Here are 2 photos I have to hand. One is taken in my house in 2004 with Sally holding my new, now old, dog called Tumble. The other is a monochrome copy of her LMH portrait. I will continue to look as there are many including some of her in Cameroon.
O my God! Our Icon is gone! You will remember our last lively discussions 2 years ago with Yaya on her 98th birthday! Now she has gone before the long awaited telegram from the Queen this August. May her soul rest in peace. And just last week while in Reading I thought of coming to see her in Oxford. Our Icon is gone and we must start thinking of what to do for and about her. For those around Bamenda I will celebrate a special Mass in Bamenda Cathedral tomorrow morning Friday 4July at 6am relayed by Radio Evangelium at 7.30am. However, I will still organize another Mass later for all men and women of the academia. We would like to make a proper country fashion and cry-die. I know you often come to Babungo every dry season. We could do some real cry-die then!
Yaya Chilver, Go well into Abraham’s bosom! Requiescat In Pace.
Literary and adopted son
Fr Tatah Mbuy
This is very sad, and at the same time, at last, Sally is freed from her ailments Sally has written a trace on an innumerable number of persons. Those traces are still alive and enduring with each and every one of us. If you add up all those traces together, they come to something or somebody that is an enduring and living Sally. In a sense, she is still around, so to speak delocalized.
Avec toute mon amitié,
Professor Jean-Pierre Warnier
it is indeed very sad news to learn that Sally passed away. I still remember her kindness every time I visited her during my years in Oxford. May she rest in peace after such a fruitful life.
Fr Ludovic Lado SJ
Just found your message. Very, very sad. She had such a long and productive life. Still, so sad that she is not with us anymore.
Such an impressive lady - apart from all the inspiration she gave me, I loved her humour and her sweet irony.
You have been a great support for her, so my special condolences to you - and also to Shirley.
Professor Peter Geschiere
I know your ears and email box must be full of condolences following Sally’s departure to eternity. I was hoping she would reach 100 and receive the Queen’s decoration. But that was not to be. I had said before leaving Oxford last February that I would like to come for her centenary if one was to be organized, but we concluded she would not even be aware of what was happening. Although Bongy and Francis will be there at the funeral to represent the family, I still would want to come if (at all) that was to take place not so immediately. But keep me informed of the arrangements that are being made. I am happy that I was able to see her with you for the last time early this year before her death. Thank you again and ashia.
Professor Verkijika Fanso
What a great loss. She and Phyllis inspired me to go into anthropology. She will remain monumental to Grassfields ethnography. A key figure in the Grassfields Study Group, we hope her legacy will be carried on by both old and young scholars. May the God Lord reward her abundantly. RIP.
Professor Paul Nchoji Nkwi
Thanks for sharing this news.
I am saddened to see Sally go, but relieved she is finally going to get the rest she so deserves after a life of total devotion to service from which Cameroonian research as benefitted tremendously. She shall sorely be missed, but her inspiration remains with us, and we shall forge on with her good work and in her spirit and footsteps.
May her soul rest in perfect peace.
Professor Francis B. Nyamnjoh
My diary had a reminder to send a card for 3 August to mark the great day. I don’t know how aware Sally was recently, but she had been thinking it was time to go when I saw her last. A great lady. Please let me know about any later memorial meeting. Hope all is well with you,
Professor Richard Fardon
Thank you. Read what I have posted on my blog extempore. I could not wait for what the London Times or the periodicals over in England would say. I have to write this as my way of starting my healing. I cannot believe this.
Stay well Ian.
Dr Viban Ngo
Sadly though, the inevitable moment finally came. Sally is gone, but she lives on. All the good memories of her pioneering and sustained lifelong work on Cameroon studies cannot be forgotten. She was inspirational. May she rest in peace.
Dr Michael Ndobegang
A real blackout that has come on Grassfields scholars!
At last, Sally is out of stage but will no doubt remain in the team. So, that excellent tutoring is no more. May God guide her through. She was a woman of no ordinary stuff and so tireless.
John Njakoi Bah
Thanks a lot for keeping me informed. We all regret the loss of a great woman like sally. She has impacted in all of our lives and we thank God for her and her time on planet earth.
May her soul rest in perfect peace.
