Four of us arrived together in Uganda in 1953, to 'strengthen' a small Department
of Agriculture. We had all been together for 2 years of post-grad training, paid
for by the Colonial Office, at Cambridge and at the Imperial College of Tropical
Agriculture (ICTA), Trinidad, and we were told, 'Lucky young fellows. We only send
our best to Uganda, you know.' (My best pal, going to Malaya, had been told the
same.) We travelled out third class on the Dunnottar Castle. Three weeks glorious
voyage followed by thirty six hours on the train from Mombasa to Kampala.
I was impressed, on arrival at age 23, to find that in order of seniority and then
alphabetically in the Department's Staff List I was only 23 from the top which
suggested the possibility of moving up to be Director of Agriculture in very short
My 3 colleagues soon became District Agricultural Officers each in charge of one
of Uganda's 13 large Districts.
I was sent to work at Serere Experimental Station under the care of a wartime
Indian Army major, who by now was a noted agriculturalist and something of a
disciplinarian too. Today I believe he was the 'making' of me.
The first task was to obtain a second-hand car for official and private use, the
purchase facilitated by an interest-bearing government loan! Next step was to set
up a bachelor household in a government bungalow for which I was charged 5 percent
of my salary; and then to provision the house from 2 Asian shops (dukas) some
17 miles away (foodstuffs and kerosene for the fridge and the lamps). Then to
obtain kuni (firewood) for heating water; then to find a reliable servant to manage
all these unfamiliar things. After a day or two one started work in earnest, called
out by drumbeat at 6.30am to report, with all the others, to the Major. In-service
training then began seriously; running an estate with some 300 employees
counting junior staff of mixed ability and labourers, including a regular contingent
of healthy jocular inmates from the nearby open prison (aka Kingi George Hotel).
Exciting times! 10 years later I was still there but now in charge of what had grown
into a main Agricultural Research Station, well regarded throughout East Africa.
During that first tour Agricultural Officers had to pass exams in two tribal languages
- on pain of losing a precious annual increment if unsuccessful. Sure enough I lost
increments two years running; true to form, my mates would say, and I suffered
some stress till these were restored. For sure those early years were no financial
picnic. After 30 months we were entitled to 5 months home leave; I returned to
UK with 60 pounds, hardly a princely sum even then, and I had been careful with the
Recompense in terms of job satisfaction was huge however. Cameraderie in the
Service was tremendous. All involved seemed so well-motivated and dedicated
and great things were done for the welfare and security of the people. This did
not go unrecognised by the people themselves, who rewarded us with status and
respect. When we handed over to an independent government in 1962 it was with
pride in a job well done - though perhaps finished, we thought, a little prematurely.
No doubt in years to come a true evaluation of our legacy will be made.