A University of Stirling cataloguing project

Author: archives (Page 1 of 2)

Season’s Greetings!

As 2017 comes to a close it’s a time for totting up stats and taking a look at what we’ve managed to achieve over the course of the year. With regards the Peter Mackay Archive, we have every reason to feel pleased with the progress being made. We started the year by managing to raise a whopping £8,100 with your generous support through our crowdfunding campaign. Now, at the end of the year, we estimate that we’ve catalogued 40% of the collection and we have two dedicated volunteers who are helping us to tackle the rest.

The money we raised through the crowdfunding campaign funded an initial batch of digitisation that took in some 2,000 photographs and 60 political journals. This stage of our project was successfully completed and we are working through a mighty amount of metadata in order to make this material available to JSTOR’s Struggles for Freedom resource as soon as possible.

Additionally, we were delighted that our crowdfunding campaign won a commendation for ‘Campaign of the Year’ at The Herald Higher Education Awards on the 53rd anniversary of the independence of Malawi – a fantastic achievement that wouldn’t have been possible without our supporters, so thank-you from the crowdfunding team here at the University to everyone who contributed to the success of that campaign, no matter what form that contribution took.

The University of Stirling receives a commendation for ‘Campaign of the Year’

Rejoin the blog in the new year to hear more about some of Peter Mackay’s inspirational friends who played key roles in the development of Malawian politics and to explore how Tanzania got a new capital city. Until then all that’s left for us to do is wish you all a very merry Christmas.

By his own admission Peter Mackay couldn’t resist the ‘bugle call of work to be done’, even at Christmas time, and his journals often make no distinction between the 25th December and any other day of the year, using it as another opportunity to lay out his thoughts on various social, economic and political aspects of life in Southern Africa – but even Peter Mackay celebrated with a meal in the company of friends and had a lie in on Boxing Day. Happy holidays!


“Bed at 1 a.m… And up at 11, the longest oversleep I can remember”

Journal of Peter Mackay

25th-26th December 1977


Christmas cards from inmates of Marandellas prison to Mackay, November 1959

Freedom Road, Freedom Press

After a successful opening event last Monday night, the Peter Mackay Archive exhibition  – Freedom Road – is ready and waiting for you to come and explore. Situated on the first floor of the Library, on the walls in the foyer and in the cabinets round by the Archives and Special Collections reading room, the exhibition will be open Monday-Sunday and run until 6th April 2018.

Exhibition opening event

Freedom Road tells the story of the dusty road from Bechuanaland (modern day Botswana) to Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) – the Africans who took the journey, the men who navigated the way, the land that they travelled through and the reasons why this was undertaken. The narrative is told exclusively through Peter Mackay’s photographs and his own words taken from We Have Tomorrow : Stirrings in Africa 1959-1967.

The exhibition also displays material from the publications previously discussed in this blog – from key volumes to material from ‘the making of’ and lost items imaginatively recreated from evidence in the collection. So if the likes of Tsopano, Concord and Malawi News had previously peaked your interest then come along to the exhibition and see some examples in the flesh and explore the politcal backdrop they provide for the rest of Peter Mackay’s story.

Our congratulations to the students who worked on the exhibition! It really is fantastic to see the archive material used in this way and to have parts of Peter Mackay’s story slowly uncovered. Many thanks, too, to our crowdfunders – the digitisation of the photograph albums enables us to exhibit with ease and will really help to open up access to the collection.


Upcoming exhibition

 Our exhibition students have been busy in the archive these last few weeks, selecting their material for display. Come along to the University Library from Friday 24th November to hear more about banned magazines, dusty roads and unsung heroism.

This is the first time we will be using our breathtaking, vivid photographs from the Peter Mackay collection since digitising them over the summer so we’re very excited to see all the hard work of our volunteers and the generosity of our crowdfunding supporters pay off!



“Pressure is definitely on now to get things ready in time, I don’t think any of us truly realised even with a small exhibition how much was involved.  Dealing with third parties, getting deadlines organised… lots of learning for us!

So we are on the home stretch, hopefully everything will be ready for putting together on Thursday and we can all stand back at the end of the day and look at a good exhibition.”

Rosemary, Press & Marketing


Freedom Road – a theme that inspired our students in developing their exhibition

Coming to a Library near you!

We’ve had a busy and productive summer with the Peter Mackay archive – cataloguing, digitising and preparing material to be given to JSTOR’s Struggles For Freedom resource which makes its material open to higher education institutions in Africa and which we hope will allow our collection to reach new audiences and encourage research both far and near.

