After one year at Cambridge I joined the Army, shortly before my 19th
birthday. I applied and was selected for the Indian Army and arrived at
Bombay in December 1943.
Most of my Army service was done in India and came to an end in 1947.
Looking to the future, I applied for appointment as an Administrative Officer
in the Colonial Service. I was successful and was selected for Nigeria.
Before going there, I did another academic year at Gonville & Caius,
Cambridge, and obtained a BA degree. I received some preparation for what
lay ahead by going on the "Devonshire Course", and I left by sea for Lagos in
January 1949. These are the letters I wrote to my parents in 1949-1950, while
on my first tour. I spent eight years in Nigeria during my Colonial Service of
Letter 1: c/o The Secretariat, Enugu, Nigeria, m.v. 'Tarkwa' Jan 20th 1949
My Dear Mother and Father,
How are you getting on in the frozen north? I am revelling at being back in
warm climes. At present the weather is just right: a bright sun, blue sky and a
breeze during the day; and a nip in the air at night.
After writing my postcard to you in Liverpool, I met my friend Christopher
Spafford for lunch. After eating, he showed me around the cathedral- a most
impressive building, and a good last memory of England to take away with
I went straight from the cathedral to the same customs shed as I went
through on my return from Singapore. There I had my first sight of my fellow
passengers 40 in all- and about half of whom are chaps who had been on the
same colonial service course as me. Having finished with the customs, to my
surprise, all the passengers for the Tarkwa piled into a double-decker bus;
and we were driven to a dock a little further down the river, where our ship
was berthed. We went on board at 4:30 p.m., and we sailed two hours later.
The Tarkwa is a cargo ship of 7400 tonnes. Normally she carries only 10 firstclass
passengers, one in each of the 10 cabins. On this trip there are four of
us to a cabin. There are only first-class passengers on board; though I am told
that at Freetown we are likely to get some African deck passengers. Except
for a certain congestion in the cabins, life on-board is very pleasant. Water is
always boiling hot, and baths can always be had. There is plenty of deck space
to lie around in and enjoy the sun, there is also space for certain games. I am
lucky in being one of the second sitting at meals, which means I don't need
to get up until 8 in the morning, fortunately too I am not at the captain's table,
so do not have to remain seated until he thinks fit to rise.
After my previous experience of sea voyages on troop ships, the present trip
is sheer bliss. Personally I am pleased that this is a small ship, for it means
that things are more informal... I do a lot of eating, a lot of reading, and very
little exercise. Before dinner most evenings I do some Ibo with a friend, after
dinner I usually indulge in a game of bridge, a relaxation I don't often permit myself ... I can only add that we have been most fortunate with the weather,
and have never had it rough.
About half the passengers are people like myself going out to the coast for
the first time. Most of the remainder are missionaries of one sort or another.
The non-Roman Catholics look and dress like normal human beings, but the
Roman Catholic priests remain constantly in their thick black gloomy clerical
garb... Fortunately there are no attractive young women on board. This
makes life much easier than it might otherwise be! The main item of interest
on the voyage so far was our visit to Las Palmas. We tied up there just before
midnight on Monday the 17th. At 12:30 passengers went ashore. I sallied
forth with three other chaps. We climbed into one of the taxis which were
ready waiting on the mole, and without any customs or even passport
formalities were driven off into the town.
Fortunately it was a really bright moonlit night. We stopped by the cathedral,
and from a spacious tiled and palm fringed square we admired its massive
frontage. Having more or less seen the town we commissioned our driver to
take us to the top of one of the surrounding hills, from where we hoped to
get a fine view of the island and its coastline. Arrived at our destination I must
confess that our first thoughts were not so much for the lovely view as for
finding some fill-belly. Nearby there was a restaurant open, and so at 2:30
a.m. we sat down to dispose of a ham omelette apiece and a cup of ghastly
cocoa. Our driver followed us in, and I was surprised how much conversation
I was able to have with him and the Barman without knowing any Spanish
myself and they being ignorant of English. On our return journey through Las
Palmas we stopped to visit the local Covent Garden. Although only 3:30 a.m.
there was a lot of bustle going on. We caused some diversion by bargaining
for oranges. A grey clad official of some sort did not seem altogether to
approve of the presence of mad "Inglisi" at that hour ... At 4:30 a.m. we arrived
back at the Tarkwa ... By breakfast time the ship was besieged by hawkers of
different wares, whom it was amusing to watch! Shortly after 10 a.m. the
Tarkwa sailed ... When you cruised to the Canaries, I expect you too visited Las
Yesterday I saw two forms of life I had not seen previously - a whale, who
obligingly spouted once or twice, and an albatross.
Our next stop will be Freetown in Sierra Leone, where we are likely to remain
for 24 hours. Our other port of call before Lagos will be Takoradi in the Gold
Coast, where we are likely to be for a day or two ... It delights me to have these
chances of seeing new lands.
love to you all from Keith.
Letter 2: c/o The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt, 3rd Feb '49
Dear M & D,
Before I do anything else I must drop you a line to let you know that I have
reached the end of my journey. We left Lagos on Tuesday evening and the
Tarkwa tied up at Port Harcourt (I shall call it P.H. for short in future) at 11
this morning. We were met by an officer of the administrative service, and
imagine my surprise when he told me his name was Rushmore - son of the
Rushmore that Peter (my brother) and I knew in Cambridge. He helped Kenneth, Timothy
Fyffe (Tim) and me to get our stuff through customs. Then he deposited Ken and
me at the Government rest house and took Tim to somebody's house. Tim
and Ken leave by train tomorrow for up-country. I am told that I am to remain
in P.H. for a few weeks under the eye of the Resident. I hope it won't be long
before I too am posted to the Bush. I understand that for the next few days I
will be living in the rest house, and then will be moving into a flat nearby.
When in the flat I will continue to eat in the central dining room of the rest
I am writing this in the evening seated on the verandah outside our rest house
quarters. Chubb, the Resident (my immediate boss), has just visited us. He
confirmed that Ken and Tim will be travelling tomorrow. He gave me the
unwelcome news that I will be remaining in P.H. until next June - his office is
apparently in a mess and needs sorting out...
After Lagos, P.H. is one of the most civilised towns in Nigeria it is situated on
the New Calabar river, about 40 miles inland. It is a new town built on
reclaimed swamp ground. All the way from the sea we steamed between
banks of mangrove swamps. Having now driven around P.H. I am quite
impressed by the pleasant layout of the place. I myself would never have
imagined that it was built on reclaimed land. The roads are well surfaced.
There are some reasonable shops and near the rest house there are pull-plugs
and English-type baths. The town has too the benefit of electricity ...
I believe I am right in saying that as many as 200 Europeans live here.
This afternoon I interviewed a would-be steward boy and I now have one,
Philip, an Ibo, to minister to my needs. As I shall not be fixing my own meals
for the time being, I don't expect to be engaging any other servants just yet.
I have just returned from dining with the Resident. Tim, Ken and George
Rushmore were also there. Conversation was rather heavy going, but Chubb
seems to be a pleasant chap.
I am finishing writing this letter in bed. Once again I lie within the protecting
walls of a mosquito net ... lying here I wonder what the future holds in store.
I am really only just beginning to realise the actual reality of the new life I am
beginning in Africa. Disappointments there will be but I hope I shall find that
my job is worthwhile. It is good to know that I am in your thoughts and
Love to you all from Keith.
Letter 3: c/o The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, West Africa. Saturday 19th
My Dear M and D,
I am glad to say that since writing to you last I have received a little mail. From
you I have had an airmail letter dated January 31, and another dated -I think
- February 8 and addressed to P.H. From lan Gibson, Dinah (PS from Hugh)
and Dudley I have also had letters. They were all very welcome. Makes a great
difference when one is "far flung" to know that interest in one's doings is
being taken by family and friends ... I gather that all goes well on the home
front. Has Goodie fully recovered from her fall? How is your arthritis, M, and
your headaches, D? I understand you are having a phenomenally mild winter,
so things cannot be too bad. I see you've had my prescription for specs - have
they been posted off yet do you know? As regards the collar of mine you
found, please put it in my drawer - I have sufficient with me here. How did
your New Year social go off, and have you anything further to tell me about
the new curate? I am also glad to get any comments you care to give me on
world affairs ... I feel a little starved of news of what is going on in the outside
world, and will be very grateful if from time to time you would post me an
odd paper or magazine ... I am now fairly settled in my new life, which I fear is
at present a singularly unglamorous one. The mornings' spend as an "odd
stooge" in the Resident's office. Having fairly well sorted out what' was
required to, I am now left pretty unoccupied - my main function seems to be
to seal confidential letters ... However the army taught me to take what comes
in a philosophical manner. At present 'live in a civilised spot with little to do
- but who knows when' may not find myself in a pretty uncivilised bit of Bush
with a hell of a lot to do! In the afternoons I have been having Ibo instruction
from Mr Obi, a schoolmaster at the local Roman Catholic mission school. I
find it a little difficult, because Ibo has no stabilised spelling or orthography
as yet. Some of what I learned in London I have to forget, because the Ibo
spoken here is different ... Last Tuesday evening I went to CMS house, where
a chess session is held on Tuesdays. I enjoyed it. I had games with two people,
one of them being the Bishop (name of Hall) ... The town is being visited by a
naval sloop this week, and on Wednesday there was a hockey match against
the ship's team. I played for P.H ... I have also played some tennis. There is I
regret no chance of any squash here, there being no court. Nor I regret to say is there anywhere one can bathe ... My leisure hours in the evening are largely
taken up with writing a play entitled liThe Silver Wedding", and I frankly
confess that it is 90% based on our own family. So far I have only finished the
first short act. Should I some day complete it all, I hope you would have no
objection to my trying to get it published, produced or what have you. All
names are changed and it would be quite ready to write under a pen name ...
Last Sunday evening Miss Belcher, the social welfare worker, and I went to
Evensong in the CMS church. The Church is quite a good building, with a
seating capacity I should say about half of ours (St Mary's Upton - church where my father was rector). The congregation was good,
being almost entirely African - there were only about six Europeans there
altogether... The singing was very powerful; and although it dragged
somewhat and the harmonium made a pretty shocking noise, there was a
beauty about it... It amused me to see the bare feet of the choristers
appearing below their white cassocks! Service was entirely in English, and was
conducted on just the same lines as a Church of England service in England.
We are one hour ahead of you here; and when the church clock said 7:30, I
pictured you at Evensong ... You will be interested to learn, M, that when you
come onto summertime, then our times are the same ... The harmattan has
eased off during the past week and it has been pretty hot. The temperature
and climate here so far remind me rather of Madras. This afternoon I am
making a jaunt. I have got a lift up to Owerri, some 70 miles away. There my
Danish friend, George Jenk, and his wife are stationed. I will be spending
tonight with them. Then crossing south to Aba tomorrow where I will meet
my other friend Tim, and then back to P.H. tomorrow evening ... It will be
interesting to see a little of the countryside, which by all accounts is pretty
ghastly around here ... It seems likely that before long I will be the proud
possessor of a car. Apparently it is pretty necessary to have one. The
Government gives an advance, which one pays back over years ... This week I
bought a bicycle - an article which Africans set great store by.
Greetings, good wishes and love to all - not forgetting my grandmother. ..
Letter 4: Port Harcourt. Saturday, February 26th
My dear M and D,
What do you think of this ... A typed letter from K.V.A.? I will explain the
reason for it. My boss, the resident, thinks it would be a good idea if I knew
how to type. Having a lot of time on my hands in the office, I have begun
teaching myself. As you see I am still inexpert at the art. Mistakes I make are
due to the fact that I am not looking at the keys, and that for the sake of
practice I am trying to go as fast as I can.
Last weekend was most successful. It was most interesting at last to see a
little of the part of Nigeria that I have come to live in. Not that there was
anything particularly exciting about the countryside. Around here it is all
absolutely flat. Because of the high density of population, the Bush is not very
thick by standards prevalent in some parts. Even so however it presents a
pretty solid wall all along the road, except where there are villages and
settlements. Most of the trees were oil palms. Here and there towered up
colossal great trees, which were I think silk cotton trees. As we passed
through villages, hordes of impish young children would rush out at us,
shouting "Nde Beekee, Nde Beekee" - "English, English". I was amused to see
the way in which any bicyclist who saw or heard us coming dismounted and
wheeled his bike to the very edge of the road long before we were anywhere
near him. I found that I had arrived in Owerri on the day of the provincial
sports. I paid my 1/- and with Anne Jenk,the wife of my Danish friend, took
a seat in a palm frond pavilion structure, from where we watched the
unfortunates out in the sun expending great amounts of energy. After the
proceedings we repaired to the D.O's house, where we had drinks on the
lawn - I will call it that for want of another word. I spent the night in the guest
house in the Shell camp - there are quite a number of Shell people in that
neighbourhood prospecting for oil. On Sunday morning I was very hearty and
played a game of tennis before breakfast. In the morning, I motored down to
Aba with the Jenks. There I met Tim, who gave me lunch in his house. It was fun being able to compare notes with him. I had a delightful bathe with him
in the river. In the evening, I got a lift back to PH and we arrived back in time
for me to appear rather late at evensong.
This past week has slipped by happily, but uneventfully. I continue with my
Ibo instruction. I fear I am inclined to get rather annoyed with my instructor
sometimes, because he is not very bright and it is a pretty maddening
language, at least that is how I regard it after lunch on a hot afternoon. I had
my weekly game of hockey on Wednesday. On Tuesday I went and played
chess again at CMS house. This evening I shall be wearing tropical evening
dress for the first time. I have been invited out to dinner. We shall be going
later to a club to dance. The last Saturday of the month is what is called an
"open night", and it is the one evening when one is meant to wear glad-rags.
I now have a car on order. I have decided to start off my motoring days with
a small car. Sometime next month I look forward to being the owner of a new
Morris Minor, touring model. To buy a car, the government gives one an
advance, which one pays back on a monthly instalment system over a period
of two or three years.
This is something I have to ask you to do for me: would you please send my
birth certificate to: The Crown Agents for the Colonies, 4, Millbank, London
SW1, and tell them that you are forwarding it on my behalf for scrutiny in
respect of the "Widows and Orphans Pension Scheme". I think you have a
copy of my B.C. in a tin box in your study, D. If I am wrong, Lloyds bank anyway
have one. Please ask Crown Agents to return B.C. when they have finished
The other evening I went for a walk in the town with Chubb, the Resident. I
seem to get on quite well with him; and I think he takes a fairly good view of
me. His wife has recently come out, but so far I have not seen very much of
I still have a long way to go before I become speedy at typing. This letter has
taken me about 2 Y2 hours! I can assure you that I am thriving out here. I feed
well -lots of delicious pork, eggs and fruits ... I'm glad to hear that sweets are
coming off the ration. I expect you'll find however that they will become
almost impossible to get -love from Keith
Letter 5: Port Harcourt, Saturday, May 5th (posted 7th)
My dear M and D,
This past week I have felt for a change that I really am someone. Last Tuesday
the resident and his wife went away on tour and I have been holding the fort.
To be coping with files and to be in charge of an office again recalls army days.
So far I'm glad to say things have gone smoothly. I gave a messenger leave of
absence for two days to go away to his village and shift an ailing mother into
hospital (query: how authentic was his story?). I have made arrangements for
the coming visit of one Metcalfe-Cole, a Sierra-Leonian legislative Council
member, to Port Harcourt; I have been in touch with the resident in Calabar
over the posting of a clerk to our province; I have dealt with the petition by a
local blacksmith, requesting to purchase old railway sleepers, have approved
the installation of a telephone in somebody's office and so on ... My duties
have kept me pleasantly occupied during office hours, and this week I have
had no time to carry on my self-instruction in typewriting. The resident
returns on the 12th, and then I shall revert to my former lowly status. Besides
holding the fort, I am also housing a dog, or rather a puppy. The resident to
my surprise appeared at my flat at 7 a.m. on the morning of his departure -
fortunately I had just got out of bed. The purpose of his visit was to ask me
whether I would look after his dog. I agreed. Of course it is not so much me
as Philip who does the looking after. I hope the creature does not sicken with
anything between now and next Saturday!
One more week has sped by. Once again I have had my usual chess and
hockey engagements. The other morning I had a surprise but welcome visit
from George Jenk, who was in P.H. on duty. Tomorrow I hope to go to Aba
and meet friend Timothy again. Yesterday evening I made a start on trying to
get on with Africans. I invited Ekere, the education officer and his wife round
to dinner. They are a young couple, only married two months, and I doubt
whether Mrs is 20 yet. I found it fairly easy to talk to Mr - he had been to
Exeter University, but it was difficult to get much sense out of Mrs. When I
addressed her personally, she giggled at me. After dining, she contented
herself looking at a magazine, while I chatted with Mr. The evening was not
without its difficulties. Before anybody arrived I told Philip to go to the dining
room and remind the head boy that I was bringing one or two guests to dinner
for the sake of practice I told him this in Ibo; and he appeared to understand.
Unfortunately, however he told the head boy that I was having no guests for
dinner. Accordingly when an hour or so later I breezed happily into the dining
room with my rather ill at ease couple in tow, I was not welcomed very
warmly. Fortunately however the establishment were able to produce some
sustenance and Mrs E, I was thankful to see, more or less knew how to handle
a knife and fork ... On returning to my flat I was helped out in my entertaining
by my friend Geoffrey, who rallied around with a gramophone, and we sat
and listened to jazz records. On the whole it went off well, and it was a good
On Monday morning I made a little jaunt with Chubb. We motored out to
Isoba, and inspected the building of the new leper settlement that is going on
there. It is a government undertaking, and the settlement when completed is
intended to serve the needs of this province. As yet they have no patients.
Look after yourselves - be good. K.
Letter 6: Port Harcourt, Sat. 12.3.49 (Posted: 14.3.9.)
Dear M & 0,
I have once again reverted to my lowly estate. Mr Chubb returned yesterday
afternoon. I have handed over the keys and once again sit at my bare table
with little to do. I hope that C will consider that business has been adequately
conducted in his absence. The past week I have had to forward answers to
questions that are going to be asked in this session of the Legislative Council;
I have tried to book sea passages for a D.0. and his wife. I have arranged a
visit for an eminent Sierra Leonian to Pioneer Oil Mills in the neighbourhood,
I have forwarded certificates of insanity of a prisoner convicted of murder to
the Powers-that-be ... and so on. The other morning it was necessary for me
to have information regarding the covered floor space of schools in P.H. The
simplest means of finding out was to visit the said schools. This I did and was
interested to have this opportunity of seeing them. I visited the C.M.S. school,
the R.C., the Municipal and a private one. The R.C. one was much the largest
with 200 pupils. All the children wore a sort of minimum uniform: khaki shorts
and a white shirt. I saw very few girls as compared with boys. The children all
looked incredibly good and attentive. Of course, out here schooling is the
bread of life. There is a story of a well-meaning, high-placed official who on
visiting a school asked for a Y2 holiday to be given to the pupils. The pupils
raised an outcry at this attempt to do them out of some of their instruction!
In the R.C. school I saw my Ibo instructor, Mr Obi, taking his class. He seemed
to be delighted to see me, and I went over and had a look at his small boys.
His class was one of many seated on a long verandah. I greeted his 10 year
olds with a conventional lbo salutation, and they, to my amazement, replied
as one man with "Good afternoon, Sir"! A number of classes were being held
in the R.e. church beside the school. The e.M.S. school seemed to be a well appointed
place, with an agreeable headmaster. The private school appeared
to be unpleasantly congested. It is built on a plot measuring only about 50
yards by 50 yards and yet caters for as many as 600 pupils I understand.
By the time this reaches you, you will, Isuppose have the children's home on
holiday. I trust they are conscientiously studying their books - because, you
know, it is really very important that they should be thoroughly acquainted
with all that happened in the 15th century, if not before and after and
preferably before - if you follow what I mean. Believe me, one cannot hope
to progress far in life without knowing what took place in the 15th century.
This past week I have been a gay dog. On Sunday I went with Geoff to Aba,
where we met and bathed with Tim. On the way back we ran out of petrol
and a car-load of Indians kindly pulled us home - they ended up pushing us
in their car for the last two hundred yards ... On Tuesday evening I had my
usual game of chess. On Wednesday I dined with the local Govt. doctor. Then
on Thursday I was invited to join a supper picnic. We motored out to the leper
settlement I have already mentioned to you. There by the river we camped
and built a fine bonfire. Geoff and I were responsible for cooking sausages,
which we did rather well. There was also chicken, lots of ham and fruit tart to
eat. The picnickers, some 12 in all, consisted mostly of P.H. Musical Group.
When we had finished eating, we gathered around the fire and those who
could sang madrigals. Later on, those-who-could were not allowed to join in
singing community songs. I give full marks to the Coleridges who organised
the jaunt. For some time I had thought they must be a rather good type. This
is the social function I have enjoyed most so far in Nigeria ... This afternoon I
am expecting Tim to arrive. I am putting him up for the night.
You enquire about what sort of things I eat. On the whole the food I get in the
dining room of the rest house is much like what one would get in a hotel at
home, only there is probably more of it ... For breakfast there is fruit, followed
by egg and bacon or liver or sausages - toast and marmalade - tea or coffee.
The eggs are considerably smaller than in England. Lunch and dinner are
much the same: soup - meat (pork frequently, mutton or beef), fresh
potatoes normally but sometimes yam cakes and vegetables more often than
not out of a tin - sweet: steamed pudding trifle, fruit salad, baked custard etc.
Food at the rest house costs me 10 guineas a month, which is not too bad. In
my own flat I have only afternoon tea, consisting of a pot of tea and mashed
bananas. In my room I usually have a tin of sweets and biscuits to dip into ... Imported food is expensive: Cadbury's chocolates being 3 to 7 /- a Ib, and
biscuits about 5 to 7 /- a lb.
Love to all from Keith.
PPS. Here in P.H. I can buy a Times Airmail Monday paper on a Thursday, so I
keep informed to some extent with what goes on. There is no newspaper of
any value printed in this country and all are entirely provincial in outlook and
subject matter ... Also I hear the news from London at 8 am (7 am your time).
letter 7: Port Harcourt. Sunday 20th (posted 21st)
My dear M and D,
Another week has come and gone, and I have nothing very startling to report.
