Blennerhassett Family Tree
Genealogy one-name study      by Bill Jehan
   Introduction      History      Rose Blennerhassett

Rose and Lucy 1893
(St Leonards-on-Sea, Hastings, East Sussex)

Rosanna "Rose" Aimée Blennerhassett
"Sister Aimée" (b.12-May-1843 d.8-Oct-1907)
Lucy Anna Louisa Sleeman
"Sister Lucy" (b.20-Mar-1865 d.25-May-1907)
married (Charles) Granville Vines at Kimberley 1897
Bertha Anne Welby
"Sister Beryl" (b.?-Feb-1861 d.?-Dec-1941)
married Dr James William Lichfield at Old Umtali 1891
Pioneer nursing sisters at Umtali, Manicaland, East Africa 1891-1893
* The title of Rose and Lucy's 1893 book "Adventures in Mashonaland" can be misleading. The eastern highlands of the BSA Company territory that in 1895
began to be called Rhodesia (from 1901 Southern Rhodesia) were previously
known as "Mashonaland", despite those lands encompassing two provinces, Mashonaland and Manicaland. The nurses were in Manacaland.



Rose Blennerhassett (Sister Aimée) and Lucy Sleeman (Sister Lucy) were British nurses who met, in March 1890, on board the Union Line
S.S. Spartan on their way to Durban, Natal, to join a nurses' home that had been established for Johannesburg Hospital two months earlier.
Lucy boarded at Southampton, Rose at Lisbon, she having travelled to Lisbon via Paris overland because "I was a bad sailor, and wished to avoid the terrible bay [of Biscay]". At Johannesburg Hospital the pair joined four other nurses who had left England two months earlier, in Jan.1890.

Despite a 20 year age difference Rose and Lucy became close friends, nursing together at Johannesburg Hospital 1890; at Kimberley Hospital in Cape Colony 1890-1891; at Old Umtali in Manicaland (Southern Rhodesia - Zimbabwe) 1891-1893; at the hospital on the island of Saint Helena 1893; at Malta 1894; and again at Kimberley until 1906. They returned to England together in 1906, in poor health; both died 1907.

In 1891 when about to return to the UK from Kimberley the two friends were persuaded by Dr G.W.H. Knight-Bruce (Anglican Bishop of Bloomfontein and newly appointed Bishop of Mashonaland, a territory administered by the British South Africa Company under its Royal Charter) to travel to Manicaland, then ravaged by malaria. Their task was to establish at Umtali a hospital for the Bishop's recently opened mission. Rose was to be leader of their party, the pair accompanied by a third nurse, Bertha Welby (Sister Beryl). Rose was aged 47 years, Lucy 26, Bertha 30.
It happened this way: "After his appointment as Bishop of Mashonaland, he [Knight-Bruce] began to look for nurses for his new diocese, where he proposed to establish several mission hospitals. Sister Blennerhassett and Sister Sleeman volunteered to go with him. A third nurse also offered, if the mission would pay her £40 a year. The Bishop thanked them very much, but declined their offer. So after having booked their homeward passage from Cape Town, they set off for the railway station. Then fate stepped in. The nurses missed the train. Later, they went for a walk; called in at the post office, and found a telegram from the Bishop asking them to join him in his mission scheme to Mashonaland. An arrangement was made that they would give their services for two years. To reach Mashonaland they were told to make for a pioneer camp at a place on the Pungwe River called 'Mapanda's [Mapanda]; that a road was in process of construction from 'Mapanda's to Salisbury;
and a coach would take them there in ten days."

["Umtali and its People" on the "Our Story" Blog].

map showing Fort Hill and the Indaba Tree: courtesy Nick Baalbergen & Denise Norris

map showing locations of St Augustine's Mission (Bishop Knight-Bruce),
Fort Hill, Nurses' Memorial Garden, Old Umtali, Christmas Pass and Rhodes' Entry.
- from "Historic Rhodesia" by Oliver Ransford and Peter Steyn, "Umtali" p.35,
Bundu Series pub. by Longman Rhodesia (Pvt) Ltd, Southerton, Salisbury 1975.
copyright © Oliver Rainsford and Peter Steyn 1975

The three nurses departed Cape Town en route for Manicaland on S.S. Roslin Castle 16th April 1891, arriving on the 18th at Port Elizabeth, where the Bishop joined them, reaching Durban on 22nd. Their planned route to Umtali via Beira and the Pungwe River being considered inadvisable because of fighting at Macequece (a town then a.k.a. Masse-Kesse or Massi-Kessi but now named Manica) between Portuguese troops and those of the British South Africa Company, the Bishop and the nurses disembarked at Durban, intending to take an overland route to Umtali via Maritzburg. Due to the reportedly bad state of that land route following heavy rains the bishop changed his mind, deciding instead to wait at Durban until hostilities had ceased. The Bishop left by steamer to Beira on on 7th May, the nurses intending to catch a later steamer that would enable them to travel to Manicaland with Dr Doyle Granville, engaged by the Bishop as surgeon for his mission hospital.

After a six week wait the nurses departed Durban on 20-May-1891 (the date 28th May given in [AIM ch.2 p.56] is a printing error) on board a coasting steamer named S.S.Tyrian, arriving at Pungwe Bay and Port Beira on the 26th May. Circumstances forced them to stay on board Tyrian 
when it left Beira on 2-Jun-1891, arriving at Mozambique 4th June then on to Quilimane. They left Quilimane on 11th June and on the 12th were once again anchored in Pungwe Bay, offshore from Beira.
NOTE: Beira was then a small town on the Portugese East Coast but had mainly British inhabitants - later it became part of the Portuguese colony Mozambique, but in those days "Mozambique" was not a colony but the name of a town, located on a small island.
At 4am on 13-Jun-1891 a small Thames steam launch named "Shark", crewed by Capt. Ewing and two sailors, arrived alongside S.S. Tyrian to take off the three nurses. In "Shark" they travelled 70 miles up the Pungwe River as far as Mapanda, a journey taking more than 16 hours
 in cramped conditions, the nurses sitting "...close against the boiler, with a temperature of something over 100 in the shade...".

On arrival at Mapanda [a.k.a. 'Mapanda's] they found "...there were about forty white people there, miners and traders, and a more unhealthy pioneer settlement one could not hope to find - set down, as it was, beside a stagnant pool... Our hands were soon full of nursing, and all the time we were waiting and longing for carriers to take us up to Umtali, but they never came...". There they were helped by a carpenter " Wilkins, an excellent but doddering old person, who said that he had been with Dr Livingstone and told many anecdotes of the great explorer..." who recruited carriers for them.  The Bishop, Dr G.W.H. Knight-Bruce, had before their arrival gone ahead in a wagon to Umtali, their destination in Manicaland, and sent letters back requesting the nurses bring him some stores.
At Mapanda they waited until 18th June when Dr Doyle Granville arrived to join them. 
Finding no wagons available for the onward journey to Umtali, the nurses continued on foot, starting from Mapanda 31st June accompanied by Dr Granville and, initially, seven carriers for their stores and baggage. Walter Sutton (son of the Archdeacon of Lewes) remained behind, to follow after
with the remainder of the carriers. 
Rose spoke Portuguese so was able to communicate with half-a-dozen of their "boys" who spoke that language. After a while their porters deserted them, "...on the tenth day of our toilsome journey they ran away, leaving us only four native boys, and we were still four days from Umtali, our goal...", so the three nurses went ahead with Dr. Granville and three Portuguese speaking boys "...leaving poor Mr Sutton with one boy to guard the stores, and promising to send back carriers on our arrival with all speed..." [Interview with Rose & Lucy published in "The Sketch" 20-Sep-1893 p.421].
NOTE: This interview as published implies only two of the three nurses undertook the walk but that appears to be a reporting error, one of Lucy's letters home to her sister Mary making it clear that all three took part.  Wilkins is not mentioned as present on the journey so presumably remained at Mapanda.
On July 4th they reached Sarmento, a Portuguese village about 45 miles from Mapanda. 
On July 10th they reached Shemoios [Chimoio] where during the night most of their carriers deserted them, with the loyal exception of four Portuguese natives. These four, who proudly called themselves "the household servants", built a shelter for the nurses and themselves slept in a hut nearby. 
On about 13th July (not 19th) they reached the Portuguese fort of Macequece (that town then a.k.a. Masse-Kesse or Massi-Kessi but now named Manica), soon afterwards crossing into the British South Africa Company territory of Manicaland.
St Augustine's Mission and Mr Wilkins
"The Penhalonga valley is reached from Umtali over Christmas pass (so named after the police detachment engaged in cutting a track which camped at the neck on Christmas Day in 1890). The valley is even now dominated by both natural and man-made hills, the latter being old mine dumps. A turn-off on the left (Fairview Road) leads to St Augustine's Mission. Here Mutasa had granted Bishop Knight-Bruce two thousand hectares of land soon after the occupation. The Bishop built his hut on a hillock which is now surmounted by a cross. Below this lies the grave of a coloured man named John Wilkins. Wilkins was the Bishop's general factotum and boasted of having served Dr Livingston during the Zambezi expedition. Nothing in the Doctor's available papers supports this claim, but it has been suggested that Wilkins may have been the half-caste son who, according to some rather unconvincing evidence, was present when the Doctor died at Chitambo. Today Mutasa's old grant of land supports a thriving mission. This includes a fine church and a high school which was the first institution to provide secondary education for Africans of Rhodesia."
   "Historic Rhodesia" by Oliver Ransford and Peter Steyn 1975, "Umtali" p.34
            click on image to view larger area
map is adjacent to the frontispiece of
"Adventures in Mashonaland, by two Hospital Nurses" by Rose Blennerhassett and Lucy Sleeman
pub. Macmillan & Co., London & New York, 1893 & 1894

Construction of the Beira to Umtali railway commenced while Rose & Lucy were at Umtali.
On their return journey in 1893 they were able to benefit from this for the final 35 miles.

On 14-Jul-1891
 the three nurses and Doctor Glanville arrived at Sabi Ophir Hill, Penhalonga, Manicaland, the small party having 
braved swamps, crocodile-infested rivers, lion country, mountain ranges and the Pungwe flats to walk 120 miles inland from Mapanda. During the latter stages of this journey Rose suffered a severe attack of malaria.
The party was met by Bishop Knight-Bruce who was staying at Sabi Ophir Hill as guest of Mr P. A. Campion, manager of the Sabi Ophir Mining Company at Bartisol Mine, of which mine buildings some concrete foundations still remain. When he arrived at Penalonga in 1890 Campion had built his hut on the hill "under the branches" of a great fig tree. 
The three nurses also became Campion's guests, taking possession of one of his three pole and dhaka huts, with mud walls and earthen floors, located next to the great fig tree. This was known locally as the "Indaba" tree and had been the site of Chief Mutasa’s kraal, where early prospectors and both the Portuguese and BSA Company had tried to win the Chief’s allegiance and permission to prospect for gold in the Penhalonga Valley. Here the nurses established themselves awaiting building of a promised hospital.

