British Empire Article


Contributed by Marjorie Smith


by Marjorie Lovatt Smith
Nigeria: Life with Algar Robertson
Marjorie Lovatt Smith
I left my beloved England for the second time because Gordon was home from Hong Kong so I applied to the Crown Agents for another job overseas. Gordon had looked me up when I was settled in London in a bed-sit and a job having completed my 3 years in Uganda. Why did he look me up? He had no address but simply rang me one evening and the familiar voice came over the telephone "Gordon here". I melted. He came round straight away and took me for a beer, and we met several times after that. My love was still as strong as ever for him - I adored him even after 3 year's absence but I could tell he did not intend to marry me and was to be stationed in London so it would be back to square one me with a heart ache and he - well I cannot imagine what he felt.

I thought the Far East would be interesting and applied to go to Sarawak. But the vacancy for a stenographer had been filled. Then the Crown Agents for the Colonies sent me a vacancy in Tanganyika but I didn't want to go there as it was a three year tour and too long to be away from England. So Nigeria came up and this was an 18 month tour which was much better. Since becoming old I have often dreamed that I was abroad and was longing to get home to England. I was determined to go out by sea as my father had always said I would be seasick and teased me about how he never was whilst travelling across the Atlantic to go to school and return to his parents who were living in Trinidad, his father was 'building the railways out there' as he used to tell us. It made difficulties as one always flew everywhere in 1954 but the Crown Agents relented and I left for Nigeria on May 7th, 1954.

From my diary:

May 6th 1954

Jean and Peter, who were on leave at the time from East Africa, got up in their dressing gowns to say goodbye and after the very sad scene saying farewell to dear little Sally who just lay in her bed wondering what it was all about, I quickly got into the old Ford utility and went off to Polegate with Mums and Daddy to catch the 7.19 a.m. train to London. I didn't dare say goodbye to Succers and Sandra (dogs) and felt the quicker I got away from Oaklands the better it would be for us all. The rest of the journey was uneventful - crossing London in a taxi and feeling rather nostalgic at leaving London with all its memories behind. Euston was quite active and after a cup of coffee etc we all went to find the platform and the train. I chose a carriage with a woman, a bird and a member of the Church. I thought the company would be amenable enough. Lots of Africans were on the platform and several English girlfriends - one sobbing her heart out. As the tram pulled out we all felt more than sad and it would have been too easy to break down completely. But Mums and Daddy stayed on the platform as arranged, until I could see them no longer. So I began on my venture to Nigeria.

The train crawled into Liverpool Docks at walking pace and eventually we arrived at a Customs Shed, through which we all went and were given our letters - one from Sybil and one from Geoff. Then a three-mile drive in a bus to the ship. It was quite a thrill climbing up into the "ACCRA" which looked pretty enormous in the berth and also finding one's way about inside which I instantly did. I found my cabin on C deck - No. 64 and that a Miss Bateman was sharing with me. Miss Bateman turned out to be a nice girl - Janet - who was also going to Nigeria as a Secretary/Typist and we were both glad we'd been put together. We should have left Liverpool that evening but owing to gales which might have made it tricky getting out of the docks we didn't leave until the following day. We therefore had a quiet evening - a drink with Mrs Stratton who was the woman with the bird in the train, and an early night which didn't make much difference, because I didn't sleep anyway.

The Journey on MV "ACCRA" from 7th - 20th May 1954

I enjoyed the journey because it was all new to me: a completely different way of spending 14 days. I didn't enjoy all of it because there were too many people enclosed in too small a space for too long a time. But on the whole I'm glad I did it and I'm not sure, given a better boat and better company that I might not enjoy another trip. The things that stand out in one's mind are the dolphins. Standing, leaning over the edge of the ship watching dolphins was to me sheer joy and a pastime I could indulge in for hours - that's another thing about boat life - time doesn't count and one can watch dolphins all day if one so desires. BUT not without odd bods coming up and also leaning over the rails and interrupting one's dreaming. The joy of being lost in an ocean is another thrill only to be experienced on board ship - it's not nearly so good by air being lost in clouds and/or blue skies. It's wonderful to see space and horizons at every angle. I had imagined it might give one a feeling of intense loneliness lost in oceans but it's not so at all. The moonlight nights dancing on deck and all that goes with it is another thrill. It was simply a wonderful night, a glorious moon all the conditions for romance but with no romantic person there beside me. That is to be expected but it would have been nice to have just a wee thrill with someone. The only other thing for sea travel (as against travel by seaplane) is the interesting days when one lands and can see round a new country.

