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More Stories from East Africa's past for you to enjoy

Mary Hodge: An Indomitable Pioneer

source site by | Dec 6, 2018 |

Molly, or Margaret Mary Vere Neilson, to give her her full name, was born in Kettering, England, on 30 July 1896, the daughter of a bank manager.  During World War I she started training as a nurse and then transferred to become an ambulance driver and finally an instructor of ambulance drivers.  A year after the war ended, in 1919, she met Stephen Hodge, on leave from Kenya after being seconded to the army in East Africa as an intelligence officer during the war. They  got married that year and Molly followed her husband to Kenya, travelling on the Garth Castle. Stephen met her in Mombasa and they took the train to Gilgil. One of Molly’s first impressions of Kenya was surprise at seeing a hen sitting on its eggs near the head of Lady Colvile’s bed at Gilgil. Stephen was posted as DC in Rumuruti, whither the pair travelled on mules. The Hodges spent ten days on the journey from Gilgil to Rumuruti, cutting down trees to cross streams on the way. As they arrived at their house, Somalis and their goats bustled out of it to make way for the new owner and his wife.  Because of the difficulty of transport and roads in those years (1920-21), they never moved out of the area for the whole duration of their two-year posting. They had been wise to come to Rumuruti well stocked up with necessities, and all they purchased locally was paraffin, sugar, soap and flour. Stephen (always known as ‘Hoaj’) was pre-occupied with the Soldier-Settler scheme concocted by the Government after World War I. Some of...

The Other Adamson: Terence, Brother of the More Famous George

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The Other Adamson: Terence, Brother of the More Famous George We hear a great deal about George Adamson, of Born Free fame, but he had an extraordinary brother, whose life needs celebrating. The Adamson brothers, George and Terence, came to Kenya with their parents, Henry Graham Adamson and Katherine, after World War 1. ‘Harry’ Adamson, a small, adventurous man, had been in the Royal Navy and then worked in India, on an indigo plantation, and that is where his sons were born. They were sent to school in England but in the 1920s joined their parents in Kenya on the small coffee plantation in Limuru taken up by Harry. The farm was not a great success and Harry died of a heart attack in 1928. This so distressed Katherine that she took to drink and towards the end of her life her precarious mental health declined even further. She was regarded as slightly batty and called the ‘Countess of Kildare’ by her neighbours. She was hardly ever visited by George and it was left to her other son, Terence, to look after her. She died in 1950. In World War 2 Terence joined the army and the most well known story about him concerned the cheap suit given to him by the military when he was demobbed. Owning no other formal clothes, Terence buried the suit in an airtight can on his property, digging it up years later when he made his only overseas trip. When he returned home he put the suit back in the can and reburied it. Terence became one of Kenya’s great ‘odd job’ men,...

Peter Aarup, Karen Blixen’s Friend

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Karen Blixen’s Friend, Peter Aarup AARUP, Peter M., son of Joergen Madsen Aarup, was born in 1863 in Kolding, Denmark. He went to South Africa, to the diamond mines, and we first hear about him in East Africa in 1900. By 1906, according to an advertisement he placed in the East African Standard, he has set himself up in Mombasa as a  boat builder, boat sailmaker, tent maker (any size), and purveyor of tarpaulin waterproof sheets. He moved his business to Naivasha by 1909, adding taxidermist to his list of accomplishments, and the manufacture of horsewhips made of hippopotamus hide. His boatyard offered boats for hire (Advertiser, 1909). According to Lars Therkelsen, Aarup’s grandson who has written a biography in Danish of his grandfather – Gamle Knudsen, 2018 – he expanded to Lake Victoria, developing novel fishing methods, but he once lost some of his boats in a storm, when everyone drowned except Peter Aarup.   When the First World War began in East Africa, Aarup and his boat crew were taken prisoner by the Germans, who asked him to establish a new sawmill. His sight was so weak that he had to use very strong glasses. One day they broke and the Germans could not help him replace them. Peter Aarup’s ‘captain’, Kazimoto, offered to collect spare glasses from Peter’s home in Kisumu. This was a very dangerous trip of 900 km, through both German and English front lines and country teeming with wild animals. Nonetheless, Kazimoto returned with the glasses. After the battle in Bukoba the English took back Peter Aarup as a prisoner. Eventually he was released....