Dr Niger-Thomas Margaret Agbaw
I am saddened by Sally ’ s passing away. Upon my arrival in the UK she and Ian welcomed me in her Oxford home and took me to a Lebanese restaurant. I returned later to visit her with Michaela Pelican She facilities a grant of £250 for me through her contacts. I will forever be grateful for her good heart. She was outstanding and always standing out ... RIP
Sarli Sardou Nana
I remember Sally fondly from my time at Oxford University. I called her the encyclopaedic mind, as there seemed to have a profoundly scholarly view about almost everything. She had an infectious sense of humour and a warm welcoming personality. Whenever I needed a high dose of comprehensive intellectual stimulation from a truly towering master of "tori", then Sally was always my girl! She will be sorely missed, and as the old African saying suggests, her passing represents the "incineration of an irreplaceable library! " RIP
I am deeply saddened by this loss and was hoping she would hang in there to see her 100th in a few days. She touched hundreds of thousands in a variety of ways words alone can’t explain. The Cameroonian community has lost a jewel in her. She was one in a million. Amen. She will live in our hearts forever and we pray she rests in the Lord.
Very many thanks indeed for informing me. I am so sorry. I expect Shirley is devastated. I guess you are too so please accept my condolences. Just a month short of 100 but then what’s the importance of numbers. Please let me know of any arrangements or if there is anything I can do.
I write to report that Elizabeth (Sally) M. Chilver of Oxford in the UK died early this morning, according to report by Dr Ian Fowler who was helping her to this day. Many of us in Shundzev may not know who Sally was in life, but I am sure those who have carried out research in any aspect of our Bamenda Grassfields peoples would have read one or more of her works on the region.
She and her friend Phyllis Kaberry (Yaa woo Kov) who died in 1977 researched in many parts of the present-day North West region, especially in Nso, Bali Nyonga and Kom and published among others the famous Traditional Bamenda in 1968. Their last visit to Nso was in 1963.
I had known both ladies when I was a lad in primary school but began to work closely with Sally when she accepted to direct my PhD studies in 1978 and became my mentor from that time onward.
She, the late Professor Chem-Langhee and I made several publications on Nso and she and I published "Nso and the Germans" in 1996 that appeared in the book Nso and its Neighbours that the three of us and Yaa Nso’ (Mitzi Goheen) edited in the same year.
Sally was just a few weeks from turning 100 years next month, August 2014.
May the soul of Sally Chilver and those of all the departed rest in perfect peace.
Professor Verkijika Fanso
Thank you very much for bringing to the limelight the death of Dr E. Chilver. This is a lady who will remain forever in the Nso historiography by dint of her research and publication on many aspects of Nso. Although she was not awarded a traditional title (hope my memory is not failing me) in Nso like her peers; her research on Nso history and culture deserves recognition at the highest level in Nso. May the good lord prepare a nice place for this "tenacious plant" of Nso.
Adieu Dr Chilver
Dr Hilary Lukong
Thank you very much for sharing with us in this forum the sad news of the passage into eternity of Madam Chilver. She as a human person (a living being) is gone, but she will continue to live (lifelessly) forever through the historical writings she leaves behind. May her soul rest in perfect peace.
We are far away from the sacred places of our people and the bones of our ancestors. From the memories Mrs Chilver left in Nso History, we all have every reason to mourn her. May her Soul Rest in Peace
Thanks for reporting to us on the passing of a pioneer of scholarly research about us. We are proud that you are following in her footsteps and preparing generations of scholars to continue to investigate our history and our culture.
I trust that you will, with time, provide us with more on the impact of her scholarship. We will look forward to reading from you in due time. You have lost a mentor and we all have lost a pillar of learning about the Grassfields!
Sally, you are in all our hearts, a wonderful human being and scholar but always practical - supporting your beloved Cameroon highlands and so many friends there in very many ways, but never too busy to write long ethnographic and historical letters to people like myself then in the field in the Takamanda Forest Reserve, kind exemplar of the womanly scholar-activist. Thank God for your long life and your many, many gifts to us all.
