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1955 - 1964

Betty Clay's Diary for 1958

Betty Clay & her husband G. were based in Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia, where G. was the Provincial Commissioner – the senior Government Officer in the Province.  He was ex-officio head of the Victoria Falls Conservancy Area, and also of the Victoria Falls Power Station.  In 1958, the Zambesi rose to its highest known level – even higher than the previous year, which had exceeded the previous record by a clear margin.

Betty herself was deeply involved with the Guide Movement.  As the wife of the P.C., she was hostess to any V.I.P. passing through – and also kept a watching eye out for all Government staff also passing through.

Betty’s daughter Gill (aged 20) was then living at home.

Tuesday, 11 February 1958

Went with Chris Segwin to Hillcrest High School & gave a quick 10-minute talk to the girls about Guiding & the advantages of belonging, to try & get more to join.

Fetched Joan Nevill home from Hospital, weak but cured of her Tick Fever.

Huge Sundown Party, of everybody who has signed the book & more – about 53.  What a noise & squash !  just too many as one had to squeeze between them.  30 – 40 is the best size.

Wednesday, 12 February 1958

Mr Dunlop to lunch.

Joan accompanied me to the Hostel of the African Student Nurses & I gave a talk about Guiding, & Cadets, & what we would do if they want to have a Cadet Company.

Thursday, 13 February 1958

Mrs Lang came but I had very little work for her. Talked her into doing the equipment side of Gill’s Brownie Pack.

Went to the Airport & met Mr and Mrs Abel-Smith & Angus Ogilvy, all come in an R.R.A.F. plane from Salisbury for the day, plus Lord Dalhousie’s Butler & his son, to see the Falls. The Butler & son went in the Boma car; & I took the others, did the Eastern Cataract, then lunch at home, then the other side, then back to the Airport & they left at 4. Very nice couple, rather smart & grand & sophisticated, but I’m getting more able to cope with it! Angus very nice, good looking & gay, aged about 25, son of the Earl of Airlie.

After they had gone the Suggs arrived to stay, just back from leave. Not returning to Granby, going as Acting P.C. to Fort Jameson.

Friday, 14 February 1958

Suggs out most of the morning & afternoon visiting friends. Ritchies came in for a drink.

Took Joan to the Falls & we walked in the Rain Forest & got absolutely soaked. The Main Falls & Devil’s Cataract are terrific & the noise thunderous & deafening, the spray almost continuous. Very difficult to get a photo or a clear glimpse.

Then took her to have her hair done, & in the afternoon took her to the airport & sawher off to Salisbury.

Then to meeting at Guide Hall with Molly Goodfellow & arranged her trainings.

After dinner at Gill & I went to L.A.D.S. Social at the Littlewood’s house. Mr Mitchell led the play-reading of the ghastly play; and then did a demonstration of make-up, not very well & very roughly, doing it on my poor Gill.

Saturday, 15 February 1958

Shower then fine & sunny

Suggs left after breakfast.

Phoned Mother Superior to ask if Cadet meeting, not this week.

Rosalie Preston was supposed to come & cook our lunch for her first-class – but must have forgotten as she never turned up & she didn’t phone yesterdayto tell me what to order.

Wrote to Mum all morning & to the children all afternoon.

G. to Bowls.

Took Leslie to the airport, & Tony D’Avery & they returned to Lusaka.

Dug up for young Cedrilla trees & took them to new houses.

Called on Jean Jones & asked her to come to Molly’s trainings.

Sunday, 16 February 1958

Fine morning, showers

Beautiful peaceful home day all to ourselves. G. to Club all morning Gill happy as can be fuddling, me writing letters & fuddling.

Church. The lesson was the Flood! Most appropriate. There was choice of the beginning of it or the happy ending so G. chose the end.

Someone said “I don’t know whether the P.C. has started collecting animals 2 by 2 yet, but if the P.W.D. builds the Ark I am not going in it!” Poor maligned hard-working P.W.D. I don’t know why it’s so unpopular!

