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   "Childhood Memories of Colonial East Africa 1920-1963" Edited by Joan Considine and John Rawlins


Childhood Memories of Colonial East Africa 1920-1963

Edited by Joan Considine and John Rawlins
(John Rawlins attended the Prince of Wales School - Grigg 1945-1947)
Childhood Memories of Colonial East Africa  1920-1963
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

Elizabeth Watkins
(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.