The British Empire Library

From Measles To Magic Memoirs Of A Medical Officer In Northern Nigeria 1957-1964

by Dr. Kathleen Abraham

Courtesy of OSPA

J. G. Harford (E.O. Kano, Kaduna 1954-62)
From the Foreword by Ray Underwood: 'Read this account of Dr. Abraham's work in the far north of Nigeria and you will be left in no doubt about the unstinting help she gave, not just to the local population of Maiduguri, but to people throughout the vast area of Bomu. You will discover the nature of the work done by Government medical officers not only in provincial headquarters but also in outreach activities such as bush dispensaries throughout the province. In the course of 'one revolving moon' these doctors had to look after the Provincial hospital and act as GP, surgeon, physician, primary care expert, midwife, visitor to local prisons, lunatic asylums and outlying dispensaries, and had to cope with anything else that called for medical expertise. In all this whirl of professional activity Dr. Abraham found time to meet the man who became her husband - whose own standards of service to the development of education were every bit as impressive as hers to health: he founded, developed and directed the Bomu Teacher Training College next door to the Provincial Boys Secondary School of which I was the Principal.'

From the Epilogue: 'I am always conscious of the fact that, compared with what countless others had done overseas, my work was only a very small part. I had spent nothing like the number of years that many others had done, and I still had much to learn when I finally came back to UK. It seems presumptuous to be writing this book when I know that many could write far more. It seems sheer cheek to be describing some of the medical tasks that I coped with when I know that many doctors out there tackled far more complex situations. And it is therefore with humility that I have written this at all.'

Excerpts: (During the short rainy season): 'We had lots of tropical thunderstorms - dramatic, violent and utterly exhilarating. The whole atmosphere was often so vivid and continuous that at night, during a storm, it would rival the unrelenting brilliance of the noonday sun! (Towards the end of the long dry season): 'Africa is the only place I have ever lived in where one could actually smell rain that had fallen many miles away. We would sometimes, at that time of the year, feel our hearts lifting because the smell of rain was so pronounced. One would think 'Great! It must be somewhere round about - we may have a downpour here today - or tomorrow' .. only to have our hopes dashed by hearing later in the day that the rain had been at least fifty miles away.' (The African night): 'One of the things I enjoyed very specially was sitting out on my verandah after I'd had my evening meal and finished my hospital night rounds. It would be dark, cool, and the only sounds to be heard would be those of the cicadas and mosquitoes - and also what I felt was part of life in Africa - that there always seemed to be the sound of padding feet. No matter what time of night you happened to be up, somebody was always going somewhere. Barefoot walking on sand has a sound all of its own.'

And in complete contrast Dr. Abraham recounts the astonishingly varied and exacting circumstances of her daily work and the shining harmony of her relationship with the Nigerian nursing staff.

British Empire Book
Dr. Kathleen Abraham
2QT Limited (Publishing)
978 1 90809 803 0


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