"The huts in which we were now established belonged to a Mr. Campion, the manager of the Sabi Ophir Mining Company. They were square and small. We three nurses occupied one, which had been rudely divided into two; Mr. Campion a still smaller one; the Bishop a third. Dr. Glanville was accommodated in a tent. The encampment was perched on the top of a steep, rocky hill, and in the space in front of the huts an enormous tree of the fig species spread forth its branches. This was the only large tree in the whole district, and Sabi Ophir Hill was known to the natives as the "hill of the great tree".
[AIM ch.5 p.146]
Shortly before 24-Aug-1891 Dr Doyle Granville, their hospital doctor and travelling companion, while on his way from Sabi Ophir to Salisbury died of fever and exhaustion, by the roadside just outside Salisbury.  "They buried him where he lay, a blazed tree marking his last resting place. The news of his death did not reach Umtali for a considerable time. Those were not the days of rapid communication." [AIM ch.5 p.158]

Lucy's husband was Charles Granville Vines. Could there perhaps be a family connection between him and Dr Doyle Granville?
Close to Sabi Ophir Hill was Fort Umtali [usually called Fort Hill]; established in November 1890 it consisted of a few huts and a British South Africa Company Police camp. Fort Hill is Zimbabwe National Monument No.34.
The site proposed by the Bishop for the new mission hospital, across the River Muture two miles from Sabi Ophir "...had been declared unsuitable by one and all and in August the Nurses moved from Sabi Ophir Hill to four huts built for them on Fort Hill." [Mike Tucker]. It was decided the mission would not, as had been planned, build its own hospital, but would "...establish us in one that the Chartered Company would build" [AIM ch.5 p.150]. This was to be at Fort Umtali [Fort Hill] and when at the end of September 1891 the first hospital hut there was completed, the BSAC hospital at Umtali opened, staffed by the three nurses, with furniture and stores consisting of two tin mugs, two or three iron spoons, a couple of pots of Liebeg's extract and a packet of maize.
On the day of opening a wagon arrived from Mapanda bringing part of the nurses' luggage. The whole of Sister Beryl's effects were delivered, with a small box belonging to Sister Lucy, but all of Sister Aimee's possessions and most of Sister Lucy's were missing. No trace of the lost boxes was ever found. The Bishop entered in his diary: "The nurses have moved into their new huts, and are far more comfortable. Their luxury is a small china tea set, that had actually been brought up from Mapanda's; and to be asked to share their afternoon tea, reminds the camp and myself of the far-away English home."
Fort Hill now: "A cleared area of levelled ground is still obvious 100 metres north of the Fort and on the edge of the slope....This appears to be the most likely spot for these Hospital huts proposed by Colonel Pennefather and built by the BSA Company for the Nurses and completed by October. This site was abandoned after only four months in December when everyone moved to the Old Umtali site and all the huts at Fort Hill were set on fire." [Mike Tucker]
    photo: courtesy of Mike Tucker and
In December 1891, five months after the arrival of the nurses at Sabi Ophir, Fort Hill was abandoned, relocating about 7 kilometres west to Old Umtali; the BSAC hospital moved with it, into a new building capable of taking 30 patients. "The sisters tell that they took possession of the new huts and new hospital at New [now Old] Umtali - a square building with a small operating room in the centre, and a ward on each side. It was furnished with canvas stretcher beds, but nothing else. Sister Lucy, who had a talent for carpenter work, got the assistance of a German prisoner, and a Mr. Cauldfield, and made some small tables and small trays; and actually an armchair - all out of packing cases. By-and-by, the little trays appeared at the bedside of the patients, with dainty mats made out of the sisters' white aprons, as there was no starch in the country with which to starch them."
"Then imagine our joy" wrote Rose, "when a real baker came from Salisbury, and we realized that the days of amateur bread making were past. Of all our difficulties, I really think this was the worst. We took infinite pains, and consulted the best local authorities; but what would come out of that baking pot was always the merest lottery."
Rose Blennerhassett's journal of her 1891 journey from Beira to Umtali is in "Journals of the Mashonaland Mission 1888 to 1892" by Dr G.W.H. Knight-Bruce, Bishop for Mashonaland - Chapter VI. "Miss Blennerhasset's Journal"
This part of the nurses' story is retold in: "Into the Wilds of Umtali" 1891, extracted by Dave Macdonald from "Experiences of Rhodesia's Pioneer Women" by Jeannie M Boggie, pub. 1938; also in "Umtali and its People" on the "Our Story" Blog.

[Nottinghamshire Guardian 18-Nov-1893]

 [Leicester Chronicle 15-Sep-1894]

Churchtown House
Knockane, Beaufort, Co.Kerry
"Sister Aimée"   (b.12-May-1843 d.8-Oct-1907)
Rosanna "Rose" AiméBlennerhassett was born 12th May 1843 at Paris, France of a prominent Irish Roman Catholic family, baptised on 17th July 1843 at Sainte-Madeleine, Paris. She was raised at the family home, Churchtown House, Knockane, Beaufort, Co.Kerry with her one sibling, her brother Rowland Blennerhassett, born 5-Sep-1839 in Ireland.

Her father Sir Arthur Blennerhassett, Bart. (1794-1849) was the 3rd "Baronet Blennerhassett of Blennerville in Co.Kerry". As a child he had lived at Mount Rivers, a country house near Killorglin, Co.Kerry, Ireland; later at Churchtown House. Raised as Protestant in the Church of Ireland, he converted to Roman Catholicism at about the time of his marriage, on 26-Jul-1826 at Blennerville, Co.Kerry, to Sarah Mahony of Blennerville, who was R.C.

Sir Arthur died 22-Apr-1849 when Rose was aged 5 years, her brother Rowland 9 years. Her mother Sarah Blennerhassett, nee Mahony, remarried at London in 1850 to Frederick Randall of Highbury, a Solicitor, and died 10/11-Jul-1866 at Annagarry House, Co.Kerry.  NOTE: Sarah was aunt to Rowland Blennerhassett Mahany (in the USA the surname somehow evolved from Mahony to Mahany) b.1864 d.1937, an American educator, journalist, diplomat, poet and politician who as a Republican represented New York in the U.S. Congress at Washington DC 1895-99.

On their father's death Rose's nine year old brother Rowland Blennerhassett (1839-1909) succeeded both to the Churchtown estate and the Baronetcy, becoming 4th "Baronet of Blennerville". Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, Bart. was educated at Downside, Stoneyhurst and several European universities. He entered politics, was elected to parliament at Westminster, becoming an influential and respected MP concerned principally with foreign affairs, education and Irish interests.

Education: At the census of 31-Mar-1851 Rose, aged seven, was attending "The Lodge", a Catholic Convent boarding school at Silver Street, Taunton, Somerset, England, under the leadership of sister <???>. "The Lodge" was a Franciscan institution whose sisters had come to England from Belgium in 1793, settling first at Winchester and subsequently at Taunton where in May 1807 they purchased "Taunton Lodge", seat of the recently deceased James Coles. From 1808 at "The Lodge" were educated "...a limited number of young ladies of Catholic families..." in "...a complex of 18th and 19th-century buildings...". In 1950 the Franciscan sisters left Taunton, the school renamed St Joseph's Convent on being sold to the sisters of St Joseph of Annecy.

NOTE: Rose's name appears twice in the 1851 census, on different pages of the return, the first instance struck through.
          She has not been identified in the 1861 UK census, so presumably in Ireland at that date.

In the 1867 newspaper cutting below Rose is described "Miss Blennerhassett, of Churchtown", although it was at about that date or soon after that Sir Rowland sold the Churchtown estate, his family seat, to the Magill family, whose home it remains.

When did Sir Rowland Blennerahssett, Bart. sell Churchtown House to the McGill family?

BLENNERHASSETT, OF CHURCHTOWN [Co.Kerry, Ireland]. -- Miss [Rosanna] Blennerhassett, sister to Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, M.P., had a narrow escape of being burned to death on Friday last at Courton Hall [error for Coughton Court, Warwickshire], the seat of Sir W[illia]m Throckmorton, where she is on a visit. We learn that the young lady [she was age 24],when leaving the drawing-room in the course of the evening, stood on a match which was accidentally left in the carpet, it immediately ignited, and her dress being of light material quickly caught fire, and were it not for the timely aid of the company present she would have been immediately enveloped in flames. Fortunately, some of the gentlemen instantly threw some heavy rugs and table covers around her, and extinguished the fire. She was slightly burned on the feet, but we are glad to hear that the flame did not reach her chest or back, which generally endangers life."
Coughton Court was and remains the seat of the Throckmortons, a well-known anglo-catholic recusant family. The house is open to the public through the National Trust -- house and gardens are beautiful.
[Belfast Press 5-Oct-1867] copied from an
earlier [Kerry Evening Post <date?>] - some copying
newspapers in error substituted "Courton Hall"
or "Courtown Hall" for Coughton Court (Warwickshire)

NOTE: At the census of 2-Apr-1871 Rose's brother Sir Rowland Blennerhassett Bart. M.P. was also a visitor at Coughton Court, a guest of Gerald R. Dease, Capt. of Militia and J.P.
In 1868 Rose agreed to marry Richard Plunkett, the future Sir Francis Richard Plunkett PC, GCB, GCMG, GCVO (b.3-Feb-1835 Corbalton Hall, Co.Meath, Ireland; d.28-Feb-1907). Of a prominent British Roman Catholic family, he was 6th and youngest son of Arthur James Plunkett, 9th Earl of Fingall. The engagement was reported in several newspapers, but no marriage took place...

[The Express, London 25-Mar-1868, p.2]

[Berkshire Chronicle 28-Mar-1868] [The Magnet 30-Mar-1868] [Dublin Evening Post 30-Mar-1868]
[The Guardian, London 1-April-1868]
Sir Francis Plunkett was a British career diplomat, at the time of his 1868 engagement to Rose attached to the legation at Berlin; Secretary of the Legation in Tokyo in 1873-76; Diplomatic Secretary at St Petersburg Russia, Constantinople Turkey and Paris France; Minister to Belgium; Minister to Tokyo, Japan 1884-1887 - while at Tokyo knighted as Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael & St George; Ambassador to Austria-Hungary at Vienna 1900-1905; Privy Council (PC) 1901; Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) 1901.
Soon after his engagement to Rose Blennerhassett was ended Plunkett married, on 22-Aug-1870, to Mary "May" Tevis Morgan (b.Dec-1850 d.20-Jan-1924), daughter of Charles Wain Morgan of Philadelphia, USA. They had two daughters:
Norah Plunkett (b.19-Jun-1871 m.24-Aug-1891 Count A. Fersen Gyldenscolphe of Sweden) and Helen Plunkett (b.25-Apr-1875). Sir Francis retired in 1905 and died at Paris 1907.

His Majesty's Ambassador to Austria-Hangary since 1900.

Guinea Gold Cigarettes
(cigarette card No.257)

Rose has not been identified in the 1871 UK census, perhaps because she was then in Ireland. At the census of 3-Apr-1881 Rose was a visitor in the home of Walter Moseley (magistrate) and his wife Maria, at The Park, Buildwas, Madeley, Shropshire.

Rose Blennerhassett sailed to Lisbon in October 1884, her first visit, staying until summer 1885 or perhaps longer. While there she contributed a piece titled "A Letter From Lisbon" to "The Argosy" magazine of London [1885 "Summer Number" pp.43-52]; presumably it was during this visit she learned the Portuguese language, which skill was to prove so useful while travelling with Lucy from Portuguese Beira to Umtali, Manicaland in 1891. She revisited Lisbon in 1890, on her way to Durban
(see "AT JOHANNESBURG" below).
"Letter From Lisbon" begins: "I will spare you all account of my journey, which was prosperous and uneventful. You know that the sea-gods are always propitious to me, and even the unruly Bay [of Biscay] was on its best behaviour..."

