British Empire Article


Courtesy of OSPA


by N. F. S. Andrews
Empire Day at Fort Portal, 1926
Ruwenzori Mountains
Fort Portal, Toro.
Thursday, May 26th, 1926
Dearest Mother,

Apart from the hectic hours of Whit-Monday-cum-Empire Day, there is not much to record this week. The Ruwenzori mountains have been giving some very fine displays, and I get a very good view of them from the end of my verandah, where just the right part is framed between the eucalyptus trees. Fort Portal is planted quite thick with eucalyptuses - and there are several avenues of them, like Lombardy poplars, radiating down the hill from the Fort. Some people think them a nuisance and want to cut them down, which would be a pity. They are a great temptation, because the nearest forest is 6 miles away and wood is scarce.

The rainy season shows signs of coming to a close; when it does. I'm told, the heat-haze will be so great that you would never know there were any mountains within a thousand miles. I don't know when I am likely to get out on safari: at present there is as much work in the office as both of us can manage, working overtime. The only way to circumvent it, I think, is to run right out of the station and let it look after itself.

Empire Day at Fort Portal, 1926
Sir Gerald Portal
Maitland Warne, the District Commissioner, has been suffering a good deal from his dysentery, and has to have daily injections of Emetine. It is the Amoebic dysentery, which is supposed to be incurable, I believe.

Friday and Saturday and Monday mornings were spent in a crescendo of feverish preparations for the Police Sports, which I had to organise myself - arranging for officials to be appointed, for the mission school-boys to take part, marking out the field, getting goal-posts for the football, and a lot of other details that sound very small and insignificant but take a lot of time. I'm afraid I trod rather on the toes of both Missions, but one always expects to do that, and it would be a superhuman who didn't.

For instance I had asked Commander Caldwell, who runs the Church Missionary Society boys' schools, to help me as Starter: on Monday morning he cried-off on some flimsy excuse, having heard, I suppose, that Pere Bazin, who runs the boys' school at Virika, the R.C. Mission, was going to be one of the judges. And Bazin himself made a fuss about the appointment of a native football referee because he came from the C.M.S. school at Budo originally. I'd have done it myself, if I'd known enough about the rules. However, I had the sterling assistance of the native sergeant-major of Police (a Muslim) and I don't know what I would have done without him.

The first event was a 2-mile race along the road from Kabarole (the Mukama's hill) to Fort Portal, for the schoolboys. I went out on my motor-bike to start it with a service rifle and a blank cartridge. I told the runners that I would say "One, two, three" and then bang. However, after three attempts, in which they all started directly I said "One" , I gave it up and let fire without any warning. I continued to do so for the other events, and it worked very well.

Unfortunately, none of the proper judges were at the finish in time to see them come in (that was not my fault), but luckily there was someone to take the names. After that, everything went well to time, which is unusual with sports: but there was so much disorganisation of the crowd at some moments that I thought the whole affair might be a fiasco.

We had a wheelbarrow race, an egg-and-spoon race (real eggs at two cents of a shilling each), a tug of war, a beauty competition and two football matches (15 minutes each way). In the tug of war, between two hefty Police teams, of course the rope broke and they all sat down very hard and caused the mob much amusement. I knew that was likely to happen, beforehand, because it was the rope with which I had towed in Wickham's car and it had got pretty-well frayed in the process. But I didn't say anything.

Two photographs, taken by the Police clerk, will show you the Beauty Competition. It was in two sections, one for the Batoro and one for the Nubis. The Nubi type of beauty is in a class by itself, as you may see from the picture. And many of the other competitors must be ignorant of the use of mirrors or they would never (I hope) have competed. I made Mrs. Garnett (the D.M.O's wife), Mr. Sullivan (the Provincial Commissioner) and Mr. Maitland Warne the judges.

Mrs. Sullivan gave away the prizes at the end and was presented with a bouquet of flowers (this was Mrs. Garnett's romantic idea) by the sergeant-major's youngest, a little sweep called Marianna.

Empire Day at Fort Portal, 1926
Fort Portal
I was very glad when it was all over. But it wasn't really all over because Mrs. Garnett had all the people in the station to dinner afterwards and insisted on dancing till 2 a.m. At that hour everybody was expected to take a car and proceed to the Forest by moonlight. Actually, only she and Dr. Garnett and Hugh Armitage and 'Uncle Robert' Milne (the large Aberdonian foreman building the new bridge) went. The latter sat in the back and gave the car a list to starboard of fifteen degrees. They saw an enormous hippo, a leopard and an ant-eater, and returned home at 3-45. I was already on safari in dreamland by that time - when it would have been unpleasantly cold.

I called on the Schofields one day last week (he and his wife are the doctors who run the C.M.S. Mission at Kabarole). It is a curious house they live in, which looks as if it had started to tumble down before ever they had finished building it. This is the result of earth tremors. One room is very well furnished, chiefly with the work of a native cabinet-maker of the Virika R.C. Mission. Which shows that, although the C.M.S. may talk about Papists and Fuzzy-Wuzzies, and speak of the R.Cs as one would ordinarily talk about earwigs or cockroaches, they don't mind making use of them when opportunity offers.

(Fort Portal was the administrative headquarters of the Western Province and the Toro District of the Uganda Protectorate)

British Colony Map
1963 Map of Uganda
Colony Profile
Uganda
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 51: April 1986


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