Part 4:Diary of British Expat-Margaret Jefferies on a Road trip through Nigeria in 1951
Continued from last week…
with an awning overhead. The groundlings in the ninepennies sit on hard forms and have no shelter from the rain. Their reactions were the same as their white counterparts in England. They warned the hero of impending peril and applauded when right triumphed over wrong.
If you get bored with the show you can gaze up at the night sky overhead and try to pick out the constellations. I was told that sometimes lizards run across the screen with ludicrous effect at tense moments, but saw none at this performance. Perhaps they prefer love scenes to comedies.
1951, Saturday Aug. 3rd. (sic, actually Aug 4th – ed)
Tea with the McBains (Mrs. Spragg's sister) at Yaba, which is the other side of Lagos. Their house has an imitation fireplace. We gathered round this and consumed tea and cake and might almost have been in England. The McBs said they woke up one night and found a thief man in the bedroom. He managed to get away, but had taken only a few oddments, most valuable of which was a pair of sandals.
They gave us plants and pink hibiscus cuttings for the garden. Wendy looks well and seems to thrive out here. She goes to school now she is four.
On the way home we passed a Methodist funeral procession in which the clergy and choir wore cassocks and surplices. The mourners were dressed in white. Funerals here often end up like an Irish Wake in dancing and drinking. Apparently if an old person dies it is considered proper to rejoice as a thanksgiving for longevity, but if a child or very young person dies it is an occasion for mourning.
A funeral here must take place the day after death and often posters are put up announcing “A Funeral will take place tomorrow” and giving particulars to let all friends know in time.
Some coffins are elaborate but are used only for conveying the body to the grave, and then returned empty for future use.
1951, Monday Aug. 5th (sic, actually Aug 6th – ed) August Bank Holiday.
Walked along beach to fishing village and saw native canoes drawn up on beach. These are hollowed out of a tree trunk and are the same as used for centuries. Some are decorated with carved patterns painted white, yellow and brick red. T.'s first walk since accident. His foot healed remarkably well as wounds turn easily septic here.
TOUR TO IBADAN and ILORIN
1951, Sunday Aug. 12th.
With the Symes family and J Clayton we set out after lunch for Ibadan. Drove on tarred road through forest. Reached ABEOKUTA just over fifty miles out of Lagos in time for afternoon tea with Mr. and Mrs. Rose who have a bungalow with magnificent views over town and rocks of Abeokuta. The rocks are in a peculiar formation and one of them is looked on as a very powerful juju. The Rodes showed us a letter from Ronson written after the previous trip to thank them for their hospitality, including “I hope madam and master continue to live in peace together as we do here”. There was a banana tree in their garden with hundreds of green bananas on it.
Before Ibadan the forest becomes less dense. We arrived in time for dinner at the Rest House.
Visited the Trading Companies' shops to buy food for the journey, but saw little of Ibadan itself as the main road by-passes the town.
It has only a few white inhabitants but the largest negro population of any town in the world and is the biggest African city after Cairo. There is a University and a Forestry and Agricultural Research Centre.
In a broadcast recently an English visitor commented on the great number of taxis and cars on the streets of Ibadan, but quoted the following news item from the local paper: “Last night the Ibadan Taxi Drivers' Association met and sacrificed goats, ducks and dogs to Ogun, God of Iron, and prayed to him to prevent accidents” cf the mottoes on the mammy wagons. The African is not mechanically minded and in dealing with the marvels of modern engineering he apparently feels, and with reason, “The arm of flesh will fail you – Ye dare not trust your own”. He would probably recognise this quotation as the African seems to have a wider acquaintance with hymns than the average European.I saw a notice of the formal opening of a new branch of a large bank which announced that a hymn and a prayer would open the proceedings, and was told that this was the accepted custom for any large new business venture. The African does make an attempt to serve both God and Mammon, whereas the European is content to serve only Mammon.
Beyond Ibadan the tarred road ends at the 150th mile out of Lagos, and the laterite begins. Laterite roads are red from the crushed rock with which they are surfaced. They are good for driving on when kept in repair, but are very dusty. In an open car one would need complete Edwardian motoring costume – dust coat, veil and goggles. It is impossible to drive nose to tail over laterite roads, as the vehicle in front raises so much dust it would be like driving in the London fog.
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