With Chubb back in harness, I remain a non-entity in the office. At the
beginning of the week a conference of District Officers was held in his office.
For the best part of two mornings there was a long pow-wow on the subject
of loca l government, which is rather the burning topic of the moment in this
part of the country. I just sat and held my tongue, and was soon heartily fed
up with the whole business. In the course of the week I have had to do some
confidential typing for Chubb, there being certain things which the clerks
must not know about. I have also had the rather dreary job of going through
petitions for review of judgements given in the native courts in the Province.
The English their petitions are written in is strange and wonderful and pretty
difficult to follow. Here is an example to illustrate what I mean; it's an excerpt
from a petition relating to a land dispute: "I am today on your leg betting
before your worship if you ask two of this head Chiefs known as Akpelu and
Ohnoada and they appear before you and said that this land in dispute does
not belong to me let me be imprisoned one year and 6 months for the hard
labour ... " Pages and pages of such gibberish tend to grow tedious - and when
they launch into genealogical details that is the end! The arrangements I
made for the stay of Mr Metcalfe-Cole proved to be satisfactory, and he
seemed well pleased with his visit... Timothy's visit last weekend went off
well. He arrived on Saturday evening. Together with Geoffrey we went to the
flicks after dinner. I slept on the spare bed in my room. On Sunday morning
we played several games of tennis at the club. We lunched to repletion on
If ground-nut chop", an excellent local dish. In the afternoon we took a couple
of groundsheets and cushions and lay on the golf course, making a small
diversion out to the edge of the creeks. At high tide in the light of the setting
sun, the mangrove swamps almost looked attractive ... We went to Evensong
in the C.M.S. church where we saw the Bishop license a lay-reader. Back to
the rest house for dinner; and then with Geoffrey, again to the club, where
we listened to a very enjoyable gramophone concert. At the end of the
concert Tim had to make speedy tracks for Aba 40 odd miles away, where he
is stationed. This has been a pretty quiet week. Tuesday I had my usual chess
and to my surprise trounced the star player. On Wednesday I gave tea to a pleasant D.O., with a wife and small boy. Yesterday I had Miss Belcher, a
woman staying in the rest house, and an accountant of the United Africa
Company in for a drink. After dinner in the rest house, I stood them a cinema
show. We saw an excellent film: "Nicholas Nickelby". I quite forgot I was
K.V.A. of the 20th Century, sitting on the West Coast of Africa, so absorbed
was I in that tragic tale of life in England in the 1830s. The casting was
excellent and the production was very good. It was undoubtedly the best
entertainment I've had since leaving England ... On Thursday evening I tried a
new bow-at-a-venture. I had discovered that the C.M.S. ran a youth club in
P .H., so just before the Bishop left on leave I asked him whether I could be of
any service. Accordingly I made my debut there last Thursday. The club for
boys and young men meets only once a week. The programme is varied. Last
week it was games, and I found myself playing darts and Chinese checkers.
This week we are to have 'twenty questions' ... Although I doubt whether I will
be of any great assistance, particuilarly as I am likely to remain in P.H. only a
few more months. I like to feel I am making a contribution - however smalland
I welcome the opportunity it should give of getting to know a few young
The car I have ordered is not arriving as soon as I had hoped. It is now due
about the middle of next month. To buy it, the Govt. makes me an advance,
which I shall pay back in monthly instalments over 2 years. This will represent
a considerable strain on my meagre resources. Yesterday I was extravagant -
I bought a carpet. It seemed to me to be such a good bargain. It is 10 by 5 ~
ft. It is soft as velvet; and it is one of those carpets whose columns look
different from either end. It cost only £6 - 7 - 6. Its cheapness may be
accounted for by the fact that it is of Italian make, and the sterling/lira
exchange rate is very much in favour of sterling. The carpet now ornaments
my sitting room and looks rather too luxurious for its surroundings.
In P.H. we have now reached rather a bad time of year, the period
immediately preceding the start of the rains. The rainy season begins in April.
Now in the latter part of March the days all feel rather oppressive. It's the
time of year too for tornados, though I have not experienced any yet ... As
regards myself, I'm glad to say that I keep very well, and so far do not find the
climate any worse than what I have already experienced elsewhere.
Here it is 10:45 on Sunday morning and I am writing this seated outside my
flat. In the flat upstairs I hear two or three steward boys chattering and joking
together. From the wharf comes the occasional hoot of a steamer. You will
no doubt still be at breakfast; and I can picture your likely movements during
the day. I hope all goes well with all- greetings and love from Keith.
Letter 8: P.H. - Sunday, 27th posted 28th
My dear M and D - Thank you, D, for your letter of the 16th which reached
me on the 22nd...
Lastweekend I put up an agricultural officer on my spare bed -I did not know
him but he was in need of a bed. I passed a quiet Sunday, sketching in the
morning and lying and reading on the golf course after lunch. The event of
most note during the week was a visit I made in the company of Miss Belcher
to the local gaol. Miss B, being a Social Welfare Officer has a keen interest in
the gaols and similar institutions. The superintendent showed us around the
whole place. The point that struck me straight away was the inadequacy of
precautions against escape.The prison area was surrounded only by a barbed
wire fence, which would have been easily penetrable... I might add that gangs
of convicts go out into the town each day to cut grass and do similar work and
they are only very casually supervised by an odd warder or two... Observing
on this, I asked the Supt. whether many tried to escape. He said that they did
not and inferred that by and large the prisoners were quite happy to be where
they were ... In England one of the functions of a prison is to act as a deterrent
to would-be law-breakers; but it would not seem that such a principle applies
out here! We visited the condemned cells - two of the men had 48 hours left
to go in this life. I gathered that there was a certain amount of competition
between R.e. and Salvation Army as to who should prepare them for their
future state ... we also visited a condemned woman. On entering the female
portion of the prison I was taken aback to see smart young smiling wardresses
on duty - one of them giggled when the Supt. asked her a question... The
condemned woman was a poor old body with bewildered eyes - the sort of
person one would have thought would have been a good children's nanny...
Briefly her story was this: she was being chased by a man in her village, and
to escape him she hid. The man's child saw her hiding and told his father. The
woman killed the child with a hatchet. It is now up to the Governor whether
she hangs or not... The prison grounds were pleasing and there was no doubt
but that the prisoners were well looked after - believe it or not the normal
scale of rations per day amounted to 5lbs 12oz in bulk!! The state of the 300
male and female criminal lunatics detained at His Majesty's Pleasure was very
different. So appalling was it that I shall not write down what I saw in a letter...
We also saw some leper prisoners...
Enough about the prison. On Thursday I went again to the youth club. I found
myself directing twenty questions. I was amazed how slow the lads were in
the uptake. Even though I said far more than just 'yes' or 'no' to help them,
they were unable to get the easiest things such as a typewriter or cooking
pot. Yesterday I was oddly engaged. Miss Belcher asked me to assist her in
'entertaining' and keeping an eye on four youngsters on remand. For a week
these lads, all about 8 or 9 years old, have been cooling their heads behind
bars in the Police barracks. We took them down to the river in Miss B's car.
There they had a bathe and ate some sweets which I took along with me.
They were happy, jolly, high-spirited boys. To amuse them I got a fellow to
take us all for a paddle on the river in his big canoe. We must have presented
an odd sight: Miss B, K.V.A., and four small boys clothed in ragged shirts or
shorts, leaving most of their person and private parts bare! I am now writing
this on the verandah outside a locked up bungalow in the Isoba leper
settlement. The occupants are away and we are making use of the place for
a picnic. My two groundsheets are spread on the floor and are littered with
thermoses, bottles, oranges etc!
There are 3 of us, Miss B, Derrick Cudmore, myself and three dogs. The scene
is very peaceful. The bungalow is built on the bank of the New Calabar River.
Here we are away from the mangrove swamps; and later when the tide is
higher, I look forward to a bathe - I understand that crocs are few and far
During the past week I have continued to read Native Court Judgements,
which have been referred to the Resident for review. Most of them
concerned disputes about ownership of land. One concerned a chap who
wanted the return of his bride-price, as his wife had left him for another ... The
English in which the proceedings are recorded (like the English of petitions.) is
almost unbelievable - some passages read like sheer gibberish; and gOIng
through pages of it gets somewhat tedious! On Friday afternoon I had to go
down to the wharf to meet two men and one woman. This time it was my
turn to provide transport, P.W.D.G men to take baggage, and accommodation
at the rest house - seven weeks earlier George Rushmore was doing this for
myself and the other two who arrived with me. I saw my charges off the ship all right, and they were grateful for my assistance. At dinner I discovered that
one of them I had met was an Old Marlburian - a few years before me.
Yesterday I listened to both the boat race and the Grand National. The former
was very thrilling, and I found myself calling "Cambridge, Cambridge!".
Transmission of the Grand National was very good - I fear Rosa lost her
money on the favourite, which came in fourth ... I have done nothing very
much socially this week - only chess on Tuesday, and to the flicks with a friend
on Wednesday. My friends, the Jenks, arrived for lunch in the rest house on
Friday - and it was fun seeing them again.
My steward boy, Philip, is becoming an institution. I live for the day when I
will hear him laugh ... It's difficult to know what he is thinking. He is not a man
who volunteers much information of his own accord. His main job in life
seems to be washing my clothes which he does very well. He walks over to
my flat from his quarters, steps out of his shoes at my back door, and steps
back into them again when he leaves.
You may be interested to hear that K.V.A. is a Justice of the Peace. Greetings
to you all. Love from Keith.
Letter 9: Port Harcourt. Saturday 2nd April. Posted Monday 4th.
My dear M and D
typical week has gone by. I have continued to review Native Court
judgements, principally in connection with land disputes or refunds of brideprice.
A favourite judgement of a Native Court is to make both plaintiff and
defendant swear on a juju. Having done this, if any of the defendant's family
die within the next 12 months, then judgement is in favour of the plaintiff -
and vice versa! And yet although this is the standard of the civil law that I shall
have to deal with in the Bush, I have to wade through Wilshire's Common Law
of England (contract and tort) in order to pass an exam in June. At the
beginning of the month I have two or three law papers and towards the end
I have my Ibo exam ... It will be pleasant when and if these two are behind
me ... Otherwise this week I have had little to do in the office except for a little
typing. From Monday to Friday next week however the resident will be on
tour, so I shall feel as though I am doing something for a few days.
On Tuesday afternoon I helped Miss Belcher out with her four small remand
boys again - we planted them on a piece of grass, and left them to get on
with a game of football, using a tennis ball... On Thursday evening I went to
the youth club, where an African lawyer gave a talk. I am to give a talk on the
21st of this month on the subject of education in England - (or how best to
sow wild oats at the University!) -I don't know what I shall talk about exactly,
but fortunately the subject should not tax my resources unduly. Later on
Thursday I dined with Miss B. Also there was a police officer and his wife.
Formerly he had been a professional hunter in Kenya until he got unhappily
involved with a buffalo - it was interesting to hear what he had to say. Last
night I had a few chaps round to my flat after dinner. You would have been
amused to have seen us sitting around a small table, intently playing dice -
K.V.A. gamed with some success. My friend, George Jenk was in for lunch
during the week, and I arranged with him for my friend Geoff and me to pay
them a visit at Owerri this weekend ... In a few moments we will be leaving in
the latter's car.
Continued on Monday morning ... I had a very delightful weekend with my
friends. Left P.H. soon after 12 on Saturday, and had a picnic lunch by roadside. Got into a foul state eating a pineapple to the entertainment of
some natives who stood by watching us. Arrived in Owerri at teatime.
Afterwards played tennis. Dinner. Played records, and talked till a late hour.
Geoff and I slept in the bungalow of the Assistant District Officer (A.D.O. -
you must get familiar with these letters ... I too am an A.D.O.) Who was away
for the weekend. On Sunday morning we managed tennis before breakfast.
Finished breakfast at 11... Then drove off a few miles to a fast-flowing river,
where we had a very pleasant bathe! Back to Owerri for a very late lunch,
which we did not finish until after 4 p.m.! Then more tennis; and left for home
at 6:15 - a fine open-air weekend. We returned to P.H. at speed to be ready
to sup with some C.M.s. men, among them the Archdeacon for Onitsha, who
is visiting P.H ... I am finishing this letter in the office, where today I am
occupying the Resident's seat. love to all from Keith.
letter 10: The Resident's Office, P.H. Sunday April 11th 1949.
My dear M and D,
This week I managed quite satisfactorily in the absence of Mr. Chubb, who
was on tour; and there is really nothing of note to report about my doings in
the office. On Monday I had to rebuke a typist and an office messenger for
absenting themselves for most of the morning; for a brief space thereafter
they appeared creditably chastened. Today I undergo a turn of the tables with
a vengeance, so to speak. Today the Tarkwa docks at P.H. last time she
docked here I was the new boy on board that had to be met, today it is my
turn to do the meeting ... Mr Chubb leaves P.H. again today, and I shall again
be in charge of the office. He is due to return after Easter ... As to my
extraneous activities during the week, they have been much the same as
usual: Tuesday evening chess at C.M.s. house; Wednesday afternoon hockey
- I captained one of the sides - the game was rather spoilt because of the
onslaught of innumerable little flying ants, which were a result of the heavy
rainfall during the morning; on Thursday evening I went to the Youth Club,
where I heard a local African parson read from a book and expound - his
power of self-expression was very limited and halting - the subject was
'friendship' - he called for questions at the end - one lad asked him what was
the difference between a friend and a lover-the padre was at some difficulty
to reply ... The club is a good idea, but seems to me to have a lamentably small
membership. On Friday evening I threw another little drinks party in my flat.
In all I had about seven guests. Entertainment was provided - albeit
unknowingly - by the wild Greek wife of very ordinary Mr Brown, as typical
an Englishman as his name would suggest. The wild Greek is only able to give
expression to the most everyday feelings in paroxysms of invective. I think
really she must be mad. However she lent colour to the company. It struck
me how inappropriate it was to address her as 'Mrs Brown' or 'Mary' which I
gather is her Christian name. My lady guests much admired the photograph
of you, M, that I have displayed. After lunch on Thursday instead of my usual
Ibo lesson in my room, I went for an Ibo walk with my instructor in the Town.
The idea is that on a such a walk 90% of the conversation is carried on in Ibo,
and that we talk about sights we see as we go along. It is of profit to me and
a source of amusement to the towns people, and so is altogether worthwhile
all round! I forgot to mention that on Friday afternoon I gave tea to Mr and Mrs Chubb immediately on return from their tour ... Yesterday my friend
Geoffrey and I chanced to visit a C.M.S. Teachers' Training School near P.H.
We had speech with the African principal, who struck me more favourably
than most of the educated Nigerians I have so far met. Term was over; so
there was not very much to see. Yesterday evening I sat next to an American
authoress (Mrs Reyler) at dinner in the rest house. She was an interesting
person, and I chatted with her until 11:30. She is visiting Nigeria to study
polygamy; and then goes on to S. India to see something of polyandry.
This I fear is going to be a rather dreary weekend. As I write it is Sunday
morning. After breakfast I went round to the office to have a word with Chubb
about arrangements for the coming week. I am now seated in my room.
Outside it is raining, not so very hard by tropical standards but persistently.
In fact today is very reminiscent of a wet Torquay August day. As I write I
munch ginger biscuits which is naughty of me, because I propose before long
to dispose of a large Sunday lunch ... As a matter of fact I have a vice (can you
really believe it of K.V.A.?) -I am a secret ginger biscuit eater ... Furtively and
surreptitiously at not infrequent intervals by day and night I gnaw greedily at
crisp hard gingernuts ... Enough said, let us draw a veil over the picture of a
far-flung ginger biscuit glutton ...
This time next week I hope I shall be able to tell you that I am the proud
possessor of a car. In the meantime, salutations and love from Keith.
Letter 11: Port Harcourt Easter Sunday
My Dear M and D,
I am writing to you this week in the Guest house at Bonny. Bonny is 40-odd
miles from P.H., and is situated at the mouth of the New Calabar River.
Perhaps more than any other place on the African coast it is a place with a
history and a past. In the old days it was a great slave-trading station. Slaves,
brought down the river from the interior in canoes, were assembled and
herded together here in baracoons before being traded to Portuguese and
British slavers in return for gin. When the slave trade was abolished, Bonny
retained its importance as a trading centre - palm-oil replacing the traffic in
human flesh. Later however as the European traders began to venture up the
river, the town began to lose its prosperity. Its doom as a commercial centre
was assured by the building of Port Harcourt in the earlier part of this century.
Now Bonny presents a picture of ruin and decay. Yesterday evening we went
for a walk around it. Here and there quite good two-storeyed structures still
stand, but many of these better buildings are shut up. The present inhabitants
live in pitiful lean-tos of rusty corrugated iron. Looking singularly incongruous
in this shabby setting are elaborate tombstones in the graveyard and well-carved
busts and statues of former 'kings' of Bonny dotted about the town.
Lying about in heaps between the houses are heavy old rusty cannon and
their mountings. Goats and fowls and small naked children wander aimlessly
around: no one does anything here because there is very little to do. There is
no ground to cultivate as Bonny is surrounded by creeks and swamps. No
canoes any longer bring puncheons of oil down the river. No ship ever dreams
of stopping nowadays but steams on up the river to P.H. It is many years now
since the consulate building was dismantled and resurrected in P.H. to
become the present Residency. Young people of Bonny leave their native
place to make a living in P.H., Aba or elsewhere. The old and the very young
remain - together with sand fly and mosquito.
There is no road to Bonny - it can only be approached by sea or river. We
travelled down by steam launch yesterday. By 'we' I refer to the District
Officer, at whose disposal the said launch is, his wife, my friend Geoff and
myself. We left P.H. at 10:30. We lunched on board - an excellent meal of
steak and chips. After the meal we ran into bad weather. It had already been raining for some hours, but suddenly it grew much rougher, and we found
ourselves in a squall. We turned about and ran before it for a short while
before turning up a side creek. There we anchored alongside the fringe of the
mangroves and waited for the worst of the storm to pass. Tarpaulins flapped;
water sprayed into the cabin; overhead there were heavy claps of thunder.
After an hour or so the worst was over. We resumed our journey, reaching
Bonny at 4 p.m.
The Resident has been away all the past week. He returns on Tuesday; but
leaves again on Monday week for Lagos for a few days ... I still have not got
my car. I hope to get it sometime next week. I went to the C.M.S. church on
Good Friday, which was a public holiday. The service was not conducted in
the gloomy manner one expects to have on such a day. Choir and
congregation sang with great enthusiasm 'There is a Green Hill Far Away',
'When I survey the Wondrous Cross' and so on! Easter makes quite a
welcome break - Friday to Monday inclusive ... During the past week I have
continued with my law. On account of it I have given up other and lighter
reading (and writing) for the time being.
Now as I write it is afternoon. I am seated on a sandy beach a mile or so from
Bonny. We rowed down here in a dinghy, bringing lots of lunch with us. The
D.O. and his wife, and another nice A.D.O. are lying nearby. Geoff is playing
around with the boat. A canoe with three paddles is passing in front of me. A
moment or two ago a pot-bellied young girl, naked except for a string of
beads around her plump buttocks wandered past, and it seemed to me that
she regarded the prostrate mad English with some bewilderment. Nearby on
the sand transparent crabs slink out of their holes, darting back to earth as
soon as I move. A local man has just come up to ask whether Madam would
like a mango. At the moment a black individual is standing some 10 yards to
my left staring at me. On arriving here we disturbed a vast concourse of
curlews, some hundreds, which as one bird took flight wheeling off in
Love to all from Keith.
Letter 12: Port Harcourt. 23rd April (posted April 25th)
My Dear M and D,
In my last letter ' left you, if' remember aright, seated on the shore at Bonny
in the afternoon of Easter Sunday. That evening Geoff and I went round to
the "cathedral", so-called because formerly it used to be the Cathedral
Church of the Niger Delta Pastorate in the days when the Bishop's HQ used
to be in Bonny. We arrived too late to join in the service - in fact just in time
to see a choir of about 60 filing out of the church. They were followed by the
congregation whose garments provided a fine splash of colour. I spoke to one
of them, and asked when the service began. He replied 3 p.m. - it was then
after 5:30! We entered the church, and' was amused to see that its main
form of decoration for the festival was bunting! Festooned with Union Jacks
and flags of many nations, the interior looked more like a dance hall than a
church! We went round to the vestry and' had a word with the African parson
and churchwardens. , congratulated them on what had appeared to have
been a good service, and said that I would make mention of it when next
writing to my father who was himself a church of England parson ... We
remained at Bonny for the whole of Monday. At 3 p.m. a dancing session
began on an open patch in the town. Rather later' went round to see the fun.
, was not impressed. There was a small stringed-off enclosure in the centre
of which sat a huddle of men drinking. Strung up on poles were a few faded
and tattered Union Jacks. Alongside the circle there were two rough awnings
fixed up. Under one seated on benches were more men drinking. Under the
other squatted the band. Music was provided as follows: stuck in the ground
were three or four large flagons, filled with water to different levels. The
mouths of these were struck with a brush-like affair, and the result was quite
a pleasing hollow drumming noise. Behind the drama there was a bevy of
women armed with weapons very reminiscent of what' believe are called
Dutch-hands (the wooden instruments used in "Maypole" and "Home and
Colonial" stores in the serving of butter). These played together in time,
keeping up the while a frenzied vocal accompaniment. The dancers
incessantly shuffled in an anticlockwise direction around the cluster of seated
men, inside the string enclosure. Girls were on the inside, men on the outside.