More on that soon – now it’s time for an update closer to home! We have an exciting project underway at the University itself. A group of third year students on the Interpretation and Exhibition Design module are using the Peter Mackay archive to mount an exhibition, choosing their own themes and design drawn from what caught their eye within the collection. The exhibition will be presented in the Library from the 24th November – 6th April so if you’ve wanted to look at the collection and didn’t know where to start, this would be a wonderful opportunity to catch a glimpse of what the collection is all about.

Over the next couple of weeks, this group will be sharing some of their experiences – both with the technicalities of mounting the exhibition and with exploring the archive – here on the blog on Friday afternoons.

For now, to whet your appetite, here is an introduction to their project from the team’s press and marketing co-ordinator Rosemary:

“The archive of Peter Mackay is fascinating but a bit overwhelming for me as I have never dealt with an archive before! There is so much material, from photos and letters to small scraps of paper with hand drawn maps, a man’s entire life in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).  I have mixed feelings about this material, as it is close to home for me personally.  Others in the group are fascinated by this man and the wealth of material we have to choose from, they are getting a first-hand look into an important milestone in the history of African Independence.  We all want this exhibition to be the best it can be and are all very committed to our tasks.  We will keep you posted as it develops.”


Some research material for our exhibition group

“The outcome of the Constitutional Talks at Lancaster House has been in our favour. We, the Africans of Malawi, have a clear majority in the Legislative Council and an effective voice on the Executive Council. The franchise is very good though it is not one man one vote as we had demanded. Ex-service men and Pensioners will vote. We have about 80,000 of these in the country. Tax payers, Councillors and Village Headmen will vote. Even our women may vote. Nyasaland has been recognised as an African state and not a multiracial one as some people would have liked it. We have no time limit for the next stage. All these and more were achieved inspite of difficulties from stooges both black and white.

This is certainly a very big stride in our constitutional development. No colonial country has ever achieved all this at one go. We have cause therefore to be grateful to all who made this possible to come about: Our great Kamuzu and his team, Mr. Macleod and his government and also the common men and women of Malawi.

Much more so we must be grateful to God without whose help and guidance all our efforts are useless. To this end, next Sunday, the 21st of August, shall be set aside as Thanksgiving Day in Malawi. Let all our members go to Church on this Sunday. We are aware that our members belong to many religions denominations. So let everybody worship and thank God in his own denominational way. Those who worship on Friday or Saturday may take these days for Thanksgiving.”

– Malawi News, 20th August 1960

On This Day


“Rose Chibambo will be sworn in to-day as our first woman member of the Assembly. This is a step in the right direction. Our women have played a big role in the affairs of this country.”

– Letter to Mackay in prison

14th August 1963


Rose Chibambo at the Nkhota Kota Conference, Nyasaland 1960

“I am now even more determined to fight for the Freedom of Malawi as I now know you better that I did in 1958. In that year I did not know that you could stand so boldly behind me. I am now braver than when I went to Gwelo [prison].”

– H. K. Banda

Malawi News, 14th June 1960

Peace Training

“The Defence Act amendment providing for the compulsory registration of the 18-50 age group applies only to Northern and Southern Rhodesia. Nyasaland residents are excluded… Needless to say I haven’t registered myself – this being a straightforward decision of principle – but the dilemma I’ve been pondering is the one you mention – to flaunt one’s refusal or quietly await the consequences. There is a lot to be said for both alternatives, but my inclination is to make an open gesture of defiance. I suppose really that one is duty bound to do so (fruitless though such a gesture would be) but I have not finally made up my mind.”

– personal correspondence, 25th March 1962

Section 28 of the Defence Act, No. 23, of 1955 as amended, as read with Federal Government Notice No. 278 of 1962 stipulated that all British or British protected males in between the ages of 17 and 50 (inclusive) who had lived in Northern and Southern Rhodesia for six months or longer had to register themselves for what was termed ‘peace training’. The Defence Act was a controversial piece of legislation – indeed, Mackay understood and noted in his personal correspondence that Sir Robert Tredgold resigned as Chief Justice in the early 1960’s in protest against it. Mackay himself was certainly not amenable to its contents, describing peace training as a ‘racially-contrived territorial force’.

Arrest warrant, 1st May 1963

As such, Mackay did not register for the training and when he was sent registration forms reminding him that his obligation was unfulfilled, he replied that he was unable to register for reasons of conscience.

