Comments from Colin Carlin

I have now finished reading your book. It brought back floods of memories that rather delayed the process! Only someone with your inside knowledge could have written such a perceptive and balanced analysis of the very varied responses you received. I also found that I knew quite a number of  those people and it was fascinating to read their view of those long ago days and to learn what happened to them later. Thank you for completing such a worth while task so well.

As I read though I made some notes – mainly for my own amusement, but I thought that I would send some of them to you anyway. They are really just some more background, reminisces and anecdotes. I hope you have not tired of them all already. I have not commented on your general points and conclusions as I am not an anthropologist and I agree with them anyway!


Page 12

Jewish settlement proposals. Abercorn was also considered as a possible location.There was a negative comment from the DC too.

Polish Refugees. For much more on this see the website referenced on

Apparently the Malindi Camp was regarded as a form of heaven by the refugees who had suffered in Siberia and the Caucasus, while Abercorn was called the “Switzerland of Africa.

I don’t think they were particularly segregated from the rest of the European population. I know that in Abercorn there was even a gunfight over two of the women! You would think that in a tiny community which must have had no more that 40 European men, they could have found an alternative among the 400 odd women in the camp!

It was in the Thom’s Stores building – later from 1949 The Lake Press building. One man was shot in the side. As he fell he remarked “you got me pal” They made it up and remained good friends.

While there were camp schools for the younger children, the older boys and girls  in Abercorn were sent to Lusaka schools. In first year the older girls went via Lakes Tanganyika and Victoria to a Convent school in what may have been Entebbe. It is difficult to  place the Polish transliteration of the name! I think the RC Church had something to do with this.  But it was felt unnecessary difficult and they switched to NR schools. One Polish boy we knew, who lived near Sumbuwanga, took this route to school three times a year to get to his school in Nairobi.


Page 63

Cinemas. There is a good story about the Gamwell sisters in Abercorn. There were regular Wednesday night film shows at the Tanganyika Victoria Memorial Institute [TVMI]

A visitor from England noticed that the film being shown had been badly cut up and in his view quite ruined. On enquiry it emerged the our films came from the South African film circuit and were censored by the SA Censor. Someone mentioned this to Marion Gamwell, who with her sister Hope, were regular film goers. They especially liked Westerns. Marion said that she would speak to Arthur. Everyone assumed that she meant Arthur Benson the Governor as we knew that she had known him in London during the War when she was involved with the French section of SOE among other things. But not a bit of it. Marion meant J. Arthur Rank. She knew him too. We then received uncut films from the East African film circuit via the East African Airways flight that landed in Abercorn.

Amateur dramatics. I think these more than made up for an absence of professional actors and performing artists. I suspect the amateurs were often rather better than any local professionals would have been given the standard of the odd  professional entertainer we saw from SA. My aunt Joan Carlin had preformed and produced plays at the Cairo Opera House during the War and others had performed  and produced at university. The later Kasama productions were particularly good and almost avant guarde – Pinter etc.!


Page 64

Not sure I would agree about the thinly stocked bookshops.  There was an excellent bookshop in N’dola [who was the dynamic lady who ran it] and the ones in Lusaka were also

good for the period? But I have form on this. I ran three little bookshops in Abercorn/Mbala, Kasama and Fort Rosebery/Mansa that tried in a limited way, to provide a choice for the local market as well as Educational needs. People came from Mpanda in TT to visit the bookshop in the Lake Press. As to libraries. The TVMI with some 5,000 books accumulated over some 50 years had a serious range of biography, politics, history and local history as well as the usual book of the month novels etc. Lusaka main library always struck me as pretty good. Maybe on the Copperbelt it was all rather different?


Page 108

There was a European school in Abercorn at that time, but it only went up to about standard three I suppose. It was run by Mrs Mantell and her daughter Ruth at a pleasant cool thatched building on the Polish Camp site. Later it moved to the TVMI and then under the Federal Govt. a fully functioning primary school was opened. Mrs Mantell was the wife of the manager of the Mandala Stores [African Lakes Co.] there was also a good European School in Iringa that people tried to get to from NR.

