White on White


“White on white lace on satin”, I hummed along with Danny Williams dreaming of my wedding day as I put the finishing touches to the nightdress I was making for my trousseaux. The song came to an end and the broadcast was interrupted. “We have a message from the Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith” the announcer said. I stopped what I was doing to listen. The speech ended.

“We may be a small country, but we are a determined people who have been called upon to play a rôle of world-wide significance.

We Rhodesians have rejected the doctrinaire philosophy of appeasement and surrender. The decision which we have taken today is a refusal by Rhodesians to sell their birthright. And, even if we were to surrender, does anyone believe that Rhodesia would be the last target of the Communists in the Afro-Asian block?

We have struck a blow for the preservation of justice, civilization, and Christianity; and in the spirit of this belief we have this day assumed our sovereign independence. God bless you all.”

The date was 11th November 1965 and my wedding was just over a month away in January. Unbelief and uncertainty about the future numbed my mind, what would happen now?

My father a top government official came home that evening and said,

Deryn with bridesmaids Pam Thompson and Beulah Smith

“I am going to have to work on a lot of projects to stabilise the communications systems so the country can carry on its business, as the rest of the world has turned its back on us and we are in for a difficult time.”

“What about the wedding?” my mother and I chorused.

“You will just have to carry on without me, I am sorry, I will help if I can, but I am going to be very busy right now,” he replied.

My mother had to carry the burden of the wedding arrangements, all of which kept changing as people found they could not offer the services or products they had promised, due to sanctions. My father was often away on business trips to undisclosed destinations, sometimes only coming home to sleep.

The wedding day arrived and instead of being driven from my parents’ home in the countryside to the church in a white Jaguar as originally planned, we all had to go into town to the bridesmaid’s house to get dressed and her father drove us to the church in his Morris. A few guests cancelled as they did not have enough petrol, as this commodity was now rationed with coupons, but most made it to the church and the reception. This was held in the Highlands Presbyterian Church hall, the foundation classroom for the new Borrowdale School I had attended as a child. Family and friends had pulled out all stops to make sure

Deryn with her father, Robert Cherer Smith

we had everything we needed so we forgot about the problems and my father was able to walk me down the aisle.  ‘I’ve been dreaming of this day and how proud I’d be, when she came walking down the aisle and held out her hand to me,’ my dream wedding had materialised at last and we enjoyed the day.


We rode off into the sunset for our honeymoon on a 150cc Honda motorbike, heading for a cottage in the Inyanga Mountains. At times when the road was too steep I would have to get off the pillion and walk up the hill as the engine could not cope, but at least we had enough petrol to get us the 300 miles to our destination.

On our return to Salisbury we were confronted with the news that our marriage may not be valid as the British government was not recognising any marriages conducted by ‘illegal’ officials. We did not allow this to worry us and learned to live with the sanctions and shortages. People stood together and there was a real sense of community in solving problems resulting from sanctions. We had two beautiful children, again we had difficulty trying to register them as British citizens as Rhodesia was not recognised and they had to be registered as Rhodesians. We often joked with them that they were illegal. They are now grown up and immigrated to counties around the world and are now citizens of their adopted countries.

Who would believe that politicians’ decisions could have such an impact on your family life and your dream wedding?

© Deryn van der Tang 2015


6 thoughts on “White on White

Add yours

  1. But nothing deflected the main aim of the day – which was to be married by the end of it! This is a lovely little story! And it all ended well, thank God.


  2. Good memories Deryn. We were talking a few days ago about having dinners at your house in Highlands, on your third wedding anniversary. Sent from my iPad



  3. Thanks for this wonderful description of the first part of your trip. When I visited Windermere last year I did a day trip to the Yorkshire Dales. Is really is a very interesting and beautiful area. Later on I did a short tour to Skye from Edinburgh and I cannot wait to read about the rest of your travels in Scotland.
    Ena Malan


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