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Nigerian Field Society


Report for 2013

Secretary    Sheila Everard                Chair Rob Oldham            Pro tem Treasurer Lilian  Coe

Sadly, we have to report the deaths of three of our members: Colin Limb, Dan Goddard, and Nigel Hepper, and a former member Ron Dittrich.

Many in Ibadan will have known Dan who served in the Chemistry department as senior lecturer from 1961 – 1975. Dan rarely missed meetings and was always fully engaged right up to the end, whatever the demands.  He even camped in Chichester in 2012!  Nigel Hepper was also a long time member who worked as principal scientific officer and assistant keeper of the herbarium at Kew Gardens. His many publications included books on the flora of Africa and numerous articles in the Journal.
Our membership has dropped slightly, but we still have 72 full and 39 associate members.  When we raised the UK Branch subscription to £5.00, those who did not respond and continued to pay £2.00 were deemed to be associate members; they receive our Newsletter, but not individual notification of meetings. In spite of lower membership numbers, activities continue to be well supported; average attendance at the three meetings in 2013 was 32.

Spring meeting and AGM in Bristol, 19th-21st April 2013

This gathering began with a visit to the Tobacco Factory Theatre to see ‘Two gentlemen of Verona’ by William Shakespeare. After our AGM and lunch, James Gibbs kindly invited us to his house to watch films made by Frank Speed. The first, (in association with Peggy Harper), recorded the Gelede Masquerade over three days. The second, ‘Duminea: A Festival of Water Spirits’ was made with Robin Horton and focuses upon a canoe journey to a shrine near Soko village in the eastern Niger Delta. The third, made with Ray Bradbury concerns ‘Benin Kingship Rituals’. These are significant film records, although made well after years of missionary activity and colonial rule had perhaps modified the practices depicted.

On Sunday, the group visited Tyntesfield House, now a National Trust property built in the C19th from the proceeds of a fortune made by William Gibbs from the profitable trade in Peruvian Guano. This visit was followed by a magnificent tea with Peaches and Bob Golding at their house.  Bob showed us some of the photos taken of various characters in the Ibadan zoo, when he was working there, in particular the gorillas.

Summer Meeting in Durham, 20th/21st July 2013

The display of one of the World’s greatest books, the Lindisfarne Gospels, provided a centrepiece of an exhibition in Durham’s UNESCO World heritage Site. The exhibition told the story of the 1300 year old manuscript – its creation on the island of Lindisfarne around 700AD in honour of St Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne in  685AD and importance to the people of the North East.  During the C9th Viking invasions drove the monks from Lindisfarne;  they carried the Gospels and body of St Cuthbert from place to place until their resting place at Dunholm in 998. Our visit began with a talk and then a tour of the magnificent Norman cathedral. The group visited the Exhibition during the afternoon and then toured the buildings of Palace Green before dining in Victorian Gothic Splendour in the Masonic hall.

On Sunday Dr Adrian Green and one of our own members, Dr William (Dai) Morgan, gave us an intimate guided tour of the castle. Once the bishop’s residence, it now houses students, and occasionally, profitable wedding parties. We saw nooks and crannies of this medieval but much altered building barred to the usual visitor. We repaired to Grey College for lunch, had a guided tour of the Botanical Gardens and finally, stalwarts with sufficient stamina, visited the Oriental museum.  This important collection supports the teaching and research of the School of Oriental Studies.  Based on Anatolian and Mesopotamian antiquities sold from the collection of the fourth Duke of Northumberland; the Chinese collection of Malcolm Macdonald, son of the former prime minister, Ramsey Macdonald, was added when he moved from his post in the far east, to become High Commissioner of India. Finally, those members still standing, came to Shincliffe for a curry buffet in the garden.

Autumn Meeting in Faversham, 14th/15th September 2013

Our final meeting of the year took place in Kent.  Faversham retains much of its ancient character as it is now bye-passed by the motorway to Dover, the old Roman highway through the town no longer carries traffic to the continent.

Originally a settlement even before Roman times, Faversham has been famous for shipbuilding, beer and gunpowder. Our first visit however was to a fruit farm.  Brogdale houses the National Fruit Collection, owned by DEFRA but maintained by the University of Reading.  Over 4,000 cultivars of fruit trees and bushes from all over the world provide important genetic material for research and food security. This living resource is backed up by a seed bank. Developed by ‘Brogdale Collections’ as a visitor attraction, you may tour the plantation on a covered wagon and purchase samples of fruit from trees originating from all over the world.

During the afternoon, some visited the Wildlife Trust, Oare Gardens Country Park and others the Oare Gunpowder works. Gunpowder has been manufactured in Faversham possibly since the early C16th. Geographically, Faversham was well situated for the trade as the port is convenient for the import of saltpetre and sulphur, the other ingredient, charcoal could easily be made locally from the woods. It is a hazardous industry and great care was taken to move the materials around on barges along leats (canals), made for the purpose.   For safety reasons, the buildings were scattered and strongly reinforced.  However, in spite of all precautions several accidents were recorded.  The worst on 2nd April 1916, was at the Uplees Cotton Powder Works and cost more than 100 lives.

On Sunday we all met in the C16th Wine Vaults for a town tour. There are several interesting stories connected to the town; James 11nd had run aground as he escaped during the Glorious Revolution 1688 and stayed until ransomed by Parliament. A famous murder, committed in 1551, is recreated in an annual play in the Abbey grounds. Abbey Street was scheduled for demolition but was saved by an active and alert Civic Society.  The well preserved and attractive medieval buildings are now the pride of the town.

2014 will see several changes in the UK Branch committee.  Rob Oldham chairman, Geoff Partridge treasurer, Sheila Everard secretary and Rachel Nicholson newsletter liaison have all resigned and a new committee will be elected in April.

Programme for 2014:
Spring Meeting & AGM, Guildford, Surrey, 26th/27th April 2014. Organisers Ray & Lilian Coe 
Summer Meeting,  Killin, Aberfeldy, Stirling, Scotland, 28th/29th June 2014. Organiser, Avril Simpson
Autumn Meeting,  Cambridge, (in conjunction with the African Archaeology Group), 20th/21st September 2014. Organiser, Philip Allsworth – Jones

Programme for 2015:
Spring Meeting and AGM, Ulverston, Cumbria, 2nd/3rd May 2015. Organiser, Brian Hopkins

2023  Nigerian Field Society