Between the furrows
This photo, posted on Facebook, was taken during the visits by Course 13 during their First Year to the CSC, Colcom, DMB, Nestles and the tobacco floors etc. The General Manager of the Cold Storage Commission was David Walker who is father to Tony Walker from Course 11.
Names in the photo were nominated from the student list by Terry Pearse, Mike Bullock and checked by Peter Hadingham plus helpers.
Some anecdotes and where are they now?
A.E. Arro - Ed, was friends with Ian Coulthard and farmed in Karoi before moving to South Africa. He passed away in 2016 in South Africa.
J.K. Atkins - Ken was originally from Mazabuka and died many years back while farming at Mkushi.
John B. Barber a.k.a. ‘Bleske’ was or still is a successful dairy farmer in Natal.
R.M. Barrett-Hamilton - Paddy came from a farming family in Karoi. a.k.a. ‘Nature Boy’. Married to Sylvia, they have retired to Crawley in the UK.
Mike E.T. Bullock, educated at Framlingham College (1955-59), England before attending Gwebi. He was at school with Tim Lewis in the UK, and then when he enrolled at Gwebi with Course 13, Tim was a senior. After college he moved to Hippo Valley Estates, initially on an ‘Other Crops’ project and then into citrus processing. There was a career change in 1972 when the family moved to Salisbury and Mike qualified as a Plastics Technologist through the University of North London. Mike was appointed MD of Metal Box CA Plastics Division in 1974.
In 1982 Mike and the family were transferred to Durban where Mike was appointed MD of Aries Plastics, a wholly owned subsidiary of MBSA. In 1990 the family moved to Johannesburg and Mike became CEO of the Plastics Industry Training Board where he became known as Mr Plastics, and later CEO of the Plastics Converters Association.
Mike married Wray in 1967 and they have 2 sons Allan and Stephen and 5 grandchildren. Mike is retired and living in Pretoria, busier than ever, enjoying family life, woodwork and bowls. He has coal mines in the Middelburg/Carolina area and a game farm 120 km from Pretoria, and a holiday cottage in St Lucia, with properties in England.
Mark Channing-Pearce a.k.a. ‘Changing Gears’. Mark was in Raffingora, farming next door to Gordon Harris. After independence he moved to Natal, near Pietermaritzburg, where he ran a successful seedling business. He wife and sons took it over after his death. His wife, Cathrina has remarried.
Ian N. Coulthard left Zimbabwe after owning his own farm for some years and settled on a small farm in Umzumbe near Port Shepstone in SA. He was growing bananas, sugarcane and lychees. He married Shenley Crofton a nurse and three children are grown up - Clive, Nicola and Christopher. He had been suffering from heart problems but he passed away on 4th September 2017. Tragically, Ian was riding his motor bike on the farm when he swerved to avoid hitting his dog which ran across the road in front of him. He cracked his head on a rock and died instantly. Gavin James and Tim Arnot, Course 15.
C.Jeremy Curtoys a.k.a. ‘Charlie’. Was ribbed for his ‘super-posh’ accent then after graduating he worked for Hippo Valley Estates in the Rhodesian Lowveld but took himself off to the USA to further his studies in Agriculture which culminated in a PhD in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley. Married Linda and lectured for more than thirty years at a university in Texas. Jeremy is now retired and his full and very interesting autobiography can be read lower down on this page. I am constantly amazed at what Gwebi graduates can turn their hand to.
Robin W.F. Franks a.k.a. ‘Sparks’. After Gwebi Rob worked for Sir Humphrey Gibbs in Matabeleland for about nine months before being called up to the Army and School of Infantry and completed his call-up in May 1965 after which he married Vivien, a nurse from Kenya/Malawi. Barry Hill, also Course 13, was his Best Man. Rob joined Conex in Mtoko but in Feb 1969 joined Wright Rain as an Irrigation Engineer and moved to the Lowveld where there were many Gwebians working, including Roy Porritt, Terry Pierce, Mike Bullock and Mike Roscoe from C14.
Rob was blown up by a landmine whilst on call up in 1977 when driving a 10RR Army 12 tonne TCV near Nyamaropa in the Inyanga District close to the Mozambique border but fortunately survived. After a bitter argument with the Army over having to leave his wife and family in the Lowveld to go on call up to Kariba while all hell was breaking loose back home and, along with the landmine incident, decided him to leave for South Africa. In the Lowveld he had worked for Wright Rain who had sold out to Agriplas in Cape Town who in turn were involved with an Israeli firm called Netafim and they sent Rob all over South America and then the USA where he was in market development for Drip Irrigation until 2009 when he retired. Fortunately over the years Rob had built up a great client base on four continents and continues to do design work for many old and new clients. Rob says he was totally satisfied with his career which without the incredible background of Gwebi would have been impossible. He ended up on the biggest and best farms with the smartest farmers and built major projects. He unreservedly says “Thank you Gwebi!”
Rob and his wife have four children and ten grandchildren most of whom have served in the US Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy and his daughters have continued the Franks tradition by marrying servicemen.
Rob and Vivien are still living in northern Alabama in the USA.
Robin shares his recollections from Gwebi below.
D.J. Garrard - Dave, after graduating he worked on Hippo Valley Sugar Estate in the lowveld which was interrupted by his call-up for National Service at Llewellin. After a BA in Canada, then DRCongo, Dave is now involved with mission work and is based in England. More details below.
V.A. Gifford - Vic was originally from Chipinga but following the murder by terrorists in 1978 of his brother, Ken from Course 8, and the loss of their farms by warvets he moved to Harare. His wife passed away several years ago as did his partner, Jen Faasen from Bromley, in 2014
Peter W. Hadingham farmed in Bromley for over forty years building up his well known Glenavon pedigree Charolais herd and later on expanding into Charbrays. He was evicted by the warvets in Dec 2006 and has been living in Highlands, Harare ever since. Peter’s wife died in 2013 from cancer. He has two sons and a daughter who are all living in Harare and have produced four grandchildren for him so far! Peter considers himself extremely fortunate to have them so close to him.
Peter wrote about Gwebi days below.
J.A.Gordon Harris a.k.a. ‘Sporelli’. Gordon worked in the Banket area for seven years and was able to purchase a farm at Raffingora. That was in 1972 and he married Daphne the same year. Gordon said his big mistake was in 1997 when one of his farms was listed and then delisted and he didn’t take it as a warning sign although his wife had a premonition about the land invasions. Daphne still has a copy of the acquisition act as published in the newspaper in 1992, which shows, says Gordon, that you should listen to your wife sometimes! They were kicked off in 2002 and now live in Harare where they survive on a couple of rentals.
