Chapter 4
First circuit

4.1 “The wood is for your coffin”

When the time came to move out and to ‘run’ the Oyo Circuit, I was glad to put the value of my training to the test. The very first day I received a nasty shock. The Oyo Mission House had been the former residence of the Chairman of the District, the Rev Oliver J.Griffin. His official duties had required him to reside in Lagos and there had not been any resident to remedy deterioration of the property. This was all too obvious on my arrival.

The only person to welcome me was the compound labourer. His job was to keep the grass clear around the house, to lessen danger from bush fires sweeping up to the house and also, to lessen the danger of snakes getting into the house. He kept the paths swept and did a bit of gardening. He spoke no English and, as yet, my use of Yoruba was limited. The house was square. Downstairs consisted of storerooms, a dispensary, A WC.(really an EC for earth took the place of water) and a garage, complete with real rick-shaw, the only one I ever saw in Nigeria. Upstairs was a main living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom (tin bath but no water laid on), a very small office and all along the front of the area was a wide verandah. There was a stairway at both back and front, the former giving easy access to the separate kitchen. This had to be separate from the house because of smoke from the wood fire.

On that first day, I climbed the rear stairs but was alarmed at the rot and unsteadiness of the construction. On the landing were several quite large holes which, in the dark could be even a higher danger than in daylight. Urgent repairs were a priority. It was well past lunchtime so I sat in the living room and opened my sandwiches. As I sat at the table, my eyes were constantly at work. There was no ceilings, only rafters to which a ceiling could be fixed. But, of far greater interest to me was what I could hardly believe--on the rafters lay a nest pile of six planks cut to about six feet and nicely smoothed.

As soon as the labourer returned from his break, I beckoned to him. He came upstairs and I asked for his help in going up and handing down the planks. He did not understand my Yoruba fully, but thought for a while and then shook his head. It was my turn not to be able to understand what he said. I was annoyed by his disobedience. Soon after three o’clock the young teacher, who had just closed school, came to welcome me. Nathaniel Salako spoke English very well. I told him of my trouble with the labourer and he said he would find out the reason for his disobedience. They talked, and then came the answer. “The man says he cannot touch those planks because they are for white man’s coffin”. Apparently there was an unwritten rule that, in all up-country mission houses there must always be kept a sufficient supply of planks so that immediate burial could follow the death of a resident.

I decided I was going to walk on those planks and not be encased with them. Down they came and that very afternoon I laid them over the dangerous holes and prepared to cut them to shape and repair the patches properly and reinforce the stairs. However the force of the necessity for that rule was indelibly written on my mind later the same day. I was reading the contents of the small steel safe in the office and cam across a list, written by my predecessor. There were eight names, including his. It gave a date in March of the year when they arrived in Nigeria. Although representing several different missionary societies, they had all travelled on the same boat and had dispersed to several different parts of the country. After the column of names there was there was another column with dates. My predecessor was the only one who had no date. I was shocked when I realised that of those eight men who arrived together, he, alone saw the light of Christmas Day that same year. Within that year, seven mission houses had tragically to yield up their store of prepared planks and seven homes in the United Kingdom had mourned a loved-one stricken down by Yellow Fever, Blackwater or other fevers. ‘The White Man’s Grave’ was not the thought of a writer of fiction. It was a reality.

Around the house was a row of earthen pots, just beneath the places where rain water would fill them. They were filled with Crotans and other decorative plants. But, they had not always been a garden. Once they were the water storage pots from which water was drawn for domestic purposes. That was in the days before Sir Ronald Ross identified the mosquito as the carrier of malaria. My predecessor had been tossing in bed with a high fever for several days when a European rider came into the compound with a dispatch. It informed all and sundry of Ross’s discovery and gave clear directions as to water storage and the necessity to see that all possible holes, where water could lie should be filled up an thus prevent mosquito larvae from developing and adding to the malaria hazard. Sick and weak as he was, Griffin got out of bed, came downstairs, got a hammer and went round the house cracking every water pot and denied the larvae the use of their breeding place as the water gushed out.

