I have covered the valuable assistance given by the Methodist Missionary Society (MMS) in preparation for probable medical work over seas. They also gave lists and advice to help in our general purchases and outfitting. Most of this advice was sound and practical. Some, looking back from half a century later, was rather humourous. The Scripture tells us to take no thought for the morrow, what we shall eat or drink and wherewithal we shall be clothed. However, certain dispensations were thought to be necessary for West Africa. We would live on the country as far as possible, but we ought to purchase stocks of what it did not produce in so far as a reasonable diet can demand.
The prepared list of indulgences resulted in adding some two or three dozen wooden cases to my baggage. Quantities would have to be sufficient for eighteen months, i.e. if I lived that long, for seventy eight weeks. There was no friendly corner shop to fill the gaps. The cases included flour, tea, coffee, sugar, tins of fruit, sardines, sausages, salmon (pink - only Government officials could afford red. I had to pay 7 1/2d for mine). Butter (allowing one pound per week). This was in sealed tins but, when it reached Nigeria it was in liquid form. On opening a tin, we washed the contents in filter water. It became a creamy substance which one served with a spoon), margarine (definitely for cooking only. Those were the days before polyunsaturates and cholesterol were talked about).
As to the wherewithal shall we be clothed. This list not only made recommendations but added tropical outfitters (in London) who could supply natty Palm Beach suits, khaki shorts and shirts, brightly coloured red green and blue umbrellas (for use between the sun dangerous hours of 8.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. As the number of expatriates decreased, these umbrellas became the in-thing for golfers), gents underclothing ( I am positive that even Solomon, in all his glory, was never arrayed in aertex combinations - three sets advised. I rebelled here and never bought nor wore coms. I looked up my dictionary for coms. The word is not there but, in the place where I expected to find it is Comus ‘the god of mirth, a revel.’ This fitted my thoughts when I saw older missionaries who had supported aertex. I cannot think of anything funnier than a coms wearer attempting to wear them with khaki shorts), spine pads (which buttoned on to the back of shirts to protect from the sun which can do nasty things south of the neck which, for men was protected by an extended brim of the topee, and for ladies by a muslin veil hanging from the back of a rounder pith helmet, or a double terai - i.e. simply two thick wide brimmed felt hats), shorts (men only, of course. If worn must be long enough so that when sitting down with legs crossed one should be respectable but also to expose the minimum of leg above the knee to the tropical sun).
Those who did not already possess a black evening suit (silk lapels optional) had to buy one but, instead of a waistcoat, one wore a cummerbund. On board ship for a two or three weeks journey, every evening the Chief Steward would stand at the bottom of stairs entrance to the Dining Saloon and if a man dared approach and seek admission, clad in a lounge suit and tie, he would be told very politely that the Captain presents his compliments and requests you to return later, when properly dressed. Good habits last (if moth doesn’t get there first) and, in later life, far away in the Bush, my wife and I had set occasions at least once a month, when we dressed in full evening wear for our dinner. I sill think we were right, it is so easy to become casual.
Talking of dress I am reminded of an early colleague on board ship. When he went to or from his morning bath, if he should meet a lady, also clad in dressing gown, he would keep his eyes fixed upon the floor without even a gleam of recognition or greeting. Times have changed and so have the length of dressing gowns, if any.
In all my preparations I knew that there must be lonely times ahead, a sense of remoteness. Cats whisker radio sets were hopeless, mail would arrive once in three weeks; until I learned the language conversation would be very limited, a gramophone must be included. I invested in one of those marvellous new hand-wound portables. I have never been invited to share in Desert Island Discs, but I do know from experience the agony of deciding which records to select. Old 78s were so heavy and, compared with today’s tapes played for such a short time, that I had to leave behind my then favourite Mendlessohn’s Violin Concerto (four double side records) I chose Londonderry Air, Liebes traum, Massed Hymnsinging in Crystal Palace, Hascha Heifetz, Grieg, Rachmaninov and Chopin. Unhappily for the firm but a windfall for me a “Must sell entire stock” notice attracted my attention so I bought ‘By the sleepy Lagoon’ and other 10 inch records for 10d each.
