Company and children in Africa

20 Jan

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been struck by the sense of community in Maurice’s diaries. This week, I’ve been reading more diary entries and highlighting the names mentioned so that I might be able to work out who these people were and what relationships they had with Maurice.

Most touching is when Maurice stays with families and mentions his relationships with the children in the households. Maurice was a bachelor and never had a family of his own, which has led people to imagine that he was a bit of a loner, or awkward and unsuccessful at forming relationships. However, I really dont think this was the case.

Little of Maurice’s diaries is given over to describing his own opinions and likes and dislikes. They are largely factual accounts of places visited, people met and objects acquired for his collections. Therefore, when stories of everyday life are included, they instantly strike me as poignant and sentimental, even though they still betray little emotion from Maurice! To me, they are rare glimpses into the real man behind the regimented facade.

Here are a few of the stories that have made me smile:

April 2nd, 1923 Maurice stayed with Mr Aubert at Mace-Quece, Zimbabwe. He found his two children “Dede still in bed recovering from a bad attack of gastric fever, but Giles, though also recovering from an ordinary dose of fever, full of beans as usual”. On April 21, Maurice bought a monarch 24” frame bicycle for Dede for £14.10.

On April 23, Maurice stayed with W Bailey in Pretoria, South Africa. He described the atmosphere of the house changing as all the boys came back from school at 3.20pm. “Louis was about 18, Wellesley 15, Terence born April 24 1910 and Dermot about 11. In the afternoon Wellesley fell off his bicycle and returned with a doctor in a car with slight concussion”.

April 24: “Met Terrence and Dermot at their school and took them to lunch, then shopping being Terrence’s Birthday -13”

April 27: “Picked up Terence at his school, in the evening to a boy scout show”

April 28: “in the afternoon we motored to the sunnyside school to see Dermot play soccer in a ‘cub’ match”

Maurice has a lodger over New Year: December 29 “Jack having been ill at school, Mrs Arthur Trench (his Aunt) would not take him in with her kids, so I kept him with me”.

January 3rd 1924: “Maxwell Trench called for Jack at 7am this morning and took him off home. Very sorry to lose him, a delightful little companion”.

If we can judge Maurice’s main preoccupations based on the content of his diaries, then the schooling and welfare of children, particularly boys, is often present in his thoughts, after the priorities of land management and game hunting.

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