News about former students
Richard Brooker (Course 9).
"Richard was born in Grahamstown and went to school at St Andrew’s, Grahamstown and only came up to Rhodesia when his Dad came to teach at Falcon College when Falcon first opened. His folks then returned to Grahamstown and he and his two brothers chose to stay here in Zimbabwe.
We got married in 1969 when he was in partnership with Simon Dakin on Brookfield Farm, Victory Block and then, later on, purchased our own farm, Brandon Farm, also in Victory Block in 1971. Richard was primarily a tobacco farmer, district 3, but also grew seed maize, paprika, cattle, sheep and wild life. He was one of the top growers in our district and assisted many of our neighbours.
He was very involved in many committees – Water Board, District Council, Seed Co Op, Farm Community Trust, Farm Families Trust and was the Chief Hail Inspector in our area. He was on the ICA, Agriculture Labour Bureau, NEC, Area Coordinating Committee, Farmers in Touch, ARAC (CFU) He played cricket for Mashonaland Country districts for a number of years, before concentrating on his farming.
The farm was eventually taken over by the War Vets and we moved to Harare in 2001.
Richard passed away in August 2015.
We have two daughters, Nikki and Sally. Nikki lives in Perth Australia and Sally in The Cayman Islands".
Gail Brooker 2015.
Vale P. Ross H. Hinde (Course 9)
Ross Hinde excelled at Gwebi as Best All-Round Student in First Year and as Runner-Up in Second Year.
He went farming at Saffron Walden and married Liz. He was a passionate farmer and great community man. Above all, his family came first. He was well known in rugby circles as a top referee in Harare. They were violently expelled from their farm early in the so called land reform programme.
They eventually settled in the Cape and were a popular couple at Somerset College where Lizzie was the school nurse and Ross worked on the grounds. He was always cheerful and battled heart disease for many years but passed away on 13th March 2019 in Gordon's Bay. He is survived by Lizzie and two daughters and a son and their families.
Tributes from Jim Sinclair (also Course 9) and Andrew Pascoe, President, CFU.
Terry Jones (Course 9)
Jim Sinclair (Course 9)
James McLure Sinclair was born in Cape Town where his mother had travelled down from the family farm in Melsetter. He was the eldest of four children and was raised along with them back again on Albany farm. He attended Melsetter Junior school before completing his education at Bishops College in Cape Town. He worked on a forestry estate before attending Gwebi Course 9. Jim relates his time at Gwebi: “So began two very happy years in Course 9 at the Gwebi College of Agriculture. I found myself in a room with Robin Harben and so was to begin another lifelong friendship although living in a room with somebody like Robin had its ups and downs, as did our friendship.
“My parents at this stage of their farming career had very little money and so it was decided that I would be given an allowance of £5 a month. This was perfectly adequate as I remember beer was only 1 shilling and a pack of 50 cigarettes cost about the same. You could go to the movies for 4/9d and have spaghetti bolognese for 3/6d. Fast food joints were unknown but the closest would have been the drive in restaurants and The Blue Gardenia at Greencroft on the site of the present Mike Harris Motors and the Yellow Orchid on the Gatooma road were spots of choice for Gwebi students of the day. If we were headed out to Highlands Park for a dancing date with one of the lovely girls who lived out in the posher suburbs then the Gremlin was a good spot.
Drinking holes were important and the old Meikles was one of our places of choice. The Quorn and the George hotels were equally well frequented and being in Avondale and Marlborough respectively had the merit of closeness to our place of what could be loosely called work! The George was taken off the list for a while after Richard Winkfield was accused of stealing a pot plant, which he denies to this day. We were all heavy smokers, at least all the fun guys were, and we lived life to the full with parties, girls from the nurses’ home, and other ladies homes such as SACS House and the YWCA. These girls all had to be home by certain times, and we became experts in concocting stories or finding illegal routes into the various homes.
