During the early years of the twentieth century the goldfields of southern Rhodesia, like those in California in the 1840s, attracted prospectors from all over the world but chiefly from the Commonwealth. The mine at Mahaka, abutting the border with South Africa, was one of the biggest and best known and its history is well documented among official papers. What is less well documented is the experience of the gold diggers from Britain who found themselves camping in hostile territory with no guarantee of success. Among an archive of poems and other material at Jot HQ is an entertaining account by a young woman named Jo, who wrote home to her family on June 26th1936 about her life as a prospector.
Dear Mummie, Uncle Bill, Coo, Tom, Basil, John, Jimmy, Ronnie and the Rest of You !!
It is Sundowner-time 1) , and I am writing this in our little thathed ( sic) hut on he hill in the Mahaka valley—to the tune of the un-ceasing Mill—crushing—crushing on and on, to give men GOLD!!! It sounds good, but oh! Wouldn’t it be lovely to have lots of it in our pockets—little pieces to jingle and say—“ Well—I have the means and the world is MINE—LETS GO !!! “
But I do not care two hoots at the moment, for my days have lately have been a dream; I suppose by now you have heard of our trekking into Lawley’s Concession 2)—into the wilds of wildest Rhodesia. We started off with the lorry loaded with fifteen black n—–, –picks, shovels, axes, guns, dynamite , windlass ( for going down the mines ), Mealie meal ( boys food)3) petrol, oil—oh, and a hundred and one things , then came Oliver’s Doge vanette—with Oliver driving—me and the head of the mining engineers , old Mr Taylor –at the back balanced Tozer—two other mining engineers—my personal boy ( who’s special job is ME ) –all on top of boxes of Gin, Whiskey, Brandy, Orange and Lemon crush, Beer, Stout and- oh, Ginger ale too—for the Brandy !! Also stacks of food –Guns & Ammunition—WHAT A PARTY !!! We had to make the road as we went along –coming to one empty river-bed, Oliver’s car gave up the ghost —we had to sit for over an hour in the boiling sun until by some stroke of luck someone touched a little gadget and off she started again. During that time Tozer was directing the gang of boys in road making in his best Kaffir—really he is a scream !! —but somehow seems to make the natives understand. He really is getting on splendidly and might have been an old Pioneer !! Continue reading