The format kept to some sort of uniformity of movement, which consisted
largely in constant and skilful backside wobbling. The latter were individualistic, except when they seem to join up for a sort of "follow - my leader"
stunt. This shuffling round and round went on solidly without any
variation. Nor by way of compensation for the monotony was one rewarded
by the sight of naked brown bodies, for all were very adequately clad! There
were of course many onlookers; and frisking around on the edge was the local
juju. He cut a rather ludicrous figure; and certainly he appeared to cause no
one any concern. He wore anklets of shells, added breaches, a cloth over his
head with a couple of slits for his eyes, and on his head there was a certain
amount of foliage superimposed on a very poor wooden carving of what I
imagine was meant to be a crocodile ... By the way, I should add that the dance
was being held in honour of a local beauty on her emergence from the
fattening chamber - girls are fattened before marriage. The Belle of the Ball
had a little palm-frond shelter to herself; it looked very like a Punch and Judy
stand. From time to time she joined the dancers. In her state she must have
found the exercise very wearing! On Monday night I bathed from the wharf
near the rest house; and I bathed again at 5:30 the next morning on getting
up ... I was back in the office by 11 a.m .. On Thursday evening I spoke to the
youth club about education in England. I described primary, secondary, prep
and public schools and Oxford and Cambridge to them; but I don't think I left
them much the wiser. At the end one lad asked me in all seriousness whether
the standard of education in Nigeria was as high as in England. Yesterday I
made another of my social efforts. Once again I had some people round for
drinks in the evening. This is a beautifully easy way of entertaining - all you
need are a few bottles, and you get the company nattering. Personally I
consider it a pretty good waste of time; but most people seem to like it - and
one must make the effort sometimes. At least I try not to be too conventional
in those I ask. Yesterday I had once again Miss Belcher and friend Geoff - also
George Rushmore, an African doctor and his wife, a Czech shoe trader and his
glamorous young spouse, an Anglo-Indian C.M.S. missionary and a sister from
the hospital. It was rather hard going to begin with; but I flatter myself that I
got things going with a swing before long.
For what it's worth I can assure you that out here there is not a hope in hell
of your first-born getting tied up with anyone. My mother will no doubt be
relieved to hear this ... I understand that my Morris car really has arrived in
P.H. at last - it is possible that I shall get delivery of it in the course of next
week? Sweets coming off the ration tomorrow ... My, my, you lucky people!
Philip has just got my tea ready, and I don't think I can hope to get much more
on this letter form so: Love to all from Keith.
Letter 13: Port Harcourt. Sunday 15th posted 16th
My Dear M and D,
Today I write to you probably for the last time from P.H. for the time being.
The reason for this is that on Monday I leave this civilised township for the
Bush. I am for a few weeks to assist the district officer of a division called
Ogoni. I am told that I shall be principally engaged in court work, that is to say
hearing appeals from the Native Court. It will be good new experience, and
should provide a certain amount of amusement - anyhow to begin with. I
expect to be in Ogoni a couple of weeks, then returned to P.H. for a couple of
days to take my law exam; after which I am due to join another D.O. and Old
Marlburian of a tough variety, whose division is in the creeks ... (Bill Newington) Touring there
is done by steam-launch, which will make a pleasant change. Eventually, that
is to say probably about the end of July, I go to Ahoada Division where I
become the permanent A.D.O., i.e. Assistant District Officer, remaining there
I imagine until I am due for leave.
Rather appropriately my last week in P.H. has been a fairly social one. On
Tuesday I went round as usual to CM.S. House for a game of chess in the
evening, only to find a great concourse of bodies present. CM.S. missionaries
from all over this part of the country converged on P.H. last week because
the annual Synod was held here ... Anyhow, instead of chess we played bridge;
and I must admit that it was a pleasant surprise to me that CM.S. missionaries
were able and appeared to be only too pleased to play this game of skill. I
must confess however that the ones I had the honour of playing with did not
disclose any great proficiency ... On Wednesday I went to a rather classy
dinner party given by the judge. The resident and his wife were there as well.
We had a pretty good meal, seven courses in all! The judge is an amiable little
Cypriot; his wife is as English as they make them, and very charming. On
Thursday evening I had three senior clerks from the office round for a drink.
The foregather went off well, the only snag being when one of the number
attempted to smoke a cigar I offered him while still in its silver paper wrapping! I tentatively suggested that he would be better able to kindle it
with the paper off but he did not take my advice ... I was most surprised, and
I must admit pleasantly so, when, before leaving, the Chief Clerk rose to his
feet and said a few words in eulogy of K.V.A ... On Friday evening I entertained
a young girl, Canadian again, and a teacher in a C.M.S. school. We saw a pretty
deplorable film, and then had a look at the river by the light of a full moon.
She was a pleasant girl - only out a few months, and finding concentrated
C.M.S. society rather overpowering ... Yesterday I went out with my friend
Geoffrey, our last outing together for some time as he is leaving P.H. also "this
week. Today I have been very busy packing up my belongings. My flat looks a
terrible ruin now with boxes standing listlessly around. I feel rather end-of-term-
ish, and it's quite a nice feeling ... In a way though it's a pity I am leaving
P.H. just now, for I am beginning to make various friends here and there. I
now have another minion to help look after me, that is to say a cook, by the
name of Boniface (pronounced "Bonnyface" but spelt this way on account of his Roman Catholic faith). He seems a likeable young man, and is a friend of Philip's
which is probably all to the good. For the past two days I have been busy
buying in stores, articles ranging from baking powder to kerosene. I seem to
have spent a phenomenal lot and I only hope I have not forgotten anything
As a result of the plane crash I told you about in my letter last week, air
services have not been running to time, and consequently mails have been
irregular. On account of this I have received no letter from you this past
week ... As I am going to the Bush I am afraid you will find that my letters to
you will take a little longer to arrive ... By the way go on addressing me c/o The
Resident's Office, Port Harcourt.
I conclude this on Monday morning just before setting off ... Greetings and
love to all at home - never forgetting my grandmother - from Keith.
Letter 14: The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt 21.5.49
My Dear M and D,
Last weekend I was kept pretty occupied. On Saturday afternoon George
Rushmore married a nursing sister from the hospital at P.H. She being R.C.,
the wedding was held in the local R.e. church. It was the first time I had
attended an R.C. wedding, and I can't say I was impressed.
For 90% of the time the bridal couple remained seated in front of the Bishop,
also seated, who read out a long exhortation to them. After some eight
minutes of this, they took their marriage vows; holy water was splashed onto
the ring; the Bishop rose to his feet and murmured a few words in Latin; and
then the bridal cortege moved into the vestry. The reception was held at the
Residency, and followed the customary course. Sunday I was very busy
packing up house. Several boxes, which I don't need at the moment, I dumped
chez Miss Belcher. On Monday morning having seen all my remaining goods
safely loaded onto a lorry, I sallied forth in my little car accompanied by Philip.
I reached my destination, 40 miles distant by 1 p.m. I met Christopher Ollard,
the D.O., and went to his house for lunch. There I met his young wife and
small son of 10 months. Christopher is a pleasant chap though a little inclined
to be moody. His wife is very pleasant. That afternoon I had to go to a village
on the boundary between this division and an adjoining one, where we had
heard there was trouble brewing ... The road grew progressively worse; until I
was driving his 12 HP Austin down a footpath, through bush, only 1 foot wide!
For the last few miles we had to drive all the way in second gear ... Better his
car than mine I could not help thinking ... Having reached the village, we found
our journey was still not finished. The two of us accompanied by an
interpreter mounted bicycles, and cycle for 3 miles or so through fields of
yams. En route we collected various bodies, who ran in front of us. Finally we
reached the land, which had been reported to be in dispute, only to find
everything quiet and in order ... The locals themselves explained that this was
not the time of year they would make trouble with their neighbours, for they
had their hands full attending to their crops ... We cycled back to the village,
where we were regaled with fresh coconuts for which someone had to climb
a tree ... On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights I stayed in a rest house
a mile or so from the D.O.'s house. For the first two of these nights I shared the place with an engineer, his wife and small boy - the only other Europeans
in the neighbourhood. We dined together, but ate our own food prepared by
our respective cooks. I am glad to say that Boniface has been doing quite
satisfactorily so far. On Tuesday and Wednesday I accompanied Chris when
he reviewed cases in court. I had to make the most of this brief introduction,
for on Friday I was hearing reviews myself ... On Thursday morning my boys
had to pack my things, and a lorry shifted them to another rest house 9 miles
down the road. Chris went down with me to hold a Clan Council meeting. At
this he introduced me as the man who would be hearing their reviews the
following day. The main item on the agenda was the selection of a President
of the Clan Council. Chris also urged the building of segregation huts for
lepers. At the end of the proceedings he drove off; and for the first time K.V.A.
was left behind to fend for himself. The local chief accompanied me back to
the rest house. I offered him a Cherie; seeing me drinking squash, he
intimated that he would like some to. A minute or two later I was vouchsafed
the spectacle of a stalwart young giant clad in a "toga" - who had stepped up
to the Veranda unbidden by me - kneeling down before the chief and
reverently receiving from him my yellow tooth mug and drinking the
remaining dregs of grapefruit squash as though it were some sacrament. The
chief explained that the young man was a son of his ... On Friday morning at
8:15 I made my entry into the native court - a respectable building with a
corrugated iron roof. The head Court-Messenger called those present to
their feet, and I seated myself at the table on the raised stone platform at the
end of the building. Remained in court without a break until 2:30. I returned
at 4:15 and left finally just before 7 p.m. Altogether I dealt with 16 cases. The
very first one involved me in confirming sentence of three months
imprisonment with hard labour on a woman. There were two applications for
divorce by women - one of which I allowed. In that case I felt very paternalreleasing
a young girl from her very much older husband. Evidence had been
given of his ill treatment of her. The young wife in question was already living
with another man. I called him up. He was a young fellow and looked as
though he would make a good husband. In allowing the divorce I said I hoped
that he would marry the girl, and that she would remain true to him and
refrain from further adultery ... There were also one or two claims by
husbands for damages on account of adultery by others with their wives. One
or two disputes about bride-prices - one or two land disputes (two or more
people laying claim to the same piece of land) - and there was a case also
regarding the alleged theft of two goats. There were others besides these
which I don't recall now ... All the proceedings had to be conducted through
the medium of the interpreter. I can't understand these people at all for they
don't speak Ibo. In front of me were two wooden docks. In the left stood the
defendant, and in the right the plaintiff. Four or five uniformed CourtMessengers
kept rigorous order in the court. However they did not have to
interpose, as those listening kept quiet most of the time. More often they had
to quell some dissatisfied litigant, who had heard me give a judgement
against him. On giving judgement, I recorded it in the judgement book. From
sundry grunts of approval from those present in the court from time to time,
I think my judgements were at any rate fairly well received ... I am writing this
on Saturday evening. This morning I drove my car to Aba, 60 miles away. I had
to take it there for servicing after its first 500 miles running. While the car was
being attended to, I lunched with Tim. In the afternoon Philip and I left for
home in heavy rain. The road was like a quagmire in patches. On the way back
I called at the C.M.S. girls school, at which Kay one of the Canadian girls works.
Resuming my journey when it was just dark, about 18 miles from home where
the road crosses a railway line, I found a goods train with a broken-down
engine blocking the way. Stationmaster told me it could not be moved till
morning! A guide took me down a bush path, and where it crossed the railway
I had to drive my car straight across the rails! There was no choice unless I
was prepared to spend the night there ... All was well, and the car ran perfectly
smoothly on the last 18-mile lap home.
Letter 15: c/o The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt, 28th May 1949. Saturday
My Dear M and D,
This week I received no letter from you, but that is not surprising in view of
the fact that I have been in the Bush and in view of the fact that internal air
services are disrupted.
I have had a full and varied week. On Monday I did reviews both in the
morning and afternoon. I left the rest house at 8 a.m. and did not return again
until 7 p.m ... To avoid returning in the heat of the day I took a picnic lunch
with me ... Tuesday was Empire Day, and here unlike India, as I remember, a
good deal is made of it. By tradition it is an occasion for school sports. Here
in Ogoni Division massed school sports, with some 20 odd schools attending,
were held on the school ground at Bori the headquarters of the division. I
motored up from where I was staying for the day, taking a holiday from court.
I went to the D.O.'s house where I found Christopher struggling into his
uniform - for the ordinary administrative officer this is about the only
occasion in the year when it is worn!
The trousers of the uniform are white and horribly drain-pipe in cut. The tunic
is white and is cut in military style, buttoning at the neck. The headgear, a
topi, is also white, and bears the Royal escutcheon. Boots and a sword are
also worn. The general effect suggests an East India Company officer in the
early 19th century. Dressed as he was, Chris was quite unable to drive himself
up to the sportsground, so I chauffeured him. Unable to bend more than a
few degrees in any direction on account of his ghastly trousers and sword,
which would keep on getting in the light, he had the greatest difficulty in
fitting himself into the front seat of my small car ... In due course standing
beside a Union Jack hoisted on a bent bamboo Chris read out the Governor's
snappy pep message for the occasion and then took the salute as the
schoolchildren marched past, their various bands producing an odd mixture
of noises. The children sang as they marched. I imagined that they were
singing traditional African jungle songs, and was most surprised when I was
told that they have been singing "John Brown's Body" and "Rule Britannia" ...
About 11 o'clock the children got down to the business of the day; and the
sports did not succeed in dragging out their weary length until five in the
evening. Besides the Ollards and myself the only other Europeans present
were the Engineer, his wife and young son, and one young R.e. father ... The
teachers of the various schools seemed to be more concerned about the
results of the event than the children themselves. Early in the day accusations
of discrimination were being flung at the judges. On account of this in order
to obviate any suggestions of partiality the engineer and I were asked to take
over the judging of the running events. There being a number of R.e. schools
taking part, the R.e. father, I was amused to note, was not considered strictly
reliable! Drumming went on the whole day; and the Chiefs and other grownups
present enjoyed themselves by adjourning frequently to fortify
themselves with noggins of palm-wine. As the shadows were lengthening,
encircled by a concourse of children, whose clothes did not look quite as fresh
as they had earlier in the day, Rachel, the D.O.'s wife, distributed prizes. 3/to
the first, 2 /- to the second and 1 /- to the third in each event... On
Wednesday I presided at a village palaver. Men of the village congregated
under a large spreading tree. I took a seat at a table facing them. Our job was
to decide which oftwo claimants was the rightful head of the village. I opened
the proceedings, and then left them to it. From time to time babel broke loose
but in the main the meeting was fairly orderly. I had thought that in the end
I would have to put the decision to a vote in order to obtain a decision.
However as time went on one of the claimants began to get cold feet. Finally
in return for a certain sum he agreed to renounce all claims to the headship
for all time.
Judging by the din that broke out when I announced this outcome, I think that
general opinion was in favour of the solution that had been reached ... The
new head of the village presented me with one fowl, two yams and a bag of
oranges before I left ... On Thursday I moved house to yet another rest house
down the road. Yesterday I was in court from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. without
a break. I moved house again yesterday and am now back where I was two
weeks ago. I remain here until next Tuesday when I return to Port Harcourt,
where I take my law exam. I only expect to be in P.H. a day or two, staying at
the rest house before I go off to another Division - this time in the creeks -
for a few weeks ... I am thankful to have finished with the Resident's Office.
I hope all goes well on the home front. I am afraid this letter is entirely about
K.V.A. but don't imagine from this that I never think of anyone else ... You are
in fact often in my thoughts - Love from Keith
Letter 16: c/o The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt. 5th June 1949
My dear M and D,
This past week has not been particularly exciting. I returned to P.H. on
Tuesday to be ready to take my law exam on the following 2 days. I stayed at
the rest house, where I shared the quarters with a recent arrival to P.H. In the
course of conversation this individual mentioned that he had been instructed
to give somebody's greetings to someone in P.H. whose name he had
forgotten. To cut it short, he had met my cousin Jill in Lagos and it was her
greetings to me that he had been asked to deliver! He told me that JiII's plane
had developed engine trouble, on account of which she had been in Lagos for
10 days ... For 6 hours on both Wednesday and Thursday I coped with my law
papers. The only other candidate with me in P.H. was George Rushmore. The
questions were not difficult. My main preoccupation was to get through the
papers in the time allotted. George and I did the exam in the Resident's office,
so I was back in a familiar setting ... It was fun seeing some of my friends in
P.H. again. On Tuesday evening I dined with Miss Belcher. Also there was a
C.M.S. couple from some C.M.5 school in Onitsha. I can't say I was very taken
with them. The woman I found particularly tedious. Unfortunately the
following evening when I dined with the man in charge of the C.M.S.
Bookshop I found them once again present. For a considerable time, a guest
dwelt in some detail on the characteristics of leprosy, a subject not best
suited I felt to after dinner conversation on a beautiful evening. My exam.on
Wednesday finished in time for me to take part in a game of hockey once
again. On Thursday I had intended to play a game of tennis, but it rained ...
While I was in P.H. I gave Philip the opportunity of visiting home at Owerri,
leaving Boniface to look after· me ... I returned to Bori, where I was before
going to P.H., on Friday. A change of plan now keeps me here till the 11th.
Then I return to P.H., spend the weekend there before leaving for Degema by
launch on the 13th ... So when you are setting off for La Belle Suisse, you can
picture K.V.A. literally launching himself into the creeks of the Niger Delta.
For this week I shall be staying in the rest house, half of which is already
occupied by the Engineer, wife and small boy whom I have mentioned in
previous letters. I confess that I would rather not be under the same roof as
anyone else, still they are very pleasant though Mr is a bit too fond of
nattering. I like having the young lad about the place - he is sitting beside me
at the moment, hoping that I shall let him type a word ... The D.O. and his wife
- Christopher and Rachel Ollard - are a nice couple. They are the only other
Europeans in the station. I lunched with them on Friday. They have a small
son less than a year old. It is a pity that children lose their colour so easily out
here ... The infant Martin had a pain in his tum the other day, and Rachel was
very worried. It is difficult for a mother out here with Doctors usually so far
away ... It was from Rachel that I heard about the local tabernacle and that
there was to be a celebration there this morning, being Whit Sunday. I found
my way to the church just before 7:30 this morning. It was a long rectangular
building with mud walls, a concrete floor and a matting roof. It was an
advance on some because inside it had wooden benches in place of the hard
mud seats that one sometimes finds. But its chief pride was the pulpit which
was quite a well carved structure. It was the first service I have been to
conducted in the vernacular - it was Ibo. It followed the form of the English
service very exactly, and I was able to follow what was going on. Chris and
Rachel were also there. For our benefit the pastor read the gospel for the day
in English and also the prayer "Ye that do truly and earnestly ... " I will be sorry
having to leave the Ollards for they are good people to work with.
This coming week I shall be holding the fort at the District Office, and also
hearing more cases on review.
Love to you from
Letter 17: c/o The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt. Sunday 12th of June 1949
My dear M and D,
Once again I am writing to you from the rest house in P.H. Yesterday I
motored in from Ogoni Division where I have been stationed for the last few
weeks in the company of Christopher and Rachel. My belongings followed me
in an ambulance as the lorry could not be got to start. So picture me now
surrounded with my personal effects: a meat-safe, tins of kerosene, camp-kit,
all manner of pots and pans, flat-irons and rolling pins! Tomorrow I am due
to go by launch to a place called Degema, a small trading station in the creeks.
My car won't be necessary there, so I shall leave her here in Port Harcourt ...
There is a converging of D.O.s on P.H. this weekend as the acting Governor is
paying this place a brief visit. Along with others I shall listen to him hold forth
at 3:30 this afternoon - a scandalous time for him to do so in my opinion
because it is in the middle of siesta time ... Christopher, Rachel and infant have
come in to town on account of this pep talk. In return for their hospitality to
me in Ogoni I invited them both to come to the flicks last night. Chris refused,
saying that he would stay behind to watch the baby: so I just took Rachel. We
saw a heart-burning yankee film, which lasted far too long: and then repaired
to the Club where we danced for a short time. I enjoyed having an evening of
feminine company again.
I attended a rather amusing little function last Wednesday evening. This was
a 'reception' given by the Bori Recreational Club in honour of Chris and his
wife's recent arrival in Ogoni Division. Shortly after five that evening Chris,
Rachel and infant, Engineer and wife and infant, and K.V.A. converged on the
Bori Appeal Court - a barren, concrete-floored tin-roofed structure,
octagonal in shape. On entering we found half a dozen tables draped with
white table-cloths set round the central stone slab in the court on which the
parties in an action are wont to stand. I observed that the juju relics usually
garnishing this slab, and serving in lieu of a bible (up to a point) for swearing
purpose, had been removed for the occasion. There were 3 or 4 to a table. At
mine I had on my left Wikina, the interpreter, and on my right one Sambo, a
road overseer. On the tables were placed typewritten programmes, from
which I gathered that the toast of the guests of honour was to be proposed
by Fineface, Christopher's chief clerk; that Chris would then reply; that
refreshments would follow and that the festivities would conclude with a
game of Housey-Housey. Fineface rose to his feet and paid a glowing tribute
to the good qualities of the new D.O. and his wife. Having done this, he dwelt
at some length on the difficulties confronting the Bori Recreational Club,
deploring its lack of premises and facilities, and he expressed the conviction
that Mr Ollard would never allow such an intolerable state of affairs to
continue and that he would certainly do all within his power to provide them
with a club building together with a tennis court! Chris rose to the occasion
nobly, and testified eloquently to the good first impressions that the people
of Ogoni had made on him. As regards supplying the Bori Recreational Club
with its small requirements, without in any way committing himself, he
ingeniously identified himself with their aspirations. Knowing how little Chris
and Fineface liked each other I derived some secret amusement from these
fulsome speeches ... Before he had sat down Fineface had proposed the toast
of Chris and Rachel, but the B.R. Club appeared to imagine that a toast was
merely a figure of speech for at this stage of the proceedings nothing was
forthcoming in which to drink it ... Later the refreshments arrived; a few sweet
biscuits, a bottle of beer and, as they said, a 'shot of whisky'. Later glasses of
the native drink, Tombu obtained from the raffia palm, were distributed ...
Chris and Rachel circulated and young Martin crawled about the concrete
floor. Wikina was happy with his tombu, and I chatted about the feats of
modern engineering with Sambo. The latter when introduced to me had
observed that I was rather amused by his name. He asked me what it meant
in English. I gave him an answer of sorts, but forbore from mentioning that a
cousin of mine called her great hound by that name!
I don't suppose this will reach you until after your return from Switzerland, in
which case I express the hope that your holiday has been a great success ...
Greetings to all.
Love from Keith.
