Chapter 7
A working partnership

7.1 The new venture

By the time Joyce had finished her contract and was freed from hospital timetables, a new doctor, Donald Beaugie had arrived from Guernsey. She was ready to, and did stand in for surgery emergencies when required. The time had now come for us to implement the development plans we had prayed about and decided upon. Wherever I went in my wide area in church and school work, and co-operation with the Chiefs in agricultural schemes, road making and the digging of wells and latrines, we would now add medical visitation and clinics in our attempt to break down the fear people had of taking the very ill relatives to hospital.

Often, because of the shame of being seen in a hammock (if a patient) or of bearing such a hammock (if a relative), led to a procession forming well after dark and arriving at the hospital before daylight. Unfortunately, often the patient was already moribund, or a maternity case which had gone badly wrong and made much worse by the interference of the witch doctor. Any onslaught we could make on ignorance, fear and superstition right out in the villages, could lead to hospital journeys being made earlier in an illness and many lives being saved.

In this onslaught, my catechists and teachers were encouraged to be the spearheads in the villages. On our part, a big step must be taken in the form of transport. We were running a Morris Cowley four seater saloon. Usually, Stephen accompanied us to help as needed with interpretation. This left reduced space for medical supplies and other loads. So, on our next leave in England we invested in a Morris Major, a six cylinder car very posh, 125 pounds). It had a chrome shutter arrangement which could be kept closed in cold weather, but, as we wanted to let all the breeze possible reach the radiator, we kept this shutter widely open. The carrying space was improved but even so, we still had to leave behind much that we wanted to carry in medicines and supplies. We worried a lot over this fact.

Suddenly, a brain wave. “Let’s build a trailer”. We saw a golden future having all we could want for use in the far bush stations. We constructed the trailer and the Provincial PWD Engineer kindly made and fixed a tow bar and provided ball and socket so we could hitch it to the car. We were thus enabled to take our cook in the car and overload the trailer. The six cylinder engine coped. We fixed the date and itinerary for the next trek and, when all was ready we were as excited as a pair of school kids about the extras all carried in the trailer. We had also made a hinged case, which opened like a book standing on end. This gave us two shelves on either side, each capable of containing rows, twelve at a time, of bottles concentrated mixtures. These bottles were not the modern plastic with screw caps but heavy glass with corks. Pills were not yet available, apart from Beechams, Carter’s little liver pills and aspirin tablets. I have already said we were excited, that excitement continued through the day’s drive until our arrival at our destination. We got out of the car; the trailer was not there. Our excitement went down quicker than a pricked balloon. I so remember that after the darkness set in, the car seemed to be running better. So, wearily we turned around and retraced miles of very rough dirt road, swinging the car from side to side in the hopes that our lights would pick out the precious trailer. We found it, turned upside down in the long grass. We put it on its wheels again and set about retrieving the contents. We opened the new medicine box and, to our amazement, not only were no glass bottles broken, but not one cork had come out. Everything was safely repacked in, we re-hitched the trailer to the car and triumphantly returned to our lodging place, the verandah of the chief’s mud house.

Now, despite the great satisfaction the improved capacity of the trailer gave, it was not long before, secretly, we hoped for something even better. In this record, the subject of transport will emerge several times. In fact, we began to have dreams of a covered kit-car, which would allow Joyce to see patients and to carry out operations under its roof.

7.2 Our first mobile operating theatre

When it became known that we were hoping to order a Chevrolet Kit-car and get the suppliers to cover in the truck section and make certain provision for the needs of our work, kind offers of help came in from a wide company of interested friends at home. The Chev agents in Lagos acted on our outline. They bolted to the chassis six upright timbers; three each side and made a roof to fit these. But, instead of fixing the roof to the six uprights, they also fixed six pieces of the same size to the roof. These latter pieces were grooved so that when they slide down over the other upright pieces, bolts, with thumbscrews could be tightened at the desired height to enable us to walk around without stooping.

