We all agree that the colonial times were dark days, we gained religion and cultural diversity, and lost everything else. History has a knack for leaving out randomness, frankly because it does not fit into the fabric of the sane society we purport ourselves to be…Have you ever wondered what the settlers did in their spare time, for fun, and for the random kick?
#4 Peter Harold Poole
Enter Peter Poole, born in 1932. His Wikipedia page indicates that he was an engineer from Essex who ran an electrical shop on what is now Moi Avenue.
“On October 12, 1959, he was charged for killing Kamawe Musunge in Gordon Road,Nairobi. Musunge had been riding a bicycle when Poole’s two dogs stopped him. Musunge threw stones at a dog, for which Poole shot Musunge dead with a Luger pistol . Musunge was Poole’s houseboy . Poole was executed on August 18, 1960. At the time Kenya was still under British rule, and the verdict was received dismally by white settlers in Kenya, who could not accept that a white man could be sentenced for killing an indigenous African”
A man died for throwing stones at a dog, the story does not even say he hit the dog but one Peter Poole put one through him—-a bullet that is. The hanging was covered extensively in the US and the UK, including Time Magazine with the title ‘White Man Hangs’.
Poole was regarded as a matyr by the white European community, and his hanging got some coverage later when Tom Cholmodeley was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for 8 months. 4 years before the Poole case, Leo Hoyle had been sentenced to death “…for raping and killing an African woman to ostensibly “ end her agony” of being kicked out of her house.” . Col Etwart Grogan killed two Africans infront of a magistrate but was only convicted of assault and sentenced to two months of hard labor.
#3 Lord Egerton
Every living Kenyan knows Lord Egerton, or at least the Egerton University that stands on land he donated to the institutiton. As such, most of the details of his private life are lost in his single act of generosity. Lord Maurice Egerton of Tatton, fourth Baron Egerton of Tatton in Cheshire (not to be confused with Galbraith Lowry Egerton Cole) died in 1958 childless and unmarried, but not by choice. It is said that he was spurned by an unnamed woman; the same woman for whom the Egerton Castle was erected at great cost (Turns out flowers and chivalry ran out of style a long time ago).
As proof that testosterone has been the death of men since time immemorial, the Egerton Castle was built to impress this one woman, to make her change her mind.
“ He conceived of a castle that would have no comparison in England or any other country for that matter.
Dressed stones and zinc tiles for the roof were shipped from Europe, the builders from Europe and Asia. The result, in 1938, was a stupendous four-storey edifice fitted with some of the most up-to-date mechanical and electrical gadgets at the time, including an escalator.”
Upon completion, the peer threw what was billed as the biggest party ever seen in pre-colonial Kenya, with guests coming from as far as Northern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and Nyasaland, now Malawi.
The cheers and congratulations, it was to turn out, had come too soon. When the woman for whom the castle had been built came back to Kenya and viewed it, she dismissed it as “a museum” and a monument to vanity.” (Benson Riungu, East African Standard, 2004).
Rejected by a woman? Sounds common, we have all been friendzoned at some point in our male lives, right? So, he did what we all do and went to a bar to brood over his troubles, right? Actually no…
“Being spurned appears to have changed Lord Egerton in a fundamental way. Thereafter he seemed to live in a fantasy world.
He furnished and ran the castle as if the family he had envisaged actually existed. Nobody but the house servants was ever allowed in.
But an even more far-reaching chance was in his attitude towards women. He developed such a passionate hatred for them that he banned them from his castle and put up notices warning female trespassers that they risked being shot on sight.
Visitors, including friends, were to leave their wives and daughters eight miles away from the castle. And when he planned to visit the quarters where his African staff lived, he would issue a two-week notice so that all women could be vacated.” (Riungu, East African Standard, 2004).
Wait! What? So being spurned made a man ruined pleasure for everyone else? …and he thought that donating his land to a university would somehow atone for such a sin?
Remember that house by the way, it will come in handy later…
# 5 The Ju Ja Incident
This is one of the least known signs that the settlers were mad. It is not included in any school curricula history books, nor will you find it in most stories about Teddy Roosevelt’s Africa expedition.
To understand the gist of this story some background is necessary.
Enter Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States (1901-1909). Almost all historians of ‘badassery’ agree that Teddy is the most badass president to ever occupy the White House. Reading his acts makes James Bond look like the fake character that he actually is. First, Teddy had a moustache which was a NWC Police Commisioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of NY and other things. He had a black belt in Jujitsu, was an accomplished championship boxer, expert marksman and, as if all that was not enough, he frequently skinny-dipped in the Potomac River (Yup! They all saw his balls). Did I mention that in 1912, while at a campaign rally, someone shot him as he was giving his speech. The logical thing would be to rush the president to the hospital, right? No,, not when you are Teddy; when you are this guy, he refused medical help and finished his 90 minute-speech, with an open wound on his chest.