4.2 Oyo

I referred earlier to Nathaniel, the young teacher in our Oyo School. It was my pleasure, years later, to bring him forward as a candidate for the Ministry. Very many years later he was elected President of the Methodist Church in Nigeria. He was the second to hold this highest office, but after an all too short time, illness overtook him and his remaining months were few. He died whilst in office. So Oyo, for me, had its joys and sorrows, its ups and downs.

From the front verandah there was a delightful view of the compound. A wide road led to a gate on our boundary. Here, the road narrowed to a bush path to Oyo Town. The wide road was lined with aloes which bear flowers at the tip of a long polelike stem. These flowers are only produced occasionally, and years apart. Fortunately I saw the whole spectacle. Then at regular intervals, coconut palms had been planted on either side of the road. On a bright moonlit night, not only was it possible to read by moonlight, but the sight of the moon through the palms was beautiful and gave a romantic setting. Often I listened to my desert island discs on the verandah whilst watching the shadow of the palm fronds weaving patterns on the sand of the road. ‘The Kerry Dance’ sung by Peter Dawson took me back to Co Kerry and I could see those deserted dancing floors at remote cross roads, once the regular meeting place of the youth of that day who had gone to the cities or emigrated.

I did have some visitors, complete strangers, who had heard of the lovely orchid which had made its home in one of my orange trees. So near to my bedroom window that I could almost lean out to touch it or to pick a green orange. I did mean green, for, if an orange on a tree was orange, it was too ripe to eat.

Doris and Eric Hodges came from Wesley College to spend a week-end with me. During their stay, I apologised that in my bachelor establishment, I could not offer them small knives for cheese or fruit. Doris immediately said that they had had a surplus of this commodity amongst their wedding presents and that they would gladly let me have a box of six. I was very grateful. My sister, Elsie, was due for local leave from the hospital, and the arrangement was that she would spend some days with the Hodges in Ibadan and that I would run in from Oyo to Ibadan on Saturday and pick her up to spend the rest of her leave with me.

By this time, I had become the proud owner of my first car, a Fiat two seater with a canvas roof and an uncovered dickey seat in the boot. I had paid 50 pounds for it, the price allowed for its rather worn and run down condition. Any-how the engine worked. On that particular Saturday, I drove into the Wesley College grounds and stopped at Hodges house. We all had lunch together and sat on the verandah for coffee. Whilst we sat, Jacob, the steward emerged from Elsie’s room, his hands behind his back. Walking up to Doris Hodges, he held out the little case of six knives which Doris had remembered to give Elsie for me, He almost shouted as he displayed his find “Found this in strangers room.” I still do not think he understood our roar of laughter nor that he was ever convinced of my sister’s honesty. By the way, it was usual to refer to the temporary use of the spare room by visitors, to call it strangers room.

4.3 Haircutting

In those days it was customary to employ a cook and a steward in each house. The cook went to market, saw to tree trunks to maintain his fire, did all the cooking, serving-up and clearing up and keeping tidy all his utensils. The steward did all the work in the house, including the preparation of the table for meals and serving same. For economy reasons this was the limit of personnel in mission circles. If the cook wanted a small boy to do the menial work, usually such services were obtained by the payment of his school fees, or other arrangement. Government and commercial Europeans often had quite a large staff.

I went to the other extreme and employed a cook/steward, in other words Jacob Osinuga was to do the lot. He did, however, suggest that in return for school fees, his son Michael would be the small boy. This worked well and we were a happy household with an absence of grumbling. As the sole employee, perhaps I expected Jacob to include extras. One of these was haircutting. He had said that he had had experience in this art. I decided to give him a trial. There was one complication. I had been advised to include in my preparations the purchase of a good hairdresser’s clippers. Jacob had never used this implement before. I demonstrated how it worked. He ran it up the back of my neck, but didn’t cut any hair. I explained that he was not digging the prongs in hard enough. Now this was an error on my part for, on Jacob’s second attempt to take off, he did exactly as I said but dug more deeply than I intended. He held a mirror so that I could see the result. It was awful. I had a deep furrow, quite bald, from collar level to the crown of my head. It took some time, but nature is a wonderful healer. Gradually the offending area began to look more normal. I was reminded on a later occasion, when in England, a barber asked me how I would like it cut. I told him to leave it nice to brush. Now, either he was deaf or I spoke indistinctly. He left it like a brush.

