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Others' Memories


Christopher Legg also wrote, 20th June 2011:-

I have not been able to find the well-known anecdote about Gervas which appeared in the NR Journal (I cannot remember which volume). Apparently a DO named Munday flew hole to the UK on leave, and was violently airsick. This somehow appeared on an official file which was passed to Gervas. He wrote the comment "sic transit gloria mundi" 

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I hadn't heard that one !

I had a quick look on   http://www.nrzam.org.uk/index.html#NRJ  but didn't find it.  A lot of his contributiones to NRJ were in the form of "Notes", and aren't indexed.

Later, perhaps !

Thank you for those welcome additions. 


Christopher Legg wrote, 20th June 2011:-

I was not actually in Mongu for the royal visit. Much to my disappointment, I was sent off to school in Lusaka a few days before the visit. My parents were, however, there, and told me the following.

During the garden party on the lawns of the Residency, many people, including Gervas, were badly bitten by red ants (seruwe). After the QM had retired, Betty asked a maid of honour whether Her Majesty had also been attacked. The response was that she had, but it would have been very bad form to have shown any reaction.

Gervas reportedly asked the QM to wear a tiara to the dance at the Mongu Club. Apparently this was normally reserved for much grander occasions, but the QM said that if the people would enjoy it, she would wear it.

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Both valid stories.  I have just checked my mother's diary.

Gervas related to me how he was told of the ants, and went to Her Majesty and explained that there were ants about.  "I know," she replied, "There is one just HERE", as she discretely indicated her thigh !   Betty says that Gervas led her "off-stage" as she waved and called goodbye. "I took her to her bedroom & knelt to take off her shoe, & there was a great Soldier Ant gnawing at her poor toe & drawn blood - & she had never shown a sign of it to the people."

As for the dance, Betty's diary has:-

After dinner, Gervas asked if she would care to attend the dance, & she agreed, so we went along about 10 o'clock, & they parted to each side of the floor & she swept down the middle as they curtsied and bowed, and went up on the platform where champagne was provided by efficient Tim. She looked lovely in a full white organza dress & she had kindly put on her tiara. 

She asked me, "Does your husband dance?" and I said, "Yes", so she turned to him & asked him if he would dance with her - which he did very beautifully.  ... 

Jimmy Turner said when he put on the record for her first dance, he suddenly realised what it was called & whippped it off again  - it was "The Lady is a Tramp" !   She had a dance with Charlie Bell, too. 

She had said she would stay about half an hour, but actually stayed an hour.


Anita McCullough, Hon Secretary, The Rhodesian Study Circle, wrote, 26th April 2009:-

I picked up your email, as it happens, as we were in the end of a busy day of The Rhodesian Study Circle's 51st conference in Leamington Spa. I was naturally moved and upset, but later went on to convey to two or three members at the bar that evening that we had lost our most revered and loved, Gervas Clay. I personally, was in awe of him and found him magnetic, erudite and generous: it was Gervas who gave
me the first couple of Kasama postmarks that has since become my very decent collection of North Eastern Rhodesian postal history. I was one of many that he had inspired in this way.

You should know that our Chairman, Colin Hoffman, announced Gervas's death just before we sat down to dinner that evening and everyone rose to their feet and gave a minutes' silence. He was, after all, an honorary Life Vice President and a founder of the RSC. His innings was most admired by the cricketing contingent amongst our
members and many reflected with anecdotes of both he and Betty (also well remembered and similarly fondly).

When I visited the Livingstone Museum, Zambia, in both 2007 and 2008 I was asked for news of Gervas Clay and was able to report, in that country that admires and respects the elderly, that he was still with us. Sadly, now I will have to tell them that he has gone - but I will do that.

When I was there, I found well-filed correspondences of his on many
interesting philatelic subjects - he was clearly a well-organised and dedicated museum director in his time there.

I will let Colin Hoffman reply to you about articles. Do not forget also
that he was a compelling and notable contributor to the Northern Rhodesian Journal which is not accessible online. Let me know if you want details of it.

Thank you for bothering to contact us. Please do keep in touch.

In sympathy and admiration for Gervas Clay's mark on the world and an
inimitable life,


Niels Kraunsoe wrote, April 28, 2009

We remember him as a most interesting and charming person who came to the Christ Church cubs [Hong Kong] about 30 years ago and shook all their hands!


Jane Flower wrote, April 28, 2009

Your father had a wonderful life -  of interest, adventure, experience and service to others. Later generations will hardly comprehend the breadth of this. I remember the liveliness of his conversation when I visited your parents and I know how much my father 
enjoyed his company.


From Mike B-P: 

"... particularly after dinner, chatting about family matters ... over a glass or two of "un-prescribed" mdicine which usually helped discussion enormously ..." 

From Mike Clay: 
"... He was a wonderful advertisment for undertaking so may voluntary jobs once his working life was over - that is what probably kept him going for so long ..." 

From George Purdy (previous Chief Scout who shared THE birthday!):
"... Gervas and I shared some wonderful times together and I loved hearing about his experiences and the years he shared with your Mother ..." 

From Janet Tilley (ex-County Commissioner for Somerset Scouts):
" ... They shared lots of stories and experiences as well as showing us all the possessions around them demonstrating what an interesting and loving couple they were...  Both were such larger than life characters with their own amazing stories to tell... Both Betty and Gervas could be relied on for advice and guidance when needed... they celebrted their birthday on the same day as our twin son and daughter (38 this year) as well!!  I do hope they are blessed with at least some of the wonderful attributes that your parents had! ... they are missed and loved by so many...   I can still remember my first visit to Elliscombe when Gervas was so proud to show me his wine cellar!  (the hall cupboard!)" 