Nairobi in 1922 – Excerpt from new book Among Whistling Thorns

click here by | Jul 28, 2018 |

Nairobi in 1922 by Joan Booth   Old Africa recently published a memoir written by Joan Booth, who came to Kenya in 1922 to help her brother Eric Booth establish a ranch in Rumuruti.  The manuscript had been in the possession of Celia Owles of Naivasha for many years. She approached Old Africa, asking if we’d be interested in publishing her Aunt Joan’s book.  The book, Among Whistling Thorns,  is now available in Kenya from select bookstores in Nairobi or directly from Old Africa (email us at editorial@oldafricamagazine.com) The book is also available on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk   Here is an excerpt from the book, Among Whistling Thorns, where Joan Booth describes her arrival in Nairobi in 1922.   By this time we were travelling down to the Athi River, the last lap to Nairobi. The plain to the right of the line became empty of game, while they still crowded the area to the left. The animals already knew that this side was reserved for them. The other was dangerously near the town and was open to anyone with a licence to shoot. Even so, we soon learnt that leopards would come into the suburbs looking for dogs, considered by them to be a delicacy, and all over the town at night you heard the noise of hyenas overturning rubbish bins, and quarrelling over the contents. We had to do a great deal of scraping before trying to wash the dust off and make ourselves presentable for arrival at the one platform station. Built of stone, it was quite a superior building and fairly seething with Indians, Somalis,...

Mystery of Italian Inscription at Longido Solved

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Mystery of Italian Inscription at Longido Solved by Annamaria Alfieri The first step in this quest belongs to Old Africa Magazine.   A few years ago, as a new subscriber delving into back issues, I came across—in Number 12—a photo of a rock wall in Longido Tanzania. Rock wall in Longido with Italian inscription. Local history says the rocks were bunkers for German guns in World War I, which led to some of the misunderstanding of how the Italian words came to be written on the rock. An inscription chiseled into that stone presented an intriguing mystery: why were those words there and who had taken the trouble to turn the wall into a monument?  On the most basic level: what did the words mean? Old Africaoffered a prize to anyone who could decipher the inscription.  The letters were reproduced on the magazine’s page: BENVENUTA ELIA NATO  7.2.1912 PARATICO  BRESCIA  WL ITALIA WRE  Below were some equally unclear numbers:  26 3 43 Closer view of rock inscription in Longido.  But the meaning of the words was plain to anyone who reads Italian.  Or so I thought. “Benvenuta” means “welcome” to a female.  But that did not go with “Elia,” which is a man’s name in Italy.  So the inscription must actually begin “BENVENUTO.”  A close look at the photo confirmed that the Old Africa photo was not exactly clear.  “Nato” means “born” in the masculine.  Paratico is a town in Italy in the Provincia of Brescia.  What looked like a W, in Italian stands for doppio V—double V.  In this context it means “Viva.” Re is Italian for “king.” So I read “Welcome,...

Architectural Treasures to be Featured in History Mystery Contest

http://jasonkaune.com/?search=donnatal-similar-drugs-to-viagra by | Mar 6, 2018 |

Janfrans van der Eerden is a Dutch architect with a keen interest in 20th century architecture in Kenya. At present teaching classes at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, he travelled around Kenya for many years, looking for old houses and taking photos. He is trying to collect as much history as he can about these houses – location, old pictures, building drawings, builders and previous owners, as well as other stories.   Old Africa will be using some of his photographs in upcoming issues of the magazine for our History Mystery Contest. Be sure to get your copy of the April-May issue of Old Africa and look at the amazing photos Van der Eerden has provided of a house near Elburgon. You have a chance at winning a gift certificate from Text Book Centre if you can identify the building. In addition we are looking for any photos, drawings and other details abaout the featured house, which Old Africa will pass on to Van der Eerden so they can be preserved for the future.   Unfortunately, many of these old buildings are in poor repair and being demolished. An example is this pink house, pictured below, which van der Eerden photographed a few years ago near Menengai Crater at Maili Sita. The Happy Valley Heritage Trust, of which Van der Eerden is a trustee, is working to find ways to preserve some of the old buildings before they are lost forever. Sadly, the Maili Sita house no longer stands. We suggest you visit the Facebook page for the Happy Valley Heritage Trust by clicking on this link...

