This very interesting book departs from the ordinary run of colonial-era
autobiographies in dealing with an unusual topic. It is the story of Rosemary Helen
Lowe-McConnell, whose entire career was engaged in the study of tropical freshwater
fish. Her primary target is that most important sub-group of fishes in the world,
freshwater or no. These are what Ethelwynn Trewavas called the Tilapines in her 1983
revision, though that name was never used by Ro in her book. She mentions many other
tropical freshwater fish as well, both of Africa and South America, and gives the names
of many people and places, adding greatly to the value of her book.
Ro spent the war years in taking her degrees at the University of Liverpool and was
recruited by Dr Charles Hickling, CMG, then Fisheries Adviser to the Colonial Office, as
the first Fisheries Research Officer, later followed by many. She was first posted to
Nyasaland to study the fisheries in the southern part of the lake, and this book is a
detailed, informative and entertaining account of events leading up to her departure for
Africa and her work and experiences since then.
Overall this book is strongly recommended for all those whose interest in natural
history takes them to the tropical areas of Africa and South America, since there are
photographs and descriptions of many different freshwater fish, not only of tilapia. To
those of us who served in various capacities in the Colonial Service in the 1950's and
early 1960's this book should have an appeal in referring to many personalities and
places not directly relating to fish. All this makes for a valuable and highly readable
book, an important addition to the history of freshwater fisheries development in Central
and East Africa, as well as South America, in the decades following the war; and from
which I for one, fish biologist though I am, learned a lot.
On the debit side, this book would perhaps have benefited from another revision. For
example this might have included short descriptive phrases such as "blue green algae"
before "Anabaena" and other organisms not generally known to laymen. For a book such
as this which deals with so many different names and places, an Index would have been
most useful, as would a Glossary briefly explaining the technical terms. Several authors
correctly cited in the text are not listed in the References.
Her childhood and background are given in much less detail. Photographs of her parents
are later given, but nowhere are their names or careers mentioned. In Uganda in 1953 she
married Richard McConnell of the UK Overseas Geological Surveys, then accompanied
him to Bechuanaland Protectorate and later British Guiana, for many happy years.