“One of our company was a lad by the name of Peter Davis whose father worked for the Italian firm Impresit, the main contractors for the Kariba Dam, and one weekend in particular has gone down in the folklore of our era. We had been on an all-nighter at the Nurses’ Home and as we got back to the College as the dawn was breaking, someone said, “Kariba is closing off today”. So somebody routed Davis out and he phoned his father to say we were coming and off we set. The road was strips a lot of the way and the Makuti-Kariba bit was dirt. I was in Charlie Close’s Series 1 short wheel base Land Rover which was appallingly bumpy and began to feel the after effects of whatever we had been drinking at the Nurses’ Home, soon after Nyabira. We had no time to stop if we were to see the arches at Kariba sealed off so began possibly the worst trip of my life. If you wanted to be sick in those vehicles you had to either lean over the back while undoing the canvas back or undo the side canvas and puke away. Meanwhile Close who was a bit of a tearaway anyway was foot flat heading for Kariba. Never again! However it was all worthwhile as we saw the first tipper trucks tipping the fill into the riverbed and start closing the arches that had been left at the bottom of the wall. A pretty historic day and certainly one to remember.
"We had a pretty reasonable range of sports and Gwebi cricket was an important part of the Country districts scene with Gerald Deary representing Rhodesia and many others like Richard Brooker and Robin Harben representing Rhodesian Country Districts which was a pretty strong side then. Rodney Mundy our Animal Husbandry Lecturer was the driving spirit behind Gwebi cricket. For some reason a group of us in our senior year ended at Rodney’s house one night celebrating the arrival of his son Hugh. This was one of the better parties of the time and it ended with some of us falling into the garden of Rodney’s neighbor, Jimmy Walsh, who was not only a teetotaler but had no sense of fun when it came to rowdy students. Luckily for us Rodney Mundy spoke up for us and we did not get any punishment although we certainly should have. Rodney later became Principal and later still sadly succumbed to cancer after losing both his legs. He is of course remembered in the Rodney Mundy Cricket Competition. Rugby was my sport and we played in the Second Salisbury League, which was of a reasonably high standard. The social side of this was of course one of the attractions and we played mostly in Salisbury and the surrounds. Sometimes we went as far afield as Bindura or Sinoia.
“A car was out of my range but about half of us had cars such as Morris Eights (Les Thomas), Morris Minors, Prefects and the like. So there was plenty of transport available and if you had no car or a lift in one you could always hitch a ride with Glynn Williams on his BSA Goldstar 500. This bike came to a fiery end when Glynn got so angry with it one night he left it in the ditch opposite the Greencroft shopping centre and threw a match at it! Robbie Girdlestone who had made lots of money in the Northern Rhodesian copper mines had an Austin Healey 100, which was by far, the best car owned by a student. Unfortunately this car was such a bird puller that Girdlestone only lasted a couple of months and went off to New Zealand to recover! The Honourable Nick Maxwell Lawford, a very eccentric Englishman, had a smart black Ford Zephyr 6 and pots of money sent to him by his family to compensate for being out in the colonies and away from home. His brother had succeeded to the title and the family seat and this was Nicholas’s small recompense. He had spent time in the RAR in Nyasaland and wore bowler hats and red waistcoats on farm visits and the like. He shared a room with Ant Swire Thompson. Elvis Presley was at the height of his powers and Warwick Norvall fancied himself as a Presley clone with black jeans and shirts and sideburns. Party time was any time at all, and with party animals like Harben sharing my room it was difficult to settle to serious work.
"The University of Rhodesia had just started and some of the rivalry became quite serious. One occasion was when the University raided us and was beaten off easily. So easily in fact that we took their clothes and gave then a newspaper each and told them to get back to Salisbury. Among the luminaries involved in that escapade was Andy Coulhoun later to become M.D. of the Farmers Co-op and Tony Hawkins was at the University at the time as well.
“The education on offer at Gwebi was of a pretty good standard but I think the practical side was of more value. There was a great deal of emphasis on the practical and even today I can remember useful bits of information that I learnt at Gwebi. Course 9 consisted of quite a remarkable bunch of young men. Our number included two Presidents of the CFU, two Farming Oscar winners and some really outstanding farmers. We have since held several reunions and these have been splendid affairs.
