Through both nTZ and my flickr photo website a Nigel Roberts has contacted me requesting any information on a Mr G C Murdoch who was the District or Settlement Officer based in Babati in 1959/60. Nigel hitch hiked up from South Africa with friends to climb Kilimanjaro. Mr Murdoch was particularly kind and helpful to him. The text of Nigel's message follows. A few of the regulars to this site might enjoy reading Nigel's trek northwards from SA:-
I have read some of your contributions on nTZ, and have especially enjoyed your photos on Flickr. I hitch-hiked through Tanganyika in 1959-60, and the District Officer in Babati, Mr G. C. Murdoch, was especially kind to me (see down towards the bottom of the following page on my website for full details: http://www.nigel-roberts.info/kilimanjaro-1959.htm). Do you (or any other people you may be in touch with) know if Mr Murdoch is still alive and -- if so -- how I could contact him? Many thanks in advance for any help you may be able to give me. Nigel Roberts (Wellington, New Zealand).
My mother, Marjorie Allen, did not as far as I know keep a diary in the normal sense of the phrase. However, she wrote articles on subjects that she found interesting and important. One such article was written after the occasion of the Governor of Tanganyika's visit to Kondoa on the 23rd June 1950. There was no year added to the article however the only Friday 23rd June in the late 40s/early 50s fell in 1950.
Hopefully this will give some flavour of colonial life at the time.
I have copied her writings and sketches to PC and they can be found as an attachment to this post.
The author Donald Barton writes an account of the varied and often colourful aspects of colonial administration in rural Tanganyika. He was a Colonial Officer for the decade preceeding independence and worked in the Kondoa, Masasi and Ukerewe districts. The book should appeal to both serious and casual students of African affairs and history.
Both my parents, John (Jack) and Marjorie Allen, were keen photographers and recorded life in Tanganyika in pictures. I have scanned these images and placed them on a photo sharing website which can be viewed at
Mbeya School was co-educational primary boarding school founded by the Germans and taken over by the British in 1942. It would appear to have closed its doors in 1963. It was situated in the Southern Highlands Province close to the township of Mbeya. For most pupils the only method of travel to school would have been by road although a very few may have flown in. The nearest rail connection was the town of Itigi on the East to West railway line between Dar-es-Salaam on the Indian Ocean coast and Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Children between the ages of 6/7(?) and 11, years 1 to 5, attended the school from almost all areas of Tanganyika and it was not uncommon for journey times of 2 to 3 days between home and school. The pupil population were separated into four 'Houses' with each House having two dormitories, one for girls, the other for boys. These were Wallington (Red), Livingstone (yellow), Burton (Green) and Stanley (Blue). Each House had a House Master (boys) and Mistress (girls) and each dormitory had a Matron.
The most clear memory is of my dormitory. Looking from the front of the Assembly Hall, roughly North, and directly opposite and parallel, was another long Hall building where we would spend our playtimes in periods of wet weather. As an aside, this room had a large wooden model of a camouflage painted British Lancaster bomber suspended from the ceiling, why? who knows, unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, out of reach of even the tallest kids. On the rear side extending away from this Hall were three of the dormitory wings. Mine (Wallington boys) was the furthest to the right (East). The dormitory consisted of a long room divided into two by a brick archway, a cloakroom at the Hall end and two wings off to the right at the Hall and bottom ends. The bottom wing was the Matrons flat and the top wing the bathroom and toilets. A veranda ran along the entire Western side of the dormitory where each evening we would clean our shoes and submit them for Matrons inspection. There was a row of beds (10 - 15?) either side of a central aisle with each bedspace containing a bedside locker and (normally only during the rainy season) a mosquito net suspended from the ceiling. The beds were allocated in terms of age with the youngest immediately outside Matron's flat and the eldest at the farthest end next to the cloakroom. The cloakroom held a number of large, locked, shelved cupboards, each shelf containing a pupils worldly belongings, in essence, their clothing for the entire term, each and every item carefully name tagged. The bathroom held 3 or 4 baths in which we would be put, two to each bath, every evening before bedtime. Occasionally, children would be invited into Matron's flat for tea and biscuits. Matron, in our case Miss Frost, was 'mother' to us. Her responsibilities included laundry, cleanliness (both dorm and kids), minor discipline, overseeing shoe cleaning, bed making and bathing and a whole host of other, behind the scenes, tasks. The House Master/Mistress was primarily a teacher but given the secondary task of building his or her 'House' into a team. They were the driving force behind inter-house sports, plays, singing or other competitions. They also dished out corporal punishment for major infractions of the 'House' rules wielding that object of terror, the 'Tackie', or in the case of our House Master, Mr Briant, a nine inch long slab of flexible rubber which we boys nicknamed 'The Dunlop'. I will always remember being caught after 'lights out' stripping wood from the flat tops of the cloakroom cupboards (why , havn't a clue) with a number of other boys. The following evening we, the miscreants, were lined up in the dormitory's central aisle, told to drop our pyjama bottoms and bend over. Mr Bryant then paced up the aisle giving each lad a whack as he passed. At the end of the line he turned around and retraced his steps repeating the punishment. It must have been hilarious to watch but I didn't feel like laughing at the time! Any infringements of discipline in lessons would be dealt with by the Headmaster, William 'Bill' Morgan. Fortunately my visits to the Headmasters house were all social since I was friendly with his son, Richard. The only clear memories of meals was breakfast. In the main a ghastly porridge, with salt to taste, and toast. I only ever ate toast after the first taste of porridge. I believe it was once a week, probably Sunday, when porridge would be replaced by Corn Flakes. If you were lucky enough to arrive with or be sent jars of jam, marmalade, Bovril or Marmite, you were allowed to keep them in a welsh dresser type cupboard at the front of the dining hall and use them on your toast. This was always a good bargaining chip for favours. 