Brian S. Higgs joined Tony Lilford, also Course 13, at Norton but after the introduction of quotas he moved on to Dulwich Estate working for Barry Johnson in Trelawney. After a few seasons, a partnership with brothers Tony and Clive brought him back to Norton again. He leased Bellevue Farm in Goromonzi from Barry Johnson until Barry's son took over. Brian immigrated to Australia in 1979 and shared more details below.
R. Barry Dilton Hill Barry Dilton Hill was Robin Franks' senior year room mate and Bestman but all contact has been lost.
H.H. Kew - Harry farmed in and around the Banket area for many years, and is now living in Bulawayo, and his wife, Kathy, is a teacher at Whitestone School. She recently sent their story which is below.
T.C. Lilford - Tony went to Prince Edward with Dave Garrard where he was very athletic. After Gwebi he started working for Frank Lilford in Norton and Brian Higgs spent two seasons there. His younger brother Clive (Course 15) joined him and Brian returned for another two years in a partnership. In 1973 Tony and Clive jointly won the ‘Tobacco Grower of the Year’ award on Lands End Farm. They sold up in about 1976 and both emigrated to the USA some years later. Tony was married to Betty who sadly passed away in 2009 in Kentucky. Both Tony’s daughters, Shirley and Cathy, live in America.
J.M. Lyon - John was from Kwe-Kwe and after leaving Gwebi worked for A.G. Tarr on Tarrlin Estates Centenary growing tobacco and maize. He left there in 1966 to move back to Kwe-Kwe to be near his parents. He was employed at Mlezu Agricultural College teaching cropping and also sustainable farming on small hectare plots. During his long vacs from the College he helped Colin Fletcher on his large cattle ranch near Zhombe. He left Mlezu in 1971 to work for the Hewlett Brothers on Delvillewood Estates in the Sherwood area of Kwe-Kwe. They grew cotton, maize, wheat and barley they also ran cattle. He went into partnership and bought the farm but sadly it did not work and he left in 1976. He then worked for Sable Chemicals running their ranch, he also put in a small area of irrigated crops growing maize and wheat, he worked there until his death from an electrical accident in October 1995. John was always very interested and involved with life in the Kwe-Kwe area, Chairing both Rural Council and Farmers Association, he was a member of both Round Table and then Rotary and had a lot to do with the Rotary Exchange Students taking them all to the Zambezi every year, He was at his most relaxed and happiest when he was with friends and family camping at the Zambezi mostly fishing but he did do a bit of hunting as well. John married Lillian in August 1966 and have a daughter Katie.
R.M. McCallum - Ralston a.k.a. Rory or Roly was on Kent Estate near Norton for many years and I have been told he also worked for Livestock Auctioneers for some time but is now living in the UK with his wife Anne.
A.I. Neill - Allan’s parents, Molly and Hugh Neill, farmed in Karoi and he worked for Peter Hadingham for a time after graduating.
Allan was in the Banket area for several years but had blood circulation problems, which resulted in him losing a leg, and was wheelchair bound. He still carried on with sales of agricultural chemicals. He died a few years back.
P.E. Neuby Varty - Pete managed the family farm in Marondera for many years. He is now living in retirement with Jenny Reid-Rowland at Borradaile Trust, Marondera.
S.G. Neville - Simon was in partnership with his good friend Nigel Norvall in a non-agricultural enterprise near Cape Town for many years and was last heard of on the south coast of Natal.
N.K. Norvall - Nigel was the eldest son of Ken Norvall who ran one of the largest dairy herds in Matabeleland. It was jokingly said that the Norvall family would milk anything provided it had teats. Here is what the Rhodesia Regiment Association have in their records about him. ‘Nigel went to Plumtree School and Gwebi Agricultural College. He was renowned as a very competent farmer. He was commissioned at School of Infantry Gwelo into 2RRR (it is believed). He was a Major, probably in 6RR and turned down an offer of promotion to Lt. Colonel on account of his farm needing more of his time at that point. The family moved to South Africa after selling up at Nyamandhlovu in 1985. Latterly Nigel was an estate agent. Nigel Norvall died on the 9th March 2012 in Somerset West, South Africa. He is survived by his wife and daughters.’
T.L. Pearse - Terry. On graduating from Gwebi Terry went straight into army call-up at Llewellin barracks in 1963. He was then posted to 10th Battalion in Gwelo where he did his military commitment in the war effort with this Battalion until post-election 1980. Terry’s first employment in 1964, after completing his four and a half months at Llewellin, was as a Section Manager at Hippo Valley Estates on 450 ha of irrigated sugarcane. After two years he was promoted to Farm Manager on the newly formed sugarcane experiment station which created an opportunity to add to his tertiary education. The Rhodesia Sugar Association sponsored him for nearly four years of study at Utah State University in early 1970's and he ultimately returned to the role of Irrigation Agronomist on the station.
In 1979 Terry moved to the Sugarcane Planters Association as Executive Officer doing extension advisory work and monitoring the interaction between miller and grower affairs but sensing a change in the political climate of the country emigrated to Swaziland in 1984 where he managed the newly established Swaziland sugarcane agronomy and extension service. In 1989 he joined Booker Tate Limited and was posted firstly to Sri Lanka and then Jamaica as agriculture manager on large sugar estates but in 1997 Illovo Sugar in South Africa offered Terry the role of General Manager in Tanzania and then Malawi when this company started their expansion into central and east Africa.
Deciding that the corporate world was not his scene Terry then returned to employment with Booker Tate in 2002 in a consultancy role working out of Durban until retirement. This period provided him with the opportunity to see most of the sugar industries in Africa. After five years in retirement in Durban, which was occasionally interrupted with a rare call to do a short-term consultancy, he and his wife Sue emigrated to Western Australia in 2012.
Terry married Sue le Blanc Smith in June 1967 in Salisbury. They have three sons who are all married with six grandchildren and they are scattered worldwide – Sydney, Chicago and Durban. Terry is currently living in retirement with his wife of 50 years in Mandurah, Western Australia where they have lived since February 2012.
R.C. Porritt - Roy left Gwebi in 1963 and went to work at Hippo Valley Estates as a section assistant. He grew sugar cane and it was processed at a mill brought out from Mauritius and run by people from there. Things were very basic and electricity was not provided- they had paraffin fridges, donkey boilers and Tilly gas lamps in old prefab mine houses. In summer it was stifling in those houses.
All the irrigation was flood into contoured rows. The water came from the Mtilikwe river (Kyle dam) then Bangala Dam and finally Eskwalingwe weir where it met the canal which carried water to Triangle and then Hippo Valley. All canals were concrete lined. Roy was involved with land preparation once further development began in 1965. He ran one sugar section (700 hectares) in 1967/7 before he applied for an RTA bursary to study irrigation at Utah State University for four months.
