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Mary Slessor: Letters 71–80

Letter no. 71

23rd June 1910

Miss Slessor has had a long letter from Mr Partridge in which he would appear to have thought that her earlier letter [No 70] was not so friendly. This Mary takes seriously! He has also enclosed a statement which will resolve Ekpo Ita's problem. Mary goes on to relate the circumstances under which she fell seriously ill, of the love and care she has received from her friends, and of how she will soon be back at Use. She has been impressed by the gardens at Itu, and has resolved to establish a garden for herself on her return. While away Mr Dickson has repaired her house, and established a system for collecting rain water. She upbraids Mr Partridge for keeping secret the fact that he is author of another book "King Edward's Ring", which she has just discovered, and asks to know more of it before she reads it again in order to discuss it with him later.

C Partridge Esqr
The Residency
Abeokuta
*Nigeria* *W.P.*

(Postmarks show the letter left Calabar on June 25th 1910, arrived in Lagos on June 29th, and was received at Igbein Hill Abeokuta on June 30th 1910)

Training Institute
Duke Town
23rd June 1910

O You Dear Duffer – will that do???

I never thought you could be so dense! Did you never hear that "absence makes", etc & you never saw that I was writing for Ekpo Ita, & that the letter might have to be shewn to some Magistrate you were to take oath before? If I could not call you "Dear Mr" - & give *respectful* salaams, I would not care so much when you were long silent, & you would have another letter between or before that one which was not "Just like a woman". Did you not get that?? Well, Well! I'm properly glad to see the marks of your "fist" again anyhow, tho. it *is* driven home with some force, but I am not so well pleased with your new abode. Thousands of a population in one locality, does not meet my approval under tropical African conditions, & I do hope your residence is far apart from the madding crowd, - tho I don’t know what "madding" means? [Note 1]-

You don’t say one word about your health. I wish you had, but I take it for the best as you say nothing to the contrary. Only you would not do that for anything, if you were ever so uncomfortable or ill. You are a personification of John Bull in this respect. I suppose I could put it in a finer way than that, but this will do. It is time now I thanked you I think for your long letter, & for the releif to that poor mans feelings, & to the deadlock in the Court in his Case, which your paper brought. I sent it to the A.D.C.s [Note 2] Office at Itu, but have never seen him, or our people. And that brings me to the reason I am here.

It will be five weeks tomorrow since I was away down the road on some business about tree cutting, as the motor cd not pass, & I came home as well as ever I was in my life. I had settled a palaver [Note 3] on the road, & so had a long seat in the middle of my walk, & was reading after breakfast, when such a vomiting which cd not stop came on, & the children got so frightened when I cd. not speak any more that they told David, who got on his Cycle & off to Ikot Okpene for the Dr., as we thought Dr Robertson was in Calabar at the Kings Memorial service. At once Jean ran to Itu, & David had told his Master, so before long 3 White Men, & then Dr Robertson were there with the motor, & they lifted me in & took me to Itu, where Dr Robertson & his wife nursed me with such tender care & affection & with such skill that in 3 weeks I could go out my self to the verandah & sit about. The very day after the news got down here, my dear old friend & Chief, Mr Bedwell, sent up a launch with ice & chickens, & from then the brother & sister here who are among my most intimate & loved friends from long ago, kept sending up such delicacies, & then Mr Bedwell sent the *Maple* *Leaf* [Note 4] for me fancy that! While two A.D.C.s one of them sick, went down in a small launch at the same time, & he wanted me to live at the Hospital for a month, for rest & change, [ - ?]!!! This child & her friends prevailed, so I have been spoiled here, with affectionate nursing & am feeding up for the slaughter of all those dear innocents at Use & neighbourhood, when I get back on Saturday. Mr Bedwell has gone for a tour somewhere, but another old & valued friend, Mr Child came, & he is to send me home in another launch on Sat. so I can have Sabbath with my people. Now there's another episode!

I'm so sorry at causing such trouble to every body, but I have learned a great many valuable lessons, & I have seen many "tips" for the material side, which will maybe make the little bit in front more effecient [sic] in my small service. O I've forgotten to say, that by Mr Bedwells orders, my house has been all repaired & rematted, & a spout put up to the roof to catch rain water & the Mission sent a huge tank long ago , so now the connection is made: life will be considerably less strenuous for the children, who had so much water to carry, & better for me with the purer water. I *have* a filter mind, so don’t preach! & I was going on all the proper lines when this happened. Well now this is enough, or, nearly so, about my precious self, and the 5 *teething* *Infants* - if they are all spared, to whom I go, D.V. [Note 5] in a couple of days, will bring me to Terra Firma [Note 6] again. I have not any news tho' I have been out to tea at the Drs. His wife, a handsome & very pretty woman came out a few weeks ago, & was very kind & gracious to us, a charming manner she has. She has three lovely children at home, which added to her charm & winsomeness, as her mothers-love was manifest in her conversation & manner. Mr Child is to come up for a cup of tea this afternoon. There have been 2 or 3 deaths of a rather sudden kind here among white men, but they are not among your acquaintance or mine. A number of deaths have occurred also among my people since I left. A letter has just come in from David, & he tells me Mary & all the children are well, & that Use are repairing the Twin Mothers house & several other places in the grounds. So I feel quite glad. This is a very lovely place! I have been able to take a walk this week, every day, & am charmed with the whole thing. The Drs garden, & all the gardens here, as well as that at Itu Hospital, are lovely, & I am determined to have a garden the first thing I do.

I am not at all in love with either side of our Political District. We have got such an ------------------------! of a man at Itu. I'm glad he was in a separate launch, for there would have been a sparring match, & I'm not physically fit yet for it, but it *will* *come*, if he is long enough there. The average length of the A.D.Cs time there since Mr Dickson left, is about 3 weeks, &, "I am glad". Thats from a Hymn refrain, but it is not meant to be irreverent, for it just came to the pen point before I thought. don’t you think for a moment you are to "Pawn my halo," My hair is growing in again, & I'm determined I shant give you any opportunity.

There is a semi European Church at Ikot Obon now, & there is a surplus of £20 " " after paying about £60 for it. They got help however from other Congregations, Duke & Creek Towns. Itu is putting up a fine new Church, a small tower, or whatever you call it, will be seen from far & near. It, the Church, will cost about £400. & it is almost subscribed already by the *natives* *themselves* who have a few boys out teaching in the bush districts, All at Native Expence. So you can hardly call us heathen now. Trade is developing wonderfully. There are Three factories at Itu, with seven white men in them. Then Russell does well in kernells. I hear 100 puncheons are lying at Miller Bros for shipment up there.

But I must come to my crack shot. Why did you never tell me that you were the Author of "King Edward's Ring?" I found the book at Itu, & it had - that copy - been read so widely that the Covers were torn off, & no one now can learn the publishers name. You are a fine one! To have kept your secret so well! & never to give one a chance of getting the book. Come now, 'fess up!! & this time it will be my chance to "Pawn a halo". They say it is at Lowestoft the publishing firm live. Let me know for I have no way of knowing. If you don’t tell me, don’t look for grace any more. Did you do it while you were so long an invalid? After you tell me, & I have another reading of it, we shall discuss it.

But here is the breakfast bell, so I shall stop. If I hear any news I may add it, but we have to shop a little, & we have a visitor tonight, & I may not get time tomorrow, as I am to get cuttings & flowers for taking up on Saturday. If there is no more added, you will know I have not had time. If you are near Mr Fred Darby, give him my best regards.

Bybye! dear old man! Keep well, & take care of yourself, & if it be only a line let me hear now & then from you, I am Your affectionate friend,

Mary MSlessor

Editorial Notes:

  1. Madding. Acting madly, or distractedly
  2. A.D.C. = Aide-de-camp
  3. palaver = usually denotes a discussion, consultation or Court Case
  4. "Maple Leaf": probably a river launch
  5. D V = God willing [Deo Volente]
  6. Terra Firma - latin for "Firm Ground"
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1997
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 72

5th October 1910

A short note in which Miss Slessor anxiously enquires why she has not heard from Mr Partridge lately – has she upset him, or is he ill?

