M2/6. Victor Vernon Belham May = Agnes Christine Summers.
(1902 - 1980) [m. 1927] (1906 - 1984)
Victor Vernon Bellham May, was the eldest son of Percy Augustus May and Ada Florence Spearman and he was born on 9.5.1902 in Raynes Park, Surrey, England,
[he was given the name'Bellham' as that was his godfather's name]
and he, like his sisters and brother, was placed in foster care after his mother's death in1909, when he was just over seven years old.
Although they were first in the care of Mrs Flyn, then another couple from 1910 to 1913, only going to the Wheelers after that according to Doris, Victor had a post card addressed to Mrs. Wheeler in 1908, so it would appear that either the Wheelers were known to his father at that time or the dates given by Doris were not quite accurate.
Desia wrote in January, 2002: 'Victor, Girlie, Doris and Jack all attended the London County Council School and I have books awarded as prizes (various subjects) belonging to Dad and Jack.
Dad then went to Clarke's College where he studied shorthand / typing and various Commercial subjects. He worked for a while as a Solicitors Clerk, Court Shorthand Writer and actually taught shorthand from home to make extra money, when I was a baby.'
Victor married on 31st December 1927 Agnes Christine (called Biddy) Summers, at All Saints Church, St. John's Wood. She was the daughter of Thomas Henry Summers and Agnes Summers nee Higgs and she was born on 30th May 1906 at St. John's Wood in London. Her father was a Barrister's clerk. When Victor was young, he and the family were living at 18, St. John's Wood Terrace and Biddy's family were living just down the road from there. In about 1921 he was engaged by the Railways to be sent to Livingston 'in the staff section of the operating side, subsequently becoming Superintendent staff' and he was involved in overseeing transportation.
Winnie recalled that Victor came out to Southern Africa before the rest of their family, in 1920 'and joined the Superintendent's Department of the Northern Rhodesia railways' implying he joined there, so the actual place of engagement is uncertain.
According to Doris' letter of 19.2.1989 and other sources: In February, 1918, Victor was at Clarkes College and he started work in August, taking evening classes from November and attended his grandfather's funeral in England in May. In either 1921 or 1922 Victor left England for Northern Rhodesia and prior to his departure he became engaged to be married to Biddy's cousin, Dorothy. However, when he returned to England to marry her, she had changed her mind and he became engaged to Biddy.
As a young man Victor was involved in a motorbike accident and in consequence of the damage caused, he had his foot amputated and thereafter required an artificial lower leg and foot.
In August 1925, Victor May was in Cape Town on his return from a trip to England, aboard the 'Armadale Castle' and he sent a post card to Biddy on his safe arrival.
He went overseas again in 1927 and married Biddy on 31st December of that year in London. The Railways did not grant 'home leave' as was the case for civil servants, but a certain amount of vocational leave per year, which was accumulative, plus what was then called 'climatic leave' which could be added together, so making long leave.
By 1936(?) Victor and Biddy had moved to Bulawayo, where Victor obtained a job on the railways and he remained a railwayman for the rest of his working life. Two of his main interests were football and scouts and throughout his life, he took an active part in promoting these among the youngsters he encountered.
Phillip remembers visiting them in Raylton, Bulawayo when he and his mother travelled to England for him to go to school and that was in early 1929.
In 1965 Victor and Biddy were on a visit to Natal and they attended the wedding of his nephew, Derek Owen to Margaret Jean Corbett in Durban (27.2.1965). Victor died on 20th April 1980 in Bulawayo and Biddy died on 9.5.1984.
Desia wrote in January 2002: 'If we were at a family gathering Mum would sit beside Auntie and explain the conversation. Mum was always patient and kind with everyone. I never saw her really lose her temper. I really wish I was more like her. Aunt Girlie said she was 'an old soul'. Compassionate and wise; she was always available to her family or anyone who needed her. She nursed George for months, cooking his meals, bending down to wash his feet and help him dress. All the time when she had a heart problem. She also nursed Dad's Father with the same kindness and patience. Looking back I sometimes feel she sacrificed her own life to everyone else's needs. Never complaining, always ready to listen and offer gentle advice. She backed Dad in his many interests and entertained a variety of visitors he brought home - High or low class were treated equally.
Her name was Agnes, but she was always called Biddy. She did not have a second name [It must have been Victor who told me her second name was Christine] An only child she lived at 59, St. John's Wood Terrace from where she could see the sea lions in the zoo. She died on the 9th May 1984 (My Dad's Birthday) [I was also giving the date as 22.5.1984, perhaps that was the date of the funeral(?)] at the same age he died (1980). Mum was only 15 when her Mother died (Arthritis related). At that age she won a scholarship to St. Martin's School of Art (London) but decided to go out to work instead. She worked in the West End of London making hats and designing beadwork for society evening gowns and wedding dresses. From what I have learnt in recent years her family can be traced back to the doomsday book. One being chaplain to Charles 1st. Her Mother believed that her Father's (my great grandfather) charitable works - taking food to the poor in mid-winter was the cause of her arthritis. According to the book I read some of my Mother's ancestors were Royalty and what a rotten lot Royalty was in the past!! Not so great now, either.'
