It was in the summer of 1957 that my Mother and I were met at Hargeisa airport by my father and his newly found friends; he had only been in Somaliland for a few weeks, his first venture outside the U.K. since returning from action during WW2 in the Western Desert. I distinctly remember although quite warm the difference in temperature it was compared with landing in Berbera en-ruote from Aden as we travelled into Hargeisa, and for a boy from the countryside of East England life looked to me as though I had been transported back to biblical times it was a whole new world, one I was to become to love and one which still holds many fond and happy memories.
Whilst stationed in Boroma we travelled with Father to all his other jobs including Abdul Khadir what a wonderful journey the landscape and the wildlife were amazing. This journey was made a number of times, once we took local leave and drove to Zeila and spent the day in Djibouti. I loved Zeila. The house we stayed in known as the Rest House I later learnt was the very same house General Gordon stayed in en-route to the famous battle of Khartoum.
We left Boroma and eventually made our way to Berbera all those we met in Hargeisa thought being posted to Berbera was a punishment as it was so hot there. We did find it hot to the start but after a few months we had taken it in our stride. I imagine our house is no longer in existence. It was positioned in a square which contained the old Government House which backed on to the sea we lived in the one next door to the mosque. I spent most of my time fishing and soon became friends with a number of the local fishermen. I also went with my cook and wonderful man who was well known in Hargeisa as Ali Tukaree. We used to do as we did in Boroma and go to the magala on regular shopping times. He would buy cigarettes and a bunch of khat, in fact I tried khat before starting to smoke it was OK made me dizzy so it didn’t become regular thing.
My Father’s main project in Berbera was the construction of the buildings and foundations for a radio relay station designed to boost the signal of the overseas service of the BBC. I do understand that although completed it was never in operation but mostly dismantled and rebuilt in an island of the Yemen coast. As independence drew closer we knew we had to leave in fact we were told to prepare for it we had no choice. Our friend Mohamed Ibrahim Egal –Please excuse all of my spelling mistakes in this document – was elected. I still have a small brown card of the SNL signed by him which he gave me in Berbera. So we had to leave.
I cannot express my love for Somaliland and its people and know I have a computer I can keep up to date by looking at pictures and reading articles on a regular basis. It was only when the bad things occurred that we would read about Somaliland in our national press in fact now (June 2011 we hear of the drought, hunger, and dying animals in The Horn of Africa). I do hope this small document gives an insight to times gone by and a few of us Europeans especially my late father did a little to help in those few important years in your country and my life. The editor of this will have my E-mail address if there are any questions this article may pose to any young Somali he may forward any relevant communications on to me.
By Barry Scowen
End Note: Barry Scowen now lives in the UK just outside Woodbridge in Suffolk. He said his parents both enjoyed their time in Somaliland and had far better memories than their next contract which was in Ghana. Barry’s father died in 1987 at the age of 70 and his mother died in 2005 almost reaching the age of 90.