In 1922, owing to the war, Arthur wrote,  the Army in India was over subscribed, so a scheme to reduce numbers was introduced. First, all temporary, reserve and seconded officers were released, then it was the turn of the regulars - the pukka sahibs.

We were offered a generous gratuity, he said, which took the form of R400 a year and a lump sum of R4000.  Indian Independence was looming and the first step was Indianisation, which meant that Indians were permitted to attend courses at the various military colleges and thereby qualify for the King's Commission; in time becoming senior to White officers. We were not amused (Dad, that was the start of affirmative action here in South Africa and with which we are now well acquainted!...I am writing this tale now in 2009) and the India Office had no difficulty in getting rid of all officers surplus to the Establishment.

Boatloads embarked from Bombay (now Mumbai) bound for pastures new. All were granted a first class fair to anywhere in the world but most opted for dear old Blighty, where an ungrateful Government forgot about us.

Influenced by posters everywhere depicting sunny South Africa, with its beautiful groves of oranges and innumerable baskets of gold, five hundred of us came out to collect.

So it was, in May 1923, I reported at the Office of the 1820 Settlers' Memorial Association, corner of Noord and Eloff Streets, adjoining the old Tin Temple to await developments.

In the meantime, a friend and I had a look at the Golden City of Johannesburg. We used the frequent the dance halls and, in particular, Prof. Ashworth's Academy of Dancing, later the Astoria Cinema and subsequently, Cinerama. Being equipped with all the latest dance steps from England, the Professor wanted to enrol us as assistants but we were satisfied to dance with his professional partners at sixpence a time.

The Corner Lounge in Johannesburg was the favourite place for tea and the East African Cafe for dinner. A mixed grill for two cost 35 cents - enough on a platter for three or four.  At night, the Empire Palace of Varieties was 'the' place. Amongst the shows I saw was 'Round in Fifty' with George Robey. I had last seen him in 1908 at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle on Tyne, a special treat for being best boy in Std. IV at Rockwell College in Ireland.

An amusing turn was when Robey, disguised as a venerable old man, would totter from wing to wing, saying, 'Give us the old times,' whilst on stage all the latest inventions were being presented and explained.

Came the finale, when an elaborate machine was placed centre stage and the faithful father would press a button and a baby would slide down a chute into the arms of the expectant mother, and Robey would exclaim: "Give us the old times!"

Eventually, marching orders came and I was placed on a farm at Bremersdorp (Manzini) to learn farming. Free board for services rendered and after three months of cattle-dipping, I applied to go elsewhere and was transferred to Barberton where the farmer went in for cotton, citrus, tobacco and market gardening.

I stayed for nine months and then decided I was competent to start farming on my own account. The first year I broke even; the next was disastrous. From thirty acres of cotton, I reaped five bales - the normal being at least a bale an acre.

In August 1926, there was no money in the bank and there were also outstanding accounts to the tune of R200. I took a job at the Barberton Club as Barman and general bottle washer for R30 a month. During this time, I met all the farmers of the district - the hospitality of farmers is well known.  I was invited all over the place and, having no transport, thought nothing of running to neighbouring farms for a meal - five miles and over there and back again - returning late at night.

The result of that exercise was that at the Annual Sports, I beat Jimmy Winter, 2nd string to Betts (South African quarter mile champion) in the 220 and 440 yards. Which also, probably, contributed to my playing hockey for Benoni and Transvaal, although I was one of the few Whites to be ever selected to play for representative Indian teams in India.

Within twelve months, I was out of debt and then my luck turned. One day, in the Club, a man who was the Underground Manager of New State Areas Mine, gave me references and instructions about obtaining a Red Ticket, necessary in the mining world. Getting this ticket presented no difficulties and I was signed on as a sampler at New State Areas at the princely salary of  R35 per month.

I arrived at the Mine on 22 August 1927 with just a suitcase and not a penny in the world - rather a come-down for a man who at a garden party in 1921 in Lucknow, had sat at the next table to the Prince of Wales, later King and Duke of Windsor.

A Good Samaritan from the single quarters paid off the taxi and looked after me till the end of the month when I received my first cheque of R10. Board and lodging at this time was R12 per month. So in a few months, I was once again in the money.

