Impressions Gained from the Diary of Florence Brooke Shires Diarist of Brooklands

Barberton Valley

Florence eventually married Joseph Brooke Shires, who seems to have been a country boy himself, from a more or less similar background. He must have been a man of means being able to buy the farm “Onverwacht” which he named “Brooklands”, where he planted the first Eucalypt and Wattle trees in the Sabie area in 1876. He also farmed with maize, cattle, horses and vegetables.

Brooke Theatre Production

Their grandson Brian Brooke ( who was celebrated for his theater productions in Johannesburg)  comments in his book “My own personal Star” 1978, that “Joseph Brooke Shires, my grandfather, was to me the perfect pioneer… He had a passion for trees…Legend is that, in his early thirties, he inherited a cotton mill in Lancashire…He was a fearless and unruffled young man with the mind of a visionary. Maria Shires Waterfall, near Graskop is named in honour of Maria Shires, née Taylor (1814–1875).

Maria was the mother of Joseph Brooke Shires, and of Ann Maria McLachlan. Her son-in-law, Tom McLachlan first discovered gold in a gully on the slopes of Spitskop near Hendriksdal in February 1873, in the Kaap Valley in January 1874, as well as alluvial gold at Jamestown in the Barberton area in 1881.

Eucalyptus Saligna

Florence was from all accounts educated and quite well read being impressed with the writings of Mary Kingsley who was a British explorer and writer who greatly influenced European ideas about Africa and its people. Kingsley was an outspoken critic of European colonialism, a champion for indigenous customs, and campaigned for Britain to support traders and merchants in Africa rather than settlers and missionaries.

Old Fashioned Plowing

H.L.Hall & Sons Mataffin

Author Rider Haggard

Glynn Family Sabie

Florence seemed rather bored with the monotony of country living generally, and was not very energetic, but she was specifically frustrated, worried and depressed through the uncertainty of not knowing what had become of her loved ones once the War got under way, as well as not being able to socialize as she would have liked. She mingled with various different local people, while having good friends amongst both the English and Afrikaans sections of the community round her. However – she graciously, faithfully and very bravely kept the home fires burning while’st battling unreliable labour, enemy hostilities, treachery, thieving vagrants, and unfavourable elements after her husband was taken away.

Maria Shires Waterfall

Although Joseph seems to have been part of the British garrison at Lydenburg where he grew vegetables for the regiment, as well as partaking in the odd foray against the enemy with the British troops, he lived happily. Strangely enough from all accounts, Florence never saw him again.

Gleaned from “The Diary of Florence Shires” compiled by Dr. Winkler.

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