Message from Susan Woodhouse

Message from Susan Woodhouse

for Zimbabwe Launch

Warm greetings to you all from Susan Woodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland. I am very sorry not to be with you on what is for me an almost unbelievable occasion: the launch of my biography of Garfield Todd – which he had asked me to undertake because, he said, I knew him and Grace better than anyone. I had worked for Garfield for eight years, two in the Southern Rhodesia Prime Minister’s Office and six at Hokonui Ranch.

    Your hosts today, Irene and Murray, of course, have been the ones to fulfil Garfield’s (and my) hopes for this book. Without their courage in offering a contract to an unknown writer in another country, and their endurance over this past year, there would have been no book. For this, gratitude is too small a word.

It is wonderful that Pius Wakatama has been able to do Garfield and Grace, Irene and Murray, you and me, the honour of being guest speaker at this launch. Your father, Pius (if I may so address you), and Garfield were friends over many years. They shared ideals in education and in the era of political struggle.  And though I have not met you, I am happy to recall that I met your father at a tea-party at the Prime Minister’s house in Salisbury in July 1957! Strangely enough, though, I find that you studied at Ranche House College in 1965 and I became Secretary there in January 1966! And I know that you, too, are a friend and admirer of Lawrence Vambe – now 101 – a man who has been able to shed much light for me on the life and times of Garfield.

    I expect many of you, particularly the Old Dadayans, have memories of Garfield that you will be sharing. One who has more memories of him that anyone else is, of course, Judith. It is very important that she is with you today. She was only 13 when I first met her but such was her political understanding that when her father was away from home, she would read him the leading article in The Rhodesia Herald every morning before breakfast! Awesome!

I am sure she will start, as I would, with the funny stories about her father, which he so relished telling family and friends. For humour and laughter, even in the dark days, were never far from him. When I lived with the family from 1959 to 1965 there were plenty of dark days but not one went by without the sound of laughter (as well as music) on the stoep at Hokonui Ranch.

One cannot write about Garfield, or even think of him, without thinking of Grace – “the girl from Winton who was (his) life” – whose contribution to Zimbabwe was no less than his: the Dadaya Schemes. It was a loving, united family, but Grace, Judith and her beloved younger sister, Cynthia always had to share Garfield with the demands of his multifarious other interests: Superintendent of Dadaya Mission and then its famous school – preacher, pastor, teacher, builder (of schools, churches, houses, dams); doctor (Judith and Cynthia were but two of hundreds of babies he delivered); rancher, store-keeper, car mechanic. Politics almost took over: M.P., spell-binding speaker much in demand, Prime Minister, ex-prime minister, ex-politician, speaker even more in demand and not just in Southern Rhodesia; prisoner. But at least as restrictee at Hokonui they didn’t have to share him with anyone.

Retired in Bulawayo, Garfield missed the community at Dadaya and Hokonui, families he knew ‘to the third and fourth generation thereof’, the sound of his customers at Bannockburn Store, the sounds of the veldt, the animals – the hippo in the river – the birds. As he told me, “Dadaya stays at the centre of things … I was a missionary. I am a missionary. I was not ever a politician.”