From Belfast to Swaziland…

Alexander McCall Smith is one Scotland’s writers of the moment. His novels about a black female detective agency have attracted both major sales and critical acclaim (an uncommon feat). In his time as an academic at Queens he recalls a younger David Trimble,and the charged atmosphere around what passed for normality in the early 70s.

  • Davros

    That’s a fascinating read Mick.

  • Greenflag

    Thanks Mick. That article brought back some pleasant memories to this Dubliner of my time in Botswana and Zimbabwe in the mid to late 80’s . Botswana is one of Africa’s few success stories in recent times and the reasons behind it’s success are many not least it’s peaceful transition to independence, it’s fortunate post independence discovery of diamond mines (they have several which have not yet been ‘exploited’) and a strong committment to democracy based on native Motswana tribal customs etc . Zimbabwe the neighbouring State has self destructed and turned into an economic disaster zone. By any measure of comparative resources etc etc Zimbabwe should be way ahead of Botswana in the per capita GDP tables . It was at one time . Today Zimbabwe has about one tenth the per capita GDP of Botswana . The gap is increasing and Zimbabwe economic refugees are now a big problem for Botswana .

    There’s a politically ‘incorrect ‘ book ‘Monarch of all I survey’ written by the former British High Commissioner Sir Charles Rey which I received as a gift from the Speaker of the Botswana Parliament James Haskins OBE , which gives an account of Bechuanaland in it’s pre independence days . Charles Rey spent most of his colonial life tirading against the ‘idiots’ in the London Foreign and Commonwealth office and detested the London Missionary Society as being a bunch of trouble makers who were upsetting the native Motswana order . He had kinder words for the Roman Catholic missionaries saying that their men knew what they were about and taught the Motswanas practical skills etc etc etc .

    The mention of Moffat brought to mind a neighbour of mine in Bulawayo whose name was Rosen . A kindly old retired gent living with his wife who seemed somewhat demented. Later he told us she had Alzheimers . Our 2 sons who were 9 and 11 years of age at the time used to go over to his garden after school and Rosen who had been a hunter in his early days showed them some of his collections and told them stories of old Rhodesia etc etc . He had a barrow load of Hippo teeth which he told them they could have if they wanted . The barrowload of hippo teeth remained in the garage for some time . A friend then suggested I should bring them to a place on Grey St in Bulawayo where they could be carved into ‘ivory’ style tusks and mounted in a display cabinet etc . This I did and have given them to friends and relations over the years .

    It turned out that Mr Rosen’s wife was a Moffat and I believe a grandaughter of the famous Scottish Missionary . Sad we never had a real conversation with her as she was too far gone with Alzheimers at the time .

    For anyone interested in getting a flavour of Botswana and life there I recommend McCall Smith.

    Botswanans can be justifiably proud of what they have achieved in the almost 40 years of independence as Ma Ramotswa would say 🙂 . Would that there more African countries that followed the Botswana example .

    Thanks again Mick

  • Nathan

    This medical law professor was awarded the Silver Booker (a prize of 20k stg reserved for the over-50s) for his literary efforts.

    As for the younger David Trimble, he was well able to divorce the personal from the political.

    When one of his brightest students was interned at Long Kesh, despite the fact his student had joined the sticks Trimble travelled out to the prison to give him grinds and arranged for the provision of a suitable study area. Suppose Trimble felt he had a professional duty to ensure that the closet OSF student completed his studies.

  • Davros

    That rather damages the picture of Unionists refusing to do anything to help t’other side Nathan ..can we have some details ?

  • James

    There are the oddest compartments of empathy even in some of the worst of us.

    I will forever condemn Ronnie Reagan for making the denial of compassion legitimate….. All the same, whenever he heard an anecdote about a welfare mother on the skids from his staff, he would send her a personal check.

    In one case the check hadn’t gone through for months so he called the lady. She had framed it instead of cashing it so he wrote her another one.

    So it goes.

  • Davros

    Paul Durcan upset a few people on both sides with the impications implications in Margaret Thatcher Joins IRA !

  • Efabonk

    Am a youngman who is inlove with gospel music and want to advance the skills and techniques of playing piano.

  • Two Nations

    whatever happened to davros?

  • IJP

    Ah come on, you can’t compare Swaziland with Northern Ireland. Swaziland is a small, corrupt, crime-ridden peripheral province heavily dependent on its neighbours run by unelected and unaccountable officials. Whereas Northern Ireland… ah…


    Yours is a very interesting and accurate analysis too (my parents live in Cape Town, so that’s an area of the world that is familiar and dear to me too).