Many thanks to those who have responded to my request for information regarding the precursor
to the Sierra Leone Development Company at Marampa. I am about to go away to visit relatives
over the New Year, so will follow up some of the leads on my return.
I was particularly interested in Tony Brooks' quote from Hansard, indicating that the loan had been
of £422,500, not the £4 million which was the sum quoted in the 1960s. It just goes to show how
folk tales can exaggerate reality!
One thing which interests me about the appointment of Ralph Williams as chemist at Marampa in
1928 is the fact that he was Welsh, whereas most of those involved in the early days (and still many
in the 1960s) were Scottish, as was James Campbell the geologist who discovered the two hills rich
in iron ore which became the Marampa mine.
In the 1960s, all the directors of the company had served at the mine in its early days, and all were
Scots. The General Manager, Willie Muir, was also a Scotsman. He was promoted to a Board position
in 1963, becoming Mines Director. He reached the age of 55 soon afterwards, the age at which retirement
from a post with the company in Sierra Leone was mandatory, so a new Mines Director had to be appointed.
The post was advertised in Mining Journal at a salary of £9,000 a year.
The successful applicant was John Halls, an Englishman who had spent 20 years working in the South
African gold mining industry. He had been quite successful there, having managed two of the gold mines
at the time they had installed extractive plants to produce uranium as a by-product, and was one of the
board of examiners for the South African Mine Manager's Certificate, so was well recognised in the SA
gold mining industry.
Soon after his arrival at Marampa, John told us about his interview in London, in which he was faced by the
whole SLDC board. When, towards the end, each was asked if he had any questions for the candidate, one,
called Thorneycroft, said "All this you have been telling us about South Africa is all very interesting, but tell
me, man, have ye never worked in Scotland?"
John wracked his brains, and remembered that, in his student days, he had spent two weeks at a colliery in
Fife. He mentioned this, and Thorneycroft thumped the table in glee. "That's our man! That's our man!" he
exclaimed. John said he was convinced that, for all his twenty years and attainments at senior level in South
Africa, it was those two weeks in Fife which got him the job!
Best wishes to all for 2009.