Beloved African was started as a memoir for the family, a year or so after my father’s death. We always knew he had played a remarkable role in Rhodesia, but I often wondered at the depth of love and respect, which was shown to him by leading Africans all over the country. Children, however, seldom really know or understand what their parents have achieved. I had a reserve of four tapes, which I had recorded a couple of years earlier, when on impulse, I urged Dad to respond to some questions. I also knew of “some letters”, which my mother had kept—and we then found all Dad’s annual reports. I had no idea it was such an extraordinary resource. It was only once I started writing, that I found that it was not only a wonderful story of a truly remarkable relationship between two people, but it grew through that to be a stirring, evocative and relevant story of Africa.
Their letters, written every week between 1935 and 1937, reflect Rhodesia and Britain of the time—the politics, the social behaviour and the attitudes. They are the letters of two people falling more and more deeply in love, yet who were separated by what was then a huge distance, with a six-week turnaround in letters. The growth of their relationship, their fears and apprehensions about losing each other, to their final joy of being together, is a tender and gentle opening to the story. The move to Africa brings quite a different pace—with young English lass’s observations about all the things she found different, compelling or terrifying. It starts to tell the story of my father’s early struggles with “the Department”... who were at best unable, or at worst, disinclined, to help. The story moves on to a heartbreaking ending for a man who was only too aware that time was against him in his desperate attempts to educate sufficient young Africans for the important roles they would be playing in the future of their country. It is a story of the destruction of ideals and the breaking of someone with so much to contribute—yet it also tells of recovery and of hope for the future.