Life in a Rhodesian Gold Mine in the 1930s (part 2)

‘…One morning we found we had nothing for breakfast—so Oliver had a bright idea—he tied some dynamite to stones—and then complete with boys—a basin and guns ( for shooting obstreperous crocodiles ) we waded half a mile up the River to a deep pool—sometimes the water coming up to our necks but others just mud and sand!! When we got there Dowie and I were posted behind rocks with guns ready for crocs—and the boys damned the river at one end—and Tozer and Ove got ready to dive in for dead fish—Oliver then threw in his dynamite bombs—bang !!—bang!!—bang!!—But no white tummies of dead fish floated —but after a while we began to wade in –and behold—there were lots of Tiger fishes swimming lazily about as if bedrugged–so Oliver pushed his bowl under them and threw them  onto the rocks—Oh, it was funny, more often than not he fell flat on his face in the mud and water –we must have looked funny sights in wet khaki trousers and the men in dripping shirts —I had a green handkerchief round my topand all the colour came off onto my skin and it wouldn’t even come off with soap and scrubbing brush—so now I am half green !! However, we got five fish and swam our way back to camp and breakfast –by that time it was 11 A.M. So we went without lunch that day!! Oliver and I called each other Dumpledum and Dumpledee because every morning we used to tell each other stories about the nonsence (sic)  land of milk and honey !! And the Three Bears! But in spite of our unconventionality —Oliver insisted on us sticking to the old code of writing “ bread and butter “ letters—So this is my letter to him : written this morning from here . We arrived back last night :–

TO Dumpledum

Dump Mine

Dump ‘ all



(There follows 35 lines of humorous doggerel beginning “ OH ! Dumpledum what did I do ? )….


…’WELL —-WELL—-WELL—we do not always play in this valley—for the men DO work——and thousands of pounds (£!) are at stake—I even take samples of Reef and pan them myself—but today another joy was in store, or I should say, “stable” , for me—I now own a real LIVE RACE HORSE—he only cost £15-0-0, ( which I borrowed and am hoping to pay back when I hear from my Bank-manager)”TURN-ABOUT is his name—he is well known all over Rhodesia and has won lots of races—he is 16-2 in height and a lovely bay—9 years old—–at the moment he is rather sore on his pins because to get here he had to walk 180 miles and had no shoes on—But wait for a weak (sic) or so and there will be no holding him  and Oliver’s newly made aerodrome ( which has not bee passed by the government ) will make a splendid gallop ! Well, my dears I think this letter is about long enough—I ought to pass it on to my secretary to type out ; for I hear from Tozer that you often could not read most of my letters, so you burnt the page and just guessed it !! Oh wait a moment, I have a poem I want you to read too—a real one—a serious one—but don’t cry—for I always laugh with the world !!  




O’er the dark thawns (sic) I see the silver moon

And in the west, all tremulous a star;

And soothing sweet I hear the mellow tune

Of Tom—Toms jangled in the veld afar


Quite quietly, for my daily race is done,

I stand sad exile, at my mud-thathed (sic) door,

And send my LOVE ETERNAL with the sun—

That goes to gild the Land I’ll see no more.


The grave gaunt trees imprison my sad gaze,

All still the sky and darkling drearily;

I feel the chilly breath of dear dead days

Come sifting through the blue-gums earily (sic).


Oh ! How my HOME must be in bloom;

This grass roof stirs as with ancient pain;

I see my old friends from out the gloom

Who wait and wait my tender smile in vain


But now my hands like moonlight brush the trees

With velvet grace, melodious delight;

And a sad refrain from overseas

Goes sobbing on the bosom of the night


And now I sing ( O singer in he gloom ,

Voicing a sorrow I can ne’er express,

Here in the Farness where we few have room

Unshamed to show our LOVE and tenderness.


My will echo, till it beats no more

That song of sadness and of Motherland

And streatch (sic) in deathless LOVE to England’s shore,

Some day she’ll hearken and she’ll understand.)


I see a sea of faces like a dream; I see myself a qeen ( sic)  of song once more

I see lips part in rapture, eyes agleam;

I sing as never once I sang before.


I sing a wild, sweet song that throbs with pain,

The added pain of LIFE that transcends art,

A song of HOME a deep celestial strain

THE glorious swan-song of a broken heart.




I cease—I am still as if to pray

There is no sound, the stars are all alight

Only ME who struggles on my way—

Only the vagrant sobbing in the night.


And now I’ll finish with a word of cheer

To all of you—my Dears—so Dear—

I’ll lift my Dinkie—dinks and toast-

To those I LOVE —the best in all the world I BOAST !!





P.S. Can’t help it—but really I am just the same as ever !

Tozer nearly got killed this morning by a broken iron cable—but he is still kicking a round and sends his love to all. Oh ! I ( was fined 30/- to-day for exceeding the speed limit in Salisbury a month ago !!

P.P.S. This afternoon when sun bathing in my grass shelter a deadly ( python) snake crept up to me—I shouted to OVE and he came and shot its head off !!


  1. M. Healey






One thought on “Life in a Rhodesian Gold Mine in the 1930s (part 2)

  1. Roger

    “we waded half a mile up the River to a deep pool—sometimes the water coming up to our necks…”
    They might well have acquired some very nasty aquatic parasites doing that. I can’t help thinking it would have served them right if they did.


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