A dead giveaway …
Sometimes I am accused, even in retirement, of being irresponsible or reckless with the little money I’ve got from a lifetime of reporting and writing.
Oh, I do give to worthy causes – like school fees in Zimbabwe’s broken but costly education system. They are not my children but I help the kids of needy friends.
Going through some old files the other day I dug out this cutting I had scanned from the ‘African Weekly’ newspaper of July, 1958. So subconsciously I have inherited this weakness from him. Evidently my philanthropist father was deeply mourned in our home district of Nyabira.
THE death of Squadron Leader Cautley Nasmyth Shaw which occurred recently at Nyabira was a cause of much sorrow and great anxiety among Africans in whose hearts he had cultivated a garden of extreme love and fervent admiration.
Up to his death S/L. Shaw was closely connected with Nyabira School for Africans and while he lived he was part and parcel of the school and tremendously helped it by the provision of educational facilities.
At his memorial service which was conducted by the Rev. M. Daneel assisted by the Rev. L. W. Makuwalo, glowing tribute was paid to Mr Shaw and the sterling work he rendered by the Headmaster of Nyabira School, Mr. P. Chirwa, by Mr. J. G. Frere, farm manager, by the Rev. Daneel and other notable figures who had. had the privelege of sharing friendship with Mr. Shaw.
Said Mr. Chirwa, “The death of S/L Shaw is a severe blow to us the Africans who had grown to love him and for whom he had done so much. It was through his high regard for humanity and deep love for Africans that he gave part of his farm as ground for a school to educate African children.” Mr. Chirwa spoke first in Nyanja and then in English.
The most touching was the speech given by the African foreman of the Farm who recounted the kindly and fatherly manner in which Mr. Shaw treated all his African labourers. The farm manager Mr. Frere said he would try to follow in the footsteps of S/L Shaw, and he advised the African labourers to be hopeful for the future, be peaceful and obedient to authority. He was sorry that Mr Shaw’s three children were not there at the ceremony. Concluding his speech he asked the school children to sing a hymn.
Rev. Daneel recounted all that Mr Shaw had done on behalf of the school and closed the ceremony with a prayer.
We are of Scottish settler ancestry, complete with a tartan. My father’s death was … “a cause of great anxiety among Africans in whose hearts he cultivated a garden of extreme love and fervent admiration” back in those colonial days. I wonder who wrote this story. Even a colonial propagandist couldn’t be this imaginative.
I wish I had known my father better. I was 7 and away at junior school in the mountains of eastern Zimbabwe at the time.
My mother died a couple of years before him. I childishly thought he had died from a broken heart. It was cirrhosis and cancer, the risks of hard living. Long after our independence war I went looking for his last resting place. Sure enough, I found him in a mouldy and frayed leather ledger. But the whereabouts or plot number at the end column of the page had been eaten away by dampness and ants. If there had been a metal plaque marking his ashes it would have been stolen and sold, as all the rest have been.
So even in death, the squadron leader helped some poor township artisan. He’s probably been melted to a make a cooking pot.