(Address on envelope)
C. Partridge Esqr
Abeokuta
c/o Secretariat
Lagos *Nigeria*

(Postmarks show it was received in Calabar on October 8th, 1910; Lagos on October 11th, and Igbein Hill Abeokuta on October 12th, 1910)

Industrial Institute

Duke Town

5th Oct 1910.

 

Dear Old Friend

If I have grieved you in any way: surely it is not beyond forgiveness, & surely you will let me know, so that I can explain it, or try to. I cant afford to lose your regard & respect, without making some effort to avoid such a sorry debock - & I cant spell the word!! Guess it. Please! dear old Comrade! Give me, if only a P.C. [Note 1] to say, "All right", & if it has been sickness which has caused the silence.

Im here attending Presbytery, & am well. Tho' I was rather broken when I came, as Mary - who was married last October to the Govt. Chauffeur ffrom Lagos, got a baby girl on the day previous to our coming down. I shall not give you any more personal news, as I fear you may not care for it, but I shall await a reply of some kind with a little anxiety

I am your old friend

Mary MSlessor

 

Editorial Note:

  1. P.C. = Post-card
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1997
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 73

1st December 1910

Christmas greetings on a postcard of Town & Church, Calabar

(Postcard addressed to)
C. Partridge Esqr
Stowmarket
Suffolk
England

(Post marked 1st Dec 1910; then Calabar 3rd Dec 1910)

"To Thank you & wish you a Holy Happy Xmas & growth in grace & the Highest prosperity in the New Year. Yours gratefully & sincerely M MSlessor"

Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1997
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 74

22nd December 1910

Miss Slessor explains all the delays that have prevented her replying to his last letter. She is at Ikpe supervising the building of her house there. Meanwhile they are in rooms at the Church. She describes the town, and her plans for the future supervision of Use and Ikpe. Word has spread that Mr Partridge is to return to the area, and she recounts the resulting excitement and interest. Small Pox has hit the district, and the people have agreed to be vaccinated, but only if Mary or a white man carries it out as they distrust their own people in such matters. A bell has been hung in Use Church, and the new Church at Itu has been opened with no difficulty in meeting its costs. She refers again to the book she discovered he had written, with more encouragement to continue his writing. She gives news of her household, and concludes with her Christmas wishes to him.

(Envelope addressed to:)
C Partridge Esqr.
District Commissioner,
Ibadan
Lagos, Nigeria

[This envelope was rubber-stamped on the back "Received at Okopedi 21st Dec. 1910". Postmarked Itu 22nd Dec, 1910, it was further postmarked Calabar December 23rd and Lagos December 29th 1910]

Ikpe Ikot Nkon

My Dear Old Chief

I know you will not keep your threat. You will write to me sometimes when you have got home & had a rest. I was so glad to hear from you for I often feared you had had to go home, or that something had turned you from me. I meant to write by return, but I began to take frequent fevers, which did not take me from my work, but made me unable in the mornings to get up to write. Then I came up to Ikpe, & as there is no post up here, I got careless of writing in proportion to the pressure of work, & there was a whole week between at Use, when wrote Xmas letters every day, & because you were nearer hand, I let yours stand. I am at Ikpe again. We are building at last, & only that my Carpenter has gone somewhere for medicine, the roof would have been on my house today. However the walls will be finished to day I hope, except for mudding, as all the work for the roof, which is to be of Iron, is done. How these people have worked! & never did I have such material for building provided before, not one single inferior stick in the lot, & there are loads of stuff left over for out houses. We have got a hill about 7 minutes from the Market Place, away from the dirt & noise, & we have a spring of good water inside the grounds. We will land at the upper beach. It is always free from mud that road, but is a bit farther on the river. I don’t know whether I can get anyone to take over Use. I rather think, I shall have to divide the time between the two places. A new person could hardly take up this town, they are so heathenish, so brutish even, a novice wd. find it more than he cd hold onto, besides, he wd never get to know things under the suface. & then there is a Church & a hungry clamourous people at Nkana, & ever so many other places want supply. So I must get the roads cleaned & use my cycle among them till the spade work is done, when some one can take it up. They were rejoiced to hear that [B - k? e?] had gone, & O how every one was rejoicing up here & all Ikot Obon side when we heard that you were coming back to us. I was inundated with visitors from every where, to ask if it were true, & to tell you to come quick & not go away again to any other place, etc.etc. My first informant was Mr Rosario, who came in one day saying, "Ma what will you give me for my news? I know you will pay highly for it. It is rare news today." & he kept me on tenter hooks till then he said "Mr Partridge is coming to Ikot Okpene. The Native Clerks all knew it at Ikot Okpene & were scattering the news broadcast. The thing called A.D.C. [Note 1] at Itu, was wondering then where he wd. be, as *we* wd. run the show. I wish we had got the chance. The District groans. Im never done up here finding Blackmailers. The traffic is transferred from Aro Chuku to this Creek now, & there is a rather nice old man from New Calabar at the Rest House here on the Creek as Transport Clerk, & the Steel Canoe runs up & down, as the whole site & buildings at Bendi are being changed to a better place. It seems the old site is unhealthy. So this p - don’t know what I was to say here. Folks came with palavers [Note 2], & then I had to get on to the work place before the sun got too hot. So I'm sitting under the palm branches they have rigged up looking after things & the bairns are playing at my feet, while the bigger girls are washing as they can spread their clothes out here on the bush. We live meanwhile at the Church. There are two small rooms built on to the gable, & a small bit of the market place is fenced in for a yard. So we are very comfortable, but rather cramped, & there is no space for bairns. What a teeming crowd pass & repass all the day long, & on market day it is simply sickening in the heat. The noise & the smells are about enough to turn one over. But it is wonderfully quiet at night. Small Pox is all over the place I hear, & we got a motherless baby, whose Father has just got over it, but the mother & others have died at one of the Ebariba Towns. S00000o the Drs are busy trying to overcome the predguices [Note 3] of the superstitious frightened people & trying to get them to submit to vaccination. I have just had a letter here from Mr Chamly, the D.C. [Note 4] at Aro Chuku. He kindly invites me to spend a day or two with him on my downward journey. It has made sunshine this cheery letter. The people here are willing to be vaccinated if Ma, or a White Man will do it, but they will not have it from these black boys, as they are full of mischief i.e. sorcery & witch. The *Black* Man has no faith in his fellow black man, never seems to beleive good of him, & he can hear evil. I have heard from Marys husband at Ikot Obon Camp that my room window has been broken Use ran up & told him, but I don’t know whether the house is robbed. if it is, it is the first time I have had that experience in all my life among black folks. That Government Road is a pest House. All sorts of scoundrels from everywhere skulk on it, & nothing is safe. I have sent down Annie's husband, who is up here with me, to see, & to tell Use to live there till I come back.

Messrs Russells agent has sent up some boards, & a present of biscuits & a cake. Isn't it good of him? Nobody I think gets so much love & service as I do all the time. I just wonder at it. I think Mr Mann may come up & try to gain a place for trade, while I am here. They have tried it for 3 years now but the people wont hear of it. They don’t want the white man at any price. I expect they want to monopolise the market, at least Eniyon does. They are mad at my coming, but eventually, they will have to give in, for it is coming fast. The Old Chief at Itu is dead, & several others of some weight there, so I feared for the money due on the new Church Itu has had put up. It has cost over £300 & as the funeral rites & mourning & etc has cost so much I thought the £151 not gathered might make Trouble, but I have a note from Dr Robertson saying the collection at the opening was £113 - - . What do you think? All the Creek Congregations & others were there & have done well. Asan, Akani Obio, & several others have Ballances for building in 3 figures, Our own little Church at Use had a new Bell out from Home costing over £8 - - & they have paid it from their offerings. It is heard all over the farms and at Ididep. Mr Stephens & Dr Roach heard of our not being able to hang it, as it has a pully and wheel, & they came up & with the villagers hung it for us. So you see things are moving here. You wd. not know Itu now. Factories all along the length of the beach, the Bungalow & Hospital on the Hill. All the forest cut down, & the slope beautifully laid out. Alas! a number of grave stones are there too, as the Xtians [Note 5] have a cemetery & now the beautiful Church is up, with a tower & bell, & it is all like a picture. What a land site it is for a Home? Where is the copy of the Book you found for me? If I knew the Publisher I shd. get it for myself, but the copy I had was so well read & lent that the Covers were gone, & I was charged not to let any leaves be lost. Why don’t you go on? It is perhaps that sickening hatred of the pen that keeps you from doing it? Or is it too much to do? & your brain is fagged? It is a pity any how that you don’t go in more for literary work, for you have the power to do it. However, you *may* be doing, for ought one knows, or maybe better still, you are gathering material for days of leisure. Any how I shall hope to see some more of your work before I go to the "Halo Brigade". My! but this is a grand name!! Struck me as quite distinguished! & I shall do my utmost to qualify for it.

