Poultney Family - General Background

A thumbnail sketch of the past 49 years ! For more detailed information visit the personal web pages..

Gordon was born in Bulawayo in 1958 and brought up on a 46,000 acre cattle ranch (Irisvale) just south of that, at Balla Balla. He spent all his schooling years at boarding school - first at REPS (Rhodes Estate Preparatory School 1966-1969) on the edge of Matopos and senior school was Plumtree (Lloyd House,1970-1975).

In 1976 he did national service with the Internal Affairs department and was posted, for a year, to the Mount Darwin district. He spent the first few months at a "keep" called Pachanza, just on the edge of the Mavuradona Mountains and the last six months at a protected village called Kaitano, west of Mukumbura and close to the Mozambique border. Interesting times.

After NS he did a hotel management course at the Bulawayo Technical College hotel school (1977/1978) and then went to England in 1979 to complete the practical part of the course. Stayed on for a few years to work in the hotel business and to travel around UK and Europe a bit.

Jenny (nee Tanner) was born in Gatooma in 1958 and brought up on a farm in Golden Valley. She attended Chakari Primary School and Sir John Kennedy. The family moved to Swaziland when she was eleven where they lived for a few years before her folks split up. She moved back to Bulawayo with her Mum and finished her schooling at Eveline (McIntosh House), before heading to TTC in 1976 (Illanda Residence). After qualifying in Elementary Education she taught at (of all places) Chakari Primary for 1979 and then headed to Canada, where she and Gordon were married in 1980.

We were away from the country when Mugabe took over in 1980 but Gordon was head-hunted in London in 1982 to go back and work for Zimbabwe Sun hotels group. He spent three years with them in various locations - Bulawayo, Vic Falls, Troutbeck and ending up the Monomatapa in Harare. By this time he was more into the accounting and finance side of the business and in 1985 moved to the record business with Teal Record Company (also known as Gramma), a subsidiary of Lonrho, to get more accounting and financial management experience. Had two years with them and then a couple of years helping Outward Bound re-open its operations in the Chimanimani Mountains. During this time we had two children - Simon born in Inyanga in 1983 and Bronwen born in the Avenues Clinic in 1985.

In 1977 Jenny's mother, Myrna, (nee Plumb - an old Bulawayo family) and step-father, Richard Hanmer (a long time Melsetter and Inyanga family) had left Rhodesia and moved to Canada to get their young family away from the war and political problems. So we visited them several times over the years and they were always after us to move and join them. After a visit here in 1986 we decided to make the move. Our children were growing up and we were very concerned for their future - the education and health system having gone downhill a lot since independence. Not to mention the stress of living with a high crime rate and a police force totally inept (and ill-equipped) to deal with it. We had never really settled back into the Zimbabwean life-style after our time away in England. It took a while to get all the paperwork sorted out but we eventually arrived here in June 1988. Being that we could not bring any money with us we had to live with the folks for a couple of years until we got back on our feet - very lucky to have them to help us, although we wouldn't have come here unless we had them anyway. So we ended up here in Edmonton, Alberta - actually live in the country, on an acreage (we have 2 acres), 30 km west of Edmonton, near a town called Stony Plain. We had another daughter - Johanna - in 1989 so life has been fairly hectic.

Gordon did not have work lined up when we first got here so had to spend a few months pounding the streets looking for a job. Typically he had to start a few rungs down the ladder, so to speak, since he had no Canadian "experience" or qualifications. Anyway soon managed to prove himself (as most Rhodesians have wherever they have ended up) and worked with the same company - MacCosham Van Lines - for some nine and a half years. MacCosham, which was a member of Allied Van Lines, was in the household furniture moving business across Canada. The administrative head office was here in Edmonton and he ended up as the Corporate Controller. In February 1998 he was caught in a corporate re-organization and was laid off. He then formed a new moving company with three other partners, spending most of the time in Calgary - driving down on Monday morning to work for the week and returning home late on Friday for the week-end.  By September 2000 that became too much of a strain so he sold out of the business and took a position with another moving and transportation company back in Edmonton.  He remained with them for five years enjoying some travels to Northern Canada where they have several branches, the highlight of which was two trips on the Dempster Highway from Dawson City, Yukon across the Arctic Circle to Inuvik on the northern edge of the Northwest Territories. 

