Richard St. Barbe Baker

Late Assistant Conservator of Forests in Kenya Colony and the Southern Provinces of Nigeria

Name ID 985

See also

1945 Publishes: Baker, Richard St. Barbe Africa Drums


Extract ID: 2942

See also

Baker, Richard St. Barbe Africa Drums
Page Number: 18
Extract Date: 1886

the Switzerland of Africa

One dull grey afternoon towards the end of the reign of Queen Victoria two young Foreign Office officials were shown into Dr. Stock's room in a house in Salisbury Square. It was the head-quarters of the Church Missionary Society and Dr. Stock was the General Secretary. This little man, with clear blue piercing eyes, heavy eyebrows, high forehead and gentle voice, had a profound knowledge of almost every part of the globe. In the course of his long service he had visited missionaries in their stations all over the world, and it was his business to keep in touch with his workers.

I knew him and I have never met anyone with such a grasp of his work. He knew the names and addresses and facts relating to all the stations wherever they might be. It was he himself who told me the story I am now relating.

"Doctor Stock," said one of the young men, "do you know a mountain in Africa called Kilimanjaro?"

"Yes, of course," answered Dr. Stock. "That is the Switzerland of Africa. That is where we send our missionaries from the coast to recuperate when they get run down with fever."

"That is a pity, a great pity," said the first young man. And the other repeated:

"That is a pity indeed."

"But I don't understand you," said Dr. Stock. "I wish to convey to you that the foothills of Kilimanjaro are extremely healthy. Why do you say it is a pity? I can't understand why you are so perturbed."

The young men looked at each other and hesitated and seemed to be consulting one another as to whether they should explain the full significance of their visit. They decided to do so, and:

"We said 'what a pity,' " said the first one, "because we have just given it to Germany."

At Dr. Stock's movement of surprise he went on. "You see," he said, "Kaiser Wilhelm said to Queen Victoria, I'd very much like to have the tallest mountain of Africa on my side of the boundary,' and the Foreign Office, speaking for Her Majesty, have replied, 'You shall.' This they have done without knowing anything about it. It was as an afterthought that we were sent to you this after-noon."

It was Dr. Stock's turn to say "That's a pity." He told them they should have come before. But it was too late. That imaginary line cut straight through the African territory up to the Great Lakes had one kink in it, where it skirted the foothills of Kilimanjaro, leaving this nineteen-thousand-foot mountain on the German side.

Extract ID: 3125
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