Comments

 

From Mick Bond, former District Officer/District Commisssioner/ Deputy Registrar, University of Newcastle

I am sending this message to those who have shown a historical interest in the last years of Northern Rhodesia before it became independent Zambia and for whom I have e-mail addresses.  Some of you were kind enough to buy my own book, “From Northern Rhodesia to Zambia,” and I trust that cured any insomnia you had. I now mostly strongly recommend that you buy a fascinating and informative book which has recently come on the market, self-published by a friend and ex-colleague of mine, Callum Christie.  I attach a flyer for his “Goodbye Colonialism, Farewell Feudalism.”

Callum was a District Officer whose first posting was for 3 years in Senanga, 1959-62.  The book’s contents therefore concentrate on the situation at that time in Barotseland, an area of Northern Rhodesia which we all recognised as “different” but not all of us took the trouble to understand.  What Callum has done is to reproduce in an abridged form a collection of the very descriptive letters he wrote at the time to his family (and his wife-to- be).  They are the accurate primary source, undistorted by lapses of memory over the intervening decades;  and to these he has added, where helpful, explanatory comments from a 2016 perspective.

In comparison with many of his fellow officers in the Provincial Administration, Callum was way ahead of his time both in social interactions and in foreseeing “the political tsunami that was about to engulf” the rulers of Barotseland as the nationalist movement developed elsewhere in Northern Rhodesia in the lead-up to Independence.  We all have much to learn from his objective and well-balanced accounts of that area over those years.

I urge you to buy it, have your eyes opened, enjoy it, and recommend it onwards to other friends.

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From Sir Richard Jolly, former Director, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Assistant Secretary-General of the UN 1982-2000 and former Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF.

The whole book is truly wonderful and you have constructed it brilliantly, with just enough explanatory sections to set the letters in context, a time long ago but still, for some of us, vivid and romantic (if somewhat ambiguously) . The letters themselves bring so many Barotse events to life as well as your sympathy with the local people in spite of the hierarchies and racism of the colonial system. I have found your accounts and your reactions to your involvements most thought provoking, not surprising but nonetheless thought provoking. I have my own bunch of weekly letters sent back from Baringo District in Kenya over 1957 and 1958, when I was a community development officer. I have not looked at any of them since they were sent– and after reading yours, I fear mine will show too little of the detailed and insightful descriptions of people and events which you capture so well let alone your honest self-awareness. But I was near enough to the structure and operations of the British colonial system to see you as a District Officer checking the books and giving presentations in Lozi – holding a baraza was how it would be expressed in Kenya. Your descriptions of preparations and registration for the elections was also fascinating, when Welensky was riding high even though the break-up of the Federation was imminent

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From David Moir, Former Managing Director, Standard Chartered Bank, Botswana; resident in Sesheke District which borders Senanga District, Zambia

I have just finished reading your book this morning. I thoroughly enjoyed it, what a great read. It has been very well put together. I have an extensive library of books concerning Zambia and there is nothing quite as detailed on the Senanga area as yours. I have read nothing in the book that may upset people, on the contrary I believe it should be in all Zambian libraries, especially the schools, should they have such a luxury. I’m currently building a library at Silolo school. I must say I share your views on the politics at that time. Wonderful photographs, many views of which I have not seen before

In the early days after Independence the PA were not portrayed in the best light and there is no doubt that the “PA” of today, if one can call it that, don’t carry out the district services that your generation did. Your book will certainly open some eyes.

 

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From David Salmon, former DO and District Commissioner, family solicitor.

I read and very much enjoyed your book. I think that the blend of letters and commentary is very effective. The spontaneity of the letters is amplified by the background information and the comments on what has occurred since. Your photographs are stunning. I am also very conscious of the amount of information which you thought your parents were capable of handling which makes mine seem rather trivial and gossipy.

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From Rev James Wilkie, former Church of Scotland missionary, Isoka.

It is a great story, well written and beautifully produced.  Callum, you must have written wonderful letters home and obviously could provide lyrical descriptions of scenes when you had the time. What helps the narrative in the book of course is that from your perspective within the administration you could actually follow quite closely all the negotiations that took place prior to Independence.  You have outlined these very clearly and this is important for those who read the book.

I found lots of interesting things.  For example, if I ever knew it, I had forgotten that you were stationed at Kasama for a time, and that you had Bemba as well as Lozi.  Your emphasis on talking with the local people in their own language rather than bullying them, as some did was terribly important.  You were part of a valuable group of District Officials that included Mick Bond, Lindsay Stewart, John Hudson and others who really had the welfare of Zambia’s future citizens at heart.

Irene knew the Hudsons a little for she stayed with them when he was DC Isoka and she had to travel to Isoka to give evidence following post mortems.

Your descriptions of life on the Barotse flood plain emphasises to me how much geography and climate shaped what one could do in rural Zambia. The Barotse flood plain shaped so much of your practice. For me on the other hand, it was the northern stretches of the Luangwa valley and the hill country that surrounded the headwaters that shaped my touring in my parish.  And the people were very different in that UNIP heartland.

All in all this is a magnum opus, and you should be very proud of it. Thank you for a great treat.

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From Colin Carlin, born Abercorn (now Mbala), editor of the Abercornucopia website, historian.

My only niggle is about the Federation and your view of Welensky. And we have aired these views together over the years!

I know that, from a Barotse viewpoint and indeed for many rural Zambians, it was a very unwelcome imposition. But the country they enjoy now made  major leaps in the development of the infrastructure during the few short years of the Federation. Rural Hydro Electric schemes transformed township living in the 1950s. As did telephones, civil aviation and the rest. None of which had happened under the Colonial Office which (rightly) gave their limited means to aspects of social development. Welensky had to keep all the right wing Ian Smith crowd more or less on side while trying to move African involvement on too.
Reading your book and others by earlier NR DOs I have struck by the way villagers lined up and seem content to hand over their 10/- hut tax. They must have felt they were getting value!

A really valuable record and a fascinating read. So many of us are delighted that you have put it all on record and that you have shown that not all PA people conformed to their stereotype!

From Paul Falkus, Headteacher, Bathampton Primary School

This is to say that your book has arrived safely and is being greatly enjoyed. I am finding it fascinating and a really enjoyable read. There is something really fresh about the use of your personal letters which provide an authentic view of life as its being experienced by a young person who is of the time but also politically slightly distanced and able to see with a more modern sensibility.  The insight into the ways of life of a district officer is astonishing. The miles and miles of walking visiting villages, being sung a welcome, conducting inspections. It’s also especially enjoyable knowing you and being able to picture both the younger you, and you as you are today. I can hear your voice in the letters. There is something wonderful about the care given to the local people and sad also that in some cases the care was tinged with attitudes that were less than great. It feels as though we nearly did it very well indeed! I am enjoying the sense of space, the natural landscapes and the escape from instant communication…such as sending messengers.