Roy returned to Rhodesia after this and started working on the Hippo Valley Citrus Estate producing grapefruit, lemons and oranges for export. By the mid 1970’s their exports were cut off by sanctions and the citrus section on the Lundi River was planted to cotton.
In 1978 Roy and his family moved to South Africa (Hoedspruit) where he ran a citrus farm for 3 years before moving again to Kiepersol near White River to grow bananas. He later moved to a big farm growing avocados and later macadamias.
In 2004 Roy left the farm to start a consulting business which has developed into the advising of 25-30 farmers in the Kiepersol, White River and Nelspruit areas.
J.R. Parkinson - John did a degree at the University of Rhodesia after graduating from Gwebi and spent many years doing work for NGO’s on various agricultural projects throughout Africa. He now lives at Ampthill, Bedfordshire in UK.
R.M.G. Sayers - Rob.
W.A. Sleggs - William a.k.a. ‘Bill’.
P.H. Spencer - Peter, like some of the other graduates, went down immediately to Bulawayo to do his four and a half months military training. In February 1964 he married Dawn Light, a nurse from the Central Hospital, and they have three daughters, Debbie, Shenley and Tracey. Pete and Dawn have now been happily married for over fifty year. On leaving Gwebi he went back to the home farm Mangondo in the Horseshoe Block where he had started working in December 1959 on leaving school. Pete and his father grew tobacco, maize and ran a herd of six hundred cattle His father retired in 1972 and settled in Harare and he and Dawn continued on the farm until 1987 when they sold the farm to Dave Hewitt. On moving to Harare he joined Guest and Tanner as a property Negotiator selling houses. After eleven months he was offered a job by Pip Hutchinson of Hutchinson Farm Sales where he spent six years before moving on to H. Shapiro and Co, (CC Sales) as a farm salesman for a further six years or so. When the farms started to be taken over in 2000 his work as a farm salesman came to an end and he eventually retired in 2002. He then worked from home for the next five years manufacturing generator cages, burglar bars, borehole covers and the like. Dawn and Peter now live in a retirement village in Harare and are very happy there
L. Spoor - Leon settled in Sasolburg in South Africa. He worked in a nearby town as a mechanic in a hydraulic company and has recently retired. He was very capable as a mechanic and could strip a car down to the chassis and then rebuild it.
P.N.T. Taylor - Paul came from Umtali and attended St. George’s College in Salisbury. After graduating from Gwebi, Paul left for Northern Rhodesia to manage a farm between Mazabuka and Monze. After a few years he managed to buy the farm, Wahadi Farm, and continued to farm it very successfully for the next 40 odd years. His main crop in the beginning was tobacco but over time seed maize, wheat, potatoes, commercial maize, soyas and a very good herd of beef cattle were all added to the list. Paul married Mary Curtin, a “sunshine nurse”, in 1965. They had four children, Andrew, Jane, Caroline and Sally. Andrew, the eldest, still owns and runs Wahadi Farm. Paul was a very keen horseman and played for and captained the Zambian Polo team for many years in the 70’s and 80’s. His horses were always beautifully turned out courtesy of Mary’s good schooling and management! Paul served on many committees over the years and most notably was Chairman of the Musikili School Board for over 10 years, steering it through some rough times to become one of the top primary schools in Zambia. Paul passed away in January 2009 and is survived by his four children and eight grandchildren.
D.R. Wheeldon - Dereck. Produced tobacco at Banket with JD Templeton after Gwebi, then was encouraged to enrol for a vet degree. While doing night school to obtain "A" Levels for entry, Dereck became a biologist and his work on perfusion became key during heart surgery. He obtained his PhD in organ preservation and this work involved him in multi-organ transplants. He retired in 2004 to Knysna after many years as a leader in life support technologies working for six global companies but is in the UK. (Read his story below).
Students that also were on Course 13 include:
R. Andrews - Dick from Zambia.
C. Fleming - Colin from the Fleming family in Salisbury South. It is thought that he died from cancer probably not more than three or four years after Gwebi.
D. Fourie - Des lived in Harare and worked for several years for a local battery company. Having retired he was tragically murdered in his Borrowdale home by burglars in about 2014 and leaves his wife Anna and two daughters.
H. Otto - Herbert from Hartley. Sadly he also died in about 1970 from cancer after he’d sold up and moved to South Africa.
B. Weskob - Bing from Maun, Botswana went on to play Rugby for Rhodesia.
The above information was prepared by Colin Lowe with contributions from many sources but is mainly from Jeremy Curtoys, Peter Hadingham, Terry Pearse, John Gray, Mike Bullock, Roy Porritt, Tim Landsberg, Lillian Lyon, Sally Jellis (the late Paul Taylor’s daughter), Dave Wrench, Philip Rogers, Gordon Harris, Rob Franks and Paddy Barrett-Hamilton.
Overseas bag - Summer & Autumn 2017. Oldframlinghamian.com
Some more detail that has been provided by the following:
Jeremy Curtoys (Course 13)
Jeremy, from the UK, was Dux Student at Gwebi with Course 13. His life has taken him from wanting to be a farmer in Rhodesia to being a Professor at a University in Texas and lecturing in Political Science for more than thirty years.
This is his story "Gwebi’s importance in my life is mostly incidental rather than central, yet had I not gone there from 1961-1963 my life’s path would have been very different and quite likely a lot less interesting and enjoyable than it has proven to be. So here goes...
My father was English, my mother was South African, the daughter of Scottish immigrants who had settled in South Africa soon after the end of the Boer War. I grew up in various countries. I was born in Singapore in 1941, leaving with my mother two weeks ahead of the Japanese invaders on a ship that was bound for South Africa where my mother had a home. At the end of the war, after my father rejoined us in South Africa, we proceeded to England and then to Argentina, where my father’s company had sent him. In 1951 my grandmother and great aunt were close to death so my mother had to return to South Africa. She took me with her and while there we went north to Rhodesia where her brother was farming. This trip was the beginning of my awakening to the possibility of a career in farming. In 1953 I was sent to England to attend boarding school there and in my holidays lived in a small rural village in Gloucestershire with my cousin. In the course of those years I worked a fair bit on farms and the gardens of the estate that owned the village. Always, when people asked, as adults are prone to do, what were my plans for the future I always said that I would go to Rhodesia to farm.
