Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Mother's Cousin

" My Mother's Cousin " is a book filled with immensely entertaining, short stories about a favourite uncle, (a Scottish Nationalist and a Veteran of the Second World War in North Africa); and other memorable characters who worked in the Witwatersrand gold fields of the Transvaal, South Africa, during the 1950's, 60's and '70's. I also recount some of my own experiences while working in the Transvaal gold mines and prospecting for diamonds in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in the early 1960's. The stories embrace a cast of amazing, unique and diverse characters who certainly left their mark on those with whom they came in contact. It is an era that was exciting, raw and well-worth remembering.


  1. It is regrettable that my first posted comments were somehow lost about my purchasing copies of Bill's book so that I could read in print some of the stories and anecdotes that Bill had shared 'Viva-voce' at some of our get togethers in the past years.
    Having now read the book I am astonished at the fantastic job Bill has done putting many of his memories in an entertaining and enjoyable printed format for many to now enjoy. It has been a great read! We all look forward to book #2..

  2. When Snakebite first mentioned putting some of the stories that entertained so many people for so many years into a book, I could only encourage him to do so and now that I've read "My Mother's Cousin", I'm trying to convince him to write some more. Bill's memory for detail is incredible and the events in this memoire are entertaining and insightful as the characters leapt off the page. I learned to ignore the many "looks" when I burst out laughing while reading it.

    Snakebite, keep at it and give us more to read about your fascinating and varied life experiences. I'm in awe at your remarkable recollection and appreciate you are not making any of it up because the stories I heard before are reproduced exactly in the book - very amusing anecdotes in many cases but always with a contained learning experience from real life in a world we will never see again.

    Charles Merivale

  3. It was great to share Bill's book with tow of my mining cronies. One worked in the same area, is a Cornishman (Cousin Jack), and as you could see fit in first rate with all the other characters. Keep up the good work Bill. What is next! Jim Roxburgh

  4. I found this book a really good read. I've known folks like Bill's cousin and enjoyed them enormously. Bill writes with such detail and enthusiasm I feel as though I have met all the characters he describes. Good job! Keep writing.

  5. I worked with Bill in the mine at Elliot lake for many years.I heard many stories about this uncle he had and I (we)laughed every time.This book put them very accurately to print and brought back good memories of part of my mining life.The book is very well written and makes the reader want to read the next chapter.I had a hard time putting it down and read it over several sittings.I look forward to Snakebites next book.Can't wait.

  6. Bill: Your book "My Mother's Cousin" was a beautiful read from cover to cover. Who couldn't love Uncle Robert? What a character. Your book is one of my favourites already. It is right up to par with "Angela's Ashes" and "Tis" by Frank McCourt and "How Green Was My Valley" by Richard Llewellyn. A classic in my estimation! Much success to you! Keep writing! -Nancy Steinke.

  7. My wife Faye and I knew Bill well in the old mining days in Elliot Lake and heard many of the stories of his life in South Africa. We were delighted when he told us that he intended taking us down memory lane and introducing us to his family and friends there. The main character in his book (Uncle Robert) who served in one of the South African Divisions in the Western Desert must have personally scared the hell out of the enemy at Tobruk and Alamein !
    Well done Bill "My Mother's Cousin" was a great read and do not forget to let us know when you write a follow up
    Yours aye
    Charlie Steel

  8. William,

    To say that your stories opened up a Pandora's Box of forgotten memories, is to put it too mildly. Uncle Robert was one of a kind and one of the he would have enjoyed reading about his exploits in print. I know he enjoyed staging the incidents as much as we enjoyed seeing them played out. It is wonderful to know that you have edited these family stories for others to enjoy. I am not surprised that you found the whole exercise therapeutic...after all, laughter is by far the best medicine!
    I wish you continued success with the marketing of "My Mother's Cousin" and wait patiently for your mining memoirs to be printed.
    "Mooi so, Boet", from a very proud sister.

    Moira. xx.

  9. Bill,

    Your book was so enjoyable to read!

    Your stories were very humourous and lightened my life! I scheduled time every day to read one chapter because I wanted to linger over each story. I wanted to savour every colourful character and nuance - the characters seemed larger than life! Each day I would anxiously await my reading time.

    Not only were the stories entertaining, they were informative. The historical perspective of that time was of particular interest - the conditions and protocols of mining in South Africa was very educational to me.

    Congratulations on your new writing career! Your book is one of the best that I have ever read! Continue writing!

    Murdeena and Alex Jordan

  10. In his treasury of short stories, "My Mother's Cousin" Bill Ferguson keeps the reader coming back for more. His renditions of the personal encounters of his Uncle Jock, introduces the reader to the varied colourful characters who made up the society of the day in South Africa. They became real and for most of us, present an insight into that era, which we would never gain otherwise. Bill's first-hand knowledge of the mining world allows us to share in detail the varied aspects of gold mining in South Africa and the many human stories which might have taken place there on any given day.

    Sharing Bill's many adventures and observations through his eyes as a child, has made Uncle Jock immortal to all who read this book. I highly recommend it as a good read.

    Well done Bill.

    Rolly Simard.

