|Silhouette of Hannah Kilham|
|Tottenham Friends Meeting House|
In 1823, with the backing of the Friends' committee, she sailed with the two Africans and three missionaries to St Mary's in the Gambia and taught there and in Sierra Leone. Hannah's first impression of Africa was that 'idleness was a great sin of this country which will have to be guarded against'. Later, however, after one missionary, Richard Smith, had died and her own health had suffered she revised this opinion. 'We were ourselves too closely occupied, and health in some of us consequently suffered...Now I regret that we did not more frequently urge their leaving anything undone, rather than endanger their health by so much exertion.'
|Map of Africa showing Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia|
In 1827 she sailed again for Sierra Leone, taking with her African School Tracts which she had published in the interval. She visited Free Town and in little more than two months put into writing the numbers and principle words of twenty five languages. However poor health forced her to return home. In 1830 she set out for Sierra Leone once more. Having obtained permission from the governor to take charge of all children rescued from slave-ships she founded a large school near Charlotte, a mountain village, with the aid of a matron. Some of the children were so emaciated as to be practically walking skeletons and Hannah later wrote that without receiving children direct from a ship she would never have understood the full vileness of slavery. Having set up the school Hannah travelled to Liberia and visited schools in Monrovia. In February she sailed for Sierra Leone but her ship was struck by lightning and put back to Liberia. Hannah did not recover from the shock and died three days afterwards at sea on 31 March 1832, aged forty eight.
Hannah Kilham's concern for Africa and her achievements in education and liguistics would be enough to make her memorable but there is another aspect to her life which should not be forgotten. The long journeys by sea which she had to make to further her concern were a particular trial to her as she suffered from a life-long dread of water. Only her conviction that it was her religious duty to go on gave her the strength to overcome her fear.
As she said, 'Why, if duty appear plain, should I recoil or draw back? I will try to be still, and hope clearly to know what is best, and not give way to any apprehension of my own creating.'