Side note. Later I rather wished I had been sent to the Lycée in Elizabethville in the Congo. At Rennie in about 1956/57 we had an exchange visit by a group from the Lycée in E/ville. At the end of the visit there was a dance. Well! Those Belgian girls were certainly different from the Afrikaans girls who, as you say, rather predominated at Jean Rennie. We were always keen to be invited to the Annual Dominican Convent Dance. But it was very tricky to get an invite. The Abercorn flight to the Copperbelt called via Elizabethville for a while, so as children flying down to school we were familiar with the airport.


Page 114

Yes the Congo Pedicle. I found that the trick was to buy a pile of Zambia Newspapers as one left N’dola at first light and hand them out liberally at both sides of the border post. The Zambia staff were delighted and the Congolese seemed grateful for them too.It certainly eased  tensions to have something to give them without it having to be extorted.

In this way I escaped paying a bounty to the Congolese from the provisions I normally bought in town. On one occasion I had transacted all the hurdles and turned North out of [Sikania] when I was flagged down by a group of heavily armed soldiers draped in ammo belts. They demanded that I take them up the road and all started to climb into my little Renault R4. I started remonstrating in bad French and Chibemba and eventually, after some good humoured banter, we settled on three in the back and one on the front with me. Tight squeeze! We set off over the corrugations when I realized that their guns were pointing at me. So I stopped and told them that I was not taking them anywhere if they were pointing their guns in my direction. I tried to keep the tone light and bantering and it worked .They all laughed and stuck their guns, including a medium machine gun, out of the windows. So we went off looking like something from a Mad Max cartoon.


Page 119

Sources of Information.

Some time  in about 1959/60 the Gamwell sisters called a meeting of all the Settlers at the TVMI. They specifically excluded Government people. Their friend Lord Hailsham [I think it was he] had sent them a tape recording of a meeting of the 1921 Committee of the Conservative Party. Hope Gamwell then played it on their Grundig. The tape made explicit the sentiments behind Macmillan’s “Wind of Change” speech. The Conservatives wanted out of Africa and all the trouble it bought in the UN and with the Americans. The sentiment of TVMI  meeting was that the game was up and it was time to make arrangements to leave. We knew early on that it was a matter of a very few years, not the decade or more we had expected.
Page 121

Lenshina. We had a large refugee camp for them a few miles from Abercorn. Everyday  a lorry would pass through the town centre loaded with the coffins of those who had not survived months scavenging in the bush. The  town  got together and sent out pots and cans and blankets and clothes for the numerous survivors.

The Resident minister in Kasama then stated in a Provincial Development Committee meeting that he “knew what to do with them” meaning the Lenshina. This seriously alarmed the local officials responsible for the camp who did not want a further tragedy on their hands. One of them asked my father to write an article on for the UK papers the condition in the camp  to demonstrate that they were doing their best – as indeed they were. My father and I visited the camp   – quite an experience for a young person. They were very orderly with food and medical care etc. provided, but the people arriving from a long period in the  bush were in  a very poor condition and many died of diseases they were to weak to fight.  John Carlin’s report was published in the Observer and the Northern News and caused some political upsets.
Page 123

Mrs Burton. This really got to people. Some blamed Barbara Castle and John Stonehouse for stirring up the passions that led to the sad incident. They were visiting NR at the time and made some inflammatory speeches. People felt that everyone knew that Independence was coming and the only argument was over the timing. So why make things worse?

In comparison with your work there are many unattributed views in these notes. But they are intended to give background and to show how things were seen among the people I knew.

Best Wishes

Colin Carlin


Colin Carlin’s Published works:

William Kirkpatrick of Málaga: Consul, négociant and entrepreneur, and grandfather of the Empress Eugénie Paperback – The Grimsay Press, Glasgow, 2011.

and in translation

William Kirkpatrick de Málaga: Cónsul en Málaga, afanoso industrial y abuelo de la emperatriz Eugenia, consorte de Napoleón III, emperador de Francia. (Spanish) Paperback – 2012
The Grimsay Press. 2012.
Due in Autumn 2015

Captain James Carlin, “Commodore” of the South Carolina Blockade Runners.
University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, S.C.

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