Mrs. Elizabeth Margaret Chilver former Director of Bedford College, University of London (1964-1971); Head of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford (1971-1979) died at the age of 99 on Thursday, July-03-14 in Oxford, England. Born on August 3rd 1914 Elizabeth was the only daughter of Millicent Graves and Philip P. Graves. She will be greatly missed.
She was a tall remarkable lady whose knowledge of peoples and things about peoples, particularly those from Africa was incomparable. No serious scholar could talk of any academic studies of the Southern Cameroons, later West Cameroon State without first consulting her works or her in person. She was a raconteur extraordinaire and for that she gained the sobriquet of ‘mama for tory,’ mother of storytelling in Pidgin English, the lingua franca of British Cameroons. Her past and present students, professors, and members of staff of Oxford, London and Yaoundé 1 Universities will not be the only ones who will miss her but the entire Southern Cameroons State, the former West Cameroon State, if not Cameroon Republic in Western Africa.
Her full names were Elizabeth Margaret Chilver but her close friends called her Sally Chilver. She had the respect of many and was addressed as Lady Chilver by her compeers and dons at Oxford and London Universities. I never entered the four walls of Oxford University as was my desire however I had the privilege of being tutored by an Oxford don, Lady Elizabeth Margaret Chilver for a dozen years or more. I once wrote that when you have need for someone, you always created time for them. She had time for me even at odd hours. If I phoned her for academic discussions she would drop all she had and asked me to catch the train from Paddington Train Station in London, UK and come along to Oxford where she had translated from her erstwhile home at Maida Vale in N.W. London. You would conjecture that she would only have one hour for you. No! She would offer you an entire working day and more. We would have marathon conversations over, teas, lunches and dinners. I would be briefing her on Nso customs, what was going on in Africa and she would be answering a plethora of questions I posed about the Swiss, Germans, languages, thaumatology and traditional medicine. She had such wonderful retentive memory and would recapitulate all incidents in her life and where, when and what she saw and heard as vividly as possible, as if it were yesterday. I knew why she was a valued reporter in the infamous Middle East of today in the past and Europe for the London Daily News. Sometimes I would see the persons and events she vividly described in my mind’s eyes as per an Nso grandee whom she reported to inadvertently draw a map on the ground with a tip of his javelin. We were discussing aloud if Africans had an innate tendency to draw maps as other communities in the Western world.
After our visits and on subsequent occasions she would produce hefty manuscripts with her wonderful calligraphic hand on all that we had discussed. Occasionally she would photocopy them and hand them over to me for digestion. We would discuss people in her field of studies and her old and new students as our Princess Royal Ann and colleagues. We discussed works of Prof. Michael Roland, Dr. Efidike from Australia, Prof. Claude Tardits of University of Paris I, Dr. Ian Fowler who was the darling of the house, the curator Mr. David Price who was working then on the Tikar origin, Dr. Nigel Barley whose best-seller on the Cameroon, The Innocent Anthropologist (Notes from a Mud Hut) I called a constructive lampoon; Prof. Paul Nchoji Nkwi who had similar interests on the Grassfields; Dr. Nicholas Agenti interested in African traditional art, Hans-Joachme Koloss of Berlin, Dr. Phyllis M. Kaberry, Lady Shirley Ardener who visited each time I was paying Sally a visit and many more. Sally Chilver connected me with some of those dynamic scholars and we had ever been inseparable friends.
I recalled meeting Anthony H. M. Kirk-Greene whose book Adamawa Past and Present on Northern British Cameroons was a most-read for all and sundry interested in that part of the world and N. Nigeria. Willy-nilly, through her insistence, I found myself digesting some of their works and even corresponding with them hitherto. I did not know my importance to be connected with these renounced scholars. It was not long before she liaised me with her other older students to teach them French, Creole or just to brief them on Cameroons and Cameroon when they were leaving England to study or carry out research in Western Africa. If I were not visiting, I was answering her queries or she was answering mine on Africa or world affairs. In due course of time she would ask my permissions to allow my personal missives written to her to be shared with some of senior scholars. I was instead grateful that I was inadvertently making some academic contributions in her discipline and was being exposed.