Early Farming Disasters in Kenya

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Early Farming Disasters in Kenya When the first white settlers started farming in Kenya in the early twentieth century, their enterprise was far from successful. Potatoes were tried, but they died of blight. At his first farm at Njoro Lord Delamere decided to raise sheep. He ordered Ryeland rams from England; and from New Zealand, Leicester, Lincoln and Romney March rams. The English batch arrived early in 1904 under the care of a shepherd, Sammy McCall. They were joined later that year by 500 pure-bred merino ewes from New Zealand, as well as Hereford cattle from England. The cost of all this was borne by Delamere mortgaging his English estate. Soon the sheep began to sicken and die. Why? The local name for the land Delamere had bought was ‘angata natai emmin’, Maasai for ‘the plain of the female rhino without any milk’. The Maasai had never grazed their flocks in the area Delamere occupied. His merinos got footrot, his Ryelands lung disease and all his sheep had worms and harboured a grub which hatched in sinews. Four-fifths of the merinos died, as well as many of the others. It was not until 1925 that the disease suffered by his livestock was identified, by the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen. It was named ‘Nakuruitis’, and was found to be caused by the land being deficient in minerals, mostly cobalt. Not until then was the disease conquered by giving animals mineral supplements. Meanwhile, at Njoro Delamere turned to cattle. He imported more Herefords, crossing them with native cattle. Unfortunately the native cattle gave the imported ones pleuro-pneumonia, while Redwater fever felled...

Kisettla, a dialect of Kiswahili?

watch by | Dec 26, 2017 |

In 1932 a writer identified only as JW wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about the evolving language of Kisettla, spoken in Kenya by settlers as they attempted to communicate with their African neighbours and staff.  The article first appeared in the East African Standard and was later published as a booklet with illustrations by DSW.   Here are some excerpts.   This text book on a most interesting language was prepared ten years ago, but withheld from publication in order that further research might correct, or vindicate, its tenets. In a decade, more idioms have been registered but only a few exceptions to the grammar…             A superficial scrutiny might lead one to suppose that Kisettla was unformed, varying with the wit, or lackwit, of the speaker. This is erroneous; years of study have proved it to be constant; following definite rules of grammar and syntax, with an idiom peculiarly its own…             I must acknowledge with gratitude the assistance given me in the compilation of this work by many friends who have so readily, and often unconsciously, made valuable contributions. Space, and certain sections of the penal code, alone prevent me from mentioning them by name. History Kisettla, or ‘mimi-kupiga-wewe’ Swahili, is believed to be derived from Kiswahili or ‘watu-wale-wawili-walipokuja’ Swahili… Grammar The Article If any, as in English, e.g. ‘hapana sahau the viazi.’… The Adjective Few in number and invariable in form. Generally mingi, mbaya, mizuri, kubwa, yote and kidogo can be eked out with British profanity. Adverbs Sana, kabisa, polepole, tu. Personal Pronouns Mimi, wewe and (rare) sisi. These are worked to a standstill; the use of...

Rinderpest Brings Disaster in the 1890s

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Rinderpest Brings Disaster in the 1890s In the 1890s many of the early European visitors to what became Kenya commented on the famine that had hit the country. What had happened? The famine was largely caused by the disease rinderpest, which had started to infect cattle in 1889 and raged until 1897. Rinderpest is a viral disease, with symptoms of diarrhoea, nasal and eye discharge, and mouth ulceration. It was airborne and therefore difficult to prevent, as well as being spread by contaminated water and direct contact. The cattle herds of communities all over East Africa were decimated, causing economic and social chaos, because the staple diet of many communities was milk and meat. The disease also affected buffaloes, large antelopes, giraffes, wildebeestes and warthogs. Most animals died within six days of contracting the virus. How did the disease reach East Africa? The cause is not really known, but FD Lugard, an official of the British East Africa Company, said that it came from Somaliland via infected cattle imported from India and Aden in 1889, to assist the Italian army in its campaign in Abyssinia [Ethiopia]. There is also an alternative explanation – that the disease crossed into sub-Saharan Africa from Egypt where contaminated cattle were imported by the British army for the Nile Valley campaigns of 1884-5. The disease was first recorded in 1891 in Maasailand on the slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro. Raiders brought diseased cattle back to the interior from the coast at the end of 1890 and within months the Loitokitok cattle were destroyed. Efforts to replenish stocks by raiding the herds of the neighbouring Kamba...

