Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The Autobiography of an Old Drifter

The autobiography of an old drifter: The life-story of Percy M. Clark of Victoria Falls is in the Rhodesiana reprint series, by Percy M. Clark "of Victoria Falls" and was originally published in 1932. No index!

The people appear in South Africa, Southern Rhodesia and North Western Rhodesia (Victoria Falls / Livingstone and west towards Mongu). North Eastern Rhodesia was a separate region at that time. Much of the action takes place at "The Old Drift", the original settlement at Livingstone, hence the book title. Clark says that another name for this was "Deadrock" in 1908. I find it curious that after five years there he refers to himself as a Rhodesian, as do other people from his home, Cambridgeshire. On the other hand...

One is left with an impression of a lion-infested, malarial frontier town with slightly mad inhabitants, liable to have fist fights at any time. Tough folks. Also racist, as evidenced by the number of racial epithets. He will often just refer to "a Jew", for example, or "a Scan" (Scandinavian), and I suppose many went by nicknames such as the "Yank" and "Mac" who turn up.

Clark eventually ran a curio shop, but was an accomplished photographer and chemist also. His main business in the earlier days was photography and he must have taken some of the earliest photos of places in the area. He sold postcards and portraits. There is a photo of Litia son of Lewanika, later Yeta III.

In 1903 he records

The Old Drift ... about a dozen white men round two or three stores right on the river bank. In the rainy season it was a swamp.... In the vast territory of North Western Rhodesia in 1903 there were no more than ... a hundred white people"

Eleven out of thirty-three died that winter...

He also states that 70% died the following year.

In 1911, Clark says, the census shows 1,497 whites. It would be nice to track this down... In 1931, 13,846 were recorded.

The following names appear, but there are some I didn't bother with, including some famous visitors and some nicknamed or pseudonymous people. They are in approximately the following order, dating from around 1900 onwards

BRANCH, George (of Cambridge / Cape Town)
SAGO (of Brabant's Horse)
SMART, Harold
ALLEN, Ellis
MARRIOT & PARKER (photo shop?)
HADDON & SLY (Bulawayo shop)
Major Charles DULY (Duly Motors)
George WALTON (comedian)
Charlie MATON (B.S.A.P)
Nurse WILLIAMS (Bulawayo)
O'CONNOR (an Irish-American)
Captain Bourchier WREY
BICKLE (manager of Lennon's store)
Aaron's bar (Jewish - Manzinyama)
WERNER (Geelong Hotel)
Sir Charles METCALFE
Henry FRENCH (Kate French's father, solicitor Cambridge) p 224
Kate FRENCH (Clark's wife, married Feb 15th 1906 at Great St Andrew's Cambridge)
Victor CLARK (their son)
H.C. Marshall HOLE (Bulawayo; administrator Sesheke)
Andrew DALE
Prof. LAMPLOUGH (Cambridge?)
Arthur WEINER (Geelong) p225
"Mopani" CLARKE (the original settler, who came from Chatteris in Cambridgeshire)
Prof Henry BALFOUR p 238
Lord SELBORNE p 242
Billy BUTCHER (Sesheke); photo of Carlisle and Butcher with Clark
AITKIN (Lia Lui)
Dr WILSON (from Bulawayo; died circa 1903 at the Old Drift - probably same as recorded elsewhere on this blog d.1903)
Tom KING p172
DIPPER (mineral water plant)
ZEEDERBERG (mail service)
"Jimmy" (hippo hunter on Chobe River, came from USA)
L.F. MOORE (editor of the Livingstone Mail, previously The Pioneer paper; chemist) A previous chemist died in 1908?
"Joe", an undertaker
"Taffy", the village policeman, died there
A "Greek" who shot 9 lions one morning. Two got away. He had thought they were pigs
Charles B. FOX, working on the railway bridge in 1904
Percy WILD, a book-keeper
Colin LUNN (Bulawayo)
railway contractor brothers called Bill and Jack probably just there while working on the bridge
Arthur (Bill?) SMITH p270
"Fred" a prize fighter / bouncer
Sir Herbert STANLEY p250
Cecil RODWELL p250 (photo of these two fishing in the Zambezi)
HICKSON faith healer Bulawayo p259
Duchess d'AOSTA cousin of King of Italy p263
Leo WEINTHAL  p265

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