In his preface Michael Longford explains that he has written this book for his children.
He wants them to understand how their parents met and married in Tanganyika
(Tanzania) and what they did there. Thus he has produced a book with two themes, with
the author playing a major part in both of them. We meet his family growing up and
coming to terms with life in East Africa, with all its drawbacks and advantages, and he
describes working in a colonial administration in the last decade before its demise. His
transfer to Government House before his marriage adds another dimension to this account
of his experiences. The scene is set with the admirable foreword by Sir John Margetson.
The author has a sharp eye for recording the events which made up a District Officer's
work in the typical boma (district office) where much of the work, however necessary,
was unexciting. Relief came from the daily routine when he was permitted to go on
safari and, like most of us similarly employed, Longford enjoyed the chance to see a
fascinating country and to talk to the peasant farmers and local government officials. He
describes how on his first tour he was disappointed with a sub-chief in Iringa district
who repeatedly failed to dig some pit latrines - and clearly never had any intention to do
so; it was ever thus. In his first two districts he was fortunate in serving under District
Commissioners who he respected unreservedly; they provided the yard-stick which
enabled him to decide the standards which he thought should be met by all expatriate
officials - if they failed to do so he says so in forthright terms. The Judiciary too is not
exempt from criticism; one amiable but unusually eccentric High Court Judge I knew
well is the subject of admirably restrained comment. Nevertheless wherever he was
posted, the author gives generous praise whenever he thinks it deserved.
In the early nineteen-fifties local government outside the towns was Cameron's
version of indirect rule consisting of 'Native Authorities'. Elected district councils were
still on the drawing board in most districts, and for the time being most D.C.s were fully
engaged in supervising the Native Authorities and grappling with the contradictions in
the system. The author's accounts of some of the problems which arose are of interest
not only to those who knew the country; those with an interest in colonial history and
academics involved in the study of cultural relativism will find here much to think about.
Longford describes in some detail a particular cause celebre which followed an
investigation he initiated into alleged crimes committed by a popular chief; the findings
were considered eventually by the Governor's Executive Council and a prosecution was
ordered - with tragic results. The author sums up the incident with the delphic comment
"I have very mixed feelings about the whole case".
On his final tour in Lindi, when he was appointed D.C., the problems were different
but political expertise was needed even more. He established a good rapport with the
local Chairman of TANU but after a number of incidents he realised that with
independence, any high-profile expatriate civil servant could not continue for long. Thus
Tanganyika lost the services of an exceptional person who with his wife had the
temperament to make real friends among all races, wherever they went.