Gwebi College of Agriculture logo Gwebi College of Agriculture address

News about former students

Courses 1 to 5

Peter Pilcher (Course 1)
Cecil Peter Edward Pilcher came from the Bulawayo side of the country. After Plumtree school, he had a spell in the Irrigation department then did some work for Boss Lilford. Peter would quote one of Boss’s sayings 'You can always make more money, but you can never make more time!'
Peter started at Gwebi with Mike Bailey and others who also became great friends, on the first course in February 1950. At college he won the Stewarts and Lloyds Prize for Practical Engineering and following up from that, after graduating at Gwebi, he went to Writtle in the UK to the Essex Institute of Agriculture and gained a diploma in Agricultural Engineering and became a member of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers, UK. He came back and moved around a bit, from Licatera Estates - miserable pay, then Trelawney research station as engineer in charge of equipment for about 18 months. Then as a farm manager for Bob Reynolds at Banket, then Mtoko first managing under Bob Chalmers and then George Lindsay.
Then encouraged by George, plus a bonus of new tractor, he applied for and was allocated a Crown land farm, North West of Karoi, which he named Laughing Hills. There he set up in 1962, next to his great friend Mike Bailey from his course one who had started there in 1960. The small group of enthusiastic young farmers became a wonderful bunch of neighbours.
40 years later after a bush war, plus many trials and tribulations, cheerful children, some great years and a few tough ones, he had to leave the farm, due to a very poorly thought out land grab that could have been done so much better if all Zimbabweans were taken into account and wisdom had prevailed but it affected Zimbabwe so badly. Still does.
Peter kept in contact with a few of his Course 1 mates that were around, writing to Peter Hofmeyer in Cape Town. Mike Bailey was lost in about 1982 to cancer.
Peter passed away, after a long battle with illness, on 25th March 2019, leaving behind his wife, Frances; three out of four children - Grant, (Cherylyn), Coralee and Angus; and four grandchildren.
Contributed by Grant Pilcher, his son.

Ben Reed (Course 1)
Benjamin Charles Alexander Reed was born at his parent’s home on the 18th September, Ben and Joan Reed from Course 1 at Gwebi College of Agriculture1931 at Mapunga where Bindura is now located. He was the oldest of the family of five sons, Phillip, John, William (Bill) and Frank.
For junior school Ben attended the Dominican Convent in Salisbury followed by a short tenure at a private school in South Africa before enrolling at St. George’s College also in Salisbury for his senior schooling.
At the age of nineteen Ben enrolled with Course 1 at Gwebi Agricultural College and on graduating two years later he was offered an opportunity, probably the Nuffield Scholarship, facilitated by Dr. Fielding the Principal of Gwebi, in recognition of his achievements during Course 1, to go to America to learn about farming practices in the USA. Sadly he was not able to take up this opportunity as he needed to return home to support the family farm, Melfort, in Bindura.
Ben continued to farm Melfort with his mother and brothers until he moved onto his own farm next door, Rapids Farm, which was also on the Mount Darwin Road, on the left just before the Mount Darwin bridge. On Rapids Ben mainly grew cotton and he also did some wheat, maize and tobacco in his early farming years but no livestock. Beb Reed in UK Course 1 at Gwebi College of Agriculture
Fortuitously Ben sold Rapids Farm to his brother Bill after Zimbabwe’s independence but prior to the land invasions which devastated the country’s agricultural industry. Tragically Bill subsequently went on to lose all his farms (Melfort, Rapids, Greenhill and Claverhill) and a very successful butchery, in the land invasions. These were lost at the end of 2003.
Ben was married firstly to Kathleen Joy nee Stroud from England. Joy had two children from a prior marriage who were in their young teens/early adulthood when Ben and Joy married: Keith and Deidre Walker. Joy passed away in 1989. Ben then married Joan Christian nee Fynes-Clinton. Joan also had children from a prior marriage, all were adults when Ben and Joan married. In August 2009 Ben and his second wife, Joan moved to Banbury, UK where Joan passed away in 2010.
Ben was an extremely good lawn bowls player wining many competitions and representing Bindura at many competitions across Zimbabwe. He was also an avid reader enjoying a variety of genres that included fiction as well as history texts. Ben enjoyed music and to the very end was a very social and gregarious person, always very interested in those around him and what they were doing. Ben, in his early years, was also well known for his many escapades at the pub and car crashes or near misses on the way home from the Kimberley Reef Hotel in Bindura. Many a family story recounted how his mother would wake one of her sons up to go see if it was Ben on the Mount Darwin Road if they heard a bang in the middle of the night and saw headlights shining up into the sky!
Sadly Ben passed away on 19th November 2021 after a very unexpected and extremely bad fall.
Contributions from the extended Reed family, Alex Reed, Jill Millar and Paula Musekiwa.