Desia also wrote: 'Victor first attended school on the Continent where he spoke mainly French although I gather he did not retain his knowledge of that language. After that he went to various London County Council Schools and was invariably top of his class. He left school at 14. His Headmaster, Barrow Hill Road School, wrote: 'He is an exceptionally nice lad - manly and keen - and his intellectual attainments are quite above average. I can strongly recommend him for employment and congratulate you on getting hold of him.' This recommendation was addressed to Geo. Powell & Co. - Insurance Brokers - where Victor was employed as a Shorthand/Typist from April 1918 - February 1919. They advised Victor's next employers - Batchelor, Parkes & Fry (Solicitors) that he was 'Thoroughly honest, punctual and very willing.' Victor worked for the firm from February 1919 to December 1920. He wrote Court Shorthand and was recommended as being: 'Willing, honest and respectable.'
He was engaged by the Rhodesian Railways in England on 22/12/1919 on half pay until he entered the service in Livingstone on 28/1/1921 being paid 250 pounds per annum. Actually, I am very proud of my Father. ...His last designated title was 'Superintendent - Staff' and he received a letter: 'Sincere thanks and appreciation for your unfailing counsel and tireless zeal in the execution of your responsible and exacting duties.' The report on his employment record read: 'Ability, Character, Conduct - Excellent.' He completed a Station Accounts Examination and was, amongst other activities, Chairman of the Raylton Management Board, Representative of Railway Administration on various school councils. Often handing out prizes at various functions.
I believe he used to box in his schooldays and play most sports. In his young days in Livingstone he was an excellent cricketer and soccer player. He was involved with backstage work (organising scenery and property, etc.) in the local dramatic society. He was auditor of the Livingstone Recreation Club in 1924; also a Cub and Scout Master. He owned a little fox terrier named 'Jock' in those days. At All Saint's Church, St. John's Wood, London, he was a Sunday school teacher. As a child he had to mend the families' shoes.
As a Member of the Pitman Fellowship some of the outlines he devised were accepted by them. For many years Victor was a Member of Toc H. He branched out from there to become Vice-Chairman of St. Joseph's House for Boys and Ralsteen Home for the aged. He was Chairman of Rhodesia Soccer Referees Association and Secretary of F.A.R. Eventually he received Honorary Life Membership of F.I.F.A. for his services to that Association.
Always actively interested in Civic and Political affairs he stood as U.F.P. (actually was invited by the party to stand) candidate for Raylton, against a very strong and long-standing Labour M.P. in a Labour constituency and lost by a small margin. I have telegrams he received from Sir Edgar Whitehead, Roy Welensky, Greenfield and others praising his efforts.
After retirement Dad served on various Industrial Boards in the capacity of Chairman. He was a brave, strong man. Dad was also good at repairing almost anything in the house. He made a standard lamp out of an old bedpost and also manufactured a table using (I think) the extremely hard red wood; budgie and rabbit cages, etc. He could draw very well but, I heard, was discouraged by a family member who suggested it was a 'childish activity'. Dad was always ready to assist anyone who asked and helped his sisters in many ways.
It was sad Dad had to lose his leg just as life was improving after a difficult childhood, particularly as it meant he was unable to participate in the sports he enjoyed. However, from my point of view (I have only recently thought about this) the loss of a limb at least prevented him from going to war and, perhaps, suffering a worse injury. We were fortunate to have him at home although he had to work long hours as so many men were away. Dad never talked about his accident to me, in fact he never mentioned his misfortunes or disability. Sometimes he'd suffer intense nerve pains and we'd see his face go white and he'd grip onto something. Aunt Doris told me that Dad did not want to go out the night of the accident but Aunt Girlie begged him to go and look for mail. (Presumably they had a Post Box) Mr. Mac?? who caused the accident promised to compensate Dad if he did not report it or take him to Court. I don't suppose Dad was in a position to do anything at the time, anyway. Years later the newspaper printed an article praising this man for his donations to charity. Wish I could recall his name and the details. I considered writing to him then and giving him my opinion. The doctor wanted to remove Dad's leg immediately but his parents thought it could be saved if he saw a Johannesburg Specialist. Unfortunately the delay caused gangrene to develop and although they removed the leg at the knee they had to perform a second operation, which left Dad with a very short stump (barely covered with flesh) making walking more difficult. He was seriously ill and nearly died. ... Needless to say Victor did not receive compensation for his accident and Mum and Dad had a hard time including financial difficulties.