Start of my young family


I met my wife-to-be through work so this is quite a long story.

I was Livestock Manager for Donnington Farms that was located between Norton and Selous and 70 km from Harare (formerly Salisbury). The operation was owned by Keith Kirkman and one lunch time when I knew that he was out of the country I heard his telephone number ringing on the party line. I answered and spoke to Lynn Chamney, Feature Writer for the Farmer Magazine who was standing in for the Advertising Manager who was away on holiday. She was looking for Advertisers in a publication for a national bull sale.

I told Lynn that we would commit to placing an advertisement after she said that buyers were coming from Zambia as the border had opened and we had an outstanding young bull that was going to be offered at the sale. She told me that they would assist with the layout of the advert but she needed the text and a photograph.

This was going to be a problem because my old box camera was defunct so I would need to buy a new one. I lived about 70 km out of Salisbury so I knew that it would take some time to buy a camera and get a decent photograph of the bull. I didn't tell her that I didn't have a camera but said that it would take a week to get everything prepared and would bring it in to their offices.Lynn Chamney at Nyandirwi in early 1970s when at University of Cape Town

She was pleased to secure this booking because advertising wasn't her usual role.

I bought a second hand Konica camera and a spool of film. I practised with it and took several shots of the bull using different settings so it was really hit and miss. I didn't often go to town during work days but had to go in again to drop the spool to be developed. Luckily the photographs of the black bull were reasonable so I went around to the Farmer Magazine, met Lynn and handed over the text and one photo. We had a short chat while doing this and I returned to the farm.

In June I had just returned from my last Territorial Army call-up as an Instructor at the Medical Training School. While there I had met four British Army Medics that were involved in the transition of the Zimbabwe Army after Independence.

A month later they were involved in a motor vehicle accident outside Bulawayo and one was killed. Another had a dislocated hip so needed somewhere to recover. There had been some animosity between the Rhodesian Army Medical Corps and the British ‘experts’ but I agreed to disagree with them and we got on reasonably well after that. Sgt Mike Jones asked me if he could come and stay on the farm with me.

He was recuperating in my house while I was busy working on the six farms. My birthday was approaching so we decided to go to Salisbury for a dinner. I invited my neighbours, Bruce and Sheila, my sister to accompany Mike, and another girl in Salisbury to join me.

The day before dinner on my birthday, Mike got ill so we had to postpone our dinner. He recovered quickly so I tried to resurrect the dining arrangements. The girl that I had previously invited wasn't free so I needed a quick fix.

The Bull Sale Supplement arrived in the post so I immediately remembered Lynn so thought that I should ask her if she would like to come out for dinner.

I phoned her but she had been disappointed with how the advert looked in the magazine so expected that I was calling to complain. When I told her that I was pleased with it and wondered if she would come out for dinner she was so relieved that she accepted.

On any other occasion, it is very unlikely that she would have accepted such an invitation.

Anyhow, the night went well and the six of us seemed to enjoy ourselves.

On the hour's drive back to the farm, Mike asked me what I thought of Lynn. I told him that I was quite impressed but he chuckled. He said "Don't bother. She is too career orientated."

The year was 1980 and it was July. This was a time of change as the new government had been installed by the British. The Bush War had ended and this brought a huge relief to the farming community.

I must have found a good reason to speak to Lynn again despite Mike's caution because I saw her again before going I went on a holiday to Europe in September to Germany, Austria, France and the UK. Steve Bennett and Lynn Chamney in Salisbury 1980s

I was at the Oktoberfest on the night of 26th September 1980 and left Hofbräu-Festzelt after closing time at 10:30 pm. 13 revellers and the perpetrator who placed an explosive device that detonated prematurely in a dustbin at the main entrance were killed at 10:19 pm. All we heard was emergency vehicle sirens for hours while waiting to catch a bus from a side entrance to the camp site where I was staying.

I didn't expect anyone in Zimbabwe to hear about it as we didn't even know what had happened. Lynn got very concerned and rang my parents to find out if they knew anything. They just said that if anything had happened to me then they would have been told. After those few weeks away we started to get quite serious.Lynn Chamney with Bonzo at Lucastes Farm dam wall

I was just an hour's drive out of Harare and Lynn stayed in an apartment with her mother in town. Her brother Terry Chamney was farming between Concession and Mvurwi (formerly Umvukwes) and Lynn and her mother often visited the family farm.