Letter 18: c/o The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt. 19th June 1949
I am beginning this letter to you after breakfast on Sunday morning. I am
seated at the bottom of the garden of my house. A foot or two in front of me
the Sombrero river gently laps the bank, on which cannas and hibiscus are
growing. At my feet is a rusty old cannon pointing out across the river. Canoes
glide softly by, the paddlers sometimes singing at their work. It is pleasantly
cool as a brisk breeze is blowing, and a neighbouring casuarina tree heaves
with sighs as its branches are gently stirred ... As planned, I travelled by launch
to this station, by name Degema, last Monday. It is situated in the middle of
the creeks of the Niger Delta and is a three-and-a-half-hour trip from P.H ...
The D.O. of this Division is called Newington. It was with him and his wife that
I made the trip to Bonny at Easter. His house is immediately on my left, and
on my right, the third in the line, lives the Doctor. We are the only three senior
government servants in the station. There are in addition five European
business men, two with wives, and also the African magistrate has an English
wife. On the whole it seems to be a happy little community. There is a small
club, which boasts a billiard and a ping-pong table. On Wednesday and
Saturday evenings various games are played there, including bridge. I met
most of the Europeans on Tuesday evening when I dined with the Doctor.
After an excellent and truly bloating meal, for which the Magistrate's
motherly old wife appeared responsible, we gathered round the table and
spent an enjoyable, if for me rather expensive, couple of hours playing Vingtet-
un ... The Newingtons have been decent to me, and I have supped there
twice. Having both Marlborough and Caius in common with Bill there is quite
a lot we can reminisce about. On Friday we had some good chats together ...
This past week I have principally been employed in finding my feet. I have the
new experience now of being in charge of a small prison, with a strength of
90 odd convicts. The prison is a well ordered little establishment, and
fortunately I have no criminal lunatics on my hands. Practically all the convicts
go out and work in the station during the day. They have such routine duties
as drawing water, supplying firewood and coaling the launch. In addition they
get allocated other varying duties, such as cutting grass - this somewhat
corresponds to sewing mail-bags at home. This week I have organised one
gang on draining roads and paths, and cambering them. It took a little time to drive home what I wanted, but they are getting on with it quite well now.
My aim is to work up some esprit de corps among the prisoners.
Yesterday I had an interesting if rather arduous time. Had you been here you
would have seen a strange little cortege sally forth on bicycles from Degema
shortly after 11 a.m. First went a constable, then an individual called Boil
(maybe he spells it differently) a tax assessment clerk with a remarkable
likeness to Harold Lloyd, then K.V.A. with haversack slung and wearing hat,
and finally came a Court Messenger in khaki uniform and wearing a sort of
pixie hat ending in a short stalk. Ahead of us we had a 10-mile ride to a place
called Buguma. Most of the time we cycled through thick bush, but ended up
with a three mile stretch across mangrove swamps and over sundry creeks by
the flimsiest of foot bridges - at one point we had to take to a canoe ... The
reason for my visit to Buguma were two-fold. First to do a surprise check in
the hope of finding tax defaulters. Wind of this must have gone around pretty
quickly on my arrival for the place was strangely deserted especially of men.
As our cortege moved through the streets we got hold of any men we set eyes
on, enquired their names and then checked up to see whether they were
entered on the nominal roll of tax payers. While Boil checked the names, the
constable and a friendly Sanitary Inspector who had attached himself to our
party routed out bodies under my directions ... I could not afford to spend
much time on this and we made a disappointingly small bag ... At 3p.m. I set
out on my second job, which was to reconnoitre the route for a proposed new
road. For this I was accompanied by a different band. I still had the Court
Messenger with me and also the Sanitary Inspector; in addition I had a Mr
David West a leading light of Buguma, and two blokes armed with hatchets
whose job it was to clear the route. We made our way through about 2Yi miles
of thick bush and across a mile of mangrove swamp, and pottered around a
creek in a canoe ... I reached home at 6:15. I might mention that it had rained
off and on throughout the day, and that I had only had a few ginger biscuits
to eat since breakfast at 7:30 ... The reason for this was that Philip had
misunderstood me -when at breakfast I told him that I wanted a picnic lunch
ready at 9:30, he thought I said I wanted a quick-quick lunch ready then; so
when I went round just before starting to collect my sandwiches I found the
table laid for lunch and a hot stew awaiting me ... It was really rather amusing
but I did not think so at the time!
Greetings and love to you from Keith.
Letter 19: The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt. Sunday 26th.
My Dear M and D,
During this past week I have once again been a -journeying. Last Sunday I
spent quietly in Degema. On Monday morning I travelled into P.H. by launch.
With me I had Boniface, my cook, and a minimum of kit. In P.H. I collected my
car which the P.W.D. (Public Works Dept.) had been looking after for me ...
On Tuesday morning I loaded my belongings onto Dinah-the-Minor, and with
Boniface beside me I set out for Aba. In Aba I sought out my friend Timothy,
who was thoughtful enough to invite me to lunch - an offer which I gladly
accepted ... That afternoon his car also was loaded up, and we set off one
behind the other. We were both bound for the same place - Umuahea -
where the following day we were to take an Ibo exam ... We travelled at some
speed ... It might by the way interest you to know that I have now driven my
car 1150 miles, and so far without mishap. We reached Umuahea at 6 p.m. It
is a new station, built on the brow of a hill which has been cleared of bush.
My rest house faced west, and I looked out on a fine panorama of undulating
tree-clad slopes. Once again to enjoy a view and a distant horizon gave me
much satisfaction; and the spectacle of a fiery ball of sun sinking to her rest
into a bed of palms added to my pleasure ... Although the station was only a
few hundred feet above sea-level, it was appreciably cooler there during the
night than anywhere else I have been to out here. On Wednesday morning it
was fun to feel a little chilly on getting out of bed. As regards the exam I will
not commit myself to expressing views about the probable outcome - I will
merely say that the papers were reasonable ... There were only 10 of us taking
the exam and believe it or not, we won't know the results until September or
October! It seems almost incredible that they don't let us know sooner, for if
one fails it only leaves 3 months for further swotting before the next exam
comes round again ... On Thursday morning we had individual orals, and had
to make conversation with a couple of labourers ... When my turn was over I
loaded up Dinah and left Umuahea. I made my way to Itu, where a friend of
mine had invited me to spend the night... I stopped to enquire the way at an
R.e. Mission H.Q ... There by a coincidence I was met by a Father whose
acquaintance I had made when travelling out on the 'Tarkwa'. I stopped for a
drink, and made the acquaintance of two others of the fraternity - all very
friendly and Irish ... I reached my friend's house in time for lunch. During the afternoon it poured with rain - after tea we went for a walk. In the evening
we had further rain and a great wind and it was rather fun withdrawing into
the inner room, closing shutters and making ourselves cosy. Friend Ronald
had a radio, and we listened to the news from London and dance-music from
London and the Belgian Congo ... On Friday morning I resumed my journey
southwards. Once again I lunched with Timothy. After dawdling in Aba, I
drove back the last lap to P.H. in heavy rain ... The sight of somebody's lovely
young wife dining at the next table in the rest house distracted my attention
from my food. After eating I sought solace in the company of my friend, the
worthy Miss Belcher of strapping girth ... (by the way I should perhaps explain
that rest houses in big places like P .H. are often catering establishments - but
in all other, and by far the majority of, cases a rest house implies only four
walls and a roof of sorts} ... Yesterday morning I went around the town laying
in stores, buying such things as potatoes - tinned vegetables - a leg of pork
and tins of milk to mention only a few. Boniface bought a couple of squawking
fowls in the market ... After lunch, having again parked Dinah-the-Minor in a
garage against my return, I transferred myself and belongings to a public
launch ... At 5:45 I was back again in Degema.
I understand that during this past week the King opened a Colonial Exhibition,
and I hope that when you were in town you took the opportunity to visit the
exhibition - I read that in one room the temperature and humidity had been
specially raised to correspond to conditions in the W. African tropical jungle ...
Whatever you mayor may not have thought of it, if you attended the
exhibition I can assure you that I do not find the climate out here in any way
too bad. As regards the other menaces commonly imagined to lurk in the
jungle, I have not yet seen any wild and dangerous beasts - beyond a snake
or two, which mayor may not have been harmful... Nor are insects the bane
that I expected they would be. Ants one does get everywhere; but the
depredatious white variety have so far left me alone. Mosquitos have worried
me less here than they did in Bangalore. It was not until last week that I saw
my first tse-tse fly ... By and large - even in the Bush - one manages to live
Hope all goes well at home - Love from
Letter 20: c/o The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt. Sunday 3rd July 1949.
My dear M and D,
This past week I have remained in Degema. Next week however I go on tour
to Bonny. This time I shall be there on my own, and on business not on
pleasure bent ... With both myself and the D.O. in the station this has not been
an arduous week. On the return of him and his wife last week I gave them
dinner. As I have left most of my eating-irons and crockery in P.H. I had to
borrow extensively to cope for the occasion. Yesterday I gave a duty dinner
to a young man of my own age who works for the United Africa Co. here.
Afterwards, as usual on a Saturday we adjourned to the club where I played
bridge and ping-pong. On Tuesday I dined with a youngish couple - he also
works for U.A.C. - and played chess with his wife.
During the week I have given the prison a good deal of attention. In the
mornings I have prowled around the station keeping check on the various
gangs. My path draining and cambering progresses but not as fast as it should.
Because of their slowness I kept the gang employed on it working overtime
the other day. Besides prisoners we also have some paid station labourers.
For a day's work they earn 1/6d With so little incentive it is scarcely
surprising that they don't strain themselves overmuch: and it is only my
appearing on the scenes unexpectedly from time to time that keeps them up
to the mark. As a gentle warning to the others I sacked one of their number
The other afternoon I was Sitting reading on the veranda when I was told that
a Court Messenger escorting 5 persons wished to see me. He had brought the
bodies in to Degema to go to prison. Before admittance however their
warrants for committal required countersigning. Two of the five were
women. They had been convicted in the Native Court of stealing a sheep, and
had been sentenced to a fine of £2 or 1 month's imprisonment. They could
not pay the fine, so I confirmed the sentence. One of the men was a judgement debtor. Three years ago he had been given 6 months in which to
pay £4 damages, and he still had not begun to pay the money. I confirmed his
2 months. Of the remaining couple one was a very old stager with a fringe of
white hairs round his jowl, the other was younger and suffered from a
nervous twitch. Both these men had been sentenced to 1 year plus 12
strokes. Their offence, to which they had pleaded guilty, was stealing some
cassava roots from somebody else's land. Out here predial larceny is regarded
as one of the worst of crimes. I asked the men why they had taken the cassava
and they gave me the excellent reason that they took it because they were
hungry. Judging by their appearance I was well able to believe that was
probable. In consultation with the D.O. I cancelled the flogging, but confirmed
the imprisonment. This I did in their own interests, as a means of ensuring
them proper food and medical attention ... Yesterday I visited all the prisoners
in their cells informally after work. I did the hearty; and felt very much as I
used to when as Commanding Officer I made my rounds in 446 Supply Section
back in India.
On Friday afternoon I accompanied the D.O. on a sudden and surprise jaunt.
A town in the Division called Buguma had offered opposition the previous day
to the lawful operations of the Police. The D.O. thought that prompt action
was required; so with 8 or 9 police with us we went by launch to B. In pouring
rain we made our way to where the trouble had occurred. The police then
began to 'winkle' out all and sundry, and had a great time with their
handcuffs. The bodies were congregated in a juju house, and then were
sorted out. We returned home with a bag of 14 on board.
I am reading a good book about China at the moment called 'Valiant Dust' by
Margaret Mackprang Mackay. It deals with life between 1880 and 1900, and
so far the scene had largely been set in Tientsin.
My greetings to all the dear dear people at home. Don't do anything that I
would not do. Love from Keith.
Letter 21: c/o The Resident's Offiice, Port Harcourt. Saturday 9th July 1949.
|My dear M and D,
I have had no missive from you this week, but this does not surprise me as I
have been rather remote during the latter half of the week. At about 4 p.m.
on Wednesday I left Degema by launch. With me I had Phi lip and Boniface
and all my kit except for the stuff I have left in Ms Belcher's care in P.H ... There
was another passenger on board, a D.O. from another of the Creek Divisions.
As we steamed towards P.H. we played chess together. We did not reach our
destination till nearly 8 p.m. I put a razor, toothbrush and a pair of trousers
in a haversack, and, accompanied by my boys, I walked up to the rest house
hoping I would find a spare bed. I was lucky, and spent a comfortable night
there. The following morning I drew £500 from the bank, and visited a few
shops. I left P. H. in the launch, this time alone, at noon. We first called at a
place called Okrika, where I saw the £500 deposited into the local Treasury,
and then we continued our journey. We were bound for Bonny. I had lunch
on board, omelette and chips, at 3 o'clock. It was 5:45 before all my goods
and chattels had been put ashore: and I had no time that evening to do
anything. To make things easier for Philip I had a bathe instead of my usual
Last time I was in Bonny was at Easter, you may remember, when I was here
on holiday. This time I am here on business and am on my own. Although it is
very far from being the case, and absurd though it is, I have felt since I have
been here something of the feeling that I associate with family summer
holidays. It is largely due to the fact that I am by the sea, and to the fact that
at this time of year the climate corresponds to some extent to English
summer weather. I am seated as I type in the Government rest house. Only a
few yards in front of me the waves are beating on the sand. looking ahead I
can see the light at the mouth of the Bonny River winking in the distance.
Earlier this evening there was a brisk breeze blowing, but this has subsided
now with the result that the sand flies and mosquitoes are a little more
troublesome than they would otherwise be - they in fact are really the only
snag to this place. Fond of the sea as I am I do love seeing and hearing it again.
What is wanting here however is the noise of seagulls.
On Friday morning I got together with the executive committee of the Clan
Council and prepared the financial estimates for the year 1950-51. It was the
first time I had ever prepared any estimates and I was not too sure how one
set about it. Fortunately I had a good Treasury Supervisor with me who gave
me the necessary lead. Once we got going I gathered the hang of it, and found
it fairly plain sailing. Fortunately for me, it being my first effort, I could hardly
have had an easier set of estimates to deal with. Total Bonny revenue for the
year came to less than £1300. Practically all this sum was earmarked at the
outset for certain standard items such as salary of the few officials employed
in the end we were left with only £50 to play with. I made various suggestions
as to how this sum might be spent: in starting a nursery garden, launching a
mass literacy campaign, providing a couple of scholarships to two deserving
Bonny children, or in paying for the training of a girl as a midwife. The last
suggestion took the fancy of the committee. Their enthusiasm however was
damped when they recalled that a public latrine for women required
repairing. It was a corrugated iron structure supported on piles above the
drab waters of a muddy creek. We waited for an occupant to depart, I entered
the shack. Inside I found a trough-like affair running the length of the building.
It had no bottom. The latrine certainly required attention; and we estimated
the cost at £40. To avoid having to forego the midwife, it was decided that
)atrine repairs should be put down as works extraordinary - which would
enable the cost to be met out of a reserve fund.
Today I spent the morning in court, hearing reviews. One of the cases was
quite amusing. A woman by name Obadiah Jane sued a man for defamation
of character, alleging that in public he had said that her head was rotten. The
defendant did not deny this but alleged that the woman had in her turn
defamed his character by saying in public that he was a useless man and that
he had a watering mouth. I did not think that there was much to choose
between them. The Native Court had awarded Jane £2 -10 - 0 damages. I let
that stand but ordered that she should pay the man a similar sum for
defamation of his character - thus leaving them all square. Well, such is life ...
Greetings and love from Keith.
Letter 22: c/o The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt. 24th July 1949.
My dear M and D,
This week I write to you again from Degema. I left Okrika by launch last
Tuesday. That evening we reached P.H. I went ashore, met my various friends,
supped at the rest house, and slept on my camp bed on board. On Wednesday
morning I did a little shopping, lunched on board, and sailed at 1:30. We
reached Degema at about six. I summoned a squad of prisoners, who carried
my kit up to my house. The D.O. has gone to Lagos to see his wife off. I had a
telegram yesterday saying that he has be,en admitted to hospital there and
that I am to remain in charge of the Division until he returns. This will be fairly
soon I think.
During the past week I have collected a waif. I found her as I was going round
Okrika making a map. I first noticed her by reason of the leaf she was using
as a bandage to cover a great ulcerous sore on her leg. I gave her a chit to
take to the dispenser and a penny to start treatment. I checked to see that
she had been to the dispensary, and saw her being treated there. That was
that, I thought, as far as I was concerned. But I was wrong. A day or two later
the girl approached me with a request for money to buy "chop" (food). I had
noticed before how appallingly thin, or rather emaciated, she was; and I
thought it was up to me now to look further into her circumstances ... Her
arms and legs were about the width of a walking stick. She was clad only with
a foul cloth about her loins. She occupied a partially built room about 8 ft.
square in a partially built house. There were two doorways without doors;
there was no window. There was no roof. There was no floor - just the
uneven ground covered with weeds. The girl's total possessions amounted to
one plank, 6 inches Wide and about 3 feet long, on which I suppose she tried
to sleep; one earthenware cooking pot; and two old tins. A few twigs
indicated where she made her fire; and the smell from the adjoining shell of
a room indicated that it served her as a latrine ... It was with difficulty that the
interpreter was able to get her to answer his questions. She hardly had the
strength necessary to speak ... To cut the story short, to my surprise I learned
that out of all the dwellers in Okrika the C. M. S. African Pastor in charge of
the big church I described to you in my last letter was responsible for her. I
interviewed the pastor, and learnt that the girl's parents were dead and that
he was her uncle. The man's attitude made me so sick that I could hardly bring
myself to look at him ... Through speaking to him I learnt that the girl whom I
imagine to be a child of about 12 was at least 18 or 19. This ulcer I had seen
she had had for eight or nine years, during the whole of which time the pastor
had been responsible for her - he admitted never sending her to hospital, but
said that he had twice sent her to native doctors! I brought the girl back to
Degema with me, and she now is in the hospital here.
You may remember me telling you that I was writing a play called liThe Silver
Wedding". I have now finished writing it. It needs polishing; and I shall have
to try and find someone to type it out for me ... I can't tell whether it is any
good. I fear it may not have sufficient action. I have not tried to be clever or
intellectual in it. I have concentrated on trying to make my characters live.
And to do that I have drawn very much from life - in other words the family
and Goodie ... (plus some make-believe, let me add.) I have rather enjoyed
It is Sunday evening as I type. I finished dinner some time ago, and I'm at
present seated on the Veranda outside the house. Because of the rain which
fell during most of the afternoon, it is pleasantly cool. I have been listening to
my wireless. First hour music; the news; then hymn-singing by Methodists;
and now chamber music. Having a wireless makes a colossal difference to life.
One no longer feels remote but incredibly in touch with the rest of the world
- Love to all from Keith.
Letter 23: c/o The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt. 31st July 1949.
|(this is not typed too well, because, for practice, I have not been looking at
My dear M and D,
While the D.O. (Bill Newington) has been away, I have remained the whole of
this past week in Degema; and I have been kept pretty busy. Strictly speaking
office hours are from eight till two; however most days I have not been
getting away until nearer 3:30 - consequently I have been lunching at a pretty
late hour! Last Wednesday was a holiday on account of it being a big Muslim
festival. One Muslim from the North referred to it to me as Mohammedan
Christmas. As there are only a negligible number of Muslims in the south I
was surprised that it was declared a public holiday for the whole country ... I
found it very hard to believe when my clerks assured me that next Monday,
being the first Monday in August, was also holiday. Rather tha,n believe them,
I decided to wire the Resident to confirm. This to my surprise he did! The
clerks had a laugh at my expense ... During the past week, although confined
to the office most of the time, I have met a variety of persons. In fact a great
deal of the morning is taken up in attending to visitors, who have either got
complaints or petitions to make. The following are among some of the
persons I have seen: - a deputation of station labourers, who feared that by
being paid on the 26th of each month they were thereby losing four or five
days every month. With the aid of an office calendar and a paper knife as
pointer I demonstrated to the men that there were the same number of days
between the 26th of each month as between the 30th of each ... Secretaries
of various ex-servicemen's associations came one morning to discuss which
of their members should be selected to go to a rally to be held shortly ... Pedro,
a building contractor, wanted to be paid some money for services rendered.
He asked for £4. I cut it to £1-10. On his moaning, I increased my figure to 2
pounds - one of the worst features of this country is that, because so many
people are inherently dishonest, one can trust no one ... Limejuice Bob
Manuel (a genuine name) came to put a feeler out with regard to securing a
contract. I gave him little grounds for hope ... A certain Whyte wanted to
borrow £200 from the government in order to establish a poultry farm in a
morass of mangrove swamp. I told him that he would find drying fish a more
profitable undertaking. Whyte has the distinction of having a brother in
England, who is living in sin with a typist somewhere in Kensington. He
showed me their respective photos the other day ... A Court-Messenger
brought a corpse from up-country - believed to have been foully murdered ...
A retired government schoolmaster complained of having been assessed too
highly for tax ... The head ferry man complained of insubordination on the part
of a junior ferry man ... Two young men stated that they had not been paid for
work they had done, "moulding bricks" as they called it... A woman, brought
before me by the Sgt of Police, and charged with having stolen £4 from the
wallet of a sailor she had been sleeping with. I sent her to prison to await
trial... A Mrs Cyclops Briggs reported to me that there was a leper lad, who
despite her protests would hang around near her children. I sent a CourtMessenger
to bring the boy to me. He looked to be in a bad way, and the M.
o. confirmed that he was in an infectious state of leprosy. I got hold of Cyclops
Briggs and Pedro, both "Town Councillors", and urged them to see that a
segregation hut was provided for the boy and that he received food. In the
meantime I promised to investigate the chances of getting him into a leper colony
... As the boy is without a father and has been deserted by his mother,
and as he is not a native of these parts, I am afraid that the "town-councillors"
won't do anything unless Bill or I give them a lot of prodding ...
Bill is due to return today. That being so, it should not be long before I move
to Ahoada Division, where I expect to become a fixture for the rest of the
tour. I will not be sorry for the change. This Division, on account of its
geography is a bit of a dead end. One can't hope to make a great deal of
progress when the whole of the area consists of creeks and swamps.
