Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Letter From Cath Buckle

Under a wide blue sky a warthog and her three babies ran across a red dirt road below a kopje. The piglets ran with tails straight up, like aerials, as they followed their mum into the surrounding bush. In the sky nearby half a dozen vultures circled low over a clearing and in the distance, the haunting call of a fish eagle promised water, fish and the myriad treasures waiting discovery in our beautiful Zimbabwe.

A couple of hundred people had gathered at the foothills of Castle Kopje in Wedza. A beautiful kopje, her rocks stained orange with lichen and balancing precariously on top of each other. We sat under a great Acacia tree watching a couple of young black rhinos browsing nearby, waiting for the proceedings to begin.

Our host told us this was a traditional Shona burial ground, a sacred place, and that he’d had to get permission from the local Chief to bury his mother here. Just seven months ago we had been in this same place to bury his father, Norman Travers, here.

The service began and one after another the eulogies told of how Gill Travers was a loving, dedicated and endlessly creative woman. A woman who made her home in the African bush, raised her family there and then shared it all with lions, leopards, hyaenas and otters.
Gill’s doctor said she was the only patient he had who had been bitten by a hyaena and then an otter; the only patient who needed a leopard’s claw removed from her forearm!

Alongside giraffe and elephants, rhinos and warthogs, Gill and Norman Travers farmed the land and created a game park which attracted tourists from all over the world. They began outreach programmes with rural schools, endlessly spreading the message of conservation, and they held open days for local elders, headmen and chiefs.

Working with the Department of National Parks, they took in black rhinos ravaged by poaching, and embarked on a unique programme, rearing the calves and then and returning them to the wild. Gill and her catering partner Mattheus prepared milk formulas in bottles for rhinos and cream teas and venison casseroles for visiting guests all in the same farm kitchen! The perfect team creating what Gill’s grandson called an “oasis.”

Nineteen years ago Gill Travers was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but she fought on undeterred, always welcoming, cheerful and uncomplaining. Gill finally gave up her valiant struggle this week and watched by family, friends and elephants was laid to rest in the ground she so loved.

I write this letter today in memory of Norman and Gill Travers who lie side by side under an Acacia tree beneath Castle Kopje on Imire Game Park in Wedza. Almost two years ago Norman and Gill invited me into their home and week after week we worked on a book together. They told me the amazing story of how a piece of virgin bush in Wedza was farmed, nurtured and transformed.
Norman spoke of a “stream of naughty, smelly, little animals” filling their lives and Gill of how much she loved them all and how proud she was of her family continuing with their life’s work.

“Imire, the Life and Times of Norman Travers,” will be available within the next fortnight, please contact Cath Buckle for further information.

To Norman and Gill Travers: Fambai zvakanaka, thank you for giving us Imire,such a gem. Until next time,love cathy

Copyright Cathy Buckle. 13 November 2010 www.cathybuckle.com


It was the coroners court on Friday. The verdict was expected Accidental Death. The coroner was very kind as were all of his staff. 2 Friends ended up at the court with me and they and the thoughts from friends and family gave me a lot of strength.

Family were allowed to ask questions, l didn't l could picture the whole thing as l have a skydiving background.

The witnesses, Gary, Dave, John, Richard did a very hard job with dignity and l would like to thank them for the way they gave evidence, it was clear and understandable.

Press were skulking around but l ignored them. The coroner had a word with us about when the clips would be on and that the bbc and itv camera men were basically ok and known to him. I just didn't want anything to do with them though and left the court so fast l left one friend trailing.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Shangani Patrol

In memory of all those who have died or still die in wars. I wrote this in honour of a group of men in Rhodesia who died fighting and were honoured by those who they fought. It was a battle that should never have been fought and it began a legend.
A retreat was already taking place but the greed of white man caused caused this particular battle by talking gold tribute and running away not taking the message and gold to their officers in charge.
Greed from all colours to all has caused so many deaths be it minerals, water or oil.

Lobengula lost 80 Royal Guard and 500 warriors. The remains of the Shangani Patrol were finally moved in 1904 & interred in the Matopas at Worlds View which had been consecrated and set aside “For ever for those who deserved well of their country Worlds View is the one place that has not been desecrated still.

The exact spot of the last stand is only approximately known. A granite obelisk was erected in 1937 at the “site”. The carved tree “To Brave Men” is in the Bulawayo Museum. There were 37(?) men but 3 Men on the patrol escaped at the start of the fight. 33 skulls were found after the fight. 34 were involved

At one point the survivors went to try and escape but their leader(?) stopped them, looked at the wounded and said nothing, they dismounted and stayed.

It is generally agreed but not confirmed that the abdomens were split open to allow their spirits to escape. This is how the Matbele honoured those they felt faught bravely their finest honour they could bestow. It is also said the men sang and cheered throughout.
The last man has never been identified but his acts were confirmed.

All information of the battle has been handed down by the Matabele.

Shangani Patrol

4th December 1893, Allan Wilson and his 33 marched towards their end.
In a dark and brooding forest, near the banks of the flooded Shangani.
Lobengula’s empty royal kraal, a trap that had been set
The click of Winchesters and by the anthill death was felt.
No protection, no place to hide, men staring fearfully around.
The gentle hum of bees was heard, bees whose stings were death,
were killing lumps of flying lead.
Grouped around the wounded they turned and in fear fled
Their only hope to cross, the flooded river bed.

Funnelled by the impis to a barricade of death
They stopped and killed their horses, at their final place of rest,
In a smoking hell of noise and pain from the pit of Dante’s realm.
Dead lay where they’d fallen while wounded tried to fight.
Water gone and throats rasped dry they lapped at trickling wounds.

Surrender…. the Matabele offered but were scornfully refused.
Through the morning they fought on knowing they would die.
The barrier of horses, bodies bloated high.
Held at bay the impis, and the stabbing assegai.
Death sought hard the fighting men… refusing to be denied.

Finally, their bullets spent and few men left alive
They stood and looking past their fear they shook each others hands.
Sung a final song and in the sudden, waiting silence, they walked out into myth,
onto the killing ground to face their lonely deaths.
The last survivor to an anthill walked killing as he went.
His hip was shattered by a bullet and finally he fell,
Kissed by ripping assegai, his passing was the end.

For the courage of the 34 the Matabele generals decreed
No one would touch their bodies their courage had shone through.
“For they are Men of Men and shall lie where they have died”.
3000 Thousand throats in unison sung the royal salute
Weapons held high in honour of the fallen 34

Two months later trees still bullet scarred and raw.
The stench of death a memory
Trader Dawson passing through found the scattered bones.
He collected and he buried them and on a tree he carved
The simple but the poignant words
“To Brave Men”

© C.L 5/2/07