Anyone who met Sally was so impressed and many remarked that she was a walking-encyclopedia. The late Nso philosopher, Prof. Bernard Fonlon, the first Nso to study at Oxford told me that upon hearing that he was from Nso, she jumped and embraced him tightly. She did not only do that but this towering lady took him by hand to bring to the acquaintance of Dr. Phyllis M. Kaberry an authority in the Grassfields studies in the 1950s and 1960s. For my ten and one score years I never ever met anyone who contacted Sally and did not get hocked on her charms and warm heart. She had answers to all conceivable questions concerning anthropology, social history and the Grassfields in particular. She said it in Bekom, Lamnso and Bali Mugaka and one wondered how on earth she had such sharp ears for even African languages besides her French, German and Latin.
All who saw her felt at home! She directed them and even saw what was good for them as a counselor extraordinaire with a wealth of experiences overseas and at home. During some of our meetings, Mrs. Shirley Ardener would drop in and in admiration, listened to snatches of our conversations before returning to her pressing chore. She was a specialist in Bakweri social history and had published with her late husband Anthony Ardener on that Kingdom on the mountain, Bakweri besides writing on women issues in the Southern Cameroons/ West Cameroon State. I ever appreciated all her visits and her interest. Sally knew all her friends at close quarters and talked favorably of them. She even stated that they were all for our liberation which she endorsed but cautioned that force should never ever be used for the liberation of the former state of West Cameroon she had once worked for. She had audiences from the Cameroon Republic Embassy and was invited to most of their functions.
When Sally stated feeling poorly, Mrs. Shelley Ardener and Dr. Ian Fowler were the persons who informed us of her conditions. I visited her and thanked a kind house keeper, a spouse of a police officer who took care of her. I was not happy seeing her leaving Sally alone after her daily chore. My impression was that she was a live-in caretaker. Sally was reluctant and would not accept anyone around but to be with her favorite cat. However it did not continue that way for long. It became imperative when she became visually impaired to have someone with her all the time. A niece of her late husband Richard Chilver, referred to below eventually came in to cater for her.
Irrespective of her condition, she insisted on me keeping up with our usual correspondence the old fashion way as she had not mastered the new IT. Besides arthritis was affecting her writing that was getting shaky and less discernible. I thought that I would be putting undue pressure on her if I encouraged her to maintained our correspondence of our good old days. It became clear in my eyes when I presented her with my second publication B4 she had partly proofread. She held it and replied that she could only see my whitish silhouette. I became blue but had to accept it as we never continue to soldier on indefinitely. Myopia did not mean death. Some people die, but with others as Sally, I rather die first than to see them die before me. Sally was one that I wanted to see living indefinitely by virtue of her academic contributions. Fr. Tatah Mbuy had said that she had immortalized her life by publications and the knowledge she passed on to her worldwide multitude of scholars. Then if Christ could die, who were we to say that we could stay indefinitely after He had given us leverage to make our worldly contributions and prepare ourselves for the life with Him? From my perspective, Sally made hers worldly contributions not only hundredfold but 150% fold. People like her are rare and far between.
When I was leaving for London after my sojourns with her, she would bide me good-bye and we would still continue chatting over the phone. Distance did not matter to her even when I had returned to Ottawa. Then Sally would not reveal her condition to one if one phoned her. She would still be the one to pick up the receiver and answer the phone and would be as sharp and often sounding as fit as a fiddle. So, she left the impression that she was all perfect as was her strive towards perfection as evidenced by her thoroughness in researches, published and unpublished works.
However, I was still very concerned that I suggested if I could send my niece who was a good nurse to cater for her. Sally would not accept this offer. I was not the only one concerned. Professor Godfrey Verkijika Fanso with whom she co-edited books and social history of Nsoland was also on the verge of sending his beloved daughter to look after Sally but she would not accept it too. It bothered me beyond words why my mother would be ill and live alone when I could make her life comfortable at the dusk of her life.
“Of what good were children and friends to one if they could not stand by one’s bedside and give one a glass of water when in one’s sick bed?” I would soliloquize.
