My mother Helen Bennett née Ritchie's family from Australia/Scotland


John Ritchie was Steve's great-great-grandfather. His third son, also named John, was born in Fife, Scotland on 4th April 1834. This son married Annie Gullon in 1861 at Leuchars, Fifeshire when he was working as a Farmservant.  They had seven children and he died in 1907 from cancer of the liver. His occupation at that time was recorded to be Railway Serviceman. His youngest child was a son William Ritchie who was born in 1876.
William Ritchie portrait in Scotland around 1910 William, known as Willie, qualified as a Marine Engineer and he married Betsy Donaldson. Her parents were Robert Donaldson and Mary Christie and she was working as a school teacher in the “Normal” school in Glascow at the time.  Robert was a Carriage-builder (Journeyman). He bred and showed canaries and always had a long walk on Sundays. Tragically his body was found at about 6:45 p.m. on 6th October 1912 after he had drowned in the Forth and Clyde Canal at the age of 66 years.

After sailing the globe with work, Willie decided to settle in Sydney for a fresh
Betsy Donaldson daughter of Robert and Marystart. Betsy left her residence at 23 Meldrum Road, Kirkaldy and joined him with her widowed mother, Mary Donaldson. 

The family moved into Darley Street, North Sydney and Mary passed away there. She was buried exactly seven years after Robert had drowned. Willie was working on the ferries that crossed Sydney Harbour and they moved to 28 Riverroad West, Lane Cove. He was retrenched after the Sydney Harbour Bridge had been opened and they moved to 72 Kenneth Street in Longueville. 

They were in contact with Betsy’s younger brother, Charles Donaldson, known as "Charlie".  Charlie had served with the ‘South African Scottish Regiment’ which was the fourth regiment of the 1st South Africa Infantry Brigade during the 1914-18 war.  He married Isobel Dunbar who was a nursing sister and may have come from Aberdeen. Charlie owned Donaldsons Bakery in the eastern districts of Rhodesia. 

Willie visited Rhodesia but wasn't permitted to take a job that any Rhodesian could do Helen, William, Betsy, Robin front John and Betty in Sydney before leaving for Rhodesiabecause the depression had extended there too.  He took up a position on a ship as an engineer to Belgium and Japan and returned to Sydney in 1933.

“Uncle Charlie” assisted the passage for the family to move on Themistocles which took two weeks to sail from Sydney to Fremantle on the West Australia coast, then another two weeks to reach Durban in August 1935.  Three children Derek, Vernon and another from the Caddy family sat at the Ritchie table.  Vernon described Helen “Long in the legs, thick in the head, Australian born, Australian bred”. 

The eldest daughter Mary (known as Robin) remained in Sydney to finish university and to teach for three years.  Helen had to pass an exam in order to enrol at North Sydney Girls High and was in her first year of senior school when she left.  Heather Scott and Norma Larsen were her friends. All the pupils in her class had contributed cash to buy stationery which filled half of the trunk which she was allowed to take over. 

Charlie had booked them into the Seaton Hotel in Durban.  They then sailed on to Beira on Dunbar Castle where Charlie met them dressed with a bowtie and put them on the train to Umtali.

When in Umtali, Willie worked on a gold mine at Penhalonga.  Helen and Betty schooled at William Ritchie at Golden Ridge Mine Que Que in 1950Umtali High for two terms before moving to the midlands

Willie got work at Golden Ridge Mine at Que Que. Helen went to Que Que School and got raw eggs for breakfast as the stove wasn’t working.  She ran away from the school to join her parents before they left for Salisbury.  She was then sent as a border at Chaplin in Gwelo where she settled down and enjoyed it.  Ian Smith who went on to become Prime Minister was also there but a few years ahead of her.

Helen Ritchie

Willie worked at Crasters in Salisbury and stayed at the Queens Hotel. Meanwhile, the family returned to Umtali. Helen was going to study a commercial course at the Umtali Convent but she got a scholarship to study Education at Rhodes University in 1939.  The following extract is in ‘The history of Umtali Girls’ and Boys’ High Schools 1896-1968’:
“B du Preez and Helen Ritchie gained First class passes in 1938. A Tapson who gained a Class Two was also awarded a Beit University Bursary.”  Helen Ritchie teacher in Salisbury in 1944

When Helen went to Rhodes the family moved to Odzani where Willie worked at the Odzani Power Station.  John boarded at Umtali High after studying by correspondence at Que Que.  Betty had attended the convent at Gwelo and started a Commercial Course.  She continued in Umtali and worked at the Umtali Advertiser.

