Thinking back to my carefree days in school, when we studied South African history and the stories about the Great Trek,1835-1838;
the voortrekkers with their ox wagons; Louis Trichart, Hans van Rensburg, Piet Retief and Gerrit Maritz.
When their hardships were discussed, you too may have heard some cheerful banter across the classroom;
“Well if they had waited until today, they could have come by aeroplane!”
So what about Charlie and Arthur? I refer to previous posts, Friends across the Divide, etc.
What if they had the technology we have today?
Would they have done things any differently?
As Jan van Riebeeck, Louis, Hans, Gerrit and the boys were the forerunners of developing and populating a vast rural expanse of country; so too were our parents part of a ‘new age’ that would shape the history in Southern Africa.
We are all slaves to our own destiny.
So, I think, no, they would not have done things any differently; technology is today the same as, a good postal system was to the past. The equations are just different. We still believe and move on “by word of mouth”, so to speak.
The speed of technology and doing things quicker and quicker, rather than doing it correctly the first time would not have suited Charlie.
Perfection and Precise are words that come to mind.
He didn’t write a letter if he had no time to sit at his desk and do it properly, with his fountain pen and ink. He didn’t rush it; letters were planned and a work of art; as were Arthur’s.
In my last post about 1949, Charles said that they, the immigrants, were better off after the first year in Port Elizabeth than they would have been had they stayed in Ireland, but it was all such hard work too.
Letter from Port Elizabeth:
Dear Arthur and Ruby,
“I am almost living at the mill these days, it is now 7 pm and I am still here, having started at 6 am and I will go on till 10 pm, same tomorrow, we have an acute shortage of shift millers here and this is my sixth week of 12 hour shifts.”
“The mill manager let’s me off for an hour in the afternoon.”
“Now, we have an Afrikaans chap here tomorrow from the Orange Free State, and a bloke from another mill in PE, due to start work the week after next, so I am to get my long awaited annual leave.
I write to Frank Fennessy regularly and when he gets his leave we plan to have him here in PE for a while. We can have a good old chat, play chess and Ruby’s card game, Rummy!”
Arthur had been on a vacation back to Ireland from Brazil after a three year contract. He was then asked to go to a mill in Bahia, a city founded in 1549. They missed their friends they had made in Rio and were alone again.
Letter from Brazil:
“Car driving here is a real he-man task and it is doubtful if 20% of the cars are free from bumps and dings. Bahia people have a reputation of being the tamest of Brazilians, and I think this statement to be true. Less hot blooded knifing goes on here and they have no special police everywhere as they do in Rio.”
Written in the margin:
“Hello Eleanor, how are you? Sorry to leave you in this miserable little corner, but the postal union is a heartless body; and I had so much to say. The family must be quite grown up by now. Our numerous offspring is as strong and healthy as it ever was, sez-I…..but where there’s hope ?”
Arthur and Ruby, too hoped for a son, but then in 1953 adopted a little boy in Ireland on their second return holiday. They returned to Brazil to Anaconda Mills, South America.
Some time will have lapsed before the lads wrote again, getting on with the daily living tasks, finding places to live and affording that postage stamp to send a letter!!
In May of 1952, Charlie and Eleanor had another daughter in Port Elizabeth– but still no letters nor copies of letters.
Then in 1956, Charlie had a letter from Arthur.
Letter from Brazil:
“I have just had a letter from Nell in which she gave me your address and told me the tragic news of the death of her husband, Jim. This is the saddest piece of news as we had found Nell to be a woman born again with Jim. It was hard to believe that she was the same person that used to fritter away her time in Kilmacow.
I think it is a scurvy trick of nature to endow us with intelligence and irreplaceable affections and when it comes to the push, we have to share the fate of the meanest crawling insect.”
“I have decided to chuck up Brazil and go to Africa. I intend to go to friends of ours who have a fruit farm in Umtali, Southern Rhodesia. The new Rhodesian Federation promises something better than Darkest Africa. Anyway I am prepared to risk it for the sake of a good education for our boy. I have vague dreams of owning a small mill eventually, to my own design.”
“Does Eleanor ever feel homesick? Nell tells me you have a son now.
The girls must be quite big. How is that chap Dimond who married Eleanor’s sister getting on?”
“We are due to sail to England first, and hope to see Nell and your mother when we are there. When writing in the future it will be best to send letters to Clarina, Limerick.”