I had often left home before - England, the Continent and America, but this was different. I was off for 1 1/2 years, health permitting, to the Dark Continent. Then too, there was Elsie, my sister who had finished her training as a nurse and had been designated by the Missionary Society to work in China. Would our furloughs ever overlap? Would we ever see each other again? I was starting a very long journey into the unknown. My parents, friends and I myself had all thought and spoken of West Africa as the white man’s grave. Some of those who came to the Station to see me off felt that perhaps this was the last time they might see me. About twenty or more of my Dublin Christian Endeavour friends were there and, as the train pulled out they sang “God be with you till we meet again”. Nowadays this would be embarrassing for some to do. I was greatly supported with the knowledge that my parents were with me in the whole undertaking and though doubtless sad at parting, they were proud. The came with me as far as Liverpool.
I had travelled Cunard to the U.S.A. and knew a little of White Star and P& O. I had never heard of Elder Dempsters until sailing details had come. Later I found that by every traveller to West Africa, the were simply called E.Ds. We travelled so many times to and from West Africa and other destinations that we must have spent a whole year at sea.
E.Ds ships were named after West African ports and towns. The earlier vessels were coal fired - Aba, Abinsi, Appam and Ada. The later ships Apapa and Accra were some 9,000 instead of the older 7,000 ton forerunners. During the war, both the the Apapa and the Accra were sunk. The names were continued when replacements became possible, their tonnage had increased to 11,500 tons. In 1948 we sailed home on the maiden voyage of the new Apapa. When available, the Mission House expected single men to travel 2nd class, couples always travelled 1st. This was in the interests of economy, so we, as a couple, travelled 2nd several times. On the new ships there was only 1st and 3rd class accomodation.
All the ships loaded up with as much cargo as possible. This meant a whole day in several of the ports whilst cocoa was taken on and disappeared into the Hold. When travelling 2nd, we used to join in the protest when, at the Canary Islands on the homewards journey, thousands of boxes of tomatoes not only filled any Hold space available, but were stacked on our part of the decks. This greatly limited our walking area. As the days got colder after the Canaries, we needed all the walking we could get in order to keep warm on deck and to shake down the big meals served. Rumour had it that the Captain got a personal perk of 1d per box of tomatoes. I have absolutely no proof of this, but if true it would explain the high stacks of boxes in our walking area.
I referred to big meals. The day started with morning tea to waken us. Then a cooked breakfast--Elevenses either of beef tea or ice cream, depending on our position north or south of Madeira--Lunch, fruit, fish, hot or cold meat etc. sweet and coffee--Tea tray on deck or in the saloons, again depending on our position and weather--Dinner was a much bigger and more varied menu than lunch--and, if we felt hungry, a plate of sandwhiches.
We all, usually, ate more than was good for us. Unfortunately there were many on board whose cravings lay in other directions. They drank most of the day and, when in Madeira or the Islands, they went off in search of cheap wine (not hard to find) which they would carry back in the hopes of saving it for their cellars in West Africa. For some, it did not even get to the ship for, arriving at the gangway with difficulty, it was more than they could do to get themselves and their booze up the steep slope or steps and many an expensive stock dropped overside and quickly sank. One of these poor chaps was going out to work as a miner on the Gold Coast. He was not aware than in the 1st class was a manager of his mine. He was drunk every day. On preparing to go ashore when we reached the Gold Coast, he got a nasty shock. He was handed a cheque, in lieu of notice, and a return ticket on the same boat and was told that his type was not welcomed.
I once travelled out on a Troopship which, of course was ‘dry’. To me it was a happy trip , even though we slept in very cramped bunk conditions of probably 50 men to our area of the deck. I aprreciate that for drinking men it must have been almost intolerable.
I think I had arrived at Liverpool on my first journey when I digressed to details of ships and shipping, so I return to our departure from that once so busy port. With farewells said and painfully felt, we waved until the ship moved off.
On the ‘Apapa’ we had about 20, mostly new recruits to the work of the Methodist Missionary Society in West Africa. I already knew a few of these and we grouped together watching as we passed other ships in dock or ferries hurrying from one side of the Mersey to their destinations. As darkness increased our interest turned to lights on shore and afloat. Then a tour of inspection to learn the geography of the ship. The half hour warning call for dinner was a welcome interruption. We were excused dressing for this first dinner as no one had yet unpacked. We had now turned south from the Mersey and, after dinner, watched and tried to identify groups of lights on the Welsh coast. So passed our first evening afloat.