Clive Style (Course 1)
George Style established Buffalo Range Ranch in 1955. In 1960 he set aside 8,000 hectares along the Chiredzi River for wildlife as heavy use along the river for watering Map of Buffalo Range Ranch cattle and wildlife areaslivestock had degraded it. The 12,000 hectares away from the river was developed for livestock by fencing and the establishment of water points. George Style experimented with wildlife as much as a hobby as for commercial reasons. Wildlife browsers like eland, kudu, and impala thrived and the sensitive grazing species like sable, roan, and Lichtenstein's hartebeest which had been displaced by cattle began to recover in number. Impala were culled to be sold through his butcheries and mini-safaris were initiated in the early 1970s with foreign hunting clients in a well-appointed hunting camp. George and his son, Clive, encouraged the use of their ranch for comparative research. Detailed vegetation transects showed that cattle grazing damaged perennial grasses and the soil surface under continuous high stocking rates. The use of wildlife enabled the range to slowly recover next to the river. This rare data set was invaluable in determining savannah sustainability.
George retired to Chisipite, Salisbury and also “bright lighted” in homesteads in the sharp end. Clive took over as Managing Director of Buffalo Range Safaris and had been joined by his brother Rodney.
Clive passed away in 2003 and his sons, Barry and Rob - who had become professional hunters - took over.

Bundu Waller (Course 1)
Noel "Bundu" Waller is renowned as an efficient and neat farmer in Centenary and hosted many tours from Gwebi College over the years. in 1974 Noel established the record after 100 appearances for Mashonalnd Country Districts Cricket XI.
Bundu was a spotter for Wally Barton in the Police Reserve Air Wing until he had clocked up 475 hours then became a PRAW pilot in his own right.
His son Andy - another "Bundu" - played in 2 tests and 39 One Day Internationals for the national side. His grandson Malcolm was a middle order batsman and offspinner for Zimbabwe.

"Although the bleeding was spectacular..." Centenary Club.
John Shaw shares a delightful story, "I knew Bundu Waller (Course 1) and Jane when I worked at Centenary for Norman Price. I remember, one evening, at the Centenary Club, we were all sitting on the veranda, having a quiet drink. There were children playing and riding their bicycles around the place, as the sun set. One of the Waller girls, I think her name was Susan, came rushing on her bike directly up to the veranda steps. She shot over the handle-bars and crashed through the plate glass door. There was glass everywhere and much blood.  Without stirring from her chair, Jane said, “Susan, don’t leave your bicycle there, someone might trip over it”. The bicycle was retrieved and parked in a safe place, then, without further ado, Jane took her daughter in hand and tended her wounds. I have often thought what a wonderful way to deal with a tricky situation. Jane’s remark took all the tension out of it. Although the bleeding was spectacular, Susan didn’t suffer any serious harm, but it was a memorable occasion."
Written by John Shaw (Course 6) for Colin Lowe (Course 16).

