Project Canterbury

Within the Green Wall
The Story of Holy Cross Liberia Mission 1922-1957

By the Rt. Rev. Robert Erskine Campbell, O.H.C.
Formerly Prior of Bolahun and Bishop of Liberia

West Park, New York: Holy Cross Press, [1957]

Reproduced online by permission of the Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross, 2006.

Chapter 7. Getting Started

TUESDAY in Holy Week, March 27, 1923, dawned brightly and our hearts rejoiced, for that was to be moving day to Bolahun. Fofi supplied the moving van--100 carriers for the loads. As each load weighed 40 pounds or less, there was really not so much after all. A few pieces of furniture we had made ourselves, our chop, clothing and bedding, together with some tools and medical supplies and a few books--that was all. No stove, no refrigerator, no radio were in that procession, for we had none but the bare necessities of life, though of course every bag, every box or bundle was scanned carefully by its porter which, like Uncle Remus' little brown jug, might contain anything. What treasures might these tightly wrapped packages hold?

Fofi and Father Campbell led the caravan marching out from town single file. The walk of a mile along the now familiar trail was quickly covered. When the goods had been deposited [58/59] in the library and Fofi and his men paid off, they were dismissed with many finger-snaps and loud "Thank-yous." We like to believe that the patriarch Noah would have sympathized with us moving into our untried "Ark," for he would recollect his own troubles on this score long ago. First we set our one table as an altar in chapel and added two or three home-made benches for the choir. And the refectory? Well, a few empty packing cases would do very nicely just now. The library, to be used also as a common room, stood stark bare except for the bags and boxes in process of being unpacked. Three of the four cells became receptacles for one crude bed each and the scanty personal effects of the occupant. For kitchen there stood a small mud-and-thatch affair a few yards to the south. The long sides of the "big house" faced approximately east and west. The bush frail known as the highroad to Kolahun right by our door to the west was one of the main thoroughfares of the country, with plenty of people passing all the time. Out to the west also we had a magnificent view of Sakbawa, the first of the lofty hills on the way to Sierra Leone. But on the other three sides of the building we were closely wrapped by tangled elephant grass and jungle. But that particular day our joyful feeling accorded with the motto on the great seal of Liberia: "Here We Are And Here We Will Remain." Thus began the first monastery in the Liberian Hinterland, a House of God, a Gate of Heaven.

Getting organized amid new surroundings is difficult in any part of the world, but on Maundy Thursday a near calamity met us. Father Campbell conceived the bright idea, not too bright after all, of staining the chapel furniture with solignum. This preservative he applied with considerable energy that morning, little realizing how long a time must be allowed for drying. It was weeks before we could sit on the benches in our white habits. In the meantime we placed ancient newspapers and whatever other padding we could muster for protection. Thus [59/60] we learned the hard way that solignum is intended for out-of-door use.

We had many uninvited guests those early days too, who taxed even the African limit of hospitality. Literally swarms of travellers would stop to make "big migration" over the largest house in Bandiland, and then remember that they stood in need of kerosene, shirts, empty tins and bottles, or what have you. Fortunately we had none of the liquor or gunpowder they sometimes requested, but Father Hawkins did continue his merciful first-aid work to those in need and in physical distress. We felt that most of the beggars tried simply to see what they could get; the same bright smile and courteous "Thank you" would greet us even if we had nothing to give. That was in the daytime. During the night however it was far more annoying to have giant rats from the surrounding bush racing up and down the walls, jumping on loose floor boards overhead, and even landing heavily on our mosquito nets. Doors and shutters had not yet been hung, so the pests had free access to the house. We purchased a half-wild cat for one shilling, but he seemed not one bit interested in our problem. We tried traps and poison, but with no results, for as our boys told us, animals from the bush did not "savvy white-man medicine." With the advent of doors and other means of making the "Ark" more tightly caulked, there came considerable improvement in all this, though of the multitude already with us none showed the slightest inclination to depart.

