The definitive book about Flora Sandes launched in Edinburgh on 24 June 2013 and I was fortunate enough to be invited. So I drove up to Edinburgh and met its rather wonderful author, Louise Miller.
Arthur Baker — After being warmly welcomed by Louise I met Arthur Baker and his wife. Arthur's great-grandmother, Sophia Sandes was Flora's sister. We had a good chat and exchanged email addresses. Arthur has a huge collection of documents and photographs about Flora and was a vital contributor to the book.
Allison Blackmore — Another contributor was South African, Allison Blackmore ( or Zia Allison Flora Dickson Sandes to give her her full birth name!). Allison's father, Samuel Dickson Sandes or Dick as he was known lived in Bulawayo and was Flora's nephew. Regrettably Allison died recently in Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu-Natal.
A Fine Brother — some interesting facts I learned about Flora was that she embarked on a tour of the United States in 1904 during which, her brother Sam, who lived on Texada Island in British Columbia had lost his wife Rose Sandes (Allison) and needed Flora to take his son Dick (who was only five at the time) back to his grandparents' house in England. Sam employed the services of the Pinkerton Detective Agency to locate Flora. Flora traveled to BC and collected young Dick and he accompanied her on her travels of American before they finally returned to the family home in Thornton Heath
At the end of the World War I, Flora was a minor celebrity in England and was quite frequently recognized, Flora had occasion to meet Queen Alexandra (wife of King Edward VII) and her daughter Princess Victoria. She wore her Serbian army uniform to the occasion, which must have been quite a sensation and the Queen and her daughter were fascinated by her gun.
. . disappearing at night time to go drinking sorghum beer with the locals and arriving home somewhat the worse for wear!
After World War II, Flora sailed to South Africa and boarded the train from Durban to Bulawayo to visit Dick and his family there. Flora engaged in some hair-raising escapades there including buying butter on the black market (much to the embarrassment of Dick who was in the British South African Police) and disappearing at night time to go drinking sorghum beer with the locals and arriving home somewhat the worse for wear! Flora was in her late sixties at this time.
For a brief period Flora lived and worked in Cape Town, initially she lived in the YMCA in Muizenberg, but moved to the city when she got a job with Barnack's in Longmarket Street as a copy typist. Flora took several trips on the bus to Sea Point and Camps Bay and the train to Fish Hoek to walk along the beachfront. Places that many family-members, myself included are well acquainted with.
'A Fine Brother' is available at Amazon both in hardback and softback editions - get it now, it's a great read!