Vale Guy Montague Hilton-Barber (Course 2)
Guy Montague Hilton-Barber, formerly of Barberton Ranch in the Bubiana Conservancy passed away in 2018 at the age of 85.
Guy was born in Grahamstown in 1932 from 1820 Settlers. His father moved to Rhodesia in 1938 where he was educated at R.E.P.S. and Plumtree Schools.
He was an avid sportsman playing cricket and hockey for Matabeleland Schools. He then played cricket for Nuffield Schools and later for Rhodesia, and for the South African Country Districts side. He also captained Rhodesian Country Districts.
On leaving school he went to Gwebi Agricultural College and then worked on the Matopos Research Station, where he met Moira in 1956. He and Neil Purdon received Nuffield farming scholarships in 1956, and went overseas.
Guy married Moira in 1960 and he started farming in the Filabusi farming area with his father. He received a Crown Land farm in West Nicholson in 1961, where he and Moira began building their life on “Atherstone”.
He was chairman of the Cattle Producers Association also Vice chairman of the CFU, declining chairmanship. He was Matabeleland cattle representative for the CFU.
He introduced Charolais cattle to Rhodesia, bred Tuli, Charolaise, and Charbray registered herds. Showed cattle at Agricultural Shows in Bulawayo, Gwanda and Gwelo, receiving many trophies.
He was a pilot for 40 years, a Matabele linguist, a great humourist and loved by workers and colleagues alike.
He and Moira left Zimbabwe in 2004, driven out by ill health and invaders. He came back to his roots in the Eastern Cape to Settlers Park, Port Alfred.
His three sons Myles, Craig, and Grant, his daughter Vanessa, his seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren and Moira say farewell to a greatly loved patriarch and husband after marriage for 58 wonderful years.
Guy was a very well-known and much liked personality in our agricultural industry who was extremely generous with his time spending many years serving on numerous committees in a number of positions. It is people like him that played such a huge and important part in developing our growing industry at the time and his incredible work has left a huge legacy, which we still feel the benefit of today in a large number of fields. He was also a very solid supporter of the CFU.
Tragically the conservancy he helped develop over a number of years, restocking it with an incredible number of wildlife species, including many of the endangered species, fell victim to the brutal slaughter, which preceded the violent occupation of the properties within the beautiful conservancy. As much as he and others lobbied hard and appealed far and wide, doing everything they could, the slaughter and deforestation of their sensitive habitat was unstoppable. After this emotional loss he and Moira moved to Port Alfred.
Guy will be missed by so many people but most certainly never forgotten.
Colin Lowe and Commercial Farmers Union.

Stan Penny (Course 2).
Stan enrolled at 16 years of age where he "surprised everyone, including myself by graduating, and also winning the Tour essay competition and Friesland judging award". After farming in the Plumtree district, he emmigrated to Canada in 1964 with his wife Eyleen (née Ashworth) and 3 children, all under 6 years.
Stan worked as departmental store manager with a large retail organization and followed this up with a career in real estate where he was owner of two agencies and then National Training Director for a franchise organization. Presently he is a Business Consultant and Corporate Coach.

Vale John Pigott (Course 2).
John was a food production professional. He went to Plumtree School and graduated with a Bachelor in Education after obtaing his diploma at Gwebi with Course 2.
Anne, John's widow, told Gavin the sad news that John passed away suddenly from a heart attack in Southport, South Coast, KZN, South Africa in early 2017.
Gavin James (C15) informed Colin Lowe and LinkedIn.

