Inspiring tale for the ages

Posted: 8am 31 May 2021

Alan Landau grew up hearing remarkable stories about his ancestors, brothers, who carved out lives and businesses in South Africa after arriving as teenagers on their own in the late 1800s.

In a bid to preserve these stories for his children and generations to come, and with some encouragement from his wife, he decided to write a book.

That was in 2014 and he has recently released the sixth and final book in the series, titled Langbourne’s Legacy. The series follows their story from 1876 to 1947 – through the Boer War, two world wars and the 1918 flu pandemic.

“I wrote it for the younger generation, it’s an easy read, I wanted them to appreciate the story and record the story,” Mr Landau said.

The Redcliffe resident said he loved hearing his father and grandfather speak of the brothers and their rags to riches story.

He recalled helping his father create a display honouring their achievements at home as a child – some of those dates, milestones and achievements stayed with him.

The brothers were 14 and 15, when they jumped on a ship leaving Ireland in search of a better life.

“They were like child labourers in the UK, making cigarettes, so when they got to Africa on their own they thought, ‘what can we do’,” Mr Landau explained.

“So, they started making cigarettes. By day, they would roll them by hand and they sold them by night in the pubs and hotels. They ended up being bought out. They made a tonne of money.”

Life-changing move

Mr Landau said they then decided to be traders in a new opening country to the north called Rhodesia.

“They caught a train to Mafeking, where the rail line ended, bought some wagons and filled them up with stock and then walked to Bulawayo. It’s a three-month walk, so they walked through the bush,” he said.

“How do you take these two young teenagers out of Ireland and England and have them walk through the bush for three months? I couldn’t do it. I’d get eaten up by something.

“That’s where the family began in Bulawayo. They set up their business. Every time they set up a business, some sort of rebellion or uprising would happen and they would lose their business and start again. They were quite amazing brothers.

“Then they called up their next two younger brothers, who came out as well, and they built this incredible empire and did so well.”

Mr Landau worked in his family’s business before moving to Australia and taking on a Beacon Lighting franchise.

“Business letters was all the writing I ever did,” he said.

Taking the plunge

When he retired, he decided to give it a go and started with one short chapter.

Years of research has followed, but Mr Landau has enjoyed every moment and hopes his journey will inspire others to record their own family history.

“Just try and write. If I can do it without a proper writing education … I didn’t even get a good grade in English at school … anyone can do it,” he said.

“Record your family history, because there are stories out there that need to be told or they’re going to be forgotten. By the time kids realise their families have a story, their parents, grandparents are all dead.”

Mr Landau has a distributor in South Africa for his books, they are available on Amazon and from Dymocks North Lakes and Chermside.

He will be part of a panel discussion during the Fellowship of Australian Writers Queensland (FAWQ) Readers and Writers Festival, which will be held in the Moreton Bay Region, in June.

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