The raising and lowering of the roof was done with a ‘tommy bar jack’. This really was a four-foot long tube which, when turned around, projected a support from the top and bottom and raised the roof the required extra two feet. Then the central jack was removed, after the thumbscrews had been tightly fixed. It was a relief from having to move as a round shouldered dwarf.

Along one side of the room thus provided, we had two medicine cupboards, one of which housed rows of bottles of Joyce’s mysterious potions, the second was full of dressings, surgical instruments, a primus stove and containers for sterilising. On the opposite side, above the passengers bench seat, was a wide shelf folded to the sides of the truck. This could be folded down on the rests which were also folded back to the sides of the truck. The result was a narrow table, which we used for minor operations. It was all plain wood and frequently scrubbed and kept as clean as possible.

The final visit to the agent was to check all his work and to give instructions for the painting of the kit-car. It was dark green in its bodywork, so we chose to have the exterior of the wooden additions painted black, while the entire interior would be white. It was a Bank Holiday weekend, so instructions were passed on to a painter who was also acting as watchman. He was to finish the job by Monday. On Tuesday morning, we called to take delivery of the Chev. To our horror, the whole woodwork, outside and inside was painted in black. The manager was equally surprised and horrified. He gave immediate instructions for the complete stripping of the black interior and its colour changed to white, as ordered. The thing looked more suitable for use as a hearse than a vehicle of hope. A week later we accepted the transformed kit-car.

In the above details, I omitted one useful provision. When the roof was extended, each opening could be covered from rain by unrolling tarpaulin blinds attached to the roofing. These buttoned down in the event of rain beating in.

This kit-car served well for many years in the expanding work over a wide area in our dual occupation. The floor space in the truck section was clear, apart from the side seat for staff or passengers. We were thus able to carry camp beds, food boxes, filter and so much equipment for use in the places at which we stopped, but also the head-load sized pieces which would be required at the end of our walking when we reached our destination and started work.

One white Government officer, watching us busily engaged in our various tasks, Joyce seeing the queue of patients whilst I was at school, was impressed by the usefulness of the kit-car and said, “You know, for some time I have been wondering what it is that is missing from the vehicle. Now I know. You should have painted along both sides, LUDLOW (BUTCHER)”. Despite the humorous jibe at the surgeon, that kit-car was the means of restoring life to many a sufferer.

I may as well complete the saga of the Chevrolet kit-car. It must have been about ten years later, after covering thousands of miles along dirt roads, and driving across the grasslands where there was no road at all. It had slowly climbed down riverbanks and across the beds where, in the wet season water rushed by, but now there was no water to be seen. It had then clambered up the opposite bank. One time it stuck while half way across a very rough tree trunk bridge, one rear wheel going right through so that the kit-car rested on its axle. We discovered, too late, that one of the trunks had rotted. So continues its tale, until one afternoon we were going north. I was driving a very heavy load. In front, beside me sat Joyce with our son Peter on her lap, the remaining space was occupied by another missionary on a visit. In the rear, I had packed furniture for a new house we had built for a teacher and, on top of this, all our camp equipment, food and personal loads. I had left room for a plank across on which would sit our cook and Deborah; a little girl aged approximately fifteen, but very small because of deformity resulting from Rickets.

Some eighty miles out and about half way to our destination we would have to cross a bridge with a long, narrow approach of sandy track. This was very dry and I got into a dry skid. We slipped over the side of the road, turned a somersault or two and came to rest with our wheels in the air. Eric, our passenger, could open his door and flop out. I, at the other side was flung out and happily, the wheels stayed up on top and the van did not roll over on top of me. We got Peter out but the seat had wedged itself up against the steering column and Joyce was wedged with it. To make matters worse, the battery, which was housed under the seat, started to leak and acid spilled through on her. One at each door, Eric and I managed to free Joyce.

We all rushed to the back, to help the cook and Deborah. He had already managed to free himself and with only minor injuries, we turned our attention to Deborah. She had been fast asleep when it happened and, now upside-down, she was still fast asleep. We wakened her. She could have thought she was in Australia, as she was suspended upside-down. But, as Deborah had never been to school, she knew nothing of these things. Within ten minutes, we were sitting on the bank, drinking hot tea from unbroken thermos flasks.