Lynn was told by her brother that unless I could learn to ride a horse I wouldn't be allowed to go out with her. She was smart enough not to tell me but when I visited the farm, I did go out horse riding and was able to canter. Terry's sons loved horse riding and kept asking me to join them. Lynn was concerned that if I bolted through the veld with them and my horse tripped because of an antbear hole I would be seriously injured. She blamed Terry for encouraging them and said they should all lay off as I had learnt to ride so I did find out about the ultimatum.

Terry was very competitive as he had played rugby for the national side but one day when they wanted to have a race to the farm gate and back I knew that I had to win that. We jogged about a kilometre to the gate and when we turned around I just floored it back. I thrashed them all.

We were engaged at a party at my parents' house in Chisipite on 14th June 1981.

I am Australian by descent. Lynn and I flew to Australia for a month in September. Within no time I felt that I could quite easily settle to live over there. Apparently, Lynn told a good friend of hers that when we married she would get Australia out of my system.

Bruce Drysdale told me in Atherton, Queensland, that prospects are not so good for Farm Managers in Australia so that I should get some selling experience when back in Zimbabwe.

I then had to decide if I should stay on the farm or move to Harare.

Lynn's mother was a terminal cancer patient and was given 24 hours home nursing so she couldn't move out to Norton.

Lynn asked if I was interested in taking over another farm that they owned at Concession with Kay Chamney and Steve Bennett in garden at Nyandirwi Farm when asking for Lynn's hand in marriage in 1981a limestone mine on it but I thanked her and told her that I just did not feel that there was a secure future for Whites on the land despite the offer.

A friend of Lynn's was a speechwriter for Mugabe. He said the Prime Minister was like a tight rope walker. As he walked, the long pole that he used to balance himself would lean towards appeasing the Blacks; but at other times he had to compensate so leaned the other way and the Whites were reassured. When I heard this observation, it reinforced my assessment of vulnerability under Mugabe. I decided that I needed a career change that would prepare me if or when I would leave Zimbabwe.

The Norton Country Club Annual General Meeting was coming up on one Sunday and I was Treasurer. Office bearers would be appointed for the next year. This forced me to declare my intentions on the day so I resigned before going to the AGM.

I left Donnington Farms at 31st December 1981.

I started as Animal Health Technical Representative with Hoechst Zimbabwe (Pty) Ltd on 1st January 1982.Lynn Chamney wedding to Steve bennett 1982

Mrs Chamney sold the Harare apartment and paid the deposit on a house in Borrowdale and I took out a mortgage. She stayed in a cottage and had a nurse with her on 12 hour shifts.

Lynn continued working at the Farmer Magazine.

We married on 20th March 1982. This is the year in which we both turned 30.

The next day we drove to Rhodes Inyanga Hotel for the night. The next day we checked in for the three day honeymoon at Troutbeck Inn. I had done several hikes for the Duke of Edinburgh and Boys Brigades camps. Lynn used to go there for Christmas often with her family but her father died from a heart attack in July 1973.

I enjoyed getting into the commercial world at Hoechst. The euphoria had Lynn Bennett at Inyangani Mountain summit during honeymoon in 1982diminished after the civil war had ended but the economy wasn't picking up with the cessation of the drain from the war and paying a third party to get imports and out because of sanctions. Every six months the allocation of foreign currency to import veterinary medicaments was decreasing. I was supplying trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) medicaments on a government tender so was successful in applying for an increase.

Despite the uncertainty in the country around us we decided to start a family. However, having made the decision didn't bring immediate success and Lynn saw George Foote, her gynaecologist.

She had a miscarriage after some initial success and this knocked her badly but she persevered with his program. Her mother was very frail and hoping to see a baby from Lynn but whenever Kay Chamney had a setback, this had a strong impact on Lynn. I wondered if this anxiety was impeding her prospects of conceiving.

