Black Spots

Black Spots

Located on the west side of the mighty Nile River is the town called Juba. In the 1980’s this town functioned as the capital of southern Sudan, but it was a small place with only two miles of paved road and a few government buildings. Most of the inhabitants still lived in grass-roofed huts. I worked there and have one primary recollection – Juba was hot!! To get away from the office routine of the week some of us would go hunting. Saturdays were our hunting days and we looked forward to these weekly excursions. We would awaken early when it was still dark and load up my old Toyota Land Cruiser with rifles, food and water. Then we would drive through the quiet streets to the iron bridge that spanned the Nile River. Here we would wait until the bridge was open to traffic. The barrier was lifted as soon as there was a tinge of yellow in the east. We were always the first vehicle across the bridge, leaving the sleeping town behind and heading for the wilderness. Once we reached the east side of the river we turned right onto a faint track and headed south toward our private hunting ground. At first we followed the bank of the Nile, driving through small villages and gardens, but after 30 miles the villages petered out and we were into wild country. Granite hills pointed high into the sky and the land between the hills alternated between yellow savannahs and forested ravines. Once we reached our hunting area several men would climb on top of the hard-topped Toyota...

East Africa Women’s League Push for Women’s Right to Vote

  I’ve recently taken over the editorship of Jambo, the magazine for the East Africa Women’s League (UK). The EAWL is still going strong in both Kenya and Britain. I looked up some notes I had made for my book Red Strangers and found details of the early EAWL in Colonel Ainsworth’s ‘Kenya Reminiscences’ in Rhodes House Library, Oxford. He said the EAWL was formed in March 1917 at a public meeting in Nairobi, attended by fifty to sixty men and women. It was decided that membership should be confined to women and that the organisation’s objects ‘should be to study and take action upon subjects of interest to women and children in this Protectorate’. Soon the membership rose to 108.   The EAWL’s first object was the promotion of women’s suffrage.  Led by its first President, Isabel Ross, the wife of W. McGregor Ross, it organised a petition signed by 533 men and women and went on a deputation to the Franchise Committee of the Legislative Council, arguing for the inclusion of women in the proposed white electorate. In February 1918 Ainsworth petitioned the Legislative Council on the matter and this was forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The EAWL also cabled the Colonial Secretary. Eventually women’s suffrage was granted and white women had the vote in Kenya before they had it in Britain.   The EAWL was active in other matters in 1918. It asked the government to appoint a lady visitor to the Lunatic Asylum outside Nairobi. It also collected evidence of objectionable films shown in Nairobi and Mombasa, tried to get a better milk supply...
Season’s Greetings

Season’s Greetings

There is a common misconception that Christmases are not as enjoyable as they were in the past. In any case celebrating Christmas in the tropics never has been and never will be as good as celebrating it in the Northern Hemisphere.  Of the many abilities of the early expat settlers to East Africa, creating social clubs and staging pantomimes are amongst their best. Every settlement, however far flung, found itself with a cozy clubhouse a veritable ‘common room’ of social activity and often with a nine-hole golf course laid out around it. Every Christmas an amateur dramatic pantomime would be staged of extraordinary excellence, a traditional social custom which peaked in the 1960s and continues to this day. The inhabitants of the United Kingdom and other countries of the northern hemisphere assume that Christmas is just not Christmas in the tropics. I would beg to differ, particularly in the tropical Commonwealth countries, and suggest that the potential for enjoying Christmas celebrations is equal if not greater in these countries than those in the northern hemisphere. Consider first the opportunities of celebrating the original religious masses for Christ on his birthday. The vacant spaces in the lines of cathedral and church pews and the availability of kneeling hassocks is sadly plentiful in both places. The opportunity of joining in the singing of Christmas carols is also equal. Should you wish, as most of us do, just to tune in to ready-made Christmas by switching on the ‘box,’ the number of channels is the same. Of the hideous commercialisation of Christmas we in the tropics are slightly less guilty because there...
Buck Fever

Buck Fever

Hunting is the avocation of most little boys that grow up in East Africa and I was no exception. At the age of ten I was given a .22 rifle by my father and taught how to use it. I started by shooting at paper targets mounted on termite hills and then moved on to shooting birds for the pot. But my big goal was to shoot a bushbuck. These beautiful antelope were secretive and although I frequently saw their splayed footprints in the damp soil, I never got a shot at one. After several years of camping in tents overlooking Lake Victoria, my father built a primitive road into our area. Then with the road built it was decided to have a church conference.  Sukuma men walked in from the surrounding areas and temporary shelters were erected to house them.  The Dilworth family drove in from Butundwe so that Dick could help with the preaching.  Their son Norm came as well.  He was a couple of years older than me and was a real bush kid.  He had a khaki hat pinned up on one side and he was really good with his .22 rifle.  We hit it off right away, spending most of our time shooting birds in the forest.  The men attending the conference needed to be fed.  They had various starchy foods like ugali, corn, and cassava.  But they also needed meat.  The only antelope in the area were the shy reclusive bushbuck. These antelope were often called harness buck because they had white spots and stripes on their red coats.  The females had no...
Endless Horizons

Endless Horizons

Some of the stories in Old Africa’s latest book – Endless Horizons by Mike Prettejohn – are mind-boggling. The author describes rescuing a schoolmate who fell into the crater at Longonot, he recounts being pummelled by a buffalo, he goes into great detail about a trip across the Sahara in a former army ambulance Dodge Power Wagon, he reveals his part in pseudo gangs during the Mau Mau and he explains how he was mauled by a lion in Galana. All these personal experiences and many more – enough to fill nine lifetimes – led the author to give his book the working title Nine Lives. In addition to his adventures growing up in Kenya and then making a living as a professional hunter, Mike Prettejohn also gives a careful history of his family’s 100 years in East Africa, starting with his grandfather Black Harries (well, not really his grandfather, but you’ll have to read the book for a fuller explanation). The book tells stories from the King’s African Rifles as well as pioneer cattle ranching and farming in Njoro and Naro Moru. In the final chapter Mike Prettejohn tells how in recent years he has turned his hunting skills in finding the elusive mountain bongo into a grassroots effort to preserve this rare and fast-disappearing beauty of the highland forests.  This book came off the press on 1 December and the author signed books at the Karen Craft Fair that weekend. Then on 9 December Old Africa hosted a book launch at Muthaiga Club. Old Africa will be with the author selling the books at the Nanyuki Craft...