We had passed the only Mission station on the journey, a mile or two back. So I decided to walk there and summon help. The Seventh Day Adventist folk (SDA) did all they could for us and we were able to despatch messages by a runner. There were no phones of course, so we had to wait as patiently as we could until our own hospital folk could receive the message and reach us. They did this and had also summoned a very pro-missionary engineer. We are grateful to the SDA staff, for their hospitality and to our rescuers. The kit-car was eventually towed to Lagos, over 200 miles away.

7.3 House building

The buildings were all built of mud, or, more correctly with laterite earth. This is dug out, well watered and then trodden by men and women until they are in a filthy state, but the ‘mud’ has reached a consistency in which it can be hand rolled into balls about the size of a football. This is flung to the builder who has already dug shallow trenches for his foundations, and he slams down each football into the trench. He completes the whole round of the building and then may either decide to complete his first course of some eighteen inches, or, depending on the size of the house and the readiness of sufficient mud to continue going round and round until a course is finished. This is left for a few days until dry, then the same process again for another eighteen-inch course and so on until about six feet high.

The roofing material will be branches of trees, or prepared sticks and poles, lashed together with strips of bark. Usually houses are rectangular and are roofed according to the wealth of the owner. In towns the material would be corrugated iron, nailed to properly sawn timbers, but village constructions will be thatch, either thatched with grass, where available, or large leaves.

In town houses, doors and windows will be entirely according to taste and the ability of the owner to buy materials. In villages, usually one door and a limited number of windows can be of bamboo or even of mats woven locally from grass or other materials.

Getting back to mud walls. When completely dry, they would be rubbed or plastered with a sandy mud mixture, which dries and gives a better finish to the appearance of external or even internal walls. Plumb lines were a problem, especially to those blessed with a straight eye. Concaves, and convexes abounded and of course the former was very clear in time by the accumulation of dust that settled in.

This is where my friend Ben Fagbemi comes into my story.

Ben was a builder and had a staff of young men, none of whom could use building aids. Their idea of plumb and level fell short of my standards. I gave them many jobs of cutting and filling walls, making them ready for cement plastering. This had to be done under strict supervision. Poor old Ben must have been furious with me many times because of my fanatical insistence on a straight line and a level surface, but patiently he bore with me and went over and over the same patch until I accepted it.

I tried to get Ben to draw an outline plan for a proposed building so that he could estimate the cost, in fairness to himself as well as to me. One day, he handed me his drawing of a church. He had even included the seating within its rectangular walls. One area was labelled “Warblers pews” access to these and the pulpit was via the two ‘corridors’. I think I was able to help Ben in a few things connected with building. I also think that Ben taught me a lot about patience.

7.4 Working together

As time passed I came to value the advantages of having a partner in the work more and more. The transformation of the big Mission House from a bachelor dwelling was appreciated even by the domestic staff. They learned to pay much more attention to detail as well as in the preparation and serving of meals. They were a good pair and young and eager enough to learn new methods and menus. We all got on very well together.

The second vast difference and benefit was in having a medical partner for, with the scheme for village dispensaries and regular visits to them, my work in the church and school, and amongst the chiefs had an added dimension with limitless possibilities. The doctor’s presence was never isolated from, but blended into our attempt to improve standards.

I was taught as much as was necessary about anaesthetics to enable me to enter into a new experience of putting people to sleep. But Joyce reminded me that I had had that opportunity twice every Sunday for a long time, but this kind of putting people to sleep was different. I worked at the head end of the patient whilst she gave any necessary instruction, advice or warning, while she wielded a scalpel or other appropriate instrument of torture. I must confess that it was always a great relief when my victim awoke and, when permitted to do so, sat up.

There was, of course, the unkind comment concerning the marriage of a parson to a surgeon (“he can always bury her mistakes”. He didn’t have to, nor did she have to rescue a single patient from the clutches of her anaesthetist.