This has been quite a series of interruptions Interviews, Palavers, advice, complaints etc. & the last is the Head Man of the Town who has been giving me a long list of the honours of his father, & his power, & of the determination of the people to have himself succeed, of how he fought against the honour as he was too young, & how he had fought but they thrust it on him, & now *his* *Mother* has come to make things better for them than ever! He hopes she will be his friend & tell him when he is wrong, & etc. & will she tell the young men when they have done my house to carry sticks for him, so that he may have a house worthy of the White Woman in his Town & high up in the roof like this, & blarney without measure! now I'm hungry & am sending for Jean to get my chop [Note 6] brought here, & as she is going to Nkana to open a school, I expect there will be little time for writing as have only Maggie & Whitie with me! There is a brace of big baby boys who are far too heavy for me. Annies boy died not long ago. He was running about, & began to speak. Mary has a fine little girl, & is immensely proud of it: David has been a good son in law, so has Akpa Inyan. Jean is still the House Mother. The Dr has told her she cant marry, & she is fain [Note 7] to keep the kids here. She may take the English Class in school here. We shall see. As they scatter, I miss them for they did my hard work. Dan will D.V.[Note 8] be home for Holiday from Duke Town Institute, one of these days. He is not clever, but is thus far, a good boy, & obedient & cleanly in all his habits & ways. Asogno, the little Adam, who wd not wear his clothes, is at school there too, but is not at all satisfactory. He is a young tatterdemalion & a regular man of CHOP.

This is tomorrow. I was not able to stay & tho' I had fever on me had to go out & judge between some Uneme women & Ibibio men. This morning I have just answered a very prudish epistle from a black clerk, asking me "to tell my Church member women to cover their nakedness when they pass here, else I shall make the boys *drive* them away". Rather a tall order, seeing Govt. has planted its shed at the ford where the women cross the Creek to their farms, & which takes a woman up to the arm pits. *Ive* *answered* *him*. Besides I have no Church members yet up here. They are creeping up, but certainly this is not the way to help them. The Chief called saying he had ordered all the men to make mats & put up a cooking shed at once, thats more than I bargained for. I meant to do this myself slowly. So thats an offset to the Govts. super refined chastity & effort to shew off his power. But I know you will make capital of this, & laugh at our work as providing these objects, & of course you know, that if you were at Close Quarters I should shew you that these are not fair specimens, as we have very sane & clean men men & women, who never come to the front & who are thus unknown to officials. Miss Peacock & Miss [McM- ?] are still at home, but I have two dear girls in their place at Ikot Obon, who are such a help & comfort to me. Miss Amess & Miss Annie McMinn. Now I must stop this rambling rubbishy talk. You will never have time to decipher it. Anyhow one comfort is, your own calligraphy is about equal to it as an enigma. I do wish you a very very Happy Xmas, & the best New Year you have ever had, & with it every good & perfect gift. I never forget to ask Our Father for this, & I trust you have the results of these whisperings in His Ear, in your experience many a time. You will be going home into the cold, but I trust it will brace you, & that your stay at home may be as pleasant & profitable in every sense as is possible, to you & yours. I'm telling the girls round me that you are to get this & they all send their Ekom [Note 9] to you. So do I, & so would many if they knew I was writing.

I am dear old friend,

Yours affectionately

Mary MSlessor

Editorial Notes:

  1. A.D.C. = Aide-de-camp
  2. palavers = usually denotes discussions, conversations, or Court Cases
  3. Surely "Prejudices"
  4. DC District Commissioner
  5. Xtians = Christians
  6. chop = food. "man of chop" = editor suggests "a person who eats a lot, enjoys his food."
  7. fain = glad or joyful; eager
  8. D.V. = God Willing [Deo Volente]
  9. Ekom. Efik word, probably meaning "compliments, salutations of respect" from "Dictionary of Efik" by Rev. Hugh Goldie.
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1997
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 75

10th January 1911

This letter is in response to one from Mr Partridge's father. Miss Slessor tells of her current situation - waiting excitedly, but nervously, with her family for a canoe to come and take them to their new home in Ikpe. She relates something of her early life when she first knew she wished to become a missionary. She thanks Mr & Mrs Partridge for their kind thoughts and after relating the circumstances of the arrival of a box containing a Christmas Pudding from their son asks them to express her gratitude to him on his arrival. She discusses current Christian life and goes on to describe how much life in her area has changed for the better since the coming of Christianity. She closes on good wishes for the New Year.

(Addressed on the envelope to Mr Partridge's father at:)

Chs. Partridge Esqr – senior
Stowmarket
Suffolk
England

(Post-marked Calabar January 14th, 1911 and Stowmarket February 6th, 1911)

Ikot Okio

10th January 1911

 

Dear Mr Partridge

I did not mean to write to you today, for I feel unsettled, as I'm just expecting a canoe any hour with boys to take us up to our new station, & somehow, it makes me a wee bit excited as to how we will get the babies down, & how we will do for a covering in the canoe, & we have to get a warm meal ready in a few minutes, for our journey means sleeping a night somewhere by the river side. So I'm not in a writing mood, & feel better when going about getting every thing cleaned up outside & in. In one - the main sense - I have not a grain of anxiety, that is regarding the work itself, & the getting of it done. It is just old age making me feel that I cant push up for the comfort of my little ones now, & I am frightened that the milk & bottles & water & etc will be forgotten or some thing. Then if I sit down under these circumstances I am apt to get irritable with the bairns, which is not only unfair to them, but puts myself out of touch with the Lord, & unhappiness is the result all round. I know that God is able to give victory over nerves too, but somehow I take always the line of least resistance & never put Him to the Test, as there is always plenty to do which does not bother. Well, Im to put the test now & try to get one or two letters done to leave for postage, & this is the first, & it is almost easy to write it, because only an hour or two ago, we were all excited, & crammed into this room opening a box with a Xmas Pudding from dear Mr Partridge, who is as one of ourselves in this house, & all the talk since has been of him & I have had to read your letter to the oldest girl as a result of rhe conversation. Then Dan is home from school at Duke Town, & he has had a deal to ask as he has been away from us for a year & a half, except at Holidays. So you see It is, as I said easy to write to you today, for I want to thank you & Mrs Partridge too for the kind thought, as well as for the gift from your son. How good of him, a young, clever man, thinking of an old lady like me, & sending at such trouble to himself such a seasonable gift. I do not know if he will be gone home, as his time is up - for there is no letter yet, & he is so busy all the time, he may not get written till he is on board, but if he is at home when this reaches you, will you give him our very warm thanks, & return his wishes for the season, with compound interest. I have been hearing a palaver by Proxy, all this time & ballancing a baby on my foot. He is just begun to stand with a hold, & now I'm to shut the room door & answer your letter to the best of my ability.

