'We spent a wonderful few days with the Sisters who took us out and around the poorer areas of Johannesburg, where they were well known for their work amongst the poor.'

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'We spent a wonderful few days with the Sisters who took us out and around the poorer areas of Johannesburg, where they were well known for their work amongst the poor.'


Rosemary remembers travelling to Johannesburg in South Africa for a MRI scan. She spent a few days with the Sisters of Mercy there who were very hospitable.


Rosemary McCloskey


Trinity College Dublin




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Rosemary McCloskey

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Work and Employment


Life Story

Spatial Coverage

Johannesburg, South Africa

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I was not very happy in Botswana although the wages were much better than anywhere else I had worked, especially with the conversion rate of three Zim dollars to a Pula. There were a lot more of this world's goods available in Botswana as well, and I would often bring little luxuries across to Bualwayo at weekends. Part of my duties as Home Economics department in the college was to attend meetings with other home economics' personnel in the other teacher training colleges and this often necessitated driving to Gabarone, Molepolole, Tlokweng and Lobatse. There was single main road the length of the western side of Botswana, which connected all these towns from Francistown southwards and I became very familiar with it during my time there. Botswana is a flat arid country. There is nothing much growing but they have a lot of cattle and many are employed at out-lying cattle posts. It is also a rich country on account of the diamonds which were discovered after the British left. While I was there most of the work of the country was being done by foreigners. The Chinese were building. The British were administering mines with Americans and higher education was in the hands of expatriates for the post part, although I believe this has since changed because a number of indigenous people have been trained and can now carry on with this work. My back started playing up on me again and I decided to go to see Dr Ncube once more. He advised me to go for an MRI scan to Johannesburg. I contacted the Sisters of Mercy in Rosebank and asked if they could arrange decent accommodation for me, and they very kindly invited me to stay with them. Sr St John Enright had been to see us when we were in Nharira and she knew who I was. She told me to take a taxi from the railway station to their place and she would pay for the cab on my arrival. I had money so this was not necessary. Not only did she make this offer, but she also had a cheque ready for me to pay the for the MRI scan in the private hospital to which she drove me. Again I had a VISA card and was able to pay for this myself. Simon Mutsenhure, whom I have already mentioned in my story, travelled with me on the train from Bulawayo. That was a very interesting journey. I had arranged a coupe, so that we could get a night's sleep and Simon took the top bunk. Excellent meals were served in the dining car, with lovely crisp white linen cloths and delicious South African wines. We got first class treatment on this journey, something I could not afford these days. We spent a wonderful few days with the Sisters who took us out and around the poorer areas of Johannesburg, where they were well known for their work amongst the poor. We went to Soweto twice, and saw the Mercy schools, the novitiate and a nursery school which was funding by the Irish Government. We also went to see two films in the big shopping complex which was quite near to the convent, one about Bobby Sands and the other about Michael Collins'_ and I introduced Simon to Quality Street chocolates which we could not get in Zimbabwe!! We visited the Cathedral on our trip to town with Sr St John, and she also brought us into a big building where several families were housed with only a blanket hanging up to separate the sections where each family had their spaces. That was real poverty and yet the people all smiled at us. I believe that it must be an effect of the sun that these people can endure such hardship and still smile! The Rosebank Mercy sisters had a very good secondary school for girls beside the convent. They also have a place where down and outs can come during the day and sleep at night on bed chairs, which fold up to make space for the day time activities which they have for them. I thought it was a wonderful set up and one which I would have loved to see implemented for rough sleepers at home. Unfortunately, due to lack of able bodied personnel at home, this could not have been done. Life in Belfast is very different from life in Johannesburg. Also we had no one trained to work with homeless people and their social problems. This was a world which I had not really met before either, except that I had seen some poverty in the slums of Belfast but again this was in no way comparable to that in South Africa, since at least we have a welfare state. We returned to Bulawayo where Dr. Ncube read the MRI scan and saw that there was arthritis setting in my spine and that there was need for another operation to try to alleviate the pain. I returned to Francistown and explained about this to the principal and said that I would be on sick leave for a while. It was back to Mater Dei again for another operation and I decided that I should consider going home to Belfast as the travelling back and forward and the work were all becoming a bit much for me. I tendered my resignation and prepared to leave Francistown teachers college and my home in Bulawayo. This was not an easy decision to make as I loved Africa and knew that once my job was gone I could no longer remain on that continent and would have to bid farewell to the home I had built up in Bulawayo. Romuald and Getrude were already living there and so I offered it to them. They insisted that they would buy it and so we made an appointment to see Mr Matanhire, my solicitor in Bulawayo who dealt with the sale of the property. They bought it on deed of sale and I reduced the price to a fraction of what it was worth, on the understanding that I could visit occasionally. I have been able to do this a few times since I left, but since their family has grown and they have Romuald's father and a carer, as well as Getrude's sister who looks after the children, all living there. I have returned less.


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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