In 1960, after I finished school, I went first to Argentina for a visit with my parents then on to South Africa by sea and north to Rhodesia by train where I was met by my uncle, my mother’s brother. He was no longer farming but did live on a farm in Matabeleland that was owned by Sir Humphrey Gibbs, then Governor of Southern Rhodesia. Sir Humphrey was to have a profound influence on my early life and his sons became close friends during that time. For my year of practical training I worked on a ranch near Nyamandhlovu in Matabeleland, a few miles from the Gibbs’s dairy farm. In addition to raising beef cattle and growing mealies for their feed the owner decided to try his hand at tobacco. This was not a successful venture, though the experience persuaded me that it was probably the last thing I’d want to get involved in. However, I did enjoy working with cattle. I also put in several weeks helping on the Gibbs Farm supervising the milking while Nigel Gibbs, who ran the dairy, was away on holiday and later I performed the same function for a friend who was gone for several weeks on holiday with his family. In this time I developed a particular affinity for dairy cows, especially Friesians.
My school career prior to Gwebi was decidedly spotty. At 15 I failed all but two of the 7 GCE ‘O’ Level exams I took so for the next two years, while in the 6th Form of the school I attended in England, I had to retake the five failed exams at the rate of two every term while also preparing for ‘A’ Levels in Biology and Geography. By the time I left school I had passed both A levels and also all the remaining O levels, including Elementary Maths, which I took five times before finally passing it on the last try. Without that pass I would not have been admitted to Gwebi. The important point, however, is that in the course of my last two years of High School I developed study habits that were to stand me in good stead at Gwebi where I applied myself to my studies with single minded purpose. I took careful notes in all the lectures, despite a tendency to fall asleep when the subject was less than engaging. This was especially true of crops which was taught by a singularly dull lecturer. Animal Husbandry, on the other hand, taught by Rodney Mundy, was always stimulating and my interest in dairying and Friesian cows was enhanced. This helped when entering competitions judging dairy cattle and clean milk production, both of which I won. I also did well in engineering, earning a distinction in that subject, though I had neither the aptitude nor the talent for repairing farm equipment. In other words, I did well on written exams, but when it came to practical applications I was hopeless.
On the social front I was, at first, very much of a “fish out of water.” I had not grown up in Rhodesia but had gone there as an immigrant from Britain where both my upbringing and my British public school past was a decided disadvantage at first. I was immediately identified as a Pommie, which at first was a little hard to take. However, I slowly became integrated by observing the ways of my fellow students and adapting wherever I felt comfortable doing so. My integration began on the last day of initiation when we newcomers got to put on a variety show. Having no talents to speak of other than a liberal supply of off-colour jokes I relied on them to get me through. I cannot for the life of me remember a single one now, which is just as well since they were not fit for polite society, but they were a big hit with my fellow students. When the show was over we all piled into cars and went on a pub crawl that began at the Quorn Hotel and ended in a low dive at the other end of town after all the respectable establishments had kicked us out.
I do remember not enjoying communal living much, whether it was boarding school or hostel life at Gwebi, though that was preferable to the very restrictive rules imposed on us in my English boarding schools. At first I had a difficult time getting along with my fellow students, for though I was not any older than them I felt older and acted accordingly. Had I not adapted my two years there would have been very tiresome,. However, I did learn, albeit slowly, to get off my high horse and join the crowd. This was greatly aided by a taste for beer and considerable capacity for consumption before passing out. Competitive beer drinking was a time honoured sport among young men in Rhodesia at the time, a sport at which I excelled, much to everyone’s surprise, not the least my own. I also played rugby in the winter and water polo in the summer without distinction in either case, though I did enjoy the experience. I did find the constant complaints about the food to be very tiresome, however. Compared to what I had experienced in boarding school and summer camps that I attended as a boy, Gwebi’s food set the gold standard.
Nigel Norvall was captain of the Water Polo team. He was also from Matabeleland, one of the few in my year. His father was a Dairy farmer with a huge herd or herds. The locals used to joke that he’d milk anything with four legs. Nigel was not especially close, yet he was very helpful on a number of occasions. I’d often ride with him south when we had a weekend free and I wanted to visit my uncle near Bulawayo. There was also an incident that is part of my Gwebi memories that I did not mention before. I had been pretty sequestered as a boy in England in boys boarding schools and spending my holidays in a country village mostly in the company of older people, which was fine with me. However, I had relatively little contact with girls my age. My social life expanded considerably in Rhodesia. However, during my first year at Gwebi it was constrained by the fact I did not have a car. However, on one of the periodic dances at Gwebi I had a blind date arranged for me and Mike Bullock had come with a young woman I found especially interesting. Somehow, in the course of the evening, we switched partners and by the end Fiona, who abandoned Mike had agreed to go out with me on another occasion, assuring me that if I could get to her house her mother would be happy to let us borrow her car for the night. When the appointed day came I got a lift in to town, and Fiona and I went to Bretts for dinner and dancing and had a fine time. I got her home around 1:30 that night and soon got a lift from an English fellow in an MG who dropped me off on the edge of town, since he was going no further in my direction. So I started walking. The time was about 2 o’clock. I soon reached a restaurant on the side of the road that was often frequented by us on our way back to Gwebi, but there was no one there planning on going my way, so I kept walking. Not a single car passed me the rest of the night and I reached the College Entrance on the stroke of 6, four hours from the start of my walk. Needless to say, I slept through every lecture that followed that day including a fair bit of Mundy’s. That evening word got out of my misadventure for which I got a fair bit of ribbing, though not from Nigel Norvall. He asked why I had not called from the restaurant which was open at the time. I could not do that, I said, and wake up the entire hostel with the insistent ringing of the phone till somebody answered. His room was one of the nearest so he said, “I’d have answered, and I’d have come to get you.” And I really believe he would. In August of that year my parents were in Rhodesia for a couple of months and my father purchased a used car for travel in the country, leaving it with me when he and Mother returned to Argentina, so I had wheels my second year and my opportunities expanded greatly. I only saw Fiona once more, but by the then the ardour had cooled, hers even more than mine, and so I moved on.