And it takes me back to old days. When I was a girl; I had a friend who, much older than myself, nevertheless was a very intimate friend, & was my first confidant regarding my desire to be a missionary. He was Manager in a Bank in our Town, & he used to shew me the beauties of literature & etc, & when I wrote papers for our Fellowship society, He criticised mine & read them in the meeting, as ladies did not do these things in our stern Presbyterian Church meetings. Well He & I were reading Dante & Milton together, He pointing out all that I ought to know & etc, & one night he gave me Boardmans Higher Life asking if I knew about Sanctification by Faith. The Term, staggered me, & I said, no. Well read this he said, & etc & next time we met he asked what I thought of it. My answer was "It is splendid, but there is nothing *new* to me in it." He replied, "I was sure you knew," & that was the beginning of my search after all the works on Sanctification, etc & the Higher Life as it was then called. I never was sure of Pearsall Smith. We are great Heresy Hunters , we Presbyterians, & Mother like most of those old Calvanistic Xtians [Note 1] was afraid of anything like presumption: & felt surer of a Xtian who was *very* conscious of sin, but all the names you mention are as fresh in my memory today, & represent more to me, than those I heard of yesterday. Yes! Noise, & fuss, & sensation, & a craving for something new, seems to mark all Church life, as well in conferences, as in private meetings today, & the old meditative spirit, & the old sense of sin, seems to be sadly lacking. But then the unrest in the world no doubt helps to paralize the Church, & to keep God's People from seeing "Jesus Only." "The Lord Reigneth", always stills the tumult to me; & I feel always like adding, "Let the Earth be glad." The Pessimism is not so great here, for God *does* work among us. Mr Partridge would tell you what a miserable, dark ignorant little place this was first when he brought me up to it. And now we have boys educated as far as the ordinary artizans child at home, a reverent assembly worshipping regularly, & intelligently every Sabbath, paying its own expenses, & living Xtian lives. The old drinking habits are gone, & men are married, & men are buried, & are as sober & well behaved as they are in your own neighbourhood. They do not shirk the Govts. work nor need to be asked to do mine, & we have now a cemetery & our first Baptized Christian woman is laid in it with Xtian burial, & this means a lot to them to leave their dead in the bush, & the message I got from her family on arriving at the beach was, "Our Mother has fallen asleep". Surely a change from old times. So does Christ change by His own Personality the very thoughts & language of a people. Several of our best middle aged men & women will be Baptized 2 months hence. There is no need for further probation. I am sure the great saving change has been undergone. But here is a call, so I shall stop. I'm sorry Mrs Partridge has not been well, & your climate is hard & cold. I hope you will have a very happy time while your son is at home. I thank you for all the papers. I have been sending them farther on to native clerks, & to my son in law, who reads a good bit of English. With every good wish for the New Year for all your family circle I am yours very sincerely M M Slessor

This is really not worth sending, I am ashamed of it, but it carries a warm heart mesage if the diction is poor. I shall tell you of the new Station later on.

MMS

Editorial Note:

  1. Xtians = Christians
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1997
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 76

12th April 1911

It is April and this is the first letter Mary has been able to write to Mr Partridge to thank him for his gifts of the Christmas pudding and book. She has spent most of the time in Ikpe where her house is nearly completed, her Missionary work is already showing fruits, and where small pox has been a worrying factor, but is now declining. A Court has also been started there. Udo Antia has been up to mischief again, and there is news of friends, including an old girl friend who will be coming out in the Autumn, presumably to assist her. Unfortunately Mary's return to Use was marred by the necessity to clear up after a tornado had ripped the iron sheeting from the roof, and caused other problems. She insists she is well despite the Ikpe Fatigue.

(The envelope is address to)
Chas Partridge Esqr – Junr
Stowmarket
Suffolk
*England*

(This address has been scored out and letter readdressed to "At Blo' Norton Hall, Thetford *Norfolk*")

(Post-marked for Calabar April 15th, 1911; Stowmarket May 9th; re-posted at Stowmarket on 10th May, arriving at Thetford on the same day)

Use Ikot Oku
12.4.11

Dear Old Friend

You will be thinking Im a fine friend grateful woman, never thanking you for my Xmas Pudding nor for the book you so kindly sent me. The fact is, I've been at Ikpe most of the time, & building, & school & 4 evening meetings a week, with the Sabbath School & Services, Visitors, Palavers, & a Panic Stricken people with Small Pox taking its toll, & its numerous patients, & the babies the dead mothers babies & vaccinations, all made my first visit in this year a very hard time, & I came down broken in mind & body. This last month's stay has been as busy, as every Minute came fill in, but the Pox is a bit slacker. I have got well on with my new House. Two bedrooms *upstairs*, are ready for a visitor, & the Hall on the ground floor is almost ready, over 2/3 of the floor cemented. It is hard to get stones up there & the girls had a deal else to do. This time we have never got to Nkana at all, but the lads held Services there on Sunday last, & at other villages as the time allowed. There has been a Court started, since I went up, but Ive never heard or seen an Ikot Okpene D.C. [Note 1] not even the mark of a pen. I'm thoroughly discredited since Brooks thanked me in the name of the Govt. [Note 2] for my services. The People are hard at work at farms, & the new Road to the Court House has been a big work between times. It is making a new & fine Road. The Court is at Itu Ikpe, & clerks & C.Ms [Note 3] from Ikot Okpene work it. They are very respectful, & have a wholesome fear of my overlooking. The people are greatly pleased at being releived from the long journey to I- Okpene. But Eniyon don’t like the opening of Ibibio. Major Cockburn, has been to Calabar sick ever since he came out till last week, he passed up again. Mr Rising going to releive Chamley at Aro Chuku. How few gentlemen there are nowadays among these. The Governor & Lady Egerton were here when I went up. But they were to call I beleive on the morning after I left. So I did not see them. I hear it is his last visit. Who will be next? I hope the next will be as good as they have been. I got a real surprise, & a lot of anxiety on coming down to find that David & Mary had been sent on to Ibadan, as the motor is to be off all this wet season. I'm hoping the rumour is right that they are still in Calabar. Fancy her going to a strange land alone with a tiny baby. She is only 18, & was never out in the world before. David is careful & kindly, but I shd. have liked to see them, & have given her things, & a letter to the Missionary where she is gone. All the others are well. Dan & Asogno still at school at Duke Town Institute. Dan brought the 1st prize in his Division at Xmas. I have not seen a White Officer here for ever so long. Mr Mann at "Russells" is very kind, & far above the average merchant in manners & culture. He goes this month. Dr Robertson is going by this mail. A lad from Edinr. [Note 4] has come to fill his place, a fine fellow. Miss Peacock came out 2 months ago, & is well. She is a good woman & a good neighbour. We had an awful thing in uniform at Itu. A German named Falk. The people wd. not have borne him much longer. I don’t know who is there now, he went this month. Udo Antia has again been the pet of Ikot Okpene under Brooks, who wont hear that his record is bad, & he has been [chasing?] the Old Chiefs & etc, till they went to Duke Town about it. I don’t know the upshot, I only came down night before last. He is the Head of that side & keeps a Clerk. The tornados have been specially heavy, & I got wreckage everywhere to come to. All the town houses and Church have suffered. The Iron [Note 5] from my verandah was blown down the hill, & the boxes on the verandah were blown into the bush. I was on the roof all day yest., & today have been vomiting Bile, so am sitting quiet, for Ive not slept the last 2 nights, & the Ikpe Fatigue is not gone yet. But I'm very, very fit. I do hope they will make roads up yonder which can be cycled on. As yet, it is not possible. I'm expecting a dear girl friend to come to me this Autumn. She is a fine woman, & not merely ornamental in her qualifications either. Ikpe cd not be properly worked by one person, the school is large, & the Xtian [Note 6] lads are insatiable in their desire for meetings & classes. I got 19 names of candidates for Baptism, & a number of women & girls are attending, tho' I wont put their names down till I see their parents. Some of them are betrothed to the boys in Church. It is a hopeful place for work, & the Chiefs are old friends & very good tho' heathen.

I hope you have had a good time at home, but it has not been a very healthy winter I fear. You will soon be coming out again! How the time flies! I wonder if I shall ever see you again! O how splendid it wd be for us, if you came here, but *you* might not like it. I saw Mr Maxwell when I was down at Presby.[Note 7], no one else. He is the same old cheery lad he ever was. Did you know Mr Wordsworth? You wd hear of his death in India & his leaving a young wife & a baby a few days old there!! It is particularly sad. I had a great opinion of him. He was a good man, from a good home. I have a long letter from Mr [Darby?] of the Rd's Dept - He & his wife & two boys are in India, but he has taken the Nigerian Malaria with him. Mr Rosario has gone home, & I don’t know anyone else. Have you been writing that you have never sent me a line? or are you paying me out? You wd not do that! Do send me a wee bit just to say how you have been & if you know where you are to be stationed next term. Now I must close, as the day wears on, & the children are fretty. I thank you for your goodness to me, & tho' Jean ran of with the King's Ring, & I got it only second hand, I got it & will treasure it. When is the next one coming? Do something about the Country & its peoples. You know enough now to take any tack, only don’t meddle with Xtianity. You've no experience there. My halo gets grayer & grayer, but no boils live this year on my head. I'm renewing my youth, working like a navvy. God bless you. Will you convey to your parents my best regards? I get papers by mail from Mr Partridge. It is so kind of him to remember me.

