Zimbabwe: The Irish
Mashonaland Irish Association held its Centenary in the 1990’s.
We too often forget our colonial history. The Dominican nuns and Mother Patrick…..
Aidan Cowan, one of life’s true gentleman, buried in Zimbabwe, recorded so many editions
of ‘Nuacht’, the Mashonaland Irish Associations, newsletter. I have located just a few but lest he and people of his ilk be completely forgotten I pay tribute to their endeavours as true emigrants from Ireland by copying this edition, which I must have typed on his behalf because it somehow remains on my computer.
Failte; We welcome to our association Mrs L Straw and we welcome back to the Hibernian fold Mrs Mary Bogorra, mother of the concert pianist Manuel Bogorro: here it may be opportune to remind our readers that their non Irish friends are very welcome to join us as associate members. An especial welcome would be extended to those from the kindred Society which has sadly folded so you don't have to be Irish to "come into the parlour". Another reminder; your annual subscriptions!! What have we been up to? Well, it's long long ago now but for record purposes I must mention that there was a Children's Christmas Party which was hosted by the then Mashonaland Irish Association "MIA" President, Padraig Connolly and Helen, his Bean Fein. There were fewer children than the previous year but nevertheless there were no cokes, sweets, cakes or ice creams left over. In the evening when the Mums had corralled the children, the lads and some ladies adjourned to the warmth of the bar where the usualhooley ensued. At Borrowdale on the 12th of March 1993 the special and very good relations that exist between the MIA and the Mashonaland Turf Club worked to the advantage of members of our Committee. They were guests of the M.T.C. President for "Irish" Day. They were treated to a sumptuous lunch and moved among the kings and queens (female) of the racing world, while I, down among the povo, bought a sausage roll for herself and a hamburger for little me, then proceeded to add to my chalk up of game little losers. St. Patrick's Day Golf was held at Wingate Golf Club on the Saint's own name day, the 17th of March. There was a field of 140 players, all of whom finished, to the wonder and amazement of some Wingatians who early in the day were whispering "Watch the Paddies bugger up this 'lot'", that field will never be completed". To their credit, the very same people, were the first to acknowledge later in the day, that the tournament was exceptionally well organised and ran "on smooth well oiled wheels". (By the day's end, the wheels were not the only things well oiled). Prizes worth well over $4,000 (excluding Zimbabwe Sun's donations of weekend holidays details later) were donated, which indicates the professional begging talents of some Committee members. John Kelly, the President of Wingate expressed his thanks to the Irish Association and hoped that the St. Patrick's Day Golf tournament would remain an annual event on the Wingate Calendar in the future, as it has done for so many years in the past. The Tony O'Sullivan Trophy was won by Connaught, and looking at them, ably led by Fr. Jim Doyle a Catholic Christian. I said to herself, "The assembly of God' You'd be more likely to find an Irishman among Jack Charlton's boys than find a true Connaught man in that lot". "You're a terrible begruddger", herself replied. The John Sisk Trophy went to John Gallagher with an excellent score of 39 points: Michael Coyne won the Charles Harris Trophy; Michael's form was such that we may be seeing Nicky Price Mk II, in the making. When the garden furniture prize, the huge hamper and all the other prizes were locked safely away, the bar was filled, then over filled, the craic was on, and the fragrant aroma of hops, malt and barley, permeated the air. The Irish were at their jubilant, extrovertial, happy, spontaneous, lovable best once again. St. Patrick's Night Ball was held at the Monomatapa Hotel on Saturday 19th March 1993. It was fully booked, to the delight of all, and to the relief of Raph Keegan and Kathy Keen. Raph and Kathy were the chief organisers for the MIA and the Mono respectively. (Watching how bookings are going when time of a function is drawing near, must be an ulcer making experience for those who must ultimately carry the can). The Ball was advertised, 7.30 for 8.00 p.m., and doors to the function room were closed to the early comers. This turned out to be whether intentionally or not an excellent idea for it created "a let's get to know each other quickly mood", and in an ante area we co mixed