Sally always wanted to be on top of things, as it was her nature. One would still see her smoking her cigarettes and would occasionally sip a glass of white wine. Today, I am with her at the Commonwealth Society where she once worked pondering over colonial nitty-gritties, tomorrow I was with her at the University College with her colleagues. I ever listened attentively to her and stoically followed her instructions. She told me to write and to write about my mother, a short story about myself and even novels. She reiterating what Mr. Ben Okri, a British-Nigerian author of the best-selling novel The Famished Road in London, U.K. had been trumpeting in my ears and I kept on putting it off. She urged me to write what people were doing in my tribe, how they used to do things and what brought about changes and what were the reactions of people to modernization. She emphasized that details were what mattered and that in the future they would be beneficial. She went on that fame came when some people had long died and not in their lifetime. I tried to doodle so to say. My short stories I wrote developed legs, limbs and grew too long and fat. Albeit, Sally was never tired of perusing them. She admired all and on editing one of them, she asked me to skip what I had written about Premier John Foncha of West Cameroon State, that is of the former British Southern Cameroons and the burial of the Koran by the Muslims at the Kumbo palace.
In those days we wrote with our hands and there was no use of any rattling Remington type-writers or computer we take for granted today. Whatever, she would talk favorably of everyone in the world except one person, a Prime Minister of West Cameroon State who sold West Cameroon State and might have poured oil over the flame on the interminable predicaments of Southern Cameroons today with Cameroon Republic. As such she would not touch his autobiography suggested to her for editorial. I concurred her decision. The said document got burnt in the house and we are left with conjectures, as what this Mbengwi man was going to give as his rationale for leaving the healthy Buea to go to reside at the miasmic Yaounde taking along with him the whole autonomous State of West Cameroon where its citizens were being abused as Biafrans and enemies in the house.
There was no important person Sally did not know in West Cameroon State. She broadened her knowledge of this Nation State that is still battling to stand on its feet when she was on secondment from the U.K. Colonial Office to work on the West Cameroon Antiquities Commission. Prior to that, she had been interested in the social history and ethnography of the people of the Grassfields, West Cameroon State. This is where she met Miss Elizabeth O’Kelly, the Education Officer of the Grassfields in the 1950s and 1960, whose story I already narrated. Each time I visited her, she would remind me to always visit Miss O’Kelly who had taken me at heart and was living down south at Battle and later on at St. Leonard-on-Sea, East Sussex. (see my story of The White Queen of the Grassfields on this blog). Sally had also worked in tandem with Dr. Phyllis M. Kaberry, an anthropology who was sent by the British Government to study the causes of food shortages, hence constant famine in the Grassfields. She and Dr. Keberry researched and wrote extensively on the women of the Grassfields who were the cardinal peasant farmers, their social structures and the sophisticated cultures of the inhabitants of this region and environs.
One day after our usual chat, Sally told me that I should fly the Nso flag by continuing with the work Dr. Kaberry had started. I was taken aback, as my field of specialization was not anthropology or ethnography but cartography/geography-environmental studies. She inculcated into me a passionate liking for anthropology and would tell me the way to write on certain issues. She recommended books that I should read. I started writing with her in mind and not my own lecturers at the London School of Economics and Political Science (L.S.E.), University of London. Today, Sally still stands behind me censoring my write-ups. A kind friend of mine from Venezuela upon learning of the role she played in my education told me yesterday that she would be by me all the time as a guardian angel to direct me on my scholarship. Saddened as I was, I beamed and thanked her. She told me not to thank her as we were all friends.
What did I not try my hand on for her? I wrote poems and she did not hesitate to dismiss some. I thought she was to refer me to Jonathan Swift, John Milton or William Shakespeare but she subtly told me that the best poet that ever emerged from mother Africa was Christopher Okigbo, an Igbo who was killed at the battle front during the Biafra-Nigerian war of 1967-1972. To follow this up, she was to give me a manuscript of the work of a German Pioneer Father, Fr. John Emonts, SCJ, whom one could rightly state to have been the pioneer/ethnographer of Nso tribe in the Grassfields the Germans had given the name Banso. Emonts had covered what Nso was like in her pristine form in the 1910s in our forthcoming work:
Dans les Grassfields et les Terres Montagneuses de l’Interieur du Cameroun. This is being published by Flag Books Canada International Inc. in 2014.