Neil Purdon (Course 2)
There were three Purdon brothers - Donald, Neil and Tom. Donald and Neil have since passed away. Neil was educated at Neil Purdon from the second course at Gwebi College of AgricultureUmtali School, followed by senior school at Plumtree. He did extremely well, both academically and on the sports field. He was also head of Milner House, Deputy Head of School in 1950 and Captain of Rugby for the 1st XV at Plumtree. He also played for the Karoi Rugby Club. It is not known where he did his pre-Gwebi training but after Gwebi, graduating with C2 in 1952, along with winning the Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry, he worked for Dallas Kirkman (father to Keith) at Donnington Farm, Norton. Neil then he went to Windswept Farm in Old Umtali, where he farmed with his parents, Donald and Irene. In 1959, he was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship, where he had a memorable overseas trip with Guy Hilton-Barber.
In 1961, he was allocated a farm in the Tengwe Block, under the Government Tennant Farming Scheme, where he was instrumental in this area's inception, along with nine other farmers - Colin Bray, Peter Granville, Dick Harris, Colin Turner, Ronnie Palmer, Nigel Loney, Derek Perkins, Wilf Letcher and John Daneal. He began farming in Tengwe in 1962, clearing land from virgin bush and establishing Meidon farm. He married Zillah Meikle in May 1962 and they had three children - Nicola, Guy and Debbie. The farm name was derived from the Meikle/Purdon surnames. Neil Purdon agronomist for cut flowers was Course 2 at Gwebi College of Agriculture
He was passionate about conservation and was actively involved with the local I.C.A. in the area. In 1963, he enlisted with the BSAP Reserve and served with PATU in the Karoi area from 1963 until April 1980. Neil was a skilled stockman particularly with cattle and sheep and he also grew a variety of crops, which included tobacco, maize, cotton, soya beans, groundnuts and sunflowers. He was Soya Bean Grower of the year in 1967. Meidon Farm was sold to his neighbour, Colin Bray in 1983. Neil had previously purchased a farm in Burma Valley in the Eastern Districts on the Mozambique border in 1975 where he grew burley tobacco and bananas. The total farm size was about 1200 hectares, with not too much arable land. The family never got to live on the farm as most of it had been 'liberated' by the state. Approximately 20 hectares of the farm remains - this is being used for the production of bananas.
In December 1982, the family emigrated to Greytown in the Natal Midlands, in South Africa, to pursue a mixed farming venture. Four years later, in 1986, Neil and Zillah returned to Zimbabwe, where Neil was employed by Tabex as an agronomist for small scale tobacco growers. Tabex then diversified into the fresh cut flower industry - the company was known as Tabex Flowers, where Neil was instrumental in the expansion of the flower industry. In 1988, he was offered a position with Flora Marketing as a technical director, which involved providing agronomic advice to some 70 flower growers countrywide. He continued with Flora Marketing for approximately 20 years, until his untimely death on 8th October 2008.
Thanks to Neil’s son, Guy, for this biography, and Dave Mason.

Rex Tattersfield (Course 2).
Joseph Rex Tattersfield was born in 1932 in Ontario, Canada.
Rex Tattersfield Course 2 and Lecturer from Gwebi College of Agriculture and experienced oilseed breederHe obtained a Diploma in Agriculture from Gwebi Agricultural College, Zimbabwe in 1952 and a BSc (cum laude) degree in agriculture from the University of Natal, South Africa, in 1955.
Between 1956 and 1982, Rex was employed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Zimbabwe, as follows:
Gwebi Agricultural College as Lecturer from 1956 to 1961.
Grasslands Research Station as Agronomist from 1961 to 1963
Crop Breeding Institute as Leader, Oilseeds Breeding Team, from 1963 to 1982.
He was employed by Seed Co Ltd between 1983 and 2003 as Head of Research from 1983 to 1993 and then as Senior Plant Breeder from 1993 to 2003.
During his career he has been involved in research in the following fields:
In 1967 he spent 3 months at the Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge, U.K, studying breeding methods with special reference to self-pollinated crops.
In 1976 he spent 1 month in southern Brazil studying soybean research.
In 1984 he visited the United States of America for 1 month to attend the World Research Conference and visited various soybean research organizations in both the southern and northern United States of America. In 1988 he spent 2 weeks in Denmark and United Kingdom studying Plant Breeding and Seed Production.
In 1994 he visited Thailand for 2 weeks to attend World Soybean Research Conference.
In 2001 he spent 1 week in Edinburgh, Scotland, attending the XV1th Eucarpia Congress on “Plant Breeding Sustaining the future"
He and his wife Sheila made a very important contribution to the oilseed industry and the staff at Rattray Arnold Research Station are continuing this legacy because of their enthusiasm and communication skills during those days. That the Soyabean industry grew up in the southern portion of Africa to the vast industry that it comprises now is attributable to Rex. The deficit in the provision of protein in so many parts of Africa would have been many degrees worse if we still had to depend on fish to supply protein for both stockfeed and human consumption. Rex’s work on this crop was relentless and highly successful. Under his guidance yields rose from less than one tonne to the hectare to a level where four tonnes was achieved and five was becoming possible. After retiring he was in demand in Southern Africa as a consultant soybean breeder and was awarded a Gold Medal by the International Soybean Association for his contribution as a breeder. Despite failing health during a long battle with cancer, he continued to respond to enquiries that came his way.
Sadly, Rex finally succumbed in Cape Town in 2017.
Contributions from Southern African Plant Breeders' Association, Dr Tony Donovan, Harwick Hale and Mike Caulfield