I thought that Lynn needed a complete break from Mr Foote's charts. We were invited by another four to join then on a camping trip to the remote Mana Pools in the Zambezi Valley. Kay Chamney at Lynn's wedding to Steve Bennett in 1982We were keen to go so I suggested to Lynn when she next saw Mr Foote she should ask him if she might benefit from a break. He said that it might be a good idea so we set off to Mana Pools.

Before we got there the truck with all of our belongings burst a front tyre and rolled. Almost everything was destroyed. The owner of the truck remained with his wife to make arrangements for the vehicle but said that the four of us should continue with whatever we could fit into the Ford Laser to use our booking at the campsite until the food ran out or went off as the solar fridge had been destroyed.

We got to Mana Pools campsite at lunch time. While sitting at the bench having lunch an Elephant wandering through the unfenced campsite at Mana Pools while campers unpack their carelephant wandered past and sniffed the air with its trunk to see what we were eating and silently walked past. There is no fence around the camp site next to the Zambezi River so we were in the middle of the wild life of the National Park. Later in the afternoon an old buffalo bull wandered around between the campers while it seemed to be hoping that it might be safe from lion attack by staying close to humans.

The girl had her single tent but Rob Lazell and I slept on either side of Lynn in our sleeping bags in the open but our heads were next to his car.

After two days our provisions had run out so we prepared to drive back to Harare. On the last night some former Gwebi students that I knew had spent most of the night smoking fish that they had caught from the Zambezi River and saw a pride of lions walking on the road through the camp site and only about twenty metres from where we were sleeping.

Within a short time we back into our old routine again but when Lynn saw George Foote again he said "I don't know how you did it, but you pregnant. Congratulations!"

After the previous miscarriage, Lynn was on progesterone therapy for the next few months. Tara Bennett in LusakaWe were blessed with the arrival of our miracle baby in July of the following year. When Lynn was discharged from the nursing home, Terry, her brother looked at Tara, and at us and said "How did you two have such a beautiful daughter?"

Lynn's mother was able to enjoy her first grand-daughter but she passed away in her sleep three months later.

Despite enjoying my work, the frustrations from foreign currency shortages were wearing me down. I immersed myself in industry matters through my Communications role with the Zimbabwe Society for Animal Production and lectured part time at Gwebi College of Lynn in Lusaka after birth of Christie with Tara in 1987Agriculture.

Lynn wasn't ready to leave Africa but when I put up my hand for promotion with Hoechst to go to Zambia, she agreed that we could go there as it was just a day's drive from Harare to Lusaka.

She fell pregnant without any intervention and the birth was scheduled to take place in Christie Bennett in 1990Harare. It was very quick but Lynn was diagnosed with hepatitis so Tara couldn't see her a for several days.

I submitted completed forms at the Australian Embassy for Christie but the rules for descendants had changed since Tara was born. The Australians would not register her birth.

I submitted forms with Zimbabwe authorities. Lynn and I had never rescinded our Christie and Tara with Steve Bennett on Nyandirwi at dawnRhodesian/Zimbabwe citizenship but she was Irish by descent and I was Australian by descent; but both were Rhodesian/Zimbabwe born. After a thorough interview I was told that I could submit the application for Christie to obtain a Zimbabwe passport and that she could decide when she turns 18.

I joined the long queue to submit the application. I was almost at the desk where I would hand it over when someone summoned me. I was called back to the office. I was told very curtly that because I lived in Lusaka, I should apply for a Zambian passport for my daughter.

After the second rejection, I had to explore the Irish possibility. There wasn't an Irish embassy Lynn Steve Tara and Christie Bennett at South Bank in Brisbanein Harare so I phoned the one in Lusaka. I couldn't believe my luck. All I had to do as father was to sign my authority that my daughter could be added to my wife's Irish Passport. I had to fly to Lusaka in a few days for a Hoechst meeting so I took Lynn's passport with me, signed my authority there and walked out with Christie's name in Lynn's passport. I flew back to Harare the next day.

Lynn and Christie were discharged a week after the birth and soon after that the four of us drove back to Lusaka. The pregnancy and birth had been straight forward but the nightmare lasted a few days while Lynn was undiagnosed with a mystery illness and my daughter was born stateless.

I was learning that you have to anticipate the unexpected when living in Africa. Despite that, I was outwitted when I least expected it.


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