The British Empire Library

Scrapbook of 50 years in Nigeria

by Joe Harold

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by P.D.J.
Recently I was lent a copy of Joe's book, "Scrapbook o f 50 Years in Nigeria". Joe Harold had lived in Nigeria for 50 years and his book provides a fascinating account of his life and of the changes in Nigeria during that half century. Unfortunately the book was published privately and copies are thus not readily available.

Joe went out to Nigeria in 1926. After working for sixteen years at various branches of the Miller Brothers Trading Post, he secured an appointment with the Ministry of Supply in Lagos. He and his wife, Beatrice, stayed at the Grand Hotel which was at that time run by the Government in the absence of the owners who had gone to Italy. Beatrice was asked to take over the management of the hotel, which she did with great enthusiasm and success. Joe resigned his job with the Ministry of Supply and, at first leased and subsequently bought, the hotel and annexe from the Government.

I have fond memories of the Grand Hotel. It was the social centre of Lagos in the late '40s. Sadly, it was later demolished to provide the site for Pan-Am and the Chase Bank.

In May, 1948 Joe Harold bought a five-roomed house in the bush at Ikeja and established the Lagos Airport hotel, known as 'The Ikeja Arms'. This is now a vast project with accommodation for hundreds of guests. But I can remember the original house. There was no electricity, so the monthly dance had to be held on the tennis court on whichever Saturday night coincided with the full moon.

Illumination was provided by means of small ashtrays filled with palm oil, in each of which floated a burning piece of string. These little lamps also lined the driveway from the road. The Sunday 'Palm Oil Chop' sessions at the Ikeja Arms were an especially popular feature.

In 1957, after the death of his wife, Beatrice, Joe married Miss Jean Smith of the Colonial Nursing Service; she was the first Matron of the newly-opened hospital at Isheri.

He was Founder-President of the Ikeja Rotary Club; always very active in the social life of Lagos and involved in various charities. He was offered three Nigerian Honours, but he accepted only one, in 1964, when he became "Besape of Otta". No doubt this honour was given to Joe in appreciation of the help he gave to many Nigerians to establish their own businesses.

In 1966 Joe Harold was awarded a CBE. Ten years later, having remained in Nigeria throughout the tragic civil war, he sold the Lagos Airport Hotel and retired to America.

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to read Scrapbook o f 50 Years in Nigeria which has evoked so many happy memories. My only regret is that Joe died before I could tell him how much I enjoyed reading his book; also, that my husband, John, did not live long enough to have shared the memories. Joe Harold was a character not easily forgotten.

British Empire Book
Joe Harold
The Author


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