Nigeria: Life with Algar Robertson
MV Accra
Las Palmas for instance, instance, 5 days out of Liverpool was a wonderful day. The 4 young Vets and Agricultural Officers took us in an old car with a Spanish driver right up a mountain. We simply motored round and round it until we reached the top from where we could see the most glorious views all around. The small hut poised immediately on top was just large enough to have a bar for wine or coffee and we indulged in both sweet and dry wine - locally brewed.... But the most fascinating sight of all was a deep crater down which we looked with amazement as there, in the flat ground at the bottom was land being cultivated. It really was quite amazing as there were many different crops - one actually being harvested as far as we could see. The only shelter appeared to be almost shacks and how on earth the crops were brought up out of the crater is quite beyond me. Two large hawks hovered over the crater and otherwise there was not a sound or a thing to be seen except, towering behind the crater, mountains which are almost tall enough to be snowcapped and which are volcanic. On our way back to the town we passed through many vineyards and lanes filled with flowers especially roses but there was only poverty in the town itself. We visited an old cathedral and risked our lives in a rickety old lift to get to the tower and see the views. We then visited the Grand Santa Catalina Hotel which was the height of luxury.... Janet and I had a good nose round upstairs and the lounge was superb with glorious chandeliers and furnishing. We sat outside and had coffee and a bottle of wine and lovely cake. I think we were the last people to get back to the boat. Despite the fact that I was feeling extremely ill for the best part of the day I did enjoy the trip immensely and wouldn't have missed it for the world.

I have many letters to my parents that my mother kept.

I landed a better job than Janet in Lagos working for the Deputy Financial Secretary. She worked for the Education Dept. I adored B.B. (Baker-Beall) who was at odds with Africa and due to go on retirement leave in October when the 'substantive' was due back. There is much about poor B.B. in my letters home.

From letters home :

Then the Honourable Algar Ward Robertson CMG CBE arrived... ''Robertson is quite different and is a ponderer, fussy and meticulous. I have been paid the compliment that only I or the Secretary to the Chief Secretary could cope with him. It means reading everything through before submitting it - almost like a PS to the Governor and of course I have to do all his personal jobs and housekeeping etc for him.... and a fortnight on Friday George Carlyle from Uganda arrives as Deputy Financial Secretary".

(George Carlyle was a friend who said in Uganda "I'm not going to ask you to marry me because I know what the answer will be".)

"Robertson seems very nice but personally I prefer someone like B.B. who is neither too friendly nor too stern. Robertson is liable to go off the deep end if I slip up when he's in the wrong mood".

Life in Lagos was not pleasant because of high humidity and my office looked out onto a road, a wide verge, the Marina and the sea and wharf where I could see ships arriving or departing. On this wide verge of so-called grass lived an elderly woman, begging. She looked awful and all the time I sat in that office she lived there. She had no distinctive features except her breasts were naked. She had something on the rest of her body but it was such a distressing scene to look onto each morning when I came into work. The heat was unbearable and when I had much work albeit sitting at an office desk typing, the sweat ran down my face and bosom, and one had a job not to tear the paper in the typewriter because of the high humidity. The office opened at 8.0 a.m. and work normally finished at 1.0 p.m. When I did get back to my flat I had to have a bath or shower having had one first thing before the office. I had a sleep after a light lunch which could last up to 3 hrs then it was playtime - either squash or sailing (at weekends) or golf. Club life might go on until 1.0 a.m.