Next morning, we had already left the Irish Sea and were out of sight of any land. Then Ushant and later Finisterre and our old world had been left behind. A whole day in Madeira and another at Las Palmas, Canary Isles, but they were not like home. Then excitement rose, Cape Blanco - the first sign of Africa. For so long I had hoped, prayed and prepared to get to the great dark continent--it would not now be long before we would step ashore in The Gambia.
Other indications that we were entering the tropics included the change from navy blue uniforms of the crew to their spotless white as we basked in the sunshine in our comfortable deck chairs. Up went the heavy canvas awning, giving shade and comparative safety from the sun. Also the 20x12 feet canvas swimming pool was slung into position and filled with cool sea water. This gave much refreshment as well as fun.
The Gambia, what a cheeky little British possession of ten miles or so on either side of the river of the same name, completely surrounded by Senegal, so largely semi desert and held by France. We landed at Bathurst, as flat as a pancake, but proud of its several mountains. The explanation?
Groundnuts stacked in pyramids of sacks, awaiting export to our margarine and other oil handling factories on the Continent.
The trips ashore I have always found worth while on a long voyage, so much to see and learn as well as interesting people to talk with.
From the flats of the Gambia, our next port of call, Freetown, provided a contrast. Sierra Leone the loin shaped hills form a beautiful background as one looks from the ship, over Freetown itself. For those wanting to go ashore, we trans-ship to a ferry and thus to land. Following the abolition of slavery in 1833 Sierra Leone was the country to which many slaves were expatriated from America. They made full use of their freedom. Although their ancestors had been snatched from many different parts of West Africa and had tried to retain the use of their original languages, there had gradually evolved a common pidgin English, Creole tongue. As Alex Hadley illustrates in ‘Roots’, there remained in many a desire to trace their ancestors and, as I shall later record, there is evidence of the success of the more adventurous. But Freetown became the home of the Free, after generations of Slavery.
Fourah Bay College was later to become West Africa’s first University College affiliated to Durham University. Thus Freetown became a focal point for higher education for the sons and, later, daughters of all those in the West African Colonies who could afford to send their children there. Others chose English universities because of the greater cultural background. The number able to afford this undertaking was very limited.
Several other interests in and around Freetown added to the enjoyment of our whole day visits. The cathedral, the market place and the Lumley Beach. This sandy beach was safe for bathing and provided a complete change in the traveller’s pattern of life on board ship. Then, of course, there was Freetown Harbour. It’s size and depth make it renowned amongst the harbours of the world. It could take a whole fleet. During war time, I have seen it contain a whole convoy and, even the great Queen Elizabeth when a troopship, safely anchored there.
In peace times, those who did not want to go ashore, had plenty of fun and enjoyment watching the African divers. These men were ready to run risks to earn the coins thrown to them. They would watch where a coin entered the water and the occupant of the small canoe nearest to the splash would dive. From the height of our deck we could see his progress and watch him turn and ascend. He would hold up his hand, revealing the recovered money as a form of receipt. Perhaps twelve or more little canoes would surround the ship. The senior, and therefore leader of these entertainers, was old John Brown. We knew him during years of visits. He wore a very old top hat, fly winged collar and bow tie then, apart from a very brief pair of briefs he was uncovered. He used to sing the first line of Jon Brown’s body - hence his name. Treated with great respect by his juniors, none would dare poach on his patch. He would dive only for silver, he had an uncanny ability to distinguish silver from copper even at considerable distance. His first preparation was to remove his top hat and place it in the canoe, then he would dive and, on re-surfacing he would climb into his canoe, replace his top hat and then turn and acknowledge the coin. Some passengers used to call for risks like diving right under the ship and surfacing the other side or, get one of the divers to climb up a rope to the highest deck and dive from there. I would not encourage either of these risks. One day as we steamed into Plymouth, a young man attempted suicide by throwing himself overboard. A very brave passenger, fully clothed, did this high dive and rescued the poor fellow. I took a more lenient view of the diving from heights at Freetown after that.