It is by no means certain that I will after all be able to return to England on
leave this December. It is disappointing, as I was looking forward to having
Christmas on the home front and to seeing friends again. It is unpleasant not
knowing what will happen. I like to be able to look forward to a definite date ...
I am writing to you on Sunday morning. It's a very drab day - grey and top-heavy
with clouds. We have been having a lot of rain lately. August, I'm told
is the rainiest month. Love from Keith.
Letter 24: The District Office, Ahoada, Rivers Province. 7th August.
My dear M and D,
You will see that at the top of this letter I have at last put a new address.
Hitherto knowing that I will be moving around a good deal, I had left you with
the Resident's office as a forwarding address. Now however I am about to go
to a new Division, where I expect to work for the rest of the tour. It is a
Division in the same province as I have been in since arriving out here. P.H.
remains my Headquarters, and Chubb my Resident.
I left Degema by launch yesterday. Last night and tonight I am staying at the
rest house in P.H. Tomorrow, Monday, I shall be motoring to Ahoada, which
is about 45 miles from P.H. Yesterday I visited one or two friends, including
my Nigerian friend Or Adjibadi. Today I am taking things easy, and shall spend
most of the day writing. Then tomorrow I shall be very busy buying in stores
and the various other things I need, and which I shall not be able to buy in the
I have not got a great deal to report on this week. On Monday Bill the D.O.
returned from Lagos where he had spent a few days in hospital. I put him wise
as to what had been happening in his absence. Having done which, knowing
that in a day or so that I would be leaving, there was nothing much else for
me to do. Two of my warders have recently got themselves into hot water. I
fined one of them 10 shillings for having left his gang of prisoners unattended.
At the time, when given the opportunity, he raised no objection to this
punishment, but the following day I received a long screed full of vilification
of the Senior Warder. It was he who had reported the warder to me. He
accused him of making use of prisoners to make clothes for himself and his
family - to collect sand at low water in order to use it in building work,
thereby pocketing the sum allotted for the purchase of sand - to collect
leaves to feed to his goats - and much more besides ... The warder sent a copy
of his letter to the Director of Prisons, and I think - and trust - that it will do
him much more harm than good. Without proof, the junior warder's
complaint is so much whining ... Another warder is awaiting trial in the
magistrates court for stealing coconuts ... The other day I got very annoyed
with a combined Customs Official and Treasurer. I went into his office to
enquire about something, and he remained seated at his table while I stood
beside it. In a very quiet voice I told him it was customary to stand up when
addressed by someone senior to oneself. This individual had the coolness to
say that he did not agree, and began paying me little or no attention. Then he
got a broadside ...
My love to all Keith.
Letter 25: Ahoada. 21849
|My dear M and D,
Fancy you entertaining a girl from Lagos. From what you have seen of her
don't get the idea that she is representative of the youth of this country. The
Lagos young person, enjoying higher education in the UK, is the exception and
very very far from being the rule. The people I have to deal with bear, of
course, no comparison with her. The majority of her compatriots, who are
fortunate enough to study on the strength of Government scholarships in the
UK, show a distressing tendency to vilify the Government and country that
has befriended them; and to show infinitely less appreciation of the work
being done by Government, commerce and missions alike in their native land
than do their less enlightened countrymen.
I am writing to you on my silver birthday. It is pleasant that it falls on a Sunday.
I am having a quiet and pleasant day. By way of a little treat I am making
myself some coconut ice, for which I recently had the recipe sent me by a
By the way, I believe I may have told you that I was in charge of 120 miles of
road. That was an understatement -it is more like 250 miles.
Yesterday I returned from tour. Last Tuesday morning I set out in a lorry with
Boniface and a few loads. After an hour we took two canoes down the Orashi
river. My destination was Joinkrama. On arrival I was directed to the house
which the two American Baptist missionary ladies occupy. It is a house ra ised
off the ground on iron supports. However it has one bedroom underneath,
and this was the one that I occupied. I found my hosts in the clinic a few
hundred yards away. I arrived in time for a mid-morning cup of coffee. While
we drank our beverage in the office, I could hear an African reading from the
Scriptures to those waiting for attention outside. Somewhat later, in a
momentary lull in our conversation, same voice was heard to say "Anyone making stools on the ground will be fined 2/6d!" The morning service was
apparently over ... I left the ladies to their duties, and proceeded to my own. I
took my seat in the most "Bush" court that I have yet seen. It had no walls.
The floor was a hard mud; and, dwarfing both benches and the docks alike,
in three places anthills reared up like giant warts erupting from the floor.
From where I sat I could see canoes paddling past on the river.
On Wednesday I cycled to another village where I held a Clan Council
meeting, and at which I urged the assembled somnambulant Chiefs to do
what lay within their power to improve their own circumstances. I returned
to Joinkrama and spent a second night with my friends. To do which I had not
required much pressing on their part!
I am sure you would be interested in hearing more about the Americans so I
will briefly describe how they live. They only began their medical work on the
Orashi three years ago, beginning from scratch. They now have a clinic,
maternity home, and the embryo of a hospital on the bank of the river, where
formerly there had been thick bush. The buildings are of mud. Flowers are
planted round them - I even saw a rose bush. To my surprise I noticed that
there were electric light bulbs dangling in the buildings; and never would I
have expected to have found such a businesslike operating theatre in a hut
built of sticks and mud ... The missionaries at the moment are living in a house
that is the property of the U.A.C. (United Africa Company). Permanent
buildings for the mission are in the process of erection. Normally speaking
there are three ladies at Joinkrama, but one of them due soon has not
returned from leave. Their Lady doctor too has just gone on leave to the
States after a 3 year tour. They get a year's leave at the end of that time ... I
was delighted to see that my American friends were able to live comfortably.
The food was excellent - meals were prefaced by a short prayer. They had an
impressive refrigerator. The house was well furnished and had a homey
atmosphere. There were a number of books in the shelves, ranging from thick
tomes on medicine and nursing to the luridly coloured paper covered backs
of American thrillers. The first evening we sat down to dinner at a very
attractive board - candles on finely worked lace cloth. On the second we ate
off trays balanced on our knees, seated at the foot of the garden overlooking
the river ... Earlier that evening I had been initiated into the American game
of throwing horse-shoes ... As regards dress, the missionaries wore white
during the day; and in the evenings appeared in stylish new length frocks,
beautifying themselves at the same time with a discreet use of make-up... Joinkrama is in the back of beyond, and to provide them with as good a link
as possible with the outside world the missionaries have a canoe with the
unique attachment of an outboard motor and a Jeep station-wagon, which is
kept at a village on the other side of the river - an hour or so's travelling time
away... I will give further details of the past week in a letter to my
Grandmother. All good wishes and love from Keith.
Letter 26: Ahoada, 31st August. (written on the 28th but I fear I missed the post.)
My dear M and D,
This week I have been out on tour again. I remained in the Station on Monday
and Tuesday. On the former day I entertained my two American Lady friends
of the Mission to breakfast - a late one at 11 0' clock! During the first two days
of the week I caught up with work that was waiting for my attention in
Ahoada. Amongst other duties I visited the Prison again, and was glad to find
on this inspection that steps had been taken to improve its condition. I was
confronted by a deputation of warders wishing to protest against the new
regulations I had introduced. Formerly a warder who did night duty got the
whole of the subsequent day off; I however recently altered this, and now
allow them only half a day off. I let them say what they wanted to, which they
did quite pleasantly, but I did not alter my instructions.
On Wednesday I sallied out in my small car. Philip and Boniface followed with
my belongings in a lorry. Christian was left behind in Ahoada to hold the fort ...
Together with an interpreter I visited a number of villages in a certain
neighbourhood. The purpose of my visit was to try to interest them in joining
together for the purpose of building themselves a road. As their work had to
be free gratis, I was not sure how far they would rally round. I had to hound
them out of their homes on the first day. They began work at about 10
o'clock. At noon an anxious Chief approached me to say that his men
complained of hunger and intended clearing off. I held up the general exodus
for a bit; but then it began to pour and it almost literally became a case of
'rain stopped play'. People I had working elsewhere actually continued until
3:30! The second day I was agreeably surprised to find that is was not
necessary for me to chase reluctant villagers from their beds. I won't pretend
that they were particularly quick off the mark; but at least men and boys
began trickling down to where the work was to take place of their own
accord. The day, Friday, there must have been as many as 500 or 600 people
working all together. Quite a number of small naked toddlers joined in the
work; and it would have horrified you, I know, to have seen these piccins
wielding matchets half as big as themselves! I hesitate to think how much
work will be done on the road in the absence of myself and the D.O.... Nor can
I pretend that very much was achieved in the two days that I was present, exhorting them forward. However although their working day was even
shorter than that favoured by the Labour Government, I think that it was a
little bit of an achievement to get anyone to turn out at all to work for no
reward except the ultimate good of the community ... On both days I found
my job of Foreman a wearying one; and was ready for bed soon after my
Yesterday I left the village where I had been staying and motored 80 miles to
Okwigi where my Danish friends are now stationed. It is delightful being with
them here. They have a lovely house, in comparison with which mine is little
better than a ramshackle garage. But the real beauty of their house is the
view it enjoys. Here there are hills - yes, real hills. It is a great relief to be able
to look down on the Bush instead of being constantly hemmed in by it. Here
it is a different countryside altogether to any other that I have so far seen out
here. It is no longer thick jungle; in fact it is more like what I imagine savanna
country to be like ... Early tomorrow morning I shall be leaving on my return
journey to Ahoada.
Greetings and Love to you
Letter 27: The District Office, Ahoada. Sunday 18th September.
My dear M and D,
I have had another full week. On Monday and Tuesday I remained in Ahoada,
and on Wednesday I set out on a short tour ... By the way I don't think I have
ever given you any facts about the size of the Division. I don't know what its
area is, but from North to South at its longest point it is 100 miles, and at its
widest west to east point it must be about 75. On Wednesday I once again
set off in my car with the interpreter while my loads, accompanied by
Boniface, followed by lorry. I took my seat in Court at 11 o'clock. It was the
largest and most impressive Court in which I have so far operated. It was
about 100 feet long, and it was full of people. On either side of my dais sat
the Elders. In the body of the building women sat on one side of the central
aisle and men on the other. Outside, spectators stood as many as three deep
at times watching the proceedings over the low surrounding wall. Except for
a one hour break when I ate some sandwiches, I remained in Court until 6:15,
after which I inspected a local Scout Troop. Even on returning to the rest
house I was not free, as a succession of people came to see me with requests
or complaints to make. It was the same thing on Thursday except for the fact
that after a walk of inspection round the town, I took my seat in Court at
9:30 ... On Friday I rose at 6:30. Leaving my car behind I set out with my boys
and loads in the lorry shortly after 8. I did this having been informed that the
road was flooded. Sure enough after going 4 miles we found ourselves
confronted by a sheet of water. The interpreter and I with a couple of cycles
crossed the obstacle by canoe, and then cycled the remaining 9 miles to our
destination. A gang of labourers in due course carried my loads thither ...
Again I took my seat in Court - not such an elaborate one this time. Before
resuming again after my break for sandwiches, Stanley King, the D.O. of
Ahoada, arrived as I had anticipated he might on a flying visit. I did no
reviewing that afternoon, but instead prospected with S for a good site for a
new rest house we propose building in that place. This involved us in a certain
amount of walking and cycling; and the locals who accompanied us were
vouchsafed the sight of their A.D.O. on two occasions up a tree. Our questing
was successful for I think we have found a good site overlooking the Orashi
river ... Yesterday morning I resumed my sitting in Court. After disposing of
the remainder of the cases, I conducted my sort of Citizen's Advice Bureau. Following which I revisited the site for the new rest house in the company of
the land owner. That over, there followed a cycle ride back to where I had left
my car, once again crossing the flooded area by canoe. Having pumped up
the tyres of my car, I did the 23 mile journey back to Ahoada - and on my
return at 5:30 I at last had an opportunity of tackling my picnic lunch. But
even then I was not left long to do that in peace, for soon after 6 the African
Magistrate whom I knew in Degema - and who with this English wife had just
arrived in Ahoada - came and invaded my house and showed a marked lack
of perception in not knowing when it was time for him to go. The week ended
with dinner with Stanley and Vera. In contrast to my ((Bush" appearance
during the week, I thought I would take the opportunity of dining out to dress
smoothly for once. I think I rather took friend Stanley by surprise when I
appeared on his doorstep wearing my dashing check suit, with Peter'sll
horsey tie round my neck and a foxy handkerchief in my breast pocket... ... In
giving you rough details of my tour, I forgot to mention that on Friday evening
I inspected a government leper clinic. The inmates seemed greatly to
appreciate my visit ... As a matter of fact one of the cases I heard caused me
to send a leper to prison for 6 months for having stolen a goat ... You would
have been amused to have watched me running my "Citizens' Advice Bureau"
yesterday. One of those who came to see me was a pretty young girl. She told
me that while she was still a child her father had given her in a marriage to a
man whom she did not wish to marry. (The girl had only recently reached
maturity, and I understood that as yet she had never lived with her husband.)
She told me that she wanted to marry one man only and that was a certain
Rufus. I decided to help the girl, and called for everyone concerned. A little
later I had Beatrice, her father and her husband, and Rufus and his mother all
standing before me. I asked Rufus, who looked a pleasant fellow, whether he
loved Beatrice. He said he did. Then as much for the information of the people
watching as for that of those directly concerned I explained why I was taking
an interest in this matter. I told them of the very poor view I took of their
normal outlook regarding marriage in which women are looked upon as so
much realisable and negotiable property. I reminded them of a case which I
had just settled in which the ownership of the girl child was disputed. In the
space of a few years the mother of child in question had been 'married' to
the plaintiff 3 times and to the defendant twice! On my giving judgement the case had terminated with the unedifying spectacle of a tussle, as the
successful 3rd party only sought to take possession of the girl. It was to avoid
that sort of thing, I explained, that I was ready to help any who wished to
marry from motives of affection (love as we know it, I would say in
parenthesis, is virtually non-existent out here) ... Well I think I went a fair way
in effecting the union of Beatrice and Rufus ... I trust that when all necessary
dowry payments and refunds have been made - when in fact there is no
cause or just impediment - they will do as I suggested and get married either
in Church or by the D.O. - Love and greetings to all at home from Keith.
Letter 28: Ahoada. 24th September.
My dear M and D,
I must tell you that all thought of my returning home on leave this winter is
off. I visited the Resident on Wednesday, and he told me that I might as well
give up hope; and rather remain any longer in vague doubt, this is what I have
done. There is a lot in favour of returning home on leave next summer for 4
- 5 months rather than flying back for 8 weeks this Christmas. At any rate I
don't think that one can go on in a state of uncertainty any longer. I have
accordingly orientated myself to facing the prospect of remaining another 9
or 10 months in this patch of Bush. As a matter of fact that prospect does not
fill me with horror. There is masses to do here, and the time simply flies by.
In Stanley I have an excellent man to work with; and I look forward before
leaving this place to seeing evidence of progress having been made - progress
for which I will have been responsible. If I were to return home this
December, I could not hope to see anything very much achieved. I believe
there are big possibilities in this Division. This news will be a disappointment
to you I'm afraid, but I think you will understand.
I have been staying in Ahoada this past week, but despite that fact I have
moved around quite a lot. On Wednesday I motored into P.H. having first
attended a Clan Council meeting. Besides seeing the Resident I also took the
opportunity of doing a little shopping, and more important of having my hair
cut - the first time for 6 weeks! Yesterday and today I have motored to a
Court a few miles away, taking my picnic lunch with me. I sent 2 men to prison
- one a debtor, the other a poor type who, in a statement in Court, made the
following startling confession; "Plaintiff called me to give false evidence on
his behalf as I did in action he took against ... and I gave false evidence without
payment." ... I had my usual quota of adultery cases as the following excerpts
will show - "Question by Defendant: Did I have sexual intercourse with you
or your wife?" (rather an odd query I should have thought.) - " ... I made no
objection to Plaintiffs concubinage with Chief Morning. I agreed to their
lovership until my brother returns." ... The English in which the Court Clerk
records proceedings is often quaint and sometimes unintelligible ... As I was
walking back to my house from the Office yesterday morning, I saw an
unusual sight - a pair of legs sticking out of a box tied to a carrier of a bicycle.
I inspected and found that the rest of the body was covered with some coarse
matting. The box hummed with the noise of rapacious flies. The body was
dead. I called the Police Sergeant, who told me that it had just been brought
in by a man who had come to report death by drowning. Before the body
could be placed beneath the sod, it had still to do a cycle journey of 30 miles
or so together with a canoe trip in order to reach the nearest Doctor for the
I am continuing this letter on Sunday morning. Last night I held quite a
successful little dinner-party. Stanley and Vera, and the visiting African
Magistrate and his London wife (acquaintances from Degema) were my
guests. Boniface produced a good meal: soup, roast leg of pork, peas, roast
potatoes, 'apple sauce', and gravy, banana jelly, and coffee - the pork being
washed down with a little French red wine ... The pork came from the Cold
Store in P.H. It is fairly easy from time to time to get meat, butter, bacon, fat,
yeast, and potatoes from the cold store. I am always very pleased to get some
meat from it, as I get rather tired of endlessly eating chicken. There is not
much bush meat available in Ahoada. I have eaten an animal called 'Cuttinggrass',
in appearance very like a rat; and no doubt I have also had some sort
of deer or antelope. Fresh veg is not easy to get and tinned is expensive. The
D.O. and I have a small kitchen garden, which a few prisoners look after. From
this we get quite good runner beans, and I have also had some lettuces - the
tomatoes have all got blight. In the market one can buy tomatoes and onions;
and I quite often eat green paw-paw as a vegetable. At the moment .there
does not seem to be much choice of fruit. I have an orange every day for my
breakfast; and there are still any number of guavas in my garden. Pineapples
unfortunately seem to be out of season. All my milk is of course tinned.
Boniface makes my bread - quite satisfactorily. Eggs are plentiful, costing
about 2d each. Fish is hard to come by here in contrast to Degema. Thanks to
the stores stocked by the shops in P.H. to supplement local resources, I find I
can do quite well for sustenance out here ... I have just been reading 'Murder
at the Vicarage' by Agatha C. I much enjoyed it; and feel rather pleased
because I suspected the right person although I did not correctly deduce all
the facts ... I am trying my hand at growing a few flowers in my garden. I am
growing some sunflowers and cornflowers from seed. I have transplanted
some cannas - unfortunately in this part neither climate nor soil are for
flowers or vegetables ... Love to all at home from Keith.
PS - I heard Stafford Cripps speak last Sunday. I wonder how far devaluation is going
to bump up the cost of living. Cripps was optimistic, I thought, when he
suggested its only effect might be the increase in the cost of a loaf from 4 1/2d
(I don't think I ever told you that a fortnight or so ago Philip's wife and 3 small
children appeared on the scene - so I now have a correspondingly larger
Letter 29: The District Office, Ahoada. Sunday 16th
My dear M and D,
I moved out of my quaint dwelling last Wednesday to allow the use of it to a
Senior Officer visiting Ahoada. It suited me quite well to move out, for it
means that I have got all my belongings packed up in good time and will avoid
a last-minute rush. I paid off Levinus my small-boy, a week or two ago; and
last week I did the same to Boniface my cook. I am now staying with my
neighbour in Ahoada - an engineer who is building a bridge. He is a Devon
man and a very pleasant fellow. His name is Sidmouth, and he has relations
who live in Torquay. He will continue to put me up until I leave for P.H. on the
25th. From Sunday to Friday last week I stayed put in Ahoada, but yesterday
I had a change of scene. I motored to a pleasant place beside a lake in the
adjoining Division. I arrived yesterday afternoon, and will be leaving
tomorrow morning. My host is the A.D.O. of this Division. We are occupying
an attractive rest house, overlooking the lake. As I write I hear the oars of a
heavy canoe being rowed slowly by. Also staying here is a married couple and
their infant daughter. They are Dutch, and he works for Shell. We have had a
good weekend together - bathing (both in the sun and in the water), fishing,
and canoeing - and we have fed like lords. The four of us this evening
confronted 2 roast chickens for our dinner. ConSidering we are in the middle
of the rainy season, we have been exceedingly fortunate to have had two fine
days. Tomorrow is a holiday on account of some Muslim festival.
Nevertheless I shall be busy. I have to site wells in about 8 villages, and also
take compass bearings of the proposed boundaries of a site for a palm-oil
mill ... I have been listening to the news on the radio pretty regularly. It is not
good. Are we really about to plunge into a third world conflict I wonder?
Providing the fighting in Korea can be localised, the lesson taught there will
have been an invaluable one - it will have shown Russia that U.N.O. (or
should I say the U.S.A.) is ready to resort to military action when the necessity
arises. The greatest hope for the future lies I think in the fact conflict between
Russian and American troops has so far been avoided. Every day that passes without Russia sending troops to N. Korea reduces the likelihood of her doing
so, and thereby reduces the imminent chance of world conflict ... That is what
I think as I sit this evening beside this peaceful lake in West Africa. My love
to all. Keith.
Letter 30: Ahoada, Oct 9th
My Dear M & D,
Last Sunday I wrote to you from Aba, where I spent the weekend with my
good friend Tim. On Monday, which was a public holiday being a Moslem
festival, I returned to Ahoada. I gave lunch to four CM.S. friends from P.H.
and Stanley and Vera. Tuesday and Wednesday, I was kept very busy catching
up with arrears of work. On Tuesday evening, I dined with the Magistrate and
his wife and the doctor who was visiting Ahoada. We ate well and had an
enjoyable time playing pontoon. On Thursday I went into P.H. There I was
very busy ordering £200 worth of stores: paint, cement, spades, axes and so
on. In the evening, I motored to a rest house only 7 miles out of P.H. (In case
you did not know, Ahoada Division extends right up to P.H.) ... On reaching
this rest house at Obia, I found a rather disgruntled Philip and Boniface -
disgruntled because there was no kitchen and because the Boy's Quarters
had collapsed. Boniface improvised a kitchen in the garage. He and Philip
bedded down for the night beneath the rest-house roof; and I drove my car
into the 'parlour' for shelter ... The rest-house itself was in anything but a good
condition: the walls were crumbling, the matting roof was full of holes and
the place was bare of furniture. On Friday morning I divorced a couple of
Jehovah's Witnesses and went into the ramifications of two land disputes. In
the afternoon I inspected the disputed areas with the parties concerned. Two
Court Messengers did their best to keep off the rag, tag and bobtail that
interested themselves in my movements. To be perfectly frank, inspecting the
land left me little if any the wiser as to who were the rightful owners.