Helen played hockey and was in Oriel Residence, then moved into Jameson and finally to Beit Residence.  She wanted to major in French and Maths but couldn’t speak French fluently so she did a Latin and Maths major.  She completed a BA and then completed the UED in 1942. Brian Armitage had been her boyfriend in first year, then Peter Sharpe in second year – he was killed in WWII.

At the end of the second year, she met a B Comm student Dennis Bennett on the train who felt sorry for her during her long stop on the journey on to Umtali during a vacation. He invited her home for breakfast. Apparently his parents approved of her but they only started going out the following year. 

Helen and Dennis became engaged in 1943 before he went to WWII. They married in Umtali in September 1946, only a few weeks before her eldest sister Robin married Terence Fynn "Terry", also in Umtali.

Robin was the oldest child that survived. Another may have been born before her because a name was scratched out in the family Bible. Anne was born two years after Robin but she passed away from diphtheria aged four years, after Betty and Helen had been born. John Ritchie was the youngest and he was ten years younger than Robin. Robin, Willie, Helen and Betty Ritchie at Helen's wedding to Dennis Bennett in Umtali

John Ritchie

John went directly from Umtali Boys High School to train for two years in the air force as WWII had broken out by then. He commenced at Initial Training Wing (ITW) at Hillside in Bulawayo on 13th October 1943, then 25 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at Belvedere from February the next year. He proceeded to 20 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) in Cranbourne which he completed in January 1945. He was sent to 71 Operational Training Unit (OTU) in Ismailia, Egypt for two months, then a month at No 5 RFU at MACAF in Italy. In his logbook the Group Captain Commanding officer recorded “Instances of avoidance by exceptional flying skill and judgement of loss of life or damage to personnel or an aircraft”. The details are recorded: “At the moment of take-off from Gaudo Aerodrome on 11th June 1945, the bearing of the Spitfire port tyre failed. This allowed tyre and tube to be “detached” completely and fall off leaving bare the main wheel hub. While circling the aerodrome the pilot Sgt Ritchie was given the option by the Commanding Officer of making either a belly or a one wheel landing. He elected to do the latter, and came in making an excellent single wheel landing without damage to the aircraft or runway”.

His final posting was to 334 Wing, MAAF until 14th August 1945. It took until the end of 1945 before he returned home.John Ritchie Spitfire pilot Italy WWII Royal Air Force

He enrolled to study architecture at Cape Town University in 1946.
John went to his fellow student Anthony (Tony) Kristafor's 21st party. He duly escorted his date back to her residence at 11:00 p.m. but returned to the festivities to see of Patricia Schreiber, known as “Pat”, who he had earlier met. She was working with an insurance company in Cape Town and they started seeing each other after that. Her parents sent her to work in Johannesburg but the two corresponded daily and married in Claremont in 1949.

John’s first job was with Ayers, Wilson and Parker in Bulawayo in January 1950 and lived in Hillside. He moved to Salisbury in September to join Ross McKenzie, van Heerden and Hardford.

In 1960 the Australian government wanted architects so John applied. The family moved to Australia in January 1961 and Pat was with him with David, Jocelyn, Peter and Mark. John worked in Sydney for two years then moved to Bathurst where Andrew was born.

They returned to Sydney in 1965 where he built that delightful house that hung onto the edge of the steep slope in Wahroonga.

Mary Ritchie

Willie and Betsy’s eldest daughter, Mary Ritchie, known as Robin, had taught at The Rock Central School near Wagga Wagga after completing her studies in Sydney. After that she joined her family that had moved to Rhodesia after Willie had been retrenched.

Gertrude May Jenkinson, known as “Maisie”, had taught her daughter Kate and two other girls at the school that she opened. It was named after the farm ‘Chisipite’, some 180 hectares in extent that her husband had bought when he retired as a Land Surveyor. Robin was engaged to a Jenkinson son but he was killed in WWII.

Dennis and Helen Bennett had bought the house on Dover Road and the Jenkinsons lived on the corner with North Road on a large block of land. Dennis often played tennis there on Sundays and the family played in the large garden and swam. The African Grey Parrot and turkeys always got attention from the kids.

Returning back to the mid-1940s, Robin was teaching at Rusape School and subsequently met Terence Fynn, known as "Terry", who was spending his season on a tobacco farm on his return from WWII service. Terry had attended St Georges School then flew Lancasters during the war. He had flown 30 missions then taught pilots in Canada.

He returned to Europe and was flying on a mission into Germany. He doesn't remember the details prior to parachuting down near Stuttgart. He was the sole survivor in his bomber so thought that he had been hit by ground fire. After capture he was puzzled by interrogation as a prisoner of war as he was asked about airmen that he didn’t know.