When did Electricity Come to Nairobi?

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When did Electricity Come to Nairobi? In order to supply electricity for lighting and power in the district of Nairobi, the Nairobi Electric Power and Lighting Company Limited, with a capital of £30,000, was founded in February 1906. Its originator was Clement HA Hirtzel (misspelt Hertzel in most sources), who had arrived in East Africa from South Africa in January 1904. Described as ‘a penniless counter-jumper from the Cape’ by McGregor-Ross, Hirtzel had actually been born in Exeter and had obtained engineering qualifications. He also had a motor car and motor cycle business in Nairobi, where he lived at Parklands, and he obtained a farm at Limuru. He was awarded an OBE and became a freeman of the city of Exeter, to which he later retired. In April 1904 Hirtzel obtained a concession for fifty years from the Governor, Sir Charles Eliot, to supply Nairobi with electricity. He signed a draft contract to do so in 1905, and set up a company named the Nairobi Power and Lighting Syndicate. Charles Udall was chief engineer and the managing director was RC Bayldon, formerly a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, who later became chairman of Nairobi’s Chamber of Commerce. The general scheme was to generate electricity by means of water power, then running to waste, to supply Nairobi and the surrounding country. In November 1906 the company chose to use the first fall on the Ruiru River below the Fort Hall road, some 18-½ miles by road from Nairobi. A bungalow for the engineer was erected near the site of the works and the task of damming the river was undertaken....

How did Christianity come to Kenya?

http://acrossaday.com/?search=viagra-professional-mail-order-usa by | Oct 2, 2017 |

How did Christianity come to Kenya?   The first Christians to visit East Africa were Vasco da Gama and his crew, including Roman Catholic missionaries, in 1498. He did not, however, leave any of these in East Africa and the next missionary we hear about is Francis Xavier, the pioneer missionary, on his way to India, who had talks with Muslim leaders in Malindi in 1542. In 1564 the Portuguese Viceroy of India ordered that the gospel be preached around Mombasa and three years later an Augustinian monastery was established there. Fort Jesus, with its Christian name, was begun in 1592 by the Portuguese, who occupied the town intermittently for the next century and a half. In 1597 the Augustinian friars at Mombasa claimed that they had 600 African converts, including slaves, Swahilis and Bantu people from the interior – among them the exiled King of Pemba. This is hard to believe, but the following year three Augustinian priests were stationed on the islands of Lamu, Pate and Faza. The Muslim governor of Faza also helped to build a chapel, resulting in a flourishing Christian community, and the Portuguese also built a chapel at Shela, on Lamu. In 1607 the Brethren of Mercy arrived in Mombasa to care for the converts from Islam. The main buildings in Mombasa’s Ndia Kuu were the Convent of the Augustinians, the parish church and the church of the Misericordia.These were mentioned by a French visitor in 1846, but they have now all disappeared. In 1846 part of the Augustinian Convent had become the kadhi’s house, the small Misericordia church was the home of...

