37. Forcados to Liverpool

Hayes ends the first volume of his Diary Here and There fleeing Africa sick with Malaria, broken in spirit, nearly penniless, back to immigrant infested Liverpool.  Yet the final line of the first volume is wryly upbeat.

Having come to the end of the first volume, I’m going to take a short break from publishing this synopsis of Here and There.  I’ll resume with volume II in a few months.  Thank you for reading along. We’ll be back.

On the map below, you can see Hayes leaving Africa, returning to Liverpool on a long red path.  Click the title if the map doesn’t show in an email.

Click here to download chapters all 37 chapters of Volume I on Google Earth.  

Here and There Synopsis:

37.1 A Fevered Departure.

August 8,1907

The freighter Zaria stops at every small port along the African Coast; now at Salt Pond (sic) where naked children play in the surf beating on white sands while their father’s row to and from the ships anchored off shore ceaselessly chanting. To Hayes, “It is beautiful beyond compare.”

Feverish with malaria Hayes writes, “My head aches constantly, but it does not equal that of my heart. The disappointment, the sense of failure that is so overwhelming beats me down.” Sorting back through his experiences he writes, “I can’t see a loophole whereby I might have succeeded. The missionaries all wink at the booze trade, are even supported by it in a left handed sort of way, they too are equally guilty of the debauchery of the African people.” How can he return from his grand adventure after only a few months? “What to do, what to do. If I return, I will be counted as a failure.”

All the memories stew Hayes’ fevered foul mood: “I can see the villages now clearer than when I have been in them during the past seven months. The women, who do most of the work, tending their tiny babies…. The babies, painted a vivid red with the sap of the root of a certain tree…. The men guzzling gin, drunken, bleary eyed, often fighting. The younger women also drunken…. Children hanging onto the fringe of the crowd in an effort to get at least a swig.” Hayes wonders openly if Africa benefits from its occupation by the Europeans: “The latter has stopped the slave trade and human sacrifice, but he has saddled this debauchery on them, and it is worse.”

37.2 Sekondi

August 10,1907

Sailing westward, Hayes submerges his sense of personal defeat into descriptions of the surrounding terrain and events aboard ship. Characteristically, he likes to know where roads lead: At Sekondi, “A railway runs from here up to Jumasi, (Kumasi) capital of Ashatni”. Only recently conquered, the Ashanti continue to resist the British, but this is a land of gold, so the Europeans persist.

Aboard ship, a Kroo sailor stole a bolt of cloth. “The skipper of the Zaria is a hard boiled seaman. Scotch, he has no nerves, no conscience, no heart. In the place of this latter organ he carries a wet sock that fully answers for such purposes as he lives for.” After a search turned up the cloth, the skipper garnished the man’s wages – a shilling a day. “It all goes into the thrifty captain’s pocket, all but the cloth itself, and he has that back.”

37.3 All Coast Ports are Alike

August 16, 1907

Axim, Half Assinie, Assinie, Grand Bassam, Grand Lahou… “All the coast ports are like each other. No harbor, just the long line of sand that fronts on the sea for a thousand miles, perhaps a lagoon behind and forested hills rising beyond that.”

West African Coast

Cargo and passengers land in open boats tossed by the surf. Mahogany logs are floated out, hoisted up, and dumped into the hold. “A dangerous business but what’s a man now and then?” Hayes’ foul mood persists: “We have lost but one thus far. A Kroo, whose foot was cut off by a sliding log.” The log nearly severed the man’s foot at the instep – the amputation was completed by a drunken European doctor with a pair of scissors.” The Kroo man “has lockjaw now, and is writhing in agony.”

Along with some palm oil, palm nuts, cocoa and copal –

Palm Nuts

Copal Beads

– the Zaria’s crew loads a French officer barely alive with Blackwater Fever. The stewards look on him with disfavor knowing that dead men don’t tip. “If this man lives to France he will do better than I believe.” But Hayes’ confidence in European colonial rule has returned: “When Europeans solve the health question that confronts [the Gold Coast, the Ivory Coast, and the Slave Coast] then this land will fill with people even as India has under British Rule.”