amicably. The area itself was a delight to the eye and a pleasure to the olfactory senses; flower arrangements everywhere and Bord Failte posters on the wall. The decor for both the area ante the function room, and the function room itself was designed by June Cartwright, a very talented lady, who I am told does this sort of work in her spare time only. One original and apt piece of decorative design, created, I am sure, by artistic hands other than those of June Cartwright, was to be found on the door to the Gents loo where someone had affixed to the genital area of the little male with legs apart symbol, a bunch of recently watered shamrock. At 8 p.m. the doors to the function room were opened and Wow! what a visual impact, the decor artist had thematically decorated the hall. There were huge Tara broaches, harps, shamrocks, leprechauns, gaelic prayers and greetings and still more Bord Failte posters, furthermore, there were bouquets of flowers about 2 metres tall affixed, somehow, to all the walls. The stunning floral arrangements were donated by Bell's Florist. We went to our tables, the place was alive with waiters and waitresses, the Quick Silver Band, already on their rostrum, struck up the tune Phil The Fluters Ball and I called out "Waitress Please", there's nothing queer about Peter from Wexford. Paul Robinson was M.C. and organiser of entertainment. He did both jobs in his usual professional manner. Paul welcomed us all in Gaelic and then in English, he then called on an tAthair Seamus O'Dubleigh (Fr. Jim Doyle) to say Grace and to my surprise, Fr. Doyle said Grace in Gaelic. I was not aware that he was of the Gaelic esoteric set, but fair play to you Jim. Dinner was swiftly served, swiftly too was it consumed as the portions were barely visible to the naked eye, and I maybe wrong as I am no gourmet, but I had upon my plate strips of what looked like, and tasted like, potato skins and my suspicions are that somebody told the chef that the Irish like "their potatoes in their jackets", especially at a St. Patrick's Day function, but the chef got the message wrong. Apart from the skins and the minikin portions the meal otherwise,was first class. The meal kicked off with Smoked Salmon, full marks. This was followed by Celery and Potato Soup, first class. Then came either Baked Gammon or Irish Stew. I chose Gammon, those who chose the Stew may have fared better. The Sweet was excellent, Bailey's Cream on Apple Pie, all rounded off with a glass of Irish Coffee, "on the house", and the band played on. Helen Connolly, the wife of our then MIA President, gave the first toast, "Zimbabwe, the country in which we live". Helen spoke first in Gaelic and then in English. Here I mention, en passant, that at College, Helen majored in Gaelic languages. In previous newsletters, I have extolled the quality of her voice and projection so I shall not embarrass the lady with excessive praise, I will, however, pass on the remark made by another at our table when she had given the toast "I don't know a word of Irish, but she sure makes prose sound like poetry". A guest speaker, Sr. Catherine Jackson, came to the 'Mike'. Guest Speaker a nun? Any doubts were soon dispelled for this very smart lady managed to capture us in her very first sentence. "Only the Irish would celebrate St. Patrick on the feast of St. Joseph". The remark received great applause and we soon learned to our joy that the first humorous remark was to be followed by many, many more. Time and time again her speech was interrupted by applause and guffaws of laughter. This nun was a Stand Up Comedienne, but entwined with the comedy the serious business was now and then revealed. Sr. Catherine has started a Braille Library, which will serve not only Zimbabwe, but the whole region, the project needs machinery for Braille printing which means money - Can we help? A member of the Committee has told me that the Braille Library has been placed high on the Mashonaland Irish Association Charity List, and I think those of us not living in a world of perpetual darkness will agree. When the nun gave us the toast to Ireland the Land of our birth,she received a spontaneous and very deserving standing ovation. I don't know who 'found' Sr. Catherine Jackson, but whoever it was can take a bow for he/she made a great contribution to the success of the night. Our Vice President, Raph Keegan, welcomed our Special Guests from the Kindred Societies, and expressed his regret to learn that Mr.Whitley would be hanging up his Chain of Office as the Yorks and Lancs were ceasing to function as an ethnic society. He got