However, it satisfied the expectation of the parties and the curiosity of bystanders
to see me mooching around plots of cassava ... In one of the
disputes, the Mission was the plaintiff. If I was to believe what I was told -
which of course I never do -the Mission authorities had sat back and watched
a corner of their cemetery being appropriated and a row of houses being built
on it. On inspection it was quite evident to me that the houses must have
been built at least 18 months ago. On Saturday morning, I finished off in
Court. There followed a 12-mile cycle ride along the bush paths, so narrow
that at times it was almost impossible to see the ground for the press of grass
on either side. The purpose of this trip was to investigate the prospects of
making a road. On returning, I had a few sandwiches and then set off on a cycle again to visit another proposed road. I called in at the CMS girls' school
at Elelenwa on my return, where I had a cup of tea. After changing in the rest
house, I motored into P.H. - having invited myself to the American Baptist
Missionaries there. They were very friendly; and I can foresee them becoming
quite a port of call when I find my way into P.H. in the future. After dining,
some of us went to the flicks ... My 2 'girlfriends' from Joinkrama were also in
P.H. for the weekend. The Carsons, for such was the name of my hosts, asked
me to spend the night, but I thought it best to motor back to my rest-house ...
Then, today I am jaunting again. This Sunday, I am staying with Christopher
Ollard at Bori, where he is looking after me very kindly, and I am delighted to
be seeing him again. His wife, Rachel unfortunately had recently to fly home
as her father died suddenly.
At last we are approaching the end of the wet season. I am looking forward
to having sunshine again - I have been surprised at the grey skies one gets in
the tropical forest belt.
Love to you all at home from Keith.
Letter 31: Ahoada, Saturday Oct. 22nd
My Dear M and D,
Thank you, M, for your letter of the 13th. I was interested to hear that you
are now the proud possessor of a standard Vanguard. I agree with you, M,
that it is a slug-like looking machine. I think they look much better inside than
out. The Vanguard is a very popular car out here. Stanley has one. How do
you like the gear change on the steering column, D?
I am writing this letter on Saturday evening. It has been a very occupied week.
This morning I went to the office at 8 pm, and except for a visit to the prison
remained there solidly until 3 pm, when I returned home for a large curry
lunch. This evening Stanley and I bowled a cricket ball at each other. I have
had my supper, a simple one of spaghetti and a cold sweet; and am now
seated at my desk in my pyjamas. My wireless is playing some rather
nondescript music, but it makes a pleasant background -and at least it serves
to offset the night noises of the jungle about me. I say noises of the jungle,
but they don't amount to much more than the constant humming and
whirring of insect life and the occasional cry by a night bird. Everything seems
unbelievably peaceful, and I have that pleasant feeling of knowing that
tomorrow is a Sunday and that I shall have a chance of idling and of attending
to my own affairs. It is some time since I was last in Ahoada for a weekend,
and it is rather pleasant now to be back at base ... And the base is, I'm glad to
say, improving in appearance. Prisoners have built me one very necessary
wall. A local carpenter is fitting windows into the front of the house which at
present is open to the four winds of heaven. So far he has got as far as fitting
in the necessary frames. Before I know where I am it will actually be possible
to shut up the house at night and when I go away on tour. I look around my
domain and I am quite well pleased with what I see. Admittedly there is not
much furniture, but there is enough to meet my needs. My shortage of chairs
is partially made good by three camel skin puffs. I have the concrete floor well
covered with mats and my two carpets. I have a shelf filled with books. On
some other shelves I have my few pieces of glass and pottery, "aunt Rosie's"
teapot sugar basin and milk jug, the round tray that you, M, bought as a
Christmas present for me at the sale in '47, and a couple of pewter mugs. On
the walls I have a few pictures. Here and there about the room I have photos of family and friends. I have a few of my familiar ornaments with me - things
such as my ivory St George and the Dragon, a little laughing Buddha, a
sandalwood Vishnu (a 21st birthday present), and my red duck Belinda made
by Marion out in India ... All of which have by' now become old friends ... You,
M, would I'm sure be pleased to see the door mat to wipe dirty feet on that I
have seen fit to buy. About the room I have got the odd jam jar filled with red
flowers. Unfortunately there is little choice of flowers. I am glad to say
however that some sunflowers that I have grown from seed are doing well.
The cornflowers I planted have not survived. I now have some zinnias in the
seed box, which can be more or less relied on to flourish. I have also
transplanted some cannas, which I think will do all right ... So I live here in my
home. My wants are few. They might be summed up thus:
Wireless set, boy and one or two books, typewriter, car and a man what
cooks ... Each day has its something attempted, something done. Though in
the heat of noon I am often irascible, in the evening when work is over for
the day I can usually feel that my labours have been worthwhile - and I go
fairly early to bed to be ready to be able to tackle to my best whatever the
morrow may bring forth.
I motored back from Enugu on Monday. The last 40 miles of our journey we
did in a very severe storm. Lightning seemed to be striking the forest all
around us; and for long stretches the road was three or 4 inches underwater.
In one place we had to leave the shelter of the car to break back the branches
of a tree that had fallen across the road. I am glad to say that we arrived home
safely. That night I had the novel experience of waging war for 2 }'2 hours on
an army of ants that was invading my house. I did not discover them until I
had retired to my bedroom at 9-30, by which time they had already
established a strong footing - they were swarming all over the floor, ceiling,
furniture and bed. Philip and Christian kept up a ceaseless sweeping of the
floor, flinging heaps of dead bodies out of the window. Boniface burnt my
only India rubber on a small fire that he had made in the corner of the room.
Thereafter he burnt pungent smelling leaves and scattered embers around. I
contented myself by sprinkling Jeyes fluid on concentrations of the enemy.
On going outside I was appalled by the numbers of ants I saw. However, we
succeeded in directing them from the house and by midnight we had
succeeded in getting rid of most of those that had gone inside. As I was
undressing, I heard a shout from Philip saying that ants were approaching the
kitchen. I went outside and saw a column heading in the direction of the
kitchen. In view of the last hour I decided an honourable retreat was
justifiable. So we removed all the foodstuffs and left the field unchallenged.
Love to all from Keith
Letter 32: Ahoada, November 12th
Dear M and D,
It is Saturday afternoon, and I am seated on a camp chair in my garden. It is
hot and the sun is shining. K.V.A. wears only a pair of shoes and a hat. His
mother with her quaint ideas of his canine origin might maintain that he falls
into the category of "mad dogs", but be that as it may he is at any rate an
Englishman and as such enjoys the rays of the midday sun - in which respect
he takes after his father ... Very well, I am sitting outside my house, and what
do I see? In front me I see three flowerbeds segmented out of a compound
which otherwise consists of nothing but grass. In these beds there is at
present one canna just coming into flower, and a certain number of what are
meant to be sunflowers. However, in all except three or four cases none of
the plants have grown more than 12 inches high, having been attacked by
some heartless pest. Beyond the beds I see the hedge which encloses my
private domain. Immediately on the other side of the hedge is the golf course
- now don't start picturing a sleekly trimmed links. The golf course
corresponds to a rough field - only, of course there is no such thing as a field
as we know it in this country. Looking rather like something out of "Dracula"
20 or so vultures with their wings spread are sunning themselves on the grass.
150 yards away on the other side of the golf course is a line of high bush,
which runs parallel to my garden hedge. To my immediate left there is also
bush but of lower growth. On my right is the house of the engineer, now
empty; and beyond is the rest house and the D.O.'s house. The tallest of trees
in the Bush ahead of me must be anything up to 200 feet high. Behind me is
my odd-looking low longhouse, now with a line of zinnias planted in front of
it - it is to be hoped that they flourish better than have the sunflowers ... Well,
now you have me in my present setting, and I can proceed.
Well, I wonder what news you would like to hear about this week. I should be
interested to be told whether these weekly letters I write make you feel that
you can to some small extent picture my life as an assistant district officer
and the surroundings in which I work. Last Sunday afternoon with Stanley and
Vera I visited the maternity house at Omoku, 22 miles away. On Monday
afternoon I visited it again on my own; and then on Tuesday I preceded
Stanley and the resident to Omoku for the opening ceremony of the said
maternity home by the latter. The local chiefs, who had not done a hand's
turn to assist in the erection and equipment of the home, turned up in their
finest clothes eager to share in any reflected glory that was going ... Chubb
suggested that the most appropriate way of opening a maternity home would
be by giving birth; but not being competent to do this he contented himself
by unlocking the front door. I suggested that he might declare the home open
in the act of snipping someone's navel cord with a pair of silver scissors, but
unfortunately there was not one suitably available ... The resident remained
in Ahoada from Monday till Friday. On Monday night he dined with Stanley
and Vera; and on Tuesday night we ate deer flesh with the resident. On both
occasions, little was talked but shop - a failing which I observed to be very
common. On Wednesday I had a very busy day in the office, dealing with a
stack of files that had accumulated, interviewing police cases, and coping with
the usual daily collection of persons with complaints or requests to make. As
I was sitting in Stanley's house having a drink at about 8 p.m. I had a small
note passed to me. It came from one of the warders, and in it I was asked to
render first aid to one of the prisoners who appeared to be seriously ill. I was
sceptical of the report, for only the previous day the said prisoner had been
on a charge before me for malingering as reported by the dispenser.
However, I went to the prison. By the light of a torch I had a look at the "sick
man" in his cell. The other inmates, those that were awake gathered curiously
around. When I stood beside him the sick prisoner began panting
energetically. I took his pulse, and found it was a normal 80. He complained
vaguely of pains in his head and chest. On considering him I came to the
conclusion that far from being in extremis he was merely putting on an act. I
told the warder to remain unperceived for a few moments beneath the
window. He did so and reported to me that he had heard the other inmates
of the cell adviSing their sick comrade to compose himself and go to sleep ...
On Thursday I went to a nearby court where I reviewed cases. Yesterday and
today I have been holding the fort, Stanley and Vera having gone off on tour.
Today I am expecting my friend, Tim, to arrive for the weekend; and then on
Monday I go on tour myself.
Love from Keith.
letter 33: Ahoada, Saturday Nov 26th
|My dear M and D,
I would be grateful if you would keep your eyes open for a suitable gift for me
to present to my godson on the occasion of his christening. It must be
something reasonable, but not too expensive for, believe me, there is not a
lot of money in the job of assistant district officer. By the time one has paid
one's boys and cleared one's bills for food, which come to a fair sum - food
being expensive, and put by for one's various insurances there is not a great
deal left out of one's pay packet - particularly when one is paying off an
advance, granted for the purchase of a car, in 24 monthly instalments.
Last week I believe I mentioned the trouble with which I have been faced in
one of the villages where I tried to hold an election meeting. As I expected I
hit the front page headlines of a local anti-government rag: "A.D.O. Mr
Arrowsmith orders the arrest of schoolmaster". There followed a garbled
version of my visit to the village ... Before the arrest of the said schoolmaster
was effected he betook himself in quick time to a lawyer friend with a view
to taking an action for assault against my orderly and myself. It remains to be
seen whether he intends Pllrsuing the matter further. He himself is at present
released on bail pending the magistrate hearing the government's case
against him early next month ... I am glad to say that the action taken by me
has not been censured by the Resident, who tells me not to be put out by
fabrications that appear in the press ... As you may have heard on the news,
there has been trouble in Enugu, which is the capital of the eastern provinces
of Nigeria. As an aftermath of this there has been some rioting in P.H ... I knew
nothing about this until yesterday, but it has affected my subsequent
movements. I will give you a short sequence of events. Thursday night I spent
in Okwuzi, which is up in the north of the Division. After breakfast on Friday
morning I attended to a few files, then went over to the court to do reviews.
I had a particularly long day of it, not finishing in court until 7:15, by which
time I was writing by the light of my Tilley lamp. No sooner had I left the court
than I was approached by a messenger from Ahoada. He gave me a short little
note from Stan which merely said "return immediately, trouble in P.H." ... I
swallowed a hasty supper, and then in the company of the interpreter I got
moving. We first had a 12-mile cycle ride to do, at one point being ferried
across a river. Road was dark and its surface was pretty terrible but
fortunately there was a little moon. Having cycled the 12 miles, I arrived
where I had left my car parked, and we covered the rest of the 22 miles to
Ahoada rather more quickly. At 11:15, weary, and without my boys and kit
which I had left behind, I arrived at Stan's house. Once there he told me a few
facts, and intimated that I would have to leave forthwith for Isoba where I
would establish an HQ ... Isoba is in the southern portion of the Division, a
dozen miles from P.H. There is a leper settlement there, where a few medical
Europeans live including one wife - consequently a possible target for antigovernment
and anti-British action. By the light of torches I drove my car onto
the pontoon ferry, which crosses the Sombrero River at Ahoada.
Unfortunately on leaving the pontoon on the far side of the river, one of the
two ramps slipped away from the pontoon while my car was still on it that
left me with two rear wheels still on the pontoon, one front wheel still on a
ramp and the other in the water. Stan did noble work to retrieve my car from
its predicament, and after two hours - at 2:15 a.m. - it was brought safely to
terra firma without injury. The remainder of the 40-odd mile journey to Isoba
was uneventful: and I arrived there at about 3:45 a.m. My arrival woke up an
educational officer who was staying the night there. He rallied round and was
surprisingly matey considering the hour. At 4:30 a.m. I turned in on the
incredibly uncomfortable camp bed that I had borrowed from Stan ... On
getting up this morning I heard a number of rumours going around. I issued
orders to persons owning shot guns to surrender them: sent persons to spy
out the land; and considered what steps would have to be taken were an
unpleasant situation to arise in the neighbourhood. I had instructions to enrol
both Special constables and swear in J.Ps if I thought it necessary, with various
reports circulating as to what was going on in P.H. The earlier part of the
morning held quite a feeling of excitement. However at noon I received a
first-hand report from a man, one of my 'spies', that conditions in P.H. were
back to normal. Subsequently I have had this confirmed. However as I have
not yet received instructions to leave Isoba. I continue to remain here for the
time being ... My boys and loads have, I'm glad to say, now arrived so I am selfsupporting
again. The education officer left at 7 a.m., so our acquaintance
was not a long one. This life offers one the blessing of a constant element of
Love to all from Keith.
Letter 34: The District Office, Ahoada Saturday, Dec 3rd
My dear M and D,
I don't know what I shall do over Christmas. Various people have made
tentative suggestions that I might join them; but the fact of the matter is that
there is no one in P.H. with whom I am particularly anxious to join up. I should
like to stay with my Danish friends; but that is prescribed by reason of the fact
that Stanley will be away over Christmas, and I am not at liberty to go so far
afield ... I look forward to my local leave in January; but that as yet is not
properly fixed up. As I have said I hope to sally forth in the company of Tim;
but he has not yet even had his leave approved. I hope he gets a move on,
but until he is settled we can't make any other definite arrangements.
In this life of an Assistant District Officer I never know what may turn up next.
Last week I told you about my surprise overnight move to Isoba on account
of the disturbances. That was followed by another surprise move, this time
to P.H. On Sunday afternoon I received a note from the Resident asking me
to come into his office the following morning, as he was snowed under with
work. From Monday to Thursday I worked in his office, decoding telegrams
and helping to sort things out after the upheaval in office routine caused by
the riots. I left my boys and loads out at Isoba, and fed with friends. While in
P.H ., friends gave me lunch. One evening I took potluck with Margaret
Belcher; another with the American missionaries; and another time with a
married couple with whom I am friendly. I was pleased to have this
opportunity of meeting people again; and two nights I stayed in P.H ... Then
on Wednesday I received instructions for another surprise move. Christopher
Ollard came into P.H. with a poisoned hand, and was ordered hospital
treatment, so I was told to go and hold the fort in Ogoni Division for a few
days. I am staying in Chris's house, and I'm enjoying an idle three days. On
Monday I shall leave and resume work as A.D.O., Ahoada.
I have been away without my wireless set, and therefore very in the dark as
to what has been going on in the big bad world ... Out here the few who have
enjoyed the benefits of a smattering of education endeavour to stir up
trouble, but the vast mass of the people remain unquestioningly content with
things as they are (Believing Britain's administration objectively to be in Nigeria's best interest, the government
provided scholarships to some Nigerians to study in the UK, the idea being that they would
draw the same conclusion. From the sense of frustration evident in my letters, the policy
showed signs of failure. Indeed, Nigeria became independent eleven years later.). Our aim is to educate these people to our own ideals and
beliefs, but paradoxically the result is to make them less attractive as
individuals and hostile as subjects of the same crown. Unfortunately this
seems largely to apply even when the man has (thanks probably to a
government scholarship) received the best we have to offer i.e. a course at
Oxford or Cambridge. The majority of those that go to England for higher
education return with a law degree. On their return to their native land they
normally set about lining their pockets at the expense of their less
enlightened countrymen, at the same time trying to do their best to obstruct
the work of government. The majority of the remainder return as doctors.
They are not, I fear, imbued with a desire to help their countrymen, but too
often are instead fired with a greedy eagerness to profit by their ignorance,
and to that end they tour the Bush indiscriminately giving injections of
dubious value at 5 /- or 10 /- a shot. Nor I regret do some of the better
educated mission products strike me any more favourably ... You would not
credit the pitifully childish letter of vilification that we received the other day
from a leading lawyer ... As for the gentlemen of the press, they are abysmal,
without a vestige of professional integrity or any other desirable quality ... And
such, my good parents, is what British rule is achieving at any rate in this part
of the country.
Love to all from Keith
Letter 35: The District Office, Ahoada, Dec 11th
My dear M and D,
I returned to Ahoada last Wednesday having been away for a fortnight. I was
pleased to get back to base and be amongst my things again. Great
improvements had been carried out in my house during my absence and I
returned to find the floors painted a pleasing shade of dull red and doors and
windows a refreshing apple green. I have also had certain sticks of furniture
painted the same shade of green. My two carpets go very well with the newly
painted floor. In my bedroom I now have two white iron bedsteads - one for
myself and one for any chance visitor. They are simple but sensible pieces of
furniture - English-made, and they cost only 50/- each ... On my return I found
my zinnias flowering in the bed along the front of my house and also quite a
pleasing show of cannas in the three beds in the grass. I have two prisoners
who regularly work in my garden and they seem to take quite an enjoyment
out of doing so ... Within the last day or two there has been a staff change in
my establishment. Christian had a chance of becoming an engine driver or
something and has left me. I have not as yet engaged anyone in his place -
Philip makes it very clear that he hopes I soon will!
The headmaster I have had charged with assault15 was tried on Friday. I was
the principal witness for the prosecution, and for one and a half hours had to
face cross-examination by the defending African lawyer ... The accused was
found guilty and fined £20 or nine months imprisonment ... It was Roberts the
African magistrate with the English wife from Degema who tried him ... This
week they have been staying in the house next to mine. On Friday I had a
young timber trader in for dinner ... By the way the following notice appeared
in the Gazette recently "His Excellency has been pleased to appoint K.V.A.
esquire to be a magistrate grade 3". This as I've told you gives me greater. (See Letter 33 above)
powers than I formerly had as a J.P. (As a "magistrate grade 3" I was now allowed to hear cases brought under English law, of
which there were very few.) ... A fortnight today will be Christmas.
In view of that I had better take this opportunity of wishing all at home a
happy time. Have a bowl of wassail on me, and when you are tucking in to
your Christmas fare remember K.V.A.'s example of moderation in all things From
Letter 36: The District Office, Ahoada. Saturday, Dec 17th.
My dear M and D,
I am very sorry to hear about the disfigurement of your car - very bad luck.
We shall see which of us can keep ours better, you with your Vanguard on
English roads and I with my Minor in the Bush. I have driven more than 5000
miles in her - so far without mishap.
This has been an extremely full week. On Tuesday I went on tour, and
returned to Ahoada tonight. All together I must have motored about 400
miles and cycled 100. I have done some Court work, but my main occupation
has been to hold Election Meetings - frequently in remote localities, only
approachable by narrow bush paths cycling along which one is brushed by
the undergrowth on either side. Every evening I have returned to my rest
house after dark, and have then been faced with the need to attend to files
and write up reports on my activities. Yesterday I began a meeting in a village
as the sun was setting. Long before I finished, it was pitch-dark - no moon. I
took the votes by the light of a hunter's lamp. The ride back through the forest
was tricky as we only had one light between 5 of us! The said light had also to
serve as a headlamp when at one place we took to a canoe for half a mile or
so. At 10:30 pm, we motored into Aba, feeling pretty dead. At short notice I
spent the night with Tim and a friend. I was very thankful of the sanctuary
they had to offer ... This morning I motored into P.H., paid bills and did a little
shopping. My friends the Sleys gave me lunch; and this afternoon I was
present at the birthday party of their 6 year old daughter. Children came
dressed up as fairies, and tea and games were in the garden. I should like to
have spent the night in P.H., but my interpreter and orderly were anxious to
return to Ahoada - and for their sakes I left soon after 7. We reached home
at 9:15, only to find my house wrapped in darkness, and the boys in bed and
asleep. They rallied round well, and I have just disposed of a good supper of
fried eggs. Talking of eggs reminds me of something which I must tell you,
which will make you very envious. On Tuesday evening I addressed a meeting
of women in one village. When I had finished, some women almost literally
overwhelmed me with eggs. On returning to the rest house I counted and
found I had collected 182 - and a few buckets-full of oranges! I shared the
1 pot out with my boys, orderly, interpreter etc! You will be interested to hear
that a public apology to K.V.A. was published by the local press today - an
apology for the fallacious reports of my activities published a few weeks ago.
