MACDONA, Brian Fraser (1901-1971)
[Archive of photographically-illustrated typescript memoirs of travels in Africa before, during and after World War II]
Africa: 1936-1948. Seven typescripts in two volumes, 4to. Approximately 325 typed pages, plus approx. 200 illustrations, including original photographs, clippings, postcards, hand-drawn maps, etc. [With:] Macdona, B. F. Ethiopia in Wartime: 1941-1942. Edited by Frederic J. Sharf. (Hollywood, CA: Tsehai, 2004).
Later half black morocco and cloth covered boards.
An extraordinary first-hand look at war-time East Africa, by a fantastic writer.
Macdona began working for Barclays in 1917, beginning his career as a shorthand typist. Slowly working his way up the ladder, by 1929 he had transferred to East Africa, becoming the Superintendent of all East African branches in 1937, overseeing nearly 20 bank branches spread out over nearly 680,000 square miles. During the war, Macdona became one of three bankers to oversee finances of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration, as well as managing the account of the U.S. Finance Office. He would return to London after the war, eventually becoming General Manager and serving on the board of Barclays (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas). Provenance: After his death, these two volumes were inherited by Macdona's sister and upon her death they were sold by a British bookseller to Nigel Webb, who in turn sold them to African collector Humphrey Winterton, whose collection was sold by Maggs Brothers in 2003, with the present volumes being sold to Frederic Sharf. The following year, Sharf published two of the memoirs within his Ethiopia in Wartime (a copy of which accompanies the typescripts). Copies of the typescripts are located in the Rhodes Library, Oxford University. "Local Leave" - June to July 1936 36pp typescript, plus 46 photographs of the trip (each 2 3/8 x 3 1/2 inches or the reverse). A charming narrative of a road trip in East and Central Africa by a senior international banker at Barclays. Starting in Kampala, in Uganda, just north of Lake Victoria, Macdona and his wife set out on a summer holiday. They travel by car southwest to Masaka, Kabale, and Lake Bunyoni. Along the way, they stop at various hotels for meals and lodging, with Macdona giving wonderfully detailed descriptions of the geography, wildlife and natives encountered. They take the mountain road to Lake Kivu, towards the Congo border, "the finest [views] that we have seen inland in Africa." Near disaster is averted when their car breaks down on an evening drive through Parc National Albert, and Macdona, his wife and driver are forced to spend the night on the roadside after hours of attempting a fix: "The queer echoes raised from those forest clad mountain sides as we hammered out the dents in the sump; the glowing crater of Nyamalagira some ten miles away; the tremendous bush all around; the thought, mentioned by none of us but nevertheless present in all our minds, that any moment some dark shape or glowing pair of eyes might appear; the bitter cold; the candles burning round the car and the first pale glow on the trees when the lights of our relief car appeared -- all of these will be remembered." After repairing the car, they proceed on safari through the Parc National Albert, seeing an impala, gazelle, waterbuck, hippo, elephant (with a description of being within 100 feet of a bull snapping off the upper half of a tree in order to feed smaller elephants), and lion: "After a minute Leo peered round one side of the bush in a benevolent manner reminding one of an old gentleman glancing up over his spectacles. Then he had a look round the other sides and apparently feeling that he was being compromised in an undignified position he withdrew in a lordly manner. To get good pictures we wanted him broadside and so endeavoured to interest him by making what we hoped were appropriate lion-enticing noises ... Finally, in response to a call of puss his lordship stopped and turned round to see what impertinent street urchin was cheeking him." Three photographs of the lion encounter follow. From there, the vacationers travel from Butembo toward Beni and the Ituri forest, with descriptions and photographs of pygmies, before circling back into Uganda, stopping at Fort Portal on the way home. "The Diary of an Enemy" - March 1941 32pp. typescript, plus 24pp. of newspaper clippings. Published in Ethiopia in Wartime. A detailed memoir of his experiences in Italian Somaliland, immediately after its capture by British forces. Three days after the capture of Mogadishu by British forces, Macdona, then working for Barclays in Kenya, was selected to accompany Financial Secretary John Troughton to the occupied city in order to assess the banking, financial and currency situation. On 5 March, they left by plane, flying over regions ravaged by war with several stops along the way. Macdona gives a detailed account of the scenery viewed and people encountered. Arriving in Mogadishu the following day, the first civilians to enter the occupied city, the memoir gives a firm sense of the chaos around him. From difficulties finding food, lodging and transportation, to interactions with British army officers and his Italian counterparts, Macdona's account is a noteworthy first-hand description of the captured city. Assisted in translation by a female British resident (married to an Italian doctor), he completes a lengthy negotiation for an exchange of 500 lire to the pound, with provisions for rationing of withdrawals and fixing prices of food and rent. In all, Macdona spends 10 days in the occupied city, coming to the conclusion that he is "quite certain on one point, and that is that I never want to see Mogadishu again ... A kaleidoscope of sun, sand, smells, sweat, prickly heat, camels, khaki, flies, poor food, shortage of cigarettes, lack of leisure, lacks of news, deadly flatness of distilled water as a drink, donkeys, sun glasses, lacks of service, military efficiency, military inefficiency, wrangling, arguing, scrounging and so on and so on..." "Ethiopian Interlude" - January-February 1942 (written April 1942) 103pp., plus 37 illustrations, mostly original photographs but also including clippings and postcards, as well as a hand-drawn folding map. Published in Ethiopia in Wartime. In the midst of the war, Macdona is tasked with travelling through the Barclay offices and interests in Sudan, Eritria and Ethiopia, and to meet with American armed forces flooding the region in the wake of the Italian retreat from East Africa. This memoir recounts Macdona's travels, vividly describing both the beautiful African scenery and its war-ravaged destruction, and gives a roughly contemporary account of the military actions in those regions which preceded his visit. His five-week journey