All the bairns wd send Comps. [Note 8[ were they at hand, for they often ask if Mr Partridge is never coming back. SO DO I! I am Yours ever affectionately

Mary M Slessor

Editorial Notes:

  1. D.C. = District Commissioner
  2. Govt. = Government
  3. C.Ms = Court Messengers
  4. Edinr = Edinburgh, Scotland
  5. Iron. Corrugated iron, used on roof
  6. Xtian = Christian
  7. Presby. = Presbytery Meeting
  8. Comps. = Compliments
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1997
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 77

4th September 1911

Miss Slessor explains why she is writing from Itu – not because she is ill (although she has suffered heart trouble and has been forbidden to ride her cycle until fully recovered!) but because she was needed there. She gives her usual news of her family and friends. She is particularly excited to tell of a new friend, Dr Hitchcock, who actually comes from Mr Partridge's part of the country, has read his letters etc in the local newspapers, and has gained a great respect for him. He is young, very enthusiastic and hard working and has gained the confidence of all, as well Miss Slessor's high approval. The situation at Itu, arising from the behaviour of Udo Antia, and the Court Messengers is not a happy one; and it seems the former German A.D.C. at Itu, Mr Falk, who has earned her thorough disapproval, is to return. She wishes Mr Partridge well in his new post.

(Envelope addressed to)
Chas Partridge Esqr
District Commissioner
Jebn Ode
Via Lagos
S. Nigeria

(Postmarked Calabar September 8th, 1911 and received in (Lagos?) on September 14th 1911)

Itu
4th Sep. 1911

My Dear Old Friend.

Your letter was a great joy to me, for I was very wearied to hear from you. Im glad you have got a place you like, & among nice people. I don’t know that it is best for you to be so alone, although I enjoy it myself. I hope you will not be shifted about any more. It is more satisfactory to be a whole term in one place, if the place is good at all. You will wonder at the heading of this. I came from Ikpe very tired, & found the Use House spoiled by the tornados, & had to begin work on it at once. Then - after all, David & Mary were stayed at Calabar, & the White Chauffeur was sent to Lagos, & Mary came up to see me. When she was going back, with her baby, I was so frightened about them not getting a place & shelter in the always crowded launch - that I went down to Kings Beach with her, & that was the last straw. I had an over strain of the heart, & was forbidden to go to Ikpe; then I had to come over here to be with the Dr for a bit, as the anaemia was so pronounced, & I was having fever every day. I got perfectly well, & went back to Use, but as Mr & Mrs Wilkie were passing last week in the Str.,[Note 1] & had to stay & see the D.C.[ Note 2] here about the Boundary of this land - save the mark since you were here - !!! I came down at the Dr's invitation to meet them, & he cd. see how my heart was, & at the same time I cd be here with Mrs Wilkie, as Dr Robson, her father has died, & she was having her letters about the passing: by this mail here; the word having come at first by cable. I stayed over yesterday to let the Dr go up to see Miss Peacock, as she has not been very well lately, & he has a couple of very serious cases in the Hospital. I took the Service here, & was in the house if any thing were needed. Now why I am telling you this is not only to let you know that it is not sickness which keeps me, but because I have found out that Dr Hitchcock, our New Dr here is very specially glad that I know you, & that you are my friend, for he hails from about your side! He knows about your name from long & has always read with much interest any thing you have written in your local Newspapers. He heard me speak of you, & started! & asked, thats not Mr Partridge of Stowmarket is it? "Yes, I said, Do you know him? & then he told me of his connection with that district, that his grandfather was preacher there in the Baptist Church, & that he had an uncle there still - perhaps not in Stowmarket - but in the neighbourhood, & etc etc, & he loves that whole countryside, & when Mr Partridge Senr., sent my papers last time, I was here, & sent the packet asking him to read the postmark, & he said, from the hall where he was sitting, "O that warms my heart!" Well, in him, we have a man of culture, of fine calibre, & one of the most excellent & enthusiastic Surgeons & Physicians I have ever met, or any one else here. The Hospital is always full & from everywhere. He works all day long, & often in the night too, & has cases to be operated upon, which counting 3 a week, will keep him going to the end of the year. & the Dispensary fills up from 7.15a.m. till 11.30 then from that he reads & rests, when they don’t bring things between, & visitors, till 1P.M. when he is off again till 3P.M., when he comes -*sometimes*- for tea, then the Hospital till *Dark*. Do you wonder that 5 months has nearly killed him, & we are all glad that a wound on his hand has given him a rest from the operating table. He is one of the best of Edinburgh's best students for his year, & tingling to the tips of his fingers with enthusiasm for his profession. He is young, & was ready to go to Manchuria, when friends at home begged him to come to the Mission during Robertsons furlough, & he came, & he has conquered, & from far beyond Bendi, from all parts of Aro Chuku men & *women* crowd, & Calabar swells are here galore, with the north country people. don’t write me a sentimental Enthusiast, there are deputations always here begging me to beg the Mission to send the other one somewhere else, when he comes, & let this one stay. He has not as yet lost a patient, & I'm glad for the "Slessor Hospital" that it has at last come into its own. Well Im going home tomorrow D.V.[Note 3] One of the 4 boys who should have been back from Aro today & who is a Hammock boy has not turned up, & the rain has been persistent, so I waited, & am writing this to leave here for Postage. I thank you for all your news. I had an hour or two chatting with Mr Maxwell just before he left. I also saw Mr George Grey, & put him up one night, a Tornado came on & the dark as he passed by. Im glad to hear once more of Mr Fitzpatrick. He was a kind friend always to me. You would not beleive such a lot of hard good work had ever been done in this district. Last week I lost 3 nights sleep, Just through Court Messengers, & their little ways in our village. We have had a year & a half of it, & we hear that Falk the German who strained the loyalty of the villagers his last term, is due here again this mail. Pity Me!! Unless things better themselves, I shall have to *stay* at Ikpe or elsewhere, as it takes my sleep. Do you know that Udo Antia rules in the Court, - Brooks created - from the Ntit Obio beginning till past Itu Ndo. Ntit Obio Chiefs have gone to Calabar, & spent money on Str for passage, & lodging & helpers[?] & Books, & have stayed weeks & weeks there, but with no result, except it be a letter to the D.C. Udo is a hero to some White Men, who utterly deny his record. It is most distressing. I met Brooks leading his Cycle, & walking with Russells clerk, as I was coming here. He bowed very politely, but I answered & passed on in the Hammock. My girls said they saw him on market day, so expect he is on special business. I think the Judge is here. Mr Bedwell passed up in the Jackdaw [Note 4] the other day. I have not seen him this term yet. We have also Mr C- Crawford, so we have splendid men at the Top here. I am not to get to Ikpe for 7 weeks yet, so the Dr told the boys who were sent to ask when the canoe wd come for me. Thats because of the *mud* I think. I have no news. One of our Old Chiefs "Obon" has been here in the Hospital for a long time. His was a marvellous cure, & 3 other patients from Eniyon, these too send their best Compliments to you, & then the talk was WHY you did not come back & save them from this sort of thing, the reign of the C.M.[Note 5] The Two Itu Chiefs also who came in to see Obon were talking of it, & they too, said our rule was bad. They black men had a continuous, consistent Policy, bad tho it might be, but the White Man changed constantly, as witness now, & then, & then, things were new to them & hard to us, & now it was all smooth & confidence complete, White Man went back to confusion. Well, I'll try to stop grumbling. The kids were all proud to be remembered. Jean is at home. Mary & David are at Ikot Ekpene for some reason, the work motor has not been here all the wet season, & they want the road rested & bottomed. O the loads of metal laid on, but the undersoil still sinks with the transport motor. The small motor carried passengers & mails but is Hors decombat [Note 6] just now. Annie is with her husband at Use, Alice & Maggie & Whitie are here with me. The boys at the Institute, Dan had almost the full 100 o/o for all his classes except writing, that was low, but he brought the first prize in his division last year, & [this?] Principal says his conduct is good. But the light is going, & I must get ready for dinner. This pen does not spell well, but I have not had over an hours rest today from visitors & palavers, so I suppose Im tired a bit. Do send me a line now & then -O Im forbidden my cycle in the meantime, & I'm *MAD* over it, but he says it is only for a time. I must not walk either, or *motor*, as I'm so frightened in the motor. Now Good by dear old boy whom I revere & value as a friend, very much. God bless & keep you in that strange place, & be your environment in every sense. I am ever

