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J.W.S. Macfie West African collection

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y3043C

Scope and Contents

A collection of photographs measuring 136 x 78 mm (unless otherwise stated), and meticulously captioned on the reverse by Macfie. Prints in a portrait format are denoted by '(pt.)' after the caption.

The collection consists of photographs taken on tours in Northern and Southern Nigeria and the Gold Coast, material from each tour being bound into separate small leather albums (with the exception of tours VI-VIII, bound in one volume). Also included in the volumes are postcards which have been listed but not described in detail. Accompanying the prints are almost all the original negatives, denoted in the catalogue by 'O.N.' followed by the volume and serial number in the negative files in which they are stored. There are in addition 32 original negatives for which no prints exist. These are either near duplicates of other photographs or negatives with technical faults.

A man of wide interests, Macfie made a detailed record of life in Nigeria and the Gold Coast in the early years of the century, photographing pottery making, local life and architecture, scenery and personalities as well as the medical specimens which are of more specialized interest.

Photographs by John William Scott Macfie.


  • Creation: 1910 - 1922


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

John William Scott Macfie (1879-1948) was educated at Oundle and Caius College, Cambridge. He then studied Medicine at Edinburgh, graduating M.B. in 1906. From 1906-10 he worked as a House Physician at the Radcliffe Infirmary. He joined the West African Medical Service in the latter year and from that time until 1922 worked in Nigeria and the Gold Coast, apart from 1917-19 when he was seconded to the War Office Malaria Investigation at Liverpool. On his return from Africa he was engaged in teaching and research on tropical medicine until 1935 when he joined the British Ambulance Service in Ethiopia as second in command to Dr. John Melly during the Italian invasion. From 1941-43 he served in the Middle East with the Royal Army Medical Corps as a malariologist. He died on October 11 1948.


.05 cubic metre(s) (13 boxed albums and 1 envelope containing 603 images) : negative/photograph

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Generally fair condition.

Existence and Location of Copies

This collection is available on microfiche: Africa, fiche numbers 30-35.


Macfie's experiences in the British Ambulance Service in Ethiopia can be found in: Macfie, John William Scott (1936), 'An Ethiopian Diary', London. For more information see: Simpson, D (ed.) (1966), 'Dr. Macfie's West African Photographs', The Royal Commonwealth Society, Library Notes, May, New Series no. 113, p.1-2.


This collection level description was entered by SG using information from the original typescript catalogue.


Macfie, John William Scott, 1879-1948, doctor

Includes index.
2004-08-09 14:10:29+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom