James Keith Trotter.

The Niger sources and the borders of the new Sierra Leone protectorate online

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the boundary, after following these streams to
the junction of the Mola with the Great


Skarsies, runs up the right bank of this river
as far as the point where we were erecting
a beacon. The delimitation was, therefore,
now complete along the entire Anglo-French
frontier, for it was naturally unnecessary to
take any steps to mark the boundary along
the river, where the river itself was the
boundary. We had only to complete and
sign our documents before breaking up for
the coast.

I was greatly astonished, when the Samu
party joined us, to observe with them the
French sergeant, who had been sent from
Heremakono to the coast in order to take
passage for France. This man, who had
served in the French Congo, had been some
years abroad, and had suffered severely from
the climate. He had more than once been
attacked by a form of sunstroke, and seemed
to be in such a serious condition that the
only chance of his recovery appeared to lie
in getting him on board ship without delay,
and he was, in fact, sent to the coast with
this object. Yet here he was back again,


looking quite recovered, and doing his work
as usual. I expressed my surprise at his
return as he came up to salute me. He told
me that it was entirely due to the sea ; he
regarded his last expedition as a visit to the
sea-side. Kiragba is, however, not exactly an
ideal watering-place ; it is a low-lying, man-
grove-fringed spot, and has the reputation of
being as choice a locality as any on the West
Coast for swamp. The party had spent
several days in wading through its muddy
rice lands, and it was undoubtedly a pleasing
novelty to hear it spoken of as a health

On the banks of the Great Skarsies game
is as plentiful as anywhere in the country.
The smaller antelope were numerous and very
tame ; they would stand watching us at a
distance of thirty or forty yards. Our police
sergeant shot a splendid specimen of the kudu
with a magnificent head. The second night
after our arrival in the camp a troop of five
elephants, travelling southwards into Sierra
Leone, the rains being about to commence,


came into our camp, and passed through in
the early morning. Our boys watched them,
and afterwards described to us in a state of
frenzied excitement the length of the tusks of
the principal male, and the way he reclined
against a palm tree. We followed them our-
selves, Captain Tyler with his camera ; but
they had been alarmed, and travelled fast
down the river, leaving enormous foot-marks
in the soft ground.

The rains were now beginning to threaten,
and on the night of the 2 7th we had a heavy
fall. Next day this was repeated, and rain
fell in torrents all the afternoon and night.
Our camp was converted into a swamp, and
we thought it advisable the next day to move
into the village of Wellia, which is about a
mile west of the river and about 200 feet
above it. Here we completed our documentary
work, signed the proces verbaux, and, after
having been hospitably entertained by our
French comrades, we left on May ist, the
French officers accompanying us to the bank
of the river, which we crossed in a canoe.


Our followers were all eager to get back to
the coast and to receive their pay, which on
these occasions is always retained till they are
discharged, and they stepped out with a will,
and we soon had placed a considerable dis-
tance between ourselves and the last scene of
our labours.

During the month of April the climate was
increasingly trying, and the air full of moisture.
Our lowest early morning reading was 70
and the highest 84, the mean being 77^.
The highest day reading was 100 and the
lowest 86. Rain fell on eight days, the fall
on two occasions being very heavy. Still we
were fortunate in avoiding the tornadoes we
had expected this month, and our followers
did very well on the whole. During the
worst rain they managed to shelter in a small
village near the camp.



/^\UR objective was now Kambia on the
Great Skarsies river, where we had
arranged to meet a boat from the Governor's
yacht, the "Countess of Derby." The dis-
tance to this place was about seventy-five
miles, and it was important that we should
cover it as soon as possible, lest we should
be caught by the rain. We marched along
the road to Ula as far as the ruined village
of Lusenia, and turned off there for Saionia,
where we arrived in the morning. Saionia
is a good-sized Mussulman town of about 55
houses, well kept, and looking fairly pros-
perous. After halting for breakfast, we pushed
on in the afternoon, and halted at Fodea, a


small village in bad repair, the total distance
covered being twenty miles. We found no
difficulty now in getting our carriers along ;
they were all so eager to reach the coast that
no distance was too great for them.

