fire, and write this as breakfast is got ready. i like to get up early in order to get most of the days work behind me before the day’s heat gets to work on me. just now there are clouds and a breeze as yesterday so I may be lucky.

Heat while walking and working irritates, magnifies other little irritants, saps ones strength and is general a nuisance. the great thing is to keep ones temper in spite of it all.

Time now for breakfast, so I’ll finish this letter now. Shortly I’ll hear the news at 0430 GMT (6.30am) and be on my way, so till next time.


All my Love, BriantentMusekese-Lodge-Zambia-Campsite303

Sesheke to Upperby March 31st 1955

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for your letters, for which I have waited before writing. Before leaving the subject, Dad, I want to say that it was not the fact of responsibility without authority, for I did have authority and wasn’t worried about the consequences of my actions reacting on those “up top” – no, the thing was sheer pressure of work, a good deal of which was to me, breaking new ground, and which meant I was working long hours and my brain was steaming along at an incredible rate, so much so that I was findning it difficult to sleep for that my brain didn’t seem to want to stop thinking!

Consequence of that of course, was eventually to cause somewhat strain and tiredness. BUT the only thing I regret is the anxiety to which you were put. In experience etc, I reckon to have advanced years since September, and that is all to the good.

The R.C has been here for the past three days looking at us, the Station, and the Murandi Kata which has been giving signs of slack admin. Both of us on best behaviour during office hours! He has been most pleasant really. I told him that I had a demi official notice that I’d be welcome at the Livingstone Centenary Regatta, and therefore I’d like up to a months leave about that time. When I said I’d have done two years by then he didn’t raise any objections, so I’m going to put in for it officially and hope the “**exigencies of the service” don’t stop me. (I gather the R>C is still trying to get a bloke to fill our accountant vacancy)

Christmas – I arrived back off tour evening of rd by barge up-river from Mwandi and Christmas was spent with the Sherrads and was O.K.

Your cake was very good and lasted quite a time, being so wonderfully rich that visitors did not want more than one hunk each! (I’m not used to rich food now either)

I’ll be writing Auntie Ruth and Jenny and Aunt Mary, for both of whose presents with much thanks.

Now it’s nearly Easter and at that time I’ll be in Mangu sitting Higher *Lozi.

*** Floreat Cantabrigia – the more the merrier.

Love Brian

* Lozi, also known as siLozi and Rozi, is a Bantu language of the Niger–Congo language family within the Sotho languages branch of Zone S (S.30), that is spoken by the Lozi people, primarily in southwestern Zambia and in surrounding countries.

** exigencies.


exigent state or character; urgency.


Usually, exigencies. the need, demand, or requirement intrinsic to a circumstance, condition, etc.:

the exigencies of city life.


a case or situation that demands prompt action or remedy; emergencies
***  Floreat Cantabrigia is Latin and translated as  Blooms Cambridge

Sesheke March 8th 1955

Dear Mum and Dad

I am very very sorry indeed that I have let so long go by without writing. I’m going to say why first, and then intend to write you a long letter next week.

It seems to me that without properly realising it I have been letting the work get me down – not that I haven’t been doing the work, I have, that’s what seems to me the trouble, for some time, naturally, I have been the only bloke here who knows the way it works (at Sesheke) though, because I haven’t been in the Service long enough, I also naturally, don’t know all the ropes. Consequence is I’ve been working away but often having to ferret out the ways to do things and so on, and having had to keep at it (I was on tour from 13-23 Dec.) Coming back besides everything else had Annual reports and Estimates, and Sherrard naturally couldn’t do that on his own not knowing the place.

Well anyway, I can see now that I’ve been getting back from the office often feeling, so that all I cared to do was eat and sleep and take my mind off the blessed office that way.

Another thing, I couldn’t talk to anyone about that – and only tell you now because you’re due an explanation ( please remember that). Not talking wouldn’t help I can see that.

However, having got over the worst of the year and ‘S now knowing a lot more than he did, I can see, particularly if I don’t  “worry” myself, that I’ll be O.K from hereon in.

What really annoys me that I once knew myself to be a kind of “worrying” character I thought I’d got over that years ago. I’ve never forgotten a time going to somewhere with A.Y by train, when near the station I tried to get the others to hurry and Nan (it was so long ago) said “there’s no hurry, you worry to much!” Ever since I have prided myself that I got over it !

Anyway, look at it this way, I have put in for the higher Lozi exam in April. I’m going on tour so a few days away from the office (where I can study) and after that I am putting in for leave. I couldn’t do that before because it probably wouldn’t have been granted and (b) would have been unfair to S. to go off for a month on his arrival.

I’ve had time to pull up and take stock ‘cos I’m recuperating after a mild fever attack (**paludrine evidently ISN’T 100%) I’ll be writing again as I’m very glad to get this off my chest.

With All my love


** Paludrine tablets contain the active ingredient proguanil hydrochloride, which is an antimalarial medicine. It is used to prevent malaria.

Sesheke June 1st 1955

Dear Mum and Dad

Pleased to have your letter, Mum, and to hear you are progressing well. Ref the bank – I sent £50 the day I got your first note about it; and the bank here remitted it, (I have the note). It may be that it has gone by sea-mail (the form 9a says “mail transfer”)
However, it was all attended to long since, so not to worry. Had a good tour – plenty of duck, and very good eating they are ! My shotgun is only a cheap one, but it works, and kept me and the messengers and sometimes the carriers well supplied.

Unfortunately, there is going to be a famine in that part of the district this year, owing to abnormally heavy rains which fell mostly in one month, causing the “gardens” (i.e fields) to be flooded. We will have to organise intensified buying in luckier parts (we already buy) and perhaps get some in from Livingstone.

Rain is very abnormal – it has actually rained at night for the last two nights – not done so before in the memory of the head clerk.

1st May is usually taken as the end of the rains, though sometimes a little comes just after.

We are a bit worried about our bricks, of which we now have another 30,000 on the ground. Even if they don’t spoil, they can’t be stacked until they’re dry, and we need them shortly.

The Auditor is due next week, so shall be very busy with the Native Treasury getting things ready. The great thing is to keep the cash balance in the Boma Safe to a minimum – this is because he always asks on arrival “how much cash” and is always relieved to find he hasn’t much to count. Thus one starts on the rights foot !

I hope to have it down to £200 when he arrives, mostly notes !

I’m on leave on 30th. First 12 days in Livingstone, then Bulawayo and am looking forward to it.

Continue to address letters here – they’ll be forwarded.

All my love