Thus Holy Week slipped away quickly, and we observed it as devoutly as we could under unconventional surroundings. On Saturday, at the urgent invitation of the District Commissioner, Captain W. S. Boyle, Father Campbell walked the six miles to Kolahun for Easter services. The trip carried him over the bald hill, Kpaka Fasa. There a magnificent view can be had of the Pandemai Mountains to the east, of the fagged mountains of French Guinea to the north, and of the Sierra [60/61] Leone Mountains to the west. At the base lay Bandiland, a veritable jungle of tangled green hills broken only by the bright green of an occasional rice farm and a few villages. Kolahun, the Liberian Government barracks and Commissioner's headquarters lay near to the steep decline to the north. We always respected Captain Boyle highly for his personal integrity and just dealings with the country under his jurisdiction. This was the first of many subsequent visits to Kolahun. Always we met the same cordial welcome. A large open barre would be decorated with palm fronds and native flowers showing a riot of color on and about the altar. The Commissioner was always the perfect host, never failing to send us back to Bolahun in his own four-man hammock. At that first Easter Mass were not only the Liberian officials hut some twenty soldiers of the Liberian Frontier Force. There too was "Pa" Kline, the blind teacher of the Government School at Vonjama with 25 of his boys and Mr. Wilson from the Ramsaur Memorial School, Pandemni, with an equal number. A few African traders came to worship also. Hymns were sung in various dialects and Father Campbell had his first experience preaching through three interpreters. Several of the adults wanted to organize a parish at once, calling it Holy Cross Parish, but wiser counsels advised waiting a while. That afternoon at Evensong the Father did baptize about 20 of Pa Kline's pupils, who had been most carefully prepared, and among other things knew the Church catechism by heart.

To return to Bolahun, Mr. Manley busied himself making more appropriate fittings for the chapel. While he was constructing the altar, one of our boys, Tub, who of course had never seen any such, inquired politely whether it were a bed. The refectory table we designed as a small copy of that at Holy Cross--really three tables set together "U" shaped. Never had the like of that been seen, and so many were the "ahs" and "m-m-m's" of sheer astonishment. A few more tables and stools, [61/62] doors, shutters for the windows and a vestment case--shelves for library books and similar unadorned equipment all appeared in good season. From discarded packing cases we salvaged enough to knock together a couple of rather clumsy chairs. These were for high state occasions, as when entertaining some important chief. We ourselves found the stools more useful because more easily moved about as needed.

Just at noon of one of those early days in the new house, as we were about to enter chapel to recite Sext, a breathless Janga appeared from Masambalahun. He wanted a small tin of milk. As we never gave food stuff, and we knew that Janga was well aware of this rule, we could not but wonder what was in the wind. But when we heard his story we had a hearty laugh and granted his unusual request. Apparently Foil was on the point of consecrating the foundation stone of some new town to induce the guardian spirits to dwell there. The medicine man had required definite sacrifices to be made, one of which was to pour some milk upon the stone, It was when Janga described graphically how all Masambalahun had chased a fresh cow all morning and failed to catch her (the cattle are not milk cows) that we dissolved in merriment. A successful Janga returned to Masambalahun, and a chuckling we to Sext.

Father Hawkins had to return to West Park early in May to prepare for his life profession. But for some little time before his departure we had been making frequent trips to nearby villages in the evening, when men and women returned from their work on the farms. The first thing always would be to greet the chief and ask permission to hold "God-palaver," as our informal Christian services came to be called. We were never refused. The first thing would be to set up the phonograph in some public place and hang on the wall a large Sunday School picture. Music from a few serious numbers on the phonograph never failed to draw a crowd. In those very early days we could sing no hymns, for the people knew no English and we not much more of their [62/63] Bandi. But Morlu and our other interpreter, Tom Hunter, translated the prayers and address for them, and did especially well if we had primed them ahead of time. This last was to make very sure that they had some definite idea what we would be trying to say. We always kept the services short because it would be about sunset and therefore mealtime. The country people eat but twice a day, noon and night; and naturally after a hard day's work felt more ready for their "chop." But they obviously appreciated our making the effort to come, for they never failed to invite us to return and tell them more of Jesus and His Jove,