Perhaps extracts of my letters home would provide the reader with an idea of life in 1954 in Nigeria:

May 1954

First impressions: lack of Asians, and Africans working for a change; Africans very similar to East Africans and the saying 'bado kidogo' seems to fit just as well in this part of Africa; Europeans look scruffy, very yellow and tired; Secretariat 'systems' a long way behind Uganda; the stickiness of Lagos; the untidiness i.e. no mown lawns and I find it difficult to distinguish a European house from an African....

Nigeria: Life with Algar Robertson
Algar Ward Robertson
This is really Darkest Africa - not in the sense to which it was usually referred. It's bad and Nigeria seems pretty rotten - full of bribery and debauchery and no love of the English. It's depressing - terribly so when one hears the ghastly reports of inoffensive Europeans being abused or slapped on the face or even worse, having their car surrounded and overturned - but more depressing still when one sees some of the Europeans who are being allowed to come out here. I can't sort it all out yet but there is obviously no love lost between the Africans and the Europeans. I have already been told off by the African in our Dept, who is 3rd down from the Financial Secretary! The boys (or stewards as they are called here) are better - mine comes from Calabar down the coast and they mostly seem pretty respectful. It's these educated and semi educated ones that cause the trouble. But to date I haven't met anyone of very great importance and my boss is so busy that we don't have any time to discuss things in the office. But these are early days and it's wrong to sum everything up so soon. Instead of Bwana and Memsahib it's Master and Madam which I think is horrid. I also can't get used to speaking to the boys in English. Emmanuel, my boy seems quite good but I have to start him on 5 pounds per month! I m living in my flat now which is on the ground floor (worse luck as we have many burglaries) and consists of a kitchen with large Electrolux fridge, electric cooker, pantry etc., large lounge, bedroom, small bedroom, bathroom (thermostat for hot water) and a garage! Everything is too civilised for words, so all my household things are coming into use and I'm thought by the other girls to be most superior to have brought cutlery, linen etc. with me. Of course I've got to buy quite a lot but it will be cheaper to cook for myself than eat at the Club as lunch is 5/6 and dinner 6/6....

Last night I went to the Colonial Church in Lagos - a moderate sized building no doors or windows and about 150 fans whizzing round at the speed of knots. The vicar is old, grey and tired but the service was nice though the heat was hot! Everyone goes in the evening at 7.0p.m. It is the humidity that gets one. Everything is so limp and the paper tears when you turn over a new sheet. It's very rainy now and there are colossal monsoon drains much much larger than in E. Africa. There is no fresh milk in Lagos, it all comes out of tins. The eggs are half the size of chickens' eggs in E.A. and I haven't seen a decent dog yet, they all look like shenzies.

Emmanuel has just come in and asked me about Mau Mau - he wanted to know what it meant and why they kill people. He said that Oliver Lyttleton had been to Kenya lots of times to try and stop it - the Governor of Nigeria had been there but no one can stop it! He said it was a terrible thing.

B.B. (Acting Financial Secretary) seems a pretty rapid dictator and is reputed to have a brilliant brain and an even better vocabulary!!

June 1954

Lagos really is a slum; it's not comparable to anything in East Africa except a small shenzi village like, say Arusha, or Mbale in Uganda. I think even Arusha's main street is cleaner and more respectable than the Marina - the one street in Lagos. And there is only one shop worth going to. Kampala is miles ahead and Nairobi is like Paradise. The smell is awful - the beggars are ghastly and the small traders who try and make one buy things by pestering at your car window are a b****y nuisance. No, Lagos is not nice at all...

July 1954

I sent you a newspaper containing the result of a trial of a European whose dog bit a Hausa trader and who was tried by an African Judge and awarded 3 strokes of the cane and 120 pounds to pay or else one year's imprisonment. There has been much talk about this and more so as he was released on a 500 pound bail. I had lunch with Mr. Justice Abbott on Saturday and asked him what the result would be after this chap appealed as he has done. Mr. A. wouldn't be drawn out as the case will undoubtedly go before him but I did manage to gain the impression that the chap probably won't get his 3 strokes. It's all a political issue of course and there will probably be much feeling if he is let off the 3 strokes. On the other hand, and in the circumstances, if he does get the 3 strokes then it's time we cleared out of here as we have no security in our lives as individual Europeans.... It's all so depressing and the wretched man, Gregory, whose dog bit an African trader is causing much trouble and I see a question was raised in the House of Commons, all of which has been taken up by the Action Group out here....

