Display shows Diss connection to a forbidden love

An exhibition at Diss Museum shows the connection with the town and area that controversial couple f

An exhibition at Diss Museum shows the connection with the town and area that controversial couple from Seretse Khama and his wife Ruth Williams had. They met and married in the 1950s creating consternation in his native Bechuanaland and the British Government. Basil Abbott looks after the museum. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

It was a love that sent shock waves from the dreaming spires of Oxford to the remote villages of Africa.

PICTURE COURTESEY OF DISS MUSEUM An exhibition at Diss Museum shows the connection with the town and

PICTURE COURTESEY OF DISS MUSEUM An exhibition at Diss Museum shows the connection with the town and area that controversial couple from Seretse Khama and his wife Ruth Williams had. They met and married in the 1950s creating consternation in his native Bechuanaland and the British Government. Basil Abbott looks after the museum. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

Seretse Khama, a prince from of Bechuanaland - now Botswana - met his wife, Ruth Williams, at a dance in 1947.

They courted, married and although they were ostracised by many, others were more welcoming, including the people of Diss.

And now Diss Museum manager Basil Abbott has created a display about the couple's links to the town.

Mr Abbott said: 'They were actually banished from Bechuanaland at one point so that was why they were in England so much.

Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams and David Oyelowo as Seretse Khama in A United Kingdom. Picture: PA P

Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams and David Oyelowo as Seretse Khama in A United Kingdom. Picture: PA Photo/Pathe. - Credit: PA


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'So they used to come up here a lot in the 1950s, because Ruth William's aunt lived in Winfarthing and was headmistress at the local school.

'They were very well-known and a lot of people remember them.'

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The couple's story is recounted in a new film A United Kingdom, which is out on Friday.

Mr Abbott said the film's release was a happy coincidence.

PICTURE COURTESEY OF DISS MUSEUM An exhibition at Diss Museum shows the connection with the town and

PICTURE COURTESEY OF DISS MUSEUM An exhibition at Diss Museum shows the connection with the town and area that controversial couple from Seretse Khama and his wife Ruth Williams had. They met and married in the 1950s creating consternation in his native Bechuanaland and the British Government. Basil Abbott looks after the museum. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

He said: 'I remembered there was a fair in about 1955 that they attended and I was there as well as a five-year-old, but I didn't see them there.

'The display is something I'd been thinking about for a while, and I've been working on it for a few months.

'At the same time I saw this film was being made, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something on it.'

Mr Abbott said there were many forces working against the couple, but their patience and steadfast devotion to each other overcame all.

He said: 'It was a mixed-race marriage at a time when that was very suspect. It was a huge cause célèbre.

'South Africa disagreed with it greatly and so did our government, because at the time we had to keep on good terms with them because we needed their uranium.

'People were coming up with all sorts of reason why they shouldn't marry.'

Mr Abbott said the new couple also faced resistance in Africa.

He said: 'They expected him to marry a girl from his tribe, so he was doing something really out of the box. But he was always a man of great charisma and oratory so he swung them around.'

Diss Museum is closed until March next year, but it will open this Saturday - the day of the town's Christmas lights switch-on - especially so people can see the display about the Khamas.

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