Yours Very affectionately

Mary MSlessor

Letter no. 78

1st January 1912

Miss Slessor writes after a very successful service at Ikpe, and gives various news of Church activities. She tells of her first European visitors there - three in one day. Amazingly one of these is Mr Brooks, the District Commissioner, and after a long discussion they put all differences behind them, to Mary's great relief, and Mr Brooks demonstrates his helpfulness. Mr Partridge's kindness and thoughtfulness in sending her Xmas puddings and chocolates is warmly and thoroughly appreciated. News of her household is given, including two offers of marriage for Alice. There is news of other people, and the delivery of a staircase for the new house at Ikpe, which means she will no longer have to climb a ladder to bed. Mr Partridge is again encouraged to continue with his writing.

(Envelope addressed to)
Chs Partridge Esqr
District Commissioner
IJBU ODE
Via Lagos
Nigeria
(Postmarked Ikot Ekpene 4th Jan; Calabar 6th Jan;)
Ikpe Ikot Obon
1st January 1912

 

My Dear Old Friend

At last I have got a quiet moment for the Church people are having chop [Note 1] prepared for the many visitors who honoured our Service today, a big crowd of well - *not* *over*dressed men & women from Iwere, Abam, & the villages round, who, not having service or teachers themselves came to begin the year at ours, & as our school has a holiday, & the Xtian [Note 2] portion of the town are keeping holiday too, they invited those from across the Creek to wait & have chop, & then the sun would be gone down. Jean & her scholars, & several of her congregation were here too, but she did not wait. I think you know she is teaching at Nkana as I have no boys, & they have been clamorous for a teacher for years. She was once there before, & as Eniyon from the upper part of the Creek go to her on Sabbath, I'm glad the people asked for her, as she is a *very*, good, smooth intelligent reader, & will not murder the Scriptures as half, or imperfectly taught boys do.

You would not know Ikpe now. Tho' the Chiefs don’t ask for the Gospel personally, they don’t hinder their Households from coming, & the boys from the headmen's yards are among the most diligent scholars. But there is a great difference in their manners & behaviour, & they are much more sober, & less quarrellsome, & the market does not now have bigger or more frequent brawls than that of Itu or Ntan. The town is very much cleaner & they have brought quite a half of it out of yon pit of black mud, & made big compounds on the higher land at the beach road. They are going in more for farming too, & the produce is not now sold by them to traders, the canoes are going down every day in the week with produce to the firms at Itu. Every young man buys a canoe now, & all the boys are being taught to punt & to steer. They got a minor Court up at [to?] Nudu Ikpe, 5 miles or so from here, & all the Chiefs round are members, & this has had a very steadying effect too on the district. From all the towns & villages round, they have come with their presents when I got better & was able to come up, & not only do palavers & sickness come now, but they visit me from friendship & seeking advice. I need not say they are all wanting teachers, & it makes my heart ache because I cant give them even one. don’t you bother to moralise here. I know what you would say, but they need teachers all the same.

I have sent home for a small carriage of some kind, which can take me over bits of the road on which I cant cycle so that I can cover a larger area, & in a small carriage I shall only want 2 boys & I can take my lunch, & a baby or two inside with me. The Dr has not said no to my getting my cycle again, only I must not try hills. I am so thankful, for it is not only a pleasure but a means of health to me whatever he says, & I'm not a fool to try a hill that wd. hurt my heart, though Im quite sure Ive got over that bit of overstrain, & my heart is as good as ever it was. I still love my old cycle best, & no lady on the road can keep up with me on it. It just runs itself. It is a dear companion & friend to me. But in the dry season, the sand is very loose on some of the levels here, & I fear skidding in it, because I once saw a lady fall in it on the Ikot Ekpene Rd.

Now I come to my news! I shall want it put in Capitals. You wont be able to take it in, in its simplicity & breadth. A fortnight ago when I had come from school & was getting my breakfast, the girls called out "Ma here is a White Man" & sure enough coming over the hill were 2 White Men, the first visitors Ive ever had here, except when an officer passed in March, & I've sent after him. They turned out to be Dr Hitchcock & a Mission Man from Aro Chuku. The Dr was afraid about me, & came to see! What do you think of that? Well they brought heaps of mails which had been accumulating, & among them your parcel, which was exclaimed over & more than that -- for you know Dr Hitchcock is from your part of England & has read your letters & articles from of old & etc, & he thinks of you as a hero. Well, then, that was laid over, & we had got breakfast & they were making for going off again, when the cry got up again, "A White Man!" It never rains but it pours, & here running up the hill to the door was ------------------Mr Brooks!!!!!!!! Had I been alone , I should have done, or said - What?? surely something!! But with introductions & the whirl of talk & the guests who know of no disagreeables, Well! he was a - success! & the Dr begged him to try to help him with Miss Slessors Mails & etc. etc. etc.& it was all promised & offered & done in a perfect torrent of pleasure & desire to do more than all that. Then there were offers of Carpenter - your old one, Diabolos or something like that, & then they all went off. Mr Brooks to the Creek Rest House to meet Major Cockburn - from whom I had forwarded a letter that morning to the Court! The others to walk to Aro Chuku. Well on his way back Mr Brooks came in again, & we had a long talk trying to disentangle several things which are "on" in the district & he offered to send me fowls from the Court here at Court price, & to get & take my mails from Itu, & to help me in any & every way, & I was to go & occupy the Rest House which is on high land at 4 or 5 miles distance, if I wished for a change at any time, as he says it is a good house. Since then he has sent me mails, 3 fowls for Xmas, & a letter which is better than all, as it speaks well of some of my friends, & is desirous of making all things straight & good in the District. & I'm just expecting Mails again over land from him at any hour. I may say that for long David & Mary have been staying at Ikot Ekpene with the small motor, & David was, & is, a great favourite of his, & he has been very good to Mary & her baby. So it may not have been a sudden impulse on his part, to come as he passed, seeing we were both strangers here - It may have been waiting for a chance to speak. I am mean enough, or you may call it presumptuous & egotistical enough, to sometimes connect it with a recent tour made by an old DC of mine, who is now at the top of the tree, & who never forgets me. But that just proves the doctrine of our original depravity - which - whatever you say - explains a lot, & as the negro said, "is a good doctrine if only we could walk up to it." Well, now, What do you think of that, after over 2 years utter silence & SNUB -?? I can hardly call it less than that, tho' once or twice when Governor or Act Govr. were visiting me, He gave Comps [Note 3] when I went out side, & once or twice on the road he lifted his hat. Well, it came with Xmas, the season of peace, & I am glad that the ugly hateful thing is out of the way, for nothing hurts me like faction, or a feeling of estrangement even from an outsider. I'm not to say what it would be from a *friend*: for my friends are all too good to me to make any estrangements. There have been few in my life I am thankful to say.

