School Bookselling:

A slice of history

As recounted in another section, Merfyn Temple employed me as Manager of USCL Kitwe Bookshop in 1960. At the same time, London HQ appointed Richard Griffin to the same job. I moved up from Salisbury/Harare. The whimsical and very Irish Richard came from County Cork. We got on very well together and established a good working relationship. He took the title Bookshop Manager, in charge of the general shop in the main shopping area, and I became Educational Manager.

In theory, Richard also looked after the religious trade, though he was far from spiritual. One day, we were visited by a Brethren missionary from Mwinilunga, who had forgotten that he and I had travelled to Africa on the same ship in 1953. He asked us if we were Christians. We nodded, yes. "By that," he continued, "I mean have you accepted the glorious salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ?" To which Richard declared in horror, "Oh no! I'm an Anglican!" Richard came to Australia at about the same time as I, and eventually established fame and notoriety as a highly skilled bookbinder (of erotic books). He died of cancer a few years ago, and is sadly missed.

When Richard moved to Ghana, his place was taken by Handel Bennett. Notwithstanding my existence, London HQ had appointed him Manager (yes, they did it again!) and he wanted to be titled Manager. I accepted this with a bit of Christian charity, and was happy to continue with the title Educational Manager. I believe he is now an Anglican parson somewhere.

1 & 2

This is a gatefold leaflet I prepared in 1961 or thereabouts. It encapsulates the history of Kitwe Bookshop. The original bookroom was at Mindolo Mission, which later became Mindolo Ecumenical Centre, second only to the Geneva HQ of the World Council of Churches, and early in the 1960's the chosen site for the magnificent Dag Hammarskjöld Memorial Library. It took me quite a while to persuade the Swedish librarian that we, their local and associated bookshop, could (and should) compete with overseas suppliers. She eventually agreed.


Part of my marketing strategy - although that term had not been invented - was to send a monthly newsletter to every Manager of Schools and to larger individual schools in the Copperbelt and the northern part of the country. In those days, of course, that meant African schools only.


Our Lusaka colleagues liked the idea, and asked for the mailing list to become national. We replaced the hand-operated Gestetner duplicator with an electric model, and went into colour, too! Aligning the output of two separate stencils, however, was not entirely accurate. Austin Mkandawire operated the machine and collated the sheets. He did a fine job. One day, though, he came to my office, holding his hand out rather sadly - "Excuse me, sir. I have stapled my finger." Fortunately, it had not folded itself beneath his skin, so I extracted it easily and gave him an aspirin with a glass of water. A placebo works wonders.

5 & 6

We were so successful, with a tenfold increase in school sales, that the educational business became too large for a missionary society to handle. It was taken over by one of the two largest educational supplies in the UK, E.J.Arnold of Leeds. By then, we were dealing with both school systems which were now part of a multiracial system. Former European schools were called Fee-paying, and African became Non-fee-paying.


Because many of our best customers were secondary schools run by the mining companies, and also the Northern Rhodesia Educational Trust (later ZET), we had a go at another market. The Technical Book News did not bring much custom, alas. You can't win 'em all.


A privately owned rival supplier had set up in Lusaka. If my fading memory serves me aright, one of the partners was Theo Bull. They certainly challenged our monopoly (which was based on service). We merged in 1968, retaining the name of Arnold, so I had the job of redesigning the newsletter, incorporating both company logos. By then, we could also get simple artwork done on Gestetner stencils, by an outside supplier.

9 & 10

Geoff Brown, an amiable and efficient Notts chap, was Education Officer at the Luanshya mine. He asked me for help getting getting his manuscript into print. Oxford made a good job of the small educational book, with excellent photos in full colour. I wonder where he, and all the other folk I used to deal with, are now? If any are viewing this stuff, please contact me via the website address!

School supplies were eventually subject to the slogan "Books written by Zambians, published in Zambia, distributed by Zambians". The first national publishing house book was written by a South African and published in London. The distribution arm was set up by Danish and American organisations, and could not cope. The government came back to us, asking if we could help. An Inspector of Schools refused to take delivery of the first book, on the grounds that it did not fit the curriculum and was unsuitable for local use. It was shortly after that, when I saw eight years of hard work collapsing around me, that I decided to move on. What a pity. But there are many happy memories of Zambia and its people.