Cattle plague in the colonies

It has recently been announced that the Wellcome Trust funded project to digitise the veterinary medicine reports that form part of the National Library of Scotland’s India papers collection has been added to the Medical History of British India website

The veterinary collection, which covers the  period 1864-1959, contains important material on research into diseases such as surra and rinderpest (cattle pSelection of reports from Egypt on cattle plaguelague).

This digitised material has sparked interest in our Library too, as we are in the middle of a project to retrospectively catalogue our material relating to the colonial veterinary services.  We are working through them country by country and have travelled as far as Africa, where we also find that cattle plague was written about extensively.

The work of the colonial veterinary services is well represented in our collections.  One particularly intriguing item is From Nairobi to the Red Sea through Ethiopia which is an account of mission to the Abyssinian government undertaken in 1911 by the Chief Veterinary Officer for British East Africa, Robert Stordy.  This account is peppered with photos and personal anecdotes and makes fascinating reading.  A transcription of the first chapter is available on the Trust Library website.

Image: Selection of reports on cattle plague held by the library.

Robert Stordy’s extraordinary journey

We are delighted to announce the publication of a new book: Robert Stordy in Abyssinia: an extraordinary veterinary surgeon Stordy book cover

The  main body of book is an account of an extraordinary journey made by Robert Stordy which is held in our archives.

Stordy worked for the colonial veterinary service in British East Africa; in 1911 he decided to take a different route back to Britain for his home leave.  He travelled from Nairobi, walking most of the way, across Northern Kenya and Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) to Addis Ababa and on to the Red Sea.  A journey of close to 1,500 miles.  Arriving in Djibouti four months later Stordy and his companion Lord Cranworth crossed to Aden and boarded a P&O liner for England.

The journal he kept along the way gives a unique record – in both words and photographs – of the places he visited, the people he met and the countryside through which he passed.

Robert Stordy in Abyssinia: an extraordinary veterinary surgeon is published by Granville Penn Press  and available from the Veterinary History Society.

Robert Stordy and the Uganda Transport

In 1898 Robert Stordy, who was working for the Colonial Veterinary Service in British East Africa, embarked on a 400 mile journey from Nairobi to Kampala.   This journey was the first made by the Uganda Transport which had been set up to convey the effects, equipment and rations of troops serving in Uganda.

Stordy wrote an account of this journey – ‘The Uganda transport – through the tsetse fly belt of British East Africa’ which appeared in The Veterinarian  January 1899 pp 11 – 20.

Stordy's map of the route dated 2 August 1898

Stordy’s map of the route dated 2 August 1898

The original plan had been to use both bullocks and mules but an outbreak of rinderpest meant that the first journey was  entirely reliant on mules, 102 of which had landed at Kilindini Harbour Mombasa, having travelled by steam ship from Cyprus.  From Kilindini the mules were taken by rail, along with carts and other equipment to the start point of the journey in Ndi, some 109 miles away.

As well as the mules the convoy consisted of 25 carts, five ponies, 4 Officers including a Medical Officer, Stordy and a number of  ‘Cape boys’.  They set out on 1 April and arrived on 19 April covering around 20 miles a day.

Team of the Uganda Tranport

Team of the Uganda Tranport

Stordy tells of the animals they encountered including ‘his Lordship’ the man eating lion who had previously claimed seventeen victims and a rhino they mistook for an anthill!  He also records their game hunting exploits – giving a detailed description of shooting his first lion (not ‘his Lordship’) on which he performs a post-mortem.   The account includes this photograph, taken by Stordy, of a lion skin drying on a hut – it doesn’t say if it is the one he shot.

Skin of lion drying on a native hut

Skin of lion drying on a native hut

There are numerous descriptions of the scenery they passed through – ‘Reaching the River Simba … a beautiful sight met our gaze in the form of innumerable fireflies lighting up the river banks with brilliant flashes’.

Stordy  records some of the veterinary work he undertook e.g. performing a post-mortem on a bullock with rinderpest at Machakos. There is also a description of the precautions taken against tsetse fly: the mules were given balls of arsenic, quinine and gentian; all the animals were regularly smeared with Jeyes fluid with the ponies having additional  protection when they were  ‘arrayed in their pyjamas’.

Pony in pyjamas as a protection against tsetse fly

Pony in pyjamas as a protection against tsetse fly

Stordy finishes by recording that only one mule had died on the road and the others were in fair condition and that the journey was ‘full of hard work, and anxiety, yet abounding in experience not to be gained in the dear old country’.

You can read about another of Stordy’s journeys.