7.5 Schooling for girls

Yet another big advantage of our marriage was that education of girls and young women who have never been to school, received new attention. There had been great reluctance on the part of fathers to send their daughters to school. Education for boys was different, this was an investment, and boys of that day would become the breadwinner as teacher or through other professions. Then they would look after the needs of the old folk, but, they argued, “why should I send girls to school? When they grow up they are only going to get married” and, like the New Testament story, “seeing that all hope of further gain had gone”, that would be the end of any advantage in having an educated daughter.

So we strove afresh to set a higher value of schooling for girls. An interesting fact in a polygamous household, it fell to the responsibility of each childbearing wife to pay the school fee money for her own children. This could, and did involve them in much work. In our early days with oranges and banana selling at one penny for forty, it took many journeys from farm to carry sufficient head loads to meet the few shillings required by the school. Yams also (the staple diet of the people) made very heavy headloads.

We appreciated the reluctance of pay out hard-earned cash on anything with such a long-term value as education. It is not surprising to read in a report from a Northern Education Officer, which states that in his schools, only two per cent of girls of school age were receiving any schooling. So, a very large proportion of the young women and all the older women were illiterate. A few exceptions were to be found where parents had let girls complete their ‘infant’ classes or, where women in preparation for baptism had been persuaded to lean to read, as was required by the church amongst those who seemed able to cope with trying in their early adulthood.

This vast difference between boys and girls, young men and young women, led to the degrading of women and to an increased inflation of the importance, and superiority of the male. One illustration comes to mind out of that chapter in the growth of the nation.

I had picked one member of the staff as the best fitted for promotion to a vacant position. This meant transferring him with his family and loads of personal effects. I admit that his new residence was not well equipped with furniture, nor indeed in good repair, but was surprised to overhead his remarks to his colleagues at the next quarterly meeting. He told them of the lack of this and that, and went on, “Do you know, there was only one bed in the house, my wife had to sleep on the floor”.

Joyce was very keen to do something, especially for the teenage girls who had missed out on schooling. We put her plans before the Government Lady Education Officer and to the local church members and gained their approval and co-operation. Then we made an appointment to see the Owa of Ilesha. He said it pleased him. I pointed out that it would mean asking for an extension of our compound as it was essential to have an establishment for girls boarders under Joyce’s direct supervision. We produced a layout plan. After some time for consideration and discussion with his chiefs and the families concerned in our hope for requisition of land, we got permission to go ahead with his blessing.

We lost no time in going ahead. Our boundary wall was extended so that normal access would be through our own mission house gate. We built two bungalows for the boarders; each house had a section for a resident lady teacher. Then we built an open plan school and craft room, with a large kitchen at one end, providing cooking facilities for the girls but also for Domestic Science needs.

We were fortunate to get one of our own young women who had been trained in Normal Teaching and also Domestic Science. Suitably named Hope Orioye made the commencement of this venture a hope. She lived up to her name and the Methodist Homecraft Centre (MHC) became widely known and highly respected.

In addition to Domestic Science subjects, we naturally placed great stress on the three Rs and on subjects appropriate in an Iyawo Home (marriage preparation). A later development became possible through the invention by a Belgian Priest of a new, simple type loom. We visited his Centre in Ibadan and were allowed to copy his loom, so, armed with measurements, we returned and I worked with our circuit carpenter in producing our own copy. We made several looms before starting the class.

Hitherto, our men could weave long strips of narrow cloth, some five or six inches wide. Our women very often had very simple frames made of bamboo, on the verandahs of their houses. In order to work their looms, they sat on the mud floor, with their feet in a hole, dug for comfort, and laboriously threaded home ginned and spun cotton through a needle-like stick, thus laying layer after layer of weft through alternate threads of the warp. Banging down each layer they could produce a six to eight foot length of up to twenty four-inch broadcloth.

Now, our loom had two pedals and the weft, carefully prepared and wound on a shuttle, was shot through the correct spaces. Pressure on the other pedal opened the alternate spaces and, very quickly a broadcloth of any length was produced. This became popular because of its simplicity and speed of operation once the warp had been set up.

