Archive for June, 2008

Memories of Chingola

23 June 2008

A blog reader from Cardiff, Mr. Paul Duggan, has sent in a very interesting account of his experiences of working in the Copper Mines in Chingola in the 1970s. It provides a fascinating insight into the life of a young engineer from the UK in Zambia.

“We arrived in Chingola in April 1976, it was 12 years after independence and still quite colonial, the Europeans were well “looked after”.

My wife was 23, I was 26 and our daughters were 3 and just 10 months and I think now, that I saw our two year contract almost as VSO except I was getting paid for it.

Nchanga copper mines had recruited me and quite a few other craftsmen, with a large advert in a Sunday newspaper. I was a Power Station trained specialist so they put me to work 1500ft. underground in the pump chambers on machinery that I was familiar with thankfully.

Our first house was in 12th street but we only stayed a few weeks, long enough to gain a houseboy called Dackwell Banda who stayed with us for the whole two years and became part of our little family. He was a good man who had come to the copperbelt from eastern Zambia near the border with Malawi a few years before our arrival.

The social life for the Europeans was based around the rugby or cricket club as well as gatherings in each other’s homes for braais which meant there was often overtime for Dackwell in the evening looking after Kathryn and Paula. Dackwell would earn the same as a day’s pay for his babysitting duties, so he would always be very happy to watch television for a few hours with the girls tucked under his arms.

Dackwell’s basic monthly wages were K30 but the Kwacha was worth more than it is today. Usually he got about K50 which was about £30 then.

Dackwell and his wife had a baby in 1977 and he asked us what to call the baby! We protested that it was for him and his wife to choose, in the end he compromised and somewhere in Chingola is a young woman called Paulo Banda.

The mine moved us up to Kabundi to a more modern house and our neighbours were nearly all Europeans who happened to work underground. It was better for Dackwell too as he lived in the “compound” which was quite close.

We seemed to settle into life in Chingola quite easily, everybody started work early in the morning, you had to be ready to go underground by 6.15, but your day’s work was done by 2.15 so you had plenty of time to spend with your family in the afternoon, if you weren’t dragged off to the mine club for an afternoon drinking marathon. I soon realised that I was definitely a lightweight when it came to drinking so I tended to head home or met Lynette and the girls at the municipal pool.