The British Empire Library

Knotted Round My Heart: Recollections of Life in Nigeria 1952-59

by Peggy Crosskey

Courtesy of OSPA

Patricia Farrant (Nigeria 1949-63)
Peggy Crosskey has written a fascinating account of life and work in Middle Belt Nigeria in the 1950s. Her accuracy is undoubted, as she wrote almost 300 voluminous letters home to her parents, which have been preserved. Her husband, an entomologist, was originally sent to research the prevalence of the tsetse fly, but later to concentrate on the similium damnosum blackfly which carried river-blindness - onchorcerciasis. As Peggy Crosskey was also an entomologist, she was able to participate in her husband's work, and later to be employed in her own right; a real achievement.

She divides her quite small book - pp 136 - into eight sections, the first three about living near Abuja and other places in the Niger plain, coping with the local conditions. This should be required reading for those sceptics who believe that expatriates in remote areas lived lives of ease and luxury. Her next three chapters describe living in the bush and travelling by various means, including canoes, and trekking with porters with head loads. These are so evocative of a bygone age which some of us were privileged to lead.

The Crosskeys travelled widely in the course of their work, illustrated by the maps included at the end of the book. Not many people were given the opportunity to work in so many different places in Northern Nigeria, ranging from Katsina and Maiduguri in the north to Yola on the Benue in the east. They also went south into Eastern Nigeria, to the Obudu Hills and the Oji River.

Chapters 7 and 8 cover the scientific nature of their entomological work in these various localities. It is a very well written general account of their endeavours and experiments, including the use of DDT, the results of which were properly recorded and published in scientific journals soon afterwards.

The author has chosen a good selection of their many photographs to illustrate her narrative. It is truly evocative of scenes on the various rivers of Nigeria in the 1950s. Obviously Abuja has changed out of all recognition since being designated Federal Capital, but what of the more remote spots, say, in the furthest comers of Adamawa or Benue?

Mrs Crosskey has demonstrated both how adaptable she and her husband were, and also how well they were received wherever they went in the course of their work, despite having little Hausa.

British Empire Book
Peggy Crosskey
Barny Books
978 1 903172 84 1


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