The M.H.C. grew. Of course there were misfits who caused arguments and sometimes fights in the school. Fortunately the parents were very keen on discipline and often came to thank the staff for punishing their daughter. Quite a number of our male teachers found their life partners, products of the Homecraft Centre, girls who had missed out on ordinary schooling.

7.6 Government administration

The NA or, Native Administration was the official title of the system bound into the Constitution of Nigeria, for Indirect Rule through the native chiefs. It was recognised in the early days that native rulers were not necessarily ready to assume independent control of the areas agreed in 1914 for the setting up of The Colony roughly boundaries of the old Colony of Lagos and the Southern and Norther Provinces (the boundaries of the former Protectorates of Southern and of Northern Nigeria))

Until the native chiefs were ‘educated’ and ready to assume authority they would be under the supervision of an administrative staff. This policy recognised more favourably the Emirs of the North, usually men of great ability and often regal in their bearing. In the half of the Northern Provinces occupied by the large Pagan tribes and in the south because of the multiplicity of petty kinglets, much greater and longer education in indirect rule had to be undertaken.

During this period, Direct Rule by the Government was unavoidable. So, the Governor, with a Lieutenant Governor in each of the three areas (Colony, Southern and Northern) filled the two top grades. In each Province, there was a Resident Magistrate and under him many District Officers and Assistant District Officers. These were all Europeans, as the white man was generally called. They were the advisors to the Chiefs in the maintenance of justice, law and order.

The Governor and his Lieutenant Governors were rarely seen up country, apart from official visits or occasions when they rode or were driven, in the splendour of their uniform and long feather plumed helmets. On arrival in Lagos after leave, or on a visit, missionaries, traders and others were expected to call on His Excellency. No, not for coffee, but simply to sign his visitors book which was lodged in a sentry box just inside the gate and under the watchful eye of a policeman.

The Resident Magistrates were more approachable, by appointment of course. The District Officer and more particularly his Assistant District Officers had to be approachable and use less starch in their dress and manner. The DO (District Officer) was the one who had to bear the brunt of mistakes or negligence. He usually managed to get his assistant to bear a big share in any blame.

When the Prince of Wales visited Nigeria, great preparations were made in all the places he would see (by careful planning). Ground was swept, old ruins were demolished, flags, banners and bunting abounded. One large banner across a road read

God save the King
God bless the Prince of Wales
God protect the Governor
God help the D.O.

On the very infrequent visits of the Governor, or even his Lieutenant Governor to our town, Ilesha, he would give a dinner for all the Europeans. It was a full evening dress occasion when office or appointment and seniority therein were strictly taken into account in arranging table placements. An Agriculture Officer for example, would occupy a higher seat that a Sanitary Inspector. I recall one such dinner when two lower rank officials were having a heated discussion. The Steward brought round the savoury dish, a cheese, onion and I know not what concoction. As one of these guests was being served, he was so busy talking that he failed to notice that the supply was strictly limited to one croquette each. Our friend took two. At first the steward whispered “put one back” but, as no notice was taken he spoke more clearly and, in a final effort to retrieve the morsel, he almost made the demand in a shout. By this time, His Excellency and all the guests were watching pending developments. There was a silence until realising his intrusion into the Governor’s hospitality allowance, he blushingly put one back. Conversation resumed and the other hopeful, waiting guests saw their turn come, and the multitude were fed.

The many departments of Government worked on a nation-wide basis. Education with which I had most to do, had Provincial Offices through which all contact with our school was organised. Every school had to be registered and we had to complete numerous forms, always in triplicate, when making application for the opening of a new school. If the Provincial Superintendent of Education was satisfied, we did not have to go any further.

7.7 Education

The Nigerian Handbook published the following figures when I arrived. In the Southern Provinces including the Colony of Lagos, there were 48 Government schools, but 3,578 Mission schools, of these 192 were given a government grant. In contrast with the South, at the same time the Northern Provinces had 69 Government schools and 133 Mission, largely on the Plateau area, inhabited by Pagan worshippers amongst whom missionaries were allowed to work. The rest of the north was regarded strictly as Moslem territory. There were 29,383 Mohammaden schools. In such schools the time of the pupils was occupied in learning by heart and writing in Arabic, portions of the Koran. The exceptions would be a small number where simple rules of arithmetic were taught. Passers-by these schools, often on the verandahs of houses would hear the teacher’s voice as he read a sentence and then the thunder of one hundred voices as the children repeated each after him.

There were some exceptions to these Moslem schools. Little groups of traders from the south, could get permission to hold classes, or even have one of their own Christian teachers to conduct a reasonable curriculum, including Religious Instruction if confined to the offspring of Christian parents.

Lagos had one secondary school for boys and a newly formed secondary school where “Girls are taught those things necessary for them to know as the wives of English speaking Africans”.

It is not surprising that there was no University in Nigeria for many years afterwards. Sufficiently wealthy African parents, were able to send their fortunate sons to an English University. In the Missions, we sometimes aided young men to go to Freetown, Sierra Leone where Fourah Bay College was affiliated with Durham University. This was the sole centre in the whole of West Africa where a degree could be obtained. So, from infant schools to a university training, it will be seen clearly the tremendous impact of the work of the Christian Church in the education and enlightenment of the sons, and later the daughters of West Africa.

When I became superintendent of the Ilesha Circuit we had four government-assisted schools. A high standard had to be reached before grant could be received and the standard had to be maintained to the satisfaction of the Department. There was an annual inspection carried through by a European officer and we received a very full report. I have already commented on the requirement of answers in triplicate to the very many forms sent out from the Provincial office. On one occasion, I received a large bunch of documents which, to keep them together, the sender had tied round with a piece of red tape. I could not resist the temptation so I wrote a separate letter: “Dear Sir, I return the variety of papers you have sent. I also return the red tape as I feel it will be of greater use in your office than in mine”.

In addition to the four assisted schools, I had twenty-five others with anything from 25-100 pupils. I used much time in going from compound to compound to beg for at least one boy from each in order to enable us to reach the minimum required for opening a village school.

This is the way most mission schools began and it was no wonder that our numbers of schools so far exceeded Government efforts, the personal touch and the interest in and knowledge of the local parents, made such results possible. But, our success was also much easier in the training of teachers. We were very well served in Methodism by our big Training College in Ibadan. In this seat of learning we catered for the training not only of school teachers, but also of Sub Pastors and for Ministers. Well staffed by Europeans and Africans with good qualifications, we drew our material for training from all areas of our work.

Each year a selection examination was held and each circuit sent forward its brightest pupil teachers. They not only sat for the papers but each also had an interview. Yoruba youth had a non deflectable confidence in ability and, many times has a youth, shocked that his name did not appear in the list of accepted candidates, begged me to write to the Principal to recheck what was an obvious omission.

7.8 Pupils

It is very interesting to note that academic knowledge of the type required for teaching was evidently no indication of the true potentiality of a candidate in other professions. There are two classic examples. Although Awolowo failed in his attempt to enter for training, the Principal was sorry for he had been impressed by something in the lad. On request, he gladly gave the lad a job as the college office boy. This is where I first met him. He did well in his work and later, became interested in politics and shone in this field. He became one of the early Prime Ministers of the Southern Parliament.

Another disappointed one in the entrance examination was back teaching in my leading school. Obviously unhappy in his work, he asked whether I could help him to get a job in commerce. I spoke to the Swiss representative of the United Trading Co, under the Basle Mission. He got the job, developed a transport company to convey the cocoa he bought to Lagos for export, rose to great heights including Chairman of the Cocoa Marketing Board, Chairman of Nigerian Airways and ended up with the top job of Governor of the Southern Provinces. He was knighted by the Queen on her visit to Nigeria.

Happily our training work was not confined to boys. Very much later, the slower growth in readiness of parents to spare their girls for schooling, developed and the Church Missionary Society joined with the Methodists in opening a United Missionary College in Ibandan for the training of women teachers. There was always a full queue for entrance and, at the end of their training there was no difficulty in finding appointments for them in our schools. Many served for years before marriage, others, in smaller numbers seemed to prefer a professional life without marriage. This was an extraordinary position in a country where the thought of being childless was anathema.