Before I departed for what was then called Southern Rhodesia, in 1953, an elderly neighbour gave me a copy of a little book, African Angelus, by Merfyn Temple. I was, in those days, a keen young Methodist, and she was a keen elderly Methodist. Merfyn was a Methodist minister. Little did I know that, seven years later, Merfyn would come from Lusaka to Harare (Salisbury), where I was working, and ask me if I would like to become Manager of USCL (United Society for Christian Literature) Kitwe Bookshop.
Thus I was appointed to that position, only to find early in 1960 that the head office of USCL in London had also appointed a Manager. He was Richard Griffin, a whimsical chap from Ireland. We got along very well. I had worked for the Methodist Bookroom in Harare. He had worked for the APCK (equivalent of the SPCK) somewhere in Ireland. It was agreed that he would take the title Bookshop Manager, and look after the Trade division, which had a bookshop in the main shopping street, near OK Bazaar, and I would be Educational Manager, and run the warehouse and office in Blantyre Road.
When Richard left, to go to a job in West Africa, his place was taken by the Rev Hugh Cross, then a Baptist minister. I still keep in touch with the Cross family, lovely people all. Indeed, I have just received a leaflet from Hugh about his new book, which tells the story of his father, who was a pioneer missionary on the Copperbelt. Hugh received the MBE a year or so ago for his services to ecumenism, by the way.
When Hugh returned to the UK, his place was taken by Handel Bennett. Handel is now an Anglican minister somewhere in the UK, as far as I know. Richard Griffin turned up in Australia at about the same time as I did, 1968. He moved from Sydney and asked if he could board with me for three weeks, in Melbourne, while he looked for a flat. Two years later, he moved out. Alas, he died a few years ago, back in Sydney, after a long fight against cancer.