n Farmer’s Weekly - The lure of the Reef : great tales

Volume 2016, Issue 16024
  • ISSN : 0041-848X



Orphaned at the age of eight, Harry Filmer was sent to a convent in Bruges, Belgium. The lively child flourished under the guidance of the good sisters. After four years, he was sent back to London, where his fascination with languages led him to learn a new type of communication. In 1837, Sir Isaac Pitman had developed an ingenious collection of symbols that enabled one to record verbatim anything that was said, and Pitman shorthand was fast becoming the wonder of the business world. It was ideal for court cases, conferences and newspaper reporting. Harry was hired by The Tablet, and although only 16, he was entrusted with one of the most responsible and arduous tasks assigned to journalists - parliamentary reporting! One day, while he was transcribing his notes into longhand for his editor, a well-dressed stranger asked him about shorthand. A few days later, the man, who happened to be Harry Escombe, the future prime minister of Natal, offered Harry a job in the colony. He was to use his shorthand to record the proceedings of the Natal Legislative Assembly.

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