Anne’s book recalls her role in Malawi’s fight for self-rule

Anne Hepburn with pupils during her early years in Africa

Anne Hepburn with pupils during her early years in Africa

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A WOMAN who joined Malawi’s fight for independence in the 1960s has written her memoirs – at the age of 86.

Anne Hepburn spent 12 years in the country, known then as Nyasaland. But she, her husband and children had to leave behind their life there after independence because they feared their presence would endanger their local friends as the political climate changed.

Anne Hepburn

Anne Hepburn

Mrs Hepburn, who now lives in the Grange, decided to write the book, Memories of Malawi and Scotland, after prompting from friends. She has raised £800 for the charity Child Survival in Malawi (Scotland) by asking for donations rather than having a cover price.

Mrs Hepburn set off in 1950 as a young Church of Scotland missionary to Portuguese East Africa, now Mozambique.

She said: “It was lovely to be in non-stop sunshine. I was in my early 20s and was in charge of the school, simply because my face was white.”

On the same voyage was a young minister, Hamish Hepburn, with whom she struck up a correspondence when they arrived at their posts – and who she married four years later.

After a year back in Scotland they returned to Nyasaland, where they had three children.

The family made the then-unusual step of socialising with African colleagues, making many friends, and stood at their side amid the unfolding political turmoil.

Mrs Hepburn, who lives at Peverel Retirement Scotland’s Homeross House in Strathearn Road, recalled: “Not very long after I went out there the British government imposed a Federation of Nyasaland, Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia against the avowed wishes of the African people. We were caught up in that.

“Independence came in 1964 and we had been very active in working for independence. Hastings Banda [the first president of independent Malawi] was a dictator – the young African leaders thought that some people would not accept their leadership. Africans respect old age, so they brought him.”

As Banda settled into what would become his 33-year rule, the couple returned home.

But Banda intervened to try and keep them away because of their political involvement: “When we got to Edinburgh there was a letter to say that we were not to try and go back. The church both here and there very much wanted my husband back and put pressure on the dictator, so he lifted his ban. But we decided not to go because it would endanger the lives of our African friends. It was a very difficult decision.”