11 : KITALE POSTING
While on leave at Kitale, I had heard that the District Clerk there, Baptist D’Sa, was himself due to go on vacation leave about the same time as myself. I could only put this down as a welcome ‘coincidence’ and decided to seize the opportunity and ask if I could be temporarily posted there — at least until after our first-born had arrived. It was important that I was close at hand and by my wife’s side during these days, especially since she was quite helpless, having now lost a considerable amount of weight too. My mother-in-law, who herself had six children (without any of the troubles Elsie was now going through), felt that this should be our first and last baby! Seeing Elsie’s almost frail condition, I nodded in agreement. I lost no time in applying to the Secretariat in Nairobi for a temporary posting to Kitale, enclosing the medical certificate which Dr. Broadbent had earlier given me as evidence. My request was strongly supported by both the DC Marsabit and the PC at Isiolo. Besides, I had also met John Carson, (the DC Kitale) previously at our wedding and had got to know him well. I had no doubt that we would get on well together. As good luck would have it, the Secretariat were quick to approve my request, and in a few months, I found myself back at Kitale, only this time on a semi-permanent basis! I was sad to leave Marsabit, and vowed then, that if I was ever given a second chance of returning to the N.F.D., it would be this district that I would choose.
My replacement at Marsabit wasJoe da Cunha, a cousin of Victor Fernandes, who had only recently arrived in the country from India. For Joe, it must have been a great comfort having his relations there; else he would have felt quite lost in these raw and dreary surroundings. The’PC’s office had arranged for him to arrive at Marsabit several weeks prior to my departure, to enable him to acquire as much knowledge of the work while I was still around. Joe was a keen worker who had no difficulty in grasping the various jobs, and I felt sure in my own mind that he would fit in well at the office and on the station generally. Coping with the many send-offs I was given before I left Marsabit was not easy, but the final departure from a district I had come to love so dearly, was truly sad — the only consolation was that I was soon to be back with my family.
Since my in-laws owned a spacious house at Kitale, they had made a fairly large room available for Elsie and myself, a gesture which I appreciated, especially since they themselves were a large family.
Elsie, as I have said earlier, had a very difficult pregnancy, and even though she tried to put on a brave face on many occasions, she just couldn’t suppress the morning sickness that plagued her almost throughout her pre-natal period. Oh, how I envied those wives who boasted of going out for a swim or even dancing during their pregnancies! There were times when I felt quite helpless. Try as she would, even retaining a few sips of water proved difficult. On the rare ‘bright’ day she had, we would go out for long walks together and talk about the days ahead. I was so thrilled with the beautiful clothes she had sewn for our baby; these she had neatly packed away in a suitcase, all in readiness for the big event. At every opportunity when she felt better, she would add a few more items to the baby’s wardrobe. I was so proud of her and all she was doing for this family we were soon to start. All the money in the world couldn’t have bought those hand-made garments; the depth of a mother’s love was beginning to show itself now and I was deeply touched by the interest she took, despite her many ‘off’ days, in seeing to this side of things.
At work, there were no problems at all since John Carson was such a gentleman who took to me within a few days of my arrival. As far as I can remember, he was also the first DC who, in those days, called me by my Christian name — not the done thing then. I very much appreciated this informality. Sadly though, he suffered from bouts of drowsiness and often during the course of our conversation he would lapse into a brief slumber. I understand that he had been a notable heavyweight boxer in his days and his present condition resulted from some injury he received in the boxing ring.
I was stationed at Kitale at the height of the Mau Mau emergency. Under the new Emergency Regulations, all movements of the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru tribes were strictly controlled — no member of this tribal group could move from one area to another, even within the same district, without a valid permit signed by the DC. I usually made out these permits (referred to as Passes) which were later signed by the DC. In his absence (and the DC was often away attending meetings of various security committees) I signed permits which had previously been authorized by him. Mr. Carson himself had not long to stay before going on vacation leave overseas. He was replaced by a young District Officer from Eldama Ravine (in the Rift Valley Province) — Christopher Denton, who was promoted as DC Kitale. He must have been the youngest D.C. to have held this post in a predominantly farming area like Kitale. Before they left on leave, the Carsons had us over to tea, and during the course of that evening. John Carson told us of his enjoyable tour of duty in the Samburu district and also latterly in Tambach.
In a very short time, the new D.C., Mr. Denton, had made his mark, and was very well received by the white settler population of the Trans Nzoia District. It was very important for the DC (especially in farming towns like Kitale) to hit it off well with the local settlers — else they would make his life a real hell! I have no doubt that if it ever came to the push — such was the influence of the European settlers in these areas in those days — that they could quite easily have had a DC transferred from the district if they didn’t like the way in which he governed the area. Whatever he did, had to find favour with them!
From the very outset, Mr. Denton and I got on very well together. Seeing that I could take on a far greater share of responsibility than he had previously been accustomed to delegate to his clerks, I found myself doing quite a few jobs which, in a larger station, would be handled by a D.O. He soon found that I could cope with the day to day administrative routine with ease; members of the public, including local farmers, did not have to trouble him personally on every single occasion. I could attend to most of their requests and deal adequately with minor problems that arose. In the days of the Emergency, a Temporary DO was also attached to the DC’s office at Kitale; this was a post created more to deal with the security aspect. The DO (Emergency) as he was known, did not handle the day to day administration at the district office though.
