Widenham Francis Widenham Fosbery CMG.,OBE.

This son of Francis Widenham Fosbery, was born October 4th 1869 in Liverpool; his father Widenham Francis Fosbery who was born in 1837 in Mosstown co. Westmeath, in Ireland having gone to that City to marry his cousin Mary Alice Fosbery in 1863, and thereafter reside.

W.F.W Fosbery joined the Colonial Civil Service and was posted in West Africa where he advanced from the position of Consul to being both a Provincial Commissioner and High Commissioner.

An article from the Liverpool Press in 1898 reads:



The mail steamer Bakana which has arrived in
Liverpool from the West Coast of Africa brings
intelligence of the Niger Coast expedition against
the Nibo chief, who has been stopping trade. The
Nibo chief was summoned to a palaver, but
refused, and the troops attacked the town, which
was protected by a thick bush stockade. The
stockade was captured and the town demolished
under heavy fire. Two British officers, Major
Searle and Consul Fosbery, were wounded, and
two native soldiers and a number of carriers
killed. The chief escaped into the bush, but
eventually came in and surrendered. No estimate
could be formed of the Nibos killed.
At Sierra Leone, the Naval Brigade, consisting
of about 800 men, was landed from the warships
there, and marched through the town. This is
the first time in the history of that colony that
such a proceeding has occurred, and the natives
seemed greatly impressed. On the basis of information
received from Sierra Leone and statistics collected
it is computed that the loss of life through the
rising in that colony will be found to be very
little short of a thousand. No statistics have been
received of the native war boys and native rebels
killed by the British warships, the West Indian
troops, and the Frontier Police. but information
received leads to the belief that this list will be
found to be an exceedingly heavy one.

Mary Slessor writing in 1908 in her letters from Use, in Southern Nigeria, refers frequently to social engagements with and about the Fosberys, - Widenham Francis and his wife Alice Martha (nťe Lamprey) when he was Provincial Commissioner in Southern Nigeria.

Some of these are reproduced below and give interesting insights into life in the early 20th century in that part of W. Africa.

Slessor, Mary
Letter no. 40.
1st. January 1908

Mr. Biddell has still not written, so her original estimation may have been correct (letter no. 38). Most of the letter is general information but, in particular, Miss Slessor gives details of bridge building in preparation for an 800 man punitive expedition into the upper part of the protectorate. She has a high opinion of Mr. Rosario, the engineer, who was very obliging to her, having brought up her supplies without being asked].

To C.P. jr. Stowmarket.

Use (edit. note)
1. 1. '08

Dear old friend,
The first letter of 1908 shall be to you. I am truly glad to hear at last that you are better & getting up a bit. I trust that by this time you are getting out for a little, & that the festive season has been a happy one. I had Miss Chalmers from Duke Town when the last mail went, & so could not get a bit written to you. She went the other day, & I am alone. Mr. Rosario came up with his asst. engineer, & spent a couple of hours with me in the morning, which was exceedingly kind of them. Mr. Underhill was to have come up last evening, but cd not get away, & the whole of the Europeans at the beach are dining tonight with the Robertsons at Itu. The Doc is so very much at that beach, that I suppose he is bound to give them a night in return. He will be going home in March. The Engineers have just been putting bridges all the way up the Creek side, for an expedition of 800 men who are going far up into the Aro Country, to a place where no European has yet been, & it is partly I hear to avenge the death of a man named Smith. I do hope & pray, that no harm or Killing may come of it. It is such a long & unknown road. The bridges are the palaver [Note 1] of our Court, are they not? There was some disturbance in the market a fortnight ago. A Major something from behind Bendi came & took rods [Note 2] from people in the market, & gave English money, & the Aro Policemen caught a number of our boys, & Enyon boys on the road to & from farms, & threw them into their steel canoe, our boys donít know how to paddle any small canoe, much less those great things, & some of them were hurt, & their clothes torn, & their things all scattered & lost, as were the goods of many women. So the next market was attended by about 50 women, & they wd. not accept rods, & all the villages are expecting to have the white man come & take their rods from them.

The one cry I heard was for Udo Afia Ikot Okpene [Note 3], who flogged - this is a parabolic term in their tongue - them for dirty roads, but took care of them from strangers. I have been trying to conciliate them all round, but it is a pity it happened all the same, the market should be free from panic, if the country is to prosper. The Ikot Okpene folks have been out on patrol again I hear.

Halliday has been on holiday since before Xmas & is not home yet. I have never heard a sound, or had a scrap of a pen from Biddell, so am snubbed for true, & the natives are wondering why I cant help them. However, I am not out of employment. The old Chiefs at Ikot Obon & at Use are always asking when you are coming, so are Itu & Enyon. If you saw your road, I tell them, they would not like to see you. But they say, O we would soon clean it. It is harvest time, so they donít take any notice. I have no news. There is little trade doing at the beach. In fact, almost nothing, & 2 companies are begun at Itu with factories, or Houses of trade. Mr. Underhill works out fairly well, & is very obliging. He kept my little thief boy well for me, but it is not a reformation yet. My girls are all at home, & all doing well, & have forgiven the slanders, & wilfull misrepresentations heaped on them. They are all cutting bush for farms.

I will be going to Ikot Obon, this or next week to repair & prepare for the two ladies. Mr. Rosario says there is a fine camp which they are done with with good clearings, & good water, if we want to open a school. It is 8 miles from Ikot Okpene, but I am to go up to Ikpe I think as soon as the ladies come out. There is nothing to hinder me seeing the Court is out of my hands. I shall go out on my cycle too to see this Camp, but not till the House is ready for the ladies, as they should be out in 2 steamers more. I am thinking of building more here, but cant get labour yet - & making this the Industrial home for women. Getting the artisan to live at Ikot Obon, & the two ladies who will take charge of the home, here, & let the teacher ladies go on to that Camp, or somewhere farther on. I have written this home, but it will take some time, even if it is recommended. I had a young lad in on his way to Ikot Okpene. He is for the telegraph. It was on Sunday, & he came to Church. He did not get much of a Xmas welcome from anyone in Calabar, nor an invitation to the sports or regatta or anything. He seemed a nice lad, & will be going out & in every month he says. I do not intend he shall lack a welcome at this side. I took Miss Chalmers round the Enyon towns. We spent a night at Akani Obio. We got a great welcome every where. Aro Chuku has a fine fellow, according to the natives, in place of Mr. Cotton. They are highly pleased, but the Interpreter will follow yours I fear. Esien has sent through his lawyer letters to Eso, & Udo Ekandem, & Ofon Ikot, for £100, from each, for bail, but it is preposterous, they can no more give £300 than they can give the moon. His poor Mother is heartbroken, no one knows the charges made against him. Poor Esien!! They all say, "O if his master were here when he is tried!" but you cant be. Eh? The trial is to be at Ikot Okpene I hear, & by the Judge. I hear there are quite a crowd of ladies in Calabar. Mr. Fosbery sent his Comps. & said had they known I was on the steamer, they wd have called on me. His wife is there, & very nice I hear. I have not heard from Lagos yet, but expect to by this mail. There has been some kind of a fight at Xmas in Calabar, between Kroo & Efik men, & 2 K Bs [Note 4] were killed. But I have no particulars. Nor have I news. A white man passed on Monday as I taught school at Use. I bowed, & He lifted his hat & walked on. Mr. Rosario is my only friend here & the factory folk & they are most kind. Rosario cd. not be kinder if he was my brother. He brought up all my provisions, 19 boxes, without any asking, or giving me any trouble, & the roadway & every thing he has seen to. He came up on Xmas day & sent me a ham & Plum pudding, & here he is today again, lest I should be lonely. But I'm wearying to see you again, for your place cant be filled by any of the others, good as they are.

Now let me thank you for the book you sent. I have not read it since I was a girl, & I have enjoyed the old world gentlewomen, who, after all are more to my taste than the new woman. Iím too old for the new clever independent brand I fear. It is so --- no! I shall not enter on any dissertations, for the mosquitoes are really aggravating even if they donít bite me. Now I'm off to bed. Wishing you the very best year that ever you have had. God be near to you, & reveal Himself to you in all His Fatherhood & love, & make you strong in body for farther & even better service than ever. My Best regards to your family circle,

& believe me ever

Yours Faithfully
& sincerely

Mary M Slessor

Saturday, 4th. Latest news. On their way down to Calabar from Ikot Okpene today, there passed, - & came in - Colonel Moorhouse, Major Trenchard - & a couple of Captains who are engaged more or less if not actually going to the front, at this big Expedition.