Next day we marched to Kufuna, a distance
of about ten miles, and halted at a poorly-
built village. We met here messengers from
the Governor announcing that the yacht was
awaiting us at the mouth of the Great Skarsies,
and asking for information of our whereabouts.
We received also a most welcome present of
bread, a luxury we had not seen for months,
and fruit.

On the next day, May 3rd, we marched
in the morning to Berikuri, a large Mussul-
man town, and in the afternoon to Kukuna,
a town of considerable size, covering a large
space of ground. We now found ourselves
in a very populous country, and on our next
day's march to Pettifu, a distance of twenty-
four miles, we passed a large number of towns
of a good size, the inhabitants of which are
all Mussulmans. The country is much culti-


vated, and really good service has been done
by converting a large extent of mangrove
swamp into rice fields. At Pettifu, where our
last night ashore was spent, the carriers, in
spite of their long march, spent half the night
singing and dancing to the music of tom-
toms. I addressed them through the chief
head-man, and informed them that, on account
of the good work they had done, all fines, of
which a large number had been registered,
were cancelled, and I thanked them for their
services. Their gratitude was boundless; many
of them crept up to me on their hands and
knees and embraced my boots, and songs and
dances of an uproarious nature followed.

On the 5th May we marched on, passing
towns every mile or so, to Kambia, a large
place on the river where a considerable trade
is done, canoes passing between it and Free-
town. We had an interview with the Chief,
who was anxious that we should stop, but
we had to embark before the tide turned,
and so continued our march to Massama, where
we met the " Countess of Derby's " gig, which


rowed us to Robat, the highest navigable point.
Here we were met by Captain Compton, the
commander of the yacht, and embarked. Our
carriers had started early from Pettifu and
marched to Robat, and the loads were all on
board when we arrived. One of our party,
Captain Sharpe, was now missing. He had
remained at Kambia, which was in his police
district, to transact some business, intending
to follow us. After waiting some time, he
sent word to say that he was laid up with
fever, and could not come. The tide was
now beginning to ebb, and just at this time
one of the sappers was prostrated with sun-
stroke, so we decided to push on, leaving the
apothecary to look after Captain Sharpe, with
instructions to bring him on next day.

The country we had passed through after
leaving Wellia is perfectly flat, there being
only one small rise, between Saionia and
Fodea, of not more than 100 feet. From
the Great Skarsies near Wellia to the same
river at Massama, a distance by march of
nearly eighty miles, the difference of height


as recorded by aneroid is not more than from
no to 1 20 feet. The ground is hard, flat,
and in many places covered with short herbage,
and suitable for grazing. There is hardly
any indication of swamp, except on the creeks
and inlets of the river, the banks of which
are covered with a deep, rich mud. The road
is good, hard, very easy, and much straighter
than in the more thickly bushed country.
There is no appearance of hills on the east
of the Great Skarsies, and no indication of
a well-marked watershed between the two great
rivers, the Great and Little Skarsies. These
two large waterways must run through a level
plain at a distance of not more than twenty
miles apart, separated by no obstacle, and a
very little effort would divert the water of
the one into the channel of the other.

Before leaving Wellia, the depot of supplies
which had been established at Yana, to which
place it had been moved from Kondita, was
brought down to Kambia by natives supplied
by the Chief of Yana, and was embarked
before our arrival. We thus found ourselves


complete on the " Countess of Derby," and
brought back with us everything that remained
of our supplies and stores. We reached Free-
town late on the night of May 5th, and dis-
embarked on the 6th, when our natives were
paid off and discharged.

Two days later I went to stay with the
Governor, Col. Cardew, C.M.G., who with
Mrs. Cardew was occupying a country resi-
dence at the extreme point of the Cape,
formed by the Atlantic coast where it is
joined by the southern bank of the Sierra
Leone river, some seven miles west of Free-
town. I remained there till the I2th May,
the day before we embarked for England.

