When, in 1949, John Blower arrived to take up the post of Assistant Conservator of Forests in Tanganyika, he received a terse note of welcome from his new chief saying “take over Southern Province”. He was not to meet him for another twelve months.
It was an appointment which led to a remarkable life in post-war colonial East Africa and Sudan. For the next twenty years Blower served as a forester, game ranger, warden, and briefly as an inspector in the Kenya Police. He was responsible for vast areas of country, at times exceeding 25,000 square miles.
In this fascinating book the author introduces us to many colourful and eccentric characters from both the native and European populations. His matter-of-fact accounts of long foot safaris are unforgettable, as are the descriptions of the incredible variety of wildlife which roamed unhindered across the continent.
Throughout, his respect and obvious liking for the African people is evident, qualities reciprocated by the many tribesmen and colleagues with whom he was associated. A skilled photographer, John Blower accompanies his narrative with many evocative pictures of a way of life now almost gone forever.
A darker side of African history is vividly described in several passages, in particular his account of the hunt for “General Kago,” one of the most notorious leaders of the Mau Mau terrorists in Kenya, and the need to deal with poachers and cattle raiders in potentially dangerous situations.
In the epilogue, John reflects on the seismic changes that affected the countries’ administrative policies, which in turn altered the face of Africa in the latter part of the twentieth century.
Banagi Hill is a valuable piece of first-hand African history, told by a skilled, highly sympathetic and knowledgeable professional.