Middleton is gone to the East, & is therefore not of us any more.

Au revoir
Yours truly
M M Slessor

e.n] Use = Place name
1] palaver = discussion, consultation, Court Case
2] rods = brass rods were a medium for barter; local currency
3] Udo Afia Ikot Okpene. Charles Partridge's local name
4] K Bs. = reference unknown. Possibly "Kingís Borderers in the West African Field Force. The nearest battalion was however in Cairo.

TRANSCRIPTION BY: Leslie A Mackenzie, 1997

DATA ENTERED BY: Ruth Riding, 1997

Slessor, Mary
Letter no. 41.
20th. January 1908

Miss Slessor thanks Mr. Partridge for a plum pudding he has sent her, and hopes that he has recovered from his illness. He is still in England, but Miss Slessor hopes for his quick return. She has seen Mr. Biddell for the first time, and has agreed to take up the Court work again. The Road has been inspected for the expected visit of the Governor, and there is news of visitors and other people known to him. Her misgivings for the large Expedition are expressed, and she fervently hopes that there will be no bloodshed].

To C.P.jr. Stowmarket


Dear Old Comrade in Arms.

How are you today? & Where? Your last letter gave hope that we might fight again side by side in this old district.

What a Plum Pudding that is? the real old fashioned thing. No trimming about this article. There was no word of mails till Tuesday morning when Dr. Robertson came up, & he jumped on Lemon [Note 1] on his way home, & the pudding & the Xmas mails were sent up at once. It is far too kind of you, you dear old boy! I'm very grateful, but you do far too much all the time for me, & I can do nothing for you in return. Nothing but pray for you. but that will not be in vain, - I know. Well, did you have a good time at Xmas in the Old Homeland? I'm sure you would, at least you would give great pleasure to those who love you there, by being with them, & thatís a great deal to do. We had it quiet here. Have you heard the awful news about that man Smith who worked on the Road here? Isn't it horrible for a man of education to fall so low? He has got 18 months imprisonment with H.L. [Note 2] His poor wife & baby!!! How are you keeping? Is the good progress toward recovery still going on? I do hope so! & that you will be back to your work again this season. I do hope so, very earnestly. I have at last seen your substitute! on Saturday last. He came in in the morning as he went to Itu, & stayed a couple of hours. He is an enlarged facsimile of Mr. Maxwell. I told him I did not a bit mind the snub he had given me. Two months only & not even a note! He apologized, and spoke of the 2 patrols he had been on. & of having called, & I was not there. I listened & laughed & asked him if there were not a C M [Note 3] to spare to take a note, or if he cd. not get time to write a note? I kept it up, & he did not know what to say, but spoke of all he wished to do, & was anxious to do & etc. etc. & we made it all up. The Governor had written asking him to help me in any way he could, which was most kind. He asked me to take back the Court work, & I have promised to take the superintendence of it, with Halliday for Clerk. When I am away of course I shall not be there, but I shall keep my eye on things as best I can. The Ikot Obon ladies will be out next month, & then I shall be off to seek for pastures new. Keeping this as my home, till another is built, when it may be taken over by another lady as a womensí industrial station. My new home will probably be Ikpe, the big Market Town behind Use & Aka, from where, I shall hope by teaching & personal influence to win those wild Ibibios, & perhaps touch Ibo people as well. If I cd. get a boy to take school there, to be there while I was down here. I should like it, but where's the trustworthy Xtian [Note 4] boy to be got? Mrs. Fosbery spent 2 hours with me this morning. Mr. F. & some other Europeans went on to see the Road, as they expect the Governor in a few weeks. Mr. F may not have time to call on his way down, as they will have a fatiguing day, so I may not be able to convey your comps to him, but I told his wife. She is very nice & very much interested in the Country. She asked me up to breakfast with them at Ikot Obon but I had a small crowd waiting for palaver [Note 5], & I cd. not. Halliday had a big fall from his Bicycle at the Bridge at "Russells" a fortnight ago. He tried to run alongside a truck which was coming, with only a foot or two of space alongside, & he was thrown down some 20 feet. He was limp, & lay as dead for some time, but it was shock. The injuries were not so serious as was supposed, so after a week or more in the Itu Hospital he came back all right. I donít think he relishes the Censorship of this lady. He certainly will have to shed a few luxuries, & be more punctual at his work. He has had a splendid time, but I shall make it as easy for him as I can. He gets quite a small crowd of ladies always at his place all the time. The General, Colonel Moorhouse, Major Trenchard, Capt. Moir & suite passed two weeks ago, from Ikot Okpene. They were full of this Expedition to whatís the name of the place. 800 soldiers and hosts of white men have gone. They passed up the Creek Rd. on Wed., I think of last week. I do hope there will be no casualties to either side, I cant bear those dreadful Expeditions. The very sight of force raises their - the natives - apprehension, & goes to make Trouble. There is a mans life to avenge in the affair, but they are not keen on revenge. They want the good of the Country.

Since writing the above Mr. & Mrs. Fosbery have been in again. I gave your message. He told me he had had a letter from you. Mrs. F. was very tired, they have had a long day of it. They are all very eager to know how they can help me. It is so good of them, but except in the way of finding new roads for me, there is nothing that any one can do to help me. Except to pray for me. All the surroundings & circumstances of the district are the same as of old. I hear no news. Your Interpreter is still waiting his trial. Mr. Biddell has gone back to Itu with the secretary. I may see him as he comes back. All the down & up river folks seem well. A new man at Aro Chuku seems to catch on with the natives.

Now my time is up. So Fare Ye Well. God bless & strengthen you for your work which waits for you. All the Chiefs ask about you, so does Yours ever

Mary M Slessor

Mr. F is pleased with the state of the Road. The Govr. will have a motor when he comes. MM


1] Lemon. This gentleman mentioned in Letter 57, perhaps connected with the Postal Services. 2] H.L. = Hard Labour 3] C.M. = Court Messenger 4] Xtian = Christian 5] palaver = usually a discussion, consultation or Court Case TRANSCRIPTION BY: Leslie A Mackenzie, 1997 DATA ENTERED BY: Ruth Riding, 1997

Slessor, Mary
Letter no. 42.
15th February 1908

Written to Mr. Partridge, who is still in England, telling him of a visit to Calabar on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the Goldie Memorial Hall. She finds Calabar a very clean and tidy place but the heat oppressive, causing her to have a feverish temperature twice. Some local men who went to collect debts in a distant village have been imprisoned there, and she is very worried about their safety. The road has been renovated for the Governor's visit, and she has been for a cycle run on it. General news].

To C.P.jr. Stowmarket


Dear Old Governor

How are you now? Does the life & movement of the Spring awakenings stir in your blood?

I do hope by this time you are beginning to get warmth & sunshine, & that you are ready for the open air & the brightness of a different summer from the last one. I am so sorry to have missed the last mail. I went down to Calabar to the Presbytery. Had to go, to try to carry them with me in plans for work up here, & for Industrial work for women, & I meant to write to you there, when I had got all the news of the City, also a "Stone" I donít know if it is the foundation or what you call it, of the Goldie Memorial Hall was to be laid by the Hon. W.F.W. Fosbery. I was to give you all the news, but lo! I was laid down [Note 1] a very high Temperature twice over, & so all writing was knocked on the head, & I did not get to see a single Shop. The function was all right. Mrs. Fosbery was there, very prettily dressed, & very gracious & beautiful. We had tea afterwards in the Principals House, & Mr. Fosbery was exceedingly happy in the whole undertaking. I did not know the gentlemen who were there, but there were three ladies from the Consulate, & all were very nice indeed. Mrs. Fosbery gave a garden party next day, but I was in bed. There was not much going on. I was in the rickshaw all the time & had a good round of the whole place, but though everything looked trim & clean & nice, the heat was too intense & the ground too dry to be refreshing, & all was strangely quiet. Bennett died of black water last week. He is an old trader. But health is not bad. I have not seen Mr. Biddell again. I hear he has gone round to Ikpe. Four men from Use went to a distant place called NíKara to ask for debts due to them & they have been seized & kept, & it is now 5 days. There is a great mourning & weeping, & I am not easy in my mind about them. I shall send to Ikot Ekpene if other 2 days do not bring them. The Court is a great trial to me. It has got into a dirty irregular line of working. I shall turn over a new leaf next week, tho' I do not like to seem to reflect on Halliday. There is no word to be had about Esien. You would be sorry for his mother. I cant get your boy at the Rest House, but he is not gone home I hear. Etim is at home with his mother since before I came out. Miss Peacock will be out next boat I expect. I have been trying to get her house ready, putting new mats on. Things move on in the old way. There are great cryings out for Udo Afia Ikot Okpene [Note 2], whenever anything goes wrong.

