Chapter 41

Bride’s Arrival, Marriage, Sound Partnership

 

 

Travel in Central Africa had its limitations. Travel was by Machilla (hammock), bushcar (one-wheeled chair, propelled by a man in front and one at the back) and on foot. I loved walking and was selective about my boots and socks. So too dress - khaki shorts, shirt and light jacket, topped by a pith helmet. I had acquired from Mr Burnett a two-stroke Triumph motorcycle. The trouble was petrol: it worked out about 6/- per gallon, so it was only on urgent errands I used it.

One thing that gave me great pleasure was showing around Government officials. In turn, I had the Government agriculturalist, forestry officer, geologist, surveyor and district medical officer. All in turn made reports to the Governor, with the result, except for education, I was the only missionary to receive a grant for Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry. This was good news, but something more was promised:

selective seeds of maize, mountain wheat, cotton and rice. With this in view I called together twenty key workers. I increased their wages and promised a bonus for well laid out gardens and bush clearance areas. Each key worker was allowed only five assistants and the contract would run for one year. The results far, far exceeded my expectations. It was an example of trusting the workers, giving them guidance and scope and a fair deal for their labours. I recouped my original outlay, plus bonus, with a substantial profit.

Williamina McFarlane in a bush car.
The bride, Miss Williamina McFarlane
came to church in a one-wheeled bush car,
on 30th April, 1924.

A cable arrived intimating Miss MacFarlane, my bride, had sailed from Southampton, so excitement grew from many quarters. Our Homestead home was furnished, rush mats specially made, inside and outside painted and the flower garden lavish in a wide assortment of shrubs and flowers. Fortunately, an American Commission - the Second Phelp Stoke Commission - had chartered a steamer to visit Livingstonia. My bride was invited to join them at Blantyre, so in April 1924, Miss MacFarlane held the record for the fastest journey from Scotland to Livingstonia, of twenty-six days. (Flying time now is twenty-six hours.) Great crowds of Africans lined the lakeside as I brought my bride ashore. She had a full throated welcome and may I add, many gasped at my bride's beauty. The Rev Edward Boti Manda, the Rev Yaphet Mkandawiri, along with the beloved Uraia Chirwa, voiced their sincere welcome.

Uraia, the African friend of all Missionaries for fifty years, said fondly, 'Bwana, you have brought us a braw, braw lass.'

I had made all arrangements for a hundred workers to carry visitors' luggage and convey all white people to Livingstonia. It was a large cavalcade that moved up the mountain side, eleven miles, 3,000 feet, to the accompaniment of song and radiant joy. At the Institution, all missionaries and their ladies, headed by Dr Laws himself, expressed a hearty welcome 'to all who come for a little and the ONE who comes to stay.

We were married by The Very Rev Dr Robert Laws, D.D., attired in his robes, as one time Moderator of the U.F. Church of Scotland. The church was packed, it was a delightful service and our Marriage Certificate was signed by two of the American Commission, Dr Jesse Jones and one of the greatest of all American negroes, Dr James K. Aggrey. A fine morning meal was provided for all the guests, then we set out on our honeymoon, to a sun-dried brick building, with thatched roof, twenty-five miles away. We had bush cars and twenty carriers. On the banks of the Kaziwiri River the lady missionaries had prepared an excellent meal for us. It was such a quiet, peaceful place and of great beauty. All along the route there were cheering crowds and when we arrived at Mburunge, hundreds of excited Africans were present. Wedding picture of Alexander Casebys
Mr. & Mrs. Alexander Caseby immediately
after their wedding which was conducted by
Rev. Dr. Robert Laws, at Livingstonia Mission
Station on 30th April 1924. Also shown are
John Brown (Best Man) and Bessie Muir
(Bridesmaid), both fellow missionaries.

The journey took six hours. Again, a delicious meal was ready for us and by the time the meal was over the sun was setting. The Africans shouted delight as we moved towards the area where I had arranged a meal for the Africans. An ox was killed earlier in the day and cooked in thirty huge pots. Rice and maize was also prepared for two hundred Africans. First, the Chief offered his word of welcome, then a hymn was sung and I offered prayer. The men sat in one place, women in another and the meal was served in small baskets. To add to the flavour I gave 2lbs of salt and an ounce of pepper. This was very much appreciated. The Africans love salt. Later that evening bonfires were lit, out came the drums and dancing of all kinds took place and singing too. Prayer concluded the celebration at ten p.m.

For some weeks before our wedding I had a number of men on a special project, clearing bush and scrub from an area where once a stream flowed. Owing to indiscriminate felling of trees, the stream dried up and the villagers moved a few miles away. The day after our wedding, along with some of my students and forestry workers, a score of us, including my bride and myself planted many thousands of trees. Workers also planted trees for another three days and all the trees came from my own nurseries.

During our honeymoon we visited many villages, schools, smallholdings and thatched churches. Chiefs and headmasters had prepared ground and with the aid of my students, hundreds of trees were planted. While travelling through the jungle we came across isolated huts - the homes of outcasts, suffering from leprosy. Some were pathetic to look at. All the food they had was scraps left on a huge rock by passers-by. The sight of the lepers and story of their plight, saddened my wife, so we hit on a plan. Near our honeymoon plantation we would erect a 'leper village' with our own money.

Within six weeks the village was completed - surrounded by a reed fence. There was a stock of food - maize, rice, cassava and beans - hens, goats, sheep and a watchdog were also provided. A well was dug and half an acre of ground tilled. Ten lepers were housed to start with. A prominent African Christian, once an evangelist, now a leper, took charge of the colony. We sent him peach, orange, lime, lemon, loquat and grapefruit trees and a selection of vegetable and flower seeds. Lot was the evangelist's name. When he could not walk to other huts he crawled, reading the Bible, praying, comforting fellow sufferers. He never complained. Once I heard him tell other lepers, 'You will find great joy if you trust Jesus. He is my Friend and Saviour- I want each one to trust and love Him.' It was our delight to see the leper village grow. 'Fine gardens, fine orchard, fine flowers, fine trees,' was the tribute of a neighbouring Chief.

He would not go into the leper colony, but he sent liberal supplies of food and prepared canes as walking sticks. He wanted to send beer and tobacco - but I would not grant such things for lepers.

Honeymoon over we made for Livingstonia. At one point we met visitors, Dr David Livingstone's daughter, granddaughter and baby great-granddaughter. They were on a tour of the Mission Stations.

During our honeymoon we worked out a plan so that my wife could take an active part in all my work. In our beautiful home we entertained our key supervisors and told them of our pact. They were charmed and as usual promised whole-hearted cooperation. Between my wife and me a sound partnership was forged, to prove to the Africans we were their friends at all times.

 

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This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993.   All rights reserved.  Used here by express permission.