Jenny is a qualified teacher from TTC in Bulawayo with excellent experience teaching in England and Rhodesia, at the primary level. But, again typically, they will not recognise her qualifications and experience in Canada, in the public school system ! Anyway she has stayed involved with children - sold educational toys for a while, developed a curriculum for use in kindergarten schools in Taiwan and ran the local (pre-school) play group for two years. For two years she home schooled our children. A number of reasons why she decided to do it but basically we were just not happy with the very mediocre school system over here. (Quite ironic that one of the main reasons we left Zimbabwe was because of the poor education system and our aversion to having to resort to very expensive and elitist private schools there. And here we find ourselves in a similar dilemma.) Anyway at least we had the choice of home schooling and there is great support for it in our area, where there is a growing number of families turning to it. The children then attended a private Christian school which has very small classes and high academic standards. The pupils wear uniforms and the discipline is strong. Jenny also worked there two days a week running the pre-school program from 1997-1998. In September 1998 they offered her a full time teaching position for the new academic year, taking Grade One - and she is still there ! In order to do so she had to get herself a letter of authority to teach, from the local Ministry of Education, on the understanding that she takes courses each year at the University, to upgrade to the Alberta qualifications. Her letter of authority is renewable every year based on her having completed the necessary courses.

Our son, Simon, passed away in September 2004 after having done well at High School and his first three years at university.  Bronwen graduated from High School in 2003, took a year off to work and figure out what she really wanted to do for post-secondary education, and in 2004 started a BA majoring in English.  Johanna started Grade 10 in 2004 and will finish High School in June 2007.

As to the rest of our family. Well like most others they are scattered all over the place. Gordon’s brother, Dave (ex BSAP), is in England and his two sisters, Bronwen and Jenny (ex Townsend) still live in Bulawayo. Gordon’s Mum, Rita, arrived from South Africa (Amanzimtoti, Natal) in 1994 to live with us in Canada. (Gordon's father, Mort, passed away in 1980). Jenny's sister, Angy Charitonis, is in Harare whilst brother, Tony Tanner, who was a tobacco farmer in the Bromley area but got kicked off his farm, is now farming again in Zambia. Of course we both have numerous aunts, uncles and cousins scattered all over the place - mainly still in Zimbabwe or S.A. Them and all our many good Rhodesian friends we miss a great deal. Jenny and the children went back Zimbabwe in November 1995 for a few weeks to be at her sisterís wedding and they enjoyed catching up with a lot of people.

Sadly, Jenny's Dad, Mick Tanner, died in August 1999.

We have settled well in Canada - are now Canadian citizens and consider this home. Will probably never get completely used to the colder climate here although we do enjoy the four distinct seasons and all the different activities that they bring. Summers here are just magic - it gets light at about 4:30 am and only dark at 10:30 pm so outdoor activities are at a premium. We spend a lot of time camping during the summer - nice to have no crocs, bilharzia or picanins trying to steal ones camping gear or simply "gawking" at you !

Of course we always look forward to seeing people from Africa or with African connections in our part of the world - a little off the "beaten" track, so not very many do come this way. However there is a great deal of interest to see in Alberta in particular the Rockies (only 3 hours drive from us), the Calgary Stampede (also 3 hours drive) and the world-famous Dinosaur museum. So there's always a bed, beer (home-brewed Castle Lager - just kidding, but fairly close !) braais (in the summer of course) over a half 44 gallon drum and usually some home-made game biltong and boerwors. So if that's not enough to entice you ....!