Jacob and I remained good friends and it was a pleasure to help young Michael in his studies. In due course he went to College and still later, he entered the Methodist Ministry and has faithfully served in his several circuits.

4.4 Trekking

Trekking was exciting--preparations to ensure that none of the necessities of life were forgotten, foodstuffs, bedding all had to be carried with me. A filter too, so that water, after boiling could be poured into the upper of two compartments of a cylindrical container. Water would then slowly pass through a ‘candle’ and drip into the lower compartment. This had a little tap which gave the required supply of ready-to-drink- water. Water borne diseases were many and varied and it would be an extremely foolish man who would travel without a filter.

Most camp beds had a simple scaffolding arrangement which fitted into four sockets. This made the erection of a mosquito net easy. Such a net protected against multitudes of mosquitoes and other flying insects attracted by the light in ones room. Close to the equator, day and night last for twelve hours so, every night we had to have artificial light.

Going on trek was quite an undertaking and must have been a frightful bore to our African colleagues who had become immune to many sicknesses and ready to take risks and accept conditions beyond our limits. To give an example, I never got used to sleeping on planks or mud floors, my bone structure rebelled every time hence the camp bed on every tour despite Paul’s advice to “endure hardness”.

On all the treks one came to the conclusion that Africa is not a quiet place to live, even in the bush. When a string of people, walking along a bush path in single file, want to talk to one another, there is no chance of being heard unless one shouts, or at least talks loudly. Number five, or six in such a file of people must have a good pair of lungs to cope with a headwind and yet get his message across.

Carriers needed a rest so, some shady place, preferably near a stream or river was sought and there we would all regain our breath and strength before emerging once more into the hot sunshine. For this reason, we tried to make an early start, before or no later than daylight. And, if the journey spilled over half a day, we made a break from one to three o’clock.

A retired missionary friend from our Calabar area, told me of one of his long treks. He broke his journey at the house of Mary Slessor “The white queen of Okoyong”, an extremely forthright and independent lady. He wanted to make an early start next morning and worried about awaking in time “Don’t worry” said his hostess “I will see you are up in time”. She fetched a large cock from its roosting place and tied one of its legs to the leg of his bed. At cock crow, the whole house was awake and he did get away in time for his long day’s walk.

On arrival at our destination we would find a place to live. It might be a vestry, or even the church itself, or it might be on the wide verandah of the chief’s house. This ensured a reasonably good mud floor. In our later pioneering travels we would select a good tree in the market place where we could hang our large mosquito net and where we lived and moved and had our being, much to the interest and amusement of dozens of spectators who had an absolutely uninterrupted view. At the end of a twenty mile walk I admit I was ready for a sit down and an orange or lime drink with water more than tepid after being exposed to the sun.

Oranges and other citrus fruits were fairly easy to come by. In those days I could buy forty for one penny, Bananas were about the same price, but for me this fact held no joy. In my student days I had been foolish enough to enter a competition to see who could eat the greatest number of bananas at one sitting. I won. I forget what prize for, at that stage I had passed beyond taking any interest in prizes and in fact, for the next three days my life, so to speak, hung on a banana. I could think, with disgust, of nothing else. It was my theme song, accompanied with loud internal rumblings. So for many years of cheap bananas, with bananas growing right outside my office door, I passed by on the other side. But, before I digressed into the world of bananas, I was on the subject of treks.

