'We drew up rough plans for a journey by car that would take us from Blantyre into Mozambique, across the Zambezi river at Tete, and on into Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)'

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'We drew up rough plans for a journey by car that would take us from Blantyre into Mozambique, across the Zambezi river at Tete, and on into Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)'


Frank remembers leaving Malawi and travelling in Africa.


Frank Gaynor


Trinity College Dublin




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Frank Gaynor

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Marriage and Family


Life Story

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South Africa

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Apart from a workload of up to 40 teaching periods per week, being a teacher at Providence was undemanding. I had enjoyed my time there but by 1975 I was getting a bit restless. I was itching to work outside the classroom. When I was offered a place at the Institute of Educational Studies in Oxford we got excited at the prospect of a year in Oxford. It made no logical sense for me to take up the offer. We had little money and would have to fund ourselves for the year. We also had the small matter of four children under six years of age to consider. Monica is at her best when faced with a daunting challenge. We agreed to go for it. To add a bit of excitement to the challenge we decided to drive to Cape Town and take the boat to Southampton. We drew up rough plans for a journey by car that would take us from Blantyre into Mozambique, across the Zambezi river at Tete, and on into Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). We would then cross into South Africa at Beitbridge, and drive through Transvaal Province into Swaziland. From there we would drive through Natal Province to Durban, and continue south through Transkei until we reached the coast at East London. From there we would follow the Garden Route to Cape Town, and hopefully arrive there in time to catch the S A Oranje on its final voyage to Southampton. We drove away from Providence in a Renault 12 estate car with 13 pieces of baggage tied to a roof - rack. The road through Tete had recently opened after being closed for security reasons during the fight for independence in Mozambique. FRELIMO were only a few weeks in power as we drove through. Some distance before Tete we were stopped by a group of soldiers. They were not in any way threatening. Some of them were of school - going age and had obviously not been trained in how to handle weapons. My only fear was that one of the guns would go off accidentally. They asked us to take down all 13 pieces of luggage. After I gave them a couple of packets of cigarettes they waved us through. Once we crossed the border into Rhodesia/Zimbabwe we were in high risk territory due to the on - going fight for independence there. When we followed a detour sign we went off course and drove into a quarry. A Swiss man who was guarding the quarry soon arrived heavily armed and accompanied by four alsatian dogs. He advised us to get out of there as fast as possible as we had less than two hours of daylight left. It did not help that the exhaust pipe had broken on the detour road and our car could now be heard backfiring for some considerable distance. After some car repairs in Salisbury/Harare we headed for the South African border. Along the way we called to see Chris and Meg Claassen, ex - Mulanje, and visited the Zimbabwe Ruins. In South Africa we felt quite safe. There were petrol restrictions in operation at that time. Filling stations were closed from mid - day on Friday until 8am on Monday. As we drove through northern Transvaal on Saturday we aimed at being as far on as possible before we filled the tank. As we drove through a hilly forest area heavy mist and fog came down and slowed our progress to a crawl. It was a few minutes past mid - day when we reached the next filling station and our tank was almost empty. We pleaded with the owner but to no avail and had to resign ourselves to spending the weekend in 'Jock of the Bushveld' territory near Kruger National Park. It was named after a dog whose hunting and fighting exploits had become famous in that area. We found accommodation in a camp site of sorts with outdoor cooking facilities. As we shared cooking and washing facilities with other campers we gradually came to enjoy this unplanned weekend in the bush. We now look back on it with fond memories. We continued our journey south with Kruger Park to our left. Near Barberton we left the main road and followed a rough hilly forest road into Swaziland. We spent one night in the capital Mbabane. The following day we entered Natal Province and drove for hours through sugarcane estates towards Durban. We were delayed for a day in Pinetown as we tracked down and fitted a new starting motor for the car. At this point we realised that we could not afford many more unplanned days of rest. For the remainder of the journey our daily routine was to be on the road by 8am and drive for about 500km, stopping now and then for a picnic. We aimed at being in some town by 3pm. We would then look for a place to stay for the night, and allow plenty of time for the children to have a good run around before bedtime. Monica was well organised and always seemed to be able to come up with the required food and clothes for the children at short notice. As we drove along Lynda and Claire, then aged 6 and 5 years, entertained themselves for hours at a time with a pack of playing cards in the back of the Renault Estate. Fergal and Mags, then aged 4 and 2 years, divided their time between looking out the car window and sleeping. There was a lot to see from the window of the car. South Africa is a huge country with a great variety of scenery. Our journey took us through large tracts of bushveld and extensive farming areas. We got a good view of the Drakensberg mountain range, and the golden beaches of Natal, with their swimming signs for 'Whites Only' and 'Blacks Only'. We drove through Transkei, which was then a homeland for Xhosa speaking people; it is now part of the Eastern Cape Province. Most of the area we drove through was mountainous and not suitable for agriculture. One of the lasting memories of the journey for the children was when our car hit a sheep in Transkei. One of my lasting memories of Transkei was when the engine overheated and blew a gasket. It was late in the afternoon and we were in a very remote area. As darkness began to close in I was getting worried. Fortunately a man with a small truck stopped. I travelled about 30km with him to a small garage. The garage owner towed our car to his garage and had it ready for the road the following morning. There was a certain feeling of relief when we reached the coast at East London. From there we followed the Garden Route to Cape Town. The Garden Route is sandwiched between the Tsitsikamma Mountains and the Indian Ocean. It has one of the mildest climates in the world with temperatures seldom below 10 Celcius in winter, and seldom above 28 Celcius in summer. It gets its name from the verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation to be seen along the route. It was not looking or feeling its best as we travelled along. At the end of August the cold of winter was still in the air and felt a bit cooler than 10 Celcius. Most of the flowering shrubs had not yet come to life. When we reached Cape Town there were overhanging clouds around and no sign of Table Mountain. When we visited a beach on the Atlantic Ocean side the breeze was cold and too strong for the children to leave the car. A customs official called to where we were staying in Cape Town, looking for payment which he claimed was due on some luggage we had forwarded from Blantyre. The agent in Blantyre had told me that his fee covered all costs as far as Southampton. This led me to suspect that this customs official was not genuine. He came back a number of times over that weekend. I handled the situation badly and when we left Cape Town harbour our luggage remained on the quay. Some months later we were told that our luggage had been destroyed in a warehouse fire. My biggest regret was the loss of a silver tea tray that Monica had won on Mulanje golf course. Along with that tea tray went a good collection of slides and photos. As our passenger ship, the S A Oranje, moved out of Cape Town harbour the clouds began to rise and we got our first view of Table Mountain. The day and a half of sea - sickness we battled with was a small price to pay for the ten wonderful days at sea that followed. The weather remained calm all the way, we had good fun with some of the other passengers, there was a good selection of entertainment and activities to cater for all ages, and the food was excellent. At times we were followed by sharks competing with each other for the left - overs that were thrown overboard. Following the afternoon buffet large quantities of cold chicken and ham were regularly thrown into the sea. I took some lessons in ballroom dancing but did not fare much better at sea than I had done on land. We came to like the S A Oranje and thought it was a great pity that its next voyage was to the scrap yard. Our only stop along the way was for a few hours at the port of Santa Cruz on the Canary Islands. Some family members welcomed us as we came off the boat at Southampton. My sister Breeda and her husband Danny found space for all six of us to spend a couple of days with them in London before moving on to Oxford.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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