I haven’t yet come across any evidence to suggest that Mackay did make the open show of defiance that was discussed in correspondence with his friends but nevertheless, his defiance was noted and the first warrant for his arrest we have in the archive was circulated on 1st May 1963. As a result he was fined £60 and given a suspended sentence of two months hard labour. But the offence was a continuous one, meaning that new papers for registration were sent out to Mackay and a second refusal to sign up would result in a second prosecution where the consequences would be more severe and the suspended sentence from his first offence would be activated.

“I have been trying very hard to find a reasonably honourable way out, but can’t.”

– personal correspondence, 9th May 1963 on discovering he had been sent new registration papers

In the end, the only honourable thing Mackay could see to do was to stick to the course his conscience had dictated to him and he sent another polite refusal to register which precipitated a second arrest and court hearing and a sentence of four months in prison.

Telegram wishing Mackay luck in court, 16th July 1963

As an automatic remission of 10 days for every month served was applied to those inmates who behaved well enough and didn’t have any of their kit stolen, Mackay was released on the 6th October 1963. During his time in prison, Mackay received much correspondence from friends, even if he could not write back to them and upon his release, he found catharsis in responding to one such friend with a lengthy description of what it had been like in prison, giving a colourful insight into then men who were there with him and the colour bar that was active even within the prison system.

“Even so soon after coming out it is difficult to realise how preoccupied one was with the passing of time. Serving time is a more appropriate phrase than it appears. Certainly time never serves prisoners. I used to cross the days off and work out absurd calculations about the proportion still to go” – personal correspondence 29th October 1963

Calendar kept to mark the passage of time in Salisbury prison

 Mackay claimed to have no regrets on serving his sentence, feeling that if nothing else, he now at least knew what to expect should he have to serve time again. A possibility which might have felt more probable than he would have liked when he received another set of registration papers shortly after his release. While the trail in his personal papers becomes muddled at this point, it is clear that Mackay continues to undergo appeals concerning the case well into 1964 with further prosecutions in 1965 – a lengthy and, as he predicted when he first received the phone call confirming the intent to prosecute, expensive process.

Throughout my perusal of Mackay’s personal papers, I have always been struck by the amount of correspondence he received asking for loans of money or the purchase of important items for acquaintances. They are often names that don’t crop up often in correspondence with Mackay but are still, nevertheless, people who knew that he was a man who would give all the help he could. And it is because of this that it’s so heartwarming to see that in Mackay’s own hour of need, help was at hand without his even asking for it. Aside from financial support from a close friend, Mackay’s lawyers also received anonymous donations of money from the ‘Mackay Defence Fund’ towards the cost of their services. Such must have been Mackay’s reputation for philanthropy that a note kept in his papers specified that another anonymous donation be used only for Mackay’s own personal use.


Mackay had ‘retreated’ to Malawi following his stint in prison in 1963, returning to Southern Rhodesia in 1965 in an attempt to resume his career there. When a warrant for his arrest was once more circulated, Mackay left and finally renounced his Rhodesian citizenship later that same year after Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence which was considered illegal by Britain, the Commonwealth, the United Nations and – more importantly for a man so driven by his own notions of what was and wasn’t conscionable and honourable – Mackay himself.

Concord and Malawi News

This week we have sent away the first batch of archive material to be digitised! In this batch we’re digitising some photograph albums that include pictures of political events, from Kamuzu Banda’s homecoming to the first general election in 1964, Mackay’s own idyllic travels around Central Africa and images he hoped to include in a proposed book Portrait of Malawi. In addition to these photographs, we’re sending away some of the key periodicals that Mackay had a hand in – of these, we have already discussed a little about Tsopano, but here’s some more about the magazines joining it: Concord and Malawi News.

Concord’s artist Jean Maynard adapted a painting by Toladi from the Art School, Brazzaville, French Equatorial Africa, for the cover of this Royal Edition.

Concord was the magazine of the Interracial Association of Southern Rhodesia which was founded by Hardwicke Holderness – an MP in Garfield Todd’s Government who supported full equality between races – in 1953. Mackay was with the publication from the very beginning and helped move it from an idea to reality.

The aim was for Concord to be the first multiracial publication in the colony and this is reflected in its content which ranged from impressions of Parliament written by MPs of the day to articles on the various celebrations of different ethnicities and religions such as Ramadan and Deepvali and a series of articles on indigenous Rhodesian art and Bantu culture. Though politics featured regularly in the magazine, its topics were eclectic – encompassing literature (a short story by Doris Lessing), history (excerpts from – of course! – Dr. Livingstone’s account of Victoria Falls) and popular interest pieces.

