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In the Shadow of the Cotton Tree: A Diary of Second World War Sierra Leone

September 26, 2014
Mansion Field

"All the afternoon the air was sultry, not a breath stirred among the dry grasses. The vultures hung uneasily low over the roofs of our huts, and sat bunched up like brown evil fungi among the branches of the mango trees in the compound." Jack Rillie, Freetown, 3rd October 1940

"The diary and poems written by Jack Rillie in Sierra Leone, in 1940-41, give a candid, shocking expression of the terrible necessity of war, futility, valour, stripped of romantic gloss; above all, Rillie's hope for the future sustained by love of his young bride left behind in Scotland. Alasdair Soussi has edited sensitively, with great skill, his grandfather's diary and poems, as a tribute to the early work of a crucially influential figure; an unsung hero of Scotland's post-war literary scene." Alexander Maitland, author of Wilfred Thesiger - The Life of the Great Explorer

"I heard Twi, or was it Swahili? Oh that was a long time ago. He was talking to a crocodile. Oh that was a long time ago. Rillie of Africa, huh? Part of the man, part of the man." From Thirteen Ways of Looking at Rillie by Edwin Morgan

Jack Rillie was an outstanding and hugely admired academic in the English Literature department at the University of Glasgow. In a decades-long career that saw him teach the great works of English Literature to successive generations of Glasgow students, Rillie was a guiding influence behind some of Scotland's most celebrated writers. This West African war diary, written more than 70-years ago, is where it all began.

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