The Anglo-Ethiopian Society
Lecture - Wednesday 24th March 2004
Given by - Jeffery Boswall
Reviewed by - Julian Kay
I first met Jeffery Boswall in the late 1960s when he was in Ethiopia to shoot a film on Ethiopian wildlife for the BBC. For over thirty years I was to remain extremely critical of that organization (unjustly as it happened) for not having produced a book of the superb film made by Boswall, a beautiful coffee-table creation in the style of say, Kenneth Clark's Civilization or Alistair Cooke's America.
On 24 March Jeffery Boswall showed the Society (for the second time in six years) the film he had made in 1969-70. Despite its age the film was worth seeing and the speaker, even with nothing to show or talk about, is always a tonic. As it was only a week after St Patrick's day he wore green socks; he promised no more than six jokes. He had made 29 visits to the country since 1965.
His commentary on the animals and birds which appeared in his film revealed (to those in the audience who had not heard him before) an authority on Ethiopian wildlife and (unintentionally) a great entertainer. We were treated to a tour of the country starting at 320 feet below sea level in the fossilized coral of the Danakil Depression and finishing at 15,188 feet above sea-level in the Simien Highlands. As well as birds and animals we encountered two humans, the current hyena (spotted) man at Harar and our own Eric Robson in the caves of Sof Omar with bats.
We saw the Black Heron, the Egyptian Vulture, and travelling on some animal much bigger than itself, the Carmine Bee Eater. In the Simiens searching for bones to drop from a great height the majestic Lammergeyer with its nine-foot wingspan.
We saw the Colobus monkey (gureza) leaping from tree to tree and in the high lands the male Gelada (bleeding heart) baboon with a red triangle on its chest to indicate the sexual state it was in.
By no means did the speaker appear to be an uncritical friend of Ethiopia. But if one needed a person to promote an image of that country which could be different to the image we have all too frequently alas, negative and depressing, I would plump for Boswall.