British Empire Article


Courtesy of OSPA


by A. S. Webb
The Fulani Boys at Jingari
Bauchi Light Locomotive 4
Jingari (Jengre) grew up around the railway and the station was there because it was the last suitable location with a reliable water supply before the Bauchi Light began the ascent through the hills to the escarpment on to the Jos plateau. From Jingari the two foot six inch gauge track for some thirteen miles, was a series of sharp curves with scarcely a straight between them, clinging in side cut to the steep hillside or in deep cut through promontaries and at one place negotiated a locally famous cloof of three miles to gain three hundred feet in height but advance scarcely a hundred yards.

Rock falls were frequent but rarely serious and they were usually cleared by the daily patrol. Nevertheless, the driver upon reaching Jingari, had the perogative of continuing with the Journey or stabling for the night if there was a likelihood of heavy rain or darkness would fall before he could clear the section. His home station was Jingari and after nine hours on the swaying, jolting footplate, already hot, dirty and tired, the prospect of the climb and at least two more hours before a rest at Jos, must have been daunting; who can blame him for deciding on the slightest pretext to stable at Jingari and enjoy his bed for the night.

On one occasion I was travelling by inspection coach through to Jos prior to carrying out a leisurely pump trolley inspection in easy stages on the return journey to Zaria. We had reached Jingari on time and the driver, the last European driver on the Nigerian Railway, had joined me earlier for a lunch time beer when he assured me there would be no difficulty in reaching Jos that night. The train had been standing only a few minutes when out of the crowds milling around bustled a small and attractive European lady striding purposefully towards my coach. She waved, climbed aboard and with hand outstretched, announced, "Mary Anderson-Hyde, you'll be the Engineer?" I acknowledged I was and whilst pumping my arm she continued, "The train won't be going to Jos tonight so I am sure you can join Doctor Anderson-Hyde and myself for dinner." As if to underline her point, the engine busily puffed by on its way to the tiny running shed and I gratefully accepted the invitation. She later confided that as they were somewhat starved for European company, she had an arrangement with the station master to be informed when he knew there would be a European travelling on the train so that she could meet it and persuade the driver to spend the night at home thus giving her a readymade guest for the evening.

The Fulani Boys at Jingari
Bauchi Light Locomotive 56
I spruced up a little in the bedroom of the coach, Mrs. Anderson-Hyde carried on an animated conversation through the open door and I learned that she and Doctor Anderson-Hyde had been in Jingari for a year or so with the Seventh Day Adventist Mission and they had built a hospital. A few minutes later I followed her across the station to a rather battered pick-up truck surrounded by a crowd of staring children and being carefully watched by three young Africans who leapt into the open back as we approached. I climbed into the front cab as Mrs. Anderson-Hyde swung into the driver's seat and with one practised movement, she slammed the door, started the engine, revved it up and let in the clutch with a bang so that the vehicle leapt forward throwing the occupants in the back into a tangled heap against the tailboard and had me hanging on for dear life. "They love a rough ride," she shouted as we bounced along a pot-holed track for a mile until we reached the driveway to a group of buildings into which she swung the pick-up then stood on the brake to skid to a halt. We all disappeared in the cloud of laterite dust which overtook us, the Africans jumped down and emerged from the dust laughing and pretending to nurse injuries to legs and arms, at least, I assumed they were pretending but have no doubt there was a genuine bruise or two as well.

Dr. Anderson-Hyde was a distinguished looking man in his mid thirties, of medium height, more serious than his effervescent wife, excellent company, and we were soon settled for an entertaining evening; they both drank Abeokuta squash but had cool beer for guests whose glasses were kept well charged. They were proud of the small hospital they had built themselves and justly so for much of the work they had done with their own hands. I liked the way they put their material forces first towards saving the body before building a church to save the soul, a task they had in mind but only after the hospital was complete.

During a lull in the conversation after an excellent dinner, Mrs. Anderson-Hyde asked her husband, "How is the Fulani boy?" By way of answering. Doctor Anderson- Hyde turned to me saying, "I must tell you this remarkable story," and he began:

The Fulani Boys at Jingari
Bush Cow
Two Fulani boys about 12 or 13 years old were minding a herd of cattle and late in the afternoon drove them to a stream for water. Neither of the boys saw a bush cow there until it was too late. The bush cow was rated, and probably still is, the most dangerous animal on the continent, the one animal which attacks human beings on sight. It resembles the buffalo, with a massive forehead, and two short powerful horns with which it can inflict terrible wounds and in spite of its ungainly appearance, it can charge at great speed. This animal was true to form and having got sight or scent of the boys, charged at them. The older boy ran to a tree and climbed to safety but the younger boy ran towards the stream chased by the bush cow.

From the safety of the tree the boy could do nothing to help his younger friend (or it may have been his brother) and he could only watch in horror as the animal caught the boy and tossed him in the air. The normal behaviour is for the bush cow to continue to toss and gore the victim for some time but on this occasion it seems the animal lost interest and wandered off, leaving the young boy badly injured and unconscious. The older boy in the tree waited until it was safe to come down then went to his friend lying still on the ground close to the stream. There was a terrible gash for the full length of the stomach and obviously parts which should have been inside were spilling out (as he later described it to the doctor). As best he could, he washed the wound and pushed the various things back inside. He then went to a tree growing nearby with long aerial roots hanging from the lower branches. These roots, three to four feet long, have a hard brittle covering which can easily be broken between finger and thumb and stripped off, leaving a strong, wet, sinewy fibrous thread. He collected a few and then found a thorn bush with strong sharp thorns about two inches long - these are quite common and some of the thorns have points so hard and sharp that I used them for some time as needles to play my old 78's.

Using a thorn as a bradawl to puncture the skin, he made a series of holes each side of the wound, threaded them with the roots and closing the wound as much as he could, tied the roots to keep it closed. He next took his friend's cloth, a long cloth they always carried to wrap around themselves when it is cold, folded it to form a long narrow tie and wound it very tightly round his friend's torso, fastening the end with some of the thorns. His own long cloth he similarly folded and tied to form a sling under the younger boys armpit and over his own neck and shoulder. Like that he set off with his friend to find the doctor.

No one was sure whether the injured boy ever fully regained consciousness but for part of the dreadful journey it seems likely he was and did help himself along. Neither did they know exactly how far they had come but it was at least five miles and possibly as far as seven. Doctor Anderson-Hyde was none too pleased to be woken at one in the morning by an insistent tapping at his door but his annoyance quickly evaporated when he saw the almost unconscious blood-stained figure supported by a boy himself on the verge of collapse. He took them to the hospital and got the injured boy on to the table in his surgery where he removed the cloth which he said was so tightly bound that it undoubtedly saved the boy's life. He was then amazed to see the rough and ready stitches, still intact and keeping the wound closed. He removed the stitches, examined inside the wound and discovered that miraculously, no organ had been damaged, everything seemed to be in place and after cleaning and tidying up, he was able to sew up the wound.

To answer his wife's original query, he suggested we went over to see the patient. He was asleep, one of six or seven in the ward and his friend lay on the floor beside him. As we approached, the older boy on the floor stood, grinned self consciously and greeted us in Hausa. "Well, there he is," said the doctor, looking down at the sleeping figure, "He leaves tomorrow," and he added with obvious satisfaction and affection, "I shall miss both of them." The boys had been in hospital just one month.

British Colony Map
Map of Central Nigeria
Colony Profile
Nigeria
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 54: October 1987


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