The other anecdote that might amuse you involved Ian Coulthard. Again this was during my first year at Gwebi. Ian was planning on spending Christmas in Durban and I wanted to visit my uncle in the Free State, so it was arranged that we’d drive down together with Ian dropping me off on his way to Durban and picking me up on his return. Unfortunately for Ian I had already arranged to stop for a night in Johannesburg, at the home of old friends of my parents who had daughters close to me in age whose company I had enjoyed, before catching the train to Standerton the next morning. So he dropped me off at the station in Johannesburg, even though it took him quite far out of his way. On the way back I met him in Standerton which was about forty-five minutes drive from my Uncle’s farm and on the main road north that we took to get back to Gwebi. It was getting late and rain was threatening when we reached the Zimbabwe Ruins Hotel where we stopped for a beer in the hope that we’d get a bite to eat at the bar rather than paying for a dinner in the dining room. The barman, who it later transpired was the owner, said they did not offer bar food and that was that, or so we thought. Pretty soon a very attractive woman comes in, smartly dressed with engagement ring and wedding band prominently displayed, who proves to be friendly and engages us in conversation. Soon the topic shifts and someone close by comments that rain is on the way. “Oh, don’t say that” says Ian plaintively, “we’re sleeping under the stars tonight.” At this point the dinner bell is rung and everyone troops out of the bar,leaving Ian and I to nurse the remains of our beer while the owner leaves the bar in the hands of his regular bar tender. After about half an hour has passed the owner comes back and sits by Ian and tells him that as soon as the dining room clears there’ll be a table for us where we can eat some dinner and then we’ll be shown a room we can share for the night. “But we cannot afford dinner let alone staying the night,” said Ian with some alarm. “Don’t worry about that,” said the owner, “there’ll be no charge,” adding as he left us, “and breakfast will be served in the dining room tomorrow morning.” It turned out the woman who sat next to us at the bar was the owner’s wife and had clearly put in a good word for us. The next day we drove on up to Gwebi and back to work again.
In the second half of my second year at Gwebi I turned my attention to the pursuit of a career and my eventual goal to own a farm of my own. Sir Humphrey Gibbs, who was the speaker at the graduation ceremony for the second year students early in my first year, spoke favourably of opportunities in the Lowveld with particular reference to Hippo Valley Estates. I was impressed by the speech and filed it away in my memory against the day when I had to make a decision. When the time came I did consider other options, including tobacco and a particular offer from David Smith, then Minister of Agriculture who thought I’d be a good choice for his farm mainly on the grounds of winning the Romyn Cup for Livestock judging. However, in the end I declined the offer fearing that I’d not measure up when the time came for tractor repair and the like. It’s not that Gwebi had not taught these skills, but I had little aptitude for it. Hippo Valley Estates, on the other hand, was a large organization with a number of specialists on the staff such as mechanics, so I knew that my responsibility would be primarily agronomic and labour management for which I felt well enough equipped. The choice proved to be a good one, though not for the reason that initially propelled me there. It happened that several of my year chose to go to Hippo Valley as well. These included Mike Bullock, Roy Porritt and Terry Pearse. Others from Course 14 also came down, including Rob Beswick and Terry Kabot, so I had the company of friends to ease the way.
The luckiest break of all that came from my Gwebi days was winning an RTA Rhodes Centenary Bursary. The Rhodesia Tobacco Association, then chaired by Winston Field’s son, offered former Gwebi students generous bursaries to travel to other countries to sharpen their skills in agriculture. Mike Bullock was the first of our year to apply and was sent to Israel to study citrus production and marketing since he was by then managing the canning plant at Hippo where grapefruit was canned for market. I think the year was 1964, but it may have been early in 1965. In any event, he learned a lot. Then in early 1966 I applied for a Bursary on the strength of my Gwebi connection to study irrigation methods, also in Israel. However, when I applied to the Israeli authorities for a visa to travel there I was told that Rhodesians were no longer welcome due to our government’s unilateral declaration of independence in November of 1965. When I reported this glitch to the RTA they immediately responded by advancing me an additional 100 pounds suggesting I try America instead. This I did and had an amazing three month tour of the US, organized by the Foreign Training Division of the US Department of Agriculture mostly focused on irrigation in the southwest, which included travel across the breadth of the country since I landed in Washington D.C. and had to find my way to Texas and then Arizona and California and at the end of the official tour took my time returning home crossing the country in Greyhound buses. It also helped that I got wind of a really good deal offered by Greyhound to visitors who registered in their country of origin. In my case this was Britain where I had gone in the summer of 1966 to get my visa and also to purchase my Greyhound pass which allowed unlimited travel for 99 days for $99, a bargain of amazing proportions. All told I covered about 10,000 miles on that trip. On my return I wrote a long report on irrigation methods in the American Southwest which impressed the RTA committee that had advanced me the money sufficiently for them to pass it on to the Rhodesian Farmer. Whereupon the editor asked me to write an article for them that was published in the June 16th, 1967 edition of the magazine. I must also add that my company generously continued to pay my salary the entire time that was gone, which was also a huge help.
The principle outcome of this trip, however, was the opening of my eyes to the possibility of further education through which to advance my interests. It happened that the best all-round student of the First and Second years of Course 12, a fellow whose surname was Lang, had gone on to university soon after leaving Gwebi. I was aware of this but did not consider it an option till my time in the US was coming to a close. Then I started reflecting on one of the most impressive experiences of my time in the US. Working with employees of the USDA who were advising farmers in their regions I soon came to realize that without exception they were university graduates with very interesting and challenging jobs that offered plentiful opportunities for advancement. No sooner was I back in Rhodesia and at work on my section at Hippo Valley that I began to look into the possibility of going to university myself. I applied to and was accepted by the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg to pursue a BSc. In Agriculture where I was accepted. However, I also wrote to my cousin in England who by then was married to a wealthy Swiss businessman whom I had met the summer before. I told her my plans and within a few weeks got a letter from her husband urging me to go to the US to study instead of settling on Natal. I wrote back immediately agreeing that it was a wonderful idea but doubting I could manage it for lack of funds. In answer to this letter Sam wrote assuring me that I need not worry about money since he was more than happy to help me to extent that I needed financial support. And he was as good as his word, putting up all the money for my first and third years and supplementing my summer earnings for the other two years at Utah State University where I had enrolled in their Agricultural Engineering degree program with an emphasis on irrigation. I loved Utah State University in particular and university life in general though I did not remain long in my original choice of major, but changed from Agricultural Engineering to Political Science at the end of my second year after I failed calculus and physics. This turned out to be my last failure in the course of 21 years of schooling that culminated in my earning a PhD in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley. From there I went to Texas to teach in a university in a rural district about 65 miles south and west of Fort Worth where my wife Linda and I spent the next 31 years till my retirement in 2007, forty years from the time I started at Utah State University.
As to the goal that originally propelled me to Rhodesia, to own my own farm, that too came to pass. Six years after I started teaching at Tarleton State University Linda and I purchased a farm about 16 miles south of the town where the university was situated. It was not a commercially viable proposition and was heavily overgrazed when we took possession. As a result of the poor condition in which we found the grass I decided against running cattle, resting the land for the next 25 years, at the end of which many of the native species that I thought were gone for good had returned and were flourishing. Besides, all through that time I had a full-time job teaching, so when asked why I did not have cattle I would often say, with tongue in cheek, that my students were my cash crop. Many of them, by the way, were close to the land since the university was in a rural part of the state. We did have about 22 acres out of the 99.19 acres the farm covered that was planted to Coastal Bermuda grass, a hybrid version of the grasses that were used for bedding on slave ships. This field we kept going with annual applications of fertilizer and hiring a contractor to mow the grass and bale the hay which we sold to neighbouring farmers and small holders. We also raised pigs for meat and chickens for eggs for which there was a ready market in the early days as well as vegetables both for household consumption and sale or barter. The latter was especially helpful when we needed veterinary services as we paid our vet in pork, literally, and vegetables and also traded eggs and vegetables for music lessons for our two boys.