Having read a "Workhouse Infirmary Association" report on the need for trained nurses in Workhouse Union Infirmaries, Rose decided to take up nursing.
In her own words "After a medical and surgical training, I went through a course of midwifery, a knowledge of which is essential in workhouse nursing, and, when I had obtained the London Obsterical Society's diploma, I applied to the association, stating that I wished to work in a country workhouse. A few weeks later I went as superintendant nurse to Cardiff Union [Workhouse] Hospital". This was 1888, she aged 45.

in 1890, hearing of the typhoid epidemic at Johannesburg, Rose sailed on board the Union Line S.S. Spartan to Durban, Natal, intending to join a nurses' home that had been established for Johannesburg Hospital two months earlier. She boarded the ship at Lisbon, Portugal, after travelling there overland via Paris because "I was a bad sailor, and wished to avoid the terrible bay [of Biscay]..." On board she joined a younger English nurse, Lucy Sleeman, bound for the same destination, who had boarded at Southampton.
On arriving at Durban in 1890 the pair travelled to Johannesburg, there joining four other nurses who had left England in January 1890 to open the nurses' home.
There, despite Rose having been raised a Roman Catholic, they joined an Anglican nursing sisterhood "The Order of St.Michael and All Angels", as Sister Aimée and Sister Lucy. They resided at the nurses' home, attached to Johannesburg General Hospital, the foundation stone of which was laid that year.
Rose contributed "Graphic Sketches of Mining Life" to the Johannesburg newspaper "Diggers' News".
(Photo: Africana Museum, Johannesburg)
 this photograph inserted opposite p.17 in the facsimile reprint of "Adventures in Mashonaland", pub. as Rhodesiana Reprint Library vol.8 by Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo, 1969
From their first meeting in 1890 on board ship Rose and Lucy were good friends, despite a 20 year age difference. They nursed together at Johannesburg Hospital 1890; at Kimberley Hospital in Cape Colony 1890-1891; at Old Umtali in Manicaland (Southern Rhodesia - Zimbabwe) 1891-1893; at the hospital on the island of Saint Helena 1893; at Malta 1894; and again at Kimberley until 1906. They returned to England together in 1906, both in poor health, travelling with Lucy's daughter. They both died in 1907.


The only known portrait of Rose, 1893

click on image to enlarge 
 AND MISS LUCY SLEEMAN (viewed right)
Photo by J. Weston and Son, Grand Parade, St.Leonards.
[St Leonards-on-Sea, Hastings, East Sussex]
["The Sketch" 20-Sep-1893, p.421] 
TYPO: Rose's middle name Aimée is here written in error as "Annie".
Abbreviated versions of the piece shown to left appeared in other papers, e.g.
[Pall Mall Gazette, London 21-Aug-1890 "Life in Johannesburg"]
[Bush Advocate, New Zealand 3-Jan-1891, p.7 "The Ladies' Column"].

Rose's reported comment on the capability of some Catholic nun-nurses at Johannesburg in 1890 was not the result of prejudice, she having been raised in the Roman Catholic faith and educated at a convent, but the quote from the Johannesburg "Diggers' News" appearing in the "Pall Mall Gazette" of London generated a severe rebuttal from Mr J. Walsh of Bloemhof, Transvaal...
[The Evening Star, Dunedin, New Zealand
15-Nov-1890, p.3 Supplement "About women"]
NOTE: Rose is Sir Rowland's sister, not his daughter
[Pall Mall Gazette, London 31-Oct-1890
p.?, "The Goldfields Nuns"]
click on image to enlarge
sister Henrietta Stockdale (right)
 with two nurses
standing on the veranda

Moving from Johannesburg to Kimberley in Cape Colony (later named Cape Province), Sister Aimée (Rose Blennerhassett) and Sister Lucy (Lucy Sleeman) nursed for 6 months at Kimberley Hospital under Sister Henrietta Stockdale. Rose was night superintendent. 
Sister Henrietta Stockdale, an Anglican nun of the Order of Saint Michael and All Angels, was the first matron of Kimberley Hospital, from 1879 to July 1895 (although a photograph of the early 1890s illustrating the 1969 reprint of "Adventures in Mashonaland" has her as as matron only from 1886-1894). That photograph (detail on left) shows Sister Henrietta standing in the doorway of Kimberley Hospital while on the veranda are two other unidentified nurses - perhaps these are Rose & Lucy. 

Nurses trained by Sister Henrietta were much sought after to establish new hospitals throughout Southern Africa. In 1891 she secured legal recognition for the nursing profession when, through her efforts, an Act was passed by the Cape Parliament which made South Africa the first country in the world to institute compulsory state registration of nurses. She was subsequently Superintendent of Private & District Nursing at St Michael's Home, Kimberley, 1895-1907. Sister Henrietta Stockdale died at Kimberley 5-Oct-1911, she is buried at Dutoitspan Cemetery and her statue stands outside the Anglican Cathedral at Kimberley.
Memorial outside St Cyprian's Anglican Cathedral, 129 Du Toitspan Road, Kimberley.
Reputedly the only portrait statue of a nun, anywhere.




Cecil Rhodes, Sir Frank Johnson, Frederick Selous

Rose Blennerhassett was acquainted with Cecil John Rhodes, with Frank Johnson (later Sir Frank Johnson) leader of the Pioneer Corps, and with Frederick Courteney Selous, legendary big game hunter, explorer and scout. It was Selous who as "Chief of Intelligence" led Frank Johnson and the Pioneer Corps into Mashonaland in 1890. The foundations of Selous house near Esigodini remain.

Towards the end of September 1891 Dr. Jameson, the Administrator, came to Umtali; and "...from that date the Chartered Company (i.e. British South Africa Company) took entire charge of us, and as regards material wants, we had nothing more to do with the Mission..."

"Then on 9th October, Mr. Rhodes arrived in Umtali. The sisters were quite excited at the prospect of meeting the founder of the country. He came via the same route they had done - from Beira. It was his first visit to Mashonaland. He had been most anxious to see the country and the settlers, but had not much time to spend at each town, as he was now Premier of the Cape Colony.

Mr. Rhodes's journey had been a trying one. He had started with two carts, horses, and riding animals. The horses turned out bad pullers, and the poles of the carts got broken at the steep dongas. Eventually both carts were left behind - derelict. Then the horse carrying all the pots and pans got eaten by lions, and nothing remained but the pots, the pans, and the hoofs.

When Mr. Rhodes visited the hospital hut on Saturday, 10th October, the patients were a bit tongue-tied. They just stared and stared. Afterwards they told the sister that they expected to see a " more gorgeous apparition," and couldn't understand his not having finer clothes. As soon as he was seated on box in the living hut, he asked for a pen and ink, saying he would give them a cheque for the hospital.

"How much would we have? Would £100 do?" The sisters replied: "Amply," He made out a cheque for £150. " We were especially charmed," writes Sister Blennerhassett," by the great man's simple manners, and boyish enjoyment of a joke. He told us that he had made political capital out of our walk up. The Cape Town Government, having objected to his journey on the score of danger, he had answered that if ladies had been able to walk up without tents or wagons, it would be absurd for a man to be afraid to ride up. After this statement, he had met with no further opposition. Mr. Rhodes remained chatting delightfully for a couple of hours. Of his many kindnesses, we thought most of his having remembered to replace the small medical library which had been lost with our luggage." 

After the visit of Mr. Rhodes, the work of starting a new Umtali [later to be known as "Old Umtali"] began in earnest. Finlayson in his "Nobody in Mashonaland" says: "As for the camp, it was merely a collection of little round log-walled grass-roofed huts… When I got to Umtali, the camp was being shifted to the new site, about seven miles* nearer Salisbury…. It was as well, because the whole place would have been uninhabitable in another three months, owing to the fleas. They used to drive me out into the night sobbing." [* NOTE: Old Umtali is about 7 kilometres, not 7 miles, west of Fort Hill].


ON   THE   9TH  OCTOBER   1891,
ON       HIS     FIRST     JOURNEY
NOW      BEARS      HIS      NAME.
Cast metal plaque marking the place where Cecil Rhodes first crossed into the territory that would later be given his name.
This was a high point, beacon BB19, named "the crow's nest" by his brother Col. Frank Rhodes but usually called "Rhodes' Entry". 
This is the border crossing between Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
["The Star", St Peter Port, Guernsey 28-Nov-1893]

Selous was author of "A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa" (1881), "Travels and Adventure in South-East Africa" (1893) and "Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia" (1896), but Rose is not mentioned in these works.
Selous was the model for Allan Quartermain, hero of the popular East African novels "King Soloman's Mines" (1886) and "Allan Quartermain" (1888) by Sir Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925); also for the "Sean Courtney" & "Zouga Ballantyne" characters of South African novelist Wilbur Smith.
The "Selous Scouts" were a special forces regiment (a.k.a. Bush Commandos) of the Rhodesian Army that operated during the bush war of 1973-1980.



(Sabi Ophir Hill, Penhalonga) 
In later years a "Pioneer Nurses Memorial Garden" or "Garden of Remembrance" was created at the site of the nurses' camp on 
Sabi Ophir Hill
, Penhalonga, the garden centred around a seat carrying a cast metal plaque, the seat placed under the "Indaba" tree. That great fig tree, under which the three nurses worked while staying in Mr Campion's hut following their arrival on 14-Jul-1891, had been a traditional meeting place used by Chief Mutasa (a.k.a. Umtasa or Umtassa).
The memorial seat and plaque were erected by the Rezende Gold Mine of Umtali in 1941, to mark the 50th anniversary of the nurses' difficult journey from Beira on the east coast and their arrival at Penhalonga to open a hospital.
Mitch Sterling in the blog Our Rhodesian Heritage in an entry of 31st March 2012, titled "Three-in-one Garden Memorial", wrote: "About a mile and a half on the Umtali side of the road to Penhalonga a small road branches off to the east, and at the junction there is a sign which reads 'Pioneer Nurses Memorial'. A short climb up this road brings one out to a delightfully situated and well-kept garden facing west. There are terraced flower beds, a fine fig tree, and flowering shrubs".

The garden site, now sadly neglected (no signpost, no well-kept garden), is close to the road from Mutare to Penhalonga, shortly after crossing the Imbeza Bridge. In the chaos that followed the land invasions of 2000 the cast metal plaque set into the back of seat disappeared (a prospectors' memorial sun-dial and its stone plinth also taken from the garden) but in June 2014 the nurses' plaque was replaced by a new plaque made of marble, carrying the same inscription as the old but installed, not at the original location on the seat but set against the low outer wall of the garden, close to a paved "cross" where the sundial plinth formerly stood. The new plaque was made and installed through the generosity of three Penhalonga residents.
The Indaba Tree no longer stands; in 1948 a swarm of bees settled in the trunk - honey gatherers set fire to the tree, enabling them to harvest the honey. The tree was subsequently pruned and supported but in 1953 was struck by lightning and died. Three cuttings taken from the original now grow at the site, the largest being a growing offshoot removed from the original tree, this planted by Dr W. Alexander in 1953.
NOTE: see also "Nurses Memorial" in
 the photograph above inserted opposite p.144 in the facsimile reprint of "Adventures in Mashonaland",
pub. as Rhodesiana Reprint Library vol.8 by Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo, 1969
    photo: courtesy of Mike Tucker &

   photo: courtesy Tony Waters
   photo: courtesy Tony Waters
Recent photographs of the Pioneer Nurses memorial garden.
(the tree stumps used as seats by Rastafarians who meet here)


(Sabi Ophir Hill, Penhalonga)

The ancient fig tree on Sabi Ophir Hill, Penhalonga, was known as the "Indaba Tree" and previously formed an integral part of the Pioneer Nurses' Memorial Garden. "Indaba" in several southern african languages means "conference place", or "important meeting place". 
The Indaba Tree no longer stands; in 1948 a swarm of bees settled in the trunk - honey gatherers set fire to the tree, enabling them to harvest the honey. The tree was subsequently pruned and supported but in 1953 was struck by lightning and died. Three cuttings taken from the original now grow at the site, the largest being a growing offshoot removed from the original tree, this planted by Dr W. Alexander in 1953.
The following lines are from "TREE LIFE", "Journal of the Tree Society of Zimbabwe" (P.O. Box 2128, Harare), the website last edited October 2004, on a page titled:
THE PETHERAM FILES - Trees of Mystery and Discord
"Before moving away from trees shrouded in mystery, I must mention again the indaba tree of Penhalonga, which is equally celebrated as the Pioneer Nurses’ Memorial Tree. I quote from the report of the Mutare Boys High School History Society:

"...The Indaba Tree, Penhalonga:  apparently Ficus Buddha, or Morton Bay Fig.  It stands on the present site of the Nurses’ Memorial. The late Sir Ian Wilson had an interesting theory as to the origins of these trees, which are scattered throughout the Penhalonga Valley. He noticed the frequency with which they occur at the opening of “ancient” mines—their evergreen, dark green, shiny leaf makes them very prominent in winter.  He suggested that the Arab traders came inland in winter only (to avoid the rains and diseases of the summer) and therefore needed some form of marker to return to [in] the following winter. It was these trees that were used as markers…"
The Indaba Tree of Penhalonga is reputed to have been used as such by Chief Mutasa. Certainly in 1890, before the arrival of the Pioneer Column, Mr Campion (manager of the Bartisol Mine nearby), built his hut under its branches.  It was here that the nurses, Rose Blennerhasset, Lucy Sleeman, and Beryl [correctly Bertha] Welby first stayed after their walk up from Beira in July 1891. Incidentally, the plaque at the site is not strictly correct, in that the first hospital was opened in September 1891, not at the site but immediately across the valley on Fort Hill.*

Furthermore, the present tree is not the original. In 1948 a swarm of bees settled in the trunk, and Africans, to get the honey, set fire to the tree.  It was pruned and propped up, and seemed to recover, but in 1953 it was struck by lightning.  In the same year an offshoot of that tree was planted by Dr W Alexander, and it is this that stands in good condition today.