'Borrowing' someone's conserve was a good way of getting into a scrap as my younger brother, Robert, found out after 'borrowing' my Marmite. Ownership of toys and other bits and pieces were jealously guarded so empty Corn Flake packets, ideal for storage or making things, were eagerly sought after. According to my letters home I helped out a Miss Bunta (spelling ??) in the kitchens during spare time giving me a better than average chance of collecting the boxes. This also gave me the opportunity of sampling some of the better tasting foodstuffs they produced. One of the more pleasant things the kitchen produced was birthday parties or teas. I can't recall how these parties actually worked out but the kitchen would provide a cake and the birthday girl or boy could invite a limited number of her or his friends, the choice of which depended upon who was in favour at the time. Plenty of social grooming going on then!!!! Teachers and staff ate with the pupils with each member of staff looking after a table, probably to keep us in line whilst we ate. From my letters it would appear that the seniors of Year 5 would eat supper (dinner)at a different time to the rest. This is gleaned from a line in my letter, whilst I was in class 4B, which states " I do prep in the evenings now with the seniors and have supper with them". Why or how this came about beats me! Although the school teachers and administrators tried to keep our time as active and regimented as possible there was plenty of opportunity to play. In the main, all periods of play time had to be spent in the areas of the school playing fields, of which there were three. Hanging around the Dorms was not an option open to us. Two football/hockey pitched were sited to the right of the school entrance road between the main school classroom buildings and the main road. The third pitch was on the left of the school entry road between the kitchen/dining block and the main road. The pitch closest to the classrooms block was separated from its neighbour by a 15 yard or so strip of mature trees with more woodland at its Eastern end. The furthest pitch was bounded by woodland on its Eastern and Southern sides whilst the Pitch behind the Dining block was bounded on all sides by either strips of trees or more dense woodland. These wooded areas were the most likely places to find children at play. Many tiny feet over the years had carved pathways between the trees and the more inaccessible places made great places to build dens. Although climbing trees was against school rules there was one tree which we named 'Big Uggy', after a character in a comic of the time, which had broad low branches easily scaleable by 9/10 year olds. We spent many happy times both under and amongst it's branches. There was also a weekly, Sunday afternoon walk, accompanied by members of staff, to the River Gardens. This was an area of tended lawns, flowers and trees either side of the river which flowed in an S shape to the North of the school where a pump house was situated to pump water uphill to the school. We all looked forward to this trip for a variety of reasons. There were Catfish in the river and regular fishing competitions were held. All sorts of childhood games were played and I think the Guy Fawkes night bonfire was lit there. I still have a photograph that my mother took of young girls at the River Garden when, as a teacher, she visited the school in 1946, more than 10 years before my time there. One incident of note, was being quietly drawn well over to one side of the path as we walked down the hill to the river to avoid a deadly 'Black Mamba' snake sunning itself close to the other side of the path. Our native guards standing by to spring into action if it showed any hint of belligerence. During the 'rainy' season we were limited to playing in the aforementioned Hall during rain storms. As we grew older another means of passing the time was to offer to walk the dogs of teachers and staff. If they agreed and began to trust you they would ask you to return as and when you could. I and a friend befriended one of the more elderly teachers, name long past forgotten, in this way and could be seen every Sunday, towards evening, walking her dog which was followed by tea and biscuits on her veranda. Half term was generally spent in school for those who lived too far away to travel and the staff would try to help us pass the time with organised activities. There were at least two active Cub Scout and Brownie packs. The Headmaster, Mr Morgan ran the cub pack that I joined. A variety of non sporting competitions such as fancy dress, kite making & flying, etc, took place throughout the year. Occasionally you would be invited to spend half term with a friends family living fairly locally (anything up to 100 miles from school). However, permission had to be sought from your parents before the school would authorise such a holiday. The school grounds were fairly extensive so teachers on playground duties had a nightmare of a job to keep their charges under observation so there was a element of trust and obedience to school rules between us and the teachers. The grounds were also patrolled by native guards armed with throwing spears to keep away undesirables, of which we saw few, if any. I have less memory of life in