Before using up all this paper, I wish to thank you again, 0, for your very
generous present - and for the kind consideration which its choice betokens.
I do indeed hope that your gift will last me all my days. I should like to tell you
that former gifts of yours are being much used and appreciated and viz the
brief case of last year and the writing case of 7 to 8 years ago - I have my
binoculars with me, but unfortunately in the Bush I don't have much use for
I hope your Christmas has been a great success. Love to all from Keith
Letter 37: Ahoada, January 1st
My dear M and D,
A happy new year to you, and it is good to think that we shall be seeing each
other again before the end of it. I have received no further letter from you
since I last wrote, so have nothing to reply to. I have however received Pat's
Christmas present, the thermometer - an exceedingly sensible present and
one which is much appreciated.
I gave a party for some of the staff on Dec 27th. At 6:30 twenty or more clerks,
warders, police etc. came round to my house. I was glad of the assistance of
Patrick Legge, who was staying with me, to amuse them. Pinned on the walls
I had anagrams of well-known town names and advertisements cut out from
a local paper. In the latter game, one has to name the firm advertising. This
kept the blokes circulating and busy for % of an hour. Their scores were poor
but better than I had expected. I kept them fairly well supplied with beer; and
Boniface had prepared some nice small-eats which were scoffed in quick
time. After disposing of the refreshments we played some sitting down games
whispering a message from person to person and seeing how garbled it
became, was well enjoyed ... Only one chap was tight; and he fortunately was
amiably,so. I had some difficulty in restraining him from wanting constantly
to be doing conjuring tricks. From time to time he would say that he would
go outside, and that we were to choose some article while he was away, and
then call him back. I watched him leave quite happily and never called him
back - but he used always to return after a time. I noticed that when leaving
the room, he left always in the direction where the beer was kept.
Without feeling much like it, I left Ahoada on tour on the 28th. I did some
Court work, and also inspected work on a new road. This said new road is
stirring up a good deal of local controversy. A certain village considers the
road should go through their village, Stanley and I do not. I had a meeting of
an hour's duration in the disgruntled village. At the end of it angry village
women barred my way and seized my bicycle. I left this in their hands rather
than have a tussle. On leaving the village I went to Okwuzi, 9 miles away.
When I got up the following morning the interpreter told me that he had
heard that women were marching from Obuko, the village which wants the
road, to Okwuzi. At about 9:30am., as I was sitting in Court a squad of about
80 women appeared on the scene. Patiently I repeated to them most of what
I had said the day before. Discovering they were going to get no change out
of me, the women grew very angry. However they straggled away without
causing an unpleasant incident... Talking of incidents, I had my hands full this
afternoon. 2 Police constables had been driven from a village by the
brandishing of matchetes by the locals. I took 5 policemen this afternoon to
the said village to make arrests. The men however resisted our efforts and it
was 6 against 2-3 hundred. We had to retreat; but I tried to make this as
unignominious as possible ... We are likely to return again tomorrow in rather
greater strength. Yesterday afternoon I motored down to Degema, parking
my car at the end of the road and completing the journey by launch. I stayed
the night with the African doctor, who lives in the house next to the one I
occupied for a couple of months. The whole station were guests of the
Doctor's yesterday evening. There being altogether upwards of twenty
guests, the party took place in the club, specially decorated for the festive
season. At the party I was glad to meet Neil Kay, Christopher Ollard and
another friend John Adams - 4 administrative officers there together was
quite a number. It equalled the total number of ladies.
On Thursday next I go into hospital for my hernia operation. It is strange,
when one is absolutely fit, to know that within a few days one is going to be
cut open on the table. I hope I am given a general anaesthetic, and not a local
one by means of an injection in the spine. Still, it is not a matter I'm losing any
sleep over. This time 2 weeks hence I should be up and about again.
Happy New Year and love from Keith.
Letter 38: As from: The District Office, Ahoada. Sunday Jan 8th
My dear M and D,
This week you won't have much of a letter I fear. I am in hospital in P.H.,
having been operated on a couple of days ago. I am on the up and up; but as
yet do not feel much like writing letters ... At the beginning of the week I
accompanied police to a village where a few days before a villager had
resisted arrest with the support of fellow villagers, and then on Thursday I
was lying in bed feeling fit as a fiddle. The whole set-up seemed unreal until
the trolley called for me on Friday morning. Truth to tell, it continued to seem
unreal even after that. I lay down on the table, and the surgeon said he was
going to give me an injection which would send me to sleep. It did nothing of
the sort; its effect was to make me feel as tight as a lord. Then came the spinal
injection, which I had not wished to have. I felt paralysis creeping over me
from my waist down. The surgeon then began to cut me open and perform
his ritua" having first thrown a piece of lint over my eyes. He used my chest
as a repository for his various weapons. In my drunken state I grew quite
skittish with the two sisters who were holding my hands, and even flippant
with the doctor. We talked about Wimbledon amongst other things and at
one point I took the two sisters to task for talking together about spinach for
the patient's lunch. I told them that there was a time and a place for
everything, and that I did not think that the present circumstances quite
justified discussion about spinach. It was all over pretty quickly, and I was
deposited back onto my bed. I then had time to study my paralysed condition.
Placing a hand on the blanket, my legs felt like solid lumps of rock. Placing my
hand inside the bed-clothes, it felt just as though I were touching legs
belonging to someone else. Pressing with my fingers I saw the flesh give -
which was quite a surprise, for I felt absolutely solid from the hips down. I
touched my navel and that was normal. I touched an inch below, and it was
dead ... The paralysis wore off after a couple of hours, and I was able to move
my limbs again. But the after-effects are still with me, and they tend to make
life somewhat uncomfortable. I had told the surgeon I did not want a spinal
injection. It has been a new experience ... The business being over I am on
normal food; and hope to be moving around in a day of two.
Much love from Keith.
Letter 39: As from: The District Office, Ahoada. Sunday January 15th.
|My dear M and D,
I am a much happier man this Sunday than I was a week ago. My 6 clips have
been removed. I am no longer confined to bed, and am in fact encouraged to
walk around. I am to be discharged on Tuesday or Wednesday. Naturally I am
exceedingly thankful that this final tinkering with my stomach has not led to
any recrudescence of my former trouble ... Unlike Stanley, my D.O., and
certain other exceptional people, I can be very happy just being idle; and I
have thoroughly enjoyed this past week. I have not had to look at a single file;
I have not had to listen to wearisome complaints; and I have had to give no
thought to inept road labourers, inefficient clerks, cantankerous ex servicemen,
escaped prisoners, and the 101 other matters that constantly
claim the attentions of an A.D.O. Instead I have sat by the hour in my dressing
gown in a comfortable armchair with an electric fan playing in front of me;
and my reading and writing has only been disturbed by the frequent service
of good meals and an occasional nap. I've written many letters and a little in
my journal. I've also thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of doing some
reading. During the first couple of days, while I was feeling low, I read again
that exquisite book by Evelyn Waugh: "Decline and FaiL" Then I dealt with
more serious matter: 'Four Portraits' by Peter Quennell. I am now engaged
on 'South Riding' by Winifred Holtby, which I am enjoying. Other reading has
included magazines (2 Digests, previously received from you,D, being very
welcome) an anthology, a translation of the Theban plays by Sophocles, and
a little of the New Testament. In the normal course of my duties I have found
that I don't have much time for reading; and it is one of my fears that by
leading this life I shall become lamentably uninformed, and deteriorate into
an utter barbarian.
During the past weeks I have enjoyed an agreeable number of visits.
Yesterday as many as four people came in to see me, including my friend
Margaret Belcher armed with a mass of fine magazines ... Chubb, the
Resident, came to see me one evening. His visit did not however raise my
spirits. He is positively busting to have me out of dock, as he is very short of
officers. To my sorrow he told me that on my discharge I should have to work
in P.H. for 2 or 3 months. I am not keen about this, having got into my stride in Ahoada, nor is Stanley keen; and it's up to the latter to try to save me from
the fate awaiting me. In all events the local leave granted to me has gone by
the board for the time being; and I shall not even be getting any convalescent
leave on quitting hospital... I brought Boniface into P.H. with me, and he visits
me at 8:30 every morning. He has been very useful holding a mirror for me
when I shave, posting letters and running errands. I asked him whether he
was enjoying his holiday in P.H. He did not reply so I asked him again. "My
heart is in two places" he said. "And what do you mean by that?" I asked. "I
like being in Port Harcourt, but then I remember Master lying in hospital,"
and he did not quite know where to look ... In Boniface I have a good
I hope all goes well on the Home Front.
Love to all from Keith.
Letter 40: c/o The Resident's Office, Port Harcourt. Jan 22nd
My dear M and D,
I am now out of hospital and find it hard to believe that a fortnight ago I was
on the operating table. I was discharged on Wednesday. I returned to
Ahoada, where I gave Philip immediate instructions to dismantle and pack up
everything. I did not enjoy seeing my house stripped of all its belongings. By
six in the evening everything was packed up, and a long crocodile of prisoners
bore all my effects away on their heads to a lorry waiting on the far side of
the river. There they were guarded during the night by a Court Messenger
armed with a long primitive gun looking something like a blunderbuss. The
African Magistrate with the English wife were staying in Ahoada and invited
me to sup with them, which spared me the necessity of passing the evening
in my own bare and denuded house. On Thursday my loads, Philip and
Boniface, their loads, the former's wife and two small children and I moved
to Isoba - a village 14 miles out of P.H., which I have mentioned to you before.
And here at Isoba we are still all dumped. On Friday and Saturday I went into
P.H. and did a little work there but my immediate future fate is still not
definitely fixed. If a D.O. for P.H. can be made available from somewhere
outside the Province, I shall be merely a dogsbody helping in P.H., in which
case I might continue to live here and motor in to town every day. If however,
and as seems probable, no outside D.O. is forthcoming to work in P.H., then
if you will believe me K.V.A. will have temporarily to assume the responsible
position of District Officer, Port Harcourt, in which case I shall have to live in
P.H ... I cannot say that I find the prospect of either alternative attractive; and
I would much prefer to finish my tour working with Stanley in Ahoada
Division ... Yesterday was the day on which the local leave granted to me was
due to begin. I shall endeavour to see that I don't lose it entirely, for I long for
a change of scene to this dreary part of the country. This spot, Isoba, where I
am at the moment, is about the best there is in the neighbourhood. I am
typing this on the verandah of the large rest house situated on the edge of
the north bank of the New Calabar river. The river is about 150 yards wide,
and the far bank is covered with very thick bush. Around the rest-house is a
pleasant compound of 4 or 5 acres. The grass is kept cut short; one or two
trees have been left standing, and a drive curls down between them from the
road outside. I look out on a peaceful scene. Birds dart hither and thither across the grass; and from time to time a canoe passes idly by on the still
waters of the river. .. In time I hope to learn something about the flora and
fauna of this country for I have joined the Nigerian Field Society. I attended
the first meeting of the newly formed P.H. branch yesterday evening. There I
saw something new in the shape of an electric catfish, a small creature about
the size of a goldfish. I put my hand into the bowl of water and received a
very noticeable shock ... While life out here goes on just the same, it is odd to
think of the mounting excitement at home. The news of the General Election
next month does not directly affect us here at all; and I await the outcome of
events in a detached frame of mind. Were I at home I should find it difficult
to decide which way to vote. My persuasions are liberal. Were there not a
liberal candidate to vote for, I think I should have to vote Conservative. This
I think is necessary in order to fight the insidious and crippling enemy of
unilateral State-Control. What greatness our Nation has ever achieved has
been due to the courage, the enterprise and the self-sacrifice of individuals;
and it seems to me that the Socialists whether intentionally or not are
cramping individuality which is concrete, for the sake of the Community
which is something entirely impersonal. The spirit of initiative I fear is being
lost; and as a Nation, from being as we were until recently imbued with vigour
and drive and wielding the greatest influence (and I would add - for good) in
the world, we are rapidly developing the qualities of a pack of poor relations
dependant on the bounty of the State, and able to act only with its prior
I hope all goes well at home.
Love to all from Keith.
letter 41: The District Office, Port Harcourt. Saturday, 4th Feb 1950.
My dear M and D,
As I knew would be the case, my new pOSition as acting District Officer, Port
Harcourt, has already brought a fair quota of new experiences. like father like
son -I too have occasion to marry people; and this morning I married my first
couple. Obonna, the bridegroom, looked very smart in a white palm beach
suit. Gertrude Aprekema, the bride, wore a pink dress. Various witnesses, all
smartly clad in English dress, were also present. The affair took place in my
office, and was over within five minutes. I read the prescribed words as laid
down in the Marriage Ordinance and the bride and bridegroom had a few
responses to make. The relevant section in the Ordinance ends with a rather
stark admonition to both parties against committing adultery, which
reminder at the actual moment of marriage I find rather jarring. Although not
included in the form of marriage set down in the ordinance I offered a brief
prayer at the close of the proceedings. I can appreciate now that marriage in
a Registry Office is an uninspiring business ...
On Wednesday we had 2 by-elections in P.H. The onus of making all
arrangements was on the Town Clerk, but as President of the Town Council I
endeavoured to take an intelligent interest. I visited the polling booth; and
was present when the votes were counted. Except for a few articles in the
local press the elections did not arouse much interest ... On Friday I had to
preside at my first Town Council meeting. The meeting was an extraordinary
one, called to discuss the very controversial subject of tax assessments of
persons having an income of more than £500. The assessments prepared by
the Township Tax Staff this year are revolutionary. Where before a man paid
£16 he has now been assessed to pay £900 odd. Though not all cases are quite
so phenomenal, all are staggering. Only the African population is affected for
ex-patriates are taxed under a different system. Some of the councillors
themselves are directly affected by the increased assessments. I knew that it
would prove to be a gruelling meeting. Unfortunately I had no support from
my own kind, for the three European Councillors were all absent as were also
the two most co-operative of the African ones. The African Town Clerk was
of no great assistance. Try as I did to stall the issue, the chief obstructionist
on the council got a motion carried rejecting the assessments. No doubt satisfied with the result of his offensive action he decided to leave the
meeting. He could not have done me a greater favour! We passed to the task
of approving draft bye-laws governing the payment of vehicle licenses within
the township. The meeting lasted from 10 am. to 2:15 pm ... This morning I
presided for a couple of hours as chairman of the P.H. Planning Authority ...
Another claim on my time during the week was made by 2 senior officials of
the Colonial Development Corporation, who spent a couple of nights in P.H.
The Col. Dev. Corp. is running the groundnuts scheme in E. Africa.* (*On
second thoughts I think I've made a mistake. It is the overseas food
corporation who is handling the groundnuts.)
In P.H. their plans are less ambitious, but nevertheless I question their
practicability. The Corporation intends to go trawling in the sea and
refrigerate the fish they catch. We discussed ways and means together of
how they should operate and where they could erect their cold store plant.
Inevitably I am beginning to get involved in the social life of P.H. Yesterday I
was invited to dine by both the Judge and the Superintendent of Police -I did
so with the latter. Tonight I dine with Westmacott, the acting Resident while
Chubb is on leave. I received an invitation for next Monday, but am myself
having some persons to dinner. On Tuesday evening I played chess at C.M.S.
House; and on Thursday bridge at the club.
My short stay in Hospital has now almost sunk out of memory, and I find it
hard to believe that only a few weeks ago I underwent an operation.
I hope all is well at home.
Love to all from Keith.
Letter 42: The District Office, Port Harcourt. Sunday Feb 12th.
My dear M and D,
Before going any further I must enquire whether you have ever received the
first complete notebook of the journal that I have been keeping out here? I
entrusted it to a friend who was returning to England by air and who should
have arrived at home and posted it to you a month ago by now ... I shall be
most distressed if any accident has happened to it. Please let me know
without fail in your next letter whether or not you have received it. You
enquire whether my boys like living in P.H. I think they do. The status of
servants is socially proportionate to that of their masters, so as I am now D.O.
they have risen in that scale - but like their Master they get no increased
salary. You ask whether I shall now employ any more boys. The answer is
emphatically no. In fact in the interests of economy my establishment is
reduced now to just Philip and Boniface.
This week I have been quite sociable. I had some people to dinner on Monday;
on Friday I had the African Magistrate from Degema and his European wife to
dine and also a recently arrived couple called Coatsmith. Then last night I had
Timothy to stay, which was very pleasant... From the work point of view it has
been a full week. At 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday I took my seat as Chairman of
the Finance Committee. For 2 hours we sat in Committee, and then we
changed over straightaway to hearing tax appeals. One by one we listened to
persons who had a grumble about the amount of tax they had been assessed
to pay. We continued without a break until after 3 pm; and I did not get home
for lunch until half past three! By degrees I think I am getting the hang of my
job, and so far things have I think gone fairly well. So far there is no news of
anyone coming to relieve me in P.H ... Amongst my other duties I am in charge
of the small broadcasting station in P.H. This largely relays the general
overseas programme of the BBC in London; but in the evenings local talent is
given a chance. On Friday evening the Advisory Committee met in its very
small studio and we held auditions of would-be broadcasters - women
Singing weird native songs; young m.en chanting to the accompaniment of
shrill wooden clappers, and other young men singing sentimental American
songs accompanied by an out-of-tume guitar. I allowed myself to be guided
largely by the committee members. Some items we passed as suitable; for others we decided more practice was required ... The Committee is pretty
moribund at the moment, and I'm hoping in due course to imbue it with more
At this time of year I, out here on the coast, have the laugh on you poor
people at home. This is about the best time of year - fine days, relatively cool
nights (down to about 70 degrees) and quite often a pleasant breeze. The
Harmattan wind blows during February. This is a wind blowing from the
Sahara to the coast. It carries particles of sand from the desert with it, so that
even here in the very south days look hazy and floors are covered with layers
of fine dust... I have not the inclination to do anything to my garden here, not
knowing how long I am to remain. Fortunately it was left by the last occupant
in quite a good state. It contains some flowering trees - notably 'frangi-pani'.
There are also some flowers in the beds; marigolds, bachelors-buttons and
others. There is even a rambler rose against the wall. At this season of the
year sleek white egrets stalk sedately about the grass - one would almost
think they were tame ... I made a small addition to my household effects
yesterday in the shape of a small pottery jug made at Dartmouth. I needed a
small milk jug, and the place of origin of this one decided me in buying it ...
Best wishes and love to all at home - From Keith.
Letter 43: The District Office, Port Harcourt. Saturday March 4th.
My dear M and D,
This week I have to thank you both for letters - yours of the 24th reached me
on the 27th, D. I was interested to learn about the BBC's proposal. I should
feel very proud were you to give a mental-telepathy broadcast.
How are Peter and Pat doing at Cambridge? Caius days seem very remote just
now. I envy them their opportunity of furthering their education. A colonial
life, I fear, does not make for culture. So much of my day is taken up in
performing my official duties that when the time does arrive to relax in the
evening I am mentally too fatigued to be able to give my mind to anything
requiring more than the least attention. Then too one must normally be off
pretty early to bed in order to be able to cope with the tasks of the coming
day. It is aliI can do to read my various magazines - it takes me ages to get
through a book ... Undoubtedly living in this part of the world does impose a
strain on one, and now after 13 months I am finding out for myself that I
cannot do the same in this country as I did in England.
When I was transferred to P.H. on leaving hospital, I foresaw that I had a busy
spell coming and such has and is proving to be the case. I have a number of
ticklish and responsible matters to deal with - not least of which is this tax ,
which I have already mentioned to you. One has to tread warily in this place,
where there is a good deal of latent anti-white and anti-govt feeling. I don't
wish to launch a fresh bout of Port Harcourt rioting! Undoubtedly being D.O.
for a short time in Port Harcourt is a big opportunity for me. It is a good deal
to expect a young chap like myself on his first tour to do and I only hope I
succeed in putting up a good show ... The past week has not been a very
eventful one. On Monday was held the monthly meeting of the Town Council.
We were in session from 10 am. to 2 pm. We failed to get through the agenda,
and sat for the same time again the following day. Including myself the
Council numbers is, three of whom in addition to myself are Englishmen. I
was rather pleased at the end of the meeting when the town Clerk told me
that he thought that this had been the best and pleasantest of the Town Co
meetings that he had attended. If that be true, the President can I think take
some credit! One of my duties which I have not mentioned before, is to be in charge of the P.H. Government Catering rest house. I have dug up a
committee which appears to have been defunct since 1948 or before. Last
Thursday the four of us - the Lady-Supervisor, Mrs Paris Jones, wife of the
United Africa Company magnate, the Provincial Engineer, and self met
together in solemn conclave to discuss rest house matters, and more
practically the question of the sale of beer, which is at present being sold
illegally. As the said beer is being sold by the Lady Supervisor for her own
profit, it behoved me to tread softly! This evening I have been broadcasted
on our local radio-relay service. That sounds rather impressive. Actually all I
did was to read the Governor's opening speech at the Legislative Council
meeting now in session.
I had four persons plus a small girl and a smaller boy to lunch today. This
evening I am having just one kindred spirit and after eating we shall go to the
flicks. I invited the Resident and Mrs as well, but they were already booked.
Love to all from Keith.
Letter 44: As from the district office, Ahoada, Rivers Province. Saturday April 1st.