[Comment 2002: There are, in fact, three specimens of this fig tree at the Pioneer Nurses’ Memorial, all reputed to have been raised from shoots of the original after it had been struck by lightning.  In October 1985 the largest of the three had a diameter of 138.7 cm at breast height, and a crown spread of about 30 metres.]

That ends the School’s report on the tree. The epic journey of Sister Blennerhasset and her companions by launch from Beira up the Pungwe to Macequece, thence on foot—about 225 km—to Penhalonga, where they arrived with their feet in bandages, is well worthy of a living memorial such as this, and I am glad to confirm that the offshoot, now a sizeable tree, is indeed in good condition and well cared for.

[Comment 2002: The story of the three pioneer nurses was told by Rose Blennerhasset and Lucy Sleeman in their book Adventures in Mashonaland, originally published in 1893, and subsequently reprinted as Volume 8 in the Books of Rhodesia “Gold Series”.  They travelled by boat from Beira to Mapanda, not Macequece, as Dick Petheram had it, and their walk from there to Penhalonga took them two weeks, 1-14 July 1891.]

As to the identity of the tree, I think I can positively say that Mr Bob Drummond is quite satisfied that the leaf specimens we brought back from the Indaba Tree are those of Ficus nekbudu, which is indigenous.  He was kind enough to show me a book on Australian shrubs and trees, and more specifically an illustration of the so-called Morton Bay Fig, which is, botanically, Ficus macrophylla. It is described as “the greatest of the Australian avenue trees”, and to the layman there is a distinct similarity between it and the beautiful, large-leafed nekbudu.  It is understandable, therefore, in view of the association of F. nekbudu with ancient workings, that theories such as that of Sir Ian Wilson should have evolved.

[Comment 2002: The correct name of Ficus nekbudu is now F. lutea, but it is easy to understand how the compilers of the school report managed to write F.nekbudu as F. Budda (!), but it is more difficult to work out why they thought this was the Australian Morton (sic) Bay Fig. The correct spelling is Moreton Bay, and Dick Petheram had the correct botanical name in his comments.]

The school’s findings were published in the Umtali Post in August, and gave rise to the most lively debate, in letters to the Editor, on the subject of the Nurses’ Memorial Tree at Penhalonga.  In suggesting that this tree did not, in fact, mark the site of the first officially recognized hospital in the area, Mr Barnes incurred the wrath of Mrs Mary Alexander and Stephanie Maritz.  Not only that, but he compounded the felony in his response to the initial criticism by writing—and here I quote from the Umtali Post—“this is not the only memorial in Manicaland that is obscure, inaccurate and incomplete; to mention the others now, however, would turn the present warm glow of dissonance into a blazing bonfire of discontent.”  Well, the replies to that almost caused instantaneous combustion in a September issue of the paper, and it is with utmost trepidation that I confess that Mr Barnes’s words struck a sympathetic chord — not, I hasten to add, in relation specifically to Penhalonga, but in general terms.  Like one or two of Zimbabwe’s earliest alleged gold strikes, some claims concerning alleged “historical” trees turn out, when explored, to be a trifle fanciful.  A little mythology doesn’t come amiss, but a modicum of substance here and there would lend some welcome credibility"

NOTE: see also "The Indaba Tree" in


MUTASA, Chief of the Manica
(a.k.a. Umtasa or Umtassa)
The following lines are from the Zimbabwe Field guide website at :-
"...Under the great fig tree tree on Sabi Ophir Hill, Machera we Hondo [Cloth of War] Chief of Staff to Mutasa, Chief of the Manicas, made war medicine for Chief Mutasa, who bargained with the Portuguese seeking gold concessions, fought with his neighbours, and when he was successful, attributed his victories as much to the Indaba Tree war medicine as to the military tactics of his soldiers. When Mutasa walked a crier sung his praises: 'Here comes Mutasa, Lord of the Sun and Moon, The Dog that prowls by night!'

Near this site the first indaba, between Chief Umtassa, Dr Jamieson, Rhodes personal representative, Colquhoun, Administrator designate of Mashonaland, Selous, Harrison, Campbell and seven BSA Police, had taken place in order for the BSA Company to obtain mineral rights..."

The following lines are from "Indaba Tree and Fort Hill (National Monument Numbers: 38i and 34i)"
by Mitch Stirling in the Our Rhodesian Heritage blog at:

I hope Mitch will forgive me for repeating here lines from his blog [his blog last edited 24-Jan-2013]:-

"...About 400 yards north-west of the Imbeza river bridge on the Old Umtali-Penhalonga road stands the IndabaTree. This fine old fig tree casts its shade upon the slope of a rocky kopje (Fort Hill) that is richly historic.

Under this tree Machera we Hondo, the Leader of the War, Chief of Staff to Mutasa, Chief of the Manicas, made war medicine in the days before the European occupation of Mashonaland and Manicaland. Mutasa was one of the last of the old-style chiefs who ruled his country without advice or hindrance. He haggled and bargained with the Portuguese who sought gold concessions, fought with his neighbours, and when he was successful, attributed his victories as much to the good medicine brewed beneath the Indaba Tree as to the cunning and courage of his soldiers.

When Mutasa walked abroad a herald went before him crying: 'Here comes Mutasa! Lord of the Sun and Moon! The Dog that prowls by night!' Another man carried before him a battleaxe made of black polished wood, cunningly wrought with brass.

For many months before the British occupation of Mashonaland, the Portuguese, under Senhor Paiva de Andrade, had been negotiating with Mutasa for certain concessions. When the Pioneer Column occupied Mashonaland in 1890 several disputes arose between British and Portuguese over the exact limits of the border between the British and Portuguese spheres of influence.

On May 3,1891, the British received reports from natives that considerable Portuguese forces were assembling at Macequece and that they were contemplating a punitive expedition against Mutasa for his temerity in allowing British forces to occupy territory that was rightfully Portuguese.

Captain H.M. Heyman, who was in charge of a small British force assigned to protect Mutasa, was stationed at Umtali.

At this time negotiations were in progress for the making of a coach road through Portuguese territory from Fontes-villa on the Pungwe River to Umtali. This road would greatly assist in the development of Mashonaland, and the Portuguese commandant, Colonel Ferreira, informed Captain Heyman that if he would withdraw to the west side of the Sabi river, Ferreira would facilitate the opening of the coast route. Captain Heyman refused to withdraw and immediately marched from Umtali to the vicinity of Macequece where he took up a position on Chua Hill, which overlooked the approaches to Umtali and Mutasa's kraal.

An account of what followed was written by Sister Rose Blennerhassett, who arrived at Umtali shortly after the event:

'The Portuguese troops were nearly all coloured men, either natives or half-castes. They did not fight well, and after one or two futile attempts to storm the English camp, they all ran away. No artillery was used by the storming party. Twice the European Portuguese officers, who are said to have behaved splendidly, tried to rally their men, beating them with the flats of their swords; but, finding it futile, they all three walked slowly away at a more than funeral pace. Two or three volleys were fired at them, bullets ploughing up the earth around them. It was found afterwards that one, I think Monsieur de Bettincourt, was wounded in the neck rather badly, and another in the arm. They made no sign, however, until just as the rising ground was about to hide them from view, they turned, took off their hats to the English, and strolled slowly back to the fort. Convinced that a large force must be behind Captain Heyman, Masse-Kesse [that town then a.k.a. Massi-Kessi or Macequece but now named Manica] surrendered.'

After this fight Mutasa's Indaba Tree was no longer the scene of war medicine manufacture."

                                                                                                                                                        MITCH STERLING



(Nurses Memorial Garden, Sabi Ophir Hill, Penhalonga)
This "Rhodes centenary" wrought iron gate had at top the year 1853, at centre initials C.J.R. (Cecil John Rhodes) and at bottom the year 1953.
Not to be confused with "Rhodes' Entry" at the nearby Mozambique border or with the much larger Rhodes Memorial Gate at Capetown, South Africa.

In the chaos that followed the land invasions of 2000 the ironwork of the gate disappeared from the site. Only the stone arch remains.
The Gate which gives entrance to the Nurses Memorial was erected in 1953 to commemorate the centenary of Rhodes' birth.
It will be noted that the renowned old fig-tree has been removed.  (Photo: Ministry of Information)

the photograph above inserted opposite p.192 in the facsimile reprint of "Adventures in Mashonaland", 
pub. as Rhodesiana Reprint Library vol.8 by Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo, 1969
   photo: courtesy of Mike Tucker and

Recent photograph of the Pioneer Nurses memorial garden, showing the stone arch of the Rhodes Memorial Gate

(Sabi Ophir Hill, Penhalonga)

A "brass-rubbing" taken from a cast metal plaque formerly let into the back support of a bench seat at the Nurses Garden of Remembrance. in the chaos that followed the land invasions of 2000 the cast metal plaque disappeared from the site. The seat is made of concrete slabs set on a stone surround.

NOTE: The correct name of "Sister Beryl" is Bertha Welby, not Beryl Welby
The illustration above  is opposite p.145 of the facsimile reprint of "Adventures in Mashonaland",
published as Rhodesiana Reprint Library vol.8 by Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo, 1969
The rubbing was supplied for the book courtesy of Mr C.K.Cooke,
Director of the Rhodesia Historical Monuments Commission.
 On this spot
after an arduous up-country walk from the East Coast & within a
day of their arrival in Mashonaland opened a
and thereby inaugurated Nursing Services in the Colony
+   14TH JULY 1891   +

In June 1014 the missing cast metal plaque was replaced by a marble plaque, carrying a similar inscription to the old, illustrated below. This new plaque is not set into the back support of the seat, as the original had been, but is attached to the low outer wall of the garden, close to the paved area on which the sun-dial and its pedestal once stood. The replacement marble plaque was made and installed through the generosity of three Penhalonga residents.
photo: courtesy of Tony Waters

  photo: courtesy of Mike Tucker and
Pioneer Nurses' Memorial Garden - replacement plaque in marble

(Sabi Ophir Hill, Penhalonga)

At the edge of the Nurses Memorial Garden was a sundial, supported by a stone pedestal, standing at the centre of a cross paved with stone chippings. At the north side of the pedestal was a cast metal plaque recording names of fifteen early prospectors who were in the valley working the Rezende Mine prior to the pioneer column and the settlement of Rhodesia.
In the chaos that followed the land invasions of 2000, the sun-dial, cast metal plaque and pedestal disappeared from the site.
View of the missing Penhalonga sun-dial pedestal, looking north-west towards Fort Hill,
 titled: "Prospector's memorial overlooking Penhalonga valley towards Fort Hill";
from "Historic Rhodesia" (Bundu Series) by Oliver Ransford and Peter Steyn, "Umtali" pp.32-37,
pub. 1975 Longman Rhodesia (Pvt) Ltd, Southerton, Salisbury            © Oliver Rainsford & Peter Steyn 1975

the cast metal plaque on the pedestal is towards the camera
another view of the missing Penhalonga sun-dial pedestal, looking north-east towards spoil-heaps from the Rezende gold mine.
This photograph is inserted opposite p.161 in the facsimile reprint of "Adventures in Mashonaland",
pub. as Rhodesiana Reprint Library vol.8 by Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo, 1969

Erected in 1950

To the Memory of those who came first.

