It all began with an Oxford undergraduate
Sir Andrew Collins talk at the Canon Collins Anniversary Celebration
My father was then Dean of Oriel College in Oxford. I was a four year old and I used to play in the park. I met an African undergraduate there. He came from what was then the Gold Coast – and now, of course, Ghana. Without my parent’s knowledge, I invited him to tea. When he met father, they had certain discussions which led my father to appreciate the existence of serious discrimination against black Africans in many regions on the continent, particularly in southern Africa.
He recognised the evil of apartheid and spoke out against it. This led to an invitation by a Durban businessman to visit South Africa so that he could see his concerns were unjustified. In fact this visit, which took place in 1954, merely confirmed his views. He had spoken to a large number of particularly clergy in South Africa.
In 1956, there was the Treason Trial. He led the establishment of the Defence Fund for those who were charged in that trial. This developed into the Defence and Aid Fund, which was there to assist not only legal representation for those who were charged, but also help with assistance to their families so that they would not suffer as a result of the incarceration or arrest of the, usually, father.
This led to the visit to Amen Court of a number of those who were actively involved against apartheid. Father was singularly impressed by the quality of many of them, particularly, Oliver Tambo, who became a close friend. Another of course was Nelson Mandela, and indeed he was seen by father just before his return to South Africa, where he faced the Rivonia Trial. Actually father used the cathedral after hours as a place where he could interview and talk freely without fear of any bugs being there, having been warned by the then Lord Chancellor that he shouldn’t say anything in his study. There was a likelihood that anything he did say might be heard over the telephone.
There were others who used to visit Amen Court, for example Trevor Huddleston and Alan Paton. I remember too occasional parties, with African songs, including of course Nkosi Sikelele – perhaps somewhat unusual in the cathedral. I also recall breakfast, when my younger brother eagerly counted up the chest that arrived for the Defence and Aid Fund. I married in 1970 and left Amen Court; so I was not directly involved in the establishment of the Trust.
Sadly there have been some serious problems in southern African states created by corrupt practices; though many resulting also from global difficulties, in particular, the pandemic. The Trust is very much still needed. I applaud greatly the document you are provided with, which sets the achievements of many who have had scholarships from the Trust. I know that my father would be delighted with what has been and is continuing to be delivered by the Trust.