It was on Low Sunday, April 8th, that Father Campbell blessed St. Athanasius' Monastery, offered the first Sung Mass in Chapel and preached. Father Hawkins as a most competent choir rendered Missa de Angelis and some Easter hymns. Two Christian employees from Sierra Leone ministered the incense and served at the altar. Quite a throng of men and boys squeezed themselves into chapel, though of course the girls and women could not come in and, more than that, would not come in. We did not appreciate the full meaning of their absence just then. Apart entirely from our monastic denying admission into the house of women (excepting the far west end of the chapel and a small reception room by the front hail), we soon learned that local custom would have forbidden them to enter a house reserved for men anyway. Moslem women cannot enter a mosque and among the heathen men and women perform distinct sacrifices and prayers. We might have stretched a point and allowed them to enter chapel for public worship had they come. But quite obviously they refrained from attending, and we could but wonder why.

The next red-letter day was June 10th, when Father Allen arrived, just as the heavy rains were beginning. Father Campbell had gone to Freetown to meet him and escort him upcountry. The moving story of this 72-year-old saint has been told [63/64] elsewhere, but suffice it to say here that he had volunteered for Africa and had been accepted by the Father Superior and Bishop Overs. On his way out from America he had Spent several months in Livingstone College, London, taking a first-aid course in tropical medicine. Within a few days after his arrival at Bolahun he reopened the dispensary, closed now for some weeks because of Father Hawkin's departure. Since he was always kindly, humorous, careful, the Father's skill was recognized at once. So greatly did the number of patients grow that we saw the necessity of building a special native house for the medical department. That at least would get them away from our front porch. No matter whether dressing those dreadful tropical sores, or extracting an aching tooth, or dispensing epsom salts, Father was always deliberate and sympathetic. He prayed for each sufferer as he ministered healing. No wonder the people loved him. No wonder that through Father A1len's personality and effective deeds of mercy the last vestiges of suspicion and opposition to the mission, like a cloud before the morning sun, melted away.

During these weeks Mr. Manley continued finishing the inside of the monastery and setting up some furniture. Elephant grass and the "bush" had to be pushed farther away from the house. Native style houses had to be constructed for the school; three round houses for dormitories and a detached kitchen, together with an open barre or palaver house for classes. All these sprang into being to the south of the monastery proper on a strip of level ground. We planted a vegetable garden with the packages of seeds Father Allen had brought from England, but soon found that hungry insects got there first, leaving but short rations for the household. By August Father Campbell had learned enough of the Mende language to translate our Holy Cross Catechism and begin the Gospel according to St. Luke. We maintained the monthly trips to Kolahun and the informal services in surrounding towns. Father Allen with an interpreter [64/65] went to Masambalahun every Sunday afternoon rain or shine to preach the Word of God. Sunday Mass in the monastery chapel saw such increase in attendance that a most reverent overflow congregation would stand on the porch. When we had made it plain that women were welcome to worship with us, a few of them began coming also. In spite of our numerous sermons and instructions, the services must have presented a riddle to most of those attending. They understood "pray God" as the Moslems do. When asked about it one man replied, "Strong medicine for true true." Hence it became evident that we must build a real church, to be dedicated to Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Mother of God.

Not to outrun our own story, we must pause to note another "first." Janga it was, our good friend Janga, who arrived in a fierce downpour of rain on September first with two shivering small boys for school. Fofi and Langama were their names, two very scared young individuals. Knowing none but their native Bandi, clad in their picturesque country gowns, and each with his required rice and sleeping mat, these lads started the procession of thousands still coming in search of an education. Janga delivered a lengthy oration, the gist of which was that Fofi "gave" us these children for school. Thus we enrolled our first pupils. Thus it was that our educational work began. Bishop Overs had charged us to open a school just as soon as we could. The teacher was none other than Tom Hunter who had been trained in Sierra Leone, and as the weeks passed it became increasingly evident that he knew his business. The echoes of those early classes with the boys singing in their clear treble A-B-C-D ring in our ears even yet. Little could anyone guess what it would lead to, for the future was still veiled from our sight.

With the opening of a school we completed our first year on schedule time. From the very start our objective aimed at no lopsided ministry, but rather to supply the needs of the whole [65/66] man, soul, body, mind. It seemed like the clear call of God, and under I-Ifs guidance and blessing we now realized the fulfilment of the programme proposed. The policy of training Africans for Africa presented a sound ideal, an ideal we never have abandoned. Whatever mistakes we made (and they add up to many) in transferring that ideal to intelligent effective action, we believed then and know now that our objectives were correct. Of the educational activities we shall have more to relate later.