Now do you think there is room for any one else in West Africa than Miss Slessor, & herself, & her own affairs? I wonder if she will ever even have time to say "Thank you" when she gets a Xmas Box, thought over so long before the time, & planned for so that it comes at the very nick of time? You dear old boy, to think of me so, while your work is so wide, & your world so young & modern. Have you got a glow of feeling that you have done a kind thing? More than kind, a beautiful thing! & a thing which will I am sure make our Heavenly Father well pleased, for He does care a bit for this old worn out thing. My birthday was in Decr., & do you know, I'm now travelling between 60 & 70? & yet a Xmas Box comes from the heart of the African bush, where a brave young cultured Englishman is spending his festive season alone, except with the visions & the dreams of Home & achievement which are his real world & life. God bless you! You constant & UNDERSTANDING Friend, & give you back again into your own life a thousand fold.

I have sent your kind message on to Ikot Obon. Those ladies never forget to ask for you, & Miss Peacock takes a great pleasure in reading the Papers Mr Partridge sends me, as she is a disciple of the Keswick School & she is a helpful kind neighbour to me. She is very sane in her dealings with the natives, & she has a wide influence on the boys of her district, as she has bush schools with about 200 scholars in all in them, sending pupil teachers out. She has a big Church now at Ikot Obon, & it is crowded at afternoon service from the bush schools. A lady who was here, & left for a few years, has come out again, & we are trying to get a house built for her near 12 miles, in order to get hold of the Ibianang people, as we wd then build a semi European house midway between Itu & Ikot Ekpene, & get a clergyman to take all those stations over seeing there are many baptized Xtian members now in the Churches. But between you & me, *no* *man* will work them better than these mere women have done. The ladie's name is Welsh. Miss Annie McMinn has gone up there for the Dispensary last month. My Use house is empty. The Church people are looking after it. They are keeping on their schools & services themselves.

David, Mary's husband, was called to Duke Town some time ago. They are soon going back to Itu or Ikot Ekpene. I have 2 proposals for Alice, of marriage, last month. One from the Bendi interpreter. The other from one of Mr Russell's clerks, a Gold Coast man. Neither are to my mind. The interpreter she will not have. The other she does not yet know of till I see Mr Russell or Underhill to see about his antecedents. Janie wont hear of it, as she wd. be lost to us if she went to Gold Coast. David - is from Lagos, so that is nearer, tho' it was far enough when they were called to go. I hope Annie has another baby by this time. I'm longing for news. Her husband is a fine lad in the Church at Use. So they are all going out into the World. Dan does well enough at school. His last report in Novr. was, "Passed Govt. Inspector with flying colours." He is quiet & grows apace.

Mrs Wilkie lost her Father lately, Dr Robson - now Mrs McGregor has got the same news from her home. Dr F Fergusson has passed away. Our dear Miss Young has word of the sudden death of her Mother while Miss McKinney's father is just in life but no more. So there is a lot of mourning this Xmas in our midst now may every good thing be yours today & all through this Year & that it may be the best you ever have known in every sense is the prayer, often, & often uttered from this place, by Yours very affectionately

M MSlessor

I hurried up with this thinking I wd get a messenger, but it is past time now. So this mail will be lost I expect. I could not get written sooner, as I got a bilious attack, & school twice a day takes up some time, but one of the Plum Puddings was opened almost at once, as it seemed to appeal to me, having no sweet thing left up here, & you may be sure it did not last long, nor did the chocolates, for by the time every one gets one, there's a hole in the pan. Ive kept one pudding in the hope that some one might come up, but as yet, Alas! No. Miss Peacock meant to, but got some ailment or another, & the Dr made her go & stay at Itu instead, as he cant go up to Itu & run the Hospital - which is always full now. Dr Robertson is expected at end of this month, but every body dreads the change from this man. His year of service is almost up, & we hope he may come back, but he is promised to Manchuria I fear.

Here are the girls back from seeing the playing of the scholars in town so I must bestir myself for dinner. All of them say Kom Etubom O! Kom Enye O! Ma Kom Enye for us O! [Note 4] & I want you to take it all, with a heap from myself of warm gratitude

I am again

Yours M.M.S

 

2nd January

Here early morning is a stair from Ikot Ekpene. The Carpenter has not come yet, nor "a book" [Note 5] but when Mr Brooks was here, he & the others wondered at my going up a ladder. The reason was that the Russells people had failed to send up the material to make the Stair - for you must understand that my bedrooms here are up stairs, & the ladder was a real trial to me & not very safe, so here comes a stair of 11 steps made & ready to put on. I expect the mails will come with the Carpenter, so Im to shut up this at once lest the school be there to hinder me getting it sent if a chance comes. Again I wish you every joy & good for the New Year

& am Yours Affectly

M MSlessor

 

Miss Welsh has your book as a help to her in her entrance on the Anan District. You have a most minute knowledge of details of the trees & their names etc. & *NO EMBROIDERY.* Almost a miracle for a W. African writer. Come on with the next book. It will do *yourself* a world of good to write. When do you go home? Surely it is not long now till your time is up.

Yours again
MMS

Letter no. 79

26th December 1912

Once again Mr Partridge has sent Miss Slessor plum puddings at Christmas, and she thanks him for them particularly as she has not heard from him for a long time, and they tell her that she is not forgotten. She has been to Ikot Ekpene [where she is stayed with Mary and her husband] and describes the scene as it now is while recalling all the work he put into the area when he worked there. Udo Antia is in prison at last. Various bits of news.

(Address on envelope reads)

Chs Partridge Esqr
Ijebu Ode
Via Lagos
Nigeria
(Post-marked Itu December 27th, 1912; Calabar Dec 27th; and Lagos 2nd Jan)

 

Use Ikot Oku
26th Decr. 1912

 

Dear Old Friend

Your gifts of Xmas Card & Plum Pudding are safely come, & have been a great joy to me. I have been very sore about your long & complete silence, & have often wondered if I had hurt or offended you in any way. I have not many real friends on the Coast. I think I can nearly count them on the fingers of one hand. And when of these withdraws his countenance, my heart is sorely troubled. There are not so many of this kind that I can afford to lose one. *You* especially. This kindly thought at the Festive Season lets me know you have not forgotten. I am just back from a months holiday at Gr- Canary [Note 1], & you passed in the boat before me. Had I known I should have met you somehow, whether you should have liked it or not. I thank you for this message, & return all your kind wishes a hundred fold. I often remember you in my prayers, & tho' you may laugh, **I** **beleive** in it.

I have been for my first visit to Ikot Ekpene yest-. Mary - is married to the Motor Driver & lives there, & she was ill last week. Mr Brooks had to get the Dr for her, so I was anxious, & when I was at Calabar I was told that I cd. have the Motor at any time, & must just ask for it, so as it passed with a passenger, I got a drive out, & came back in my wheel chair yest, stopping at Ibiaku at Miss Welsh's for an appointment for a Service (Xmas) there for the Chiefs of the district & the school boys. What a big station Ikot Ekpene is! Brick buildings & offices of all kinds, motors & motor bicycles. If they could have taken my Bike I shd have ridden back, the officer's luggage took up all the room however, so it was left here. I thought a lot about you, & of those lonely strenuous journeys & labours, when there were not even roads, & of all the work & workers which went to the making of this. The Motor went off to Odot Ikpe after we got to Ikot Ekpene, about 3 o/c P.M. & David was back home by 6 o/c for his dinner. So now I can get the Motor from Use to Odot Ikpe, & there are only 5 miles then to to Ikpe. I have not gone up yet, as there is a lot to do here, and our new Church is ready for opening here. They have paid all material up to now. There is a Mission from England at Ikot Ekpene, & there were 2 ladies from James Town there for Xmas. I called on them, & am invited to go back. Mr Brooks pressed hospitality on me also, but he had 4 white men for Xmas, & I went to stay with my Children for the night, & cd not disappoint them if I would. There is one lady of our Church at Itu Ndo, or Ibiaku she prefers to call it, & a big Court & station place, & they begin where Miss Peacock's Bush schools end at Ikot Nsen. So things move quickly, but the old days were charged with a different type of work & association & I like to keep that as a precious memory. Pluck & patient perseverance & tactful administration laid these picnic possibilities, & God does not forget.

Udo Antia has been in prison for months & months at Ikot Ekpene - the scene of his exploits. Their eyes are opened at last, & he gets his deserts & the land which groaned, rests. I had a big welcome from the Chiefs - your old friends.