the classroom. I recall there was some element of competition by the awarding of pluses and minuses for work. Gaining a certain number of pluses over any minuses (i.e. one minus would negate a plus) resulted in the award of a 'Star' which was either handed to you, or your name was read out, during morning assembly. I forget which. There was also something called the 'Three Weekly Order' which gave your academic position in class during that period. Exams were held but whether they were termly or annually I forget. After lunch we were all sent off to our dorms for a lie down before continuing with afternoon lessons. On Saturdays the mornings were spent writing letters home and to other relatives. I regularly wrote letters to my brother David in St Georges & St Michaels School, Iringa. After lunch we looked forward to a trip to the tuck shop where we could buy such delicacies as peanut brittle, sweet cigarettes; etc; Later in the afternoon we were entertained by a film. Comedy and westerns were the favourites but occasionally they would throw in the odd documentary. On Sunday all pupils attended a church service of one sort or another. At each service one of the children would read the lesson, I was selected several times throughout my time at the school. The names of teachers and staff that have cropped up in my letters home are;
Mr William 'Bill' Morgan - Headmaster Mr Archer - Music Miss Wolf - PT and Sports Miss Frost - House Matron Miss Black Miss Muff Miss Parsimanos Miss Doughty - Senior Dorm Matron Miss Thompson - Class Teacher Mr Briant - Teacher & House Master Mr Ferguson Miss Cully Miss Bunta - Kitchen staff Miss Harden - Craft Mr Roberts-Favell Mr M A Henderson Miss Swift
Most illnesses were handled , on site, in the school sick bay. At one time they had to clear the senior boys dormitory to turn it into an isolation ward when Chicken Pox swept through the school. I was one of the unfortunates and vividly remember being lined up with the other sufferers to be liberally doused all over with Calomine Lotion by the Matron. Dental problems such as fillings or tooth removal were referred to the Asian Dentist in Mbeya. Not a pleasant visit. He would almost always use a general anaesthetic which meant no food or drink during the prior 24 hours. That didn't stop me from being as sick as a dog when I woke up from the anaesthetic. I got on well with a lot of the boys at Mbeya but I have never been very good at remembering names. It did not help having no further contact with them after the age of 10 due to our departure to the UK. From my letters I have uncovered the names of some of the boys. They are, in no particular order;
Colin Parks Richard Morgan Alan Dickson David Sargant Robert Carter Raymond Wessel George Shaw Kenneth Mitchell The Lillifords Simon Wilby Stuart Wood The Toynes Geoffrey Carter
These memories would not be complete without a mention of the epic trek that we made between home and school. Living approximately 30 miles from the South West corner of Lake Victoria in the West Lake Province village of Biharamulo the first stage of the journey was in my Father's car to Mwanza on the South East shore of the lake. This entailed 100+ miles of rough bush road, which turned to a muddy sludge track in the wet seasons, to the car ferry between Bussisi and Kikongo and onwards to Mwanza. I don't recall spending the night in Mwanza so it must have been a very early start from home. At mid afternoon we were loaded aboard the train at Mwanza Station and set off towards the rail junction at Tabora. With no snacks or drinks available to buy on the train, between meals, we boarded with whatever our respective parents gave us for the trip. On one occasion, my mother being ever practical, put us on the train with a box of concentrated Rowntrees Jelly cubes instead of sweets, and a full, plastic, water bottle . My younger brother, Robert, in his inimitable wisdom, decided to flavour the water by dropping a couple of jelly cubes into his water bottle. What he found later, when thirsty, I leave to your imagination. Suffice to say that we didn't have any implements small enough to fit through the neck of the water bottle to scoop out the contents. An evening meal was served in relays in the restaurant car after which we retired to our compartments for the night. At some unearthly hour we would be woken up by bangs, clangs, bumps and shouts as our carriages were attached to the Kigoma to Dar train at Tabora Junction. Onwards through the night towards Itigi. Breakfast was served in the restaurant car followed by a return to our compartments until our arrival at Itigi. The country we passed through on the train was sparsely populated and consisted mainly of open bush. It may surprise people not brought up in East Africa that long journeys could be made through the bush without ever seeing any wild game. I don't recall ever seeing any wild animals on either the train or bus journeys. At Itigi we were given a light lunch and possibly an early evening meal before boarding the Mbeya bound overnight buses. A favourite pastime in Itigi was digging for 'Fools Gold' which could be found all around the station. Once on the buses the first thing to do was ingratiate yourself with the African guard who generally took up the whole of the rear bench seat. If you were lucky he would invite you to share this seat giving you a more comfortable 'bed' for the night. This favour would usually go to the older children so your age was a relatively important factor. Using the word comfortable is probably a misnomer since the seats were of the wooden slat variety. Arrival at Mbeya School was very much dependant on the state of the roads. I have documented arrivals at 4 or 5 am and also midday. We would generally arrive at Mbeya several days before the new term actually began so had to be kept occupied in one way or another for a few days. One of the first jobs was to write home to let your parents know you had arrived safely. And, joy of joys, you had the return journey to look forward to at the end of term. Only locally stationed families got to see their kids at half term.