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Brian MacDermot





Brian MacDermot was born in Paris, and educated at Downside and New College, Oxford.

He joined the Irish Guards and served in Germany and Egypt as an officer from 1952-1955.  After leaving the army he worked as a banker at the Stock Exchange, working first for Cazenove & Co. and then for Panmure Gordon, becoming a partner in the latter company between 1964 and 1976.

He has been involved in a number of charitable works including thirty years as a trustee for St. Gregory's Charitable Trust. 

In 1975 he founded the Mathaf Gallery to deal with paintings of the Arab world.   The Gallery has a team of contemporary artists, but the main emphasis is on 19th century paintings.

He is also a social anthropologist and former Vice President of the Royal Anthropological Institute in London and is  a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

In his spare time Brian has in the past made documentary films for television in both Africa and Arabia.  These have included such titles as Tribes of Lake Rudolph, Abu Dhabi Old and New, The Nuer and Bushmen of the Kalahari.  He travelled to these places and did most of the filming himself while living with the primitive tribes.  In addition he filmed for Anglia Television, contributing footage for Wilfred Thesiger's film on The Danakil of Ethiopia.


The Cult of the Sacred Spear

Brian MacDermot

ISBN 1590482204






There were no signs present at Brian MacDermot’s birth indicating that he would turn aside from the path of normality laid out for him.

Born in Paris to an Irish father and an American mother, the young MacDermot enjoyed a cosmopolitan upbringing which included travels in Europe and studying at Oxford. Then it was on to serve as an officer in the Irish Guards, before settling down as a member of the London Stock Exchange.

It all seemed cut in stone: the education, the army, the job, the predictable pattern of life. Then Africa called and MacDermot heeded her siren song, slowly but surely.

Beginning in 1960, MacDermot journeyed into Rhodesia and recorded his observations for the Irish Times. Next it was on to the Congo. After that he ventured into the former French Equatorial Africa to meet Dr. Schweitzer. Then he journeyed to the land of the Nuer tribe and the rhythm of his life changed forever.

Here is that rarest of travel books, an exploration not only of a distant land but of a man’s own heart.

A confederation of pastoral people located in Southern Sudan and western Ethiopia, the Nuer warriors were famous for staging cattle raids against larger tribes and successfully resisted European colonization. Brian MacDermot, London stockbroker, entered into Nuer society as a stranger and emerged as Rial Nyang, an adopted member of the tribe.

“Cult of the Sacred Spear” recounts this extraordinary emotional journey, regaling the reader with tales of pagan gods, warriors on mysterious missions, and finally the approach of warfare that continues to swirl across this part of Africa today.

The Nuer are once again in the news, as the government of Sudan has engaged them in a conflict which has forced large portions of the tribe to emigrate to Kenya or beyond. Yet here is a rare record of a singular visit to these legendary people. Amply illustrated and beautifully written, “Cult of the Sacred Spear” remains a lasting legacy to a ancient culture whose very existence is now in question.

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