The British Empire Library

Palm Wine and Leopard's Whiskers: Reminiscences of Eastern Nigeria

Edited by R G Anderson

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Robert Varvill DSC (Nigeria 1946-60)
How fortunate it is for posterity that Ronnie Anderson had the vision and the drive to ‘organise’ the compilation of Palm Wine and Leopards Whiskers. The title alone deserves our praise and the fact that Ronnie achieved this whilst resident in the Antipodes deserves our congratulation.

This book certainly merits classification as an ‘Anthology’. Hopefully it will be found on the bookshelves of many prospective Colonial historians - especially those with a particular interest in Eastern Nigeria, for the period before the Biafran war.

The contributions are remarkably varied, with many vividly recalled descriptions and often with illuminating details of what went on behind the outward appearances. As for the Leopard Murders in Opobo, I can add from my own experience there that after the killings had stopped it became clear that some deaths had been caused by leopards while others were murders set up to look like leopard killings.

Perhaps Palm Wine and Leopards Whiskers may inspire other editors with service in Northern and Western Nigeria to put together similar volumes. And what a pity it is that so many of our colleagues with service on The Coast prior to World War Two failed to record their memoirs.

Cuthbert Mayne had a wealth of anecdotes and some recordable experiences, though he seldom recounted the occasion when he was conducting Governor Bourdillon round Bende district in the rainy season: his car bogged down on a laterite hill road; Cuthbert remained in the driving seat while HE, the ADC and my cousin Michael were required to push the car whilst dressed in their white uniforms and swords!

‘Rusty’ Buckle is another name from a rather older generation of administrators in the East, who had a multitude of memorable incidents. One of them comes particularly to mind. This was the occasion when Rusty was conveying the Chief Commissioner and staff in a steam launch from Port Harcourt to Degema, I think. En route Rusty incurred HE’s displeasure. To demonstrate his remorse. Rusty jumped into the creek, dived under the launch and clambered aboard unobserved whilst a very concerned HE was blaming himself for the death by drowning of one of his officers!

Palm Wine and Leopards Whiskers makes especially good reading for those who lived and served in Nigeria but also for anyone interested in Africa in general. Thank you, Ronnie.

British Empire Book
R G Anderson
R G Anderson


Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames

by Stephen Luscombe