I see Lagos is front page news in the Daily Telegraph. It's the one thing here now and complete topic of conversation. All most unfortunate as it raises political issues but the magistrate - Begho - is a fool and will cause nothing but trouble. The D.T. are slightly inaccurate in their reporting as were two Lagos papers, as although it was said that Gregory was now on tour in Eastern Region, he was in fact on Saturday morning, drinking at the Ikoyi Club with his wife whom I saw with my own eyes.

What a suspicious lot of people the Nigerians are. They are great believers in witchcraft and this unknown power is known as 'ju-ju'. Yesterday I motored with a friend about 17 miles out of Lagos to buy some cheap fruit. We penetrated into the market and there at one or two stalls found all the stuff for making 'ju-ju' or putting a spell over someone. There were baskets of frogs, smoked and stretched out on sticks: mice, rats, bats, pretty tropical birds, lizards etc. all in the same fashion and all looking quite life-like but smelling appalling. There were skulls of monkeys, dogs, cats, vultures, skins of beautiful golden cats, crocs - even the hairy furry skin of an ape, and many other things that I didn't recognise - i.e. guts of animals and intestines and dirty old horrid women at the stalls. It was just like a nightmare of the worst order....

Poor old B.B. is so cross with this country. There is a Supplementary Budget about to be put to the House and he had to make a long speech (which I have already typed no less than 3 times in draft!) and, like all budgets, this is secret. But two days ago the Daily Service (Action Group paper) published the gist of his whole budget. One of the chaps m Executive Council has obviously given the whole works to the paper. B.B. as Acting Financial Secretary is coming in for a good deal of criticism from this paper - "not that he really minds - but it's a bit disappointing at the end of one's career (he retires in October when the Substantive comes back) to be treated in this way after devoting the best year of his life to the country (and Kenya). However, it's not his fault at all as the Executive Council have to pass the new proposals and they are all Ministers, (African) except of course the Chief Sec. and F.S. There is going to be much trouble when this new Constitution comes into being - more than birth pangs I feel sure as there will be much argument and ill-feeling between the four Regions who will all have separate autonomous powers. However, they've asked for it and they are obviously going to get it......

Went to see "A Queen is Crowned" at the club last night (the coronation film) It was strange sitting outside with the stars as a roof watching all that pageantry in dear old England. It was painful too, to see all the beautiful scenery of the English countryside whilst sitting surrounded by nothing but sand where grass doesn't grow and where not even a cow can be kept to produce us a drop of fresh milk. But I asked for it, I know, and I'm enjoying the experience I can assure you.

August 1954

The House of Representatives (Legislative Council as it was in Uganda) is sitting for the next fortnight and I have moved over to these lovely offices to look after B.B. and the Attorney General whilst they are here. It's quite an education and far different from Uganda and, for once, Nigeria has something over Uganda. This enormous block of offices on to which is joined the Chamber, is very new and is all air-conditioned Consequently, I am sitting in a large spacious office, overlooking the racecourse with all the windows shut and in a reasonably pleasant temperature. It must be a boon in the hot season as even now, when one goes outside, the heat hits one in the face. This morning B.B. made his Supplementary Budget speech, which I nearly knew off by heart as I'd typed it so many times. I went up to the Distinguished Strangers' Gallery to hear him and he was excellent. He spoke for nearly an hour and held all the Honourable Members' attention. There are about 50 members - the dark, turbaned and colourfully dressed Northerners all in their native costumes, the rich rather spivvy Westerners and the poor sullen Easterners; also the chaps from the Ministries and the odd European - the Governor, Chief Sec., Attorney General, my boss etc. After the speech we adjourned and Adebo (the Assistant Financial Secretary) came up to me with broad beams alf over his face and said wasn't he wonderful etc. etc. Also an African clerk from the office said the (African) press were very impressed. Poor old B.B. - his swan song it was as he retires in October having spent his whole career working for the Africans. He has Just come into my office and I congratulated him and he was thrilled! The papers will be full of it all tomorrow and I hope and pray it's accepted in the spirit in which it was given (I mean the contents of the speech i.e. export duty on cocoa etc.) Outside the House are gathered about 50 African police, waiting Just in case of riots, and all round the House are crowds watching the arrival and departure of Members. This morning I shook hands with the Alake of Abeokuta, Sir Ladapo who is paramount chief and a very old old man but he was anxious to do so (shake hands I mean). All a wonderful experience in what will soon be a completely African administered country.....

