From South Africa to Wisbech - local author pens a book about her haphazard childhood growing up on a remote ranch in Durban

Wisbech author Fiona Ross

Wisbech author Fiona Ross - Credit: Archant

A Wisbech woman has written a book about her off-beat childhood growing up in South Africa.

Local author Fiona Ross pens a book on her life

Local author Fiona Ross pens a book on her life - Credit: Archant

Fiona Ross was born in Durban in 1950 and grew up on a remote 5,000 acre cattle and sheep ranch in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains.

She said: “As each daughter was born our mother handed us over to Zulu nannies to raise and turned back to her real passion of gardening.

“This she did in spite of a troop of baboons which raided her gardens on a regular basis.

“For nearly 70 years the baboons led my mother an entertainingly merry dance,” she said.


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“From infancy, we were absorbed into the lives of the Zulu house and farm staff.

“Speaking pure Zulu, we learned all the ways of African people, their folklore, superstitions and many other traditions, like skills in tracking game and the uses of indigenous plants in witchcraft and healing.”

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Fiona’s early education was neglected and she was 12 years old when she received formal schooling, forced to wear shoes and come across other white children from outside the family.

She spent six years at a strict private boarding school for girls and was then sent to a finishing school in Switzerland to learn French, Cordon Bleu cookery and how to ski.

“Instead I fraternised with Italian waiters, cavorting drunkenly in a most unladylike fashion in the fountains of the park next to Lake Geneva,” she said.

After a year she returned to Durban where aged 19 she met and married a Scot, in the face of great opposition from his parents, who considered her a highly unsuitable match for their son, the heir to the castle overlooking Oban in Scotland.”

Her book has a sequel, called Scottish Zulu, which is already partly written.

She has completed another book called Okavango Diary which describes her time working as a manager in a bush camp and a book for children, called Dusty the Bushveld Bear.

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