Story suggested by Louis Boshoff Tuesday 23 March
In small towns in the colonies, the magistrate is often one of two senior government officials, the other is the District Commissioner.
They are required to reside in large houses with large grounds, which if you are a young bachelor is a curse.
When I was appointed as Resident Magistrate in Mtoko in the North East corner of Rhodesia, the only furniture I possessed was my bed; my bedside table was a beer crate. I also had a hi-fi player.
I was given three weeks ‘ notice to move. All of a sudden I was required to furnish a 3 bedroomed house with a large sitting room and dining room. Then there were two acres of garden to keep neat. I was given three weeks’ notice and a day off to shop for furniture.
What to do? I didn’t have a girlfriend to advise me and Mum was still in Swaziland. My friends were beer drinkers and rugby players.
I went to an auction and bought a lounge suite, dining room suite, a bed, some bedside cabinets, some crockery and a tray full of cutlery. There was also a set of Impressionist prints on boards which were quite good, so I took them to add colour to the walls.It took about an hour.
Next door was a drapery shop where I bought some calico material for curtains, orange and green for the Irish flag.
So I arrived in Mtoko and was taken on a grand tour by the departing magistrate: Police, Prison, District Commissioner and army HQ. Ex officio, I was appointed as Chairman of the local Sports Club. This was awkward as until then in the city, I had enjoyed the anonymity and freedom of an ordinary man in the street beer drinker…
The best advice I had been given was to engage a reliable man of all trades. Thankfully, I was introduced to John, a regal grandfather who introduced himself as Tickey (I am embarrassed to say I have forgotten his surname; I called him Baba which means father).
He was a real gentleman’s gentleman and cared for me as if I was a prince and not a dissolute bachelor with paltry, shoddy possessions and no woman. I gave him money and he bought food and fed us, telling me when we needed more. He fed the dogs and cleaned the house, removing the occasional reptile and washing and ironing. He took my curtain material to the local tailor and I had curtains in two days.
He would not do the garden, but fortunately a gang of prisoners would come up occasionally to cut grass and weed. Some became quite familiar and greeted me in a friendly fashion, even though I had sent them down.
So there were blessings to accompany the curse.
One thought on “A Magistrate’s curse in colonial times”
Loved that it conjured such great images from the past, images and made me laugh. Love the irony involved!