My dear M and D,
It is Saturday morning, April 1st and I am seated now for the last time in the
garden at my friend's house in Buea, looking towards the great mountain
mass, and I am naturally sorry at the prospect of leaving this delightful part
of the world. In a couple of hours' time I shall be flying back to P.H., back to a
land of muddy rivers and mile after mile of hot steaming bush. When I think
of the date I find myself echoing Rupert Brooke's sentiments ([Oh to be in
England now that April is here ... " It is 3 months now since I packed my bags
and left Ahoada. I went first to hospital, you remember, then took office in
P.H., and then came here on leave. After this break it is not going to be
altogether pleasant reverting to bush again, and enjoying little company but
my own once more. This will be the fifth time I have moved house during the
14 months I have been out here and repeated transplantations become a
little unsettling ... Fortunately I have reached a stage in my tour where the
prospect of leave is no longer a remote one. I have only four months ahead
of me; and 4 months will, I know, pass quickly by ... don't imagine that I am so
enamoured of my life and work out here that I don't wholeheartedly look
forward to returning to England as soon as I can ... I imagine I shall spend all
the next 4 months as A.D.O. Ahoada. I shall naturally fulfil my duties to the
best of my abilities, but the time is too short to allow me to launch anything
very new ... I shall be in P.H. soon after 4 this afternoon. All being well I aim to
spend tonight in Aba, having a final fling there this evening. Tomorrow I shall
motor to Ahoada. It is as well for me to be writing this letter to you now while
I have some leisure, for no doubt tomorrow I shall be busy setting up my
household once again ... During this past week I have done nothing very
startling. On Sunday evening I dined with missionaries at the American Baptist
Mission located here. I have also met a very pleasant Mr Rafflant of the Basle
Mission in Buea on two occasions. I have been down to Victoria, spending the
night there on Thursday. It is a delightful place, and the coastline is quite the
most attractive I have seen in West Africa. I have spent some hours lazing by
the sea. I have strolled through the Botanical Gardens and I have revelled in
the joys of a beautiful open-air swimming pool (the first place I've bathed in
out here!) I had the entree to the latter thanks to a friendship made fairly
rapidly with an English lady - a secretary working for the Cameroons Development Corporation, whose H.Q. is in Victoria. She added an additional
piquant interest to my leave -the first unattached woman with whom I have
had any pleasurable association since leaving England!
On arriving at P.H. I hope I shall find some mail awaiting me, and shall be able
to get abreast of your latest news.
My love to you all from Keith.
Letter 45: The District Office, Ahoada, Rivers Province. 22nd April 1950.
My dear M and D,
I don't seem to remember having heard from you this week so I have nothing
to reply to - in pOint of fact I can't remember having had a letter from anyone
this week. As I type this bulletin to you now, I am in a position that I know you
would envy, D. I am seated in an armchair in my garden with nothing on but
a pair of sandals and a cap. A not too fierce sun shines warmly down on me;
a gentle breeze plays around my exposed members; overhead banks of cloud
drift leisurely on their way; there is the distant sound of birds, and the nearer
sound of 'a fly buzzing ... and it is Saturday afternoon and work is over for the
week. It is just the sort of afternoon to spend restfully in a deck chair with a
magazine and a bag of cherries; but very dutifully I am taking this quiet
interlude in a busy week to write you this my weekly letter.
During this week I have spent three days out of Ahoada, but I have spent all
my nights in the Station. I have spent two days doing reviews, as a result of
which our prison strength has swollen somewhat (These reviews were of Native Court judgements. As a Justice of the Peace I had the power
to impose a custodial sentence of up to 6 months.) This is all to the good for
we can do with some additional labour. .. Yesterday morning I supervised
while two prisoners had flogging sentences carried out in the prison. They
were made to lie on their stomachs on bed-boards in the yard, having their
hands and ankles held by willing comrades. They were naked except for a
small piece of cloth across the buttocks. Two warders gave them their 12
strokes each ... It did not strike me as too bad - I can remember frequently
undergoing similar punishment myself.
Here are two quotations from the judgement books that tickled me: "l was
looking for the goat, when I felt the smell of a goat being put on fire ... " The
second is perhaps not suitable for my Mother to hear, so I leave the reading
of it to your discretion, D: "I was about to introduce my penis into my wife's
uterus, then all of a sudden she bit me on the cheek, and I drew backwards and while querying her why she should bit me, the accused got up and landed
this piece of stick on my forehead.' Complainant exhibits a hefty log of wood."
The case revealed merely a rather squalid domestic wrangle, the woman's
attitude being accounted for by her grievance at her husband not having paid
her a sleeping fee of 13/-, which is occasionally the practice.
Stanley the D.O., has -I think I've already told you - been away playing cricket
for Nigeria in the Gold Coast. He and Vera returned to Ahoada last Thursday.
Needless to say I am most glad to see them back. Without Stan here I found
there was mountains of work always to be done. Besides that however I am
fond of them both, and am glad to enjoy their company ... We have had the
tennis-court here repaired, and yesterday evening we had an enjoyable game
together. I have now got well back into the swing of life in this Division, and
am really quite well pleased to be back here again, and I have been finding
the prospect of remaining three months of my tour being passed in Ahoada
an attractive proposition... Can you believe it however this morning a
telegram arrived from the Resident saying that I am to leave and return to
P.H., this time to be Town Clerk! I have only three months more to go before
I am due to return home, and I have already had 5 full-scale moves in the
course of this tour. Naturally I take the dimmest view imaginable of this latest
idea of the Resident's. I have no wish to live in P.H., and even less to have the
thankless job of being Town Clerk there. Stanley is going to put up what
opposition that he can to my leaving, but I am doubtful as to what success he
will have ... The only thing to be said about all this is that I must have been
thought to have done reasonably well during my brief time as D.O. and
President of the Council, else I would hardly have been called upon for this
ruddy job ... So, next week may see me once again writing to your from P.H.
Yesterday I submitted an official application for Home Leave to the Resident.
I have asked him to arrange an air passage to the U.K. as near July 29th (which
is the date I am due for leave) as he can, as I am anxious to get as much of the
summer at home as I can ... I missed hearing the details about the new budget
on my radio. How does it affect family finances?
Love to all from Keith.
Letter 46: The District Office, Ahoada, Rivers Province. 30th April.
My dear M and D,
In my letter to you last week I mentioned that it was possible that I might be
required to return to P.H. in order to become Town Clerk. Sure enough on
Monday a telegram arrived from the Resident saying that it was imperative
that Arrowsmith moves to P.H. immediately for this purpose. I was very put
out at getting this order, for with only three months more to do I have not
the least desire to get to grips with a new job, and furthermore the post of
Town Clerk is one of the least enviable in the whole of the country. However
there was nothing for it, and I instructed my boys to go ahead with packing.
By Tuesday afternoon my house was once again in an entirely denuded state,
and the floor was littered with boxes and packages. Everything was ready for
a start at crack of dawn on Wednesday. The Kings (Stanley (D.O.) and Vera) had said they would give
me dinner and breakfast, so Boniface was able to pack all culinary items ...
During the course of the day various persons approached me to say they were
sorry that I was leaving them. At the end of the morning I took my leave of
the office, and in the afternoon paid a final visit to the Prison and took a few
snapshots of the Station. At 5:30 I went round to the D.O.'s house, where I
was met by Stan. He produced a telegram from his pocket. To my greatest
surprise I read on it "Arrowsmith should remain at Ahoada - Resident." I
hardly had the nerve to break the news to my boys. Philip still goes around
looking rather gloomy, no doubt thinking of all the unnecessary time and
trouble wasted on packing up house and home. At any rate I left Ahoada on
Wednesday morning, going on tour to about the furthest corner of the
Division, from where it will be difficult to get me to move to P.H. at a
moment's notice should the Resident again see fit to change his mind.
From Wednesday till Saturday this week I stayed in a small mud hut in a
school compound, our former rest house having been knocked down and the
new one not having yet been built. It was a very diminutive mud hut with
primitive cooking and sanitary facilities. The place abounded with flies and the days were very hot. These factors contributed between them to giving
me a severe attack of what in the local parlance is called "squitters" or
"tummy-palaver". On Friday night I had to rise at about half-hourly intervals
to answer the call, and with a lamp beside me I might have been seen
squatting forlornly on my haunches naked except for a pair of mosquitoboots
beneath a thundery sky. It was with relief that I left the said mud hut
on Saturday morning. Lunch time saw me in Owerri, installed in the house of
the A.D.O. there who is a friend of mine. During the afternoon I slept; later
felt fit enough for a bathe, and on getting up this morning I felt back on form
again. Tomorrow morning I shall be leaving early in order to continue with my
tour programme, which keeps me .away from Ahoada till next Sunday.
Love from Keith.
Letter 47: The District Office, Ahoada. 7th May 1950.
My dear M and D,
Thank you, M, for your letter of April 30th, which I found waiting for me on
my return to Ahoada today, and very welcome it was too. I expect you are
quite thankful that the C.M.S. Exhibition is now a thing of the past, for no
doubt the preparations for it claimed a lot of your time and attentions. Talking
of C.M.S., yesterday I was able to be of some use to the Society. In the
morning I visited the C.M.S. Girl's School at Elelenwa as arranged. The
Headmistress in charge, a Miss Clarke, wanted assistance in the preparation
of a form of agreement between the School and certain Chiefs in respect of
land on the opposite side of the road facing the School. In return for the
annual payment of £12 the Chiefs, who were the owners of the said land ,
agreed to refrain from any building on the land and to use it solely for farming
purposes. Accompanied by the 3 'Chiefs', Miss Clarke and her assistant Miss
Backhouse I walked round the area in question in order to clearly see and
agree on the limits. Having done this we all repaired to the School, where in
my best magisterial manner (having had no previous experience) I drafted a
suitable agreement document. This in due course was typed out in
quadruplicate by Miss Clarke. I then made the parties swear to abide by its
contents, and they having signed it, I put my signature to it as Magistrate ...
I have been on tour during the whole of this past week, only getting back to
Ahoada at lunch time today. Since t wrote last week I have stayed in 3
different rest houses, alii am glad to say very much better buildings than that
mud hut t referred to in my last letter. Principally I have been hearing reviews.
I have however also inspected various roads, sited one well, visited marketsites,
inspected demolished buildings, and addressed various meetings.
After finishing my duties yesterday I motored to Aba. I was anxious to do this
because I had recently received a letter from Tim saying that he was going on
leave early and expected to be leaving the country before Whitsun. I arrived
unexpectedly but Tim rose to the occasion very well and put me up for the
night. Yesterday evening we saw an excellent film called "The Way Ahead",
which put me in mind of my army days because it was all about life in the
army, tracing the career of a group of men from the day they joined up to the day they went into action ... Poor Tim needs his leave. He has had to work very
hard throughout this tour. Unlike me he has remained stationed in the one
place the whole time. He will be returning to Nigeria in September. I
suggested to him the possibility of us going together to Lee Abbey, of which
he had already heard - we may be able to arrange it. One's leave should be
used for spiritual as well as physical and mental refreshment.
As I am seated here in my pavilion house typing this letter to you I see and
hear the rain coming down in torrents outside. I feel rather snug knowing that
nothing need take me out till tomorrow morning ... I shall be most sorry if I
have to leave this abode of mine. I say this because there is still talk of my
having to go to P.H. to be Town Clerk. I can do nothing but wait and see - but
it is unsettling being kept in doubt as to one's future.
At home all I hope goes well. Please thank my Grandmother for her letter,
and tell her that she should not have bothered to write ...
Love to all from
letter 48: The District Office, Ahoada, Sunday May 14th.
My dear M and D,
What is the effect of this new clever mental illusion of yours, D? Anything
further transpired with regard to your BBC performance?
I believe that you had snow in England at the tail-end of April; but now you
are enjoying more seasonable weather. On my wireless I heard the other day
that the temperature in London had been 71 degrees that afternoon. I like to
think of the summer arriving at home for this year it has more meaning for
me in view of the fact that I hope to enjoy some of it myself. At Cambridge
Undergraduates will be sprawling along the banks of the Cam putting in overtime
reading and revision, while others more insouciant will be gently polling
youthful beauties reclining at ease in cushioned punts ... Ah me, happy days. I
am glad that Peter and Pat will still be at Cambridge next year for it will give
much more pOint to a visit there, and I shall enjoy seeing the place again ...
Looking back a stage further I picture Marlborough boys playing cricket in the
nets, roaming in the Forest and having an evening dip in the swimming bath
before going to bed. It was 13 years ago this summer that you two and I
motored to Marlborough in order that I should sit for the Foundation
Scholarship exam. I can still remember it so clearly, and the enormous thrill I
felt to think that that was the prelude to my present life in Africa. From
Marlborough study, Cambridge rooms, Army quarters I have graduated to the
quaint bush-house that I at present occupy.
The European population of Ahoada has increased of late. Now living in the
Station in addition to Stanley, Vera and myself there is also an engineer
building a bridge here and another one, a Pole, who is sinking a number of
wells in the Division. Patrick Legge, a man about my age working for a timber
company, has also now built himself a house next to mine. When Stan and I
are in the station at the same time we get good enjoyment and exercise
playing tennis with each other. We play a pretty good game, so much so that
the others say that we are too good for them to play with. As I have said
before I get on very well with Stan, my 0.0., and his wife. There is no
nonsense about them, no standing on dignity or any of that sort of thing. I
admire Vera greatly. She is a woman who until she came out to this country nearly 5 years ago had spent her whole life in London working in offices,
eating snacks at Corner-Houses, and catching buses. Nonetheless she appears
to take this entirely different life in her stride accepting whatever comes
amazingly philosophically. She and Stan were on tour during this week. At one
place where they stayed 200 angry women beating drums and armed with
sticks marched on the rest house, but this aroused no apprehension in Vera
_ in fact I think she was more perturbed when a rat scampered across the
floor of the small mud lavatory when she was paying a visit there in the
middle of the night! I had them both to dinner yesterday evening. We had
quite a cosy time. It was a cool evening following a storm in the afternoon.
My shaded lamp gave a warm and discreet light and on my radio I was able
to get successive programmes of light dance music.
I have remained in Ahoada during the past week. I spent one day hearing
reviews in our local Court. I spent one hot afternoon trailing around the Bush
in an endeavour to get to the bottom of a land dispute between two villages.
Both sides vehemently denied the other's claims. Both showed me what to
my uninitiated gaze looked like entirely arbitrary and unmarked boundaries
in support of their respective contentions. Hot and tired I returned home to
think the matter over and to write my judgement, which I pronounced the
following morning - to the delight of one side and the dismay of the other. ..
And so we go on, trusting that our efforts are not entirely misspent and
hoping that we may leave the place a little better for our having sojourned
here a while ... My future still remains uncertain. Town Clerk Port Harcourt is
still on the cards.
Greetings and love to all at home from Keith.
Letter 49: The District Office, Ahoada. 20th May 1950. Saturday.
Dear M and D,
My main news is that yesterday I received word that an air passage has been
reserved for me on a plane leaving Lagos on July 29th. It is most satisfying to
know that my return home is now fixed up - it makes it possible to begin
making some plans.
Another unsensational week has come and gone. I have heard reviews in two
Courts. I have selected one or two well sites. I have been around the prison. I
have done quite a lot of office-work - particularly on days when Stan has gone
out of the station, for then rather than let everything pile up, all the files are
passed to me. I like this sort of joint cooperation, although it means that J
attend sometimes to things that do not really come within my province. The
other day I received an unexpected letter from a teacher in a Mission school
in one of the villages in this Division. It began as follows: "My very dear Mr.
Arrowsmith, I have the pleasure to write you this letter just to break the dull
monotony of silence consequent which lies between us as a big gulf." It ended
with this effusion: "Good morning, good afternoon, good evening I am Sir
your friend (teacher and photographer) Joseph O. Eli." ... Schoolboys always
wear a uniform of sorts when they go to school. It amused me the other day
to pass one returning home at the end of work. He was stark naked, and
carried his clothes done up in a bundle in a banana leaf. He clearly considered
them for wear during school hours only ... Having finished hearing reviews in
Court one day last week, as is customary I gave anyone who so wished, the
opportunity of coming and speaking to me. Amongst those who came up to
my table were two boys aged about 11 and 7 respectively, I should say. Their
complaint was a rather novel one. They said that they did not wish their
mother to divorce their father as she intended doing. They said that they
were afraid that if their mother left their father his other wives would not
look after them as well, and they might not be able still to go to school. The
Mother and father were not present so I gave instructions that they were to
come and see me at Ahoada on the morrow. The following day mother, father
and two boys duly appeared. Mother declared father had beaten her once
too often, and she was sticking no more of him; I asked the two boys who
they would prefer to stay with if they had to choose between the two. They complained bitterly that they wanted to stay with both ~f t~em. Finally I got
them to say they would prefer to stay with the father, thinking probably that
he would be better able to look after them. I attempted to effect a
reconciliation between mother and father, but-in vain. I can't say I blame the
woman whom I suspect had been badly treated over a long period. All I could
do was allow the divorce proceedings to go forward, and Inform the Court
Clerk that when the Native Court had heard the case. I would review it. I will
then be able to give any instructions I may think fIt concerning the
maintenance of the children.
This weekend I have my friend Geoff staying with me. It .is very pleasant
having him here. It is some months since I saw him last ... Tim is now on hIs
way home by air... Love to all from Keith.
Letter 50: The District Office, Ahoada. Sunday 2.7.50
My dear M and D,
I was most interested to hear about your continental trip. You certainly made
an extensive tour and saw plenty. It is odd to think that already
Berchtesgaden and the room where Hitler slept etc are becoming historical
show-places. I am not surprised that you were struck by the poor conditions
in Germany - what they must have been like during the first winter after the
end of the war I hesitate to think ...
Thank you for saying I may drive your car. Unfortunately as I may not take her
away from Torquay, this concession will not be of much use to me; and if the
readjustment of your insurance policy costs more than a pound or two, I don't
think it would be worth my while to do anything about it. I quite understand
that you constantly have the car in use, and could not easily spare her for me
to go far afield in ... I looked at the advertisements in a "Motor" magazine the
other day, and was staggered at the prices being asked for second hand cars
- for example, £625 for a 1948 8-horsepower Morris! Secondhand prices
seem even more exorbitant than they were. I shall clearly have to abandon
the notion of buying one! My little car is doing very well. She is standing up
to tropical conditions splendidly and despite 14 months of baking suns,
torrential downpours, high humidity and ruinous roads, she still looks very
new and shows little evidence of wear and tear. This morning I spent some
little time beneath her and around her, giving her her regular greasing - out
here one has most of the time to be one's own garage hand ...
I am now back in Ahoada again. I fear you must find it well-nigh impossible to
keep abreast of my repeated comings and goings! I am back in my quaint old
house, but now I am only camping in her. All my belongings except for
necessaries are packed and will remain so. Tomorrow I go away on tour until
Saturday. On my return there will be another officer in occupation of this
house, and I shall double up with the engineer. I expect to leave Ahoada about
the 24th, and all being well land in England 4 weeks today.
Please don't send anything more by sea-mail to me now and forward no mail
at all after the 14th of this month ... There has been little in the past week's activities worth reporting to you. One day I did Court work. Another, I cycled
the best part of 20 miles on a road inspection. In the evenings I have been
playing tennis with Stan. The other evening on my radio I heard Truman
speak. He made relatively little reference to Korea, which was disappointing.
I wonder whether that will be the spark that sets the magazine off - what
odds I shall be back in khaki within the next few months?
Greetings and love to all from Keith.
Letter 51: The District Office, Ahoada 8 July 1950, Saturday
My Dear M & D
I was glad to receive your letter, D, for I was glad to be put fully in the picture
of demands that are made on your car. As I said in my last letter I quite
understand you not being able to spare the Vanguard for trips outside of
Torquay - it was silly of me ever to have considered the possibility. Let us
consider my suggestion as never having been made... I am pleasantly
surprised by the prices of second hand cars that you quoted in your letter ...
From last Monday until to-day I have been away touring around the Eastern
half of this division. It is probably the last tour I shall indulge in before going
on leave. From now on I don't suppose I shall do more than day-trips. Now
that I definitely know the answer, I might as well tell you that I recently asked
permission to return home 10 days early in order to be present at Dudley's
wedding. The (damn) Resident won't allow this. After the way I have been
constantly been pushed around during the past 18 months, I think this one
request of mine might have been granted ... Monday to Wednesday this week
I stayed in a rest house near P.H. This enabled me one evening to see a good
film in P.H. "Poet's Pub". As a little treat I took Boniface, my cook, to see it.
Understandably enough it meant nothing to him, as I discovered when I
questioned him about it on our way home. I offered to take a C.M.S.
missionary along with me, but a tummy upset prevented him coming. I met
this chap when I went to pay my respects to the two ladies at the C.M.S. Girls'
school situated near the rest house in which I was staying. On reaching the
school I met this chap flying a model aeroplane in the compound. I discovered
that he is an ex-naval padre, and he seemed quite a pleasant bloke. At present
he is helping out on the staff at the girls' school, stuck there alone with the
two English women teachers. By George, I pity him. They were kind enough
to invite me to an evening meal. I tried to persuade the man to come and eat
with me. To be perfectly honest I was not too keen on supping with them,
remembering as I did the embarrassingly short commons there had been the
last time I had had a meal with them. On this occasion I suppose I did not fare
too badly: and I trust I did not appear too taken aback when a boy brought
round a vegetable dish in which it was just possible to detect a few slices of
carrot. Endeavouring to appear perfectly natural I helped myself to half a spoonful... I do wish CM.S. people did not have to live in such a hand to
mouth manner. I am certain the standard of their work must be prejudiced
by their exiguous means ... During the past week I have heard reviews in five
different courts. I have also conducted some inspections. On Thursday I
cycled the best part of 30 miles, returning to base in heavy rain. Base that
night was a dispensary. It proved a most satisfactory abode ... One of the cases
I dealt with last week afforded me some amusement. It was an action taken
by a woman against another for damages for defamation of character.
Bernice, the plaintiff's, statement was to the point and naively expressed as
follows: liThe defendant accused me of having had connection with a man in
the gutter. I have not done so. The allegation is rather a defamatory one,
hence I am claiming the damage." I awarded Bernice nothing for, on looking
into the case, I discovered that she had spoken much more defamatorily to
the defendant - and what she said I will spare you ... I have just returned from
another contest on the tennis court with Stanley. When we are both in the
station at the same time we make a practice of exhausting ourselves in this
manner. Four sets of singles can be quite fatiguing. But how good one feels
for it after some iced squash and a hot bath! Looking forward to seeing you
Love from Keith.
Review of this book
|1958 Map of Nigeria
|Glossary and Conventions
||Church Missionary Society
||District Officer (A.D.O.: Assistant D.O.)
||Justice of the peace
||Myself. My middle name is "Vernon" - not one I'm particularly fond
||Public Works Department
||One of a network of very simple publicly-owned buildings used
by government officers particularly D.Os. or A.D.Os. when they were 'on
tour', for short stays of typically one to three nights
||United Nations Organisation
The Author Keith Arrowsmith
|Also by the Author