You will get a warm welcome back again. The value of the water is not realized till the well runs dry.

I wd. like to build here, but cant get the men as the farm season is at the busiest.

The Road is in beautiful condition. The men have been all over it, & it is as good as any road at home. I ran down to the beach on my Cycle last evening to find some Calabar boys who have been breaking the peace. It was a fine run. I have not been to Ikot Okpene yet. Yes, it is Your Station, in the opinion of every body. I should like to see it, but I would not go under present conditions. Mr. Rosario will be going home in a few weeks, so does Dr. Robertson. Mr. Underhill has had some fever & has boils. A new Engineer, Mr. Hanson, is on the Road, a fine fellow. They are seeking a road to the back of the projected new factories at Itu, but cant find one except at 2 1/2 miles round. Do you remember how you tried all that long ago? & the latest comer is always the first to do it.

This is a miserable scrap, but I have to write to the Church this week, & I'm not too fit, tho' Iím well. Hurry up & come home to your work.

God bless you & yours,

I am ever

yours sincerely

M M Slessor


1] there is a change of page here, and the word "with" appears to be omitted.
2] Udo Afia Ikot Okpene. Charles Partridge's local name
TRANSCRIPTION BY: Leslie A Mackenzie, 1997

DATA ENTERED BY: Ruth Riding, 1997

Slessor, Mary
Letter no. 43.
5th February 1908

[Summary Programme and hymn sheet, issued at the opening of the Goldie Memorial Hall ] (see letter no. 42).

This item consists of a folded sheet. The text is given below:-

Front page The Goldie Hall

Laying of the Memorial Stone


The Hon. W. F. W. Fosbery, Esq., C.M.G.

Hope Waddell Institute
Calabar, 5th Feb. 1908

Page 2. Hymn 469

In the name which earth and heaven
Ever worship, praise, and fear -
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -
Shall a house be builded here:
Here with prayer its deep foundations
In the faith of Christ we lay,
Trusting by His help to crown it
With the top-stone in its day.
Here as in their due succession
Stone on stone the workmen place,
Thus, we pray, unseen but surely,
Jesus, build us up in grace,
Till, within these walls completed
We complete in Thee are found,
And to Thee, the one Foundation
Strong and living stones, are bound.
Fair shall be Thine earthly temple;
Here the careless passer-by
Shall bethink him, in its beauty
Of the holier house on high.
Weary hearts and troubled spirits
Here shall find a still retreat;
Sinful souls shall bring their burden
Here to the Absolver's feet.
Praise to Thee, O Master-builder,
Maker of the earth and skies;
Praise to Thee, in whom Thy temple
Fitly framed together lies:
Praise to Thee, Eternal Spirit,
Binding all that lives in one, -
Till our earthly praise be ended,
And the eternal song begun !

Page 3: Programme.

Scripture Lesson 1 Chronicles 29. 10-18
Prayer Rev. A. Cruickshank
Praise Hymn 469
Laying of the Memorial Stone


The Hon. W. F. W. Fosbery, Esq., C.M.G.
Provincial Commissioner E.P.
Prayer Rev. R. Collins
Anthem "O worship the Lord" T. Smith

Page 4 [Text in a border]

The Rev. Hugh Goldie, to whose memory this Hall is being built, was one of the pioneers of the Calabar Mission. He took a deep interest in the education of the people and with the Rev. A. Robb D.D. made a thorough study of the Efik language. His chief work in Efik is his translation of the New Testament. He also wrote an Efik Grammar and numerous school books in Efik. The greatest monument to him is his "Dictionary of the Efik Language" which is remarkable for its completeness and is a perfect storehouse of information on native customs and idioms.[Note 1] As a pastor he was greatly loved by the people of Creek Town who called him affectionately "Etubom Akamba" - the great Master. On account of his interest in Education it is fitting that this Hall should be erected to his memory.

EDITORIAL NOTE: This book was given to the Dundee Public Libraries as part of the collection of material donated in memory of Mary Slessor.

DATA ENTERED BY: Ruth E Riding, 1998

Slessor, Mary
Letter no. 44.
29th February 1908

Another letter to Mr. Partridge in England in which Mr. Rosario (engineer) again receives high commendation, having built a path from Miss Slessor's back door to the road. She is planning her women's industrial centre, and a basket maker has been requested to come to advise and help train the women. Mr. Biddell has been rather muddled by a nearby market dispute, and Miss Slessor laid down the law on the matter, asking that she be asked to deal with it in future, along with any boundary matters.]

Use - Ikot Oku
29. 2. '08

Dear Old Governor

How are you? There was no word last mail, & I'm rather anxious. I do hope it is better word this time, & that you will start with the Spring. I shall be glad when the mails come up. There is not anything in the shape of news. Mr. Darly turned up last week as a great & most agreeable surprise. I have a very great regard for him, & was very glad indeed to see him, though he does not look any the better for his hard work, & long journeys. He was having fevers, but is better since he came. He & Mr. Rosario went together to Ikot Okpene to see the Road.. It is in fine condition. Rosario is a man of action, & knows his work & is a splendid disciplinarian. They also ran up to Aro Chuku, & examined the embankment there. That all on their "Bikes", for the road at the side of Creek is fine. Mr. Rosarioís men made most of it this year, as the big expedition had to go up. What has come over this expedition I have never heard. Messrs. Darly & Rosario brought their tools, & reformed a fine path for my Cycle & me out of my back door , not steep, & I can run on to the old road, & come out up beyond that bit of hill over which I had to lead my Cycle every day. It is quite tempting now to go out, & I can bring it up to the door without any trouble. O, I love that dear thing!! I spent an hour over it today. Cleaning it all over. I had a visit from Mr. Biddle on Tuesday morning as he came up from Itu. The Fosbery (Family) were at Ikot Okpene last week, so Mr. Biddell came back with them. They did not come in for it was almost dark. She is a dear lady, & quite as interested as Lady Edgerton is in every thing. Mr. Biddell had another message from the Governor asking him to see how he could help me, & I have given in formal form, a statement that they can give us a basket maker from Duke Town to shew the girls the way to do the sand basket used on the road, & to tell us which of rattan plants in the bush is best & most durable, also, to get any road widened & cleaned for me to any town or district where he thinks I can have a good influence & do any work, or ditto to any road I can find out for myself. Also that I may take any men in Custody to work here instead of them sitting at Ikot Obon tending Halliday, as I think my influence has some effect in softening & etc., them. Donít smile an ironic smile here, for I'm speaking the truth though you may think Iím an Egotist. To All of those requests he gave most gracious response, as far as he could. & he pressed me most earnestly to take my place in the Court as I used, & let Halliday be my servant: not to ask him to send me a C.M. [Note 1] or a prisoner, but just to send for them. He had also a story about that foreshore we got for Itu Embankment & Rest House. He cant find your papers, & he took Halliday to interpret, & Ibok Eyo Ma of Obok Etim - beast - forbids certain things, that the place belongs to him, & Mr. B- is in a mist, that Ekandem of Ntiat subsequently sold it to Ibok after the Govt. had it: & ________ Rubbish I said Mr. B- next time you go there call for me. The whole thing was done by the Whole Court, boundaries fixed, prices allocated, & etc. etc. all finished & Ibok Eyo Ma has simply nothing to do in the whole matter except that he has a house in Obot Etim, & they have only a few yards of land there. What a mares nest it all was!! Then comes poor old chief Ekandem of Ntiat to say, "Ma, were you not there when we fixed the boundaries & etc. etc., the White Man Came & etc. etc. I said "go home & sit down my friend. Your very name is the proof that you own the soil. The name of Ibok is an alien. I told the White Man I wd. come when he next went to the palaver [Note 2], so donít worry." Poor old man. You should have seen the look of light & relief that broke over his face.

