The Tathams of County Durham
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Frances Wright (1843-1922)

Letter to her sister Maryanne

Letter from Frances Tatham, née Wright, to her sister Maryanne in England.

Sandford, Bergville.
Feb. 18th 1915.

My dear Maryanne,

I was so pleased to have a letter from you and to hear all your news. I should have written sooner but really had nothing but trouble to write about, and that does not make pleasant reading. Richard must be very well if he can manage two farms. He must have got stronger lately.

I hear that William [probably Frances' brother William Wright, b 1846] is very busy on his farm again. His boys are at the front in German South West Africa, where the real fighting is about to commence. So far they have only had skirmishes, but now Botha has gone to take Command there will be something decisive done.

I hear from George [Frances' son George Edmund Tatham (1883-1946)] frequently. He is very well but not as busy as he would like to be, as they have not had a big fight yet. I hear that he is a very popular officer, and that his men would go anywhere with him. Some men in his troop were with his father [Frances' late husband George Frederick Tatham (1848-1908)] in the Boer War. He says they are always talking of him, and it makes him try to live up to what his father was.

We are having a dreadful season. Nothing but rain. The crops are very tall and weak and tne heads not filling. It is not merely rain but floods. The little brook near the house is like a roaring torrent. All fences washed down and my little garden that was simply perfect with every kind of vegetable growing splendidly, we almost lived on vegetables, is now gone. There is not a vestage of it left. Even the fence and gate posts were carried away. The potato field is quite smooth, not a potato left. It is very deplorable. Last year we had a drought, but in this country it does nothing by halves.

Where George is now they never have rain, water is very scarce. They have a borehole but cannot use water for washing and only water their horses once a day. There is no grass, only sand dunes. George says he has had his hair cut as close as horse clippers can cut it, as the hair holds the sand, and they have frequent sand storms. We are sending out veils and goggles to protect the eyes. We have a map and follow the route. They are now at Lauderitz Bay or near it and can get a good swim in the sea often.

I have just had a letter from Emilie [Frances' elder daughter Dora Emilie Tatham (1882-1942), wife of (Arthur) Julius Rann Kennedy (1883-1943)]. They are all in great trouble. The Judge [Julius' father William Rann Kennedy (1846-1915)] died after a few minutes suffering. They seem scarcely to believe that he is really gone. Julius has not gone to the front yet. Poor Emilie is expecting at the end of this month [John Richard Tatham Kennedy, born 10 Mar 1915]. I wish I could be with her. She thinks Julius will be off soon.

Are any of your people gone? Harold Danby [not identified; Frances' mother was Elizabeth Danby] and Willie Mollins are both Volunteers. Willie is wounded in the leg and still in hospital, but they hope to have him home in a few weeks now. Aley writes me all their news.

I am going to Ladysmith tomorrow to meet Ada [possibly Frances' younger sister Ada Danby Pascoe née Wright (1857-1930); or her niece Ada Elizabeth Wright (1884- )], who is coming to stay with me for a while. I an a bit anxious about having her. She is so liable to attacks of illness, and an African farm is no place for delicate people. I shall be so glad of company, this is terribly dull without George. Archie [not identified; possibly one of the 6 sons from her first marriage] who is managing for George is very quiet and always buries his face in a book directly he comes in.

We read the papers eagerly. This war is, indeed, terrible. I could not have believed they would attack undefended towns in England or commit the dreadful deeds of cruelty we read of, but they must be true as a Commission has been appointed to enquire into it, and they verify all we read. Our nearest neighbours are Germans and they are such nice kind people.

I was sorry to hear that Minnie Waind [family not identified] was ill. I hope she is better and that Edith and Nellie are happy.

Do write again soon and tell me all your news. Has Bertha [not identified] still got officers billitted on them? I do not envy her. I had a letter from Helen Tatham [Helen Bertha Tatham (1879-1957), distant relative (3x cousin 1x rem) of Frances' late husband], of Leighton Buzzard. She says they have had three for months. When one lot go three others come. They do not find it too pleasant, as some are inclined to be bounders.

Dollie [Frances' younger daughter Frances Tatham (1885-1952), married to Dr. Thomas Andrew Chater] is very well and so fat. She wants me to buy one of her coats and skirts as they seem to have got so much smaller since she bought it. It fits me quite nicely. I do not get any fatter. She was to pay us a visit this month, but Tom cannot get away, so she will not leave him. She wants me to go to her. Little Tommy [Frances' grandson Thomas George Gibbon Chater (1912-1941)]is to be page at a grand wedding and she seems to think that no one can make his things but me, but I won't go till George comes. I think I am some use here. I am sending 3 dozen eggs to market weekly at 2/4 per doz. and I look after separator and dairy and so on, keep the keys and regulate the expenditure.

George says that when he comes back he will either get a wife or a motor car. I hope the former [four years later he was to marry Marie Léone Nols at Verviers, Belgium, on 22 Feb 1919], and now I must close.

My love to Ada, Richard and them all and write me all their news. Tell Richard not to overdo himself, two farms take some thought and managing.

Goodbye now much love and hoping you keep well

Yours affectionately

F. Tatham

Bert and May Anderson [unidentified; Frances' first husband was Robert Shand Anderson (1830-1878)] are the happy parents of a son. They are very pleased.

Date18 Feb 1915
Linked toFrances Wright

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