Frank And DoraLove and death in the time of war

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We were farming at Kings Walden in the late 1990s when we met Margaret Barrett, Dora Eland’s daughter, and her husband, Gerry. Thereafter we frequently visited them at their family home, Ravenshill, which had been lovingly preserved with its original furniture and fittings. It was not permanently inhabited then but was used by the family and close friends as a retreat, isolated as it was, and with an almost mystical aura of calm and peace.

Years later, Margaret gave me two large envelopes containing transcripts of Frank Eland’s letters to his wife, and portions of Sarah’s diary. I had just written my first book, Footprints; on the trail of those who shaped Tzaneen’s history – and had researched much of the history of the area, including the earliest inhabitants, the missionaries, the Voortrekkers, the Modjadji Rain Queens over the ages, the discovery of gold and the development of agriculture in this sub-tropical region. My book included chapters on the Lady Trader, the Bushveldt Carbineers, the personalities who left their footprints in the area, Lionel Phillips, Hans Merensky, Orrie Baragwanath and others. I was fortunate to persuade Tito Mboweni, who had been born in the vicinity, to write the Foreword.

And even farther down the trail, when I moved to the coast, I came across the two envelopes among my papers. Surely, there was enough material here to make a book … to record the story of Frank and Dora?

David Hilton-Barber

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