Our day at the Gold Coast, for several years, was to be spent lying off-shore at Accra and Sekondi. Here the old mammy chair was in frequent use for officials and passengers who wanted to go ashore. We could sit in a flat-bottomed box construction with two seats facing each other. Four persons would then be swung upward and outwards and lowered overside to connect up with the waiting canoes. But the waves were so great that considerable skill was required of the ship’s crew to assess the rise of the swell and the timing of the touch down. Despite their skill, I witnessed many a drenching. Lowering to or loading bundles of bags of cocoa from the canoes require equal skill. Each bundle of bags must have weighed nearly a ton. As each canoe was emptied, one of it’s crew would climb the rope ladder, get his paper signed and then slide down a rope to his mates. So it was a whole day of entertainment, free of charge, but very noisy with shouting, especially if any unfortunate canoeman jumped the queue.
Sadly, all this is finished. A fine new harbour has been built at Takoradi and ships now simply dock and passengers descend the steps from deck to shore. Even there, one no longer walks through sandy tracks, but on a tar-mac road, where a car, or a passenger bus entices the lazy passenger. I know it has all meant progress, but I am sorry for the canoemen and that the old mammy chair is gone.
At Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, the whole navy came out to where we anchored. Both canoes were painted white and half a dozen paddlers on either side kept excellent time in a concerted effort to drive the boat through the surf and out on the heavy swell. My interest in Liberia, apart from its stamps, was the fact that it is a part of Africa which was never a colony of any of the European nations. I suppose, today, the main cause of hearing much of it is through her attempt to raise revenue by registering all sorts of shipping under the Liberian flag - a flag of convenience. President Tubman and his successors have been helped greatly by the U.S.A. Even before the Emancipation Act of 1833, America began off loading freed slaves. In 1847, the Republic of Liberia was proclaimed. A very correct name for the land of liberated slaves.
Although our ship would go on to Port Harcourt in Eastern Nigeria, Lagos was journey’s end for us.
As we crossed the bar and entered the shelter of the long training walls we left behind the huge Atlantic rollers and the beauty of the surf breaking on the Victoria Beach Up the lagoon, flanked on one side by the dock and wharf of Apapa and on the other, the residence of the Governor, our own Mission compound and other buildings along the Marina and on to our own berthing place. Here, as we looked down from high decks, was a seething mass of people. Some awaiting friends, many labourers hopeful to pick up a headload of luggage and earn some money by carrying it to a car or into the town. Then there was an army of men, some old some young, hoping to find employment from a new arrival who would need the services of a cook, steward or ‘small boy.’ These prospective ‘small boys’ could be any height, even over six feet, but they would be learners or understudy to a cook or steward, carrying out the more menial tasks. The more sophisticated of the cooks or stewards would wave aloft a sheaf of testimonials which would be pursued by a prospective employer. Often these were genuine and worthwhile guides as to ability and character, regrettably sometimes unfair jokes were carried out on the often illiterate hopeful e.g. the cook who proudly displayed, amongst others, the page which declared that “John had been my cook for three months. He now leaves for health reasons--mine.” Incidentally in the vocabulary of cooks and stewards, a testimonial is a ‘book’ and a good book can greatly increase the job prospects of its bearer.
To make the sorting of baggage easier on arrival, the shipping company issued supplies of large circular labels covering the whole alphabet. So when the boat was cleared of all luggage and the Customs Hall was declared well and truly open we were allowed ashore and made our way to the Hall where we went to the area of our initial, in my case ‘L’. I struggled to sort out what was mine. Many of the cases sent direct by the suppliers, I had not seen before and I had to check with invoices. All this took about half an hour. Respectably clad in Palm Beach suit collar and tie, it was unbearably hot. One passenger, as he examined a torn label wondered whether it was an ‘L’ or an ‘I’, said “Its like L”. After weeks of cool sea breezes it did suggest the other extreme.
One of our senior missionaries had decided to cut down the time usually taken at Customs. He had ordered ‘Z’ labels, counting on the small number the official at XYZ would have to cope with. He fondly hoped that even if the official did his worst, instead of the best with his sheaf of invoices, he would be smilingly off and on his way. However, there were two matters apparently overlooked. One there were many Greeks and Palestinians amongst the passengers, all of whom had names beginning with ‘Z’. Also, he knew that all the examining officials in those days were Europeans most of whom, to say the least, were non-churchgoers and were not likely to be moved in a missionary’s favour hence mistake number two. He wore a clerical collar.