We drove out after tea to look at our Flood & it certainly is impressive & terrifying. We have had more rain than usual at this time of year, there has been heavy rain up-river, several other tributaries are in flood, & the forecast is that it will probably be higher than last year which was 12 feet higher than living memory. The Eastern cataract is a deep brown mass under the foam, hardly a rock visible on the lip & the little bushes hanging on for dear life. The spray has formed dozens of lovely cascades down the Palm Grove side of Knife Edge. The Boiling Pot surges right up to the top of the rocks where we sat at the bottom of Palm Grove & UP the little stream into the trees. It completely covers the heap of rocks & a vast boulder on the opposite corner opposite Palm Grove, & comes up to the green line.

The other side looking down on the Power Station, it is completely surrounded by water & there is a ferocious turmoil of whirlpools as the water rushes round the hairpin bend. The trees overhanging are drooping in the water.

Monday, 17 February 1958


Mrs Lang came & I had a lot for her.

Gill went to a Guiders’ Training session in the afternoon.

G. & I drove out to Senkobo & met H.E.& Lady Benson & took them to the Falls Hotel where they gave us & Buttons dinner, then we saw them onto the train again to continue their journey south on leave.

Tuesday, 18 February 1958

Heavy rain.

Spent all morning in town shopping, & completed my list.

Spent all afternoon preparing for the Church Shrove Tuesday party; & helped Gill get ready her semaphore words for Brownies. She went to Brownies directly after work as normal & didn’t get home till nearly 6.30.G. & I drove out to the river, a large crowd there as usual, looking down at our marooned Power Station, & wondering how much higher the water will creep up its walls. It is not yet as high as last year – but over a month earlier, & expected to be higher.

Church party at the Victoria Hall: the same form as last year – a Smelling Competition to start with which they can do as they arrive; then a team-finding thing followed by an action song (the Merry-Go-Round, great success ) & bag-bursting relay; & other games noisy & ridiculous; & 20 questions; & Tea. 35 people there.

Wednesday, 19 February 1958

Fine morning. Rain.

To time to get meet & a present for Nora Whitehead, spent about two hours & didn’t get the present!

Three people to lunch: Molly Goodfellow; Diana Kellet who was on the ship with us & is staying at the Falls Hotel. Rather a plain girl, gauche & ungainly, & the Gills[1] didn’t care for her but felt sorry for her – till she “got off” with some of the officers!

Mr Foley, a young man with letter of introduction from Beresford-Stoke; travelling for de la Rue, the playing card makers. He wanted to know about the natives’ likes & dislikes & customs & games, connected with cards; so after lunch we took packs out & asked Peter & Chishimba to show us some which they did with much relish! They call jokers “Satana” & tear them up & never use them in their games. They showed us several of the “Newmarket” & 21 variety, so we asked for “clever” games – & they showed us a trick! And then said that some “clever” people mark their cards, & showed us various ways of doing so!

When buying, the seller must throw the pack on the floor & the customer picks it up. That brings good luck.

Thursday, 20 February 1958

Fine & sunny. Rain in the morning.

Mrs Lang came to do letters, most useful. Finished off all the ones she brought, done since Monday, & wrote a few more & had a GOOD morning.

In the afternoon wrote letters, did washing, went to see Mrs Wilbourne (reported ill) but she wasn’t there: recovered & back at work.

G.had his electricity board consultant here today, most re-assuring that all will probably be well; can let the water rise to 11 feet if necessary before closing. It’s now 8’-6” & up to 9 feet on surge. The power station is a complete island now & they have a bridge across from the land, about 20 feet long.

Gill and I went to training in the evening, mostly Brownie & much better than last night.

Went to see Mrs Money to ask her if she could consider helping with Brownies or Guides – found(?) her with other people – too late to go away again but NOT a propitious moment to ask & I doubt if she will.

Friday, 21 February 1958


Trotted down to have a chat with Molly, & criticised her trainings: an punctual start, keep standing when explaining “why”, & to late ending. She seemed to take it well.

Had a happy morning putting away all the rest of the children’s clothes neatly& de-damping them. A lot of things – shoes etc. – are getting covered with damp-mould (mutumshi) & we seldom have any sun to dry them in. Leo did washing on Monday & it isn’t dry yet.

In the afternoon I started going through my Guide files, throwing away what is no longer needed & putting aside useful-but-not-immediately-wanted in a cardboard cover. It is terribly difficult to know how ruthless to be!

Gill went to Scottish Dancing. I should have gone to either Women’s World Day of prayer Service, or the L.A.D.S.[2] AGM, but I have neglected my poor darling so much lately that I went to neither.