takes him from Nairobi to Kampala, Khartoum and Asmara (including the Keren battlefield), and south through central Ethiopia to Addis Ababa by military convoy, before continuing south to Nairobi. Much of the memoir is dedicated to the Battle of Keren: "Africa hides her scars pretty fast but the silent hills of Keren will not cover their wounds for many a year ... It seemed a strange contrast between the hot, quiet January afternoon of 1942 and the hell of noise with which the Pass must have sounded less than ten months before." All along the way, Macdona meets with political officers, finance ministers, military advisers, and government officials of all nationalities, giving both his personal impressions of these men, and his reviews on the various opinions on the political and economic future of the region. This included a meeting with Haile Selasse, Emperor of Ethiopia with whom he discussed the re-establishment of an Ethiopian State Bank: "He is a little man, possibly about five foot three inches high, slightly built but well made in proportion. His face is a perfect oval and he has a deep broad brow. It is a somewhat sad face, rather Christ like and deeply lined ... the whole impression one received was that the little man had a very definite presence, and very considerable personal dignity ... I was intrigued by his hands which were, to my mind, beautiful..." The military convoy return to Nairobi proved largely uneventful, though it travelled through harsh terrain: "The five weeks had been full of interesting contrasts, not the least of which had been those of altitude and climate ... It had been interesting to compare the way men live and are governed in the old kingdom of Uganda, a British Protectorate where rule is through a British Governor and an African King and Parliament; in the Sudan, where the flags of Britain and Egypt fly side by side to show that the country is a condominium; in Eritrea, where a British Military Administration is ruling, under Italian law, a mixture of all races; in the ancient land of Sheba where a black Emperor is back on his throne and the Lion of Judah has again taken the place occupied for a brief five years by the Tuscan wolf ... We had seen the old Italian African Empire undergoing a great change. For the northern portion -- Eritrea -- the future is one of very considerable development and economic prosperity, at least until the end of the war. For the souther -- and far the larger -- portion, the future is unclear." "The Bank in Relation to Post-War Colonial Development" -- April 1943 21pp. A report authored by Macdona on the post-war opportunities for private banking in the region: "When the needs of colonies outside Africa are allowed for, it is reasonable to suppose that much more money will be required for development than can be provided either by the Colonial Governments concerned or by the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund as at present limited. It would seem therefore, that there will be plenty of opportunity for the Banks to assist in the provision of funds. Much expenditure to be incurred will be not only too big but of too permanent a nature for a bank to finance, but there will be many other needs, both primary and secondary in importance, which can be met by bank finance." Much of the essay concerns agricultural issues. "East Africa in War Times" - August 1944 29pp. A report by Macdona reviewing the history of the war in the region, but also detailing the exposure and history of Barclays and other banks in the area and summarizing the industries of the affected countries, inflation, price control, etc. "Kilamanjaro" - September 1944 46pp., plus 25 illustrations, comprising photographic clippings from a magazine, postcards and a hand-drawn map. "This is no epic story of An African Achievement, no saga of An Intrepid Ascent. There are to follow no glamorous passages, no tales of hairbreadth escapes, no claims to broken records. This is a plain tale from an African hill, a story of four men and a mountain holiday," begins Macdona's narrative of his ascent of Kilimanjaro. Accompanying Macdona were Eric Burrell, Colin Shand and Jim Connoly. Macdona begins with a description of their travel to the mountain and a brief history of the earliest attempts to climb the peak. The first few days' climb are largely uneventful, with descriptions of the scenery, weather, supplies and other climbers encountered. The five-hour climb from Kibo Hut (17,000 feet) to Gillman's Point (19,300 feet), however, proved far more difficult for the 43-year-old banker: "It was no longer a case of follow in father's footsteps but rather one of every man for himself. Each took his own time and track. I found that two steps at a breath very quickly became one to a breath and then several breaths to each step." The climbers proceeded more easily from there to Kaiser Wilhelm Spitz peak: "It was strange to think that we were higher than anyone in Africa, and, very possibly, higher than anyone else in the world at that moment." The climbers spend some time on the summit, with Macdona recording descriptions of the various articles left by previous climbers. The descent, through a brief blizzard, was otherwise uneventful: "We had covered a matter of seventy five miles up and down rough mountain tracks and hauled ourselves from about 4000 feet to nearly 20,000 and back again. All in a short period of five days. What was more, we were the only party that year that had taken all four of its members all the way to K.W.S." "January Journey" - September 1948 58pp., plus 65 illustrations, comprising mostly original photographs (most approx. 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches), but with a few postcards as well. After arriving in Alexandria, the couple begins by driving from Alexandria to Cairo, and attending a meeting of international bankers from Egypt, Britain, France, Greece and Belgium. The following day, Macdona and his wife travel by train to Luxor. Sites visited include the Temple at Karnak and Valley of the Kings, about which he gives tremendous detail and many photographs. After several days in the region they board a train for Edfu and Aswan for business meetings and a visit to the dam. Other cities visited, largely travelling by car, include Girga, Sohag, Akhim, Assiut, Minieh, and Mideinet-el-Fayoum, before returning to Cairo. Most of the memoir includes historical notes on sites visited, as well as detailed descriptions of the geography and people. Only one reference mentions the war: "The ruined camps in which British regiments had been quartered are now a sad spectacle. By the time the Bedouin have been through an army camp the average locust must be green with envy. Nothing is left but the bare walls ... One gets used to these rather pathetic scenes in Egypt at the present time."