Ian Taylor (Course 3).
Ian was awarded a Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry on graduation, and remained in Zimbabwe after Gwebi.
Peter Whittall through Ken MacLachlan

Arnie O. Alcock (Course 4).
Arnie was awarded the Johnson Prize for the Engineering Essay and a Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry. After Gwebi, he worked for Reg Morkel on Ceres Estate at Shamva for 4 years. In 1958 moved to a maize farm owned by Rijk Fischer and married Alexina Milne who was from Scotland. They had two children - Owen in 1961 and Bonnie in 1963.
Arnie was awarded state land in 1971 at Umvuma but it needed to be developed. The seasons were good and the cattle did well so Arnie bought an adjoining ranch.
In 1983 he married Denise and they lived on Bembezaan Ranch. In 2007, when he had lost 90% of the ranch they moved to Gwelo. They had a house built in Chintsa East near East London which is a retirement area and holiday resort with a magnificent beach and moved there in March 2008. Tragically Denise passed away from cancer in 2010 some five years after diagnosis.
Arnie married Jenny who had been a school teacher and has four adult children. He finds the people of the Eastern Cape to be very friendly and easy going and is enjoying woodwork.
Arnie Alcock through Ken MacLachlan and Colin Lowe

Arthur J Cunningham (Course 4).
Arthur graduated and was awarded the Lilford Shield for the best second year in Practical and had won the Friesland Cup for livestock judging in his first year.
He was living near Bulawayo after graduating.
Last contact with Arthur was when he was living near Johannesburg.
Arnie Alcock through Ken MacLachlan.

Robin W. Day (Course 4).
Rob is from farmer pioneer ancestors and his father was in Namibia and then East Africa during WWI. Once again he was in East Africa during WWII but was invalided in 1943 and returned to the farm. Rob is the younger brother of Anne, who married John Shaw (Course 6), and they boarded at Umtali School. Rob and John were best friends at school at Umtali. and attended Gwebi in 1952 after school. Rob's very good friend from Gwebi was Arnie Alcock.
Anne relates: "My father pioneered grape growing in Rhodesia and ultimately had over 10,000 vines the main variety being from cuttings brought in by the pioneers. As the variety was unknown it was eventually named the Forest Hill variety which was the name of the farm near Rusape on the Inyanga road bordering the Makoni TTL. Dad was a mixed farmer as there was only 20% arable land on the farm."
Rob worked with his father and they pioneered grape-growing, tobacco and fruit from the 1920s to 1970s on sandy soils. He was innovative and a highly respected farmer who was always pleased to impart his knowledge to anyone who showed an interest in agriculture, wildlife and the environment.
He passed away in Johannesburg in 2015.
John Petheram, 8th July, 2015 and Anne Shaw, 7th November 2017.

J Doug Fuller (Course 4).
Doug was awarded the Acton Trophy for the genetics essay competition. He was the best man to Ken. Doug was married and had two sons but passed away from cancer some time ago.
Ken MacLachlan

George T. Horton (Course 4)
George went to junior school together with Ken MacLachlan (C4) at Milton Junior School, Bulawayo and then went on to the senior school while Ken attended Bulawayo Tech.
They met up again on Course 4 at Gwebi where George was Dux Student in his second year and received the Central African Fertilizers Prize for the best first year and also the Central African Fertilizers Scholarship for 1953. He graduated with a distinction in Animal Husbandry and many other awards.
Because of these wonderful results, his father and owner of Lion Kop Ranch close to Kalomo in Zambia, rewarded him with an elephant hunt in the nearby hunting area. Sadly George was killed only a few weeks after graduation on the 10th September, 1954 by the elephant he was hunting and so ended the life of what undoubtedly would have been one of the most prominent cattle ranchers in Zambia.
George’s father paid tribute to his son’s memory by erecting the squash court at Gwebi.
Colin Lowe and Ken MacLachlan.