True, the XYZ examiner did have fewer clients, but he also had more time and dealt very thoroughly with his Mediterranean friends. As I emerged from ‘L’, poor old Bill was still struggling to repack many opened cases and at the same time to retain his dignity as well as the pristine freshness of his natty suit.
The Methodist Missionary Society was the first to arrive in what is now known as Nigeria. The renowned Thomas Birch Freeman had come over from the Gold Coast to investigate reports which the Society in London had received of the establishment of Christian work in and around Badagry. Freeman found that ‘preachers’ who were repatriated slaves, living in Sierra Leone, had taken to trading along the Coast. The most adventurous of these had travelled far and had reached Badagry.
They formed a little colony there and opened Methodist Societies. When Freeman reported this to London the response was to appoint men to supervise and extend this new work. In 1842, our first men were stationed at Badagry.
Badagry and Lagos were the two main points for export of slaves. Up to and at the time of Freeman’s visit, the Coast was patrolled by British warships, in their attempt to intercept slave ships and prevent their getting away with another cargo of captive human flesh. It was claimed that Freeman was critical of this British policy. He wanted to see troops occupying the offending ports and thus prevent such export. Twenty years later the patrol system was changed and a naval force was landed. King Kosoko, said to be the biggest slave trader on the Coast was routed and Akitoye, whom Kosoko had exiled, returned to power. He signed a treaty agreeing to abolish the slave trade and to encourage the work of missionaries. His son, in 1861, ceded Lagos and its dependent territory to the British Government. In 1886, Lagos and its hinterland was separated from the Gold Coast and became the Colony and Protectorate of Lagos, later to be known as the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, when in 1906 Lagos and the Southern area were amalgamated. It was not until 1914 that the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was amalgamated with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and the whole country became the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. Sir Frederick (later Lord) Lugard became the first Governor General of Nigeria.
Some years after the Methodists, the Church Missionary Society arrived in Nigeria,, to be followed later by several other societies.
In Lagos, we were greatly privileged in the gift of a site for the Mission, adjoining the residence of the Governor right on the lagoon front now known as the Marina. It is a very large site and in my early days housed our Methodist Boys High School (MBHS) and our Girls High School together with the residence of the Chairman of our District Synod. The full value of the evening sea breeze was prized. The value of the site itself has appreciated to very great heights as the years passed.
Our District Synod met every January and lasted for three weeks. Comparative numbers of missionaries and laymen were small when I went out and it seems extravagant to say we ‘assembled’. The small chapel of the MBHS with one small adjoining classroom, was sufficient for all entitled to attend. We slept in the school dormitories and the staff of both the Boys and Girls school shared the catering. Three weeks in Lagos each year was a real high-light. We could actually visit the one and only cold store in the country and buy an ice cream (for consumption on the premises) If parafin refrigerators were available in those early days, I certainly did not move in the circle where they could be afforded.
When time permitted, we went to the Victoria Beach. It was delightful to get in the cool water but we could not do much swimming for it was unwise to go out beyond the breakers. We let the surf beat on us instead, but was we sat getting wet, we had to dig feet well in to prevent being sucked out by the great backwash.
Many years later, we were able to go to the cinema--I may as well record this here, while writing about Synod. It was in the open air and wicker chairs were provided. January was dry season and there was no problem. With harmattan wind blowing from the Sahara desert, the evenings were pleasant for sitting out. I do not know what the cinema proprietor did during the wet season, I suppose that rain often stopped play. We went to see ‘Frozen Limits’ with the Crazy Gang. It was one of the funniest films we had ever seen. For days after, our friends and we would rock with laughter as we recalled different parts of the film.
But all these joys and excitements were the special treats of Synod time. I saw none of them during those first days on arrival in Lagos. I was to travel up-country on the Kano train where I would be met by the Rev Edward G. Nightingale (’Nightie’ as we all called him) and live in his house at Wesley College, Ibadan. I was to use the golden opportunity of being amongst so many intelligent young Yorubas that I would not only get a good foundation to my study of their language, but quickly learn to speak it. One important point however, had been overlooked or underestimated by the Stationing Committee making this arrangement. All those intelligent young Yorubas were keen to use every possible opportunity to improve their English. One day, to my sorrow, I read a notice pasted on the wall of the dining hall “Anyone heard speaking Yoruba will be fined at the rate of 1/2d per word.” This, of course, was prepared by students, for students and without the knowledge of the staff. This led to a big change in my Yoruba studies.