This pretty much sums up my story and the part Gwebi played. I hope it is of some value to you. If nothing else I can say that I enjoyed writing it."
Written for Colin Lowe.
Rob Franks (Course 13)
I enjoyed writing this, I know one thing Gwebi is and was - an incredible privilege. I'm proud of it and what it has enabled me to do. I still have my text books. My notes got flooded out but all that stuff that I learned stuck. At 74 I still raise my own food and eggs, I’m too old for livestock but my youngest son is coming along as he has hogs and bees and two hundred fruit trees, so not all bad. I broke my hip in July and the repair failed and had to have major surgery second time so have not walked like 16 weeks so here are some Gwebi stories.
I was from Bulawayo when I arrived at Gwebi and I only knew one fellow, Rob Francis from Course 12. I was son of a mining engineer and the snob factor pre-initiation was pretty intimidating. My family raised cattle in Mashaba and Essexvale and Ntabasinduna so I was an alien!
Paul Taylor was my roommate the First Year and he played Polo with Colin Fleming, also Patrick Kemple and Ewen Pinkney from Course 12.
I had Barry Hill as a roommate in our second year and we got on fine. He was the son of a major lawyer in Salisbury so no pretension there. Barry was my Best Man when I married Miss Vivien in 1965. Last I heard he was farming in Mozambique.
So here are a couple good Gwebi stories. TV came during our time at the College and most of us had never heard of Rawhide or seen a Rodeo so the game was on. Nothing those Yanks were doing that we could not do - Monday afternoon right after first episode of Rawhide our group were working with the student steers. Otto jumped up onto the back of a Brahman steer which took off into the Dairy Shed as Mundy was conducting a class at afternoon milking. Neuby Varty broke his kneecap on a pole and my arm was broken. As you can imagine Mundy was not impressed and the punishment was a bunch of us were designated to remove some huge gum tree stumps down the side of Broadbalk. Norvall wasn’t fazed saying that it would be easy, and nothing that a little ammonium sulphate and diesel couldn’t fix. I don't know how we were not killed as the first stump must have gone three hundred feet in the air and we were laughing so hard we couldn’t run. The authorities were not impressed and we cleaned every spot algae out if every watering trough on the place.
My issue was Stan Hodierne. He disliked me probably only a little less than I disliked him. Pinkney and company killed a huge Waterbuck by the Gin Factory, butchered it and hung it in the senior bathroom and were in the process of making biltong when Stan walked in and threw a shit fit and it was not pleasant. Well a couple of mornings later he comes to work at his office and the buck’s head was nailed to his door. My room was right next to his office and he threw a major wobbly and I came running out to see what all the noise was about and burst out laughing when I saw the head mounted on his door. He accused me of doing it and he and I had big battle until I pointed out that I didn’t even have a vehicle but he cut me no slack and used to mutter "fooker with the book" at me, the book being the buck!
Shortly after that a package arrives for Weskob containing genuine tie down gun fighting rigs from Texas complete with replica Colt 45 so Friday lunchtime they stage a "gunfight" firing at each other right outside the dining room. Stan and Mateo required medical attention and it was funny but neither Doc Fielding or the faculty thought so. They never returned after the first year and Bing went on to play Rugby for Rhodesia.
Norvall was courting my cousin in Mabelreign so I was a useful icebreaker and my aunt loved Gwebi guys - she fed us, filled us with beer and gave some good parties for the guys. They lived opposite the Quorn Hotel so one night we had a party going and some other fellows from Gwebi came drifting over from the hotel and one of them needed to take a dump so he climbs a tree outside their gate and does his usual thing using his handkerchief in lieu of paper. We were in the breakfast hall the next morning when his coffee got through and he let out a bellow remembering his name was on the handkerchief. We all thought it was really funny at the time.
I always liked Alwyn Scott and so went to Bible Study at his house every Monday night which actually worked out well as he was a seeing Baptist and prepared me well for the feisty gal I married who is the strongest believer I have ever met. I am 6'6" and she is 5'1" and I can still say “Yes Dear” in my sleep! Scott tempered me well as did Mundy. When I won the Mundy Cup he gave me a Ridgeback bitch from their family kennel that dated back to Major Mundy who got the breed recognized and was of Pioneer stock. All good grounding. I used to baby sit those three children for Rod Mundy and his wife.
There are more and more memories as I sit remembering the good times with Course 12 - some excellent fellows there too. Rob Sayers hung a sweaty undershirt on a chair and later he ended up with about thirty putzi flies (skin maggot flies) eating him alive and it took eight guys holding him down so that we could pull them out. Another big scandal was Johnny Mathews Course 12 standing naked on his rugby shorts in the cold room eating matron’s trifle one evening when she arrived to collect it.
And then Nature Boy Peter Howard Course 14 catching snakes and keeping them in socks hung out his window. Terry Kabot, who I grew up with, was his roommate and woke up with 8 foot python climbing into his bed. Howard used to sell them to the Snake Park so he hitched a ride and had a brief case on his lap and lady giving him the ride asks what he had in it, so he opens the case and cobra in full hood raises its head. The end result was a hell of a car wreck and scandal, and obviously he did not finish Gwebi. He used to get them into socks on the verandah by tying the sock to the bottom of the drain pipes and chasing them down the drain pipe hole at the top.
Dr. Fielding was Dean and the main man when we were there. He left Gwebi for major post in UN I believe. He stood about 5 ft 2" maximum, weighed about 90 pounds soaking wet and he would wear British Army shorts which he could actually walk inside his legs were that skinny, really funny, therefore he was known as Spats. Great agricultural economist and could debate diminishing returns the best I ever heard, also how to manage resources - a clever man. Well he had a car and it was pink. It was not the big ones used for taxis, it was a little pink one probably built during WW2 vintage. He would pick up students going to town and it was so shocking that if it was parked in student parking it would have ended up in the Hunyani River. So we go on Senior tour to Marandellas/Wedza and it's raining cats and dogs. We are on the old army truck and he is following. Every drift in Mashonaland was running with water every one required 20 students to escort it across the spruits. It was disaster as it ended up with so many corncobs in its exhaust that every valve stem was bent and Bob Dimond declared it unrepairable. Spats was a great Agricultural guy but no business sense. Mrs. Fielding, his wife, used to do a lot for the students. She organised formal dances and dance lessons for us and a lot of fellows got good wives. Porritt met his wife in this way and they’re still married 50 years on.