Angus M Loggie (Course 4).
Angus attended St Andrews in South Africe with Peter Whittall and they both enrolled at Gwebi in the same year. Angus graduated with a Distinction in Field Husbandry and was awarded the Rhomil Shield for the best all round student at Poultry Husbandry and a Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry.
Angus suffered from asthma and passed away a long time ago.
Ken MacLachlan

Ken W. MacLachlan (Course 4).
Born in Bulawayo, Ken attended Whitestone briefly in 1942. After that he went to Milton Junior School and followed this up by going to Bulawayo Technical School.View beyond swimming pool at Banada do Sol in Madeira, Portugal owned by Ken MacLachlan Gwebi College of Agriculture He graduated with a diploma from Gwebi in 1954 with a distinctioin in Engineering and the award of The Mundy Cup for the Planning Essay competition, the Brockhouse Prize for runner-up in the Engineering Essay and a Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry,
Ken farmed for a few years. This included working on Section 5 of Frogmore Estate for Mike Glennie who was married to Ken Sheriffs’ (C4) sister Phoebe. After 10 years working with Rhodesia Railways he left for South Africa. “My wife and I had 33 great years in Cape Town, where I worked as MD for a clothing company Sweet Orr and Lybro, making overalls for the nation and men’s jeans for Woolworth’s.” Ken worked for a few years at the textile firm Merited.
He had visited Madeira 15 years previously and after retiring and selling up in Cape Town, he bought land in Madeira. His son is living in Maine and has just turned 60 and his daughter Heather is living with Ken and his wife. “We started our little business here when I was 80 about 3 years ago, having sold up in St James, and then used the money to build 3 cottages here. Two are for tourists as self-catering cottages.” There are plans for expansion.
Ken MacLachlan

Ken S Sheriffs (Course 4).
Ken graduated in 1954 and was awarded the Romyn Cup for Livestock Judging and a Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry. He married Moira and they were farming on Tilford Road, Norton. Moira passed away recently.
Peter Whittall through Ken MacLachlan

Peter Charlton Whittall (Course 4).
Peter attended St Andrews in South Africa. Ken kept in contact with Peter as Peter was his son’s godfather. Peter remained in Salisbury after graduating but passed away in December 2016 from cancer of the lymph nodes and the bladder. He is survived by his wife and seven grandchildren.
Ken MacLachlan

John Browning (Course 5)
John was born in 1936 and brought up on the Ridge Farm, in Bindura. He was sent off to school at an early age to Chisipite Primary School, who had a handful of boys in those days, and then on to St Albert’s School, in Emerald Hill, Salisbury until he was old enough to go to Ruzawi School. Then on to St Andrew’s School in Grahamstown where, as a very academic student, he accelerated through school. He then attended Gwebi Agricultural College with Course 5 in 1953 for two years where upon graduating he was awarded the “Farmers Weekly” Medal and the Rawson Shield for the best all-round Student of the Second Year, the Lord Acton Cup for the Genetics Essay; and a Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry.
John then went on to Cirencester Agricultural College, now known as the Royal Agricultural University in the UK, for a year after which he traveled and worked in the USA before returning to Zimbabwe to work and develop Benridge Farm, in Bindura for the next forty years. Benridge was originally bought by his step grand-father, a Mr Appleby in 1913. John became a very successful Zimbabwean farmer with a diverse agricultural approach.
John had many interests in his life. In particular he had a passion for wildlife and conservation, and was a keen hunter, fisherman and bird watcher too. He was a natural sportsman, but his main sport was polo, at which he excelled. He represented Zimbabwe several times.
He contributed to charitable organizations as a keen member of the Lions Club of Bindura, and was very involved in the old people’s home, the Mazowe Valley Trust until his dying day.
He lost Benridge in 2002, and moved into Harare, where he continued working until the end of Sept 2021. John passed away on the 24th November, 2021 in his home in Harare after a relatively short illness.
He is survived by his wife, Sue, and his three daughters, Jane Tyler, Joana Saunders and Sarah Browning.