Mr. Rosario goes home by this mail, so does Dr. Robertson. The two ladies from Ikot Obon are out with this Steamer [Note 3] I expect, & will be up here on Monday. I shall stay here tomorrow & get the house nice. We have put new mats on, & cleared it all round. Here is the Catechism Class, so tata for a bit.

Sat - night The rain & thunder keeps threatening. While my class were scattering, both Mr. Darly & Mr. Rosario came in & stayed till it was almost dark. They have said good bye. & I feel so sorry & so lonely. There is really no one now left whom I know. It is prayer time so, as I see I have lifted a single sheet, I shall stop here. Mr. Darly very particularly begged to be remembered to you. He heard that the governor was in O.C.[Note 4] but no boat was up till then. I wish you were back. & going about again. "All men seek for Thee", natives I mean - so do I. Write soon. Kindest regards to all your family circle, & heaps for yourself. The bairns often wonder when you are coming. They all say "Kom Enge". [Note 5] No word about your boy yet, or Esien.

I am dear old man

Yours sincerely

more than ever,

M M Slessor

EDITORIAL NOTES: 1] C.M. = Court Messenger
2] palaver = usually denotes discussion, consultation, Court Case
3] Str = Steamer
4] O.C. = probably an abbreviation for "Old Calabar".
5] Kom Enge = Efik for compliments/greetings
TRANSCRIPTION BY: Leslie A Mackenzie, 1997

DATA ENTERED BY: Ruth Riding, 1997

Slessor, Mary
Letter no. 45.

10th March 1908

Mr. Partridge has still not made a complete recovery, and Miss Slessor is unable to give him much news of his two workers Esien and Edu Mantu. She speaks of her annoyance at having a Court cancelled without her, or the peoples', knowledge. Although her Court papers had been removed by Halliday the clerk for auditing, [she thinks eleven days excessive for this purpose] she has held the Court without the books. At last the ladies have arrived to take over, and she may move to a new district. She is doing some building and a carpenter comes in for sharp criticism. She tells Mr. Partridge of a 14 year old girl who has been bought and sold in a manner akin to slavery, and of her efforts to trace the girl and return her to her father. In the postscript she complains of Mr. Biddell's negligence at having sent only one note and one telegram to her since his visit.]

To C.P.jr.

Use, Ikot Oku

Dear Old Man

Your last letter is not very satisfactory yet. When are we to hear that you are in the garden, or having a drive or feeling the spring pulsing through your veins in newness of life again, Eh? Hurry up !! I'm very wearied waiting for you, & the surveyors were also longing for some definite news, for the old adage holds good in this District, "the value of the water is only known when the well is dry." Iím sorry not to be able to tell you about your boy Idu Mantu, but I shall send a C.M. [Note 1] back to Itu Rest House to try again. You see I do not know anyone there, & I donít know the folks at the beach now, & Etim has been with his mother since I went home. Not a word can I hear about Esien. His poor mother is distraught, & does not know any thing about the charges made against him either. His brother is angry with him, for the sorrow he causes his Mother. I will ask about the men you mention, when I see Halliday, but he went at the end of the month, with his books to make up - to Ikot Okpene, & has not come back. This makes 11 days he has been absent, with all the books. Iím glad I took a few summons & warrant forms before he went, else things wd. be at a standstill. He sent a note last Wed, saying "I am instructed by DC [Note 2} to tell the Court that there will be no Court next Thursday. no date. I sent to D.C. as a C.M. was passing, & he said by Telegram same night, that it was so, as the books were all there being audited.

When I saw over 200 people! & Jury Men from far & near, & this their busy season, I felt the injustice of it, & just held the Court, using papers, & we did a good days work too, but I think it will be as easy & much more satisfactory, to let Mr. Biddell dispense with Halliday, as he is inclined, for I found one or two suspicious things on Thursday last. If his books are all right, what does he need to wait 11 days for? over a months work. He is a great bother to Mr. B - I have no doubt. I am going to dispense with 2 or 3 Itam chiefs. I shall take at least one Warrant this week. He is a beast, & a disgrace to the Court. He came Himself, neither you no I elected him, Akpa Nya, of Ikot Anye. There is no word of the Governor coming yet. The Ivy [Note 3] came in to Calabar last week, & there was a false alarm. He comes this month they say. Our road is beautiful. He will surely be pleased with it. Rosario is a fine workman, & good disciplinarian. We shall miss him. The Ladies came to Ikot Obon last week. They are both well, & very happy at resuming work. They have Bicycles with them, so there will be some running about. Miss Peacock & I went to the Beach together last Sat. morning on business, on ours, i.e. our Bikes. I can do very well I am quite sure, & my Bike is a darling. I wd. not change it with any one, or anything.

I am building here. I got a Carpenter, but O, he is a beauty! You remember trying him for a very unsavoury & very common sin here. Wilson is his name. He loafs still in Itu, they wd. do any thing to get rid of him. A woman had him up last month for assault. The foreman of the Rds Dep [Note 4] sent up his Carpenter this morning to help him, as he was idle. I met him on the road & we were talking, so he thought he wd. help me, & I got 6 men on hire to work to their hands. Net result of the work of 2 carpenters, each at 3/- [Note 5] per diem, & 2 apprentice lads, with six labourers to their call. The sawing of a piece of board four feet in length into 2 pieces, the nailing of same into place, nailing of 3 pieces of wood from one side of the house to the other, 8 feet wide & nailing on of 19 sheets of Corr. Iron.[Note 6]

They went off together at 7.A.M. came back at 11.A.M. Kept the labourers from their meal & rest till 12; holding said pieces of wood for them, then began to put on Iron [Note 6] at 4.P.M. while I sat over them. Knocked off at 5.P.M. & had the cheek to come & say to me "Good Night". Have I been a sweet-tempered, sweet tongued Xtian [Note 7] lady today??? I was to the 6 labourers for they did splendidly, so did my own old C.Ms who have both been here all day. Ekpenyon, & Okono Nguo. But those _______!!! Mr. Rosario said one day before he left, "We have a thing there calling himself Carpenter, but, I could not send him to you Ma!" This is the "Thing". He heard a few plain truths today. I have not got the time fixed yet for going to Ikpe because of this work lying - men are not to be got for hire just now, & partly because the ladies overstayed their time & put me in a fix. When ever this is done, I shall go off. The rains are floating about, but are not on yet. The heat is something intense during the day. The last 3 days have held hours in which one simply wilted, It is dreadful. Planting goes on apace. I went to Ididep last Sunday, & round those farms, as Ikot Obon is supplied, & it was hot, but I was none the worse, & the people turned out splendidly, & were a very appreciative people indeed at every halting place. If only I cd. use my Cycle more, but that Ikot Obobo road, with its stones & hills knock me to pieces.

The ladies beg to be remembered very kindly to you. They have a lively sense of your kindness to them all the way home, & are so sorry you have not had so good a time as they had. Did I tell you of the Use men who went to Nkara nearly a month ago, & were caught & held up? Mr. Biddell told us they were at Oyo, & he wd. have them brought from there to Ikot Okpene to be tried at once as to the reason of their detention. There is not a word since. I have sent back a note to Him to ask the reason they are not coming home. There has been great mourning & every thing standing still here, as they are all people of standing. Rather a suspicious case came up too 3 weeks ago, like slave dealing. A man of Ikot Edok, long ago sold a bad slave who came into his hands in the old questionable way. John Coco had the case tried & the man was sent to find the slave. He got him back, but as he had only the price of one man in hand, & the Inokon dealer wanted four - It is 2 persons to redeem one in the old law, the Dealer said Give me your daughter as security. He gave her food, & gave the dealer Mibiam [Note 8], but he got 9 months from John for selling the slave.

