|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.