Fred J. Cilliers (Course 5)
Fred attended Prince Edward School and enrolled with Course 5 at Gwebi College of Agriculture. He graduated in 1955 and was awarded a Lord Acton prize for Animal Husbandry.
He was based at Grasslands Research Station with the Department of Conservation and Extension and had a strong following across the industry and spoke regularly at seminars.
He has moved to the Cape in South Africa.

Peter Hartley (Course 5).
Peter James Hartley was born in Johannesburg on the 24th January 1936 and spent the first couple of years there before moving to Durban. “I have fond memories of Durban and the beach and remember the blackout and sandbags along the beach front due to the war. German U-boats were active offshore. I remember sharing a train compartment with seamen who had just been torpedoed and were very shaken by their experience.
“My mother and I moved to Bulawayo in December 1941 and I was enrolled at Whitestone Primary School in the January of 1942 as a boarder. This was Whitestone’s foundation year. After Whitestone I went to Milton in Form 2, as a boarder in Charter House. I left Milton after Cambridge, having been accepted at Gwebi, and joined my mother and stepfather in Bechuanaland who had a contract with Bechuanaland Ranches.
“As to my recollections of Gwebi: It was a most memorable, fascinating and extremely rewarding time. So many memories come to mind and unfortunately many of them unrelated to lectures and the practical side of our course.
“Doc Fielding, who used to do an evening tour of the hostel, after a couple of sundowners, was highly embarrassed one evening by a student who would not come down off the roof when ordered to. The weather cock had been dressed with a blazer in anticipation of his visit.
“I remember the tradition on overnight farm tours of never leaving an beer undrunk, with predictable results, as the farmers were certainly generous with the supply.
“I remember also saying “If we get cold meat and salads again I”m walking out from lunch” and being followed by the entire student body.
“After my time at Gwebi I worked at Battle Farm, Shangani, for 18 months as a Farm Assistant. It was mainly a dairy farm with an Ayrshire Grade and Pedigree herd. We also had a Grade and Pedigree Angus beef herd .The farm owner was a tough Scot hence the choice of breeds. We grew maize for grain and silage for the dairy herd. The hours of work were killing, starting at 5 am until 8 pm, when the sterilising of the milking equipment, etc was completed. I had time off on Sunday from around 10am to 3pm. No farm assistant had previously lasted longer than three months so I was either tenacious or stupid.
“I decided to leave and got a position with Native Agriculture as a Land Development Officer at double the salary I was getting at Battle.
“I was interviewed in Salisbury and was posted to Binga, having been issued with a brand new long wheel base Land Rover and the standard camping equipment. I was seconded to the Native Department and reported to the Native Commissioner in Binga after a very eventful trip. The Native Commissioner was Ivor Cockroft who was responsible for the resettlement of people from the Zambezi Valley during the building of Kariba Dam. I was mainly involved in finding suitable areas for resettlement, feeding people who had been removed, road construction, and advice on crops, mainly sorghum and millet. It was a very isolated life as my district was some distance from Binga, which at that time consisted of two houses and an office. I could probably write a book about my life in Binga but this is not the time to do that.
“After 18 months I decided that I was sick of the isolation and bored with the very limited scope of the job so I applied for a transfer to somewhere more civilised. I was subsequently transferred to a planning team in Nkai. This was a far cry from Binga and the work was interesting involving the Land Husbandry Act. We collected information on the local population and the agricultural potential of the area with resettlement and land use in mind . We worked initially on aerial photographs and followed up our assessment with field investigations. It was interesting work.
“Due to personal family circumstances it became necessary for me to move to Bulawayo. So I reluctantly had to leave and was lucky to get a job in the Dairy Department as a Milk Recorder, visiting many farms around Matabeleland including Battle Farm. Rob Stewart, my ex boss, offered me a position running a neighbouring farm and a ranch that he owned and also overseeing Battle Farm. I turned this down as I had to be based in town at the time for family reasons. It was during this time that I met Gloria, who was to become my wife after a very brief courtship. We have been happily married for 61 years.
