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Herbert Hugh Cowie Comes to British East Africa

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?

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:...
Stories of Workers on a White Farm

Stories of Workers on a White Farm

Stories of Workers on a White Farm   Elspeth Huxley recorded some stories of the workers on the farm of her mother, Nellie Grant, which give a fascinating insight into the history of Kenya. The Grants’ first farm was near Thika and then they moved to a farm at Njoro.   Njombo Came from Gethumbwini, Thika. At the time of the first famine his mother went to Ukambani to get food, but never came back. His father died (when Njombo was 12 or 13), then his brother, then his twin brother and his sister. They had no food and no one to look after them and there were two small children, so Njombo took them to an uncle who sheltered them. He then went to Nairobi to work at road making and dug building stone from a quarry. Thereafter he went to Thika to work as a driver, having been taught by a Dutchman. His job was to drive the wagon from Thika to Nairobi. He saw his first Europeans in 1912. He was sent to Blue Posts Hotel to fetch Elspeth, Mrs Grant’s daughter. His clan rejected him because he thought his father had been killed, so he ran away to Kiambu and went for one term to the Africa Inland Mission school at Kabete, and then to the Roman Catholic school. He returned to his village to avenge the poisoning (he thought) of his brothers and his daughter. He heard Mrs Grant was going to Njoro and was looking for people to follow her. He walked to Njoro and Mrs Grant promised them all gardens, saying they...
How Farm Workers Came to Settler Farms

How Farm Workers Came to Settler Farms

How Farm Workers Came to Settler Farms We can get an idea of the motivation of African farm workers if we look at some specific cases. Nellie Grant (Elspeth Huxley’s mother) went to Kenya in 1912 and farmed coffee at Thika. After the First World War she heard she had been granted land at Njoro in the soldier-settler scheme and decided to try her luck there. But she would need labour. How did she go about getting it? It seems she took some workers she already had, got others by word of mouth, and some arrived by chance. Here are a few examples of how people ended up on her farm, as told to her daughter Elspeth Huxley: Kibunyu Kibunyu came to the Grants after working for Algy Cartwright, who farmed at Njoro. Cartwright sent messengers round to villagers saying he wanted to employ squatters at Njoro. He signed them on at Kabete. About 100 people from Kiambu and some from Fort Hall came to Njoro by train and Cartwright showed them where they could have gardens. When they arrived there were no Kikuyu, only Dorobo, and it was all thick forest. There were buffalo near the river and many bushbuck and forest pig. The Dorobo killed three of the Kikuyu. The Kikuyu drove the Dorobo away into the forest, cutting down the smaller trees and burning the big ones by setting fires in their trunks. During the war Kibunyu looked after the Cartwright farm. Wambogo Wambogo first worked for the DC John Ainsworth at Kilima Kiu. About 300 people were caught by Chief Kinanjui and sent there. A...
The Jewells and Mombasa Hospital

The Jewells and Mombasa Hospital

The Jewells and Mombasa Hospital Last month I talked about the Mombasa Hospital. From 1920 onwards Norman Jewell was in charge of the establishment, and his letters and diaries show us what medical hazards were faced by Mombasa’s inhabitants in the 1920s. Jewell had begun his tropical medical career in the Seychelles, but on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 he was appointed to the East Africa Protectorate and became an army doctor. He travelled with the troops all over Tanganyika, often working under appalling circumstances. It must have been a relief for him to have been posted to Mombasa after the war. From left: Norman Jewell, Norman Jewell on the Mombasa Hospital veranda, John Jewell Jewell found there was a high standard of hygiene and health control in Mombasa, overseen by Dr Henry Speldewinde de Boer. To prevent plague, there were daily autopsies on rats, enabling Jewell to be forewarned should plague occur. Rat-catching was carried out assiduously. And food inspections and mosquito control were energetically pursued. Yet there were unforeseen hazards such as ten inches of rain in a few hours, which burst the pipes and flooded the streets, uprooted trees and washed boats from the harbour. Then there was an outbreak of smallpox in Mombasa in 1925. Jewell made vaccination compulsory for all, and the only European who died had washed off the vaccine. Over 230,000 people were vaccinated. There were many cases among the African population of the disfiguring yaws, an infection of skin, bones and joints caused by a spirochete bacterium. The sufferers were injected with neosalvarsan as a treatment. But...
Mombasa Hospital’s Early Days

Mombasa Hospital’s Early Days

Mombasa Hospital’s Early Days   When the Imperial British East Africa Company began to trade in East Africa in the early 1890s, there was a need for a hospital for Europeans, prone to fall sick so easily in a country with an unfamiliar climate, where malaria was still imperfectly understood. IBEAC appointed Dr WH Macdonald, registered as a medical doctor in Edinburgh in 1889, to be Mombasa’s doctor. Then the Company received a donation to build a church and hospital. The Roman Catholic Holy Ghost Fathers were given the running of it, under the supervision of the Chief Medical Officer, Dr WH Macdonald. In the same year the British Government took over the administration of the East Africa Protectorate, and with it the management of the hospital.   Macdonald now worked for the government and had as his assistants three sisters of the Order of St Joseph de Cluny, from France. They were Mother Auxanne Maugee, from Martinique, who was in charge, Sister Benilda Houston from Donegal in Ireland, and Sister James Hearty from Scotland. This mixed band manned the hospital until 1901, when they handed over to lay sisters arriving from England on 1 November. Mother Auxanne died in France in 1902. A plaque in her memory was placed in the Holy Ghost Cathedral in Mombasa and later moved to the hospital. The other two sisters went to the Seychelles.   Macdonald was not thought highly of as a doctor. The High Commissioner Eliot said, ‘I cannot conscientiously recommend any scheme which does not include the removal of Dr Macdonald from the post of PMO.’ A missionary doctor...
Where Antelope Roam – A book review

Where Antelope Roam – A book review

Where Antelope Roam Reviewed by Rachel Woodworth   A book review ought to start, more than likely, with the book. But my review can’t begin there. It begins with the man. The man who wrote the book, who gathered days and moments, adventures and seasons, who recalled and reminisced and turned memories to words, to pages, to chapters, to book: a collection of short stories bound in Where Antelope Roam. I cannot separate the book from the man; but then, I don’t need to. This is autobiography—what makes the book worth reading is the man who lives a life worth reading. I vouch for the value of both.   I begin, however, with the author. An author I first knew as a professor.   With an energy and eagerness (either endearing or embarrassing) of my college freshman self, I sat in his Cultural Anthropology classroom. Before the end of his two hour class, I remember clearly thinking, “I want to do what he does.” Now this, I’m coming to learn, has less to do with the specifics of doing—with mimicking job or education or, not to give too much away, the handling of horned vipers—but the being. And this is harder to articulate and harder to enact.   What I sensed in that classroom, and what I sense in the pages of this book, is this fullness of life. A character and a being, a posturing, that is wonderful—that is, really, full of wonder. It is this unwavering joy in life—a firm confidence in the value of here: this place, this person, this landscape and moment before me. It...