When the 9 months were over he went for his daughter, that is between 2 & 3 years ago. I was at Ikot Obon. The girl was gone - sold to Calabar. He mourned for her, but could not trace her. 3 months ago, she turned up, ran away & came up in the Govt. Steamer[Note 9] A Calabar man went to Ikot Okpene with - Halliday wrote to me - a note from Chief Justice to D.C. - which was sent to him, so that she should be arrested & given to her owner, Who had bought her 14 years ago. Where was John 14 years ago. Who forbad Inokon to sell, or went to see 14 years ago? & the girl is not much over 14 years old. Halliday arrested her without a warrant, & without shewing me the "note" & gave her to the Calabar man. Mr. Biddell was to have her sent on to me, but she has doubtless been carried farther on , & he has not found her. I have sent her father to Ikot Okpene after her once again. Mr. B will bless me for a Blister to him, when he is so busy, but what can I do? There are the same number of wives who will not "Do" their husbands any more, & there are the same number chasing imaginary wives & Dowries of the long past. a good number of assault cases, which I donít like, & quite the usual number of young men, specially at these beaches, who - trusting to the [leniency?] of Consular days, take quite a comprehensive interest in the womenkind of all & sundry. The young people here, as in Britain are going the Pace in the freedom of their own wills.

Now, all the bairns are gone to bed, & I have had a long hot tiring day doing the "Headman" over these workmen. So I am off to bed. I shall add any thing, if any thing turns up later on. Meanwhile I am dear old fellow worker.

Ever Yours
Very Sincerely,

M M Slessor

Sunday - & posting time. Have been to Ididep & etc. etc. etc. & had good meetings. The girl in the slave palaver came yesterday. with her fond father, she is not 14 years old. Biddell sent her home to her people. Use men not home yet. That Iron those carpenters put on had all to come off next day. It is all nail holed in a starry pattern now. I sent them off till I cd. rest & get my Bile down. Halliday was back Wed. evening for Court, but I brought down his books & entered my own work & cash, myself. It was more trouble than to do all the work were it not that the prison & court house is so far away I should take over the whole thing. Biddell has been ill Hy [Note 10] says. I have had one note from him since he came, & one Telegram so we donít make much headway. I have not got my mails so have no news. I shall send the girls with this, to go in the morning. Mr. Underhill came up on Friday afternoon. He has done fairly well for Russell.

Goodbye once again

Yours sincerely

M M Slessor


1] C.M. = Court Messenger
2] D.C./DC = District Commissioner
3] The Ivy = a Steam Ship
4] Rds Dep = Roads Department
5] 3/- = three shillings [or 15 new pence]
6] Corr. Iron = Corrugated Iron
7] Xtian = Christian
8] Mibiam. "The liquid substance which is tasted, & sometimes put on various parts of the body, in taking a solemn oath. It is supposed to cause dropsy, & so destroy any individual swearing falsely." Mbiam can also mean "The oath so taken, & hence sometimes applied to any solemn oath, whether mbian has been used or not." from Charles Partridge's copy of the Rev. Hugh Goldie's "Dictionary of the Efik language".
9] Govt. Steamer = Government Steamer
10] Hy = assume this is a reference to Halliday

TRANSCRIPTION BY: Leslie A Mackenzie, 1997
DATA ENTERED BY: Ruth Riding, 1997

Slessor, Mary
Letter no. 46.

29th. March 1908

[Summary Miss Slessor responds to Mt Partridge's complaint of lack of details etc. in her letters. The Governor is expected this week, and gangs are kept on the road to clean it. She reviews her contacts with Mr. Biddell. Government soldiers and officials have been ransacking villages, and one soldier has been found murdered. The chiefs long for Mr. Partridge to return. One bright part in this letter to Mr. Partridge is the good work done by Jean, her adopted daughter.]

Use Ikot Oku
29. 3. 8,

Dear Old Man

I feel quite hopeful over the last letter. It is just as cantankerous as the proverbial convalescent could make it, so I hope for you at last.

I'm so sorry that my epistles are so impractical, & so tantalizing, just coming to the point & stopping. Well it is good for boys to have their desires curbed some times & I hope the result of these draw backs will be to keep you humble. Your boy is quite beyond my ken. Underhill does not go out much, & I seldom see him. Mr. Hanson the new Engineer on the Rd. does not know any one, & I have only seen Mr. Biddell once for a minute since he brought Mrs. Fosbery. She was here for a few hours, but He, Fosbery, only looked in, & all he said, was, I had a letter from Mr. Partridge. Iím so sorry he has had such a long hard time. That is all that passed about the District, as they were very tired & the evening was coming on. Then at Calabar. It was a public function, & during the reception afterward, I was held by the ladies, & had to leave before the thing broke up so we spoke nothing of shop, or of people. The Governor is not up yet, so I have neither seen nor heard from him. He is expected this week. Lady Edgerton had an At Home last week, or the previous week, but that is all Iíve heard except that Mr. Hanson has been told they come this week, & he has companies of boys on the Road. So I may see him, & shall report. Try to put on patience for news till next mail, & I shall be the truest & most explicit of gossips. I have as I say never seen Biddell, except on the occasion he called because of the Governors request to help me. Then his convoy of Mrs. Fosbery. Then we met on the road & he was feeling so slack after fever that it was the merest chit chat on the Rd. I have had occasion to write to him half a score of times at least. I have one note, & one Telegram, & a question at the end of a natives appeal to him from a fine of 15/- [Note 1] by the Court. The question fills 2 lines. So you see I have simply nothing to tell you, as we, & our district are left severely Alone by Europeans.

Esien!! If I cd. get a scrap of news, I should tell his poor Mother, who is a pitiable object in her solicitude. They know only what I know as to charges & trial & etc., which is Nothing. He is not tried yet as far as we know. Halliday says that 11 of the men were caught, but the head man is still at large, tho' a price is on his head. I'm so sorry I cannot enlighten you on one of your questions. The men who were caught at Nkara - from Use, are not home yet. They have been weeks & weeks at Ikot Okpene & the answer their people got last , was the White man is sick & cant judge. A party of soldiers passed to day going up, & they attacked a woman with 16 yams [Note 2] on her head, & took them all, striking her with a gun. Okon Antias people. Last week, a party of Govt. Men of some kind came down, & 3 villages have been with the same complaint that they kicked up a row & scattered all the villagers pillaging the plantains & taking seed yams from the stack. etc. While one man & his wife ran up here panting, saying a soldier?? took his wife as they walked up & when he tried to help his wife, the Govt. Man made to stab him. Eventually the woman got free, & they ran in here. A soldier was found dead, murdered or shot or something near Ntan, on the Ikot Okpene road. The Head Man of Ntan is in custody over it, but there is no clue to the murderer, I myself believe it was done by a pedestrian who ran for it, & doubtless the soldier was guilty of meddling with him. All this last week a procession of Chiefs from everywhere, Ikot Aba among them, have been here to plead with me to save them from the White Man, as they have no connection with the other villages, & know nothing of the murder etc.

The Court goes on as usual. The one cry is, O that Udo Afia Ikot Okpene were home again. Amen! Halliday is a great amusement & a great trial. If I were to stay, & if it were you, I should find it easier to do the whole thing alone. I shall be going to Ikpe, & etc., so cant take it, & wont serve under present regime. I mean fully serve. The Bridges are up all the way to your station long ago, but I have been little further than Ikot Obon. The ladies & I are to cycle out 8 or 10 miles one of these days, but the rains are heavy. Now you will think this is a shabby letter, as I do. I sat 8 hours on Thursday, from 6 o/c till night I was occupied on Friday & all night I was out at Ikot Obon with a woman in trouble, got home at dawn & was at it yest. till late, was up at midnight with a twin mother who died overnight after a week of severe suffering leaving her babies with us. Iíve had a hard mornings work getting the body buried & Jeans room cleaned, where she lay. Jean is treasure. I cd. not do without her, she has nursed that woman, & had those babies - with a motherless boy she has had since its birth 9 weeks ago, & she never ties her face. She has not let me have a baby over night at all since I came out. So my nights are unbroken, tho I hardly think she can manage 7 of them. The children are gone to Ididep to hold service, my service has been here & of a queer kind today, & now the letters must go down. I have had a dozen men working, building all last fortnight & Iím tired out, but it is getting cooler, & Iím strong, & the Halo is far off.

This is an unsatisfactory epistle, but my home mail has been a heavy - official- one this time, so you must e'en take this, & kick it when you are finished, if you like. Where ignorance is bliss - It wont hurt me, & it may ease you. Hurry up, & get well & come home to your work, & if I donít get news by next mail for you, I shall invent some? Eh?

