ELIZABETH RUSSELL CAMERON:
AN EIGHTY YEAR OLD
by Win de Vos
My readers will no doubt be interested to know how I came to write this book.
Well, Mrs. Cameron, the South African octogenarian whose reminiscences form the subject matter, is a great friend of mine. One day last year when I called in to see her and was having afternoon tea with her, she told me about her experiences, when she, at the age of twenty-one, and her younger brother set off, against their father's wishes, to the Gold Fields at Pilgrim's Rest in 1871 to seek their fortunes. (These experiences are related in the fifth chapter of this book.)
I was tremendously interested, and when she had finished the narration I exclaimed: "Well, really Mrs. Cameron, that would make an excellent article for 'The Outspan.' I feel like writing it up and sending it to the Editor.
She smiled but said nothing, so the matter dropped and the conversation became general.
About a week later I visited her again and just when I entered the dining-room she greeted me with: "Ah, good afternoon. You are the very person I want to see. I want to know if you will write up all my reminiscences in the form of a book."
I was utterly taken aback but vastly flattered, as I knew she had been approached on several occasions about this matter, as hers is such an exceptional personality and she has had such a full and unusual life, but she had always refused to let anybody write her reminiscences nor would she write them herself.
I was taken aback because I had never done any writing before and was hesitant to undertake the work lest I should not make a success of it. Hewever, we discussed the matter fully and I agreed to make the attempt. We started work in earnest the following day and as we progressed I became more and more enthusiastic about the matter.
I spent two or three hours with her practically every morning for about a month. We sat on her sunny, back verandah, for it was winter, and she told me her experiences in conversational form. While she narrated the incidents I made short notes, and in the evenings I wrote out the episodes in full so that I should not forget any of the details.
When I had finished taking notes thus, I set to work to write the book, and I hope my readers will find the unusual and dramatic incidents which are often of historical interest as absorbing as I did.
(For glossary of South African terms see end of book.)
Copyright Win de Vos.
Put onto the Web (2002) by Joan Marsh, a great-grand-daughter of Elizabeth Russell Cameron
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