Calendar quote: –

There are some people whose smile, the sound of whose voice, whose very presence, seems like a ray of sunshine, to turn everything they touch into gold.                                   Lord Avebury

Saturday, 22 February 1958

Thinking day

Dull & Rainy

Heard from Molly the dates of her training camp so spent all morning working out & typing yet ANOTHER plan for Miss Brambleby’s visit. How exasperated they must be with all the changes I have sent them.  I’ve never known a tour which had so many changes. Did this Plan in full detail of times of trains, planes & buses so I HOPE they will’s all stick to it now.

People to lunch: Mr Dunlop (very heavy weather), George Baldwin (jolly & gay), Mr Goron (quite easy, except that I hadn’t a clue who he was so trod delicately), Maureen Masters (16, Gill’s acting Tawney Owl & a gay eager keen girl with specs & teeth).

The men went off to go down to the Power Station.

Mrs Lang & her three children came & had tea with us & went with us to the Thinking Day Meeting at the Guide Hall.

Inside as spotting with rain. They had marked in chalk HF oil, with Flagstaff in paraffin tin of sand at stalk, & the Guides & Brownies stood on the chalk lines. Table with the brass candlestick in the middle decorated & Guides put lighted candles in with appropriate North-South-East-West words. A lovely Guide-Spirit hymn by Coillard Company. Then items by each company & pack in turn. 76 Guides, European & African (no Indians) & 33 Brownies & about 10 grown-ups.

Sunday, 23 February 1958

Fine & sunny

After breakfast a rush of men who gathered here, & went with G. to the airport and says they flew in an R.R.A.F. plane up the Zambesi to within a few miles of Mongu & back, got back about 3.30. G. very much the worse for it & felt rotten the rest of the day. Didn’t enjoy the trip at all & didn’t think it “interesting”. They flew quite low all the way, over floods & floods & floods; Lord Malvern read a book most of the time, G. sat next to the Acting Prime Minister Sir Malcolm Barrow “who looked out of the window occasionally”. No doubt they all felt they had done their duty by Flying to the Distressed Areas & showing their interest. Personally I should think the money & plane would have been better spent helping the people cut off & homeless by the floods.

Gill went out all morning & lunch to  Jill’s.

Had a good morning typing & typing, I am fairly level with things, I still keep a few un-urgent letters which don’t bother me, & Guide things are absolutely up-to-date; though I want to continue sorting the files soon.

Wrote to my children: we had two letters from Robin in two weeks, beautifully written.

Slept, washed hair, wrote to money, drove to River. Church.

Monday, 24 February 1958


Ordered things for parties. Went to Beryl Lang’s & did and ours dictation & in the afternoon she brought all the Bramblaby things completed. She IS good!

In the afternoon went to meet Chris & Molly & a town clerk to look at prospective Guide for sites. We do NOT like the one offered, so chose to other possibles & a third.

Hugh Bayldon & Alan Prior came to stay for team meeting.

Gill went straight from work to Guide is meeting (in uniform at Molly’s insistence I think a little unreasonable) to discuss the Demonstration afternoon next week.

Ros Allin came on the train & chill rushed to fetch her here for supper, & Jill Heatley, her old friend, and Diana who is staying with Jill.

So we had a quick & noisy supper & Gill took them home & rushed Roz over to the falls to catch her train south to university. Dear child, so gay & sweet & full of fun & charming – how I would love to adopt her!

Tuesday, 25 February 1958


Bothered on borrowing plates etc. & all organised quite easily & I didn’t have to do anything more to prepare for a party of about 30 – those good reliable boys did everything perfectly – how lucky I am to have them.

Tight all morning & more letters all afternoon. & Cleaned my dress that I dropped coffee down, with great success & borax!

G. had his Team meeting all day, with a lot of federal boys & outsiders also for estimates at such then they drove out to look at the river, which dropped a few feet recently & is now static at a safe level, but heavy rains up-River are reported & it is expected to come up again.

Supper party.

Honey came on heat.

Wednesday, 26 February 1958

Rain, dark & cloudy

Party of Belgians spent the day here:  Minister for colonies,Mr. Buisseret & Mrs & Mme Katoor, wife of the general. Mrs speaks no English but luckily Mme K. very good & translated for us.

Showed them all round the falls, then lunch party here – Mayor & Mayoress the Segwins.