Whilst our boundary delimitation was going
on, Col. Cardew, who has devoted much time
to exploring the interior of the colony, and
to questions connected with the politics of
the different tribes, made a most important
expedition. Accompanied by Major Grant of
the Royal Engineers, an officer of a high
reputation as an astronomical observer, he
followed the Anglo-Liberian frontier from


Tembi Kunda to the point where it cuts the
Mano river. This frontier joins the Anglo-
French frontier at Tembi Kunda, and starting
from the first beacon we had set up at the
head of the Tembi ravine, runs along a
parallel of latitude drawn through the position
of the beacon till it meets the i3th meridian
west of Paris (longitude 10 40' west of
Greenwich). It then follows this meridian
southwards till it cuts the Mano river, which
forms the boundary thence to the sea. The
Governor followed this boundary as far as
the Mano river, and explored the very im-
portant territory which falls within the British
sphere. He fixed in passing the position of
Waima, where the unfortunate collision with
the French troops occurred in 1894, and
which is now proved to be in British territory.
The work done during this exploration has
contributed a great deal to completing the
knowledge of a most important part of the
interior, and one which promises to become
very valuable to the colony in the future.
The Governor's expedition suffered the same


fatality as ours : Captain Boileau, the police
officer attached to it, whose headquarters
are at Panguma, was taken ill on the re-
turn of the expedition, and died after an
attack of fever lasting a few days. This
frontier police force work is evidently very
trying, and the rate of mortality is very high.
Out of seven officers, in a period covered by
less than a year, three died and two were
invalided to England. The causes of this
serious state of affairs are, I imagine, not
only and not even mainly the unhealthiness
of the climate, but more particularly the diffi-
culty of obtaining the common necessaries and
the common comforts of life in the interior.
Except rice, fowls, a little fruit, and occasion-
ally a sheep, everything must be transported
from the coast, and the cost of bringing up
luxuries is so great that they are quite beyond
the reach of those living in the interior under
present conditions. But I shall revert to this
matter in a later chapter.

During my stay with the Governor I had
an opportunity of observing some of the


industries of the Sierra Leone population of
some of the outlying- towns. Aberdeen is
the nearest town to the Cape point, the
population of which is mainly occupied with
fishing. On one occasion we saw the nets
brought to land on the Atlantic coast. They
had evidently been fixed at a short distance
only from the shore, as the fish, of which
enormous numbers were landed, did not ex-
ceed from i to 4 Ibs. each in weight. Fish of
many descriptions, including some of excellent
quality, are very plentiful on the coast, and
it only requires an increased demand to make
this industry a very thriving one. Oysters
of large size and excellent quality are found
in abundance on some rocks near Cape point,
and on the Bullom shore mangrove oysters
are very plentiful ; but though these latter are
declared by many to be perfectly good, there
is a considerable suspicion attaching to them
in the eyes of the prudent.

A certain amount of cultivation is done in
these outlying villages, principally of rice,
cassava, and guinea-corn. Fruit is also


grown, the most common kinds being bananas,
oranges of a sweet but inferior flavour, papaws
(a fruit in appearance like a melon, which
grows on a tree), mangoes, and pines. Of
these also it may be said, that if the quality
is not all that it might be, it is probable that
the number of those who possess a discrimi-
nating taste is too small to exercise any
influence on the market. Throughout the
interior the only fruit met with everywhere
are bananas and papaws ; hardly a village is
to be found without these. Plantains are
cultivated in the larger places only, and are
too coarse to be eaten, except cooked as a

The railway now being constructed from
Freetown will, no doubt, have a great in-
fluence on the trade and prosperity of the
colony. Considerable progress has been made
with the line, in spite of the serious mortality
amongst the engineers superintending the
construction. There is something terribly
dangerous about turning up the soil in West
Africa ; any work which involves doing this


seems to set free malarial poison in its most
deadly form. But in the face of these draw-
backs the railway construction has made great
progress, and it is hoped that in 1898 the
first section, which ends at Songo Town, a
distance from Freetown of about thirty miles,
will be open for traffic. The line is to be
continued in a south-easterly direction, towards
the upper waters of the Sulima river, to tap
a country which is rich in rubber, and com-
paratively well populated.

