From the Pen of
Before I and my family made our recent. albeit long awaited, move to
Australia, we spent a few months in Zimbabwe visiting family and friends for what will be
the last time for the foreseeable future. (The distances involved and the organisation
involved, not to mention the cost and disruption necessitated by such a trip make it
prohibitive until such time as we are established in our new country and our little
daughter (just turned 2) is a little older.).
We had the privilege of joining various other members of my family on a holiday in a town called Port Alfred in the neighbouring South Africa. During the month that we spent there, conversation naturally drifted to our upcoming move. As I was reflecting about the fact that we were going to be so far from our families, I was led to think of how Dodges have become spread so widely around the world. This meditation was deepened by the rather ironic fact that it was at Port Alfred that the original 1820 settlers arrived in South Africa, amongst whom were some of my ancestors. As I looked out onto the beach from the living room where we were staying, I pictured them getting off the ship onto that very beach, and surveying their new country, almost certainly with their hearts in their mouths. In the back of their minds would have been ringing all those doubts sown there by those who stayed behind. Had they done the right thing? Were the promises they had been given true?
I visited the Settlers Museum in nearby Grahamstown where there were displayed a number of photographs and paintings that they had acquired. As I gazed at them, I was suddenly struck with the thought that they were real people just like me. I had, since my interest in genealogy began, tried to learn more about my ancestors than just names and dates on a sheet of paper. Here were the faces that belonged to some of those names. The question suddenly arose in my mind: What makes people give up their home, their friends and family and undertake such a trip? I know my reasons, but what were theirs. Our American cousins for the most part fled persecution, but that was not the case here. Then it occurred to me that many of their reasons were the same as mine, or at least the fundamental reason was the same: the dream of a better life.
During the time I spent in Port Alfred I had the opportunity to do a great deal of research. I came across the fact that one of my ancestors had gone hunting with a friend by the name of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. Some of you may have read (or seen the movie of) his classic story of his dog Jock Of The Bushveld (if you havent then do so - some time in the next week). Jock Of The Bushveld had long been a favourite of mine and the discovery led me to reread it. As a result, I came upon this quote, which for me, sums up the spirit of so many Dodges all over the world and all through time. TThere was a boy who went to seek his fortune. Call him boy or man; the years prove nothing either way! Some will be boyish always; others were never young: a few - most richly dowered few - are man and boy together. He went to seek his fortune, as boys will and should; no pressure on him from about; no promise from beyond. For life was easy there, and all was pleasant, as it may be - in a cage. Today is sure and happy; and there is no tomorrow - in a cage.....But how recall the life when those who made it set so little store by all that passed, and took its ventures for their daily lot; when those who knew it had no gift or thought to fix the colours of the fading past: the fire of youth; the hopes; the toil; the bright illusions gone!.... And the half-dreamed sound of the tramping feet is all that is left of the live procession long since passed: the young recruits; the laggards and the faint; the few who saw it through; the older men - grave-eyed, thoughtful, unafraid - who judged the future by the battered past, and who knew none more nor less than man - unconscious equals of the best and least; the grey-hued years; the thinning ranks; the summons answered, as they had lived - alone. The tale untold; and, of all who knew it, none left to picture now the life, none left to play a grateful comrade's part, and place their record on a country's scroll - the kindly, constant, nameless Pioneers!Top of page