Emonts could have done more in the education of Africans that greatly concerned Sally and evangelization but the involvement of Germans in the First World War prematurely drove them away from what was then German Cameroons (Kamerun). I edited this and I had ever been grateful to Mrs. Chilver contributions. Emonts’ works on Nsoland was continued by Sally Chilver and Kaberry. King Mbinkar Mbinglo Seem III of Nso Kingdom (1947-1972) was fascinated and bestowed upon Kaberry for her work in excavation of artifacts at Kovvifem, the old capital of Nso the title of ’sylvan queen’ [Yaa woo Kov in Lamnso]. Other scholars working on Nso ethnographic studies are Dr. Mariam Goheen [Yaa] and local Nso elites as Prof. Verkijika Fanso, Dr. Chem Langhee and Dr. Joseph Banadzem. Others had worked independently as Messrs William Banboye, Paul Mzeka, Hon. Joseph Lafon, Prof. Tanlaka-Kishani and Prof. Daniel Lantum, Shufai woo Bastos.
Sally was not keen on writing big books but she carried our field works throughout the Grassfields with particular focus on Ntem at Mbo Plain, Nso, Bali, Oku and Bekom kingdoms, what is known in Cameroons English as ‘fondoms’ and published exhaustive analyses in leading scientific journals. She never believed in armchair research. She got up and went to the field to collect and analyse her data. Where in doubt she wrote avalanche of letters to authorities and those on the spot to get correct facts. She had started writing as far back as 1934 when just 20 years old and up to 2010 was still lecturing privately to students from far and wide. Her personal letters to me are a wealth of information as per the history of the Bah sub tribe of Kingomen, S.E. of Kumbo that have never been published but would be done so in due course of time. The good thing was that if Sally ever wrote anything with her handwriting that was more beautiful than Times New Roman scripts, she carefully kept a carbon copy of it. Some of these are to be found with Prof. Ian Fowler and with her close friends.
Sally’s French and German were excellent. She carried out correspondence with her French and German colleagues and cooperated with them in sundry publications. I am thinking of the work she edited with Ute Roschenthaler (2001) Cameroon’s Tycoon: Max Esser’s Expedition and its Consequences. We are thinking here of Prof. Claude Tardits, Mon. Jean Hurault, Hermann Guflerand, Henri Boquene, Richard Fardon, Frederick Quinn and many others we see in JASO Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford, Vol. xxvi,(1) 1995.
She died lecturing. She was vocal and if she did not accomplish one thing on earth it was to capture all that was being eroded away from our cultures. Modernism could not be welcomed in most African domains without consequences. It is like environmental issues that are often heightened with industrialization in Africa and elsewhere when damaging the environment or polluting the air we breathe. She valued all that was cultural from Africa as grains of gold. The way people did their things, the way they said them, what they ate, how they dressed and why they did all that they did, whom they collaborated with, reasons d’etre, marriages, death celebrations and many more. She cherished all and took time to put all we earlier saw in writings that span form 1934 to 2000s.
As in our earlier allusion, she did not typewrite like most of you do today. If you asked her questions she wrote down in that wonderful calligraphy, penmanship and her answers were in the post the following day. The internet had come to kill our handwriting, and writings that were windows through which graphologists could discern our characters. That was the ngambe or ngam divination of the White man. Sally was interested in ngambe of the African man what I often dismissed as paganism or mumbo-jumbos made lots of sense when she analysed them. With my naivety, I was inclined to dismissed her works and that was what UNESCO would not have entertained. I was economic and mechanical minded and wanted to see massive engineering and manufacturing projects of Birmingham or Detroit types being transferred to Africans instead of studying their ways of life. When it was not clear to me, I was tempted to view it as a waste of time. With time I valued all her contributions, would defend them and I am so grateful. Why? I was wrong in assuming that if Africanism, useful African values were destroyed or supplanted with Western ways of life, Africans were to be better off economically and scientifically than what they were before. Then, the Japanese had proved that a people could be industrialized without necessarily shedding their cultural values. That was something worthy of being emulated.
