Banker J C Shaw Encourages Eldoret to Develop

Banker J C Shaw Encourages Eldoret to Develop

In 1912 Eldoret did not even have a name. It consisted of a few dukas (small shops), a bar, the District Commissioner’s house and a post office. It was called ‘Sixty-four’ by the few Boers and Britons who farmed in the area because such was the number on the map of the block of land it occupied. The post office gave as its address Eldore River, a watercourse which merged with another river named the Sosiani (or Saucy Annie in local parlance). Telegrams went by heliograph to Kapsabet, the nearest point where there was a telegraph line. Then in 1911 Sir Percy Girouard, the Governor of British East Africa, visited the settlement and the locals suggested to him that they call the place Girouard. Mindful that his was an uncommon name and difficult to spell, Girouard suggested a ‘t’ should be added to Eldore, and thus the place became Eldoret, a name which happily suggested Eldorado. The Standard Bank of South Africa was at this time expanding into other territories, and it decided to establish branches in Nairobi and Mombasa in January 1911, under the direction of J J Toogood. There was further East African expansion and a branch was opened in Eldoret, in 1912. The Bank appointed a young man formerly resident in South Africa to open the Eldoret branch. He was John Clifton Shaw, a Scotsman of thirty-four years of age, who had gone to East Africa in 1907. His background was one of considerable affluence and he was probably well educated. Born in Monifieth (now a suburb of Dundee), Scotland, on 1 November 1877, he grew...

Hamat – Just Another Refugee

In the world today there are over 50 million refugees – people who have left their homes under catastrophic conditions and are struggling to survive in limbo without place or country. It is difficult for us to get our minds around the magnitude of this many suffering people. So let me tell the story of a single refugee – my friend Hamat. I first met Hamat when I was doing a linguistic survey in the Boma Hills of southern Sudan. Initially I had a difficult time communicating with the local Murle people since I could not find a common language. While I set up camp crowds of people stood around and watched me. Then I saw a tall man striding up the path wearing a bright white Arab robe. He had a powerful athletic form and was starting to go bald. His white teeth were accentuated by his brilliant smile. He walked up to me and in perfect English said, “I am Hamat. Welcome to Boma.” Within minutes Hamat was organizing my camp. Hamat was a born leader and I soon discovered that he was a coffee trader. He did not come from Boma, but had been born in the Nuba Hills in northern Sudan. The Nubas were famous for their prowess as wrestlers. Hamat himself had trained as a wrestler and eventually became a champion. He then moved to Khartoum where he learned Arabic. I asked him where he learned his English and he told me he learned English from watching Hollywood movies in Khartoum a la John Wayne. Jobs were hard to find so he became a...