During October Father Campbell made our first excursion into the Loma country. This large tribe, only a small part of which lives within the confines of Liberia, occupies the rugged country of many hills and some mountains to the east of Bolahun. The people speak a language not unlike Bandi, but with many sounds of "z" in place of the softer "s" or "h.' One pleasing characteristic is their utter cleanliness both in their large, trim towns and in personal habits. Aggressive warriors from ancient days, they rely implicitly on the power of charms and "uju" for their success. Despite their quite superior intelligence and industry, they are still wedded so firmly to their devil-bush incantations and charms that neither Christianity nor Mohammedanism has made much headway among them. After leaving Kolahun, the trail leads to the last Bandi town, Fangalahun. This crowns a lofty hill and was the scene of some fierce fighting during the revolt of the Bandis against the Liberians when they fried to impose a hut tax of one dollar a year in igra Some of the men in the caravan pointed out to Father Campbell bullet scars still marking some of the trees. Passing thence through dense forest (infested by tsetse flies, the sure sign of elephants near, they said), and over many high hills, the first town of any size which they met was Zewadamai. The chief welcomed the travellers, presenting them with a fat rooster and rice, and asked whether they would care to visit the nearby market. Of course the Father expressed his interest. But a shock awaited us, for when the [66/67] people caught sight of such an incredible apparition (white is the color of their worst devils) they threw their wares on the ground and lumped screaming into the bush. The chief called that this was a man, not a devil, but none returned. Evidently Father Campbell was the very first white man they had ever seen. As he and the chief stood surveying the wreckage, many apologies were offered for the unseemly stampede. Father Camp. bell felt sorry for the loss of so much rice, palm oil, cloth and fish. When he offered payment, the chief uttered an indignant refusal, for his people had brought shame on him publicly. A distinguished guest had been insulted.

After reaching Vonjama, almost on the boundary of French Guinea, Father Campbell turned his steps southwards to Pandernai. Father James Dwalu had made a good start with the Ramsaur Memorial School, which was housed in attractive native buildings. Mass was offered on Sunday in the freshly constructed Chapel of the Incarnation with the entire school and a few other Christians in attendance. That afternoon a formal visit was made to the town chief, from whom we asked permission to hold open-air services. This he granted at once. Fr. Dwalu sent a schoolboy about town with a hand bell and with instructions to call the people to assemble as he rang it. Hundreds responded, old and young, male and female, ever so silent, with intelligent faces ever so eager. Some hymns were sung in English by the school. Father Dwalu offered a prayer in Loma; and after another hymn Father Campbell began his discourse, with the aid of an interpreter of course. The very sight of that expectant multitude standing in the open square and between the houses as far as the eye could reach was nothing short of thrilling. The sun was just about to set, shedding a soft light on the picturesque town and the magnificent forest-clad mountains hard by. The chief with his sword of office and his elephant tail fly swatter sat upon his throne right beside the preacher, surrounded by his council. The people listened [67/68] intently to the story of God's love for all people and of His power over everything on earth. God lives. God cares for us all. Cod wants our hearts.

At Bolahun the next great event was the arrival of our Superior, none other than Father Huntington, for an official visitation. He was then 69, but refused to ride in the hammock sent to Pendembu to fetch him. Walk he did, and with evident zest, arriving in the late afternoon of November 28th, just as fresh as the proverbial daisy. Father Hawkins, newly life professed, accompanied him. We had published Fr. Huntington's coming well in advance, so the first week of his stay was marked by state calls, quite formal, from chieftains with large retinues all up and down the country. Conversation had to be held through interpreters amid many sweet words and a dignifled restraint. Had the Father enjoyed a good trip? Was his family in America all well? Did he have enough to eat while travelling? The first of these visits Father Huntington evidently enjoyed, ending as they always did with an exchange of presents, which must be received in both hands, or if too bulky, be at least touched before being carried away. We suspected strongly that after a few days Father Huntington became annoyed with this stream of well-wishers, for he had many letters to write relating his adventures to interested friends back home. That his words were few and pointed must have impressed men who always have plenty of time for long, flowery orations.