37.4 White Man’s Grave

August 21, 1907

“The Frenchman died off the Liberian coast, where we tarried for a day or two, doing a little private bootlegging among the natives.” The skipper and purser have a private stock of gin and rum aboard for the many canoes that crowd about the Zaria at every small village. “Sometimes there would be 75 canoes round our ship.” Only a few are permitted aboard at any one time, but after the jockeying for position many canoes left “laden deep with booze.”

Shortly before the Frenchman died, the chief steward grumbled to Hayes, “What bloody good is he to a ship? We have to wyte on the blighter without a chawnce of gittin’ a blommin’ penny, an’ hit’ll be that ye till we git to Sierra Leone.” (Hayes’ quote.) But when the man did die, it silenced the “grasping, insatiate stewards for the moment, for death is never far distant on the West Coast.” Before the skipper could bury the man at sea, some French comrades intervened asking to take the body to Freetown for burial. “He was wrapped in a blanket, tossed into the six inches of water in the bottom of a surf boat and taken shoreward. Life doesn’t mean much after all.”

37.5 Tenerife

August 27, 1907

The Zaria passed Dakar without stopping but called at many other small ports including Konakry before coming on to Santa Cruz De Tenerife. If water can be found on these islands… Tenerife, Las Palmas, Grand Canary… they are unusually fertile growing marvelous oranges and bananas. Some shipmates went ashore to Oratava (sic), but Hayes is both broke and sick with malaria. “The fever never leaves me. I must have a touch of the sun.”

37.6 Madeira

August 30, 1907

“Madiera. This is the finest Island we have seen yet.” The forest remains beautiful despite what Hayes sees as the wasteful, destructive ways of the Portugese. “We are lying in the roadstead at Funchal, so have an excellent view of the island as it lies before us.”

Madeira Island

Funchal Madeira pre-1907

The beauty of the island merits one paragraph; the moral condition of its inhabitants gets three. Thievery, drunkenness, prostitution – Hayes’ typical complaints – overlain with a sharp critique for the Catholic church: “Yet all these people are active Christians.… Wherever one goes here or elsewhere in lands controlled by Portuguese or Spanards he sees priests, nuns, friars, and such, all of whom are supposed to be celibates, too holy to indulge in sex relations with the opposite sex, man or woman. Why is it their laity are so rotten?”

37.7 Liverpool

September 4, 1907

Liverpool isn’t nearly as pretty as Madeira but it’s better for Hayes’ health. Mingling with the filthy crew of the Zaria, “infected me with craw-craw, one of the worst skin diseases West Africa can bestow on the white man.” But in the damp chill sailing up the channel Hayes’ skin already begins to clear and perhaps the malaria as well.

Immigrants from all over Europe, “most of these are the off scourings of Eastern Europe,” crowd Liverpool headed for “the big steel mills and coal mines surrounding Pittsburgh, or else sent to the far northwest of Canada to work on the Grand Trunk Railway building to the Coast.”

Hayes needs a ship to escape this crush of vermin infested humanity. “Lying in the stream is the great new Lusitania, the finest ship I have ever seen. Or any one else as to that, for she is the new queen of the seas just returned from her trial trip.”

Lusitania

How nice to travel on such a pretty new ship, but they laughed at the Cunard office when Hayes inquired about passage. “As she is expected to beat all records across the Atlantic, even millionaires are going steerage on her.”

He didn’t get to board the Lusitania, nevertheless the first volume of Hayes Perkins’ Diary Here and There ends with an upbeat sentence. Hayes stopped by the Miller Brothers’ offices seeking payment. “Cowan was there, and was courteous and kindly. He gave me ten pounds extra, saying the company should share in my expenses to and from the Coast. It does renew one’s faith in human nature to meet an honest man now and then.”

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