Some years previously there had been a missionary with considerable medical skill. He had built a small one room dispensary at Igboora, a very large town in which he pioneered. In those days, it was a toss up as to whether the Wesley Guilds of England would build their first hospital in Ilesha, 100 miles further north, or at Igboora. The final decision favoured Ilesha, and when Mr Bond retired to England, the Igboora work was dropped.
Now it was agreed that I should live at Igboora and make the one room dispensary my home. It had a corrugated iron roof on its mud walls. Igboora had no English speakers except one who, under Mr Bond, had helped in an infant class.
I packed up all my loads--bedding--foodstuffs and personal effects and got on the train for Sanushi. Here I was met by carriers who would lead me in the twelve mile walk to Igboora. They divided my loads into fair headloads. We proceeded along narrow bush paths (there were no roads in those days apart from main thoroughfares) There was one accident en route. We came to a dry riverbed and one man carrying a tin trunk, fell as he was climbing down the bank. He said he was not hurt, but I was very worried about the contents of the trunk. When we reached Igboora, I quickly looked inside and found that the pick-up arm of my precious gramophone was completely severed. I was shattered - I could have done without so many of my possessions, but not my music. 2 1/2 months in that lonely place before I would get back to Ibadan appalled me. Fortunately my medical kit included a roll of adhesive dressing. This aided in a Heath Robinson repair, but the gramophone worked.
Life was very interesting, not only in the dispensary and town, but in visits to outlying villages. The man who, years before, helped Mr Bond, was most helpful and was willing to walk many miles with me and act as interpreter.
I had a daily visitor, a little girl of perhaps six years of age, with an easy name Titi (pronounced Tee-tee) She used to come in and stand quietly, watching everything I did. Our sole conversations, at the beginning, were greetings and salutations, Yoruba is a tonal language and it is possible to have three words, with the same spelling but with three entirely different meanings. To a Yoruba speaker the meaning was quite clear because he would say one with a level tone, one with an upward tone and the third, downwards. The classical illustration is the word oko, which means a hoe a boat or a husband. It could be embarrassing if a woman went to market to buy a hoe and through the wrong tone asked for a husband.
Greetings and salutations were very easy for all started with the three lettered word ‘Eku!’ To this could be tacked an unending list of endings. ‘Eku’ means I salute you, followed by ‘aro’ for morning, equals our Good morning. It is easily seen why I stuck to greetings for so long. This wealth in salutations added to the friendliness of the Yoruba people. In English, we are limited to bidding the time of day, morning, afternoon evening etc., but the friendly Yoruba, can keep talking, even to a complete stranger, in salutations for working, singing, eating or a variety of ends to the prefix ‘Eku.’
One morning little Titi waddled into my room with a large, two year old baby on her back, supported by a strip of home woven cloth. After the usual ‘Ekuaro’ I tried hard to recall the Yoruba word for load or burden. I said ‘Ekueru’ i.e. saluting her for carrying a burden. Titi was not amused. I had to get my dictionary to understand her reply. “Eru ko, aburo mi ni.” “Its not a burden, he’s my brother” What a lovely reply. I must have told that story in hundreds of addresses to children, third-world talks and Christian Aid sermons.
The only white man I saw during my 2 1/2 month stay in Igboora was the Chairman of our District Synod. It was a very special occasion for one holding his office to come so far off his usual rounds. In his honour, the local chief sent a horse to Shanusi station so that he could be led into the town. I was hot and tired after the twelve mile walk earlier that morning. We rested at the station during the heat of the day. When the train arrived and I had performed the welcome ceremony, the Chairman was enthroned on his horse and the procession started on the homeward twelve miles. I was surprised that although we stopped at intervals fro a rest, our visitor never got off the horse. He completed the long journey. In the mud built dispensary, which he shared with me, there was of course no fire-place. I feel sure that if there were a fireplace, he would have chosen to take his meals standing in front of it rather than trying to sit down.