September 1954

Went to a Red Cross 'ball' at the Island Club in Lagos which is the African Club. The Governor and Lady Macpherson were present and I watched H.E. with hawk-like eyes, as it's the first time I've seen him close to. He's a very stern looking, tall upright man - grey and not good-looking. Imagine my astonishment when he came into the dance room where a large African band was playing to a packed floor of Africans dancing with either their black or white wives a la African rhythm, and yelled at the top of his voice "See if you can do better than that - go on." His remark was aimed at a European couple, I regret to say, who were doing a Jitterbug and were really doing it - the girl having shed her shoes. I was astonished at his attitude as I myself was shocked at the example a European couple were setting. But I guess that's what you call democracy. It was a scruffy evening in squalid surroundings and produced a depressing effect (on me at any rate). The army major I was dancing with went up to H.E. and said "I bet that reminds you of your early days, Sir". What a world.

I'm off to the hinterland and, incidentally, to the riots. Quite near Ibadan there was a political clash on Sunday between the Action Group and the N.C.N.C. and 6 people were killed.... I had a most amusing tea party with the Adebos last week which lasted from 4.30 - 7.30! I had African food to eat and it was all most interesting. Mrs Adebo is a lively wire, full of energy and has 4 children - 2 nice little 10 year old boys, one naughty 3 year old and a daughter at boarding school in Ibadan. She runs a dressmaking business and employs 16 girls. Now she wants to learn shorthand and has already taught herself to touch type! Adebo was most friendly and I was tickled pink when both their mothers turned up. My goodness how they've progressed in a generation. These two old women were slum creatures and couldn't speak one word of English and were terrible. And Adebo is a qualified barrister and acting as Deputy Financial Secretary at the moment. That's progression for you but too fast.

January 1955

Mrs Adebo went home on the last mail boat and I wrote her a letter saying that I knew if she could get out to the country that you would both like to see her. I hope this is all right. She's an awfully nice person and knows how to behave, keep the conversation going etc. You'd enjoy seeing her and in case you'd like to write to her the address is C/O Mrs Howard-Lewis, 25c, Lexham Gardens, SW1 Adebo is a clever, brilliant man and is destined for high things. You'll get a good laugh if she arrives in native costume! Very different from the pretty colourful Baganda women. The House of Representatives sits again shortly with 190 odd new members as a result of the recent elections. Sir Frederick Metcalfe is out here and may be the Speaker. There are only 3 Europeans - Chief Sec., Financial Sec., and Attorney Gen. and of course the Speaker.

The opening of the first Federal House of Representatives has just happened. I was in the gallery listening and looking down onto the colourful scene below... H.E. in all his fineries - the judges (black and white) in their wigs and robes and the colourful members, who'd all dressed up especially for the opening ceremony. The 3 Prime Ministers who are not now members of this House (but of their own Regional Houses) looked on from the official box - the Hausa - Sardauna of Sokoto - who stole the show with his beautiful robes, soft eyes and, of course, as all Northerners, turbaned head and neck. Dr. Azikiwe from the East - the leader of the N.C.N.C. (which is the best party) was well dressed up in his costume and Awolowo from the West - the leader of the Action Group didn't appear till later....Secretary of State arrives tomorrow.....

Of course, I dream more and more of a cottage and all that the English countryside offers. To have a home in England with the seasons of the year and all that is there without buying anything, and to be married to the right man and have his children seems to be an impossible goal but I know it's what I want and what I shall hope one day to find.