The effect of the railway construction is
already being felt in Freetown ; it has caused
the most enterprising of its inhabitants to see
that the time has come for modernizing their
surroundings. The town is now ill lighted
by oil lamps ; some more suitable method is
required. With a terminal station and rail-
way works in progress, and with an important
harbour, custom house, landing stage, coal
wharves, and warehouses, the application of
gas or electricity is a necessity.

A company has recently been formed to
make soda water and ice for the West Coast


generally, as well as for Sierra Leone in
particular. Considering that the only good
water to be found on the West Coast is at
Freetown, and considering the demand for
soda water and ice in a climate like that of
the West Coast, it is a matter of surprise that
this business has not been taken up earlier.
The Company has secured the monopoly
of a stream of excellent water, and should
prove of much benefit to the Sierra Leone

Some attempts have been made by one of
the leading men of Freetown to cultivate
coffee in the neighbourhood of the place, and
to export some of the fine timber growing on
the hillsides, and I was informed that con-
siderable profit had already been made from
these sources.

On the 1 2th May the mail steamer "Benin"
was signalled as arriving from the Gold
Coast, and on the same afternoon I left the
hospitable roof of the Governor, where I had
spent a very pleasant four days, and returned
by boat to Freetown, from which place our


party embarked the next. day, May i3th, on
the " Benin," and left the same afternoon,
arriving at Liverpool on the 2 9th May.

The French Commission left Wellia the
day after our departure, and proceeded down
the west bank to Konakri, where they em-
barked for France, arriving on the 2ist of

The delimitation thus ended will, it may be
hoped, put an end to the very unsatisfactory
condition of affairs which has prevailed in the
border country for years past. The exact
frontier being unknown and the rights of each
nation being undefined, the natives have been
ignorant of their position with regard to Great
Britain and France, and in some cases they
have taken advantage of the opposing claims
of both sides to further their own ends. In
many places there are rival claimants to the
position of Chieftainship of a district or Head-
manship of a town. If the reigning party
was of British sympathies, his rival was
naturally French, and vice versa ; and the
opposing parties did their part in keeping up


friction, and in circulating reports of frontier
violations, etc. Moreover, police patrols from
British and French border stations traversed
the doubtful zone, and occasionally came into
collision with each other, both supposing
themselves to be within their own territory.
The boundary was only definitely settled by
treaty in January 1895, and before this, more
especially in the northern part of the Pro-
tectorate, it was impossible to say in any
disputed case which party was in the right
and which in the wrong. But even after the
treaty had been signed, the position was little
better, for frontier parties unprovided with
instruments of precision could not lay down
the law regarding a boundary dependent on
a parallel of latitude or a line joining distant
points in a country altogether unsurveyed.

Now, however, there can be no doubt
about the frontier, and no one can cross it
without knowing that he is doing so. In this
country every one is confined to the roads,
and every road is marked with a beacon
at the place where it crosses the frontier.


Every village and town, therefore, near to the
border knows on which territory it stands,
and how its farm lands are divided. To
make this doubly sure the border villages are
all named in the proces verbal, and it is there
stated on which side of the boundary they fall.
The Chiefs and the Frontier Police have all
had these matters explained to them, and if
difficulties occur they can hardly be ascribed
to ignorance except in very minor particulars.
As regards the general effect of the bound-
ary, we found that the watershed line in the
mountainous country made a very good natural
frontier, and divided town from town in a
very clear and unmistakable way. People
belonging to the same district of Kuranko
country are found living on both sides of the
watershed in parts, but they are very well
separated, and no difficulty should result from
their being on one or the other side of the
frontier. Further north, where the mountains
disappear, the separation is not so clear, and
the line occasionally cuts some farm land into
one side, and other land belonging to the


same town into the other side. In no case,
however, on the watershed does the line cut
through a village ; every village is definitely
on one side or the other.