While he was here Father Huntington visited all our nearby preaching stations, taking keen interest in methods used and the response on the part of our hearers. One afternoon at Nyokoletahun, just as we were setting up the phonograph to attract the crowd, he inquired whether the inhabitants believed that we flogged the devil-in-the-box when we wound it. When we replied in the affirmative he burst forth indignantly, "Here, we cannot have such foolishness. I shall explain to them." He made a noble effort while the crowd listened respectfully. But we saw [68/69] that the interpreter could not translate technical terms like "vibrations," or "air waves," or "echoes," and many other of the phrases he used. However, they all smiled and nodded and thanked him profusely, though we felt sure that they still just knew that that little devil lived in the box!

Father Huntington's visit inspired us mightily, for his clear mind grasped our problems accurately. His suggestions and directions we found to be both sound and illuminating. Thus our second Christmas in Bandiland came and went most happily. Before daylight on New Year's morning 1924 Father Huntington started on his return journey. The stars hung over hea in the clear, bracing air so brilliantly that they seemed close enough for us to reach up and touch them. By the time he had scaled the long pull up Sakbawa the sun was just peeping above the horizon, showing a heavy mist below with the tops of lofty hills emerging like so many islands in a calm sea. Turn in to Father Campbell he exclaimed, "See, a new sun rising on a new year!" Thus he left us physically, though his enthusiasm and encouragement remained. The inspiration never faded. A fresh impetus for God's work was ours.

The first secular priest who volunteered for the mission was the Rev. Harry J. Stretch, of New York. He arrived on January 16, 1924, and assumed charge of the school at once, where he did an excellent job. Another "first" was the baptism of William Morlu, our faithful interpreter now for many months. That happy event took place on February 1st in the monastery chapel, for St. Mary's church was not yet quite ready for use. Mr. Manley was taking the utmost care to construct a House of Cod worthy of the title and just as permanent as possible under our primitive conditions. Except for vestments, altar furnishings, a metal roof and the necessary nails and hardware, everything was a local product. Of course the 60-pound bell for the cupola had to be imported too, but that was all. Altar, benches without backs, doors, shutters, communion rail as part of an open rood [69/70] screen--these all were made right on the spot. These were our masterpieces which we delighted to offer as such to God.

We determined to have the grand opening day for the church on Septuagesima, the i7th of February. Fofi and a group of nearby chiefs were invited to grace the occasion with their presence. We informed them that when the bell rang it was not the devil warning them to run, but Almighty God calling them to enter. It was necessary to give this information, for none had ever heard a church bell ringing. The only bell they knew was that of the bush devil, who by that means gave warning of his approach, and all those not initiated into the bush society had to hide themselves with all speed, lest they be stricken dead at the terrible sight. In the front of the church we set a special throne for FoE and seats for the important visitors. The service that afternoon was quite simple so as not to confuse or otherwise mystify the jam-packed congregation. After a few hymns and prayers it was time for Father Campbell to make the dedicatory address. This he tried to deliver Bandi style, with many a bouquet of praise and words of thanks to all who had contributed materials or labor for the erection of this the first House of God in all this part of the country. It was doubtless a masterpiece of its sort, though far below Demosthenes or Cicero. Yet he could not have been too successful in his effort, for Fofi kept rubbing his cheeks and nose with onions the whole time. After the exercises, when someone inquired why the chief had staged such a performance, Fofi's unexpected reply was, "To keep myself awake!"

From the outset we offered the Holy Mass daily in church, and twice on Sundays. Following the established country custom, the men occupied the benches on the north side of the aisle, and women on the south. Men and women never eat together, never sit or walk together in daily life. If this seems strange, we may remind ourselves that even in our progressive United States the equality of the sexes is a disturbing novelty to [70/71] many elderly persons yet. So, why outrage the sensibilities of our prospective converts unnecessarily? The Stations of the Cross were very good lithograph prints on heavy paper. For these Mr. Manley made very attractive bamboo frames and had them all hung in their places by Ash Wednesday. All our services were in English, except for Mende Vespers, compiled by Father Campbell as a popular service on Sunday afternoons before Benediction. The response was immediate and overwhelming, and of course most gratifying to the missionaries.

