Scatterlings of Africa



This  song was written by a South African singer, Johnny Clegg, and tells about the many people who were born in Africa, or  who, like me,  lived there for a considerable time, and are now scattered all over the world.

I was born in Ireland, but moved to Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia) in the 70s when I was newly wed and looking for adventure and a new life.    My four children were born there, and I stayed in Zimbabwe until 2002, almost 30 years.  We lived in a peaceful country with a great climate, in a country with lots of natural beauty, and with lots of wildlife and amazing scenery, sunrises and  sunsets like no other.   Life was good, we watched our children take their first steps, starting their own big adventures, learning to walk, learning to run, but always within the comfort of home and within arms reach for cuddles and comforting when they fell down.  Then there was kindergarten, nursery school, junior school, senior school, with everyone still living at home, and being part of the family.



Then came 1993, and the day our oldest girl got accepted into Cape Town University, over two and a half thousand kilometres away, in another country.  We took her to the train station, and off she went with several friends also on their way to university in South Africa, all of them full of excitement for the new adventure ahead, while we stood and waved and smiled, all the time with a little tear inside for the loss of our first child as she moved on with her life.  I remember thinking, this is it, she is growing up, and things will never be the same again.   Still, think of the long holidays, when she will be home again, and the new place we get to visit……

A few short years later, she was graduating and coming back to teach in her old school for a year, and even better still, living at home, (if only for a short while), before she spread her wings again and moved to London, then Kenya, back to London, and right now teaching in Norway.   More new places we get to visit….

Then it came time for our second girl to leave senior school, she decided to stay in Zimbabwe and do her university education there, so there was not much trauma or parting this time round.

In the late 90s the country was changing and going through a tremendous hyper inflation period, goverment was starting to go off the rails, and there was a lot of political unrest, corruption, and unemployment in the country.   A  lot of people were talking of leaving Zimbabwe, especially those with teenage sons and daughters, as the education system was not looking as bright as it had been.   Slowly we said goodbye to family and friends, as they left Zimbabwe to scatter to all corners of the world, on many occasions not through choice, and became ‘the scatterlings of Africa’.

How far would you like to go?

How far would you like to go?

The year 2000 was a particularly bad year in Zimbabwe, with a lot of political unrest, and many farming families evicted from their farms, some of them brutally beaten or even murdered by the ‘farm invaders’.   Many books and articles have been written on this subject, but it is a time in our lives that will never be forgotten, and today if you travel to any of the neighbouring African countries, or even to Australia or New Zealand, you will be bound to come across someone who once farmed, or had connections to farmers, from Zimbabwe.

That period was a traumatic time for me also, in 2000 my older son turned 18 and came to live in Ireland so that he could complete his education and go to university, luckily he was able to stay with family over here, and in 2002 I finally took the plunge and came back home as my youngest son turned 18 and wanted to go to university here also.  My marriage broke up, I faced an uncertain future, and the hardest thing was packing up and leaving my daughter behind while the boys and myself started a new life in Ireland.   More new places to visit…..

Watching the sun set.

Watching the sun set.

Now over 40 years since I said goodbye to my own family and friends as I left for Zimbabwe, I have people and places to visit – a daughter in Zimbabwe, a daughter in Norway, a son in Dubai, and this weekend I have just said goodbye again – this time my older son and his partner leave Ireland for their new life and new careers in London.   Now I am childless in my own country, the wheel has come full circle, and as I smile and wave, and shed a tear,  I think of all the goodbyes over the years, and the reunions to look forward to, and of course the new places to visit…

And we are scatterlings of Africa
Both you and I
We are on the road to Phelamanga
Beneath a copper sky
And we are scatterlings of Africa
On a journey to the stars
Far below we leave forever
Dreams of what we were





23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Livonne
    Apr 26, 2015 @ 09:53:53

    Oh I feel for you Joan.. I only shifted states in Australia and when my son decided to go home to our old home, i was torn. I have one son settled up here and the other down there.. It’s fantastic that it’s a big world but hard when we’re separated from our children.. xxx

    Liked by 1 person


  2. andyc37
    Apr 26, 2015 @ 11:02:23

    Thank you for a poignant article – and a reminder of one of my favourite songs from my youth in South Africa.



  3. cocoaupnorth
    Apr 26, 2015 @ 13:32:48

    Such a beautiful and touching story Joan. I know that song very well, it resonates. Well look at the bright side of things being able to travel around the globe to see your family and the reunions:-)

    Liked by 1 person


  4. nhamodzenyika1freedom
    Apr 28, 2015 @ 02:23:58

    Reblogged this on Tribulations and Freedom.



  5. aj vosse
    May 03, 2015 @ 16:59:44

    I sit here very close to tears! I feel for you… I still have a daughter back in SA, the other is in OZ with her husband and my two granddaughters I’ve only ever seen on Skype. We’ve been here in Ireland for more than 14 years and I know I can’t take my family back to SA because of the situation.

    Freedom and the lives of the rest of my family is/ are more important than my longing to return to the place of my birth. Occasionally I feel like an outcast in my new home… I’ll most likely never be fully accepted because I’m a skatterling… I feel for you and with you! Goodbuys and returns!! The story of our lives!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person


  6. lovetotrav
    May 19, 2015 @ 17:37:37

    I used to live in SA (short time) and always loved that song. You have gone through a lot of transition in your life and as you say, full circle now with your kids on the move and far away. A great excuse to travel but still hard to have the distance between you and them. Take care, Cheryl



  7. Lucid Gypsy
    Sep 08, 2015 @ 19:41:02

    I suppose by blood I’m a scatterling of Africa!

    Liked by 1 person


  8. lifeinarrghland
    Sep 20, 2015 @ 20:21:52

    I am a Nigerian living in Ireland now and your post resonated with me. My Mom watched everyone of us leave home and scatter to the 4 corners of the world because of the political unrest in the 90s. 3 out of 4 came back home in 2003 only to leave again because of unemployment. Africa still feels like home.



    • joanfrankham
      Sep 20, 2015 @ 21:50:21

      I think once you have been to Africa or were born there, it will always be home, no matter where you are, I hope you are settled in Ireland and acclimatised to our weather!



  9. joanfrankham
    Apr 26, 2017 @ 11:53:39

    Reblogged this on Retirement and beyond and commented:

    Memories of Africa from a post I wrote two years ago, hope you enjoy.



  10. Frances Macaulay Forde
    Apr 26, 2017 @ 13:06:33

    Reblogged this on Perth Words… exploring possibilities. and commented:
    I too am a ‘scattering’…

    Liked by 1 person


  11. Janet
    Apr 26, 2017 @ 15:28:36

    Reblogged this on Janet’s thread.

    Liked by 1 person


  12. liz2you
    Apr 29, 2017 @ 15:36:05

    I too and my lovely family are scatterlings of Africa, South Africa. I too was born in Ireland and now live back in my home country. Full circle. But we had a life in Africa that other people have yet to dream about. It was grand, sure it was grand! Our African adventures! Well written. Enjoyed your story.

    Liked by 1 person


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