Calvin Coolidge once said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent”There are no doubt many examples of this statement that he refers to in American history, but it is exemplified in “Darwin Days” published by Chris Whitehead and Nick Russell, both of them young men who experienced life in Mount Darwin in the 1960’s and 70’s. Mount Darwin impacted on their lives, turning them rapidly from boys to men and in their reflections today, although there are attempts to hide them, the scars show through.
This book is a collection of contributions from farmers, policemen, soldiers and civil servants who spent, in some cases a lot, in others only a little time in Mount Darwin. Some of the contributors were children who are today grown men and women. And it is these former children who have made some of the most graphic but modest and selfless contributions.
This is a history book. There are stories of great courage, selfless bravery, sheer stupidity and much fun in unusual circumstances. But most of all, the collections illustrate the character of the Rhodesian farmer during the period between 1950 and 1980. The so-called ‘white colonial oppressors’ who not only built their farms from nothing, but assimilated the African people into their lives, albeit at arms length, with empathy and goodwill. Today their attitude to the African people is described by those who think they know best as ‘patronising’ and ‘superior’. Read these collections and judge for yourself. They tell us in simple modest language why Rhodesia was once the ‘breadbasket of Africa’, and perhaps in a way, why it is no longer.
This book is a ‘must read’ for anyone who lived in the Rhodesia of old, for it not only tells about the character of the people of Mount Darwin, but about all Rhodesians. It is a ‘must read’ for anyone who wants to better understand Africa.
Kyran Robinson, Harare, June 2006
From the Publishers: For the past two years I have worked on a book about the Mount Darwin and Centenary East farming areas. With the help of Nick Russell and a multitude of those that used to populate this area as farmers, civil servants or in the security forces, we have now brought this book to print. This is an effort to tell the story of an incredible area of the country formerly known as Rhodesia. This book does not promise to be the definitive work about Mount Darwin, there are others who will write the full history one day, but it does tell the personal stories of those that lived there. Please consider purchasing a copy from our online store. This is a very limited edition book with a foreword by the Hon. Ian Douglas Smith and a story by former Selous Scouts commander Ron Reid-Daly. If you click on the link you will see the pdf flyer for this book and more details about it. Thank you for your time and interest.
“Dear Chris and Nick, I am half way through the book. Wonderful. I am reading every word of the so small print and learning things that I would not have known (even) if we had spent a life time in Darwin. Congratulations. Fats would have been so pleased with your efforts. Although we had moved to town by the time the war really broke, we were both very involved and Darwin and all the people were very much in our minds. Such a lot of memories coming back. ”
“Dear Friends, Just to advise that ‘Darwin Days’ arrived in mint condition today. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for an interesting record of all the hard work put into the development of Centenary and the happy times spent amongst those pioneers. The book brings back memories of people I knew way back in the fifties and sixties. Congratulations on a task well done! Best wishes for 2006. Kindest regards, Rita Rhodes.”
“Dear Chris and Nick. Thank you very much for the book. I can’t tell you how much we have enjoyed reading it. You have done a wonderful job and we are all very much indebted to you and your team. It has brought back many happy and sad memories for us. We will treasure it and pass it on to our children and grandchildren in time; they may not believe how we used to live!! Val and Trevor Cornes”
“Darwin Days” is a collection of vignettes about life in Mount Darwin. The various articles, edited by Chris Whitehead and Nick Russell, deal with Mount Darwin and its farming area through the period 1889-1980.
The editors, both former residents of Mount Darwin, have selected the essays with sympathy and insight, and the book tells personal stories of the “bread basket of Africa.”
This little volume is essential reading for those who remember the pioneer days of farming in Mashonaland, their descendants, and indeed anyone interested in the life and death of Rhodesia. It will be of special interest to anyone who lived in the area, or who was based there during the bush war.
Reviewed by Mike Russell
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