Col. P. D'Andrada
P. A. Campion
G. Crampton
G. B. Dunbar Moodie
W. J. Harrington
O. W. Harris
W. V. Harrison
O. D. Holliday
J. H. Jeffreys
E. De Kergariou
C. De Llamby
T. Luther
J. S. Maritz
Baron De Rezende
A. Vaughan Williams
The Rezende gold mine at Penhalonga opened in 1895, the village growing around the mine. These notes on some of the early prospectors listed on the sun-dial memorial plaque are copied from "Our Rhodesian Heritage" Blog of 31st March 2012:

Memorial 'To Those Who Came First'

"Both Baron de Rezende and Colonel Paiva d'Andrada were prominent figures in the Companhia de Moçambique, a company established in Portugal by Royal Charter for the purpose of administering the provinces of Sofala and Manica in Portuguese East Africa. Baron de Rezende was the Managing Director of the company while Colonel d'Andrada was in charge of the company's armed force. The area around Penhalonga was generally accepted to be within the sphere of influence of the Companhia de Moçambique, as Baron de Rezende had secured a concession from Chief Umtasa to the mining right in his area. This became a point of contention with the arrival of the BSA Company in the area, resulting in numerous armed confrontations over the disputed boundary. Mutually agreed international boundaries were established some years later, when the terms of an existing Anglo-Portuguese treaty were re-negotiated. The Rezende Mine takes its name from Baron de Rezende, as does Rezende Street in Salisbury. Penhalonga, meaning long rocky mountain, also owes its name to its Portuguese origins.

George Benjamin Dunbar Moodie was tasked by Rhodes to recruit a suitable group of farmers from the Orange Free State to settle and farm the area of Gazaland (the Melsetter/Chipinga area of south east Manicaland). Having selected a number of suitable farmers, Dunbar Moodie appointed his uncle, Thomas Moodie, to lead the trek from the Orange Free State to Gazaland to establish the settlement."


Illustration from "Rhodesian Tapestry: A History In Needlework"
by Oliver Randsford, pub. by Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo 1971, pp.44-45 [RT] 
This fine embroidered panel, made by Penhalonga Women's Institute, depicts Sister Aimée (Rose Blennerhassett), Sister Lucy (Lucy Sleeman) and Sister Beryl (Bertha Welby), with patients at the makeshift hospital they founded on Sabi Ophir Hill, Penhalonga in 1891
Crossing swamps of the Pungwe River on the walk from Mapanda, with their servant, Wilkins.
Centre left: 
Wild clematis. 
The nurses at their first hospital, erected by a great fig tree known as the 'Indaba Tree' on Sabi Ophir Hill, Penhalonga.
The Indaba Tree no longer stands, it died in 1953 after being struck by lightning. Three cuttings from the original fig now grow at the site.
Lower left: 
Starting their walk inland after arriving at Beira on the S.S.Tyrian.
NOTE: The embroidery is labeled BEIRA but that is inaccurate, the nurses did not commence their walk at Beira. After S.S.Tyrian anchored in Pungwe Bay, offshore from Beira, the nurses transferring to a small Thames steam launch named Shark that took them 70 miles up the Pungwe River to Mapanda, the first leg of their 190 mile journey to Umtali. They walked the remainder of the distance, about 120 miles.
Lower right: 
Construction of the hospital at Penhalonga. 
First Hospital, Penhalonga, 1891 is one of 42 such panels, each depicting an incident in the history of Rhodesia,
together making a 100ft x 17in "National Tapestry".
These were designed and embroidered on linen over 15 years by members of the Women's Institutes of Rhodesia,
who presented them to the nation as a memorial to the country's pioneer women.
The panels were displayed, with a copper wall plaque (see right), in the members' dining room of the Rhodesian House of Parliament, at Cecil Square, Salisbury (renamed Harare).  Sometime after 1971 they were moved to the National Museum & Archives of Zimbabwe at Bulawayo.
View this single panel or view all 42 panels at Barbara Goss' Rhodesian Tapestry website 
    image from "Rhodesian Tapestry: A History In Needlework" by Oliver Randsford, p.49 [RT]  


The first settlement of Umtali was at what is now known as Fort Hill, near Penhalonga. In 1891 this consisted of a few huts and a camp site of the British South Africa Company Police, this established in November 1890 when they came to negotiate a treaty with Chief Mutasa during the period when the British and Portuguese struggled for control of Manicaland. The site is Zimbabwe National Monument No.34.
In December 1891 Fort Hill was abandoned, relocating seven kilometres west to a newly created settlement at Old Umtali. The hospital moved with it, to a new building capable of taking 30 patients. The move was partly for health reasons, the Fort Hill site being infested with fleas, and partly because mining claims threatened Fort Hill by limiting future expansion. Rose later described this move, with some humour, in the 1893 book "Adventures in Mashonaland, by Two Hospital Nurses, Rose Blennerhassett and Lucy Sleeman".

The 1896 construction of a railway between Beira and Salisbury led to the town of Umtali being moved for a third time, Old Umtali (Old Muture) being in 1897 moved to New Umtali (Muture), this location being closer to the railway line and so avoiding the high cost of a railway detour and ten extra miles of track.

NOTE: The title of Rose and Lucy's 1893 book "Adventures in Mashonaland" can be misleading. The eastern lands of the territory that in 1895 began to be called Rhodesia (from 1901 Southern Rhodesia) were previously referred to as "Mashonaland", despite those lands encompassing two provinces, Mashonaland and Manicaland. The nurses and their hospital were at Umtali in Manacaland, a province south of Mashonaland and bordering Mozambique.
The original site of Umtali, now called "Fort Hill", is near Penhalonga, a mining town 18 km north Muture (formerly New Umtali), the chief town of Manicaland. The Portguese town of Macequece, a.k.a. Masse-Kesse or Massi-Kessi, has in modern times been renamed Manica.
Southern Rhodesia was renamed Rhodesia when Northern Rhodesia, on gaining independence from the UK, became Zambia. In 1980, when following the UDI period Rhodesia formerly gained independence from the UK, Rhodesia was renamed as the Republic of Zimbabwe, the capital Salisbury as Harare and the town of New Umtali as Mutare.

NOTE: see also "Fort Hill" in
NOTE: see also "Old Umtali" in

                     photo: courtesy of Mike Tucker &

          photo: "Raiders and Rebels in South Africa" by Elsa Godwin Green, illustration opposite p.80, from a painting by the author
During the 1896-7 rising in Southern Rhodesia the hospital at Umtali functioned as a Military Hospital, described in some detail by Elsa Godwin Green in "Raiders & Rebels in South Africa" pub. London, George Newnes, 1898 [EGG Ch.8 "The Hospital at Umtali" p.75].
(NOTE: Elsa Godwin Green is my g.g.aunt on my father's side - Bill Jehan)  
In this book Elsa describes the wedding of Sister Emily Hewett, writing: "...The Little cart belonging to the Sisters, usually drawn by the eccentric and historic donkeys Powder and Pills, stood at the church door, but in place of the amimals, the gun squad men were drawn up in a line, and they conducted them to the Masonic Hotel.........the donkeys belonged to Mr. Sidney Fort, who I believe gave them to the first nurses, Miss Lucy Sleman (sic) and Miss Blennerhassett..."  [EGG Ch.9 "Sister Emily's Wedding" p.86]
An accomplished artist, 14 of her South African oil paintings were used to illustrate her book. This illustration of
"The Military Hospital, Umtali", one of her watercolours of the time appears opposite p.80 (signed E.G.G. lower right).

Where is the original painting? and great-aunt Elsa's other paintings? In the house of my grandfather Claude Jehan at Tottenham, London in the 1950s were her oil paintings of the Victoria Falls and of Groote Schuur, Cecil Rhodes' house at Cape Town. Where are these paintings now? - B.J.

Old Umtali
The huts in which Nurses Blennerhassett, Sleeman and Welby lived December 1891-1893.
The picture was taken of their successor nurses, circa 1895 (Photo source: Rev. E. L. Sells)
the photo above inserted opposite p.176 in the facsimile reprint of "Adventures in Mashonaland", 
pub. as Rhodesiana Reprint Library vol.8 by Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo, 1969

In this photo are Sister Emily and Sister Mary who took over from the Pioneer Nurses in 1893
Sister Emily Hewitt (Mrs Blatch)
Sister Mary Saunders (Mrs R. Nesbitt)
Sister Eliza "Lizzie" Hewitt (Mrs Massie)
(the sister of Emily)
Sister Emily Hewett, matron in 1896, married at Umtali on 10-Aug-1896 to Herbert Blatch of Macequece
(that town then a.k.a. Masse-Kesse or Massi-Kessi but now named Manica)
Mary and Lizzie being bridesmaids, the ceremony performed by Rev. H. Foster.
Sister Mary Saunders later married Mr R. Nesbitt; Sister Eliza "Lizzie" Hewitt, sister of Emily, later married Mr Massie.
the two photographs above added opposite p.177 & p.320 for the facsimile reprint of "Adventures in Mashonaland", 
pub. as Rhodesiana Reprint Library vol.8 by "Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo 1969 (Photo source for both: Rev. E. L. Sells)


Monty Bowden, from
"Cricket: A Weekly Record
of the Game" 7-May-1885


The first patient to die under the care of Rose and Lucy at Old Umtali hospital was a well-known amateur cricketer, wicket-keeper Monty Bowden (Montague Parker Bowden, born 1865, died 19-Feb-1892).

Monty had played two Test matches against South Africa during the Cape Town tour of 1888-9 and captained the side during the 2nd Test, March 1889. He was the youngest ever captain of England, at 23 years, 144 days. The first Test had been captained by C. Aubrey Smith who missed the second Test through illness. They both played in the first Currie Cup match. 

Following this tour the team returned to England but Monty and Aubrey remained in South Africa, forming a stock-broking business. This did not prosper, in less than a year Aubrey Smith returned to England to begin a career as an actor that would take him to Hollywood. Bowden joined Cecil Rhodes' Pioneer Column into Mashonaland, hoping on arrival to prospect for gold.

On 24-Oct-1890 Bowden's death was mistakenly reported in "The Star" and on 11-Dec-1890 the "Daily Independent" corrected this by printing an announcement that he was still alive.

In 1891 Bowden settled at Fort Umtali, on the site now known as "Fort Hill", then "a village of little more than a collection of mud huts", to set up a trading business, conducted on foot. Fort Hill in 1891 consisted of a few huts and a police camp not far from Penhalonga. In December 1891 that site was abandoned, the town relocating about 7 kilometres west to Old Umtali. The hospital moved with it, into a new building capable of taking 30 patients.

"...In December 1891, Charles Finlason arrived in the country. He was shocked by Bowden’s condition and wrote, ‘The hardships that he had incurred had told severely on him and he was much weakened by the fever.  He was in the best of spirits although he complained that he could not get entirely rid of the fever.’ ...    "...Finlason detested [Fort] Umtali, not least because he was paranoid about fleas.  ‘When I got to Umtali,’ he told readers of The Star, ‘the camp was being shifted to the new site – some seven miles nearer Salisbury’... [JONTY WINCH].

Monty played his last game of cricket in Feb. 1892 at Old Umtali. "...The day after Bowden’s arrival at Umtali – Saturday, 13 February – he was on the cricket field.  The towns-people would not entertain any thought of his missing the game.  It was, after all, the first match to be played in Manicaland and it was quite something to have the famous Surrey cricketer playing.  The contest between the Chartered Company and the Rest of Manicaland was staged in the main street.  There was no matting – simply bare earth..." [JONTY WINCH].

