Chapter 54

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June 1926, I was very ill. It was a time of great sorrow for the Africans, for there was loyalty and true regard between the African and ourselves. The great strides forward ended so abruptly.

On the day we left the Homestead, hundreds of Africans followed us to the lake shore. I was in a Machula (hammock), carried in turn by eight sturdy men.

As we moved towards the little boat to take us to the steamer, three African ministers, Edward Boti Manda, Yoram Mpanda and Yaphet Mkandawiri said in one voice, 'Have you a message for us?'

'Yes,' I said, 'God tells me I will be back again to continue His work among you!'

When Edward repeated my words, a great cheer came from the crowd - 'Amen! Amen!' they cried.

Captain Ross had everything comfortable for us on the steamer and somehow I felt much easier. The motor journey from Fort Johnstone was exhausting. A cosy bed awaited us in Blantyre. The Chief Medical Officer for the country called and examined me on Dr Laws' request. He gave me two bottles of tablets, one the latest for malaria, the other he called 'nightcaps'. The Medical Officer was most sympathetic. We stayed three days at Blantyre. The quiet was beneficial. At Port Herald we boarded the Zambezi ferry boat.

Instead of a few miles crossing, the river was in spate, so we had to stay on deck for 120 miles, through uncharted waters. Fish and other aquatic creatures were leaping around the boat, including slithering crocodiles and massive hippos. Our first meal was tinned fish - of all things! Eight hours later we were in a reserved compartment on the train. The Medical Officer's tablets helped me, for I had sleep for the first time in weeks. I had ham and egg, toast and coffee for breakfast. My wife, however, was off food, she could not take coffee. As we neared Beira in the evening, she was very unwell and sick. Fortunately, we were rushed through customs and taken on board the Union Castle liner, the Shipping Agent saw us to our cabin and promised to inform the ship's surgeon. When my wife was bedded, I rang the bell for the steward, asking him to fetch the surgeon to be told he was not on board and was expected to join the liner at Loreco Marques. I called on the ship's purser who told me a nurse was at hand. A stewardess made contact with the nurse. The nurse came at once - my wife was very ill and sick.

'It's not malaria,' the nurse told me, 'though the pulse and temperature are abnormal.' I could not do much.

The nurse and stewardess stayed all night in the cabin, changing sheets, sponging my wife down and giving her sips of warm water. When we reached Loeco Marques I spotted the surgeon coming on board. I told him my name and of my wife's sudden illness.

He brushed me aside, 'I'm not on duty until Durban. I'm seeing no one. I'm going to enjoy fishing for sharks from here to Durban - goodbye.' The purser, nurse, stewardess and the chief officer all pleaded with the surgeon but his answer was 'NO.'

On the second day out at sea, my wife drifted into a coma -the nurse was so good - 'your wife is very very ill.' I made for the spot where the surgeon was fishing - he saw me coming.

'Don't come near me,' he bellowed, 'I'm seeing no one until Durban.'

I am usually quiet, but I lashed out at the surgeon, I was mad at his incivility. I called on the purser, lodged an official complaint to be forwarded to the Captain and made arrangements for us to leave the liner at Durban.

The nurse, stewardess and steward helped my wife down the gangway and into a taxi. I offered each a gold sovereign but they all refused. The taxi took us to an hotel - but every room was booked. I phoned a cousin at Claremont, some miles from Durban. Mrs Murray told me to come at once by taxi, she would have a doctor waiting. My cousins, Mr and Mrs Murray, had a bed ready, the doctor at once diagnosed ptomaine poisoning. He rushed in his car to a chemists, hurried behind the counter and before I had got my breath back, we were going at top speed to the house.

'After the first dose of this liquid,' he told Mrs Murray, 'have basin and towels ready, for Mrs Caseby will be violently sick.'

No sooner said than done. My wife was violently sick the whole night, accompanied by diarrhoea. The doctor was in attendance five times in twenty-four hours and three times each day for three days, by which time my wife was up, feeling greatly improved and taking light diets. My cousin said, 'Do you know, Alex, Dr Sully charges one gold sovereign each visit, his bill is fourteen sovereigns already, plus another sovereign for the bottle of medicine?'

After two more visits Dr Sully said to me, 'Has Mrs Murray told you I charge one sovereign a visit?. . .' He continued, 'It's quite true, but I never, never, charge missionaries. I love what they do so far away ungrudgingly. I wish I had the courage to be one.' Then with a broad smile he remarked - 'When you return to Nyasaland, after your holiday in Scotland, perhaps you'll send me some Nyasaland stamps - I love collecting stamps.

I can report here that on our return to Central Africa a year later, I bought a full range of Nyasaland stamps at Comba, the Head Post Office and posted them to Dr Sully. In his reply he complimented me that out of many hundreds he had treated free and requested stamps for his collection, I was the only one to do so.

After a fortnight, we said thank you and farewell to Dr Sully and our relatives and boarded the Union Castle liner Arundel Castle and sailed for Cape Town. The sea was calm, the food good and by the time we reached Cape Town we were feeling greatly improved. We were fortunate to have cousins in Sea Point, paid them two visits and they came aboard the Arundel Castle and had dinner with us. We also toured Cape Town buying gifts for home.

