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A tribute to
Gervas (Charles Robert) Clay
16 April 1907 - 18 April 2009
Gervas's engagement photograph, August 1936
A world-class hurdler while up at Oxford, Gervas joind the colonial Government of Northern Rhodesia in 1930. He retired from that in 1960 to become the Director of the Rhodes-Livngstone Museum. In 1964, after 34 years in Africa, he retired back to Somerset.
Following the death of his adored wife Betty in April 2004, Gervas moved into Elliscombe House Nursing Home in the summer of 2005.
Towards the end of 2007, about six months after his well-attended 100th birthday party, he was diagnosed with mild "senile dementia".
He slept through that Thursday; he slept through Friday; he slept through most of Saturday, and was certified dead on Saturday afternoon about five o'clock, never having woken up.
His doctor gave the cause of death as "old age" - this is now permitted -
But WE know better !
Death by chocolate ! WHAT a way to go !
As with his mother, there was no-one left to call him by his name without a prefix.
DEAD FLOWERS BY REQUEST
He often reminded me of this poem over his last few years. We complied; his coffin bore a bouquet of dead flowers.
Gervas was educated at Furzie Close (now Edinburgh House School, in New Milton), then at Lancing, followd by New College, Oxford, where he was an accomplished track athlete, particularly a hurdler, and a leading light in the Achilles Club.
After a post-graduate year reading "Jurisprudence" specified by the Northern Rhodesia Government's Provincial Administration, Gervas went out to Northern Rhodesia in 1930, emplyed by HMOCS - His Majesty's Overseas Civil Service.
About every week, he wrote a letter home, that you can read >here< In 1933 he sailed back to England on leave, and then went back out by air - a very rare choice then. In 1936, he was due home-leave again, and his parents sailed out to the Cape for a holiday, and to sail back to England with him. It was on this voyage that the 29-year-old bachelor met his 19-year-old bride-to-be, Betty, and after their wedding on 24th September, he took her back with him to "Darkest Africa", and thereafter she took over the letter-writing, that you can read >here<
Gervas was posted often, by the Government's Provincial Administration, first in the North-Western Province, then to Barotseland, then again to the North-Western Province, before moving to "the line of rail" - Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola, Broken Hill and Livingstone, before his final posting as Her Majesty's Resident Commissioner in Barotseland. It was here, in 1960, that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, stayed with him (and his wife Betty) for her four-day official visit. Betty had met her before, in Livingstone in 1947.
After three years in Barotseland, Gervas retired from the Government's Provincial Administration, to became Director of the Rhodes-Livingstone Museum in Livingstone, now the National Museum of Zambia, on a three-year Contract.
Before moving to Barotseland, Gervas was for six years Provincial Commissioner of the Southern Province, based in Livingstone. During this time, he had been a great supporter of the Museum, such that, when he moved, the Museum Trustees wrote to thank him - and this letter he used as a "reference" when he applied for the post - they could hardly turn him down !
Gervas retired completely in 1964 and he and Betty returned to England, where they settled near Taunton in Somerset. Their daughter Gill, now 27, came with them; their eldest son Robin, 25, was already working in London. Their second son Nigel, 21, following his father's footsteps, was now working for the NR Government, in their Game & Tsetse Department Their youngest son Crispin, 19, having left school, also came with them, before going to St. David's College, Lampeter. in Wales.
Gervas's book, "Your friend, Lewanika" was published in 1965 by Chatto. This was a biography of the Paramount Chief of the Barotse, who placed his country under the protection of "The Great White Queen, Victoria".
No, I DON'T want to live to his age. For the last twenty-odd years, his stock answer to "Hello, Dad - how are you?" had been "Surviving."
A keen shot all his life, Gervas gave up shooting at the end of the season before his 87th birthday, He found it embarrasing when the younger guns came across to help him climb over fences...
From Lancing College School Report for Summer Term, 1926:-
Gervas aged 79, on his 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1986
For genealogists, various of our Family Trees are on the InterNet - have look on the LINKS page.
The photographs on this WebSite are scanned from ScrapBooks, and are 550 pixels wide; I have high-resolution versions - and an awful lot more besides!
If you want it, just ask.
Generally, the first characters of the picture title is the date in yearmonthday format, e.g. 19591225 is ChristmasDay 1959.
Feel free to copy anything you want, but an attribution would be courteous. Copyright remains ours (c) 2017.
if you see copyrighted material that shouldn't be here, please let me know and I'll remove it.
Gervas's eldest son.