Things that bind us together - Belinsky pioneered row crop irrigation with his drawing from many wells to get enough water to grow his potatoes and secure his market through consistent quality. Over the years I have used this concept continuously.
One day I taught my roommate how to hypnotize chickens and for some reason we put a lot of birds to sleep in the egg laying trials and De Satge thought we had killed these chucks and collapsed in panic. Barry and I butchered uncounted birds as punishment for that prank.
Peter Hadingham bought a very nice farm in Bromley and I built a major irrigation system for him in 1970 but then lost touch; Alabama is long way from Salisbury - I really liked him and we played a lot of bridge together.
John Parkinson - last I heard he was at Hippo Valley and that was in 70's.
Simone Neville and I had a big fight one night where I earned the nickname ‘Sparks’! It still sticks in my throat and I’m still embarrassed as it is not in my nature!
I really liked Vic Gifford and I used to see him a lot when I was in the Lowveld as I built a lot of coffee irrigation systems in Chipinga but sadly we’ve lost contact.
The remainder are just memories - I wish I could get the whole lot of them in the pub and talk some.
Told to Colin Lowe
Dave Garrard (Course 13).
My folks were living in Limbe, Nyasaland (Malawi) when I went to Gwebi. I did my pre Gwebi farming at Banket with a guy called John Beattie (a Rhodesian but with roots in Scotland who had also been a student at Prince Edward). After Gwebi I went to work at Hippo Valley Sugar Estates where Ronnie Yeatman was the field manager. I, like Roy Porritt, was an assistant section manager with a guy called Paddy Starling who now lives in SA and is a well-known artist and painter. I worked on the cane section until I was called up for my basic training at Llewellin Barracks from Jan-May 1964. When I returned to Hippo I worked with Les Yeatman on land preparation for new cane sections. At the end of 1964 I emigrated to Canada where I continued my studies in Vancouver and completed a BA. Then in 1970 I did an MA. at Manchester before a French language Diploma in Quebec. I married Ruth Townsend a Canadian girl and had one son who now lives outside Vancouver BC and he in turn has a son of 17.
I moved to Katanga, Zaire (now DRCongo) in 1973 with Kathy and our son who was only a baby then. I have been engaged in mission work since, although after 23 years we moved to the UK where I taught at Mattersey Hall, a Theological Training Centre attached to Sheffield University at the time. I retired from there in 2013.
I am presently the director of a Charity called CAM International which is involved in mission work in Central and East Africa. I did a Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Religion and Mission at Aberdeen in 1984. I presently travel regularly throughout central and eastern Africa but am based in Preston UK. The practical nature of my time at Gwebi has benefited me throughout my career. I have been engaged in projects such as raising of fish, citrus and cassava production and of course multiple building and mechanical projects, methane gas production and since the mid 70s solar heat and electrical implementation all alongside my other missionary duties.
When it comes to Gwebi, I remember well the initiation ceremonies, the ‘kak’ spray and Mundy getting very upset when we cleaned ourselves up with water from the cattle water trough meant for the local herd because it was then all contaminated. I recall standing outside our rooms with our toothbrushes at the ‘shoulder arms, position and keeping grasshoppers alive in a jar for a week to show our love of animal life. I don’t think any of us actually got caught throwing out any of the dead ones for which we were supposed to have a funeral. During our first week we also found out at tea break and after having drunk our tea, that the second year students had put castrated pig balls in our tea urn. We also had nights of running around the property led on by second year students. I remember some of the second year students putting the prize bull: ‘Bleskies Gregor’ in Fielding’s bedroom when he was out one weekend. He was not amused. There were also exciting times when the students from the University in Salisbury came to raid us in the middle of the night. All I can remember is running around like lunatics throughout the night. They didn’t get the better of us.
Peter Hadingham (Course 13)
I was the oldest student at that time (ripe old age of 24!), having previously attempted engineering at UCT, but couldn’t cope with the maths!
We had a rigorous initiation in those days, which I believe was toned down a lot in subsequent courses. I was taken aside by the head student of course 12 (I’m pretty sure it was Ewen Pinkney), who pleaded with me to co-operate with the procedure so that the others would go along with it too. Firstly we were put through the spray race, and had liquid pig manure poured on us by somebody sitting on the spray race roof. Then we were clamped in the crush one by one, and dosed with ammoniated quinine. Quite the foulest thing I have ever tasted! When we were all happily drinking tea from the urns at our first morning lecture break the urns were emptied out to reveal the testicles which the senior students had just removed during their castration practical. I have a feeling that this may have been a long standing tradition and you may have experienced it yourself!
Us new students had to put on a variety show for the senior year’s entertainment. Everyone was being very feeble about it, so as I had had a lot of theatrical and singing experience, I took the situation in hand and auditioned everyone to discover their hidden talents. The show was a huge success, and I was elected student leader of Course 13 as a result! There was no bar at the college in those days, and as I was lucky enough to have my own car I was off to Harare chasing girls nearly every night, so didn’t set a very good example!
There was a lot of interaction between Gwebi and the University in those days, and our course went a bit too far when they captured the university rag queen and held her prisoner in the pig sties for a couple of days. The varsity students planned a raid in retaliation, but we got all their plans in advance by masquerading as RLI and offering backup for their raid. When they arrived in their cars and stopped to regroup inside the Gwebi main entrance gate we were waiting for them hiding in the trees armed with some extremely ripe retained afterbirths, which we quickly deposited through their open car windows, much to their utter horror and revulsion. Those that were captured, were relieved of their clothing, and forced to hitch-hike back to Harare wrapped in newspaper or banana leaves.
As you can imagine that sort of behaviour was strictly curtailed from then on.
As told to Colin Lowe
Brian Higgs (Course 13)
Brian started cattle farming near Shangani before enrolling at Gwebi in 1961. After graduating he worked for Frank Lilford with Tony Lilford who was also from Course 13. They were growing tobacco and maize but sanctions started and tobacco quotas were imposed so he moved to Trelawney in 1966. He worked for Barry Johnson on Dulwich Estates raising cattle and growing tobacco, maize, irrigated wheat, cotton, soy beans, ground nuts and mammoth tobacco for seed production. After a couple of enjoyable seasons with Barry, Brian returned to Norton when he was offered a partnership with Tony Lilford whose younger brother, Clive, joined them from Course 15. They farmed tobacco, maize, cattle and pigs at Norton but the partnership ended after two years.