Imuk has slackened in prosperity, & drinks far too much. The Itu Court holds now the district out to Ntre Obio, on this side the Ikot Obon Court judges, but O, what a travesty!! The D.C. [Note 2] has never been there yet since he came - 3 months past - & you can guess the kind of work done. Now the Post will be gone if I don’t hurry up, so this must go as it is. I shall probably be here for a week or so, then on to Ikpe by motor, & farewell to Hippos & Mosquitoes & flies in the Creek. Now dear old friend, don’t feel as if you must answer this. If you have time & feel inclined to send a note, I shall be very happy indeed. I wish you all joy & blessing for the New Year, & that it be the best year you have ever have had is the prayer

of Yours affectionately
M MSlessor

Editorial Notes:

Enclosed with this letter is a photograph of Mary Slessor, the back of which is inscribed "A snap shot taken at Canary [--?] Have no Xmas Cards

  1. Gran Canaria, one of the largest of the Canary Islands off the N.W. coast of Africa
  2. D.C. = District Commissioner
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1997
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter no. 80

7th June 1913

This is a letter to Charles Partridge, senior, expressing her gratitude for the Newspapers he has been sending her, and how well they are appreciated.. Mary comments on them at length, and gives much news relating to the development of the Church in Calabar and the country's more material progress. There is news of her family. Several children will soon be back from school for the holidays, and they nearly all will be attending the opening of a new Church in Okoyon, her old Station, where most of her children were born as "twin or outcast children".

(Envelope addressed to)
C. Partridge Esqr
Stowmarket
Suffolk
England

[the post marks indicate that this letter was posted in Itu on July 9th; left Calabar on July 11th; and arrived in Stowmarket on August 5th]

Use Ikot Oku
via Itu
7th June 1913

Dear Mr Partridge,

Nearly every time the papers come, I write to you in my own mind, & feel so ashamed of my not having written sooner, but I'm so easily knocked up, that I dare not sit late, & so the days go past. I had to go to Grand Canary last Autumn, & was there for a month, & so correspondence got into arrears, & though I came back full of health & strength I had heaps of arrears in work too, & then 3 months ago, I had a small accident to my eye, & that sent me back again into debt with everything, so you must not think that lack of gratitude & appreciation has kept me from writing my thanks to you. The papers are a great comfort & uplift. I am specially interested in the Bible Study, & am following it closely along side of my own portions for the Morning Watch. I give away "The Xtian" [Note 1] & the other papers I take, to the English speaking clerks & employees of the Government. But I'm keeping up the Life of Faith for further use in the Classes for Teachers & etc., as well as for my own use personally. It is so good to have as unequivocal a Testimony to Divine Truth as the "Life of Faith" gives. I prize it & the Christian for their uniform faithfulness to the pure Gospel. I suppose the "Overcomer" is given up! It could never have been a popular paper, & there is no Capital in L.S.D. [Note 2] behind the Editors. It upheld some aspects of the Xtian Life, but to the rank & file of Xtians it was too polemical & too accademic in its style. I shall not say too doctrinal, for want of that is the fault & lack of the present day preaching & teaching I think. Doctrine is deprecated, but I'm Scotch, you see, & have had it in my blood to be doctrinal as a foundation for practice. But I have felt of late that the Overcomer was making the Xtian life too complicated & difficult, & putting "Means of Grace" & fighting, in the Place of the Saviour Himself, & of the work of the spirit. For my own work, It was too fatiguing, & too complicated, & I could not give it to the clerks. What a lot of indifference there seems to be in the Church! & yet how intense is the interest & prayer among living Xtians. What a world of unrest & doubt & pessimism you seem to live in at home. In every sense & sphere: Ecclesiastically, Socially, Nationally. There seems to be no solid foundation for Mankind to rest on, & to form ground for acheivement. Does it point to our Lord's near approach in the Parousia? [Note 3] I think so & I hope so! My only draw back, is, that I fear my bairns are not *all* ready, & what if we were seperated! But they are His, & He surely has infinitely more interest & love, in & for them than I have, so He will do *all* *things* well, for us all. He will not throw back the children given Him, in loving trust. A Gentleman of the World would not do that. I have had a rebuke this morning from 1st John 4.18, the last clause. "He that Feareth is not made perfect in Love." How dishonouring to our Father to keep misunderstanding Him, & imputing any thing unworthy to Him. I have been humbled this morning over this, for after knowing Him so long. It is shameful that Faith should be so small & so mean in its judgment. Things here go on smoothly, too smoothly I sometimes think, for being healthy, but we thank God for a Willing People, & for the adherence of the young. We had only 3 adult baptisms last communion time, but those were Good Material, & the number of candidates keeps growing here. At Ikpe Ikot Nkon, it is a hard fight with heathenism. They all want their children educated, but they *don’t* want them to serve Christ. Whenever the Xtian & heathen practices clash, they are fiercely on the heathen side, & few of the women are moving Xt-ward, though they are friendly & kind to us personally. The boys are all with us, but not a girl comes to school, not even a baby girl. Yet "Who art Thou, O Great Mountain? Before "Our" Zerubbabel - Thou shalt become a Plain!" [Note 4] "He is able" - heaps of Promises come after this Formula, for the individual soul & for the Church & the Churches work. Zeceriah holds a very hopeful note all through for the Xtian. I have been "browsing" in it, & its fine food.

I hope, D.V.[Note 5] to go to my old station Okoyon, on Friday for the opening of their new Church. It is a semi European Church, as native material is not durable, & they have raised all the money themselves. The two ladies who hold the Fort there are having great encouragement there, & souls are being born into the Kingdom. Most of my children were twin or outcast children there, so they are *all* going except perhaps two of the married girls who I fear wont be able to go. These will be an object lesson to them, & I hope there will be an ingathering & an awakening all over.

Our own village here has a new Church built, & only a few of the seats are to be put in, in order to be ready for opening, but we are not to dedicate a thing in debt, so we are buying wood & having the seats put in as we are able. They have raised it all among own selves too. Ikpe intend to try to build this year, for the place, as well as the building is bad. I shall go up there D.V. when I return from Okoyon. The children at school in Duke Town. Two boys at the Institute of our Church, & two girls getting training in the Girls High School, will be all coming for a fortnights holiday. They close on Friday First, so we shall have a buzy & happy time I hope. I have not heard from Mr Partridge for a long time. I wish he were back here again! The D.C.[Note 6] at Ikot Ekpene is very unwell just now. He is extremely kind to us missionaries personally, but he does not care for our work or our Lord. Only it is good to have a kind helpful friend, even if he does not understand us, & we can pray, & thats a deal isnt it? & try to commend Xt [Note 7] to them by our lives. Mr Partridge *made* this District, & right welcome he would be if he came back, & the hardships he had to endure are mostly removed. At least are greatly modified now a days. The D.C. has an assistant, a Dr, a hospital, a motor car for his journeys & several native courts, which releive the strain a bit. Also good buildings, & Telegraphic & Postal Offices, etc.etc. He did more than any 2 mens work in his day, besides the roughing of it. He has so much to do where he is that I don’t like to bother him by writing, as that makes him feel he must answer, but I hear of his welfare often. We have a D.C. at Itu now - a further dividing of his old duty - who comes from Lagos, & he gets news from there often.

Now don’t think you must answer this. It is only a belated "Thank You", for the papers, & to let you know how they are appreciated. May our Lord Himself give you your reward in His Own Royal Manner, - a thousand fold -. With kindest regards & trusting you are well & that Mrs Partridge is also well - I am Yours Gratefully & Sincerely

Mary M Slessor

 

P.S .

Do you know that we have a Medical Missionary here from your quarter? Dr Hitchcock? A Fine Xtian, a fine man! & a Fine Surgeon Physician. He saw the Post Mark on your Papers one day, & exclaimed, & felt rather Home sick I think while he talked of his old home.

MMS

Editorial Notes:

  1. "The Xtian" = "The Christian", a periodical
  2. L.S.D. = Pounds, shillings and pence
  3. Parousia. The second coming of Christ
  4. Quotation referred to is from Zechariah, 4:7
  5. D.V. - God Willing [Deo Volente]
  6. D.C. = District Commissioner
  7. Xt = Christianity
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1997
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998