It didn’t take Mr. Denton long to discover my flair for writing, and I was now left to deal with a sizeable proportion of the daily correspondence. I was very pleased with this arrangement since, in addition to doing something I enjoyed, it also gave the DC more time to deal with the additional work load created by the State of Emergency. He had any number of meetings to attend with the Kenya Police, Security Team and also with officials of the Kitale Municipality and District Council. There were also the visits to be paid to farmers who lived in the more remote areas of the district; such occasions were used to hold barazas with the farm labourers (especially those of the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru tribes) at which he would try to put over the Government’s plan for combating the wave of terrorism that was sweeping through the country. I enjoyed the challenge and variety of the job; dealing with the farmers — some well-mannered and decent, others, mostly of South African extraction, openly displaying their inborn discriminatory attitudes. Such individuals (and they were a tiny minority), would rather wait to see the D.C personally over what, to my mind, was often a trivial matter, instead of coming to me! This didn’t worry me in the least since I had many good friends even among the farming community and got on well with the vast majority of them.
In addition to the normal office work and additional work created by the Emergency, there was also the trial taking place in neighbouring Kapenguria of MzeeJomo Kenyatta and his associates. Several distinguished Counsel from overseas had arrived to defend them, among these being the late D. N. Pritt, Q.C. from Britain, Chief W. O. Davies from Nigeria, Diwan Chaman Lal from India and Messrs. A. R. Kapila and Fritz D’Souza from Nairobi. I met most of these gentlemen at my in-laws whose hospitality they often enjoyed. This was because the Kitale Hotel, the only decent hotel in the town, operated a colour bar in those days and non-Europeans were not allowed to use its facilities. Because of the embarrassment caused to these learned members of the Bench, and following adverse publicity in the local Press, the hotel did make some concessions eventually. It was late though as the damage had already been done. So as not to be unduly humiliated in this manner, we would sometimes go to a sister establishment of the Kitale Hotel – a real dump of a place called the North End Arms. We met several of the Defence Counsel over drinks at this rather inferior place and I thus got to know several of them fairly well. The two who impressed me most were the British Q.C., D. N. Pritt, and Chief Davies of Nigeria.
While at Kitale, I was seconded for a short period to Kapenguria at the time of the Kenyatta trial. Ironically, the gentleman who gave me a lift there was none other than one of the Defence Counsel — Chief Davies of Nigeria. I remained here for two weeks during which time I was able to carry out some reorganization of the district office systems at the DC’s request. My efforts were much appreciated and the DC Kapenguria at the time (Mr. H. C. F. Wilks) sent in a special recommendation to the D.C. Kitale when a case for my accelerated promotion was put up some months later.
The prison where MzeeJomo Kenyatta and his associates (Paul Ngei, Achieng Oneko, Bildad Kaggia, Fred Kubai and Kungu Karumba) were held was right behind the Government quarters which I occupied. I got a daily glimpse of them as they were driven from the prison to the converted court-house each morning.
Because members of the Defence Counsel travelled daily between Kapenguria and Kitale, I often got a lift in to Kitale. This was most welcome especially over weekends. The days were now fast approaching when our baby would be born. Unfortunately, the European hospital was not open to us in those days, and we had to make arrangements for the confinement at the Native Civil Hospital. We had seen the midwife who would be assisting at the delivery, and she reassured us that all was well. Mrs. Steers (an Anglo-Indian, who was well liked and who did well from the baby boom of the Asian population of Kitale!) reminded me very much of a Matron. The day finally dawned — it was very early on the morning of July 17th 1953 that the first labour pains were felt by my wife. My mother-in-law, begin the experienced mother she was, soon recognized these as genuine, and quickly prepared some percolated coffee which the four of us (my in-laws, my wife and I) stood in the kitchen and drank. The other members of the family were still asleep and it was not felt necessary to disturb them lest this was a false alarm! With the increase in the frequency of the labour pains, my mother-in-law was soon convinced that it would be some hours before the baby actually arrived. We tried to relax but this was not always possible with all the excitement. A family friend, Jim Cox, had offered to drive us to the hospital and had asked that we contact him whenever the moment arrived. Since my sister-in-law worked for the same organization (KFA) as Jim Cox, she was able to get a message across to him and in no time he was at the house ready to drive us all to hospital.