So, why does this matter?
In Northrup-The Life of William Northrup McMillan, Judy Aldrick follows the story of McMillian and Teddy Roosevelt during the famous African safari in 1909.
The seven-month visit included a long stopover in Donyo Sambuk, a village near Thika town.The ex-president had a big entourage, even by today’s standards, which is estimated to have had over 500 porters carrying all manner of items ‘…including collapsible baths and cases of champagne.’
Among the dignitaries was Kermit Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt’s third and favorite son. McMillan, the host in Juja, accommodated the party at his 19, 000-acre estate. When the former president and his son Kermit were not hunting, they would drive to Nairobi, specifically to the Norfolk Hotel, to party. On their way back they would pass through Khoja, and often marvel at the newly constructed Ismailia Mosque. Now this is where it gets interesting
Aldrick includes a relatively unknown story; that they stole the stone lions that had been placed on either side of the Ismailia Mosque gate. They took them back to McMillan’s house where they remained unnoticed as a conflict was brewing in Nairobi over the theft. In what qualifies as a conspiracy, the government official who had first noticed them in the house organized to have them buried on the farm to avoid embarrassment.
About 29 years later, in 1937, the farm was owned by the Nettlefold family. Their workers discovered the lions and assumed they were stone idols from West Africa (the gods Ju and Ja). The connection between the former president, his son, and the two idols was made many years later, by which time both of them were dead and history could not judge them harshly. The name of the –mistaken- gods, however, remains as the name of Juja town.
Oh, and where Egerton gave up after asking a girl out twice, TR asked Alice Hathaway Lee to marry him and she declined, he did more badass things, like getting his mother and sisters in on the proposal (not building a castle with an escalator in 1938, that’s for weak guys), and the second time, she said yes-because the badass guy always gets the girl. His exact words when she rejected his first proposal? “See that girl, I am going to marry her. She won’t have me, but I am going to have her.” That would count as a rape threat today, I’m guessing.
#2 Patrick David Shaw
A ‘ 300 pound school assistant administrator who freelances as a terrifying white cop in a black neighbourhood’ sounds like something in an action movie trailer, doesn’t it? Something featuring Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington to be precise?
Granted, Patrick David Shaw was more of an immigrant than most of the others in this list. His father was a prominent London doctor but the younger Shaw had moved to Kenya as an agricultural officer in 1955 and became a naturalized citizen in 1971. He was famous for his brutish policing ways and the fact that he was always first on the scene, driving his cream Mercedes, license plate KFH 845 and carrying a .38 pistol.
When he died in February 1988, his death was covered by international media and his funeral in March was attended by Pimps, thieves, prostitutes, top police brass and the Chief Justice (the list is a bit redundant though). His legacy is shootouts, car chases and a string of dead men. He rarely ever slept, according to some accounts, because of a glandular disorder that accounted for his chronic obesity. His Mercedes had a special seat that allowed him to sleep, which is said to have been no more than two hours. His only other known venture was running a boy’s orphanage, he never married, and he never took a vacation. His pastime activities were reading FBI manuals, ‘Wanted’ posters and the Kenya Penal Code.
It is said that his name replaced the ‘boogieman’ whenever mothers scolded their children. “Be good, or Pat Shaw’s gonna get you.”
Pat Shaw’s kill ratio was remarkably high, even in today’s trigger-happy police force. He is rumored to have been involved in the murder of J. M. Kariuki, a murder that has a much better plot and intrigue than most movies.
He joined the police in 1959 but gained national fame in 1977 when he shot and killed Duncan Gachui, one of Kenya’s premier bank robbers. The ensuing gun battle happened in South C and “The officer shot the gangster dead through the mouth.”
His next big kill was the infamous Wakinyonga ‘The Killer’ who was cornered in a bar in Kangemi where he was partying with his girlfriend.
In 1979, a Ugandan outlaw named Walimba murdered a Nairobi family. Shaw was at the murder scene so quickly that Walimba was still there. He shot Shaw in the shoulder and fled. Shaw drove himself to the hospital, was treated, and then drove home.
From then on, Shaw was never without his .38 special. He switched last fall to a 9mm Beretta automatic, wanting a faster-firing weapon.