Yours most sincerely

M M Slessor


1] 15/- = fifteen shillings [or 75 new pence]
2] yam. a potato-like tuber, and a staple food
3] Udo Afia Ikot Okpene. Charles Partridge's local name
TRANSCRIPTION BY: Leslie A Mackenzie, 1997

DATA ENTERED BY: Ruth E Riding, 1997

Slessor, Mary

Letter no. 47.

15th April 1908

Miss Slessor tells Mr. Partridge of everybody's desire to see him back in control again. The governor has been up into the colony, but did not pass Use, his car having done no damage to the new road. The large expedition seems to have been a success, and only two or three soldiers were killed. Cadbury's, the chocolate and cocoa manufacturers, had a man there at the time investigating the possibility of commercial planting. The remainder of the letter is general comment on gardening, planting, summonses in the district, and a humorous description of her hair, both when young and now she is older, occasioned by some comments of Mr. Partridge's.]

Use Ikot Oku
15. 4. '08

Dear Old Man

How good it is to hear you joke once more, & to know of a truth that you are really on the way to recovery & that you hope to be ready for another fight by July. May God grant it be so.

From ever your letter came, things seem at last to be happening. Halliday sent to Aro Chuku to attend the Assizes & next sending word by a C.M. [Note 1] to tell Esienís brother at Ikot Obon to go to Ikot Okpene to gather Esienís things - which of course I forbade - a verbal message from Halliday, big man as he is, is not sufficient for this - but it seems to indicate that Esien is tried, &??? His poor mother has never been informed about the Charge yet, You wd. be sorry for the poor old thing. Mr. Russell is come, & has called & been as usual, a big friend to all the bairns. He with everyone else, is wishing you were back again.

"Wull Ye no come back again? Better lo'ed Ye canna be, Wull Ye no come back again?" I think we must all keep on singing this, & if thereís any thing in the new fangled notions of Telepathy & etc., we may draw you. The Dr. - Leonard - or something, has come. He called on his way to Ikot Okpene. He is direct from the "seat of war". The Governor went up as I think I told you and instead of returning this way passed round by Bendi, & so to the place where the Expedition were working - or operating isnít it.? & he will come out up the Cross river or somewhere. Hanson, the new Engineer was with him as far as this road went. & he kindly came in as he came back. He is a rarely nice lad. He answers your question as to the road & bridges, better & later than Mr. Fosbery.

He never left the saddle of his Bike till he reached Ikot Okpene, from Okopedi. The motor did not hurt the Road one single bit. I would tell you that last week. Eh?

Biddell is gone to Calabar sick, some one said. he wd. likely be sent home, He was so unwell. One person said, I fear he takes Cock Tails. - of course this must be for yourself alone, for I've been sad & rather uneasy about that idea. I do not like his rule, frankly, but He is such a handsome fellow, & he has sisters, which means he is some womanís love & hope, & he is a British officer, & I'm sure you as well as I, will hope that that is not true. The Use people are not home yet. Their people have been to see them again last Monday, & I gave them a small book [Note 2] asking if over 2 months were not too long a time to keep the heads of families without trial, specially as it was the months of farm & produce, by which their families were kept all the year. A verbal answer to the effect that they cannot be judged till the assizes are over at Aro Chuku was all we got. I am completely at the mercy of Halliday for any Message or Command, all verbally given by him. Several of these reputed Messages or Commands have been flatly refused & nullified by myself. He ordered the C.Ms. to go to Edem Inyan, with only the name of a woman & bring her as a witness for - ?? - the Chief Justices Court. I simply dared them twice over, to go to any ones house without a warrant, or at least a book, & specially did I forbid their going to another district, as my honour as well as Hallidayís was bound up in the conduct of the Court. Halliday said, they will not obey me if you say so. All right, I said, I shall sacrifice Law & everything to the pride of my Clerk. & I gave him a small book to Aro Chuku D.C.[Note 3] asking them to send a C.M. from that side if they wanted a witness for their own Court. It is a funny business all of it, but for the sake of the people, I am holding on.

Mr. Russell is to see after your boy Idu Mantu, as he has an access I have not to that side. I'm so sorry I have not been able to trace him yet , probably he has been there all the time. The Expedition seems to have been satisfactory. An officer got sunstroke & died at Calabar. Two native soldiers were killed, something like a dozen wounded, & 2 or 3 deaths from Pneumonia from a Tornado over night. Not a bad record. It is a Grass Country, not bush, & they have good cattle & seem very well off.

Cadbury of Cocoa Fame, has a man here seeing about the capabilities of the land in their direction, & I am thinking we might do something on this bit of land. There is an Epidemic of twins, we have two pairs, the poor mother of one pair died with us, & Jean has her hands full. Now for my crack news. Udo Antie is Home, at least he is at Obot Etim from which he was a Cats paw. He was brought up by Str [Note 4] last Saturday, & it was the Market day in the Creek. Surely the White people should do things with some prudence. Curiosity led crowds to look at him & see what they cd. learn for scandal. He came up here Monday to give me Compliments. He had previously sent for Imana Udo Ekandem, but I forbad him to go, or to have any truck with him. He wore shoes & stockings & a shirt & hat, & the same Loin Cloth they brought to him when he was taken away. I donít know if it is "Ticket of leave" [Note 5] or what, But the White Man breaks his own law too often, & makes it ridiculous in native eyes, & they undermine their own footing making heroes of criminals. Udo is doleful over his Mothers death. He says "I cant go back Ma, Every body seems to be dead, or gone away, & my Mother gone, & I have no wish now to go." I gave him yards of scolding interspersed with Advice, but as he is still in the hands of that scoundrel Etim Walker, there is little hope for a straight forward policy. The latter gets the Credit of getting Udo off. There are 2 or 3 murmurs of coming claims on him for past misdeeds. Tomorrow is Court day. I have done all the work since the 3rd of this month, & still Halliday is absent at Aro. Before I went back to Court, the Chiefs & people went up like that to Court any day, & found "No Court," - & whatever happened in the District got leave to happen, no one cared. However it is less trouble without him. I hold 2 summons forms for which 10/- [Note 6] each was charged, & 5/- [Note 7] entered on the summons as prepaid. He does not know how to get over this. Both were revealed during his absence. He has 1 or 2 C.Ms. always with him as his attendants, but I have more than hinted that I wanted them for work, so he has but one this time.

If he acts for Judge at Aro, Judges Court, should give him a C.M. I have my Cycle to tidy up for tomorrow & as the flies are a pest I shall stop this tirade of scandal & do that other duty. O, I was to get the Akani Obio Chief & his Canoe for my [entry?] on Ikpe during the first days of this moon, but he too has been summoned to the Chief Justice' Court as he is one of Aroís big men, so I'm still here, but as busy as busy can be. We have got a room finished this week except for the sand on the floor, & the girls are planting & gardening very busily. The Use lads get on very well with their books too.

Now good night
God bless you

Sat 17th
Yesterday morning I went out to the Crowd & the previous days' Court books, & did not get in till 3 o/c, & today I'm washed out, & as slack as can be, & as I have a few letters to write for home I shall close this. What a horrid letter it is. Iím ashamed to send it, but I cant write another. A young Engineer named Beattie has gone on to Ikot Okpene to open the road the Governor went by the other day. Messrs. Hanson & Underhill were up last night, they told me. Hanson spelt the name of the place he, the new man, was going to open the road to as [Uturu?], an unknown country. Underhill says the market & the district are not what they were last year, & he attributes it, as I do, to the want of the personal supervision, & the want of that quick sympathetic pushing, which the natives need, & you know how to do it. The presence of their White Father coming & going over their districts gives the feeling of security & endeavour to all & sundry. Yes! you are a very modest man! I have no doubt.