Early in May Father Campbell and Father Hawkins set out on a scouting trip to spy out Kisiland to the north of us. As this was part of the territory assigned us by Bishop Overs, we felt it to be high time that at least we should see the country and its people. Our readers will recall that the Kisis are a large, strong Bantu tribe migrating hithcr probably from the Congo Basin many centuries ago. There we found many small towns, none of which looked very attractive. With a crowded population and small, poor farms, one cannot wonder that the inhabitants looked so hungry. For a great part of the year there is just not enough to eat. But everywhere we went we found chiefs and people most cordial, most eager for us to open stations and some schools for their children. They were quite willing to do what they could in the way of putting up the needed buildings and supplying the children with rice.

Our first day's walk brought us to Foya Kamara. No motor road was there then, no airfield to receive planes from Monrovia. But all whom we met knew of Bolahun and many had seen it. Their disappointment showed itself plainly when, after consultation, we informed them that this trip we had come merely to "look-see," though smiles like radiant sunshine beamed on their faces when we promised the chief and elders that we would "try." In this land that is as good as a promise, and so they were satisfied. They knew that when a white man agreed to anything he would keep his word. We were the first [71/72] Caucasians ever to visit the town, but our reputation for "biking straight mouth" was almost a proverb with them. One morning they saw us inspecting the shrine in the middle of the village, and the chief, Mandepwe himself, came to get us away, doubtless fearing that we might spoil their community 'medicine." We did see the cornerstone and a small house for the guardian charms and an altar of no great size in front of some growing bananas. 'While he was escorting us safely to our quarters the chief informed us that at the shrine was a very deep spring of water in which dwelt the fostering spirit. This spring is supposed to have its outlet in three smaller springs at the base of the hill, one of which we did later find for ourselves.

Several hours of walking still further to the north brought us to Porluma, where we found the Paramount Chief Kandekai, who extended a welcome at once gracious and enthusiastic. Did they want Cod-palaver and a school? They certainly did, and embarrassed us by asking how soon we could come. In this village scattered among the huts there stood quite a number of huge granite boulders, some of them larger than the houses themselves. In no other place have we ever seen the like. Kandekai assembled all his subsidiary chiefs one afternoon to meet us in a nearby town, and a splendid looking group it was. As very few Moslems dwell among the Kisis, our audience was all heathen. Questions and answers followed our short service, and some speeches too.

One characteristic of Africa is that time means very little. The sun was setting when the meeting in Bandaini broke up. As we neared Porluma in the gathering dusk we heard something which made chills creep up our spines. The big war drums were beating in curious rhythm and a man was blowing long notes on a horn made of a huge elephant tusk. In the dim light we observed men slipping into town from every side, all carrying weapons--gas-pipe, flint-lock guns, spears, bows and arrows, war clubs and long, sharp knives. We were informed that it was a war with [72/73] the Bandis. Apparently some Bandi men had begun clearing a strip of forest preparatory to making a rice farm in territory generally recognized as belonging to the Kisis. There had been one skirmish already that afternoon in which several men were reported killed. The Kisis were now preparing to drive out the intruders.

This is termed a "bush war," not uncommon in an area where the population has grown and the arable sections are too small to support it. Be that as it may, here were two mission priests on the wrong side of the firing line. All that night the tomtoms boomed and martial preparations became increasingly noisy, so that but little sleep was ours. The following morning we interviewed Kandekai, explaining that as strangers we could not put our hand to their local affairs and that we must return to the mission at once. Just how he arranged for safe conduct we never did learn, but a band of Kisi "war boys" accompanied us for about an hour's walk, and then pointed silently to the path ahead. Fr. Campbell and some of the carriers (all Bandi men) marched out front while Father Hawkins brought up the rear. Our men then began calling that we of Balahun were coming. We passed several armed Bandi sentries hidden behind rocks or trees, who allowed us to pass unmolested, and that afternoon we reached Ngokohun, the residence of Morlu, Paramount Chief and most powerful, influential ruler in all Bandi.

