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THE mother of rock chick Jo Wood has revealed how as a teenager she stole the heart of Nelson Mandela.
Rachel Lundell was 16 when she won a pledge of undying love from South Africa’s future president, who at the time was living in a tiny village in Umtata in the Eastern Cape.
Rachel, now 78 and living in Devon, had just finished convent school in 1951. She was working in her aunt’s fruit store and cafe after having second thoughts about life as a nun.
She had first been offered a job at a baker’s shop in nearby Mount Frere but was sacked before she had even started when the owner discovered that Desmond, the black delivery boy, was her brother.
Rachel said: “Desmond was darker than me; I was blonde, freckled and white. My father was white and my mother looked white but her grandmother was black and she passed those genes on to us in varying degrees.”
Desperate for work, Rachel was then offered a job by her aunt, Gertie Morrison. But it was Gertie who put paid to any chance of romance with Mandela in apartheid-era South Africa.
Rachel explained: “We had a lot of black customers and he was no different, buying cigarettes and peanuts in quite large amounts.
“There was no frisson of excitement when he came in or anything like that. He certainly wasn’t what you would call handsome but he had a twinkle in his eye.
“One day he came in and I served him as usual but after he left, I noticed there was a letter on the counter addressed to me. I opened it and there was yards and yards of it.
“It started off lovey-dovey enough but before long it had turned into something of a political missive all about how he was going to free the blacks in our country. Not very romantic really.
“Then Gertie came in and saw me reading the letter. She asked who it was from and I told her. She snatched it out of my hands and threw it on the fire, saying I wasn’t going to be going out with any black men.”
Rachel never saw Mandela again. Soon afterwards, he moved to Johannesburg where he continued his political struggle.
She continued: “I wish I still had the letter.
“Imagine what it might have told us today about how Mandela predicted what lay ahead for him and his country. It would have been a special piece of history.
“All I’ve got left are the memories and the endless jokes from my eventual husband and children about what might have been. I know he was a bit of a ladiesâ? man in later life and it would seem he might have been then, too.”
Little did Rachel know at the time that Mandela was already married to Evelyn Ntoko Mase, with whom he had three children: Thembekile, Makaziwe, who died aged just nine months, and Makgatho, born in 1951 – the year of the love note.
That same year, Mandela was elected president of the African National Congress Youth League and by April 1952 was spearheading the so-called Campaign of Defiance. He became the first black president of South Africa in 1994, standing down five years later. – Daily Mail