FLETCHER FAMILY ARCHIVE. The Jura, Scotland - Southern African branch.Data capture and research notes. A work in progress.
ZIMBILIANA. Anecdotal. Re; GARFIELD & JUDITH TODD I met Garfield Todd, if you can call the encounter a meeting, in about 1953/54. The new Hillside Junior School had built a swimming pool and the Prime Minister was coming to officially open it. In case he should lose his way I was sent, as one of the prefects, to stand at the corner of Hillside and Tennyson Avenues to direct his car to the school. It was probably early summer, one of those days when an afternoon thunderstorm suddenly appears. The whole school and all the masters were sitting around the pool, and the rain suddenly poured down. Everybody kept in their places, including myself on Hillside road. A dark car, probably an Austin Princess, with a soggy pennant on the mudguard, appeared out of the downpour and I dutifully directed it left. But it just pulled up near me and a back door swung open and two people on the back seat made room and I was called to get in. I protested but they would have none of that, and so I dutifully got in, dripping water all over the Prime Minister, who remained in good spirits and was most friendly. When we pulled up by the pool in front of the assembled school and I got out the car first, it seemed a look of consternation flickered across the face of Mr Pearson, our headmaster. Judith I first met in about early 1962, - again if you can call the encounter a meeting, and one anyhow about which she later told me she had no recollection . in Salisbury when she was a student at the university. If I remember correctly she had been in the news during student demonstrations. A new friend Mike McCann was a young photographer on the Rhodesia Herald, where I was in the newsroom. He had possibly been taking photos of the student activities. Anyhow he had on a sudden inpulse invited Judith for a drink at Bretts, and she had accepted. He got cold feet at the last moment and asked me to go along as well to help keep conversation going. I told him she was hardly likely to be pleased to meet anybody called Fletcher, but he said he wouldn.t mention the name. The meeting was a little serious in spite of the Irish presence. Very soon after that Mike and I hitched overseas. I did not meet Judith again until the Nineties, more or less, when she was at a lunch party at Pip and Sally Longden in Park Road. We were instroduced and I made some silly remark about enmity she might feel towards a Fletcher. She was amused; said she used to open the door to .Uncle Ben. when he came round to talk to her father. We saw Judith often after that, and she came out to Zimbile. It turned out we had a mutual acquaintance in Dick Walker, formerly on the Chronicle, but then living in New York. The three of us met once at her house when Dick had come out to settle his mother's affairs in Bulawayo after she had died. While we were there Judith received a fax informing her that she had been appointed an observer at the South African elections of 1994. Her father was often seen at the monthly cattle sale at Insiza. He bought for a butcher shop at his farm, and was a very competitive bidder. Richard Wakefield, the auctioneer, always felt certain the ring weren.t going to have it all their own way when Sir Garfield was around. When we had to leave the farm, and stayed at Park Rd with Pip and Sally, Judith wanted Elwyn and I to meet her father, and said she would arrange a lunch occasion. I think she had a bit of a problem in getting him to agree, but eventually a date was settled. We turned up at her house in Suburbs. It was a sunny winter day. She said her father had just rung to say he .did not wish to meet the Fletchers who have just lost their farm.. The others there were Washington Sansoli and Malcolm King. Judith didn.t know what to do, but eventually persuaded her father to come. We sat in the sunny garden. Judith was busy with lunch and a telephone interview with the BBC. (She had just won a class action in the High Court against the Mugabe regime). Malcolm was also busy on the phone, and Washington was soaking up the sun in a deckchair. I was left to make conversation with Garfield, and was amazed and surprised when he said "My heart bleeds for you people who have lost your farms and homes.." I was surprised mostly by the terms of his expression. But that was not all, for he then said he wanted to apologise, - that he never could have imagined that things would have turned out the way they had. I considered for a moment whether I had heard him correctly.. In their various ways, could anybody have imagined that things would turn out the way they did? He went on to say that the court battle Judith was engaged in was one of the finest things she had done. We were called inside to lunch. He sat at one end of the table, and I was on his left. He said his family, either in South Africa or before coming to Africa from New Zealand had made bricks. I think that came up by way of the substantial stone-walled weir he had put up on their farm in Belingwe, which I had asked him about. I said my father had been a keen brickmaker, and that John had learned it from Boss Lilford who had learned it at Zimbile when he was still at Plumtree. Garfield then spoke of Ben and said Ben had a very kind heart. This had been most evident when as a Minister it had been Ben.s unhappy duty every now and then to confirm sentences of death. Ben had taken it harder than anybody else in that job. Garfield quite suddenly excused himself. Judith said he had to go home for a swim, which he did every day, even in winter. He died not long after this occasion. The last time we saw Judith was in July 2003 when Elwyn and I made a trip through South Africa with Clara to say goodbye to family and friends. We met her and Malcolm for lunch. It was at a restaurant they had decided upon at Groote Schuur, in the open air, overlooking Cape Town. Crusty bread, fragrant white wine, salads, seafood, pasta. In the lair of the Empire.s lion! The immense and brooding spirit was nowhere to be felt, - and the prices seemed very reasonable. * * * [Neil Fletcher. Nannup, Western Australia. 28.02.2007. © ] ======== POSTSCRIPTS: Re-typed: 8 May 2016.