It is amazing how the Scriptures came alive in all sorts of ways in Africa. For example, I am reminded of the query that arose out of the story of the man who had completed a journey. Was he likely to invite his domestic staff first to sit down and have a good meal, then late, they could attend to his own needs? No, first he would expect to have his appetite satisfied and then, if he cared or took any interest in such matters, the staff could see to their own needs. After twenty or twenty five miles walking I fear I pleaded guilty. I expected the cook to produce, as quickly as he could, what he had planned for my meal. I always was amazed at the cheerful manner in which the staff fulfilled their function. In next to no time, they had spread a cloth on the old flat topped tin trunk which normally contained a store of tins or food. Sometimes there would be an embarrassing silence if I asked for some mustard. It had been forgotten as it lay in the trunk which was now my table. Off would come dishes, cutlery and the cloth itself, while the cook dived into the larder and produced the mustard tin. The table would be restored to normal and the meal would proceed. Then, double embarrassment when the sliced oranges for the second course were really bitter and I suggested that a little sugar would sweeten the occasion. Off would come the dishes, cutlery and etc., whilst once more a hand was inserted into the trunk for the sugar tin. Annoying? No, I looked on it that intervals in a meal, when one is alone, aid digestion.

All this is years ago, but I have never forgotten the solid loyalty of cooks and stewards. I must have given cause for much complaint and, probably provided the topic which they may have discussed out of my hearing when the staff had retired ‘downstairs’. I would now welcome the opportunity of seeing them again to apologise for my impatience and inconsistency. I would even upgrade some of the testimonials I have written. They really were a grand band of colleagues even if their work was different.

4.5 Baptisms in the Oyo Circuit

Because of the absence of a resident minister in Oyo there had accumulated quite a back log of work. Particularly had it been difficult to arrange for baptisms. So it came about that, on one of my treks to a more remote station I found that no adults nor children had been baptised, even though the catechists had faithfully carried out their work of preparation. In addition to adults, whom I carefully examined and sorted in to those ready for baptism, and others who were advised to work on for a further few months, I was presented with a list of parents who wanted to have their children baptised. Again, I sorted out those who were obviously sincere and understood their parental responsibilities.

Adults seeking baptism are expected to be able to read the Scriptures, with the exception of those unable to learn because of age or disability. The ability of some is limited and the test is always a simple passage without hard words. They are expected to repeat the Lord’s Prayer from memory, and to show simple understanding of the Commandments. They must have a good record of character and their interest in and attendance at Church. We rely on the local catechist to carry through their preparations and the baptising minister satisfies himself that each candidate has a simple understanding of his or her faith.

When I had completed the examination of the adult group and counselled the twenty parents of the children to be baptised, I announced that in three weeks I hoped to return and the baptisms would take place. I rearranged my programme so as to keep this important promise and on the Saturday, once more my cook and I moved in readiness for the big day, Sunday. The catechist gave me the list which I checked with mine. This time, he had put in the new name chosen by each adult. We agreed that the children would be taken before the adults. When he gave me their list of names, they were correct with mine but, I got the very big surprise that while twenty parents were there, the total number of children would be forty four, some of the parents presenting two or even three children. I have stressed the importance of preparation of parents, but had not enquired if they had more than one infant or child each. It was too late now to be overwhelmed by thoughts of a mass baptism, but I awaited the dawn of the new day, Sunday, with a certain anxiety.

It certainly was a unique experience when in the service I announced the time for their baptism had come and asked the parents, with children to come forward. Row after row filled the width of the narrow church. I have often told anxious parents that they must not be too concerned if the baby cries-- “It will not worry me and I do not want you to let it worry you.” That is all right with one infant, in this country but, the mass choir in that little church far exceeded my expectations. Many of the little ones had remarkable lung power and, of course, there was evidence of a chain reaction. Fortunately the roof of the church was thatch. This helped a lot in absorbing the noise. I must confess, however, that it was very hard to preserve a sense of reverence whilst presiding over such a situation. We completed the programme for both those children and the adults. I had however, learned a lesson and never since have I examined parents for the baptism of their children without having a list in advance of the actual numbers.