a few laughs but essentially it was as it had to be a serious speech, as all donors must be acknowledged and it was a very long list indeed, so we owe our sincere thanks to: Wheelan Associates, Architects; Lamont Engineering, Consultants; The Fitzwilliam Partnership, Quantity Surveyors; John Sisk; Contractors; Costain (Africa); Contractors; Ascon Testing Laboratories; Lorenzo Simion Metal Work; Hancock and Ward Plumbing; Minet Insurance; Steelforce Reinforcing; Precast Concrete; Crittall Hope Doors and Windows; JAK Engineering; Neeves Ironcraft; Ceely Electric; Shane Moran; Frank Pentony; John Hall; Instalite and John Gallagher. (The list presented in no particular order). The Zimbabwe Sun donated free weekends for two at many of the Zimbabwe hotels which included the top notch resorts such as Elephant Hills, Bumi Hills, Montclair Casino and a number of free days at Sun City in South Africa of which we shall hear later. We certainly benefited from holding our function at the Monomatapa. Raph proposed a toast to our Special Guests, our sponsors and absent friends, and the band played on. Mr. Whitley, the President of the now defunct Yorks and Lancs said a few words of regret about the passing of his small Society, a few words about memories of past years and no doubt we shall be seeing him and his wife at the next St. Patrick's Night Ball. Brian Black, Vice Chairman of the Mashonaland Turf Club replied on behalf of the Special Guests to Raph's speech. His was quite a witty speech despite some friendly banter from his own group situated at the far end of the hall. As I went to enjoy myself and not to be a pseudo reporter with pen going at a maniacal pace jotting down every word spoken, I think it was Mr. Black who told an "Irish" joke the gist of which was, Mick and Pat are the Don Juans of the village and they were wont to exchange details of their sexual conquests, but on this occasion, Mick was troubled as he had broken their unwritten code and bonked a married woman. Pat was sympathetic and told Mick he should go for confession to Fr. Murphy. Mick did as suggested, he told Fr. Murphy that he had done the dirty thing with a married woman. "Mrs. Kelly, I suppose", said the priest. "Ah no, Father", Mick replied. "Tell me then, would it have been Mrs. Nulty?" the priest asked. "Ah no, Father but I couldn't tell you who". The priest gave him absolution and Mick went out to his friend. "How did it go Mick, any problems?". "No problem at all Pat and we have got two new names". Brian Black had brought very amusingly to an end all the speeches, the lights were lowered and the first couple on the dance floor were our pet Dublin atheist and Muriel Ryan, soon they were followed by other couples until the floor was crowded with happy revelers and serious romantics. Later in the night, Muriel drifted from her partner not the atheist and gave us a solo performance that was a cross between balletic grace and Gallic apache abandon and if you can't imagine that, how the hell do you expect me to describe it, enough for me to say, it was a memorable performance that was right down to earth and the band played on; and there were plenty of spot prizes. Eventually the Quick Silver Band with a very competent Perry Como type of singer took a break. (The band was very good right through the night). During this break, Paul Robinson told us about Paddy Mk I, out on the mountain tending sheep and courting couples in some asshole area of the emerald plot and how the poor devil formed his first church and generally acted in a manner appropriate to sainthood. John Humphries, tenor, gave us a few songs, and when he sang the Rose of Tralee, we in true Irish fashion, all joined in. I have always felt sorry for Rose, for she only had one eye; "It was not her beauty alone that won me, ah no, 'twas the truth in her eye ever dawning that made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee". Not to be outdone by the laity, Fr. Jim Doyle a Baritone golfer sang a number of songs and as John Paul II has forbidden the priests and nuns to read an Nuacht, someone will have to pass on this piece of praise. Jim is always good for a song, he has a strong but musically sweet singing voice, but on this occasion he was at his best and his Fields of Athenry was a delightful rendering of that emotionally disturbing near hymn. Paul Robinson, this time on the electronic contraption known I think as a synthesizer, but sounding like a piano played Nocturne by little known Irish composer, John Field. (It was Field who gave the same Nocturne to the particular kind of music and Chopin admitted