On Christmas day in 1998, Kenny and I enjoyed our long-held tradition of a family Christmas lunch in the farm house at Bushy Park, together with his brother Keith and his family.
It struck me that it would be wonderful if we could get ALL Lovemores, from all over the world, to come together to enjoy Bushy Park, and to celebrate the family and heritage of which they are part.
The idea was met with much excitement.
So, early in 1999, we formed an organising committee for the event that we christened Lovemore 2000 – The Gathering.
We planned to get every Lovemore family from around the world to South Africa in 2000.
We traced Lovemores in Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, England, Canada, the United States, the West Indies, and throughout South Africa.
The more Lovemores we found, the more snippets of Lovemore history emerged.
The story around the name LOVEMORE remains the favourite.
Henry Lovemore came to South Africa in 1820, at the age of 35, with his wife, Ann, and their 6 children.
But he was financially far better placed than most of the 1820 settlers.
An advance party came to reconnoitre for a suitable farm for him. When Henry arrived, he was shown the farm Klaas Kraal. He bought it for £1000, and renamed it Bushy Park.
Carpenters and craftsmen came from England to build Henry’s home.
No ordinary settler had access to such finance. Why would an apparently wealthy man leave his home for an unknown frontier ?
Every Lovemore that exists is descended from Henry. There is no credible record of any Lovemores before him. Who were his parents ?
1820 was the year George IV ascended to the throne of England.
George was a womaniser, but the love of his life was one Lady Fitzherbert, who lived on an estate in London called Bushy Park.
George and Lady Fitzherbert married secretly in 1780. Lady Fitzherbert was Catholic, and hence the secrecy.
The couple had a son. He was a love child. His registered surname was LOVEMORE. We believe the child was Henry.
Henry was not illegitimate. His possible claim to the throne of England was a problem. Was Henry paid a handsome sum to give up any royal entitlements ?
We found the possibility of a royal connection rather thrilling.
Bernard Johnston – married to a Lovemore – compiled a full history of Henry and his children. The book is called The Lovemore Story.
Joan Hope – previously a Lovemore – undertook the task of compiling a full family tree.
We decided to document family reflections, sourced from current Lovemores. Contributions flooded in. We called the book Lovemores, Then and Now.
Of course, we discovered skeletons.
Sadly, there seemed to be great shame in the family about Henry’s West Indian children. He had traded in rum at one stage, and lived in Jamaica. But we found those Lovemores, and Laurice and Jamirah Lovemore joined us at our gathering.
Henry did not mix easily with lower classes. His daughter Elizabeth fell in love with Jonathan Board, an English carpenter who worked on Henry’s house. Henry threw them both off the farm. Elizabeth never had any further contact with her family, and we could not trace her descendants. Very sad.
But, when the ship, the Zeepaard, ran aground close to the private beach on Henry’s farm, he and Ann cared for the 172 survivors for over a week before they were transported by wagon to Port Elizabeth.
Henry’s prejudices aside, he seems a good man from whom to have descended.
Lovemores then were known to be people of exceptional hospitality and great generosity. They still are.
Lovemore 2000 took place from 6 to 9 July 2000.
Lovemores from over 200 families across the world were present. We sold family trees, books, photographs, whisky glasses, coffee mugs, golf shirts and a Lovemore family recipe book.
We had many activities. A Bushy Park beach walk, visiting the Lovemore farm cemeteries, attending the family blessing in St Mary’s Cathedral, a trip to Bathurst to explore settler country… and so much more…
Tom Horne was our official photographer. We have a magnificent record of the occasion.
The energy and time taken to plan every detail of the 4 days paid off. The weather was great, and the spirit of a family getting to know its entirety was warm in that July sun.
We still have quarterly family newsletters. We’ve had smaller gatherings every five years since 2000.
And we’re planning, now, for 2020 – for the 200th anniversary of Henry’s landing in Algoa Bay.
The seed that was sown over our Christmas lunch in 1998 has grown into a real-life Lovemore family tree.
The descendants of Henry, the world over, now KNOW each other. They experience joy and they grieve together. And they’ll stand together, in 2020, in the warm sun at Bushy Park, smile, and say proudly “The Name is Lovemore”.