4.6 Government officers

The undertakings of government in Nigeria were divided into departments, as happens in most countries. All the heads of those departments and, indeed most of the senior positions, in my early days, were held by Europeans. There did not appear to be any shortage of staff but because of problems in communication, there were often big delays in correspondence and in maintaining supplies from the U.K. and elsewhere.

The Public Works Department was responsible for roads, i.e. trunk roads. Any community wanting to have a road to connect up with a trunk road, had to take full responsibility for same. Some help might be given by the Native Administration but no funds were to be expected from Government. The result was, very few roads. The first fifty miles of the road from Lagos to the North was actually tarred. The width of the tar allowed for single traffic only, but there was a fairly wide shoulder of natural laterite to provide for the passing of vehicles. Each would keep the off side wheel on the strip and the on side on the laterite. This rule was abused often by the road hog, resulting in a near miss or, in too many cases the overturning of the evading vehicle through going over the edge of the road. After the fifty miles of tar, it became like driving over corrugated iron. Cars shuddered, were hard to steer and drivers divided into two schools. One held that a slow speed should be maintained throughout, rather like climbing down one side of the corrugation and then up the other. The second school held that the only way was speed and thus ride on the top of the ridges. I found that this latter procedure was supported by those who drove government or company cars. We had to pay all our own expenses and, on the whole, were slower drivers.

Our District Officer and one of our Mission doctors in Ilesha should both have had Jehu somewhere in their names. One day, travelling at speed in opposite directions, they had a very narrow escape on a corner. Each felt guilty, stopped an quickly reversed with the same intention, to apologise to the other. However, in reversing too quickly, they collided and both had to face wing repairs.

The Public Works Department (PWD) was responsible for all building construction, water supplies where wells could be sunk or dams built to provide reservoirs for domestic use or in generating schemes which were planned later.

The Posts and Telegraph Department saw to all communications and post offices. They were constantly extending their activities. In Oyo, we had a Post Office alone, but then news came through that the telegraph line from Lagos to Ibadan would be extended to Oyo. The more educated of the public marvelled that it would be possible to send and receive telegrams. The opening day arrived. A friend of mine who lived three miles out, thought he would celebrate the new wonder by sending a wire to someone in Lagos. He hurriedly wrote out a message, sent his steward to walk the three miles. At the Post Office, a long queue was in front of him. His turn came. The Postmaster gave him back his shilling and the message, with this note. “Dear Sir, You can have twelve words for one shilling As you only used nine words, I return you telegram so that you can add three more”. Having blown about four hours of his stewards time, he became less interested in the First Day of operation.

4.7 Building works

The manual work to which I referred while living at Wesley College was to help supervise the building of the College Chapel. I greatly enjoyed the preparation of the wood which eventually would bear the weight of the wide arch over the chancel. Under Nightie’s skilled guidance, I also had to see to the making of the moulds for the blocks which would form that arch, and then the key stone fitted correctly and in due time it was safe to remove the wooden frame. To the best of my knowledge, that arch still stands the strain after sixty years.

There was another problem to be solved. The plan showed that a covered six foot foot way was to be made on both sides of the chapel. The covered roof would be concrete and on to it there would be heavy dripping of water anytime it rained. Nightie was opposed to the purchase and fitting of galvanised pipes to carry of this rain water from the high roof. He wanted to think how he could leave a hole right through the concrete pillars which, at ten foot intervals, would bear the weight of the concrete covering. We easily made the shuttering into which the concrete for each pillar would be poured, but the hole? Entire credit goes to him for thinking of the banana. The trunk of what my dictionary describes as a gigantic tree-like herbaceous plant bearing fruit, i.e. the banana. I will call it the trunk. From five to fifteen feet long, usually it is possible to cut eight feet from the straight part. This can be unpeeled like corrugated packing paper to any thickness. We peeled off until about four inches in diameter and made sure that when pouring the concrete mixture into the mould, this banana trunk stayed in the centre. When the concrete in the pillars was dry, we removed the casing knowing that water and the heat of the sun would eventually rot the banana trunk. It did rot and the student helpers watched during each storm and reported the outflow of water through the hole and the gradual floating away of banana remains. Doubtless an architect would have coped differently, adding to the cost of the chapel, Nightie’s idea worked just as well, left no danger of rust from metal pipes, and cost nothing more than the labour of cutting the lengths of banana trunks. It is further evidence of how the missionary learned to face up to situations, simply because there were no better informed persons available. Those efforts most often worked, even if they took more time.