This new House has been sitting for a week and in a few minutes will adjourn sine die. F.S. has made one or two speeches and had the difficult job of putting through a Bill exempting (Regional) Governors and the Governor General from income tax as is done everywhere else. The Action Group members tried to stop it but after 3 hours debate it went through.

Well, the recess is just over, and I did my stuff and got F.S. and A.G. cups of coffee which is some feat amongst all the crowds of black faces. But I find the only answer is to be friendly - talk to them and, above all, smile at them all. One can get anything from them that way.

February 1955

I spent this morning typing a broadcast which F.S. has to make on the local broadcasting station about the budget There is going to be a lot of trouble over certain things and the Council of Ministers (Executive Council) is going to have a tough time in the House. As you know there are only 3 ex officio (European) members and they are the only Ministers who really know anything so they'll have their work cut out I fear..... Oh, this is a wretched place. When I first came here I thought people who complained about the 'chums' were tired and 'end of tourish' and that I'd never feel like that about them. But my goodness never have I felt so furious with a community as I do with the Africans in Lagos. They are shocking and I can't imagine why we waste our precious time and energy on trying to help them. The Northerners must be better I'm sure. The robbery and cheek that goes on is absolutely the end.

March 1955

The new Budget session opened on the morning of the 8th and this time I decided to watch from outside and skip the Governor's speech. It was most impressive. A guard of (black) Honour was drawn up and the Military Band. H.E. arrived, was met by the General and the Standard was lowered while the National Anthem was played. Then the inspection by H.E. of the soldiers in their colourful uniforms and H.E. in his lovely white suit and feathered hat. H.E. is very upright and military and I was terrifically impressed There were 3 of us looking on from the balcony of the House plus a handful of Africans. Around the perimeter of the House there were the usual crowds and nearer still Africans lolled up against the walls of the House - while the National Anthem was played again. Really most impressive but no one to see it. A thing of that sort in East Africa would be tremendous, everyone would crowd to see it, blacks and whites, but here, literally no one. And in the Action Group paper that day the front page headlines were "Empire Day to be abolished in West." Well! there you are - that's Nigeria for you in 1955 - at least my impressions! Inside H.E. made his last speech from the Throne and I believe did it very well.

That evening I went to the General's dinner party. We had to look at the seating plan before we went in..... It was a nice formal dinner - sherry, champagne and Madeira with which we toasted the Queen.... H.E. suddenly shouted across to F.S. about the Budget speech being the next day and said he ordered F.S. to go in, like the Chancellor, carrying a red box or brief case!

I was in the Gallery with Lady Macpherson and Lady Marshall. It takes a bit of doing to get up in front of 190 Africans and give a dull Budget speech. He had learned a lot by heart - at least I mean he didn't actually read it all except the dull figure parts and I must say he put it over superbly. He held their attention for one a half hours without a break and hardly one of those members moved, coughed or fiddled. There was a little heckling here and there and right at the end a lot - mostly applause as he talked about the gambler. The House were making a lot of noise when he roared over the tops of their voices and said, "But I am no gambler" and that was the climax of the speech.

Nigeria: Life with Algar Robertson
Queen Elizabeth in Nigerian Parliament
Well I certainly see life and I only wish many Europeans could come and sit in the House during this Budget session and listen to the nonsense that is spoken by illiterates. And one little beast - a Federal Minister earning the same salary as F.S. and who is driven round by a chauffeur (F.S. isn't allowed one) in an enormous American car, has been chasing around pestering me to make a date when he can come and visit me in my flat. Would you believe it? Many people here cannot. The other day he burst into my office at 3.0. p m. and demanded tea to be brought to him in my office. I panicked and couldn't think what to do so brought his tea, and he then made me bring up a table etc. for him. Cheeky little beast He stayed for a quarter of an hour and pestered me to give him a time when he could come round. Unfortunately there wasn't a soul near me - all the people were in the House and it was impossible for me to get a note to F.S. But this chap has been chasing me around for some days and did again yesterday but I just, ignored him and walked away. F.S. is furious and is going to tell him so. I've taken my key away from Emmanuel in case he is bribed to give it to this chap and I now have F.S.'s orderly sitting in my office all the time...

