they met for only one month . . .


The days passed in an agony of indecision and questioning about what might lie ahead but of course, I was at our little railway station promptly - hardly breathing with anticipation - to meet him. 

The train pulled in. I watched each window go by.

He wasn’t there! I walked home in tears – why hadn’t I been more decisive in my response to him? Had he decided I was just not right after all? I thought my heart would break.I crept through the back door, up the stairs and lay on my bed, with my face in the pillow.I hadn’t the strength to talk to anyone … but Mummy heard me. She had a telegram! 

He’d missed the train but would be arriving on the next one. This would give us only two hours together, as the last train back to London was at 5 p.m. But still, it was something.

I flew down to the station. He was there, as promised. The anxiety of the last few days disappeared as he folded me into his arms and begged forgiveness. Those two hours were infinitely precious. John met all the family, except Daddy, who was in hospital. They were sensitive enough to give us a little time together.   


I played the piano; we talked and occasionally lapsed into long silences. There was so much to talk about… yet where did we start in such a short time? We agreed that although there was promise of a future together, we wouldn’t rush it, but would write, frequently, come to know each other through our letters and see how things turned out.  

I took him back to the station… and in a hiss of steam and a shriek of whistles and squeaking wheels, this wonderful man went out of my life as abruptly as he had come into it.

We had met in Eastbourne, Sussex, on St. Valentine’s Day 1935, performed the play on the 5th March after only three rehearsals, and he sailed for Cape Town on the 5th April. We had been out together only seven times and we would not see each other again for 15 months.



John Hammond at Goromonzi School in 1960.

John Hammond at Goromonzi School in 1960.

By this stage John was very bald on top and he had a fringe of hair running round the sides of his head that only just met at the back.  As he strode down the line during morning inspection, he spotted a youngster in Form IV, Edmund Garwe. He was hard put not to laugh. The boy had shaved his head to match John’s bald pate. ‘Garwe, I think you and I have something to talk about,’ he said without a smile.     

            When Garwe showed up at his office later in the day, John invited him in sternly and made him wait while he finished a paper he was working on. Without looking up, he said, ‘What you did today took a great deal of courage. You might well expect to be caned or perhaps even suspended for such a deed.’ 

            ‘Yes, sir,’ said the almost bald youngster. 

            John sat back. ‘I regard what you have done as the sign of a healthy teenager and I like your spirit. However, we cannot have the whole school doing the same thing or thinking that it is in order to do this type of thing, can we?’ 

            ‘No, sir’ 

            ‘What do you think I should do about it?’ 

            ‘Maybe a small caning… a very small caning?’ 

            ‘…And you will shave off the rest of the hair on your head?’ 

            A very, very small caning it was… with the solicitous enquiry as to whether he had a sharp razor available to shave the rest of his head.

            When John related the story to me, he said he had been so pleased to see genuine naughtiness taking place rather than insolence. ‘The boy’s eyes were like saucers, Nan – he was terrified – but he still had the guts to do it. I like him – he’s potential Head Boy material in a couple of years time.’ 

            Next day at inspection, as John strode down the lines and without checking his step as he passed the shining, hairless pate, he said quietly, ‘Nice haircut Garwe!’