“I then leased Bellevue Farm in Goromonzi from Barry Johnson and grew tobacco, maize and ration beans. When Barry's son Chris was ready to move onto Bellevue, we immigrated to Australia in 1979.
“Attending Gwebi was a very positive and broadening experience. I very much enjoyed my years there and feel it qualified me to branch out in all the agricultural fields I undertook.”
From an email to Colin Lowe.
Harry Kew (Course 13).
Kathy shares her life with Harry:
“When Harry returned from a working holiday overseas 1973-1974, he was employed by Templeton Ranch in Banket. JB (Balfour) Templeton had died two months before Harry’s return, and his sister, Mary Scorgie, inherited the home farm, Glenluce, at Banket, the tobacco sections and cattle ranch along the Great Dyke. Harry became General Manager of Glenluce and the Ranch, the tobacco sections were leased out for a time. Harry worked for Templeton Ranch in all for 22 years, and he and I met in 1975 when I was sent as a young teacher to teach at Banket School! We did have a spell working for Tim Henwood , and in Marondera for a time, so Harry broke service with Templeton but returned at Mrs. Scorgie’s request in 1992.
“Mary Scorgie was a real character, and we had a very good relationship with her. She even appointed herself as our children’s godmother, and was interested in every facet of their lives. In later years she employed my father who was ex-army, as cattle manager at The Ranch. Sadly, the farm invasions of 2000, eventually affected us there, and it was a very traumatic time. All the beautiful huge trees on the Ranch were hacked down, lands taken over and settlements put up. My parents were threatened with violent eviction and we moved them off to a retirement village in Chinhoyi (Sinoia). On Glenluce we were invaded August 2001 and Harry had a tough time with the ‘new farmers’, often phoning to tell me to stay at school as there was a violent mob at our gate.....but we managed to remain living there until November 2002. I was teaching at Lomagundi College and we were given accommodation on the School campus. Harry became the groundsman for 5 years!
“Eventually Mrs Scorgie went to the Mvurwi Old Age Home where she died but through her we got to know Madge Ford and visited her at Fupi!
“Now we are in Bulawayo, and I am thankfully still teaching at Whitestone, but Harry is retired. He has worked as a butchery manager and for a swimming pool maintenance company since we came to Bulawayo 12 years ago ......sadly no pension so we are not sure what will happen when my job comes to an end.... no doubt I will find myself some children to teach!
“We’re boarding house grandparents to our two grandsons (11 and 8) whose parents work at Falcon College, so that keeps us on our toes! We have a son as well; he is working in Chegutu - farming chickens and running a very big chicken abattoir! Soon to put in a big citrus section!”
Dereck Wheeldon, Course 13
I was born in South Africa and attended Selbourne College in East London, and then Marist Brothers at Inanda in Jo’burg. My father was in the South African Air Force, seconded to the RAF during the War, but on returning decided to join the fledgling Central African Airways in the early 50’s. We moved to Salisbury and lived in Marlborough and so I attended Ellis Robins school.
During school holidays I assisted an uncle on his farm near Bindura and so, after leaving school, I obtained a position as an assistant manager, working for Warren and Madge Ford on Fupi where we supplied the town and mine of Sinoia with bottled and churn milk, as well as running a beef herd. I was then lucky to obtain a place at Gwebi in 1961 (C 13) where I had a wonderful two years and where, although I did not shine, I learned a terrific amount and enjoyed great comradery. I believe that the Gwebi training made for individuals who could adapt to most of life’s challenges. Sadly, I lost touch with all of my fellow students over the years until, a few weeks ago, when I was contacted by my second year room-mate Roy Porritt. This blast from the past has prompted me to get in touch with fellow Gwebians again.
After graduation I obtained a post as an assistant manager on one of JD Templeton’s tobacco sections near Banket. I was more interested in Animal Husbandry and JD offered to employ me in the future, as his cattle manager, if I could obtain a Vet degree. So, for this and for personal reasons, I decided to move to the UK but before doing so, I joined the army for my National Service, together with a bunch of other Gwebians, in Sept 1964. The following year a group of us boarded a Union Castle Liner and sailed for Southampton – lived in Earl’s Court (Kangaroo Valley) for a while and then went our separate ways. I worked for a contract Farming Agency, which took me round much of southern England and Wales, for 18 months, during which time I learned how different farming in the UK was and is, to that back home.
I discovered that getting into a Vet School was very difficult and that nothing short of at least 3 grade A science “A” levels would get you through the interview door. I enrolled in a cramming night school in Westminster and, just by chance, answered an ad for a technician to join the then experimental Open-Heart Surgery Unit at St. Thomas’s Hospital, just down the road from Westminster, in 1967. The pay was terrible but the work amazing and the hospital gave me a day off and sponsored my further studies, leading to an Honours degree in Applied Biology.
I then spent the following 30 years, working in the technical and research aspects of cardiac surgery. The early work at St. Thomas’s found me working with heart-lung machines, which are used to support patients undergoing open heart surgery, and in the development of improved techniques. I was able to make significant contributions to the development of the technology, the establishment of improved and safer techniques and the professional education and certification of the operators. We then moved to Cambridge in 1973 and I joined Papworth Hospital, the East Anglian cardio-thoracic centre. Working with a South African surgeon, Sir Terence English, I was part of the first UK Heart Transplant Unit in Cambridge where I was responsible for research into improved donor organ preservation and for developing the logistics involved with the procedure. This work culminated in my obtaining a PhD in Organ Preservation. I then moved into the field of artificial hearts and lungs and worked with a number of these devices where I was responsible for product development, team training and technical support. Working in these developing fields allowed me to publish widely, be invited to lecture at many international conferences, and to be a part-time University lecturer.
In 1996 I joined a small group of medics, led by the famous US heart surgeon Michael DeBakey, to assist with the heart operation on President Yeltsin, in Moscow. My role was to provide whatever life support he may have required (some thought that he would not survive the surgery), but in the event and thankfully, my contributions were not required. It was, however, an interesting 10 days!
I also became involved in the publishing world and was on the editorial staff of an international medical journal, for 17 years.
We retired to live in Knysna, South Africa, in 2004 for 14 wonderful years where I was involved with sailing, U3A, Rotary and some golf. However, the pull of grandchildren and the deteriorating political and economic situation prompted increasing pressure from my wife to return to the UK, on a permanent basis, in June 2017. We are closer to our four sons and four grandchildren, but we now have to deal with BREXIT, amongst other things, which seriously impact on quality of life making the adjustment to life in Blighty, pretty difficult. We now live in the Cambridge area again and I continue to do some consulting work for CARMAT, a company based in France, which is developing a novel artificial heart.
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