In Samu, which is a country of many
roads, the watershed boundary cuts the farms
about, but the villages are all clearly on one
or the other side.

Where the boundary is a parallel of latitude
or a line joining two points, the division, as
may naturally be expected, is not so satis-
factory ; but, fortunately, a great part of the
country being uninhabited, no villages or
farm lands are touched by the line, and no
difficulties can occur.

It is to be hoped that, before many years
are over, we may have every part of our
African possessions and spheres, where they
join those of other European powers, regularly
demarcated and beaconed. The sooner this
is done the better, as where the boundary is
not a natural feature, difficulties of demarca-
tion are increased if towns are built close to
the border, or if farms or grazing lands are



taken up. The fixing of a frontier line on
the ground, no doubt, is a necessary step to
promote the development of a country, and
until it is carried out little can be done where
boundaries are undefined.



r I ^HE remarks made here on the people of
the Protectorate with whom I came in
contact during the expedition described in this
work must not be taken as having the same
value as those of an observer who has spent
years in the country, and has had special oppor-
tunities of studying the native character. To lay
down the law after an experience of not more
than six months of a country, and to generalize
from the small number of natives with whom
one is brought into contact in a short time,
are, I am well aware, very likely to lead one
from mistaken premises to wrong conclusions.
I can only speak of the native character as


it showed itself to me, and reproduce the im-
pressions fixed on my mind.

The people with whom I came in contact
in greater or less numbers are the Sierra
Leonis, the Timmeni, the Mendi, the Limba,
the Kuranko, and the Susu. All these people
speak different languages, although there is
a considerable similarity between some of
them, and all the languages are of Arabic
origin, excepting, of course, the pigeon-English
spoken by the Sierra Leonis.

Of the Sierra Leonis I have spoken already.
They possess a civilization of their own ; some
of them indeed, as I have remarked before,
are highly educated and accomplished. The
children are trained and educated under the
direction of the Church Missionary Society,
and the whole population is nominally Chris-
tian. Every village has its church, generally
a bare white-washed building, and the people
are very regular in their attendance at the
services. Any one who has been inside one
of their churches, and has heard the crowded
congregation singing in every conceivable key,


not as English people sing, but each member
devoting his or her full lung power to the
work, will not readily forget the effect.

The Sierra Leonis are affable to a fault.
As you meet them in the street, you are
greeted with a broad grin, and a " Good
morning, sah." They are absolutely free from
the reserve of northern races, and are only too
anxious to open their souls to any passer-by.
Their cheerfulness, too, is beyond all praise,
and rises superior to the enervating effect of
the climate. Indeed the more nearly the
conditions which depress the Europeans are
attained in their highest degree, the more
cheerful and the more affable does the Sierra
Leone become. Their faults are those com-
mon to all natives of the West Coast, and
probably are the result in some cases of a low
order of civilization, and in others of a want of
the sense of responsibility. The most striking
are untruthfulness and dishonesty, and, especi-
ally in the lower classes, these faults are
common. At the same time, they are not
universal, and amongst the natives with whom


I was brought in contact were some whose
character in these matters was beyond re-
proach. The Sierra Leonis are distinctly
not a warlike people. Many of them are
men of fine physique, but fighting is not their
strong point, and no one can fail to observe
in them the absence of those qualities which
go to make a nation of warriors. Though
the physique of the men is fine, they are not,
as a rule, capable of sustaining great hardships,
and constitutionally, I imagine, they are not
as strong as their appearance suggests. They
are specially subject to chest diseases ; indeed,
all the natives of the West Coast seem to suffer
from bronchitis and other kindred ailments
in chronic form.

Of the Timmeni people we saw very little,
and amongst our followers we had only one or

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Online LibraryJames Keith TrotterThe Niger sources and the borders of the new Sierra Leone protectorate → online text (page 7 of 14)