"I did half of it." I who have never been 10 miles along the road yet. Who have never even seen Manya!! Yes, I have done half - I have no doubt. I have done the Whole O & more than that. What I have admired both in your book, & in all your subsequent writing & talking has been your contempt of all kinds of embroidery. Your illness will not have developed the talent I hope. It is so very prevalent in literature, & in all public & social life at home. Let me give you good advice dear boy. speak the TRUTH, & nothing but the truth in days to come. AND AGAIN Do not let your imagination get the upper hand while you are - [APART?] -, it is one of Gods greatest gifts to man, but unless it is in a world of facts & forces, & has to play the game of give & take to the full, it will lead you to be a dreamer of dreams & a "see'er" of visions. & a D.C.- there is no pun meant - must be made of sterner stuff than mystics are fashioned from, so keep your inner optics in good order & training, for out of your dreams has come the best Joke of the season. "You have very pretty hair," "It looks best uncovered" & etc., etc., O my heart!! A good many have shared the joke, & it isnít finished yet. I was "Carrots" - & "Fire" to my brothers & sisters, & my poor hair was the bane of my girl hood, so much did I dread the "Carrots" part of it, & now in my old age it has "Gold Glints" in the sun. Yes, in the sun!! The poor half dozen white threads that barely covered the scalp during the last 2 or 3 years, have multiplied exceedingly from my trip to Bonnie Scotland, but alas! that the "Carrots" should have developed into a baser metal than gold, with which even the sun cannot conjure!! So my dear boy, prepare for disillusionments, & if I take your advice - as I did last Sunday after reading your epistle. Know for a truth, that it is not for health reasons that I wear a hat, but because there is nothing now on my pate to "Glint". Yes! I took your advice, I never once removed my hat all day from 7.a.m. till 8.p.m. & before I was at Use, I had fever. It is the first time in my experience I have been able to keep on my hat so long. & the woeful result was quite the unexpected. I am sleeping - sometimes when it is not too hot - under a net. I have several times during this term taken quinine, I am drinking from a [Prana?] sparket - the Filter I may indulge in soon, & I WORE MY HAT, will that satisfy you? The rains have come, & I feel much stronger since. I am careful, but I should like more cycle exercise, & as I am working round by Ididep & the back of Use, there is not any chance of a run. I have not time for daily rides, as I am building, & the people crowd around so with their palavers [Note 8], & the girls at Ikot Obon are so busy out of doors at their school & their house work that I donít like to go there. I have not once cycled up the Creek side & now the mud is begun. The Nkura is near Ikot Okpene. Nkana is filthy. I slept - or tried to - there. Tata, the Children say Kom Etubom [ Note 9] O! they asked to whom I was writing.

Trusting this epistle will not tantalize you,

I am Yours

very faithfully

M M Slessor

The ladies never fail to ask for you,


1] C.M. = Court Messenger
2] Book = Probably a local term for an official document or statement
3] D.C. = District Commissioner
4] Str = Steamer
5] Ticket-of-leave. Licence for leave granted to a prisoner or convict before the end of his sentence
6] 10/- = ten shillings [or 50 new pence]
7] 5/- = five shillings [or 25 new pence]
8] palavers = usually discussions, consultations, or Court Cases
9] Kom Etubom. To give thanks to, to salute or give compliments to.
"Dictionary of Efik" by Rev. Hugh Goldie

TRANSCRIPTION BY: Leslie A Mackenzie, 1997

DATA ENTERED BY: Ruth Riding, 1997

Slessor, Mary

Letter no. 48.

9th May 1908

Mr. Partridge is still in England, but recovering well, and all Miss Slessor's friends hope he will soon return. Mr. Biddell however is still unwell, but has been communicating better with Miss Slessor. There is news of Esien Mr. Partridge's former interpreter who is in Calabar Prison. She gives news of the work of the Court which is busy, and she thinks the area is now more lawless instead of improving. She closes by thanking Mr. Partridge for the papers, etc. he sent.]

Use Ikot Oku
9. 5. '08

Dear Etubom [Note 1]

Your last is such a lift from the former letters. You have been down stairs & out in the garden! O I am glad, & the ladies at Ikot Obon, & all the native friends are so pleased to hear the good news, & we are all again beginning to measure the time when you will be back with us.

Mr. Biddell is out of the Hospital & back at Ikot Okpene but he says he is far from well yet - He came up last Saturday & looked in at my window & handed the girls a tin of Beef Essence & some Quinine for me, but I could not even turn to look at him, as I had a sick headache with my fever, & was fairly floored. I was all right in a day or two again, & am as fit as possible now, but I was off duty on the Sunday. The girls went to the farms & held the services & I crawled to Use in the evening. Mr. Biddell sent me a note - the first - by Halliday when he came back from his monthly trip with the Books, & He was to send another with answers to several queries & with two policemen to effect apprehensions too dangerous for our unarmed & simple C.M.s [Note 2] They have not yet come, but doubtless will soon, so at last I have a sort of hold, & have regained my faith in the fact of a real person at Ikot Okpene. He was not pleased at Halliday going & staying at Aro Chuku. He says it was not he who sent him. Who did? Halliday says the ADC. [Note 3] is coming to inaugurate the new coin this week. We shall see! The Governor gave me a handful when he was up, they look fine. The Govr.- was back at Itu, for Mr. Russell saw him, after he was up here, but I saw nothing & heard nothing further than that short talk on the way with the motor car in the midst of the admiring crowd. We are quite in the back wash now. We know not any one, & no one comes here at all.

Mr. Russell will have written to you. He went to Calabar a week ago, & is not yet returned. He is a fine man, & he appreciates your work & your character. I have not heard if he saw your boy. He will tell you himself. I had a letter from Esien last boat, in which he presses the question of bail on the Ikot Obon Chiefs again & begs them to go down, but as they know nothing about his affairs, they refuse to interfere. Certainly they cannot look at £300. So he cant be tried, as he writes from Calabar prison, & says nothing of Aro Chuku. So Hallidayís story is all a lie. Ofon Ikot is to send him £9 at once, & to bring his boy to see him, but Ofon Ikot says, he has hardly money to keep & take care of the family with his Mother & all, & tells Esien to get his money from where he put it, as he never gave him or his mother either any help. So I must blight all Esienís hopes I fear when I write tonight. He is certainly a selfish beggar, for he has never a word of pity for his Mother. We have been having quite a crop of Telegraph men & their matrimonial & domestic troubles in Court lately. What a place that Okof Eni is! As bad as Asan I think. We are kept busy at Court. The palavers [Note 4] never have a slack season. I think the District is more lawless instead of being better as the days pass. I have no news, have seen no one since I wrote last, & have heard nothing. I have not yet been back to Ikpe, but that district comes a deal to me.

I have no news, & am ashamed to send this silly scrawl. I'm trying to pull up Use a bit, & some of the lads are begun to read & write. We hold worship in the little Church every evening. Ekpo is blind nearly. They always speak of you. The ladies ask to be remembered to you, so does the Court, so do my girls, so do I. With thanks for letters, papers, as for scores of other things & for your self & with best regards, & hopes that you will grow stronger daily now with the good weather.

I am

Yours most sincerely

M M Slessor

Have letters from Mr. Middleton He rather likes the new place.


1] Etubom. An Efik word, meaning unknown
2] C.M.s = Court Messengers
3] ADC = Aide-de-camp
4] palavers = usually discussions, consultations, Court Cases

TRANSCRIPTION BY: Leslie A Mackenzie, 1997

DATA ENTERED: Ruth Riding, 1997

Slessor, Mary

Letter no. 49.

30th May 1908

[Summary Miss Slessor's district has been plagued by illegal arrests without warrants, to such an extent that people are afraid to venture out, and formerly prosperous markets are coming to a standstill. Udo Antia is again involved. Her rounds take up to 8 hours each Sunday, but she is now able to do this which she says is a great difference from the previous year when she was not fit enough. She and the rest of the staff wish Mr. Partridge a speedy return, perhaps in July.]


30. 5. '8

Dear Mr. Partridge
How glad I am for the continued good news of your recovery, & for the definite statement made by your Dr. that July may see you quite fit for your post. You must take a lesson from other D.C.s [ Note 1] & take a little more care next time, for the way you worked was, to say the least of it - suicidal. But it was or is fully appreciated e.g. by most people, for if you heard them when things do not come to pass, and things are coming to pass! When Udo Antie came home, I told you of his coming to call. Then I told you last time I think of our going out, "The Ladies" & I, to Itu Udo to see the old Rd Dept. [Note 2] shed. Mr. Hanson sent a dozen boys to get it repaired & sliding Bamboo doors put on, but the people refused the money I sent them.