being influenced by the Irishman). Claire McKenna a very competent flautist played some numbers suited to the instrument including the Foster and Allen "Bunch of Thyme". Her brother later joined on the Bodran (I think that is a wrong spelling) and together they played some lively jigs to which Colette O'Brien danced. Barry McCurdy, looking like, and sounding like, Ian Paisley, gave us an hilarious "sermon" on the Wrath of God due to the Papist devils spreading their ever growing testicles across the world; a very funny performance indeed. Kathy Keen and Dave Hipwell were in charge of raffles and the main prize, four days at Sun City, was won by the Ryans, Ken and Muriel, who had traveled from Ireland for the Ball (they have been doing so for many years). The Ryans had a little head to head chat, then Ken stood up and announced they would re donate the prize which Dave Hipwell was requested to auction, and the money accrued to be given to Sr. Catherine for her braille library. What a marvellous and generous gesture. Dave started the bid "Right, starting at Two Fifty". "Three Hundred" another, "Three Fifty" and so it went "Four Hundred". A young lady in a lovely green dress, probably a bit impatient, jumped to her feet and shouted "Eight Hundred" and before another could bid, she out bid herself with "Eight Fifty". Her escort didn't faint but he took a swift gulp of whiskey. The young lady's four hundred and fifty dollars jump to the bidding seems to have inspired those at the Horsey table. I think it was Brian Black who shouted "One Thousand Five Hundred", was that Tony O'Sullivan who shouted "Two Thousand Five Hundred"? Now, I'm pretty certain that none of these people was really interested in a visit to Sun City, their interest was in Sr. Catherine's library and with a spirit of fun and great generosity, they outbid each other until Henk Leyenaar reached either Three Thousand Five Hundred or Four Thousand Dollars. What a grand gesture by these people and what a joy to the heart of Sr. Catherine Jackson, O.P. It was now time to select the best dressed (in green) lady in the hall, and the ladies were called to the fore. Being a lousy reporter, I forgot to get the name of the winner. I thought the girls looked lovely but a thin lipped libber at our table said "Disgraceful, parading young girls like heifers ready for market". "I agree with you said the atheist, sure its flying in the face of God". More dancing then, 12 O'Clock, midnight, and the band played on. Get Well Soon. We were sorry to hear that Kitty Bishop broke her leg in a recent fall. Gerry Ryan has also undergone surgery. We wish them both a speedy recovery. We were shocked at the news of the passing of Tom Coyne, a long standing and respected member of our association. One word came up time and time again in the many notices of condolences, that word was Gentleman and this writer cannot think of a more appropriate description except, perhaps, to prefix itwith the word "Kind". The President of Mashonaland Irish Association, his Committee and all the members extend our deepest sympathy to the bereaved Coyne family. Forthcoming Family Day, Sunday 11th September 1993 To be held at the home of Padraig & Helen Connolly, further details will be sent out at a later date.
I have just stumbled across this post and cannot tell you how much of a joy it was to read. Im not sure if you’ll remember me but my parents were Helen and Padraig Connolly, I would have been about 14/15 when you were living in Zimbabwe. Aidan’s letter above is like a window into the past, awakening so many memories.
Just wanted to comment to say thank you so much for such a wonderful flashback, I hope you’re well
Apologies. I remember you well; your Dad and Mum too. My email address is email@example.com I would love to hear from you and about your life and your Mum Helen too. I was very sorry to hear about the loss of your Dad. You always reminded me of my relationship with my Dad. He was a doctor, a GP and when I was about your age at that time in Zimbabwe I too would accompany him while he was visiting the homes of patients.
It is only now I hope I can reply to your email. I am not very good at working out how to get the most of WordPress.
All the best
Shelley or Michelle
Hi Niamh Connolly
My name is Martin Manyange son to Elizabeth back here in Zimbabwe, i hope you recall. You left when i was still a kid am sure you remember Timothy and fildah. My mum said i should check on you and thanks to the internet there you are i hope i find you well hope to hear from you.
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