Success, or at least enthusiasm shown in construction work, led to the next request by Nightie. Even though I had moved to live in Oyo, he was still my superintendent. He had drawn plans for building a large church at Fiditi to replace one which was too small. This was only eight miles from Oyo and I was in charge of work there. I was to supervise the voluntary workers and see to the proper mixture of sand, stone and cement for the foundations. The windows were to be Norman in shape and the roof trusses, which we had to make, were to be of a new type designed by Taffy Jones, a very helpful PWD engineer.

The following is recorded by Findlay & Holdsworth.

Travelling with the missionary party (1888) was a woman who, twenty years earlier had been carried off into slavery. In Lagos she had found freedom and now sought the relatives from whom she had been torn. One day she was making enquiries from a man we had met on the road. Presently she found that she was talking to her own father. The mother was not far away, and on that same day she was restored to both he parents. This happened at Fiditi, a town which greatly attracted Halligey, though it was not effectively occupied then.

This was the Fiditi where the church was too small for its congregation, and where I was to supervise the building of a larger centre for worship.

4.8 Tropical storms

I was interested to note the almost daily tropical storms of that season. The storm seemed to wait until the intense heat of the day passed. I learned that if I were to be back to Oyo by 5.0 p.m., there was no need to take protective clothing, but if I left it later, I was in danger of a drenching. The trouble with protective clothing was that one sweated so much under same, one became just as wet as the outside of the Mac. During the dry season, from November to February we usually got one and only one storm. Strangely enough, it often came on Christmas Day - a kindly present from above. Every place was so parched and streams and even river beds became dusty tracks. People longed for water, so when the rain came it was lovely to see the sheer joy of the younger generation as they shed any garments and ran out, disporting their shiny bodies in the ecstasy of getting drenched. Any available calabash or container was placed beneath the roof drips. Strategic positioning could save long walks to the nearest water hole.

When I mention thatch, I am not describing the wayside cottage roof most people like to see in England. Thatching with grass is difficult in a forest. So thatch can mean interwoven leaves. As they dry and tend to curl, the owner of a roof simply climbs up and stuffs any gaps with a bunch of fresh leaves. Most householders keep a supply in readiness. But this type of roof was more liable to house snakes, there were so many projecting ends and pieces on to which a snake could coil. I remember one Sunday I was conducting morning service in a small village church which had a leaf roof. As we sang the first hymn, I saw a large snake emerge from behind the leaves. Fortunately a steward on door duty, also spotted it. He left his post, ran home and returned with a long barrel blunderbuss (not the short barrel type), down the barrel of which he had rammed any old nails or metal bits and pieces available. We continued to sing, only to be interrupted by a loud bang, The snake fell into the aisle, and we resumed the verse of the hymn.

4.9 A plague of locusts

In many of the colonies it is surprising that there was little success or perhaps, attempt made to keep a register of births and deaths. This certainly was true of Nigeria in general. In Lagos, the Capital, organisation was better and earlier attempts were made. The average African either lacked interest or had no storage place where papers could be preserved. The enemy was the white ant inhabiting most dwelling places. It devoured any paper it could find. In my house in Oyo, my predecessor had left some quite interesting books on a shelf, but in the interregnum, termites had got there before me and only the stiff covers had withstood the onslaught. I could at least tell the author’s name and the title of the book. Incidentally, termites work in the dark and will leave outer covers but devour completely all inner pages.

In the Protectorate, all the land outside the small Colony of Lagos, there were no such records. If I enquired to the age of an adult, I would probably be informed that he or she was a child at the time of the great plague. This meant 1918 when, all over the world, the influenza epidemic carried off millions of old and young.