Morlu, we learned, was absent on the war palaver, and did not return to the village till dusk. But the headman assigned us quarters and presented us with rice and plenty of other things to eat. While walking about town and waiting, we saw our first pygmies, a man and a woman, each clad in simply a C-string, and not over four feet tall. From the Kisis we had learned that decades ago the forest contained many large bands of these wanderers. They have no towns, make no farms, but live in the frees, eating whatever roots and berries they can gather, and small animals caught by hand. Their reputation was that of [73/74] being chronic thieves but otherwise harmless. Whenever they would plunder a rice farm or a cassava patch, they would walk backwards so they could not be followed.

When Morlu finally appeared he treated us handsomely, presenting us with more rice, a sheep, not to mention a chicken and several eggs. After evening "chop" he assembled his elders to talk the palaver about our coming to open a station. Even though no objection was raised, it soon became evident that all their minds were preoccupied with the Kisi trouble. Negotiations dwindled to a series of pleasant compliments, and the next day the Fathers returned to Bolahun. Incidentally, the Liberian Government dealt very firmly with this tribal fracas. Morlu and Mandepwe were both deposed from office and banished to a distant part of Liberia. Responsible officials had clearly in mind the dreadful Bandi uprising of 1910 and that of the Kisis in 1917, both because of the imposition of a hut tax of a dollar a year. It was obviously a wiser policy to avoid unnecessary risks, for local wars can spread like wildfire on a prairie.

Ascension Day fell on May 28th that year, and before the late Mass George Lahai and eight others were baptized in church. Then a few days later (June 1st), after much negotiating with the District Commissioner, Captain Harper, in Kolahun, and the local chiefs as well, no fewer than i6 new boys arrived for school. Most attractive little fellows they were, so very shy, so utterly ignorant of us and our ways. They were keen observers, however, and accomplished mimics. It furnished much astonishment that they should pick up English so quickly and easily. Not too long after their arrival we heard during the noon test period shrieks of laughter from the direction of the school compound. That rest period was supposed to be kept quiet, so we were determined to take firm steps to enforce the rule. But before issuing from the monastery one of us peeped through the blinds to reconnoiter, and never got any further. A couple of the little imps were entertaining the crowd with perfect imitations of [74/75] each of the missionaries--voice, gestures and walk. Not one of us escaped. Fr. Allen, Fr. Campbell, Fr. Hawkins, Fr. Stretch were illustrated in turn, and so perfectly that we had to join the laugh. At afternoon assembly the Father Prior gave a stern lecture on the necessity of keeping quiet during the hour from 1 to 2, in the heat of the day, while the school smiled brightly and Father had difficulty keeping his own face straight.

About this too comical event we had scarcely stopped our quiet amusement when one of our local friends presented us with a rather large grey monkey. We tried tying it to a pole in the compound, but the little fiend either broke the rope or gnawed through it. We fed him bananas and peanuts, for which he exhibited a keen appetite at any hour. But the climax came one day when he broke loose and went on a rampage in the monastery and the vegetable garden. Not only did he upset ink- stands, scatter papers and books, but quite literally tore up the chapel. Just at the minute we all happened to be engaged elsewhere, but when at length we surveyed the results of his frolic we felt it necessary to pass the sentence of death upon him. We simply could not have such uninhibited antics even from a pet monkey. Hence, Fr. Prior told the school that Sir Monkey would be their soup for the evening meal. This caused general jubilation, for it meant "sweet chop" for the boys' rice. The only sour note came from one of the lads who in tears informed us that his family had a taboo on monkey meat and that he could not eat it. As we always try to respect such local customs, we had to hunt for a suitable substitute. This proved to be a fat rat which one of the boys had caught that afternoon!

We shall have much more to say about our school system later, but these anecdotes give a fair idea of what we had to start with. Over the years, of course, many other happenings have taken place, many of them funny, others nothing short of tragic. Yet, as subsequent events have shown conclusively, we made a good start, and on the right lines. We offered a standard [75/76] curriculum, but with stress on training Africans for life and work in their own environment. For the first eight or ten years we were busy building up the grammar grades. Many of our alumni of those early terms are now "big men" in the country, and in every case with a most commendable zeal for their alma mater.

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