Figures in Northern Rhodesia for the week ending Wednesday: –


Week’s Total

Season’s Total













Broken Hill















Fort Jameson




Fort Rosebery






























Thursday, 27 February 1958


The Wallaces, John & Joy, arrived by air from Mongu about 10 & came to stay with us. No engagement today & they were pleased to get on with letters, washing at such a

Dinner with the Rabbs, nice party, the Thoms & Simpsons so very cheerful.

Diana Kellet came to stay, arrived in the evening & she & Gill went to the museum for a film & lecture on Mount Kenya by Chaplin who has just been exploring up there.

Took the Wallace is to the river & all got very wet in heavy showers, look down at the power station, the water is now up to over 9 feet above floor level.

From The Livingstone Mail :-









































Mr Eugene Black, chairman of the World Bank will be visiting Livingstone on 26 March & will stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel.

Friday, 28 February 1958


Mr Wallace is very busy all day with meetings. Took Joy to town then to the African Hospital, the Mother Superior took us all round & then to Nurses Training School.

Did a lot of sheet machining while chatting.

Municipality gave a Sundown party at the Burma.

Gill & Diana went to Scottish dancing.

Wallace’s went after dinner to visit the Brodies.

We heard (with much distress to everybody) that Tom Rees died last night of a heart attack, completely sudden & unexpected. He was Manager of G.’s Cold Storage Commission but this was the last day of his Contract.

Saturday, 01 March 1958


The Wallaces left about 10.

Wrote to the children. Diana made a map for me for putting my Guide companies on. Machined more sheets.

In the afternoon G. & I went to the funeral of Tom Rees. Church packed, & I should think about 200 people at the funeral, a long procession of about 70 cars.

Mrs Rees was there & another chief mourner probably her daughter; she was most calm & controlled till they asked her to throw earth & her bouquet down onto the coffin, & that was too much for her poor thing & I felt so sorry for her, it seems such a shame to upset her like that when she was managing so well.

Gill & Diana & Jill went to the cinema.

We drove out to the river as usual (G. goes out first thing every morning & every evening). The water at the Pump House near the Boat Club is now 15.59, only half an inch lower than the highest it has been yet, & shows no sign of sinking. At the Power Station it is now 11’-6” on the surge.

Sunday, 02 March 1958

To Holy Communion.

Diana went on the train to the north. We were woken at 5.30 a.m. by Elliott ringing to say the water at the power station was over 12 feet & there had been two splashes right over the top of the wall. So he had evacuated all but one European. By a miracle by 10 a.m. it had sunk again below 12 feet & the men had gone in again.

We pray so hard that God might avert disaster, & in some ways it seems unreasonable to ask him to preserve an unhuman power station when people’s homes & crops are ruined by the flood but one can only leave it in His hands.

G. went to play bowls & it stayed fine but cloudy till he had finished, great luck, & he enjoyed himself.

To the Brodies for drinks to say goodbye to Desmond & Betty Clark, going on leave to America.

Sorted my Nigel file.

Monday, 03 March 1958

Fine & dull, sunny later.

First day without rain for ages, but cloudy & heavy all morning. Not woken by that frightening telephone, & felt much less worried all day because it was fine. River at the Pumping House is up to 15.73, & at the Power Station surging to 12’-2”, & no sign of it sinking.

Had a good day. I had reached the stage of finishing everything urgent & could choose what to do. So I unpacked Box 11 & stood all my scrapbooks up & blew them with the hairdryer! & the box, in case it was damp, & repacked it. Then machined another sheet.

Took Karina to the airport & sent her to Lusaka to the Flemings to be mated, as she came on heat today.

Honey is at a kennels in town, so we should be relieved of all our dog visitors.

Went calling: Stevensons (African Education) & Mitchells (Labour).

Gardened: sowed seeds straight into the long bed – old ones so I don’t expect they will grow.

Tuesday, 04 March 1958

Fine & dull, sunny later.

Took car to be serviced (9,000 miles) & they had to put on a NEW silencer already – £4 what a Swizz.

Settled down to write “Life of Dad” for African Guides at Molly’s suggestion, & found it excessively difficult for some reason; in spite of reading several different versions none of them seemed quite long enough or short enough, so I felt it necessary to do yet another version & took all morning to do one and a half pages & only his boyhood.

Wrote urgent Pilkington letters.