Odoriferous Mombasa

by | Aug 21, 2017 |

Odoriferous Mombasa In the first decades of the twentieth century Mombasa was often a far from pleasant place to work or live in. The old town had a graveyard where leg and skull bones stuck out of the thin layer of soil. In the Old Harbour there was a large deep tank filled with shark oil, used to prevent marine growth in dhow hulls. During the northeast monsoon the stench from this tank blew across the town. The streets were stacked with mangrove poles that had lain in shallow water for months and smelt as bad as the shark oil. Some godowns were stocked with dried shark emitting a stink even worse than shark oil or mangrove poles. At the entrance to the old port, in Vasco da Gama Street, the lower storeys of some of the houses were stacked with bags of molasses. When it was particularly hot the molasses turned into a runny liquid and escaped into the street. The town had no piped sewage disposal because the water supply coming from the Kwale hills (two-and-a-half million gallons) reached only the port, railway, industry and main thoroughfares, together with Mrs Lund’s steam laundry. The rest of the town acquired water mainly from wells and roof catchment tanks — large concrete reservoirs from which water was pumped into small tanks in ceilings. When there was a tropical storm, a common occurrence at Mombasa, the roof tanks overflowed and the water descended via pipes into the street where it would lie stagnating for days, providing a lovely breeding ground for mosquitoes. In the dry season people carried water home...

Hugo van Lawick, Wildlife Photographer

Hugo van Lawick, Wildlife Photographer One of Hugo van Lawick’s wives, Jane Goodall, is perhaps better known to the public than he is. But van Lawick’s work was important in bringing the issue of conservation to the forefront of people’s interest. Hugo was born in Surabaya, Java, on 10 April 1937, the son of a Dutch pilot. His grandfather was a general, the head of the Dutch equivalent of Sandhurst. On her husband’s death in 1941 Hugo’s mother moved the family to Perth, Australia, before the Japanese invaded Java. Hugo subsequently moved to England, where he was sent to boarding school until World War 2 ended and the family moved to Holland. He was not successful at school, having difficulty with reading, and left at sixteen. He spent eighteen months in the army. He started to photograph wildlife in Holland, moving in 1960 to Nairobi to become an assistant to Armand and Michaela Denis for two years. He then worked for the Game Department for a few months, staying with the Leakeys. He made a lecture film on Leakey’s work for the National Geographic Society (NGS) early in 1962. He argued with Leakey about whether man started as a scavenger or hunter. Leakey preferred the former, saying that man’s early tools were incapable of opening antelope or other large prey, whereas Hugo maintained that chimps did so, by catching and eating small antelopes, monkeys and other animals, tearing them apart and then eating them. The NGS hired him to make three more films, one on Jane Goodall, working with chimpanzees in Tanzania. He borrowed money from his grandmother to...

The Donovan Maule Theatre

The Donovan Maule Theatre Many of you will remember Nairobi’s Donovan Maule Theatre. My abiding memory is of us Kenya High School girls trying to persuade our headmistress, Miss Stott, to let us go to see Lock up Your Daughters there in 1960. She eventually relented. Who were the couple who founded the theatre? Donovan Maule was born in Brighton on 24 June 1899 and his wife Mollie was born in London on 24 June 1897. Both came from theatrical families and toured the country with their parents. They were married in 1920. Donovan Maule joined the army in World War II and ended his army career in Egypt as director of drama, Middle East Land Forces. He and his wife Mollie then sailed to Kenya. They docked in Mombasa on 4 September 1947 and made for Nairobi, but found that the theatres there had all been converted to cinemas during the war. They proposed to start a professional repertory company in Nairobi and began by doing a broadcast for Children’s Hour at the Cable and Wireless transmitter at a tiny studio at Kabete. They had to make all their own sound effects. To make ends meet they began their own drama school using a space in front of the screen at the Capitol cinema. Their first play was The Dear Departed. The Theatre Royal had become the Cameo cinema but the Maules decided that this was a better venue for them, though they could only use it for matinees so that films could be shown in the evenings. They began to build their own theatre in 1949 –...