Less than a week later he died at Old Umtali Hospital of fever, aggravated by a fall from an ox-cart that led to him being trampled by oxen. At the hospital his body was guarded overnight to protect it from lions, the following day taken in an ox-cart 1.5 kilometres to the Old Umtali Pioneer Cemetery, where he was interred in a coffin made from whisky cases.

in "Adventures in Mashonaland" ch.8 pp.226-227 Rose writes

"The first case we lost in New Umtali was Mr. Montague Bowden, the well-known cricketer. He was singularly handsone, popular, and with every chance of success in trading and prospecting enterprises."

"In February 1892 Mr. Bowden, while travelling from Salisbury to Umtali, was thrown from his cart, but apparently uninjured. The day after his arrival he played in a cricket match, and it was observed that he was in bad form. The next day but one he had an epileptic seizure, and was conveyed to hospital. His temperature rose to 107, and he passed away very peacefully on the fourth day after his admittance. On account of the heat it was necessary to keep the doors and windows of the room, where he lay, wide open, and a man with a loaded revolver sat there all night to protect the corpse from wild beasts."

"Next day [i.e. 20-Feb-1892] he was buried, the whole community attending his funeral. With great difficulty, owing to the scarcity of wood, a coffin had been made out of whisky cases. It was covered with dark blue limbo. A card, bearing his name and age, was nailed to the lid. Beneath it we placed a large cross of flowers. The remains were carried across the compound to a bullock-cart [i.e. ox-cart], and the melancholy procession started. We lingered to watch it wind across the plain, until it disappeared from view, and then with sad steps returned to the wards." [the funeral cortege route is marked in purple on the aerial view below]

"...Bowden died on Thursday, 19 February 1892. The District Surgeon, Dr J.W. Lichfield – a fellow Pioneer – signed his death notice, recording the cause of death as epilepsy.  Subsequent sources have linked his death to the fall from the post-cart, exhaustion, alcohol and sunstroke.  It took time for the news to become known.  A local farmer, Lionel Cripps, did not, for example, hear of the cricketer’s death until Friday, 27 February, noting in his diary, ‘Poor Bowden died in Umtali’.  The news was brought to Cripps by the recently-employed ‘Paddy’ O’Toole VC who had been in the town collecting supplies...[JONTY WINCH]

For collectors of cricketing autographs, Monty Bowden's signature is the rarest of all England Test players.

NOTE: The District Surgeon was Dr James William Lichfield of Umtali Hospital who, at Old Umtali, 4pm on Christmas Eve 24-Dec-1891, married Bertha Anne Welby (a.k.a. "Sister Beryl"). This was four months after the arrival of the three nurses at Umtali.
photo by Rob Jarvis (courtesy of Jonty Winch)

photo by Rob Jarvis (courtesy of Jonty Winch)
This historic cemetery is abandoned, memorials vandalised,
iron cross grave markers "ripped up and thrown over the wall". 

photo: courtesy of G.R.Davis 

"The Tragic Tale of Monty Bowden" by Jonty Winch, in "Our Rhodesian Heritage" Blog, 18th March 2014

"The Pioneer's Cemetery in Old Umtali and the strange story of the death of Monty Bowden
"Cricket's Rich Heritage: A History of the Rhodesia and Zimbabwean Cricket 1890-1982", by Jonty Winch, Books of Zimbabwe 1982

"England's Youngest Captain: The Life and Times of Monty Bowden and two South African Journalists", 
by Jonty Winch, Windsor Press 2003
image courtesy Mike Tucker  -  click on image to enlarge
Aerial view showing relative locations of Old Umtali (left) and Fort Hill, formerly Fort Umtali (right)
Route taken by Monty Bowden's 1892 funeral cortege, from Old Umtali Hospital to the Pioneer Cemetery, is shown purple


On 24-Dec-1891 Bertha Welby (Sister Beryl) married Dr James William Lichfield, the "Old Umtali" Hospital Doctor, and in about March or April 1892 the pair departed when he was appointed to take charge of the hospital at Fort Victoria.
Rose Blennerhassett (Sister Aimée) and Lucy Sleeman (Sister Lucyremained at Old Umtali Hospital, not leaving until May 1893 after completing their two years in Manicaland (read the book!).

They were replaced at Umtali Hospital by three new nursing sisters sent by Bishop G.W.H. Knight-Bruce to relieve them. These were:
- Sister Emily Hewett, matron in 1896, who married at Umtali on 10-Aug-1896
  to Herbert Blatch of Macequece (that town then a.k.a. Masse-Kesse or Massi-Kessi but now named Manica),
  Mary and Lizzie being bridesmaids, the ceremony performed by Rev. H. Foster.
- Sister Mary Saunders, who later married Mr R. Nesbitt.
- Sister Eliza "Lizzie" Hewitt, sister of Emily, later married Mr Massie.
Rose and Lucy returned from Old Umtali to England, via Cape Town. As they were about to leave both ladies became dangerously ill with malaria, but fortunately construction of the Beira to Umtali railway had commenced during their time at Umtali, so on their way to Beira they benefitted from this for the final 35 miles of their journey.
At Beira on 28th June they boarded the German steamer Kaiser, to Dar-es-Salaam, Zanzibar, Aden, Port Said and Naples, then (presumably) overland via France to England.

Following their return to the UK an interview conducted with Rose and Lucy at their hotel "by a Sketch representative" was published with their joint portrait photograph in ["The Sketch" 20-Sep-1893, p.421]. This, the only known photograph of the two women, was taken by "J.Weston and Son, Grand Parade, St.Leonards" [St Leonards-on-Sea, Hastings, East Sussex].
Lucy's letters from Umtali, describing their adventures in Manicaland to her family at home, are dated 23-Jul-1891, 2-Aug-1891 & 11-Aug-1891. These letters were published in London, having been forwarded to "The Times" by her sister Mary Sleeman [TIMES 28-Dec-1891]. The publication of these letters no doubt led to suggestions that a book should be written.
Their book "Adventures in Mashonaland, by Two Hospital Nurses, Rose Blennerhassett and Lucy Sleeman" was prepared to be published in London by Macmillan and Co. in November 1893 at a price of 8s 6d (reprinted December 1893 & January 1894). The publication was expedited with help from Rose's brother Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, Bart. who was a member of the AthenaeumThe book was compiled by Rose principally but chapters 4 and 5 in particular derive in large amount from long letters written by Lucy, sent to her family in England from Umtali.  In these letters, and chapters, Lucy always refers to Rose as "Sister Aimée".
letter bearing signatures of Rose & Lucy
ex "Duchess of York's library" copy of the book
"Adventures in Mashonaland" 1893, containing a signed letter from Rose Blennerhassett and Lucy Sleeman pasted to the front end-paper:
Bookplate: The Duchess of York's Library
The Letter:

May we beg your Royal Highness to accept this volume, called 'Adventures in Mashonaland' -

Your Royal Highness was so kind as to forward our letters to [Miss] Ella Taylor to
the Queen, and Ella says that your Royal Highness has graciously promised to present our "Adventures" to the Queen, for which kindness we are very grateful. -

We have the honour to remain Madam,
you Royal Highness' devoted servants

Rose Blennerhassett - Lucy Sleeman"
On 2-Dec-1893 the two friends again left England, departing Southampton on Union Line S.S. "Gaul" for the island of St. Helena, that remote volcanic British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic. The island is famous as the place of Napoleon Bonaparte's exile and death, and of his empty tomb. After St. Helena they were once again at Kimberley.
NOTE: In 1900 Union Line merged with Castle Shipping Line to form the well known Union Castle Line.
<xxx> suggests that Rose corresponded with Florence Nightingale and may perhaps have met her. The FN archives contain one long letter from Rose to FN but none from FN to Rose. There are two letters to FN from Georgiana S. Hurt. <xxx> also suggests that Rose was at Malta in 1894 and at the hospital on the island of St Helena (named as "St Helena's Hospital 45812").

How long did the ladies stay at St Helena? when did they return to Kimberley?
Lucy married at Kimberley in 1897 (see below), residing at Kimberley with her new family 1897-1902. Rose was witness to Lucy's wedding and again nursed in Cape Province 1897-1901, presumably at Kimberley. In 1901 Rose wrote a ghostly short story titled "The Red Marble Tank", published Nov. 1901 in "The Diamond Fields Advertiser" of Kimberley ("Illustrated Christmas Number" pp.32-33).

On 16-Feb-1899 a Rev. Blennerhassett (born c1869) sailed from Southampton, England to Mossel Bay, South Africa (between Cape Town & Port Elizabeth) but it appears he may be Rev. Edward Townsend Blennerhassett (1872-1922) who is only very distantly related to Rose.
Where Rose Blennerhassett, Lucy Vines & Mary Vines lived 1902-1906 is uncertain, but presumably Kimberley.
Rose, Lucy (herself in poor health that may perhaps have been the legacy of bouts of malaria in Manicaland) and Lucy's daughter Mary Vines together returned to England, sailing from Cape Town to Southampton in 1906. have an online image of a 1906 ship passenger manifest showing their three names,
but the documents have been photographed out-of-sequence so name of ship and precise date of sailing are unclear.

Lucy Vines died 25-May-1907 at St.Saviour's Hospital, St.Pancras, London, aged 42 years.
Lucy is interred at Kensal Green Cemetery London (Centre Avenue, area 32, plot 41272), see photograph below.

Rose Blennerhassett died unmarried 8-Oct-1907 at Carqueiranne, near Hyéres, Provence, France, aged 64 years.
Carqueiranne is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur region. Place of burial unknown.
She was not interred at the town cemetery (Cimetiere Communal de Carqueiranne) or at the nearby town of Hyéres.

Was Rose interred at a British Cemetery in France? if so, does she have a headstone? or was her body shipped back England or Ireland for burial?
NOTE: Rose died at 3 pm on 8-Oct-1907, her death registered at Carqueiranne the following day, at 9 am on 9-Oct-1907.
Her death registration makes clear she died on 8-Oct-1907, not 9-Oct-1907 as was reported one week later in the deaths column of "The Times". This understandable date error was immediately repeated in the deaths column of the Dublin "Sunday Independent" and yet again, several years later, by Burke's Peerage (editions from 1938) and Burke's Irish Family Records" (1976).

Death Notice in "The Times", repeated by the Dublin "Sunday Independent":

[The Times (London) 14-Oct-1907 p.1] ["Sunday Independent" (Dublin) 20-Oct-1907, p.6]
Rose Blennerhassett's entry in the register of deaths for Carqueiranne:

 (No 30.)

                     TOWN HALL   Carqueiranne                                 DISTRICT   Toulon

    The Ninth of October One Thousand Nine Hundred and Seven, at Nine in the morning

    Notice of death of Rosanna Blennerhassett        unmarried


 Died yesterday at three o’clock in the afternoon         profession annuitant       aged sixty-five

(no further information)

 On the statement made to me by Becker Fredéric, aged forty years, profession agent,

 resident at Carqueiranne, who told that he had been informed of the death*

 and by Verne Claude, aged twenty-nine years, profession gravedigger,

 resident at Carqueiranne, who told that he had been informed of the death*.


 And that those signing below in accordance with the law, and I Gautier Ferdinand, Mayor of

 Carqueiranne in fulfilment of the function of the office of Registrar, have confirmed the death and

 given a reading of this document to the declarants.

          Becker Friedrick.          Verne             Gautier Ferdinand

* "qui a dit etre instruit du deces" means that the person "told that he had been informed of the
    death", i.e. that he did not actually see the body, as informants/witnesses were supposed to do.


"Sister Lucy" - Mrs Lucy Vines   (b.20-Mar-1865 d.25-May-1907)

Lucy Anna Louisa Sleeman was born 20-Mar-1865 at Whitchurch, Tavistock, Co.Devon, youngest daughter of Rev. Richard Sleeman & Annette Shuttleworth. Her father died while she was a young child and in 1871 her mother, a widow, resided with nine children at 26 Springfield Villa, Crediton, Devon.

