He was born with Malaria. I didn’t even know that that’s possible, but yes, his Mother had it when she was pregnant so he contracted it and as a result had a pretty miserable early childhood. But he survived. Now Ewen Macpherson is a grey-haired, small built, stooped, very knowledgeable, intelligent man, a “jack of all trades”, father of three sons and grandfather of six grandchildren, softly spoken and very kind and generous. He wants to live when his family farm celebrates its 100th birthday in 2029.
He is now 78.
Cameron, a student of Ron’s form class at St.Lukes is one of his grandchildren. And Cameron’s father is one of Ewen’s sons. Only, that they have migrated to Australia not long ago, but Ewen and his farm are situated in Malawi, about an hour and a bit away from Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city. He has been living here all his life. His other two sons live on the farm, too, one actively involved in running this huge place, the other flying a light aircraft that looks like a giant dragonfly and researching African’s wildlife. He has interesting stories to tell about hunters, poachers, and African wildlife issues in general. He is as passionate about his job as Ewen is about his cattle. Ewen’s wife Jenny, the one we communicated with via email, is not around when we arrive so Ewen is doing his best to make us feel very welcome. He picks us up from the airport and drives ahead of us for over an hour in heavy rain, rain that the farmer is very happy about. Not so much tourists like us, but that’s okay. It’s much more important for his farm where he grows mainly tobacco and maize as well as ground nuts and grass for various herds of cattle and sheep.
It was very nice of Cameron’s family in Australia to organize this contact for us in Malawi, our third country visit during our planned 3 months in Africa.
Upon arrival at the farm, we enter a large, comfortable, brick house with furniture that reminds me of my own childhood from the 60’s with a beautiful garden, surrounded by a huge native forest. The next morning we observe a whole family of velvet monkeys playing, jumping from one big tree to the next and showing their curious little faces through a wild purple flowering bougainvilla hedge adjacent to a rather old fashioned looking swimming pool.
And there are cats. Many. Maybe 4 or 5? With one of them I share a seat on the outdoor area named khonde (said “kondee”) and it takes me about half an hour and a few scratches before I realize that it’s the cat’s seat. So – eventually, I move to a different chair and cat relaxes happily in its spot. All sorted.
Later on that day, the rain stops and Ewen starts his old pick up truck and drives us around the farm. Us, and his two dogs, Bindi and Jacky. Not long before I decide to hop on the back outside to join the dogs. Standing up, and holding on tight, it almost feels like being on safari again, just that I see healthy cattle herds, sheep, the European stork, huge fields of maize and tobacco, sheds with heavy machinery and drying sheds for the tobacco leaves as well as big areas of native and planted forests instead of giraffes and elephants. What a nice change of scenery!
After returning to the farmhouse, we are invited to have drinks on the khonde with Derek, the pilot and his wife plus two daughters and Ewen, followed by a hearty bbq (called a braai) with farm fresh and self produced African sausages and steak. Yummy.
The conversations around drinks and food are very interesting and give us much insight into the past and present life of a white farmer of Scottish descent in the Malawian context.