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Following are some of the more famous allusions made to Timbaktoo,in literature:


6th stanza from the 1829 Chancellor's Gold Medal winning Tennyson poem Timbuctoo describing the city as a "rumour", a year after the confirmation of its existence :

"Then I rais'd My voice and cried, 'Wide Afric, doth thy Sun Lighten, thy hills enfold a City as fair As those which starr'd the night o' the elder World? Or is the rumour of thy Timbuctoo A dream as frail as those of ancient Time?"
William M. Thackeray wrote in 1829 :
"In Africa (a quarter of the world) Men's skins are black, their hair is crisp and curl'd; And somewhere there, unknown to public view, A mighty city lies, called Timbuktu."


A poem by Peter Crews
Timbuktu
Gazing at my shadow; At the shadow of me and my camel In the desert sand; My gaze wandered over the graves Of two British seamen, Of the SS Allende, Tended with compassion, By the long arm Of the War Graves' Commission, Among the centuries' accretions Of blown sand, Burying the walls of the ancient city, Point of convergence Of the Tuareg caravans, Goal of explorers, Gordon Laing, then others. How did they die, the British seamen, Captives in that distant land? Did they spill their blood, Like Gordon Laing, in the sand? Or did their humour spread, Like Lyautey's 'tāche d'huile', As they wound their water from the well? Silently, I wondered, as I gazed At the shadows of me and my camel, Making patterns in the sand.

The two British seamen referred to in Peter's poem (Peter was a 153 member who died a few years ago) were in fact able seaman John Turnbull Graham, and William Soutter, 1st Engineer, both of the ss. Allende which was sunk by two torpedos from a subarmine on 17 March 1942 off the French Ivory Coast. They were taken via Bobo Dioulasso to Mopti and then on to Timbuctoo where they were put in the same camp as prisoners from the ss. Criton. John Turnbull Graham, aged 23, came from N Shields and died on 2 May 1942. The governor of Sudan (French West Africa) notified the French Vichy Government who then informed the British authorities. William Soutter who came from Aberdeen and was aged 60, died on 28 May 1942. His death was notified by the British Red Cross to the British government. The graves have recently been attended to and restored on behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission by Dr. Tim Insoll (another 153 member)
From and with all due credits to : the153club.org


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