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{UAH} Book review: Uganda My Mission: Fr Grimes’ 41 years in the pearl of Africa


Book review: Uganda My Mission: Fr Grimes' 41 years in the pearl of Africa

Mill Hill father missionary Damian Grimes

Mill Hill father missionary Damian Grimes 

By Henry Lubega

He was a man on a mission. He came, saw and conquered and after 41 years he went back home. But the legacy of his mission is bound to live on forever.
The 41-year mission for the Mill Hill father missionary Damien Grimes is captured in his book Uganda: My Mission, a 2016 release.
The book captures his 41 years in Uganda where he was not only a witness, but a player in some of the events that took place at the time. 
The book is divided into five parts, each representing a different stage in the history of the country under which the author elaborates the experience he and those he was working with went through and how it impacted on their lives.
In the 170-page book, the author talks of how Uganda was the only country in East and Central Africa to have had A-Level education. He also talks about his efforts to establish A-Level in Namilyango; how he became a part time A-Level teacher at Namagunga, his part time work at Makerere University and UTV, now UBC.
Fr Grimes also delves into his dedication to boxing and how he first encouraged his students to take part in the sport, but later stopped the game on health grounds. 
As president of the Uganda Amateur Boxing Association, his path and that of the president Idi Amin regularly crossed. 
Having come at a time when the political atmosphere in the country was changing, Grimes was a witness to the political transition. By virtue of his nationality, he was privy to some of the political machinations that went on as the country prepared for independence in 1962.
Commenting on the 1962 elections, Grimes says: "Kabaka Yekka swept the board in Buganda. In the rest of Uganda the British fixed the polls to ensure that Obote and his UPC won majority in the new Uganda parliament. British officials privately told missionaries, such as myself, that they had been ordered by London to do that." 
"The British governor, Sir Fredrick Crawford, resigned because he was unwilling to be party to this dishonesty and a new governor, Sir Walter Coutts, was appointed….Obote became prime minister… It was the British who put Obote in power by corrupt means."
The author goes on to show how religious politics of the time saw the relocation of the Mill Hill fathers' missionary headquarters from Nsambya in Kampala to Jinja District.
This was the beginning of his journey to establishing Namasagali College where, by coincidence, he hosted Amin a few days into his presidency. This was an opportunity he exploited and invoked whenever he was faced with the ruthless security operatives and uncooperative government officials.
Though his name is synonymous with Namasagali College, in the book Grimes gives credit to those he worked with to make the school what it became, from an abandoned railway terminal to an academic giant. 
Though he explains in detail the rise of Namasagali both academically and how it became a regular in the national theatre calendar.
Uganda: My Mission is also an account of 41 years dedicated to serving Uganda. He describes how on a visit back home in the 70's friends and family rebuked him when he told them he was coming back to Uganda, despite it being unfit for foreigners.
Not only did he stand up to Amin's men; Grimes also describes a standoff with Amanya Mushega, then Education minister in the NRA government, when the minister directed that the month of sitting A-Level finals be changed from March to November.
However, in a bid to have the book coloured with some pictures of the author's days in Namasagali, the quality of the images waters down the narrative which is well spiced with social life, politicians going after each other's necks, politics as seen from a foreigners point of view and the efforts to understand the local language and its challenges. 
Having retired from the school in 2000, Fr Grimes went back home where he is the parish priest in-charge in North Wales in the United Kingdom.

Book review
Book title: Uganda: My Mission
Author: Fr Damian Grimes
Publisher: Fr Damian Grimes
Price: Shs35,000 
Available at:
Reviewed by: Henry Lubega


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