It was while at Igboora, and conscious of loneliness, that I received my first official communication from the M.M.S. in London. It was a cyclostyled copy of an official hand out to all missionaries:
Addition to Memorandum on Personal Allowances.
(19.A.) When a missionary in active work dies, funeral expenses up to 12 pounds will be paid, in case of need. This grant should be applied for by the nearest relative.
As I had done nothing to merit this grant, I was just happy to be still alive. Not long afterwards, I received a personal letter on official notepaper bearing the honoured names of C.W.Andrews, E.W.Thompson, W.J.Noble and G.E.Hickman Johnson.
We have been comparing information from various Districts with our records for Life Insurance and notice that although you have taken out a policy (possibly you may have other property), you do not appear to have made out a Will. Recent experience here has shown that a great deal of trouble is involved if a missionary dies on the field intestate. We are sending a form which will facilitate the making of a Will in the approved fashion.
I rejoice that I survived this early, cheerful bombardment. All of the statesmanlike personalities mentioned above have long since passed on. I am glad to have happier memories of some of them.
I mentioned earlier that my sister had been designated to China. However, in the meanwhile there arose some kind of internal, political trouble which closed the China door for her. However, as the Wesley Guild Hospital at Ilesha had been re-opened by Dr Hunter, who travelled out with me for our first appointment, there was urgent need for a nursing sister to work with Stella Liony, the Matron. So my sister was switched from China to Nigeria. That first Christmas, I was her guest in Ilesha, a very unexpected re-union. We had a great time together.
It is interesting to note that those particular troubles in China did not last long and, the very next year Gladys Aylward, better known to some as the heroine in the film ‘The Small Woman’, was able to make her lonely way to and commence her work in China. My sister served for over thirty years, during most of which she was Matron. She was honoured with an M.B.E. for medical services.
After my period at Igboora I returned to Wesley College, Ibadan and whilst continuing my Yoruba study I was introduced to the work of helping to build the new college chapel. This was work I greatly enjoyed and it laid foundations for planning and building work both in Nigeria and England.
When the Nighties were married, they got a present of a piano, not new, but in good working order. They took it with them to Nigeria. Unfortunately, the method of swinging goods from the hold to the wharf were full of risks in those days. Two lashings of rope encircled the piano which slipped at the peak of it’s swing. It landed on the wharf long before the ropes it had evaded. This is not good for pianos and many of its working parts surrounded the case as the mess lay on the concrete. Nightie had no hope of a resurrection, but they decided to take the case to Ibadan. There it stood in silence as a piece of furniture. Of course they had no objection to my opening the lid and examining the mixed up contents. The little blocks of lead, one in each key, which had balanced the ‘ivories’ were all gone. The instrument which was overstrung had become a box of unattached hammers and, to make matters worse, moth had eaten their way into the felt on each hammer.
I gladly put all my spare time into the huge task of identification and sorting out the muddle and, with the aid of glue, saw item after item return to their original shape and size. I could not replace the lead weights which had fallen from each key but decided to try to restore balance by attaching a six inch mail to the vertical wire in front of each hammer. This worked, and now, on pressing the note the hammer did all it should and sprung back again on release of the pressure. It was amazing that none of the strings had been severed. If they had, I would have been in great trouble because I had no hope of getting steel wire. The six inch mails made an unpleasant noise, in fact, when I did get the instrument to work, people kindly suggested that the best place to listen was at the other side of the tennis court. By the time the sound reached there, the rattle of the nails could not be heard and they could recognise the tune. The pitch was far too low, but I dared not tune it to what my tuning fork asked, as I might well have snapped a string in the effort
Such was the Nighties pleasure that, when later I was transferred to Oyo, they gave the piano to me. I was not worried about extraneous noises, it worked and would help relieve the sense of loneliness when, once more, I was to be on my own.
Wesley College, Ibadan meant and still means a lot to me. The Nightingales and the Hodges, in both of whose homes I had lived--the joy of being able to engage in construction work of a manual nature in building--as well as the continuing study of the language--the many African friends I made, Mr Cole and a fellow tutor John Ajibola, as well as many students who later were on the staff, helped in the preparation I was making for a long missionary career.