It is worth mentioning that in those days, there were no proper maternity facilities for Asians in most of the smaller districts. If one had the money and, could afford a private hospital room in places like Nairobi or Mombasa, there was no problem; unfortunately, we weren’t so fortunate. Elsie was brought to the hospital and given a very small room, which to me, resembled a store room (I found out later that this room was in fact an old store which had recently been converted into a maternity wing for the Asians!) The D.C’s office was within walking distance of the hospital and after satisfying myself that all was well, I reported for duty a little later than usual. At work I was far from settled and was quite nervous. The D.C, Mr. Denton, could understand my feelings and made it clear that I could go down to the hospital whenever I wished. When I called on the first occasion, there was no change in Elsie’s condition and I was told that the birth of our baby was now imminent. More nerves! I returned to the office, and during my lunch hour strolled back to see if there had been any developments. On entering the little room, I could sense from the beaming smile on my mother-in-law’s face, that the miracle of life had taken place. I rushed to kiss and congratulate my wife and immediately spotted a small wooden carry-cot by her side. In it lay that lovely bundle of flesh and blood that was all our own. I was too excited for words. The nurses had washed and bathed the little infant, and got him into his new set of clothes — garments that were made with such loving care by Elsie. He looked a perfect angel, sleeping peacefully away in his little cot. I was the proudest man on earth and felt so thrilled but far too excited for words to say much more to Elsie; neither did I want to tire her. Before I left to return to the office, I pressed her hand tenderly into mine to assure her of my love and joy over our new-born babe. Mr. Denton and all the office staff were delighted with the news and congratulated me in succession. Even the veteran office boy, Naidwa, (who had known Elsie as a little girl from the days when my father-in-law worked at the D.C’s office), couldn’t conceal his joy. I made quite a few telephone calls to my sisters and brothers-in-law to give them the good news. Cables were sent to my brother in India and my brother in England was similarly advised. That evening we had a little celebration at home. For my in-laws, it must have been the proudest moment of their lives – the birth of their first grandson. I was prepared to excuse my father-in-law even if he had one drink too many that night. After all, like me, he was quite entitled to enjoy himself on this very special occasion! I was told by the Medical Officer i/c (Dr. Harland) that as my wife had had a difficult delivery, she would be kept in hospital for a few more days, and would also be needing some minor surgery which my old friend of Lokitaung days (Ripi Singh) would be attending to. I felt that keeping her there was the best course since it would also provide an enforced rest. I visited her daily and was always so pleased to see our new baby looking so well and healthy.
After a week’s stay at the hospital, Elsie returned home with the little bundle, much to the delight of all. From the very start, the baby was very well behaved and gave us no trouble at all. He seemed generally contented. The choice of names was the next thing to sort out. We had decided that if the child were a girl, we would call her Patricia. No such provision had been made for a boy — why I just don’t know! Even the second-hand carry-cot which we had bought from a farmer’s wife (a family friend), was all pink.
The only decision we had made was that the baby would bear one of my late father’s names, ‘Mathias’ if he were a boy, and my mother’s ‘Josephine’ if she were a girl. Another name for a boy would be Elsie’s grandfather’s, ‘Alexander’. We did not want a litany of names (as is common among the Goans who would normally not be content with just paternal names, but wanted names of patron saints, godfather/godmother, etc. — some names were difficult to pronounce!) Not satisfied with the two names we had chosen, we looked around for yet another, and finally decided on the name Clyde. Why we chose a river in Scotland I just can’t explain, but this was a name we came across in a magazine and immediately fell for it. The decision was finally made that the child be named Clyde Mathias Alexander. Quite a mouthful after all! As is customary among Roman Catholics, our baby was baptized within a few days of birth. Fr. John Hawes performed the ceremony and a modest celebration of close family members and a few friends followed that evening. The godparents were my younger brother, Wilfred, who was in England and Elsie’s elder sister, Elvira. The christening party went off very well that evening, and we were truly grateful for the many gifts that had been lavished on our baby.
The fact that our child was healthy and trouble-free gave Elsie a chance to get back to her old self more quickly and forget the difficult period she had experienced all through pregnancy. There was a lot to keep her busy and she coped admirably with all the additional work — feed preparations, and nappy washing, etc.
Because of my increased financial commitments following the new addition, I had asked that I be posted back to the N.F.D. on my return from overseas leave. For his part, Mr. Denton was very keen that I should return to Kitale and had even submitted an out-of-turn report in which he had recommended me for accelerated promotion. Before I left on vacation leave, the P.C Rift Valley Province, Mr. Robin Wainwright was touring the Trans Nzoia district, and the D.C had made sure that I met him. During our meeting, Mr. Wainwright thanked me for my good work and added that he would strongly support the D.C’s recommendation for my promotion and hoped very much that I would come back to Kitale. An additional factor that had influenced Mr. Denton in making the recommendation was the fact that I had shown a keen interest in Ki-Swahili and had in fact I appeared for both the Oral and Written parts of the Standard Swahili examination. (Asian staff were not required to take this examination, but European officers were, and received a bonus if they secured a distinction; their annual increment was also dependent on their passing this vital examination.) I faced a panel of 3 examining officers at the oral examination which was held at Eldoret (Mr.Jack Wolff the DC Eldoret, a European Labour Officer and an African official of the Education department). Quite an experience! I took the examination more out of interest in the language and my desire to be able to speak and write fluently. There was no monetary gain, but this was not an aspect that disturbed me unduly.
My vacation leave to Goa had been postponed until after Elsie’s confinement, and we were now booked to sail home in November, 1953. For a moment we wondered how we would cope on the voyage with a little babe barely three months old. If anything, these fears proved to be groundless.