The Estimates are now being discussed in Committee and the first amendment was (frorn the Opposition) to reduce H.E.'s salary by 3,580 pounds! Another is to reduce F.S.'s by 100 pounds and so on........

In the Times I11th March there is a nice little bit about the ''Consolidation'' budget. The third leader was in connection with the letter from the Northern Region - but had more in it than anyone (except 3 people here) realise. Well, in the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria we the British, are now termed "Foreigners". I could write pages on all that is happening not only in the Federal House but also in the Eastern and Western Houses at the moment. Here the Estimates are now at the Committee of Supply stage and each Head of Estimates is taking ages to get through. The House sits till 6.0 p.m. every day but next week my guess is they'll be sitting till midnight. Over each Head it's the same theme, "Why can't we have Nigerian Deputies and Nigerian Heads of Departments". If only there were the Nigerians the Government would be only too glad to hand over their posts but where are all the bright young Nigerians who pass their exams and go to English Universities? They come back from their training and go into private practice as doctors or lawyers so that they can line their own pockets. And if they don t succeed at either of those jobs they take up politics and get an even higher salary - if they are elected. That is why they have no hope of running their own country. This general hate of expatriates is having a really depressing effect upon us all here, not a very bright outlook for the young cadet with a family.

I had a very grand invitation card to a dinner at an hotel given by a Federal Minister for tomorrow night. I can't find anyone else who has been asked and anyway I have refused. I was taken on a most interesting tour of inspection of the new Apapa wharf and warehouses - a 5 million pound project being carried out by Costains. All very modern and amazing because it's all being done on reclaimed land. The land was all part of the harbour but they've dredged millions of tons of sand piled it high and it just flattens itself out and building immediately commences!.....

May 1955

It's the Muslim's Christmas and as there are many of that sect here they always declare a couple of days public holiday. This a.m. the streets of Lagos were lined with beggars (all Muslims) blind, crippled and deformed into the most ghastly shapes and sizes as they hope people will be generous at their Christmas time. They all pray and kill rams and celebrate and by Thursday morning all wander into the office looking very sorry for themselves.

Had a terrible morning in the office today. The Chief Secretary wanted something very urgent typed and his girls were up to their eyes and one was away so I was asked. It was almost an impossible task - pages of scrawl to be deciphered in half an hour - a job which would normally have taken at least one and a half hours. I was on the last line when the half hour was up and the Chief Sec. came to collect it but the perspiration was literally dripping down my bosom and my legs and I was absolutely boiled. However, he was so pleased that two minutes later he came and begged F. S. to let me do some more work for him!.

June 1955

F.S. has to fly to England "immediately" for important discussions at the Colonial Office. He's got a terrific battle to fight out with those stuffy old gents and whether he'll do it or not we don't know. We think that on his success or failure hangs the future or otherwise of the Colonial Service - certainly in Nigeria if not in the whole of the Empire. Needless to say its all pretty secret at this stage...

Nigeria: Life with Algar Robertson
Lennox-Boyd MP
The enclosed is a programme for a dinner party given on the night of our new Governor- General's arrival and at which there were 3 European women out of a total of 33 guests! Can the government still be accused of delaying Nigerianisation?.... F.S. said it was a grim evening and that's what Sir James Robertson had got to do for the next 5 years!.

I'm afraid F.S. is going to have very heated arguments with the Colonial Office. Cables have been pouring backwards and forwards but I'm sure the Secretary of State will see that F.S.'s proposals go through, Mr. Grey,

Acting Chief Secretary, is also going on the same plane but on another mission - there will be great speculation here when the Press realise....

His visit was a success and everything will now go forward as we hoped. He had a very good meeting with Lennox-Boyd.

The F.S. was Algar Robertson and by October 1954 we had become friends - no longer the ponderer, fussy man I had originally described.

And later in 1955 he asked me to marry him. His trip to London was a huge success as he helped create Her Majesty's Overseas Service Pensioners (HMOCS) which has done a great deal for those retired people in the UK who would not have had the Supplementary pension, but would have had to exist on the basic Nigerian pension.

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Nigeria in 1960 Map of Africa
Colony Profile
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