A letter sent from Oamaru nearly 80 years ago and discovered inside a book at a farm in a small South African town has perplexed Wellington man Justin McCabe.
During a recent trip to South Africa to visit his uncle, Stewart Minnaar, who lives near the small town of Graaff-Reinet, Mr McCabe was helping clear out some clutter when he discovered a letter tucked between the pages of a bible.
Dated December 10, 1939, the letter was sent to Mr Minnaar’s great-grandparents from a woman called Annie Corbett.
According to the letter, she lived at 62 Eden St.
It describes a holiday she had in England and Ireland – London, Manchester, Dublin, Nottingham and Derby are all mentioned – as well as the Isle of Man.
It appears that while in London, Annie and another woman from Oamaru, who is not named, visited people living there whom Annie knew well. Annie also visited her husband’s relations in Manchester, and other relatives in Nottingham and Derby.
One of those was Annie’s brother-in-law, a church minister.
It is not clear if Annie’s husband accompanied her on the trip.
The letter also talks about a woman named Jessie, who met a “young clergyman” in Oamaru and was engaged to be married to him.
“He is quite a nice chap,” the letter says.
A picture of life in wartime London is also conveyed.
“We were in London for the crisis and were fitted with gas masks. It was dreadful to see all the beautiful parks dug up for air raid shelters.”
The letter concludes with a detailed description of the trip back to New Zealand by boat via London, Naples and Tasmania.
In the letter, Annie says she hopes Mr and Mrs Minnaar would “visit this wonderful land of ours”.
Mr McCabe hopes to find out more about the people in the letter.
He said his uncle had never been to Oamaru or New Zealand, and his uncle was not aware of any family connection that involved anyone from Oamaru.
“It’s really interesting,” Mr McCabe said.
“My uncle is equally as flabbergasted as me and we want to know more about the person who sent the letter.”
Graaff-Reinet is in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa and is the country’s fourth-oldest town.