Herbert Hugh Cowie Comes to British East Africa

Herbert Hugh Cowie On 9 July 1902, at St Mary’s church in Johannesburg, Captain Herbert Hugh Cowie (born in South Africa on 8 September 1870) married Ada Evelyn Harries, the eldest of the nine children of Charles and Olivia Mary Ann Harries. She was born in Maseru, Basutoland, on 5 October 1877 and had grown up there and learned the native language. The couple lived for several years in Vereeniging, while Captain Cowie, who had earned his rank fighting in the Boer War, particularly in the Langberg Campaign, pursued his legal career. He had begun as clerk to the Attorney-General in Cape Town, and as Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate, Hope Town. He was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1894, when he transferred to Namaqualand, where he became commissioner for the relief of distress in Namaqualand and Bushmanland (South West Africa) in 1897. He was Civil Commissioner and Chief Magistrate in Bechuanaland, and joined the Bechuanaland Rifles. In the Boer War he served with the Yorkshire Light Infantry (mounted section) and was seriously wounded four times. After eight months’ sick leave, in 1900 he was attached to the staff of Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Girouard, in charge of South African military railways. Cowie heard about British East Africa from his wife’s family members who had already gone there. Attracted by big game hunting, in June 1905 he decided to resign his important appointment as criminal magistrate in Pretoria. He and his wife sailed for Mombasa in May 1905. Their first home was a rented shack in Victoria Street, Nairobi, where their first son, Dudley Hugh, was born. They later moved...

More about Thomas Remington

More about Thomas Remington In last month’s blog I wrote about Thomas Remington. One of Remington’s relatives has contacted me and kindly given me more information about this extraordinary man who established postal services in East Africa. The Frenchwoman he married in Zanzibar was Henriette Mary Dumonteil Delagreze, and it was in Zanzibar that their only son Felix George was born in 1895. Thomas became a corresponding member of the Zoological Society of London in 1896 while he was living in Mombasa. He provided the London Zoo with a monkey. Henriette and Felix returned to London after Thomas’s death. Unfortunately, Felix died fighting in France in the First World War, on 11 May 1917, and he is buried there. Henriette then took up extensive travelling. Christine Nicholls...

How did the Mail get Delivered in East Africa before 1910?

How did the Mail get Delivered in East Africa before 1910?   The postal service of East Africa was first begun as a branch of that of Zanzibar, and its first postmaster-general resided in Zanzibar for eight years before coming to British East Africa in 1899. In those early days the postal importance of Zanzibar was much greater than that of the mainland. However, when the construction of the Uganda Railway was begun, the growth of its business in East Africa so increased the postal importance of Mombasa that a change of headquarters was needed. The postal association of East Africa and Zanzibar was terminated at that time. The East Africa Protectorate was admitted to the Postal Union in 1895 and six years later the postal service of Uganda was united with that of East Africa. The principal feature of the postal service in early years was the immense value of money orders to remit to India on behalf of the Indian workers employed in the construction of the Uganda Railway. That this was completed successfully was due to the work of Thomas Edward Crew Remington. Born in Teddington, Middlesex, on 26 August 1867, Remington lost his father in his early years, necessitating his mother taking in boarders and putting him out to work as a telegraph messenger before he was fourteen. He worked with Kingston on Thames post office before departing for East Africa as an employee of the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1890. After an initial posting to Taveta, he took charge of the IBEA Co’s postal department in Mombasa in 1891, living in a...

The Rise and Decline of Cotton Growing in Kenya

The Rise and Decline of Cotton Growing in Kenya Some pioneer settlers thought cotton might succeed in East Africa. So the British East Africa Corporation Ltd was established in 1906 with the aim of spreading the work of the British Cotton Growing Association, a body designed to encourage cotton growing in the British Empire and to establish cotton ginning factories and plantations. Some missionaries had tried growing cotton in what became Uganda with some success. It was thought that other activities would greatly assist the establishment of a cotton trade if there were associated industries such as tourism and sport and general trading. Capital of £500,000 was raised, a considerable sum in those days, which encouraged the Colonial Office to provide an annual grant for experimentation and education. The Office provided 30,000 acres for government experimental farms and granted them free of rent initially and thereafter at modest rents. The Colonial Office also lent the services of Major EHM Leggett of the Royal Engineers to be general manager of the British East Africa Corporation. He had previously been employed in South Africa on land settlement issues. In 1907 work began by exploration of the districts which looked as if they would be promising cotton growing areas. Agriculturalists were sent into the districts to distribute seed to Africans who were given practical teaching on how to plant, look after and gather the crop. They were guaranteed a minimum price. Ginning factories were built at Malindi, Kilindini and Kisumu and experimental farms were established at Malindi, Voi, Mombasa, Kibos and Kisumu. Top: The offices of the British East Africa Corporation. Below:...