Every cabin in the Arundel Castle was booked and at times the fun was fast and furious on the voyage home. There were grand concerts, lectures, cinema shows, games, dancing and treasure hunts. The daily and nightly tablets, the sea air, resting in deck chairs by day and mornings and evenings, walking round and round the decks, the good food and pleasant companionships for twenty-one days made us both quite fit. We both put on weight.

The journey from Southampton to London and on to Edinburgh and home was pleasant and without incident.

It was good to be home in Scotland. So many faces and places were familiar, yet lots of things had changed. Except for three years hard training at home and four ten-day furloughs from France in World War I, I had spent ten years in foreign lands. My father looked his age, my parents-in-law had aged; so many friends had died; others were scattered all over the world. The roads were wider; big luxury buses running; farms had changed from horses to tractors; new industries took men from the farms; homes and shops were modernized; schools had a new look; and also church attendance had fallen! There were many motor cycles and motor cars, clothing had a new look, 'cat whisker' wireless had arrived. People looked unhappy.

The restful voyage from Cape Town to Southampton had worked wonders. I put on one stone in weight and only once since leaving Africa had a bout of malaria upset me. Acting on instructions from the Foreign Mission Committee, I visited the surgery of Dr Berkeley Robertson, who gave me a thorough overhaul. He cautioned me to rest as much as possible. My general condition was good, but after what I had suffered in Africa, malarial fever was never far away. All lecturing and deputation work had not to be undertaken for two months. He gave me a bottle of five grains of quinine (in Africa I had to take twenty grains), also a box of tablets to sharpen my appetite, as I had to put on another stone to reach my average weight.

The last four months of 1926 passed quickly, we visited friends and they visited us. In January 1927, I was back in Dr Berkeley Robertson's surgery. From Dr Robertson and another specialist in tropical medicines I was tested for nearly one hour, blood, skin and urine tests and X-rayed a few times. Within a week I was given the all clear, physically fit, average weight reached and informed that, with care, I could engage in deputation work by mid-February.

Mid-February was very stormy, blizzard blowing. To Fossoway and Blairingone, I had to follow snowploughs and walk through drifts, but I had full congregations and 30 from Blairingone for missions.

Dairsie Parish; Forfar West; Tayside (Angus); Logie; Denbeath; St Andrews, Buckhaven; Kingskettle and Fruchie were twelve churches visited, not counting Bible classes. Sunday Schools, Woman's Guilds, nearly fifty addresses in five weeks. Many of my meetings were reported in the newspapers and after one service, I was asked to write about my work in Africa for the People's Journal then The Telegraph and Post and The Fife News. I found the writing most interesting.

I was a member of the General Assembly of the United Free Church of Scotland in May 1927. My colleague in Livingstonia, Dr Donald Fraser, was Moderator. I was down to speak at the Foreign Missionary Breakfast on the Thursday morning. My brother John (Headmaster in Aberdeenshire) was also a member of the assembly, so we stayed in an hotel. During the night I was called from bed to answer the telephone. I was told my wife had given birth to a daughter. As if by magic, the whole Waverley Hotel delegates were up, coffee was served in the lounge, so our daughter, Margaret Smith Raitt Caseby's health and that of her mother were celebrated from coffee cups at three o'clock in the morning. I was punched and teased about my responsibilities as a daddy, a ragging I took in good faith. No one slept that night.

At the Missionary Breakfast the Chairman announced, 'Some missionary in our midst is a daddy for the first time.' After the cheering a loud voice boomed, 'Get on your feet, Caseby!'

I did get on my feet, there was more applause. When it died down I said, 'Thank you one and all, mother and daughter are fine, so am I.'

Fortunately, I did not have to address the meeting; a Missionary from India exceeded his ten minutes, so I was excused by the chairman on the grounds that 'My voice was heard earlier.'

It was not long before I packed my case and made for home to my wife and pretty daughter. I was so charmed to see them and find both well. I had birthday presents for my wife and baby - one was for 25th May (daughter) and one for 26th May (mother).

In early June, we spent happy, happy days in the country. My eighty-seven-year-old grandmother, took her great granddaughter in her arms and crooned a lullaby. It was so sweet.

At the end of June, I was a speaker at a conference in Dunblane Hydro at which I received the promise of 350 to build a grain store at Livingstonia. At Dunblane, Right Rev Dr Donald Fraser took me aside and asked, 'Caseby, will you find time to fulfil these special engagements before you sail for Africa?' I just could not say no to my good friend Donald Fraser, so I agreed.

The churches were wide apart, Brandon Street Church, Motherwell; Bellshill; West Calder; Dumbarton North; Kelty (Oakfield); Memus; Clova; Cortachy; Auctermuchty and a second visit to St Johns, Cupar. I was happy to inform Dr Fraser in August that I had visited all places he had detailed for me.

Our final days at home were fully occupied - Margaret was baptized in Gauldry Church (the church Dr Laws appointed me as one of his colleagues). We made a round of our loved ones and many came to see us. Naturally, Margaret was the centre of attraction, many wondered - 'How can you take such a lovely child to far away Africa?'

Many friends did not understand that Central Africa was to us and our daughter, Home.

We were all fit. I had had my final medical check up in Glasgow and a large box of quinine tablets - two 5 gram tablets each day until I reached Livingstonia - and double the dose thereafter. Our furlough was a happy one, greatest of all gifts our darling daughter Margaret. For the record, I had the joy of addressing nearly a hundred meetings.

 

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