Our run of Concord spans the years 1954-1958 and includes the ‘Royal Number’ which celebrated the visit of the Queen Mother to Southern Rhodesia in 1957.

While Mackay describes the Interracial Society as having faded out of existence and having been ultimately unable to inspire the ‘communal sense of sharing’ it had set out to instil, he kept this run for posterity – perhaps for pragmatic reasons with regards his profession but perhaps also as a reminder of his first distinct move to help bridge the colour bar. Though Mackay himself admits that this move was more an ‘accidental stumble towards tomorrow’ than anything, his involvement in these societies lay the foundations for what was to come.

Throughout much of his archive, Mackay expresses a keen awareness of the difficulties of including white Europeans in the cause of African Nationalism. He describes the tendency to think of white liberals as ‘wishy-washy’ in his book We Have Tomorrow, citing what he considered to be the weak attempts of the Interracial Society and the Capricorn Africa Society as reasonable demonstrations that this was, largely, an accurate surmise. After his incidental start along this path, Mackay attributes the conversion of his ‘own wishy-washyness’ to ‘something more combative’ and his striding more confidently and purposefully towards that tomorrow to Operation Sunrise.

Operation Sunrise was the name given to police action taken on the 3rd March 1959 when governor of the Central African Federation Sir Robert Armitage declared a state of emergency “because of the action of the leaders of the Nyasaland African Congress”. The aim was to arrest 350 people that the government felt were threats to law and order following a renewed move towards independence made by the NAC after appointing Kamuzu Banda as their leader. Those arrested were imprisoned without trial and waited months in jail for Macmillan’s government in the UK to order their release.

The final periodical we are digitising in this round exemplifies that movement towards action that Mackay felt after Operation Sunrise. With the key members of the NAC imprisoned and the organisation banned, Orton Chirwa established the Malawi Congress Party and held its position as President in safe-keeping until Banda’s release. Aleke Banda took up the interim role of Secretary-General and edited Malawi News – the official party newspaper from its inception until he left for scholarship at Harvard in 1962 when Mackay took over the role as editor until a suitable African alternative could be found.

We have a run of the initially fortnightly and eventually weekly run of Malawi News from January 1960-January 1961 which includes Special Editions – notably, the edition given over to the release of Kamuzu Banda from Gwelo – and bilingual articles.

Edition celebrating Dr. Banda’s release from Gwelo prison, 2nd April 1960

The magazine is a fascinating source of information on the political climate from a very singular point of view, offering an interesting look at a reporting style that was at times unpolished and often displayed open bias. The insight it offers into the propaganda surrounding and sustained by the MCP and its leader, Dr. Banda is remarkable – to the extent that Mackay, in notes he makes on the editorship of the publication (presumably in his brief period filling in, certainly they appear among papers of that period), writes that “lots of things happen which are not recorded in MN and, I am afraid, sometimes this is due to ‘forgetting’ to write about them rather than ‘not knowing’ they had taken place.”

Despite a harsh critique of the administration of the newspaper in these notes, commenting on everything from the overall appearance of the finished product to the literary efforts of the journalists, Malawi News obviously held a place in Mackay’s heart – perhaps even just for being a tangible example of the rise in open popularity of a movement he championed so strongly.

“Will you ask Kathewera to send me a copy of Malawi News Vol II No 52. I will then have a complete set of the first year’s issues to give me joy when I look back on them in my old age”

– Peter Mackay to Aleke Banda, 18th February 1962

So the three periodicals we have sent away for digitisation mark three very distinct and important stages in Mackay’s interaction in the politics of Malawi. Concord shows us his beginnings, his original understanding that the colour bar was not something he agreed with. Tsopano illustrates Mackay’s efforts to let the African voice be heard in the struggle for independence and Malawi News reports on the events that would see the struggles of Mackay and so many others bear fruit.

We can’t wait to be able to share the digitised versions!

Malawi News: Thandika Mkandawire, Musosa Kazembe, Matthews Ndovi, Mackay and Aleke Banda, c.1962

“…Had just decided to sign off. ‘Phone. CID. I am to be prosecuted. At least I know where I stand. Bang goes the mortgage!”

– Personal correspondence; on being prosecuted for refusing to register for military service, 19th March 1963

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