Another date in local areas was 1930/31. That was the year of the locust. Such complete destruction of any growing plants or crops resulted, that a state of emergency came about. The total harvest of corn and even the vines of root crops disappeared in a few hours. Locusts were everywhere. Driving through the clouds of them was a hazard. The cloud descended and did not fly again until everything green had been eaten. In the meantime, millions of females had dropped little beanlike containers of eggs, so the flight of the swarm did not mean the end of trouble for the farmer. In addition to having lost one harvest, the new generation of baby locusts could soon be expected and they would clear any sign of returning green leaves.

In 1930/31 aerial spraying was unknown and the new generations began to hop around. They could not yet fly. Manual onslaught on the ’hoppers’ was the only answer. Government seconded staff to advise and organise farmers into companies of ‘Beaters.’ I helped in this exercise. Rough trenches were dug, into these the hoppers were driven or swept and when an area was cleared, kerosene was sprinkled and fire consumed the contents of the trench. There was, of course, a Department of Agriculture, but in any emergency such as the locusts brought about, no single department could adequately cope alone. Many officials trained to administer justice became assistants in the battle of the locusts.

4.10 The death sentence

The huge number of different languages, estimated at 250 in Nigeria alone, was a tremendous problem in the administration of justice. One morning, I attended a Court in Ibadan and listened to the hearing of a poor chap charged with murder. All legal work was conducted in English, so I could follow every step. The greatest danger to the real justice of the court, lay in the fact that the accused understood and spoke his own little-known language only. Every question asked by the judge or answered by accused had to pass through two interpreters. The first understood good English. He also understood and spoke the language of the second interpreter who then translated for the accused. So, all evidence given and answers given depended on those two interpreters. So the case proceeded. My great anxiety was how fully these two men could be relied upon. Intertribal bitterness could produce bias. Doubtless the judge had an interpreter whose character he would defend. What about the second interpreter? This became all the more alarming when at the end of a long hearing the judge donned the black cap and pronounced the prisoner guilty and the punishment, death by hanging. I had never heard these words announced before. With all the other people present, I stood, dumbfounded, as the judge left the hall. Then we silently walked out into the sunshine.

One other experience must be recorded here. The Principal of Wesley College was also a Prison Chaplain. I helped him occasionally by conducting an early Sunday morning Service for the prisoners. While he was away, I stood in for him in his weekly round visiting the cells. During one period, I had a terrible experience. I had had the responsibility of ministering to a poor man in the condemned cell who had only one more night of life, then at daybreak, he would be led to the gallows. What was I to say to him, and through an interpreter. It was real agony. I tried to bring comfort through explaining the love of God and of our right to claim forgiveness--the assurance of the life to come for all believers. I tried to bring him to accept this. I felt there was nothing further I could say--Next morning he died on the gallows.

4.11 Returning home

The length of our tour of service in West Africa was shorter than anywhere else in the world. Men stayed for eighteen months, followed by six months away from the Coast. This included more than a month at sea in passages to and fro. Women were asked to do a fifteen month tour. Now, as my sister Elsie had arrived in Nigeria three months after me, we were both ready for leave at the same time.

We had a pleasant and relaxing voyage but were glad to reach Plymouth, where we watched the off-loading of most of our fellow travellers. The remainder, from the North of England, Scotland and all from Ireland stayed another day on board and were landed in Liverpool. From there we got a boat to Dublin.

It was great to be home again. We had to undertake official deputation appointments with lots of weeknight meetings and worship on Sundays. Then, too we had much shopping to do, laying in stocks for the next eighteen months. Any spare time was used amongst relatives and friends. One of my big purchases was a second hand Morris Cowley Saloon car. I had already sold my Fiat out in Nigeria. The saloon cost me 100 pounds. It served well at home and, later abroad.

Elsie’s leave came to an end first and we saw her off. A few weeks later my time was up. Mother and Father were both healthy but were showing signs of their increasing years. I feared parting lest it should be for the last time.

Then I again set out for Liverpool and Nigeria.