From John Hudson:
  "... I served at Mankoya under your father.  I liked and admired him greatly and so did the Malozi.  He was also DC Mankoya in the late 1930's.  I think we developed a fairly close relationship because of this.  Looking through some old files, I came across a letter from him to the Secretariat written after war was declared in late 1939 requesting that he should be released from the PA to volunteer for active service.  His request was turned down on grounds of age."   
 
(NOTE:  Dad used to say that everyone of his age and above had to stay to man the country.  Everyone below his year was allowed to sign up - had he gone he would have joined his father's regiment, the Staffordshire Yeomanry, who were all wiped out in the desert in the North African campaign.  I think he always felt inferior and out of it among other men of his generation (including Uncle Ralph, his younger brother) who had mostly been in the war and who had stories to tell and medals to show).    

From Bernadette: 
"I shall remember him with such great affection.  In later years at Ford Lodge if your mother was out or away, she would ask me to keep an eye on him.  I would go over and enjoy his company enormously.  He would chat away and always had such a twinkle in his eye.   We would talk about everything from school days at Lancing with my father, to cricket and the latest Test Match!   I am a "counter" as he was and I often think of him telling me how many gooseberries or strawberries he had picked.  Even now when I am counting dead heads I am snipping off my daffodils, or the number of leaves I am picking from my spinach I often think of him.  Memories of both your parents remain with me constantly.  My love goes to you and all the family." 

From Jane Brown (writing to Gervas's daughter): 
"Being the only girl with three brothers I expect you had a special place in your father's affections and are going to feel the loss a great deal.  Lots of memories must be flooding in, you must have been very proud of him because apart from anything else he was always so immaculately turned out.  I expect you remember how he spoke so interestingly at the Trafalgar Day party we had.  So unexpected and therefore very much appreciated.  I'm glad I got that photograph of him going to a wedding. I am sad for myself too because I am afraid it may mean the end of the Clay era at Elliscombe.  At one time there was a chance that Robin and Susie might have moved next door but I am afraid it looks most unlikely now.  I don't suppose you will be going up and down the A303 very often now either.  I do wish you and yours every happiness in the future.  It has been a great priviledge to get to know you all."  

From Jill Heatlie: 
".. but he will be remembered so well for his fun and humour and generosity and love for the family and the good life." 

From Nelson Block (American Scouter): 
"I met him in the 1990's at Gilwell a couple of times.  He was always kind enough to remember me.  He shared wonderful stories with me and treated me just like an old friend.  It was a privilege to have known him.  Yesterday (Monday) was a busy Scout day, with meetings of our local council and our troop, and I had the honor of ending each of these meetings with a brief story about your father, his connection to Scouting, and his recent passing.  Both the great and powerful at the council board meeting and the young and impressionable at the troop meeting appreciated knowing of your father, and applauded him.  I know his memory will be a blessing.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you."  

From Peter Clay (nephew): 
He was a great man - one of a kind - and probably hard for any of us to match his abilities in so many area. When I spent an Easter holidays at Ford Lodge in 1965 (your family kindly accommodating me) I would dread the invitations to his study as usually came out feeling particularly ignorant by the time I had perused the shelves of books and he had tried to help me with my Latin homework - a hopeless task. I can now understand his frustration with me - this little bush monkey of a boy who was much happier playing in the river outside than ever looking at book! 

I remember thinking then that he was elderly sage and statesman - and I also thought he probably was not long for this world, having recently retired back in the UK. He was only about 58 at that time. Shockingly only slightly older myself now. Just how wrong I was (an ignorant 12 year old) - that was 44 years ago. I can't help thinking that his was a case of mind over body.

He will be strongly remembered for many things - his great running abilities and also in the Scouts/guides and in those academic places of learning that I was so far removed from. 

Time alone will heal the empty space left by his death but after that we
will have that fond memory of a great character that he was.  Love to you all"

From Ann Beable (his wife's secretary): 
what a life your Dad has had, enjoyed and, of course, survived.  Wonderful!  It was a privilege to know your parents and I am sure you all have some wonderful memories.
 
One lasting memory of your Dad which I have, was when one day your Mum had gone out and I was left to work quietly in the room on her correspondence.  Your Dad was reading in the same room.  Suddenly, a voice said 'it is 4 o'clock' - I kept working, then my brain clicked that I was being asked to do something!  Did you want something, I asked - 'tea' was the answer.  A few minutes later I returned with the tea 'where would you like it' I asked 'there' came the reply.  I decided that he was back in Africa with servants to hand!

Another memory was in the mornings Gervas set about his crosswords and when stuck for the answer he would ask me if I knew the answer.  Your dear Mum would eventually have to tell him that I was there for her work not for his crossword puzzle solving!

 From Heather Catchpole: 
So many wonderful memories have been going through my mind...remembering 'specially the never ending summers we all spent together having so much fun at Ford Lodge...always with Betty and Gervas there, around whom so much pivoted...and the work they made us do!!  ( well, I suppose we can thank them that we are all the such fine up-standing citizens that we are today?! ) I loved them dearly, their kindness and the way they, and you all,  made me  part of your family, even if my poor little Ginny, that ' black & white checked thing'  had to suffer a certain amount of indignity... tho' I'm sure that you will remember how delicious was her Great Christmas Revenge ...when the Ford Lodge Father Christmas left her a large squeaky rubber rat....which she proceeded to squeak non-stop throughout the whole of Chistmas Day, nearly driving The Master out of his mind!!!    Happy days indeed...  How lovely that we have the 100th birthday to remember, such a special day.  And now we can only imagine the joy of the wonderful reunion, so longed for."



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