And did you know, one of Starehe Boy’s School’s boarding houses is called Shaw House? It was named after Pat Shaw because he was the assistant director in administration at the time of his demise.
By the comment thread here it turns out some people think of him as the original Makmende.
He was always the first to arrive at a crime scene, often when the crime was happening, and would always shoot first.
Wait, did I mention P.D Shaw was actually never a police officer? He was merely a member of the Kenya Police Reserve. Did someone say Waiganjo?
#1. The Happy Valley Set Murder Mystery
You know how our parents never miss the chance to tell us how morally rotten our generation has become, given that we now have a style called ‘twerking’ and there is a search engine wholly dedicated to porn? Well, the Happy Valley Set will make all that look like child’s play…
The Happy Valley set is called that because they settled in the Happy Valley region of Wanjohi Valley. The exploits of the group were covered extensively, and even immortalized in books and films such as The Happy Valley and the White Mischief. Among them was Hugh Cholmodeley, 3rd Baron Delamare, who is credited with being one of the original members of the Happy Valley Set and Lord Errol, the unofficial leader.
The group first came to international spotlight in 1941 when Lord Errol was killed in Karen. His purpoted murderer, Sir Jock Delves Broughton, had hunted him down to avenge the cuckold horns Errol had made him wear. The label of the Happy Valley set was ‘….louche parties, fuelled by alcohol, drugs, and sexual intrigue.
“These men and their wives were not uniformly champion adulterers, although Gwynned Gooch, née Brooke-Meares (1875–1964), and a neighbour were found naked in the back seat of a Buick during a party at the Errolls’ house, Oserian.”
“Beryl Markham was first married at sixteen to Alexander (Jock) Purves (d. 1945): each time she took a new lover, he hammered a six-inch nail into the wooden frame of their front door.”
Jack Soames was a voyeur who drilled holes in the ceilings of his bedrooms to watch his copulating guests.
At Clouds they played the ‘sheet game’: a sheet would be strung across the drawing-room, half a dozen men would poke their penises through strategically sited holes in the sheet, and the women on the other side would select their favourite appendage. A head start in the competition was enjoyed by Julien ‘Lizzie’ Lezard (1902–1958), a lover of both Idina Sackville and Alice de Janzé, who was so proud of his long member that he also liked to display it, along with his cards, when he got a full house at poker.
When Evelyn Waugh stayed with that ‘fine desperado’ de Trafford at Njoro in 1931, the latter was trying to organize a scheme to capture gorillas, which he believed he could sell at £2000 a head to Berlin zoo: ‘he got very drunk and brought a sluttish girl back to the house’, then ‘rogered her and her mama too’. De Trafford, Waugh reported, in words applicable throughout Happy Valley, ‘fights & fucks and gambles and gets D.D. [disgustingly drunk] all the time’ (Waugh, Letters, 63–4; Diary, 347) .
Suddenly, that Truth and Dare you played at the random party does not look so daring does it?
The Muthaiga Club was their hang-out joint where they held the sane day time games such as polo matches and race week. The saying in England was ‘..are you married or do you live in Kenya…’, an obvious allusion to the spouse-swapping that took place during the racy parties.
The dealer was Francis Greswolde-Williams (1837-1931) who lived in the Kedong Valley. He fit into the role of the drug dealer because he was not as attractive, sexually at least as the other males in the Happy Valley set. Historians describe him as being “…too fat and drunken…notoriously coarse mannered and sporting a black eye-patch…”
One must take into account that all the members of the H.V set were damaged, at least emotionally or in Lord Delamare’s case, both emotionally and physically. One intriguing character is Alice de Janze who shot her lover and then married him (Because how else does one fall in love?) to Idina Gordon who ‘…funelled lovers to her younger husband to keep him amused.’ Alice de Janze was known as ‘the wicked Madonna’ and is thought to have killed Lord Errol in 1941.
The protagonists here are real, with Lord Broughton being charged, and then acquitted, for the murder. He was one of the first suspects because Lord Errol was virile, which means he just plain screwed anything that wore a skirt and was still warm. He killed himself later, in 1942, at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. The other suspect, Alice, shot and killed herself the same year after she had been diagnosed with uterine cancer. Recent investigations have uncovered seemingly convincing but largely circumstantial evidence that Anne killed Enroll. The most likely motive is as dark as was her life, that ‘they would be together…forever…’
“Alice appeared at the morgue where Lord Erroll’s body was resting. In front of witnesses, she lifted her dress, rubbed her hand between her legs, wiped her fingers on the corpse’s mouth, and said, “Now you are mine forever.”