“While at Gwebi we were all called up for military service and went along for our medicals. I failed because of my asthma as did Harben. Nobody thought it strange that two asthmatics like us were smoking around 20 cigarettes a day each! Swire Thompson had flat feet so the three of us were excluded from the elite of the Federal Armed Forces.”
After Gwebi he worked for his father before spending a year working and touring overseas. Jim returned in 1961 and went to work at Chibero College. He later moved to work for Tim Riley as a farm assistant in Norton and subsequently to Umboe where he managed a farm for 5 years.
In 1965 he married Anne Everett who had recently been widowed and left with a young son David, and he moved to Serui Source farm in Norton which had been in Ann’s family since 1933. There, son Doug and daughter Jeanie, were born. Jim Sinclair went on to be elected President of the CFU from 1981 – 83 and served on numerous boards. He served as Chairman of the Beef and Livestock Committee of the Cold Storage Commission for eight years, during which time he negotiated the industry through the most important phase of its exports to EEC under the Lome concessionary terms to the ACP Group.
This was a milestone in the development of the beef industry in Zimbabwe, and Jim served as Chairman of the subsidiary offshore beef importing companies in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Germany.
During this period, he worked closely with producers and had a very difficult path to follow in trying to meet the aspirations of producers, while at the same time trying to keep the Cold Storage Commission on track and wrestling with its growing deficit situation. This he did most ably and earned the everlasting respect of all in the industry for his contribution.
In the complete restructure by the government of its agricultural parastatals and their management boards, Jim's services were no longer available to the industry in the revitalisation of the Cold Storage Commission.
However, Jim's contribution to the beef industry will never be forgotten, and he was awarded a Gold Medal by the Zimbabwe Society for Animal Production (ZSAP) in 1991.
Jim doesn’t talk about it, but it is on public record that his farm was one of 804 that Robert Mugabe announced in 2000 that would be taken for resettlement.
"I don't know how to even begin leaving my farm," he is reported to have said, at the time, when faced with eviction. "I had reckoned it would take five months to wind up the farm, not a few weeks."
He said he feared an increase in lawlessness. "This gives carte blanche to anybody who wants to move onto the farms. Some of them are armed."
Five white farmers had been killed since Mr Mugabe's supporters began invading farms three months ago. As president of the Commercial Farmers Union, he had encouraged white farmers to continue under majority rule but subsequently he saw little hope for large-scale farming. "This will tear the heart out of commercial agriculture," he said. "It's the beginning of the end of the economy of this country."
Other farming families began packing up valuables in fear that their property would be invaded immediately.
An extraordinary government gazette was published announcing the confiscations. Some of the farms involved were owned by black Africans, most of whom were critics of Mr Mugabe. People would be moved onto the farms by the end of June, despite the fact that the farm owners have 30 days to lodge legal objections to the confiscations. Neither support nor infrastructure was provided to the new owners and the repercussions still resonate.
Jim was subsequently arrested and detained for allegedly inciting public violence against people illegally occupying his land. He was held in a bare police cell in the farming centre of Norton, 40km south-west of Harare, in midwinter, with 13 prisoners who were given seven blankets to share.
He denied the charge when he fronted a magistrate the next day, and was freed on bail. The charge carried a possible penalty of imprisonment.
Lawyer Richard Wood said in a statement the charge stemmed from a June 12, 2001 incident in which ruling party militants occupying Sinclair's property were chased off, apparently by inhabitants of an adjoining peasant farming area who torched 12 of the militant's makeshift huts.
Jim moved with Ann to live in Harare. Once settled in Harare, Jim assisted Doug in the set up of a furniture factory and later he and Ann spent several happy years in the landscaping partnership with their great friends, Bruce and Patsy Keevil.
He passed away in a hospital in Cape Town on 16th October 2020.
Ben Gilpin ex CFU.
Vale Anthony Swire Thompson (Course 9)
Past President of CFU, Ant Swire Thompson, passed away aged 80 in Harare on 27th February 2019 following a long illness.