Still on hand-writing, we could see generations to come after these that would never know how to write cursive or straight up writing as our beloved Sally. The present generation take down their notes in class with the computers and write and present with the computers. Others simply record lectures audiologically and by using other computer programs their oral notes are transcribed into printable forms. Sally and I examined these developments and looked at the pros and cons of them. Today when asked the square-area of a circle, the present generation that spend more time on computer video games than reading, search Google for answers. In a way the proponents of video games help in stupefying children and the consequences upon the modern society need to be scientifically studied as a matter of urgency. Many put 18 hours or more on sex-ting or ’texting’ instead of reading classical novels and others that build the western civilization. They create their jargon that English of Chaucer and Jonathan Swift eras is even far better. To this, Sally told me that someday people would be born without legs as they were no longer using them as intended with the proliferation of trains and cars to ferry people from place to place. By insinuation, children would be born without heads or brains and that would be scary. She would giggle and say that she would have long gone.
On going, she was preparing for this day of her final departure ten years ago. She knew the kind lady that would write her obituary from Southampton, and she knew who was to occupy her residence. They were to be professional students. As for her treasured collection of books and MSS, Dr. Ian Fowler was to be the caretaker. She had even arranged that her body be given for scientific research to help others. So, I envisage a burial without a tombstone and an epithet.
Still on good-hand writing, she went on that her father taught her how to write properly. This proper upright writing was what was to take Sally so far as reporting from the Middle East for one of the London grand paper the Daily News. I clearly saw the saying that all developments in one’s life start from within one’s family and not necessarily from without. She had to be precise, clear and up to the point. Besides she was very diplomatic. It was no doubt that she was the right person to head civil and academic departments.
She told me lots of things. I wrote some down to the extent that I even wrote sketches of her life story. Unfortunately they were shredded by a criminal who hacked into my computer and attacked it with malwares. I had written a scathing report on dampening corruption in Cameroon Republic that had infiltrated the once pious British Cameroons. The moment the man or men saw it, it was shredded. I could not be motivated to write as I had written. My writing spirit was subdued but was not killed as Sally’s encouraging spirit in all of us.
How did I know Mrs. E.M. Chilver? I was carrying out research at the London School of Economics and Political Science, (L.S.E.), University of London on the Cameroon topographic survey and it became necessary for me to contact old civil servants who had worked in the British Southern Cameroons. One of those I met, was Miss Elizabeth O’Kelly, an Education Officer who had worked in S.E. Asia and UK whose short story I published last year on my Blog. She then brought me to the acquaintance of Mrs. E. M. Chilver. She was then living at Maida Vale, N.W. London in a Georgian home with her husband Mr.Richard Clementson Chilver who was a carpenter. Sally’s spouse was hard at hearing. He had retired from his profession but was still carpentering for his friends and building splendid timber models of houses. When he died from cancer in 1985 some of his prototypes were taken to Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford for exhibition when Sally had a memorial presentation.
If I phoned Sally to leave messages, I would have to repeat over and over until Mr. Chilver got all syllables of what I was saying and he would leave messages for Sally. I was living then at the Student’s Hall of Residence at the West End and she would always ensure that she returned my calls. In those days there were no personal telephones as the cell phones we take for granted today. Incoming calls were received by the receptionist using a switchboard who then buzzed the only telephone outlet on the floor where students were. The student living next to the telephone booth would answer and then be kind enough to run to one’s cubicle and knock at one’s door uttering the word ‘telephone.’ I had not known many a persons in London in the 1980s and the only person who would phone me was the very important Sally. She was then the Director of Bedford College, University of London. Our telephone chats were brief and professional. Prior to this she had worked for the Social Science Research Council of the U.K. Colonial Office.
I remember my first meeting of Sally at the Chilvers’ residence was at dusk. Sally introduced me to her husband Richard who recognized me from my voice and apologized to me that he had hearing impairment. I smiled and Sally immediately ushered me to her study. The first thing she showed me was her escritoire. It was Victorian of rococo style. We barely could sit as she was rushing to attend some meeting at her college. She was the first director of a university I ever saw. She was a tall remarkable lady whose knowledge of peoples and things about peoples was incomparable. I addressed her Doctor Chilver and she humbly told me that she had a Master’s degree and not a doctorate one. I envied her. I left and walked back to the closest London Underground station to continue to my hall of residence. Sally was not driving and she was ferried on the London black taxis wherever she wanted to go. I maintained contact. From that humble beginning developed a friendship that lasted for a generation. It terminated yesterday but will continue spiritually till we will be called forth by God to head to Elysium too to reunite with Sally. Adieu Sally.