Lucy married 5-Dec-1897 at St Alban's Anglican Church, de Beers, Kimberley, Cape Colony to Charles Granville Vines (known as Granville), Electrical Engineer. Witnesses to the wedding were Rose Aimée BlennerhassettSister Henrietta Stockdale(matron at Kimberley Hospital 1879-1895) and one other, difficult to read, perhaps C.P. Mcall (?).
The original St Alban's church with corrigated iron roof still stands, at 18 Takoon Square, Kimberley.

Lucy's marriage record with signatures of C. Granville Vines, Lucy Sleeman, Rose Blennerhassett & Sister Henrietta Stockdale

photo: © Mark Harrington, used with permission

click on image to enlarge
C. Granville Vines
(click on image to enlarge)

a copy of this titled
"Mr C. Granville Vines, who worked the searchlight at Kimberley", appeared in
a British weekly news magazine of 1899-1903

C. GRANVILLE VINES (1873-1902)

(Charles) Granville Vines was born in 1873 at Birlingham, son of Canon Thomas Hotchkin Vines, vicar of St Clements Fiskerton, Lincolnshire. Educated Christchurch School, Oxford; Rossall School, Lancashire 1885-9 and the School of Science and Art, Lincoln 1890-94.
A Consulting Electrical Engineer, Granville Vines had served an apprenticeship with Robey & Co. of Lincoln 1890-1894, while attending evening classes at Lincoln School of Science and Art. He was subsequently employed as "Improver" by Willans & Robinson's "Outside Department", working on construction of the City of London Electric Light Company station at Bankside, Southwark (15 months), House-to-House Lighting Station at West Brompton (4 months) and Hull Corporation Electric Light Station (1 month).
Granville Vines "while in delicate health" had emigrated from the UK to South Africa c1896/7 "for the benefit of his health".  He resided first at Middelburg, near Johannesburg.  He moved to Kimberley, where in December 1897 he married Lucy, then in 1898 to Bulawayo "to take up an appointment in connection with one of the mines" in the employ of A.L. Golding A.M.I.E.E. of Bulawayo (6 months).  That same year he was engineer to Belingwe (in Rhodesia) Consolidated Development Co., Matabeleland. From the end of 1898 to May 1899 employed on construction work at Glen Deep and Jumper's Deep mines, Johannesburg.
From 1-May-1899 he returned to Kimberley as electrical engineer and manager of "Mr T. Reunert's Electrical Department", also local agent for Reunert & Lenz of Johannesburg, responsible for the installation of "house to house" electric light at Kimberley.  On its completion he was elected Borough Electrical Engineer by Kimberley Town Council.  He took over as consulting engineer to the Council from George Labram, designer of the gun "Long Cecil", who was killed in early February 1900.  Granville Vines was an associate member of both the Institution of Electrical Engineers (1901) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers ["Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers" vol.32 1902-3].  The Kimberly Municipality City Engineers Dept. have a "Power Station Notebook" by C. Granville Vines, dated 1900.
The family resided at Kimberley during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 and were present during the Siege of Kimberley (this lasted 124 days, ending 15-Feb-1900 when the town was relieved by Lt.-Gen. John French). Granville, a civilian, served part-time as private then non-commissioned officer in the Veteran's Company of the Kimberley Town Guard.  During the siege he operated the town's searchlight, sending signals with the light beam, this being Kimberley's only means of communication with the outside world.  For this service he was awarded the Queen's South Africa medal, with "Defence of Kimberley" clasp. A Freemason, he was initiated into the Richard Giddy Lodge, Kimberley (United Grand Lodge of England) on 7-Mar-1901 described as "mechanical & electrical engineer".

Granville Vines died of enteric fever (typhoid) at Kimberley Hospital on 28-Mar-1902, and was buried 29-Mar-1902 at West End Cemetery, Kimberley (Den 6, Bloc I, Row C, grave 0005, no headstone).  An account of his illness in the Kimberley "Diamond Fields Advertiser" of 29-Mar-1902 stated that he "...has done excellent service for the town".  The same newspaper printed his obituary on 31-Mar-1902, as later did the "Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers", vol.32, 1902-3, p.1157.  His Kimberley obituary tells us "...Mr Vines, though no means strong, devoted himself with great zeal to the interest of the town and his loss will be much felt.  He belonged to the well known English family of the famous mountaineer Mr Stuart Vines..."
Lucy & Granville Vines had two children:
- Mary Catherine Granville Vines (born 1899 at Kimberley, d.1984) who married Leonard Harrington (1898-1965).

- Georgiana Ludovina Vines, born 11-May-1901 at Kimberley; baptised 18-Aug-1901 Kimberley (sponsors/godparents were her uncle Humphrey Vines and aunt Alice Lizzie Sleeman but they may perhaps not have been in S.A. for the ceremony); she died 12-Mar-1902 at Kimberley of Tuberculosis and was buried 13-Mar-1902 at West End Cemetery, Kimberley (Den 6, Bloc E, Row A, grave 20, no headstone). Two weeks later on 28-Mar-1902 her father died; her body was subsequently exhumed to be reinterred in her father's grave (no headstone).

Where Rose Blennerhassett, Lucy Vines & Mary Vines resided from 1902 to 1906 is not known, but presumably at Kimberley. Rose, Lucy (herself in poor health that may have been the legacy of bouts of malaria in Manicaland) and Lucy's daughter Mary Vines returned to England together, sailing from Cape Town to Southampton in 1906.

( have an online image of this 1906 passenger manifest showing the three names, but
    the documents have been photographed out-of-sequence so date and name of the ship are unclear).
Lucy Vines died 25-May-1907 at St.Saviour's Hospital, St.Pancras, London, aged 42 years.
She is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery London (Centre Avenue, area 32, plot 41272).
photo: courtesy of Mark Harrington               click on image to enlarge
MAY 25. 1907.
Kensal Green Cemetery
Centre Avenue
area 32, plot 41272
The stone cross surmounting Lucy's memorial was broken from its base more than 30 years ago. The cross lies flat on her grave.
Lucy's elder daughter Mary Catherine Granville Vines (born 11-Jun-1899 Kimberley, died 4-Mar-1984 Bromley, Kent, England)
married at London in 1923 to Leonard C. Harrington (b.1898 d.1965), they having three children. 


"Sister Beryl" - Mrs Bertha Lichfield   (b.?-Feb-1861 d.?-Dec-1941)

Bertha Anne Welby was born 1861 (baptised 24-Feb-1861) at Canterbury, Kent, 4th daughter of William Welby (1814-1903) & Anne Saunders (1827-1890), her father being High Bailiff for the County Court.
The family lived at 4 Oaten Hill, Canterbury in 1871 & 21 Oaten Hill, Canterbury in 1881.
By 1891 Bertha was at Cape Town, Cape Province where she was persuaded by Dr G.W.H. Knight-Bruce to join Rose Blennerhassett and Lucy Sleeman on their journey to Manicaland to set up a hospital. Five months after the arrival of the three nurses in Manicaland, Bertha Welby (a.k.a. Sister Beryl) was married at [new] Umtali, 4pm on Christmas Eve 24-Dec-1891, to Dr. James William Lichfield (born c1862 at Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England), District Surgeon for the British South Africa Company at Old Umtali hospital. Dr Lichfield (L.R.C.P. London, L.F.P.S. Glasgow, L.S.A. London) had arrived in Manicaland as Surgeon-Lieutenant with the Pioneer Column.
For the wedding "There was to have been a grand wedding cake, made by the new baker. But, it being Christmas time, the baker had gone 'on the bust' [i.e. was drunk] so the wedding cake never turned up."
Their wedding is mentioned in "To the banks of the Zambezi" by Thomas Victor Bulpin, 1965.
About three months after their marriage, in March or April 1892, Bertha and her husband moved from Umtali, to Victoria, Manicaland. In "Adventures in Mashonaland" ch.8 p.229 Rose writes: 
"A month or two later [i.e. after the death of Monty Bowden in Feb.1892] Dr Lichfield left.
He is now a district surgeon at Victoria. Dr Matthew Johnson from St. Bartholomew's took his place".
Dr Lichfield was in charge of the hospital at Victoria, a township founded as Fort Victoria in 1890.
The hospital was staffed by Nuns from a Catholic Church located next to the hospital.
By 1901 the Lichfields were living at 88 Grove Hill Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. They had no children.
Dr James William Lichfield d.Oct-Dec.1907 at Rochford, Essex. Where is his grave?
As a widow 1911-27 Bertha Lichfield resided at 11a Gordon Road, Church End, Finchley, London;
in 1928-35 at 9 Windsor Road, Finchley; in 1938-39 at 92 Hendon Lane, Finchley; in 1941 at Mavins Road, Farnham.
Bertha lived with her sisters Wilhelmina Anne Welby (b.c1864) 1911-35 and Rose Ethel Welby (b.c1855) 1938-39.
"Sister Beryl" died ?-Dec-1941 aged 82, bur. 15-Dec-1941, St Peter's Church, Wrecclesham, near Farnham, Surrey.

her sisters:
1. Rose Ethel Welby of 1 Woodville Road, Sussex in 1948
  died Oct-Dec.1948 aged 93, at Peter House Nursing Home, Bexhill, Sussex.
2. Wilhelmina Anne Welby of "Woodcote", Wrecclesham, Surrey
   died ?-Sep-1941 aged 77, bur. 25-Sep-1941 at St Peter's Church, Wrecclesham.
3. ??? Welby
Photographs of Bertha Anne Welby Lichfield and her husband Dr James William Lichfield, and their headstones, are requested.
Bertha Anne Welby's marriage record at Old Umtali [South Africa Magazine - Eastern Cape - 23-Apr-1892]
LICHFIELD-WELBY On December 24, 1891, by special license, at Umtati [Umtali], Manica,
by the Rev. J. R. Sewell, B.A., Oxon, minister in charge of Umtati [Umtali],
James William Lichfield, L.R.C.P. London, L.F.P.S. Glasgow, L.S.A., London,
Surgeon [in the] British South Africa Company's Service,
to Bertha (Sister Beryl),fourth daughter of William Welby, Esq., of Oaten Hill, Canterbury.
Other mentions of Dr James William Lichfield:
A reference to Dr Lichfield appears on pp.4-5 of "Some Notes on Police Pioneer Doctors and Others" by Colonel A. S. Hickman, M.B.E. (With acknowledgement to the Central African Journal of Medicine), as follows:

"It is through the kindness of Mrs. R. M. Morris that I am gleaning much of my information about our early police, since she has lent me her father's copy of Captain A. G. Leonard's very frank book, written almost in diary form, 'How we made Rhodesia'.

Accompanying the Pioneer Corps on the march to Mashonaland were Surgeon Captain A. J. Tabuteau, Surgeon Lieut. J. Brett and Surgeon Lieut. J. W. Lichfield, all of whom are referred to in "Tropical Victory". With the Pioneer Police were Surgeon Captain Richard Frank Rand and Surgeon Lieut. E. Goody. Dr. Rand, who was highly qualified — F.R.C.S. (Eng.) 1883 and M.D. (Edin.) 1889 — had practised for a short time in Jamaica and had experience of malaria. He was "the best known doctor in Rhodesia in the early days."

His date of appointment to the Company's Police is not known, but on the Pioneer Column he is shown as posted to the Headquarters Staff which travelled with B Troop. He was sent with Major P. W. Forbes to Manicaland, where members of A Troop under Captain (later Sir) H. M. Heyman were employed in the occupation of that area, and involved in skirmishes with the Portuguese..."

another reference to Dr Lichfield in
"The Rhodesian Pioneer Corps" by Robert Cary, pub. 1975 Galaxie Press, Salisbury, Rhodesia:



Showing the nominal roll and disposition by Troops of the Pioneer Corps at the time of entry into the territory covered by the Royal Charter.

