Eileen Sandford, the author, describes Come on, Eileen! as her autobiography which
to some extent it is, but it is not a dry account in chronological form of the life of
an ebullient 88 year old. Far from it. She divides her narrative into 12 sections of very
unequal length, the largest being her years of political and social service in Shrewsbury
from 1980, culminating in her time as Mayor, and the prized award of the MBE in
recognition. The early sections are concerned with her family, school life, and the impact
of the Second World War, when she first did nursing training and then joined the Women's
Auxiliary Air Force. These experiences elicit some amusing incidents, as indeed occur
throughout her story. Obviously letters home and diary entries have helped to remind her
of times and places.
Throughout Eileen's life run the themes of service to others, and of Girl Guiding. After
the war she decided to train as a Political Agent in the Conservative Party, but gave that
up when she met Hugh Sandford in 1948. Hugh was on leave from the Administration in
Northern Nigeria. They were soon married and another section of Eileen's story had begun,
this one of more obvious interest to members of OSPA. Eileen entered wholeheartedly the
life of a touring ADO, as experienced by so many of us in those far off days.
It is extraordinary to be reminded by Eileen's account how often Admin officers in
Northern Nigeria were 'posted', that is moved from one posting to another while in the
middle of a task, usually because someone else had gone on leave, or had come back. Eileen
coped with this admirably and managed to start Brownie packs and Guide companies in
many places. In Kaduna she originated groups in the Purdah quarter of newly appointed
Nigerian ministers' houses, to help the wives in their new situations, far from home.
It is obvious that Eileen's favourite place in Nigeria was the city of Kano, where
the Sandfords spent their last four years in Government service. There were far more
opportunities for Eileen to work with local Brownies and Guides, particularly in the
Emir's Palace. In a later section of her book, called 'Guiding in my life' Eileen describes
how much it has meant to her, and one must say how much she must have given to it.
After leaving Nigeria, Hugh Sandford initially worked at the Pestalozzi Children's
Village, then took a course at the Horticultural College in Swanley before they bought
Timber Lodge Nursery. There they worked hard to run it as a going concern for about 12
years, as well as looking after their 2 young adopted children.
Their move to Shrewsbury seems to have given Eileen a new lease of life, as she
gradually became more involved in local affairs. It took her 3 years to be accepted as a
local Councillor, since when she has never looked back, always working hard for causes
she believes to be right, and completely fearless in the face of opposition.
To sum up, this is an interesting and discursive look at someone's personal life and
ideals. One drawback of the book itself is its weight and size, A4 on heavy paper because
of the 76 pages of photographs, interesting though these are.