  11. William,

    Reading this fabulous book brought back so many treasured memories of your years and stories told in your Gran's house in Burnside, New Cumnock, Scotland. I know Ann would have loved to reminisce over the events published and would have laughed "her eeen oot" at some of the antics described.
    A fantastic read and Leesa and Lesley are now fighting over who is reading it next!!! I'll have to rack my brains to explain who some of the folks are, but it gives them a better understanding of the fabulous family they belong to.
    Wishing you continued success in all you do and Health, Wealth and Happiness for many a long year to come.
    Aye yours

  12. Bill,
    I enjoyed your book very much. Your recall and ability to depict the essential elements of an anecdote, put me right in the car or at the house with you and Uncle Robert.

    Best of luck with the next instalment.

    Faiz de Beer

  13. Having worked with "Snakebite" for many years @ Denison Mines, I thoroughly enjoyed the many stories of his adventures in Africa. He is a great story teller and they`re even better in his book. Also read a few I hadn`t heard before. Very entertaining. Three stars for this one and looking forward to the publication of his next book. ~~~~_/)~~~~ Smooth sailing Bill.

  14. Congratulations Bill!

    We both read and enjoyed this book. It entertains and amuses while capturing a feeling of time and place. The colourful cast of characters was unforgettable and reading about your adventures made us feel like we were there with you.

    We're looking forward to Volume 2.

    Hazel and Lois Carson

  15. A very good read from cover to cover.
    The vignettes are so cleverly written they capture you in time and place until you feel part of the adventure. The aptly recorded Scottish brogue brought back memories of my Nan - a wee Scottish lass from Aberdeen.

    This could easily become a very entertaining movie. Well done!

    Doreen Light, Winnipeg

  16. Over the years, on Bill's regular visits to his family in Scotland we have enjoyed his stories of South Africa which encapsulated tales of Uncle Robert, gold mining,prospecting in Tanganyika, sport, and African life in general. Bill, like his father is a natural raconteur and he held us spellbound with his notes, quotes and anecodotes. I am vey glad that during his last visit in 2004, I encouraged him to put pen to paper and record his stories. The outcome is a vey enjoyable and at times hilarious read. He is as good at writing a story as telling one. I look forward to the sequel. I am very pleased to say that Bill's mother's cousin was my Mother's too.

    Bill Reid

  17. Through “My Mother’s Cousin,” Bill is able to use it like a window for us to see into his experiences. In fulfilling his desire to write of his memoirs, Bill exposes you to a broad range of interesting characters and adventures. It is always exciting to read about and meet people who know what they believe and are not afraid to let others know their true beliefs, like some of the characters in Bill’s book. Bill’s style of writing has a way of sucking you into the adventure, like you were there in the midst of the action.
    Another neat thing which Bill did was to include some pictures. I especially liked these as it allowed me to see the character, like Uncle Robert, so I could visualize what he would look like during some of his capers. My wife said I shouldn’t read it at night when I went to bed as I always ended up laughing out load and of course had to read that portion to her and again got the pleasure of laughing once again. This is a Great read for anyone!
    Excellent book Bill! Can’t wait to read your next!

  18. My Mother's Cousin introduces readers to a host of interesting characters who leave an indelible mark on the minds of readers to the same extent that they have on the author.

    Bill Ferguson has captured the essence of life as a miner in South Africa and Tanganyika and given readers an opportunity to meet the many souls who had a significant impact on his life at that time. My Mother's Cousin is an intersting and easy read, and one of those books that make you laugh out loud. I can hardly wait for Bill to publish his mining memoirs.

    Congratulations on a great book, Bill.


    Don Halbert

  19. Like Bill, I also worked in the gold mines of South Africa. Many of his experiences brought back memories to me. I got a real kick out of the writer's expressions of the different characters mentioned in the book. Having worked with Bill I recall of him always relating his tales of the "Rand Mines" and at times we would converse in "Fanagalo", the language used underground. The book is a great read and I am looking forward to your next sequel.
    "Hamba Gashle", Bill

    Konrad (Tiny) Zehrt

  20. Hello Bill,

    I am visiting my parents in Elliot Lake and I am sitting in the comfort of their home reading your book. It brings me to my childhood, when you would be visiting and sharing your stories over supper. You have a way of telling stories that reminds me that the hand of God is present and that life is an adventure waiting to be experienced. Thank you for being a great influence on our family! Leonarda and The Altieri Family

  21. Thoroughly enjoyed your book Bill. I found it very entertaining, interesting and hard to put down. Your Uncle was a real character. I could almost hear you narrating as I read the book. You have some great memories. Life in a small mining community in South Africa in the 50's and 60's sounds like a special time and place. Kind of reminds me of growing up in a small mining community in northern Ontario. Hope you are doing well in Manitoba Bill. I have fond memories of the good old days. You were always kind and impressionable to me and my brothers. Nice to see raw talent come to light.
    All the best,
    (go Rangers!)

  22. Thoroughly enjoyed the book! I gained an insight to the culture of South Africa in that time period. It felt as if Bill was in the room telling the stories. The short story format allowed me to pick it up and continue reading as if I hadn't put the book down.

  23. Hi Bill,

    I wanted to let you know that I picked up a copy of your book and read it before my husband and I went on vacation to Scotland. It was a great read! Please let me know when your next book is out. One does not need to have any familiarity with mining or Africa to thoroughly enjoy this book. It was horizon widening. I'd highly recommend it and look forward to the next one. Keep up the great writing!

    Naomi Guilbert

  24. Bill it was great talking to you the other night,it brought back fond memories of my days in Elliot Lake. I trust an email will be sent to let me know when the next book is ready for sale. I did enjoy "My mothers cousin", It was a great read and i felt like i was inside looking out in the story more often then outside looking in. looking forward to the next book.