Boy problems

30 Jul

I was going to do a really intelligent post this week showing the connections I’ve found between Maurice and some more ‘greats’ of history, including his relationships with the Happy Valley (White Mischief) set. But as usual I’ve found I’m more interested in his day to day life with his boys on safari. I never thought I would smile so much or laugh so hard at some of the predicaments Maurice and his boys find themselves in. This is what makes me LOVE my research!

So here is another short but sweet story of Maurice and his boys:

In 1924 Maurice is travelling on safari in Sudan along the Dinder river. His boys are Muslim, and this is causing all sorts of problems when it comes to killing animals for meat. Maurice tries his hardest to shoot to wound the animals, and then expects his boys to be quick about jumping in to finish it off in the halal manner so that they can eat it. Too often this goes wrong and Maurice ends up with a juicy saddle of meat all to himself while his boys complain about being hungry.

April 27th 1924 he has another debate with his boys about how he can kill animals to satisfy their religious needs. He had just shot animal No. 123, a male Waterbuck. He says:

“The boys had stupidly not dashed up to halal him so couldn’t eat the meat, so I took the saddle for myself. Mohammed my cook tells me there is no need to actually cut the animals neck, just to say “alahu akhbarah” when the shot is fired. The boys however say that it might only be wounded when the shot was fired and then the magic words wouldn’t work, but if I would blow a whistle when the beast actually dies then it would be alright.
Unfortunately I haven’t got a whistle”.

The debate carries on to the next day when Maurice writes:

“The boys now tell me that if I say the magic words “Alahu AkBarah” when the beast dies it will be quite alright for a Mohammedan to eat it”.

I must say the thought of Maurice shouting in Arabic and blowing a whistle is a funny one. But I think it shows that Maurice is genuinely interested in their ways and traditions, and tries his hardest to accommodate their needs. He does understand the importance of his boys- he couldn’t hunt or collect without their skills, and he generally pays them over what his friends suggest as an acceptable wage. He always wants the boys with the best reputation as guides, and won’t settle for a new or unknown boy to give him a try. Despite this, he is always quick to blame them when things go wrong, and quick to call them lazy and useless despite the fact that they carry his safari equipment miles through the country on foot, while he relaxes on a horse or mule, or even in a car. He works them hard, and when they advise him to camp or wait because they are tired, he often ignores them and walks onwards, forcing them to follow, even up mountains!

I’m enjoying reading into these relationships, as I know they are very important to the establishment of the collection. They also say a lot about Maurice as a person. They tell me how he saw his position in the world, how he established himself, and how he adapted to living in unfamiliar countries.


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