After some glorious days of sunshine I am leaving Lincolnshire and driving south and it’s raining. I have collected some more of the old African negatives from home for my Darling Popsy Blog and am calling in on Mike Goodman who is president of the Steam Plough Club of Great Britain. Also to meet me is Charles Roads who is a mine of information about Fowlers in general. It was such an interesting morning and it seems that a colleague of my grandafther may have been living at Grantham, (unbeknownst to us)very close to my parents all these years. What a shame, my mother would have loved to have met him.
I was fascinated as they both examined the photographs and remarked on the model number or the fact that this or that piece was missing. These wonderful enthusiasts go all over the world to find old steam ploughs and bring them home to be restored. Many of the engines were just left abandoned when the newer diesel models came into production in the mid 1930’s.
Here is one of the photos from the blog. This magnificent machine is the Fowler Z6 ploughing engine photographed on N’gata Farm, Njoro, Kenya in 1926. It is just possible that this engine may still be in Africa waiting to be found. How I would like to go and find it!
Sunday is a day I now try to dedicate to my Darling Popsy blog, so today I have spent all day scanning in the old negatives of Africa and researching East Africa in the 1920´s in general. However in line with this blog, about all things natural, I will just quote a little from the letter I have published this time.
This is from Njoro, June 1926
“When we are ploughing the fields we often see Rats running away in terror, but these are Brown Rats and striped on their backs with Black stripes like a Tiger, they are rather pretty. You would like to see the beautiful moonlight at full moon all over the great Plain, one of the most beautiful things in Africa is the bright moonlight and the stars that twinkle twinkle, in the clear air.”
Reading these letters is making me think I should be illustrating them…(oh dear, yet another seed of an idea now planted…)
I was curious about the reference to the rats but a little research makes me think they are not, in fact, rats at all, but one of the African Striped mouse species. He would have seen them during the day, not only because the ploughing was disturbing them but because they are one of the few rodents which is active during the day and he is right about them being pretty!
Here is a lovely old engraving from 1885 of the Barbary Mouse, the African Striped Grass Mouse (S. G. Goodrich, The Animal Kingdom Illustrated 1885) from, coincidentally, the Florida Educational Resource here
and a photo of these endearing little mice from Edwina Beaumont’s excellent African photos here
The drawing today is not mine.. but, keeping it in the family and appropriate to today’s activities, this is a pen and ink drawing from Joyce Thackeray, daughter of Allan, the “Popsy” of the letters and my mum. Her musical and artistic talents were inherited from her father and a few fragmented bits here and there passed down to my sister and myself. Teaching “old fashioned” drawing skills to children is, I think, more difficult today. It’s hard to imagine a class of thirteen year olds now quietly making a careful pen and ink study of flower.
On 20th October 1931 at the age of 13 Joyce Thackeray (SEN/ 2A) received a mark of 44 out of 50. ( noted on the back) for her drawing…I doubt I am doing so well !
Sunday and I am having a day off drawing in order to catch up with some research and to make a post for My Darling Popsy. I have been reading about the Africa my grandfather would have been experiencing in the 1926 and trying to tie up the information about the locations together with the photographs. I realise now he was there at the time of the infamous Happy Valley crowd so the research is interesting. The quality of the 1920’s negatives is in some cases quite amazing and in others very poor. However with the help of Photoshop I am managing to coax images out of most of them. I can’t help but wonder what happened to the people in them, especially the children. Here is a lovely photo of a little girl with, I think, a musical instrument, (a harp?) but with no reference to her in the letters yet..