[ start of page 2 - Miss Slessor appears to have omitted a word or words]

would not allow the boys to go to their Edefs [Note 3] to get either Mats or Bamboos. The boys begged them & told them it was not the Consul,[Note 4] but "the ladies" who wanted to come & teach you & your children, etc. They said - they swept the Manya Market, & had done their duty by the Govt. & had been burnt - & all the old story, & that now their chief was dead & they were reduced in circumstances & etc. etc. they only wanted to be quiet, & let the boys go away. They all had matcheats [Note 5], but they did nothing. only they did not let them go to their Edefs for stuff. Ibiaku ran away from us also.

However the sequel proved that their fears had some ground. Ibiaku has done some thing & Udo Antias boys while he has been away, & he summoned them, & they took their summons to Imuk, who told them he cd not enter the palaver [Note 6], sent them off. This was done because Imuk was a member of Court. Then the Akpun [Note 7] of the Udo Antia house who has defied the Court for 2 years, & has eaten the summons & warrants of the Court for all that time, who refused to come in to Mr. Mansfield, Who waited two days for him, was apprehended by Halliday for "Contempt" - & Udo came back to me, with his old palavers with Ntit Obio all written out, as if they were new, & that a few days ago his brother had been apprehended by Imuk, & tied up, & etc. from Imukís house. I said it was a regular warrant that took his brother, & he was brought in the usual way, & asked him to come to Court & hear the charges, or charge. He passed by the Court, but his brother pointed to Imuk in Court & said, that was the man who had brought him here, & etc. He was answered of course by the Court, but was remanded for a week till Halliday cd get all the charges tabulated to shew him. Meanwhile Imuk was sent for by Udo Antia, & the poor fool went, Udo tied him up, delivered him to his boys, who again delivered him to one C.M. [Note 8] to take to Ikot Okpene on a charge of murdering 2 boys. I sent to Biddell, as I cannot have any person in this district apprehend any other person without a warrant from this Court, & by its officers. Biddell wrote in the "Yellow" style [Note 9] of this sensational murder by the Ibiaku, & I think hushed it, & went to try & bribe Udo Antia to Hush it. It is too funny to think of Imuk on such an errand. "That Udo" took out 2 summons & etc. My reply is, if Ibiaku did take the summons to any one to plead for them to help it is only Native fashion, & Imuk cd. have been summoned to this Court. It is quite competent to deal with "Hush up". Halliday says Udo took 2 summonses for household stuff destroyed by Ibiaku, belonging to his boys, & never followed up the action by appearing. Biddell is to let me know How this White Elephant develops, & poor Imuk is in prison, & all Ibibio is in the same old state of fear for Udo Antia, & the Markets which have been going down steadily, are now "nil" as far as Anan is concerned. No one will walk on the government road out more than 2 miles beyond Ikot Obon, & poor Mr. Underhill is frantic, & all the native traders are crying out for Udo Afia Ikot Okpene. [Note 10]

If you heard the Jurymen about you as they heard Udo, & Biddellís letters on this affair read. One man - an old Itu Court man, said please Ma, tell the Consul if he is to go into these palavers, he should call all old members of Itu Court to hear. They will give him the key to this, & also produce evidence." I claim too with the Chiefs, that Imuk be tried at Ikot Obon, as there is only some witch medicine in the murder palaver, & Imuk has nothing to do with it. I have also said that if Udo Antia acts with other Courts in defiance of this one, or if he can do any thing in the way of arresting the people, my connection with the District ceases at once. So thatís the secret of Abiaku & Itu Udoís failure to meet us, O Udo is again King in Charge.

I'm sorry not to be able to tell you about your boy, but really I cant find him. Esienís mother stopped me last evening to ask again to gain some news of her son, but I am as helpless as she is. The ADC [Note 11] passed on Saturday & will call probably on his way back from Itu. He is a nice lad & works well. I have not time for more. I have a sick baby who will not stop crying if I lay him down. I had 2 girlies very ill - a remarkable thing for this healthy hungry household, all the last fortnight they kept me night & day, but they are better & I am very well. I manage 8 hours on end trudging & talking every Sabbath. I go round Ididep & Ntan & Ikot Etim & back to Ukobo & Use, & am never the worse. Thatís a difference from last year.

The ladies beg to be remembered to you. They too are well & busy. Why are you so sarcastic over the Road surveyors & their greetings to you? If you want to know their names, they are Messrs. Darly & Rosario, Who are gone home now, but have a very high opinion of you & your work here. The latter before he went away said, they only now knew what the District owed you, & At Russells it is the same story. An old friend of yours whom you put on the Court was here the other day. His son had been killed, & the man with the "smooth head," - not the Efik for baldness, gave a verdict for 20 goats & let the man go free. "O Ma, Where is Udo Afia? Tell him to come back!" etc. Baby will not be quiet so must stop. The flies are so annoying.

Thank you for all books & papers & letters & everything, & Hurry up & come home to your people.

God bless & heal you completely to this end.

With all kind regards

I am

Yours most sincerely

M M Slessor


1] D.C.s = District Commissioners
2] Rd Dep = Roads Department
3] Edef = appears to be an Efik word, meaning unknown, - but perhaps "stores"?
4] Consil = Consul
5] matcheats = machetes/matchets, broad heavy knives
6] palaver = usually discussion, consultation. Court Case
7] Akpun. Perhaps "first-born son". There are a number of meanings to this term in the Dictionary of Efik" by Rev. Hugh Goldie.
8] C.M. = Court Messengers
9] "Yellow" style. A reference to the yellow press, meaning exaggerated or sensational.
10] Udo Afia Ikot Okpene. Charles Partridge's local name
11] ADC = Aide-de-camp

TRANSCRIPTION BY: Leslie A Mackenzie, 1997

DATA ENTERED BY: Ruth Riding, 1997


The Author P. Amaury Talbot writing in his book "Life in Southern Nigeria" finished in 1914, relates the anecdote of a former District Commissioner - A.C.Douglas:

......."The firm African Association, as I told you, had kept the
secrets of the river and the bar to themselves, and rather
resented the advent of a Government representative; they had of
course the monopoly of all the trade for some years. Thompson their
auditor, told me it was by far their most paying factory, and he
hoped no opposition would ever come in. MacIver's agent in
Opobo was the intruder, and it happened in this way. We were
laying the Eket and Oron telegraph line in 1903-4 and ... the
Calabar Secretariat started bombarding me with ... missives
re getting telegraph material around. I wrote to the agent
Twist to charter the steamer; he had a little liver that day,
and replied, "the ------- Government could wait;
he wanted a load of gin from Calabar first."
I was annoyed at this, so went to Opobo that day overland,
and just caught the yacht with Mr. Widenham Fosbery, Acting
High Commissioner, on board, and got him to sign a contract
with MacIver to bring our stuff round, I personally guaranteeing
to pilot the vessel in; I also gave him a chart we had in our
office, and he reached Eket safely, much to the annoyance and
disgust of the agent, who had so long held the key of the

Later Mr. Talbot relates from his own experiences,

....A narrow creek separates Effiatt Island from the mainland,
and a short way down this, to the right, lies a stretch
of sand just raised above the mangrove swamp. To this,
in olden days, all small-pox sufferers were sent, and little
heaps of broken pots may still be seen placed there as
offerings to the Juju. This scourge was very prevalent
in the neighbourhood, and when an epidemic swept through
it is said that the crocodiles were quick to hear the news
"They gathered round the little beach, attracted by the
horrible smell of the disease. In the night time they used
to creep up to the houses and seize sick people out of their
beds, knowing that such were helpless and could not defend
themselves. Leopards, on the contrary, appear to avoid
towns on which this scourge has fallen,
as the smell offends their nostrils."
Right through Effiatt runs another new creek, unmapped
before our arrival. This leads to Akwa Obio Effiatt, the
home of the great Oboyemi Juju, on which the prosperity
of the town depends and which, the inhabitants say, gives
them "life." A great carved ivory tusk lies in its shrine.
Farther south is the mouth of Widenham Creek, named
after a former Provincial Commissioner, Mr. Widenham
Fosbery, to whom I and mine owe many a kindness. Into
this creek flows that of Inua Abassi (God's Mouth) leading
to the town of the same name. In the mud opposite the
entrance of this little waterway a strong post is to be
seen, to which in the old days a human sacrifice was
annually bound, to be drowned by the rising tide, at the
beginning of the fishing season.
In these degenerate days only a goat may be offered....