British Empire Article


Courtesy of OSPA


by Liam Murray
Agricultural Officer, Tanganyika 1955-65
Wye Agricultural College
I graduated from Glasgow University with a BSc in Agriculture in 1953 and worked as a farm manager for two years. Then on a whim I replied to an advert from the Crown Agents in the Scottish Farmer magazine, for a Field Officer to work in Aden. In reply I was told that the Crown Agents did not recruit applicants with degrees and if I wanted to look for work in the colonies I should apply to the Colonial Office. A family friend who had been working in Tanganyika was home on leave and I had a meeting with him during which he told me about Tanganyika and the kind of work that an Agricultural Officer would be involved in. So I was able to put in the application form that I wanted to work in Tanganyika which undoubtedly helped in having me accepted.

I was sent on a two year course for a Diploma in Tropical Agriculture, with the first year being spent at London University's Wye Agricultural College and the second at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad where I met and married my wife Heather who was an Air Hostess with British West Indian Airways.

Setting the Record Straight
Wind of Change
The number of 'Cadets', as we were known, recruited that year was the biggest that there had ever been, which suggests that the UK Government in 1955 still believed that there was a future for the British Empire. Suez changed this and it became apparent that the new powers in the world were going to be Russia and America. It was also apparent that Britain had not recovered from the costs incurred in fighting the Second World War, the Korean War and putting down a rebellion in Malaysia, and was finding it difficult to continue incurring the costs of running the colonies. So Prime Minister Mcmillan made his famous Wind of Change speech which led to the progressive independence of the various colonies around the world.

Agricultural Officer, Tanganyika 1955-65
Road to Moshi
When we arrived in Tanganyika in 1957 I was posted to Moshi, the District in which Mt Kilimanjaro is, as the Agricultural Officer in charge of the Lower Areas of that district. The local tribe, the Chagga, lived on their own little farms on the slopes of the mountain where they grew their Arabica coffee and kept their cattle. Each family also had some land in the Lower Areas where they grew cotton for sale and sorghum which they used for making their home-brew 'pombe' beer. Trial Plots had been set up by the Department to try and find out how best to use irrigation from a river which flowed nearby. Looking after this became part of my responsibilities, the others being to supervise the Advisory Staff in that area and to oversee the marketing of the cotton.

After one year I was posted to Mbulu District as Agricultural Officer in charge, and then in 1961 I was transferred back to Moshi as the District Agricultural Officer.

Moshi was a lovely town to live and work in. It had shops, a library, a Gymkhana Club with hockey, cricket and rugby teams (through playing this I was chosen to play for East Africa against a Barbarians team who had been touring South Africa and had stopped off to play one game against East Africa) and a golf course.

Agricultural Officer, Tanganyika 1955-65
Cooperative Union
One day I met by chance the chairman of the local Co-operative Society. We started to talk about how the quality of the locals' coffee never seemed to reach the top grades when it came to being marketed. This led us on to thinking that one way of resolving this problem would be to have the growers bring their coffee in to a Central Factory where higher standards could be maintained. We managed to obtain a grant from the Government, and a manager was appointed, and as a result a much higher quality coffee was produced. This meant not only that higher prices were obtained by the growers but the superb Tanzanian Arabica coffee can now be bought in supermarkets around the world. If I had done nothing else in Africa my being involved in establishing this top quality product would have justified my time there.

During my time in Moshi Tanganyika became independent. We Colonial Service officers, other than Administrative Officers, were given the option of retiring or transferring across to the Tanganyika Civil Service. If you did transfer you were given a compensation payment and the attraction of this little windfall meant that many of us did that.

Agricultural Officer, Tanganyika 1955-65
SS Usoga at Bukoba
In 1963, after a Home Leave, I was appointed to be the Regional Agricultural Officer for the West Lake Region and we moved to Bukoba on Lake Victoria. We were there when the Tanzanian Army in Dar es Salaam mutinied. This was followed by the army in Mwanza doing the same and the situation became even more worrying when we heard that the Army in Kenya had also rebelled. However, British Commandos who were on board an Aircraft Carrier which was on exercises off the East Coast responded to a request from President Nyerere for assistance and quelled the uprising.

A year later an uprising took place in the former Belgian Congo which bordered the West Lake Region and refugees poured into Tanzania to escape from the horrific massacres that were taking place. All flights and Lake Steamer visits to Bukoba then stopped and I began to be worried about the safety of the family. As the children were becoming of an age to start school we decided that on this account alone we should leave.

I duly worked out my six months notice during which there was one more flurry of concern when rumours of a British plan to recolonise the country began to circulate and a State of Emergency was declared during which Trade Union leaders were taken into custody. There was of course no plan to recolonise the country and by the time I left everything was back to normal, which state of affairs has continued with Tanzania being one of the most stable countries in that often unsettled continent.

After leaving Tanzania I joined the ICI Plant Protection Division as an advisor and later on became their Scottish Business Manager. On retiring in 1987 I became the Secretary and Treasurer of the National Museums of Scotland Charitable Trust and Treasurer of the Council for Scottish Archaeology, both of them on a voluntary basis.

Colonial Map
1956 Map of Moshi Tanganyika
map of Nigeria
1956 Map of Mbulu Tanganyika
map of Nigeria
1956 Map of Lake Victoria
Colony Profile
Tanganyika
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 111: April 2016


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