British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by Keith Arrowsmith
(Administrative Officer, Nigeria, Eastern Region 1949-57)
When Queen Elizabeth was crowned 60 years ago, I was DO Ahoada, in the Rivers Province of Eastern Nigeria. To celebrate the occasion I had been provided with unusually generous funding and a large box of fireworks. It was up to me to ensure that the great day - which had been declared a public holiday - was suitably commemorated in my District. I enlisted the help of members of my staff and between us we devised the following programme:

8.00am: Service in St Paul's Church, Ahoada.
Also at 8.00am, a Roman Catholic Service in Ahoada.
8.45am: Moslem service on the Government School Playing Field.
9.15am: Children march to the Government School.
9.30am: Assembly on the Playing Field - National Anthem played by
the Government School band - Hymns and Prayer - Police
Demonstration - March Past and Salute (self in white uniform).

Prior to the day the following purchases had been made:

8 local cows (96 Pounds); yams (50 Pounds); 4 bags of rice (32 Pounds); 6 tins of palm oil (7 Pounds) and peppers etc (5 Pounds). For liquid refreshment I had bought 4 cases of beer (21 Pounds); 6 bottles of gin (6 Pounds); 6 bottles of whisky (7 Pounds); 6 bottles of squash (1 Pounds); 24 bottles of soda water (4 Pounds) and palm wine (10 Pounds).

For cooking we had hired from the United Africa Company 10 cauldrons. The Chief Warder, assisted by me, was responsible for the preparation of the Feast - and the inmates of the Prison were happy to lend a helping hand.

At 11.00am Public Feasting began. All present were soon feeling in good heart and post-prandial entertainment took the form of tribal dancing which continued until 7.30pm.

In the meantime preparations had been made for the Grand Firework Display, scheduled to begin at 7.30, by which time it was, of course, completely dark. Unfortunately it was not only pitch black on the playing field but also wet. Rain at that time of year was not unusual and efforts had been made to protect Mr Brock's goodies, but getting the fuses to light proved to be extremely difficult. In the end we had to resort to making a mini-bonfire under each firework before we could achieve any results. When we did succeed in finally persuading a rocket to soar skywards, it did not elicit the expected enthusiastic cheers from those spectators who had not already sought shelter from the rain. Instead it invoked cries of terror, and a hasty retreat to the safety of their homes. Only members of the Government staff and prisoners remained to enjoy (?) the show. It took time but in the end the fireworks were all discharged - if that's the appropriate word. As far as I know, there was only one casualty, wounded in the thigh due to a recalcitrant rocket taking off laterally instead of vertically...

Normal activities resumed the following day.

Africa Map
1955 Map of Eastern Nigeria
Colony Profile
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 105: October 2013


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