Sheila left on a visit to South Africa just before Easter to attend the wedding of her cousin’s daughter, Noleen Shelver. She, with her brother and sister had often spent school holidays with us in Cathcart, Eastern Cape. Noleen was to marry Mark Harrison.
Holding the fort back in Maun, Botswana, with horror I heard the news that Dan Rawson’s mother, brother and sister-in-law had gone missing on Lake Malawi. (I mentioned Dan Rawson, a Maun businessman and friend, in my blog about raising a sunken boat in the Delta.)
Spending Easter at a lodge on the lake, they took a fibre glass boat out on Easter Sunday, 1999, to visit friends. It never returned. The lodge staff started a search on Monday, admitting that the previous evening had been misty and due to a power cut, their on-shore lights had been out. Eventually the news had filtered through to Dan in Maun. He flew to Malawi on the Thursday to join the so far fruitless search.
Despite boat and air searches, no sign of the missing craft was found. After a week, a stricken Dan returned home.
In the meanwhile, my own Easter found my Mum, my brother, Richard, and his wife Kate, all now living in Australia, visiting me for the weekend. Being a religious fellow, I saw little of Richard and Kate who spent most of the time on their knees in the local Catholic church. However I caught up with Mum (84) who was a bit better after a knee operation, although exhausted after all the travelling, visiting friends and family in South Africa. By the Monday they were off to Victoria Falls and then on to stay with our Zimbabwe cousins in Glendale.
Sheila phoned to say that Noleen’s wedding had gone off well; a good family get-together, but less than a week later came the shocking news. Sheila’s sister-in-law, Rose, just back in Johannesburg from the wedding, had unexpectedly passed away. Supposedly, it was from some sort of thrombosis.
Rose was one of the kindest, gentlest people I have ever known, the mother of the twins, Chris and Andy Maling, oft mentioned in my blog, their sister, Michel, and brother Neville. Good folk, all.
No, there is actually some happy ending to this tale of woe. The three Rawson family members missing on Lake Malawi were found alive!
After getting lost in the mist, the boat had finally run out of fuel and been driven north for three days by strong winds, then they were becalmed for another five days until they drifted onto the lake coast of Mozambique where villagers gave them food. It took another day to get to the local headman’s village and another two to get a message to the police, when at last they were handed over to Malawian authorities.