"Childhood Memories of Colonial East Africa 1920-1963" Edited by Joan Considine and John Rawlins
Childhood Memories of Colonial East Africa 1920-1963Edited by Joan Considine and John Rawlins
(John Rawlins attended the Prince of Wales School - Grigg 1945-1947)
by Elizabeth Watkins
This imaginative anthology of childhood memories of second generation settler children brings home the joys and sorrows of
childhood in that outdoor zoo of perpetual Summer that is Kenya. As a second generation white Kenyan myself, and proud
great great aunt to a fifth generation, I accord it a warm welcome.
Here are no memoirs of the day I arrived, or how strange and quaint I found my new surroundings. The colours of
Africa are the colours which built our minds, the red laterite soil, the dusty brown vegetation before the rains and the
vivid greens of flowering trees, and shrubs after them, and – most important – the smiling black faces around us.
And these are the three themes which constantly recur in the memoirs. There was the freedom of playing out of doors over
large areas, gardens, farms, official bomas and unofficial ones. There was the wild life, never far from our doorsteps,
and sometimes in side the house, the exotic pets and also the opportunity to have domestic ones – ponies were often a
necessary means of getting to school or going out to Sunday lunch; one family fielded a polo team. My own mother used a
donkey with Kentish-made basket chairs instead of a pram – I still have the silver sugar bowl misshapen when it got stuck
on Jacky’s (Jackass) jaws as he helped himself to tea time treat. My sister wore a baby leopard like a cat round her
shoulders, and like the cats, it purred loudly. When some recently arrived visitor said to her; “what a life-like toy
you have, little girl,” the leopard took one bound on to his shoulders. He fainted and cam round to see three horrid
little girls laughing themselves silly as they comforted the leopard.
Thirdly, the memoirs contain recognition of the ever patient African who surrounded us, so much less admonitory than
parent or governess, so able to make bows and arrows or whittle a whistle, so knowing of which leaf would take away
which sting, what fruit was edible, what twig would make a tooth brush, so willing to let us “help” in whatever job
he was doing. Those who stayed on in Kenya have mostly bridged the culture gap in a way which would have been impossible
for their parents.
There was the down side of course; children had to go to school. Where school was unreachable, several families clubbed
together to share a governess, or a mother ran a mini-school, but the day came – often as early as seven – when boarding
school was necessary. One contributor had to travel five days to school, many had to travel for two days, and distance
made the separation all the harder. Bullying was rife, and some found the teaching inadequate. Yet school broadened our
outlook, bringing new interests, and best of all, new friends, many of these friendships lasting a lifetime. And however
hard the partings, it was better than being sent to far away England where life seemed restricted and cold, and in wartime
full of shortages.
This book will appeal to all those who grew up in Kenya, but I think it may appeal to many others who did not have that
privilege for it captures the magic they have missed
(Author of ‘Jomo’s Jailer’, ‘Oscar from Africa’ and of ‘Olga in Kenya’)
ISBN 0-9547249-0-9 and Published by BONGO BOOKS - Click Here for a web link.
Joan and John are embarking on a sequel to "Childhood Memories", to be aprtly named "Further Memories of Colonial East
Africa 1920-63", and they are looking for contributions from anyone who grew up in East Africa during this unique time
in the continent's history.