Review by Rodney Bennett
(Gold Coast and Ghana 1946-61)
This book records the African experience of a young man not able to satisfy early
ambitions to become a farmer in England. Instead, after an agricultural diploma
course at Wye College, he joined the Colonial Service in 1939 and departed to West
Africa. Starting as an Inspector of Produce in the Gold Coast he formally retired
nineteen years later in the post of Assistant Director of Agriculture with special
responsibility for Cocoa Agronomy and Training, a designation delightfully
abbreviated to ADA CAT. Ideas of returning to the now independent Ghana on a
contract basis to continue his cocoa work were not realised and he has devoted himself
instead to his fruit farm in Herefordshire.
The 1939-45 War began only four months after the author arrived in Accra. He at
once joined the second battalion of the Gold Coast Regiment and in 1940 sailed with it
round the Cape of Good Hope to Kenya. Fifty pages describe his adventures in the
advance into southern Abyssinia and the gradual elimination of Italy's military presence
in East Africa. Then it was back to the Gold Coast and orders to leave the Army and
return to the Department of Agriculture. Thus began his long association with cocoa,
beginning with the supervision of local cocoa co-operative societies.
The wealth of Ghana is represented in its Coat of Arms by a mine shaft and a cocoa
tree, and it is to the cocoa industry that the author devotes his weightiest chapters. My
own arrival in the Gold Coast after the War coincided with jubilation at a big rise in the
price to be paid for the farmer's cocoa (less 2/6d deducted per load to help fund the new
university) and a call in The Times for a drive against swollen shoot disease "to save
cocoa from annihilation in the next generation". The author describes his own part in the
massive disease control and rehabilitation programme launched in the 1950s. A chapter
summarises post-Independence developments.
Many mentions of African wildlife in its many forms enliven the author's story,
much of it observed no doubt during hundreds of miles walked along bush paths in the
course of duty. On human relationships his chapter on the supportive role of servants is
a Just tribute; vis-a-vis his compatriots he certainly appreciated the "tradition of
bonhomie and entertaining".