Major F. W. F. Johnson Officer Commanding. [Sir Frank William Frederick Johnson, leader of he Pioneer Column]
Captain M. Heany Commanding 'A' Troop.
Captain H. F. Hoste Commanding 'B' Troop.
Captain J. J. Roach Commanding 'C' Troop.
Captain A. E. Burnett Chief Transport Officer.
Captain F. C. Selous Chief of Intelligence. [Frederick Courteney Selous, big-game hunter and guide]
Captain A. S. O. Tabuteau (Dr) Principal Medical Officer.
Lieutenant H. J. Borrow Adjutant.
Lieutenant A. A. Campbell 'W' Troop.
Lieutenant F. Mandy 'B' Troop.
Lieutenant R. Beal 'W' Troop.
Lieutenant E. C. Tyndale-Biscoe 'C' Troop.
Lieutenant R. G. Burnett Lieutenant i/c Native Labourers.
Lieutenant A. G. Dennison Lieutenant-Quartermaster.
Lieutenant R. G. Nicholson Intelligence Officer.
Lieutenant W. E. Fry Intelligence Officer.
Lieutenant J. W. Lichfield (Dr) Assistant Surgeon.

Lieutenant J. Brett (Dr) Assistant Surgeon.
Lieutenant E. O'C. Farrell Veterinary Surgeon.
Rev. Father A. M. Hartmann, S. J. Chaplain (Roman Catholic).
Rev. F. H. Surridge Chaplain (Church of England).

NOTE:  Monty Bowden (Montague Parker Bowden, 1865-1892), England cricketer and wicket-keeper,
           also joined the Pioneer Column to Mashonaland - see above.

Another reference to Dr Lichfield appears in "Own Goals: National Pride and Defeat in War: The Rhodesian Experience"
by Roger Marston, Ch.5 "Law, Order and Diplomacy", p.39, as follows:
"Fort Victoria was the first town established in Rhodesia. It was named "Victoria" in Regimental Orders on the 17th August 1890...   ...In a very short time Fort Victoria became a community. To the south and west of the town there was considerable activity on the goldfields whilst inside the town itself a wide variety of tradesmen had opened for business...    ...The Catholic Church was sited next to the hospital which was staffed by nuns under the direction of Doctor Lichfield who had formerly been the Surgeon-Lieutenant to the Pioneer Column."



"A Letter from Lisbon" by Rose Blennerhassett
an article in "The Argosy" monthly magazine (motto: "Laden with Golden Grain")
1885 "Summer Number" (published in between the June & July issues) pp.43-52;
edited by Mrs Henry Wood, published by Richard Bentley & Son, London.
Magazine issued monthly, also semi-annually bound in hardback, this appearing in vol. 39, January to June 1885
NOTE: The "Summer Number" is bound in that volume but was omitted from the "Contents" list.
"A Letter From Lisbon" begins: "I will spare you all account of my journey, which was prosperous and uneventful. You know that the sea-gods are always propitious to me, and even the unruly Bay [of Biscay] was on its best behaviour..."
Rose Blennerhassett first visited Lisbon October 1884 to 1885 and there wrote this piece for "The Argosy"; presumably it was during that visit she learned the Portuguese language.  When in 1890 she departed England to nurse at Johannesburg Hospital, instead of joining S.S. Spartan (bound for Durban) at Southampton as did her fellow nurse Lucy Sleeman, she left earlier, travelling overland via Paris to join the ship at Lisbon because "I was a bad sailor, and wished to avoid the terrible bay [of Biscay]...
In 1891, while travelling with Lucy from Portuguese Beira to Umtali in Manicaland, Rose was able to use her knowledge of the Portuguese language to their advantage.
"Graphic Sketches of Mining Life"

While at the nurses' home in Johannesburg 1890-91 Rose Blennerhassett contributed "Graphic Sketches of Mining Life" to the newspaper "Digger's News".
History of "Diggers' News":
"Within a short time after the establishment of Johannesburg in 1886, a number of newspapers appeared that had close ties with the mining industry. The first is considered to be the Digger's News, sold at sixpence a copy from the printing works in Market Street from 24 February 1887 and consisted of four pages mostly filled with advertisements. A day later The Mining Argus appeared. The offices of the bi-weekly Argus consisted of a stretch of canvas over a wooden frame and a copy was sent to Pretoria by horseback where the paper was printed. During the journey some of the copy often got lost, resulting in a loss of revenue for advertisements not printed. The Standard and Transvaal Mining Chronicle began in March 1887 and later amalgamated with the Diggers' News, to be followed by The Transvaal Observer."
[Media Studies: Media History, Media and Society" edited by Pieter J. Fourie; Juta Education, Capetown 2001, vol.1 p.40].
Diggers' News and Witwatersrand Advertiser published at Johannesburg 1888-90.
Standard and Digger's News : The Authorised Government Gazette for Witwatersrand" Johannesburg 1886-87, 1891-1900.
A weekly edition of 
Standard and Digger's News
 appeared in 1890-99 with a London edition in 1896-99.

Dates for (and copies of) Rose's "Graphic Sketches of Mining Life" contributed to the "Digger's News" 1890-91 are requested...
"Pall Mall Gazette", London

A letter from Rose in Johannesburg to this newspaper 1890 <exact date?>
is subsequently mentioned in [Pall Mall Gazette 21-Aug-1890]
Rose Blennerhassett's Journal
Rose Blennerhassett's journal of her 1891 journey from Beira to Umtali is in "Journals of the Mashonaland Mission 1888 to 1892" by Dr G.W.H. Knight-Bruce, Bishop for Mashonaland - Chapter VI. "Miss Blennerhasset's Journal"
"Adventures in Mashonaland, by Two Hospital Nurses, Rose Blennerhassett and Lucy Sleeman"
"Adventures in Mashonaland, by Two Hospital Nurses, Rose Blennerhassett and Lucy Sleeman" was published by Macmillan & Co, London & New York, 8-Nov-1893 priced 8s 6d in the UK (reprinted December 1893 & January 1894). Also published in 1893 as volume No.164 of "Macmillan's Colonial Library", “... intended for circulation only in India and the British Colonies...” [TIMES 8-Nov-1893].  Read the text of this book.
The original book had no illustrations.  The "Macmillan's Colonial Library" edition was republished in 1969 as vol.8 of the “Rhodesiana Reprint Library” Gold Series, as a "Facsimile reproduction of the 1893 edition with additions and many excellent illustrations", by "Books of Rhodesia Publishing Co." of Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
Quotes from the book appear in:
African Exploration & Travel” in “The Atlantic Monthly” (vol.74, Issue 444, October 1894, pp.559-560)
South African Literature: a general survey” (p.134) by M. Nathan Juta, Cape Town 1925
"To the banks of the Zambezi" by Thomas Victor Bulpin, 1965.
"The Red Marble Tank" by Miss Rose Aimee Blennerhassett
In 1901, two years after the Siege of Kimberley, Rose Blennerhassett, Lucy Sleeman Vines and Lucy's husband C. Granville Vines were still living in the town. In that year Rose contributed a Christmas short story, a ghostly horror titled " 'The Red Marble Tank' by Miss R. A. Blennerhassett",  to "The Diamond Fields Advertiser" newspaper of Kimberley, published in the "Illustrated Christmas Number", November 1901, pp.32-33.

Andrew Fleming Hospital, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia
(Parirenyatwa General HospitalHarare, Zimbabwe)

The nurses' home of the Andrew Fleming Hospital at Salisbury was named Blennerhassett in Rose's memory.
The hospital, named for Andrew Fleming, principal medical officer to the British South Africa Company, is now the Parirenyatwa General Hospital at Harare. The largest medical centre in Zimbabwe, it operates a well-respected school of nursing.
Following the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980 the hospital was renamed, for Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa (1927–1962), an associate of Joshua Nkomo and the first black person from the Rhodesia to qualify as doctor of medicine.

1. Is the nurses' home still named Blennerhassett? are photographs of the hospital and nurse's home available?
2. Check the "Historical Dictionary of Zimbabwe" by Steven C. Rubert and R. Kent Rasmussen, pub. Scarecrow 2001.

"Fever Country" by William Higham
William "Bill" Higham is author of "The Hammarskjold Killing" (2007), "Nakada's Touch" (2008) and "The Spiritic" (2013), published by HiMa. He has written a film script titled "Fever Country", a fictional account based on "Adventures in Mashonaland, by Two Hospital Nurses" and other East African works of the same era.
Higham, born in England but raised in Zimbabwe, was a freelance photographer and journalist during the Rhodesian U.D.I. period; he settled in Australia, where for some years he was copy editor on News Corp's "The Australian" newspaper at Sydney, New South Wales.     

by H2O (Tony Waters), published in "The Tram-Line" March 2014.
"The Tram-Line" is the newsletter of The Mutare Club, Mutare, Zimbabwe, for 25 years produced and edited by Tony.
At about the same date this tale also featured in "The Senior Citizen", the newsletter of a Retirement Home in Muture.

Tony Waters is author of a novel "Rough Bloody Diamonds", published 2016 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.
This tale was influenced in part by his reading of "Adventures in Mashonaland" with it's short chronicle of what became known as the Battle of Chu, where a greatly outnumbered contingent of British South Africa Company Police captured the Portuguese garrison at Massi-Kessi (a.k.a. Masse-Kesse or Macequece; now named Manica).


"Historic Rhodesia" by Oliver Ransford and Peter Steyn - Bundu Series - ISBN 0 582 64172 1
published 1975 by Longman Rhodesia (Pvt) Ltd, Southerton, Salisbury.
this relevant and interesting extract is from "Umtali" on pp.32-38        © O. Ransford 1975



The three pioneer nurses are believed the first European women to enter Mashonaland from the East Coast, in 1891, but others had done so from South Africa in 1890. In 1960 Jessie M. LLoyd recorded names of Rhodesia's Pioneer Women, among whom she describes the following as present from 1890:

Mrs. Molly Colenbrander (nee Mullins), Mrs. Codrington (formerly Mrs Caldecott, nee Drake), Mrs. Graves (formerly Mrs Ellis), Mrs. Johanna Catherine Quested (nee Greef, born Mangwe 21-Apr-1890), Mrs Frekkie Greef (1890 or earlier, at Mangwe laager with six children), Mrs. Van Rooyen (wife of hunter Cornelius Van Rooyen), Mrs. Walsh (formerly Waterson, known as ”Pioneer Mary“) and Mrs. Cornelia Aletta Wilde (nee van Rooyen).

The best known is Fanny Pearson, an 18 year old English girl, in 1889 sailed from England to South Africa with Edmond, Vicomte de la Panouse and from South Africa the pair travelled overland to Mashonaland, arriving in November 1890. Women & children being prohibited by the Chartered Company from entering Mashonaland, Fanny entered disguised as a man, using the alias "Billy". In July 1894 she and the Count married at Salisbury, she subsequently known as Viscomtess de la Panouse or "Countess Billie". "Billie was really a splendid little heroine and deservedly popular" [letter from Marshall Hole to Mrs Boggie 1932]. After some years in Africa they returned to Paris. See "Countess Billie" by Robert Cary, Galaxie Press 1973.



Rosanna AiméBlennerhassett, Sir Francis Richard Plunkett, Lucy Sleeman Vines
and Dr James William Lichfield, mentioned on this page, each died in the same year 1907.



Rose Blennerhassett "Sister Aimée" should not be confused with Sister Aimee Semple McPherson (b. 9-Oct-1890 d.27-Sep-1944), known as Sister Aimee or The Sister, a Canadian-American Pentecostal evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920s - 1930s who founded the Foursquare Church. 
Bertha Welby "Sister Beryl" should not be confused with Bertha Welby, popular American stage actress of comedy and drama who played Nancy Sykes in "Oliver Twist", also many other parts including "Camille" and a silent film role in the film short "The Call of the Desert" 1912. She died 23-Feb-1917.


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