“I was approached by Native Agriculture at this stage and offered my old position back and as the reason for my having to stay in town had changed I was very happy to accept. I was transferred to Kezi where I ran a special project which involved in the resettlement of people moved from Matopos to a large ranch purchased for this purpose. The project involved the planning, vegetation and soil classification, bush clearing, contouring and resettlement of the moved population. After this we worked with the people on crop and livestock advice and the Master Farmer programme.
Gloria and Peter Hrtley, student from Course 5 at Gwebi College of Agriculture near Salisbury“The political situation eventually became impossible and we closed down our agricultural activities and I was transferred to Bulawayo to the Dept. of Conservation and was allocated Figtree and Matopos North ICAs. This was my ideal job and I enjoyed the life immensely. Sadly it was not to last. Gloria and I now had three young daughters and we were concerned about their future in a country that was in a no win situation with major problems ahead. I applied to the South Australian Dept of Agriculture and we were prepared to make the move from a country that we both loved. Nothing in life is certain.
“My father, who was a successful businessman in South Africa, offered me a job in his expanding businesses so we moved to Johannesburg.
“The change in our lives was major, especially for me. I started at the bottom, running the dispatch department and delivery service. The business imported and distributed motor spares to engine rebuilders, workshops wholesalers and retailers. I worked my way up through the ranks becoming the Group Inventory Controller, a far cry from Agriculture, and had an alternative seat on the Board of Directors. The company was by now listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Long story short, we had a very unhappy merger with another listed company and luckily sold our interests out before the company eventually went into liquidation. I could also write a book on this as well.
“I was now effectively unemployed and joined my father in a finance company which I stuck to for a year or so. Lending money to various businesses was not my cup of tea.
“I decided that I should go back to agriculture and obtained a position with C. G. Smith in Stanger running their irrigated sugar cane section. It was great to be back in agriculture and we, especially our three girls, loved the life. Whilst with Gledhow Sugar Estates I attended the sugar cane course at Mt. Edgecombe and was the first student to be awarded a full house of distinctions. I can assure you this was due to a fear of failure resulting in intense swotting.
“Once again our lives changed.
“The family had opened a motor spares business in Durban and they needed management to be reinforced so I was offered part of the business if I would join them. I stayed with the company until I was 53 when I decided that I had had enough of the unchallenging business world, so I sold out and retired.
“I had become interested in sailing and sailed a Halcat catamaran with the family before graduating to a keelboat. I went on various sailing courses and eventually obtained a Coastal Skipper’s licence. We bought a number of boats through the years and also had some wonderful sailing holidays in Greece with our sailing friends. We eventually bought a Sadler 32 boat in Gibraltar and made our way to Greece via the Spanish coast, Balearics, Sardinia, and the coast of western Italy. We spent many happy years sailing in the Ionian Sea before unfortunately having to give it up due to arthritis in my hands.
“Our eldest daughter and family emigrated to New Zealand in 2000 and we visited them most years. Our youngest daughter and family also emigrated to New Zealand in 2014 and we followed in 2015 settling in Auckland. New Zealand is an incredible country and we are indeed fortunate to be here. We have one daughter and family still in Durban. Our family now consists of three daughters, eight grandchildren and a great grandson.”

Gavin Langham (Course 5).
Gavin J.M. Lamgham was awarded the Central African Fertilizers Prize for the Farm Project and Oral on graduation. He married Ken Sheriff’s sister Phoebe who had been widowed.
Peter Whittall through Ken MacLachlan

Additional information to add to this page from family and friends is welcome. Please go to the Contact page.

Information and content has been supplied by other parties so no warranty (express or implied) is given to its completeness, accuracy or fitness for a particular purpose.

Return to Top of page and to Menus

©2021 Steve Bennett