The British Empire Library

Come On, Eileen! Encounters And Experiences

by Eileen Sandford MBE

Courtesy of OSPA

Patricia Farrant (Nigeria 1949-63)
Eileen Sandford, the author, describes Come on, Eileen! as her autobiography which to some extent it is, but it is not a dry account in chronological form of the life of an ebullient 88 year old. Far from it. She divides her narrative into 12 sections of very unequal length, the largest being her years of political and social service in Shrewsbury from 1980, culminating in her time as Mayor, and the prized award of the MBE in recognition. The early sections are concerned with her family, school life, and the impact of the Second World War, when she first did nursing training and then joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. These experiences elicit some amusing incidents, as indeed occur throughout her story. Obviously letters home and diary entries have helped to remind her of times and places.

Throughout Eileen's life run the themes of service to others, and of Girl Guiding. After the war she decided to train as a Political Agent in the Conservative Party, but gave that up when she met Hugh Sandford in 1948. Hugh was on leave from the Administration in Northern Nigeria. They were soon married and another section of Eileen's story had begun, this one of more obvious interest to members of OSPA. Eileen entered wholeheartedly the life of a touring ADO, as experienced by so many of us in those far off days.

It is extraordinary to be reminded by Eileen's account how often Admin officers in Northern Nigeria were 'posted', that is moved from one posting to another while in the middle of a task, usually because someone else had gone on leave, or had come back. Eileen coped with this admirably and managed to start Brownie packs and Guide companies in many places. In Kaduna she originated groups in the Purdah quarter of newly appointed Nigerian ministers' houses, to help the wives in their new situations, far from home.

It is obvious that Eileen's favourite place in Nigeria was the city of Kano, where the Sandfords spent their last four years in Government service. There were far more opportunities for Eileen to work with local Brownies and Guides, particularly in the Emir's Palace. In a later section of her book, called 'Guiding in my life' Eileen describes how much it has meant to her, and one must say how much she must have given to it. After leaving Nigeria, Hugh Sandford initially worked at the Pestalozzi Children's Village, then took a course at the Horticultural College in Swanley before they bought Timber Lodge Nursery. There they worked hard to run it as a going concern for about 12 years, as well as looking after their 2 young adopted children.

Their move to Shrewsbury seems to have given Eileen a new lease of life, as she gradually became more involved in local affairs. It took her 3 years to be accepted as a local Councillor, since when she has never looked back, always working hard for causes she believes to be right, and completely fearless in the face of opposition.

To sum up, this is an interesting and discursive look at someone's personal life and ideals. One drawback of the book itself is its weight and size, A4 on heavy paper because of the 76 pages of photographs, interesting though these are.

British Empire Book
Eileen Sandford MBE
Shrewsbury Words
978 0 95575 444 9


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