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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.