Went to Gill’s Brownie meeting & enrolled three of her Brownies – & I had left the badges at home in my pocket! Silly Un-warranted Owl!

G. went to the river, & it was down a shade at the Pump House – 15.77 having been 15.79 all day – & the Power Station 12’-9”, same as this morning.

The suspension bridge at Kariba has now gone in the Flood – the second-to-last link from one bank to the other. The coffer dam sprang a leak & filled with water & now anyway the river is spilling 2 feet deep over the top; then the road bridge gave way & disappeared. They jacked up the foot suspension bridge & it was still 10 feet above the water, but the flood ate away the bank & took out its foundations.

Now the only way of going across is in a bucket on the Blondin cable.

Wednesday, 05 March 1958

Fine & sunny

A nice day, the best day we’ve had for some time – but the river still rises irrevocably, & is now over 13 feet at the Power Station, 15.84 at the Pump House, higher than it has ever been before. So the suspense goes on.

Walked to town & spent most of the morning there, shopping in a nice leisurely way. So did my Guide hat & put heel grips in my shoes & did flowers & fuddled generally. Went to the airport to pay for Carina’s journey (we heard she arrived safely).

To the Guide & Brownie demonstration at the Victoria Hall. Mrs Graylin & I were welcomed in by Gill’s Brownies, & I enrolled two of them; there were lots of mothers & friends & masses of non-Guide girls.

Thursday, 06 March 1958

Fine & sunny

Had V.I.P.s all day: Admiral Sir Alexander Ramsay & Lady Patricia Ramsay. He is uncle of Lord Dalhousie the Governor-General; and she daughter of the Duke of Connaught & grand daughter of Queen Victoria.

They came in an R.R.A.F. plane from Salisbury about 11 & left at 4. So we did the usual thing of taking them to the Falls, brought them here for lunch, & they were glad of an hour’s rest. Both over 70, he very deaf, her not quite so deaf but rather stiff & lame & decrepit & didn’t care to walk far.

Went to the river with G. to see heights of water, now again higher than ever, at the Pump House 15’-9”. And at the Power Station 13.8 on surge, & G saw one wave go right up to the roof. We hear from the experts that they expected still to go up further, but from up-river came reports that it is “level”, & further up “dropping”.

Went & did letters with Beryl Lang. Molly came in for a chat, & I asked her particularly about her own future but no plan at present. I also asked her to be gentler in her letters; & said about her letter to me which made me angry: “if you are writing letters like that to Guiders, you mustn’t – & if you only write like that to me – you MUSTN’T” & she hung her head & said “Yes, Madam” & we both laughed.

To party at Mrs Rybicki’s to say goodbye to Molly.

Friday, 07 March 1958


Fine & sunny

Packed. Washed clothes. Did letters. Had a thoroughly good morning & was ready to go, Mrs Money took me to the station & I got on the midday slow train to Lusaka.

Got my file in order, made-up the Brownie competition, & read a book “Three Steps Forward”, the autobiography of a cerebral palsied girl. Pathetic & interesting.

Saturday, 08 March 1958


Fine & sunny

Arrived Lusaka 5.20 a.m. & walked in the lovely cool moonlight to the hotel & sat there quietly till a reasonable are & rang up Barbara who fetched me. We sat chattering in her house for an hour then went to Jane’s for our executive meeting. Good Elsie had driven down from Broken Hill & going back in the afternoon.

Started at 10.30, broke for lunch 12.30, resumed at 2 & finished at 3.

Quite good-natured & calm, except once when Elsie Thom went off the deep end & I didn’t agree with her – I forget what about – but quickly gave in as I so hate disagreeing with her.

Molly Goodfellow took me to her home, then we drove out to the Flemings to fetch her dog – “Robin Goodfellow” an adorable golden cocker puppy, grandson of honey.

Carina was there, not yet properly on heat, & very pleased to see me.

Supper with Molly & she took me to the station & I luckily got on the train to go home.

Sunday, 09 March 1958


Hot & sunny

Read happily all morning “Appointment With Venus”

Arrived 2.30 & there was my kind darling to meet me, & Gill.



Drove to the Pump House, River gone down a bit but not much – now 15.7, so still over 12 at the Power Station.


[1] Betty’s daughter Gill and her friend Jill Heatlie.

[2] Livingstone Amateur Dramatic Society.

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