The mystery was solved much later when documents from Germany revealed that two Lancasters had collided in Germany. One was flying out on the same path that Terry was flying in. They had not seen each other approaching at night. The Germans knew that the planes had collided because bodies from the other Lancaster were found in the wreckage of Terry’s plane 2 km apart but they never told the prisoner.

After one season at Rusape, Terry and Robin married in Umtali in September 1946. He took over Chikanga Farm next to the Beri River at Gadzema as a Returned Serviceman. He opened the virgin farm and grew maize and tobacco. Mangoes were sold as a cash crop in Hartley. Terry and Robin had four sons – Hugh, Mick, Paddy and Donald.

After Willie retired, he and Betsy stayed in a cottage on Chikanga Farm. Willie passed away in 1957, aged 81; and Betsy passed away one day and one year later.

Terry Fynn is a descendant of William McDowall Fynn. William is the younger brother to Henry Francis Fynn and their father was Irishman Henry Francis Fynn who came from Doncaster. The family tree is presented below:

Family tree for Henry Francis Fynn

William was born on 21st July 1806 in Grosvenor Square, London to Henry Francis Fynn and his wife Elizabeth (née Copestick). William moved after his baptism with his parents and older sister to Cape Town where his parents opened a Tavern/Hotel on October 1806. The couple continued with the hotel for several years. When they departed from the UK they had left their eldest son, Henry Francis Fynn, with an aunt.

William accompanied Captain Aitcheson to the Zulu chief Shaka and then he went to the Portuguese Settlement “Lourenço Marques” in Delagoa Bay in search of the survivors of a wrecked ship. Having succeeded, he remained there for five years. He was so struck with the sufferings of the lesser clans by the Zulus that he endeavoured to reduce their suffering. Thousands of Her Majesty's subjects, residents of Natal, and useful labourers, owe their freedom to his efforts. On one occasion 25 of his party were killed by Zulu warriors but he narrowly escaped though all of his property was destroyed, and he returned a ruined man to the Colony.

He was appointed again in 1834 in the Commissariat Department and when the Zulu war broke out in 1835, William was appointed Superintendent of the Fingo Clans, Interpreter and acted as provisional Quarter-Master in the 75th Regiment and 72nd Highlanders.
He was sent to Chief Umhala at the conclusion of the war along with the diplomatic agent and in 1836 he accompanied the military embassy under Captain de Lancy to the Chief of the Amapondas where he was held in high regard.

His work was fraught with danger during those times and in 1846 William and Margaret had to flee for their lives with their children and the Chief of the Tambookies, Umterara, arrived with 400 armed men armed to take them to safety.

William died at his house in Kingwilliamstown on 6th June 1853.

His oldest brother, Henry, who subsequently was known to Shaka, the Zulu king and his successor Dzingaan, had remained in the UK with an aunt and completed his first two years as a surgeon‘s apprentice before he followed the family to the Cape in 1918.  

After working at “Somerset Farm” Henry ventured to Grahamstown, where he was engaged in trade and from July 1824 he was at Port Natal.

By 1832, however, he was back in the Cape Colony and returned to Natal in 1852, where he worked as a resident magistrate.

Shaka had given several girls to Henry to be his wives, however he decided to keep six for himself and he gave the remaining three to his brother William. His great wife was the Zulu Princess Mavundlase. She is said to have succeeded to his chieftaincy upon his death.

Morris Fynn, a direct descendant of settler Henry Francis Fynn, through his marriage to Mavundlase in 1824, was laid to rest as a Zulu chief at the ancestral home at Umzumbe which had been granted by Shaka to Henry Francis Fynn.

After he had returned to the Cape, Henry Francis Fynn married Ann Brown in Grahamstown but she died. Not long after Ann’s death in January 1841 he married Christina Brown who may have been Ann’s sister in Grahamstown. With Christina he had a son who was called Henry Francis Fynn Jr and became known to the Africans as Gwalgwalaand. Henry Francis Fynn Jr married Hannah Maria Payne and they had ten children.

Henry Francis Fynn died in Durban in September, 1861.

Betty Ritchie

Betty Ritchie married Reginald Krahner, known as Chips or Reg, who was a painter with Rhodesia Railways. He had been posted to reconnaisance in the Air Force and processed photographs that had been taken by pilots in Ian Smith’s squadron in Italy during WWII. They married in Umtali in December 1947 and had four children – Jeanette, Les, Ken and Albert.


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