About this time, I met the lady of my choice at a church service in nearby Springs. A beautiful voice in the choir was singing the Benedictus; especially to me, or, so it seemed. Locating the voice after the service, I found it belonged to a young lady who was born in Kimberley - and thought she was the most beautiful diamond that ever came out of Kimberley.  When we eventually got speaking, we discovered that her mother was born in Kerry and mine in Limerick; two of the most famous Irish counties - and certainly the most rebellious! (So tell me, Pa, what hope did I ever have!)


                            Annie Margaret Mary (Roma)  -  At 22

Arthur and Roma - 1929

Meeting her, necessitated in my thinking ahead. I bought a piece of ground for R100 and subsequently built the sixth house in the Springs Extension for R1500; the paid up stand being accepted as deposit. Before I could take up residence, however, I was transferred to Van Ryn Deep Mine, Benoni, where I obtained my Surveyor's Ticket.

For joining the Rescue Team, one received a bonus of R5 monthly and in 1932. I was called out to the big fire at Langlaagte where the Underground Manager and four senior officials had been gassed. It was our job to recover the body of the Underground Manager.

I became the official guide for taking people underground. Once I took some representatives from Castle Brewery, only to find a crate of beer waiting for me at the Change House.A lady from California once offered me a sovereign for my services but I had to tell her we were highly paid at the Mine. At that time, I was earning R45 per month.

On another occasion, I took twenty pilots on a Cook's Tour underground. They thought I was very brave going down the Mine and I thought the same of them; going up in the air!

Promotion was slow in those days but in 1935 I was transferred to State Mines and my salary was doubled. By this time, I was married and it became necessary to look for another house. The one in Springs was sold and I put in a tender for a Municipal House up for sale in Hope Avenue, Anzac. I tendered R2000 and just hoped. The Council accepted; all that was necessary was a deposit of R50 and a rental of R15 per month. We lived there for six years and then bought a bigger house in Dalview as there were then four children to cater for.

Margaret carries on with the narrative: 'The War was just over and had influenced the three nurses outfits (below) made by my mother Roma as our Christmas gifts. She also sewed our dolls a summer outfit and knitted them a winter outfit and we were thrilled. She sewed and smocked our frocks and knitted our cotton socks. Such simple times; such great happiness. She was a whizz with the needle and even sewed Tony's school trousers. She bottled innumerable bottles of fruit and veg from the garden and even killed a fowl for Sunday dinner each week. Dad couldn't do it but Mum would take the axe from him and say something like: 'Go on, with you, you old silly; just a chop and off with his head'. Shades of Marie Antoinette! She was Dad's best investment, ever!  In turn, he was as proud of her as she was of him.

                       Felicity, Margaret, Rosemary - Christmas 1940

"I've been married for 45 years and it doesn't seem a day too much
There's not a lady in this great big world that I'd swop for my dear old Dutch."

                            Arthur and Roma Dickens - circa 1972

Dad was in his early 70's when he started writing his 'Memoirs' (and for which I am so grateful now). He and Mum had been married for 48 years when he died in 1977. Mum died nine years later. They were both 79 when they died).

But before I go, my friend Peggy who is now 82 (and seven years older than I am) was telling me only recently about the time at our Church when she used to write little articles for the Catholic Bulletin and was highly thought of by both my Dad and the Parish Priest, Fr Coyle.

It was well known that Dad and Fr Coyle were great bridge players and would spend Saturday evenings having a game of bridge or chess and putting away a good slosh or two... I am so vulgar :-)

In particular, Peggy remembers an event in aid of the Governor General's National War Fund in about 1940 when a FĂȘte was held in the Town Hall Gardens  to raise money. There was a bloke on the blower exhorting everyone to look for Mr Victory. Mister-r-r  V-V-V-Victor-e-e-ey and that whoever found Mr Victory first would receive a five pound note.

Peggy said she ran round and round, touching as many men as she could, asking them if they were Mr Victory until she happened upon Dad and Fr Coyle walking around together. (Dad was the mysterious Mr Victory).  As Peggy ran past Fr Coyle, he turned and caught her hand and whispered, 'Here is Mr Victory' , indicating Dad. She immediately shouted out that she had found Mr Victory and was duly taken up onto the stage by Fr Coyle to receive the five pound note. Peggy said she was thrilled and reminisced that it was probably because Fr Coyle knew her mother was battling making boots for the war but Peggy said she also learned for the first time in her life that grown ups also told fibs.

South African Dickens Family - 1960

Louis Walter Dickens  1903-1988






































Make a Free Website with Yola.