Anthony John Swire Thompson was educated at St John’s College South Africa and came to Gwebi in 1957 enrolling with Course 9. He immediately showed leadership potential and was elected to the Student Council. He played first team cricket for the College and his wicket haul as a bowler is fondly remembered.
After Gwebi, Ant, Robin Harben and Jim Sinclair took advantage of cheap flights to London in 1960 via the Overseas Visitors Club. Ant then worked his way to Canada and on a Canadian Dairy Farm before returning to Zimbabwe and getting a job with George Stanger in Centenary.
Here he met Ian Stewart and the two of them started Inyanga Downs Orchards. By then he had married Deirdre and their first home on Inyanga was a caravan with little or no protection from the cold and braved the cold with two small boys in true pioneering spirit. They proceeded to build a most beautiful home using local stone and the farm was rapidly developed into one of the leading fruit and flower operations in the country. They were in a very vulnerable area during the bush war but stuck it out and when peace came the development continued until Inyanga Downs Orchards became the leading apple producer in the Country with innovative methods of apple production from orchard to market and the export potential was soon being realised.
Ant soon became involved in other activities and was a founder member of the Fruit and Vegetable Co-op and served on that board. He also served on the ALB and became Chairman. He also served as a member of the Coffee Committee of the AMA. Eventually he became the Vice President of the CFU and followed Alan Burl to the Presidency of the CFU from 1992 to 1994.
His is a great story of service to his fellow farmers as well as being a successful farmer himself. Although considered a quiet man he held considerable respect throughout the agricultural industry and with government. He had deep concern and great affection for all his fellow farmers and was extremely community minded freely passing on his many years of experience to the new generation of farmers and his neighbours.
He was forced off his farm in 2010. That was not the end of his public service though. He saw a need for farmers who had been forced off the land and in need of financial assistance so he initiated the Farm Families Trust and chaired that organisation for many years. So many in need of medical treatment were assisted following financial hardship after the loss of their homes and businesses to land reform.
His beloved wife Dee died at the end of 2010 and she was an enormous loss to the family and Anthony.
Ant had lived in retirement in Dandaro in Harare.
Contributions and tributes from Andrew Pascoe, President of CFU; Jim Sinclair, past President of CFU; and Graham and Judy Hatty.
Richard Winkfield (Course 9)
Richard attended Churchill School from 1950-54 and enrolled with Course 9 at Gwebi College in 1957. He was awarded the Farmers Co-op Prize for Progress in his First Year and graduated in 1959. He was in the Stock Section at Gwebi and worked for Conex, Ministry of Agriculture for twenty years and was at Mayo before moving to Salisbury and was associated with the college over much of the time. Richard completed his BA (Ed) at the University of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in 1982. Richard was Chairman of the Grasslands Society of Zimbabwe. He was probably best known for the years spent developing and managing ART Farm as Director from 1985, which is still in operation today. He also featured in the Farmer Magazine with his popular - often humorous - Bottom Line contribution every week, which many turned to read first before reading the rest of the magazine. A book titled "The Bottom Line" was published and is enjoyed by those who leaf through cherished old days again. Richard was also a Trustee of the CFU for a number of years and his services in keeping the Union on track were greatly appreciated. He always kept a keen eye on the Union, even after he left and continued to give useful and wise advice. Richard was Chair of Blackfordby. He went on his own as a consultant after having his home and land taken in Mazoe.
After moving to New Zealand he retired in 2013 in Gisborne & Hawkes Bay. He passed away on 6th February 2017 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer leaving Venetia, and his family - daughter Louise and Bruce Stobart, and son Nicholas and Alison Winkfield and grandchildren.
In memory and recognition of the immense contribution made to Zimbabwean Agriculture by Richard, the Agricultural Research Trust is renaming the Agricultural Training and Development Centre as The Winkfield Auditorium at a ceremony to be held at A.R.T. Farm on 15th June 2017. Richard and Venetia's daughter, Louise, and her family will be in attendance.
John Petheram, Colin Lowe, Bob Dunckley, ART, and Peter Steyl/CFU President