hamish wilson in somalia (left) and at hangingheld farm (right)

Degmo is the creation of the director, Hamish Wilson, who, together with his wife and two young sons, hosts all visits to their farm. As well as farming, Hamish is a photographer, writer, lecturer and broadcaster who specialises in Somali culture and affairs. He is also an accomplished camel boy who, over the course of the past twenty-four years, has lived and travelled extensively amongst the nomads of the Somali region.

During this time Hamish has had his photographs reproduced in national and international publications and exhibited in galleries and museums around the UK and Scandinavia. He has worked as a freelance correspondent for the BBC World Service, written for the Sunday Times newspaper, and contributed to several specialist African publications. In 2000 Hamish wrote and presented "The Forbidden Journey", a T.V. documentary for BBC 2, and has acted as a consultant to ITN news and BBC T.V. factual programming.

Hamish has conducted research in Somalia on behalf of the human rights group "African Rights" and is employed as a specialist regional advisor on the Somali region by AKE, a UK based security consultancy group. He has also worked with the government of the Republic of Somaliland and United Nations on disarmament, demobilisation, and de-mining programmes in the region.

In collaboration with Somali communities, Hamish provides consultancies to education and social services departments in Bristol, East London, Sheffield, Manchester, Cardiff, Newport and Milton Keynes and has been employed by police forces to advise on community relations issues. He lecturers to schools, universities, and institutions including the Royal Geographical Society.

A Somali legacy

Eric Wilson with Maxamed Kahiin iyo Suleyman Cumar Kujoog (left) Hamish Wilson with Maxamed Kahiin iyo Suleyman Cumar Kujoog (right)

The Wilson family's involvement with the Somali people is a legacy of Hamish's father's relationship with a remarkable Somali named Omar Kujoog. It was whilst serving and travelling in Somaliland in the 1930's that Eric Wilson met and became friends with Omar Kujoog. However, in August of 1940, whilst the two men stood side by side defending a hillside against an invading Italian Army, the friendship was tragically cut short. At the end of the first day of fighting, Omar Kujoog was struck and killed by an enemy shell which also severely wounded Hamish's father.

The battle raged for a further four days during which Eric Wilson clung to his position and was wounded several times more as well as contracting malaria. When the position was eventually overrun, the advancing Italians reported all occupants killed in action. For his bravery Eric Wilson was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross and his obituary published in the British newspapers. But he was not dead. The day after the battle had ended, whilst searching in vain for the vanished British forces, he had been captured by another division of Italian soldiers and imprisoned in a prisoner of war camp deep inside Ethiopia.

Whilst a prisoner Eric Wilson received news of his award of the V.C. from a recent arrival at the camp, but refused to believe it. After seven months of imprisonment, and on the eve of escape via a tunnel he and his fellow prisoners had dug, the camp was captured by returning British forces. To his astonishment, Eric Wilson received confirmation of his award from the officer leading the force. However, he remained uncomfortable at having been singled out for praise and up until his death on the 23rd of December 2008 at the age of 96, he maintained his insistence that the V.C. awarded him be regarded as an honour he shared with Omar Kujoog and the other Somalis alongside whom he had fought.

Many years after the war had ended, and back in Britain, Eric Wilson received a telephone call from a mysterious stranger who enquired as to whether he could recall a man named Omar Kujoog. "Why of course," he replied, "I still carry in my flesh the remains of the shell that killed him!" "I am Husseen" said the man on the telephone, "The eldest son of Omar Kujoog."

The next day Husseen arrived at the Wilson family home and in so doing re-ignited a friendship between the two families which has endured to this day and now spans four generations of Kujoogs and three of Wilsons. Degmo is the continuation of this relationship.


A Somali legacy