16 : MOVE TO KISII
Quite to my surprise, at about the time I was contemplating a transfer, news reached the DC that I, along with several other clerical officers, had been promoted to a more senior grade. This new grading would necessitate my moving from Marsabit to a station commensurate with the new post. Were it not for Conrad’s condition, I would have been quite prepared to sacrifice my promotion if only I could be assured that I would be left in ‘peace’ to continue working in the N.F.D. Besides, there was every likelihood that the post at Marsabit too might soon be up-graded. The promotion itself meant very little to me at the time. In monetary terms, the increase was negligible, especially since many of the salary scales overlapped. Besides, when one considered that I would be losing my separation and hardship (frontier) allowances, the pecuniary gain was of little consequence. There was no way out of the posting now, and not long after my promotion was announced, my posting orders were out! I was posted to Kisii, in the South Nyanza district. I had never before served in the Nyanza Province, and my only information about Kisii was that it was a very damp station, with a fairly high rainfall record. For a moment I wondered why the powers that be, conscious of Conrad’s state of health and general condition, had posted me to this place after all. When I questioned this posting ‘unofficially’, I was told that Kisii was quite a good station which had a modern hospital with three doctors attached to it.
Because of the fairly large house we occupied at Marsabit, I found I had accumulated far too much luggage and other possessions. My suite of furniture had been specially made by a Sikh firm in Nanyuki from the best available mvuli timber and I was determined to take this along. I had also accumulated various curios and trophies — three colobus monkey skins I had bought from Ethiopia, plus the two elephant feet which I would never leave behind at any cost. These feet were of sentimental value, having been cured by me over many months of drying in the hot sands of the Chalbi desert. Terence Adamson, brother of George Adamson, and brother-in-law of the late Joy Adamson of ‘Born Free’ fame, had actually shot the elephant a few hundred yards from our garden. I was quite prepared to dispose of some of our kitchen utensils and, even items of bed linen, but certainly not any of the game trophies which I had preserved and looked after all these years. These would be a constant reminder of our days in the N.F.D.
After the years spent at Marsabit, it was not easy to leave behind the friends we had made during our stay there; in addition to our Goan colleagues, there was Willie Perera, a native of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), who was attached to the National Parks departments. Willie had supervised the building of the log cabin on Marsabit mountain — an area which abounds in wildlife of various description, elephants of great size, buffalo, greater kudu and oryx. During her brief stay in Marsabit, Elsie was fortunate to spend a whole day with me and the children in this log cabin well before it was officially opened for visitors and tourists.
At Kisii, the district clerk had applied for a few days’ local leave prior to moving to Marsabit, and the intention was that I should move there well in advance of his departure. Terry Lobo and I communicated over our respective moves as though we had been the best of friends (I had never met him before, nor have I met him to this day!) Because of the urgency of the move, I had to leave Marsabit without having a formal handing-over period with my successor as was normally the practice. Instead I handed over to the D.O. (Richard Hickman — who had not been long at Marsabit himself); to assist Terry Lobo, I had also prepared a detailed handing over report (this was not required in the case of hand-overs between members of the clerical staff, but I felt that it was only fair that I should leave such a report for my successor, considering the urgency surrounding my transfer). Through the good offices of the D.C., I was able to leave my luggage behind at Marsabit.This had all been securely packed for me by the station labour, assisted by the local carpenter, Marete, and also some of the prisoners. Several wooden crates had been made for the furniture and other bulky items. I could see that I would eventually be requiring a 5-tonner to move my personal effects to Kisii and the local transporter, NoormohamedMangia, had agreed to provide his truck when the time came — even though, my entitlement at the time was a 3-tonner only!
I was truly sad to say goodbye to my many friends and to a district and people I had become so much a part of. At Isiolo, I was able to stop briefly to say goodbye and ‘thank you’ to as many of my friends there as possible. From Isiolo, I got a lift straight into Nairobi, and after a night stop in the city, took the taxi to Kitale. Here I spent a few more days before finally proceeding to Kisii. It was nice to be united with the whole family once more, and even to find Conrad looking much better even though he was still weak and feeble.
From Kitale, I took the local African bus service in to Kisumu where I arrived just before lunch and stayed with the District Clerk (Joe D’Souza and his wife Farah).Joe, who I had not met previously, knew my in-laws well during his days at Lodwar, and even though we had never met before, we were not total strangers, as I subsequently found out that he also knew my uncle at Zanzibar. On the evening of my arrival, Joe took me to meet some of the other Goans. I recall meeting the P.C’s clerk, a very kind-hearted man by the name of Sally Mendes; there was D. A. da Cunha, that veteran of Kisumu and father-in-law of my good friend, Francis da Lima. There were several other Goan families I met later that evening at the Goan Institute in Kisumu. The following morning, I left for Kisii, again by the local African bus service. Although my old friend and colleague from Voi days, Germano Gomes (now married with two young children), was at Kisii at the time, arrangements had been made for me to be accommodated by a Mr. C. Remedios (known to his friends as ‘Caitu’). He was a married man who, because of the children’s education, had to leave his wife in Nairobi. Remedios worked as a Cashier for the South Nyanza LNC (Local Native Council) — later renamed African District Council. He was a quiet and reserved individual whose conversation was minimal. All the same, he was a good host and certainly looked after me well. The arrangement was that I should stay_a few days with him — at least until such time as aa suitable Government quarter could be allocated to me. I felt it would be pointless bringing the whole family over until I had first secured accommodation.
Kisii was the headquarters of the South Nyanza district — a very large district, judging from the number of staff attached to the D.C’s office. There was the D.C, a senior DO (referred to as DO 1), then the DO/E (Eastern), DO/W (Western) and DO (Nyamira — Kisii Highlands). In addition there were three District Assistants — one D.A (Boma), l D.A (Office Supt.) and the DRO (District Revenue officer). The D.C when I arrived at Kisii was a man with the personality of a headmaster — by the name of Jack Wolff (it was he who was one of my examiners at the oral part of the Standard Swahili examination, when he was D.C at Eldoret). The man I was immediately responsible to was a young Englishman by the name of Paul Massey. He was fairly new to Kenya and struck me as being very immature. His position was that of Office Superintendent.
I have previously referred to the urgency attached to my posting, which meant that there was no time for a proper hand over to be conducted at either end. I found the district clerk’s office at Kisii in utter chaos when I arrived. I had never before been accustomed to working in such conditions, and decided that my first priority would be to get some measure of order. What used to upset me most was the constant thoroughfare of all and sundry in the clerks’ office. It took me a while to establish who my own staff and the district office staff were, and who were members of the general public!
To achieve what I had in mind, I asked the D.C if it would be possible to have a large counter built so that members of the public could be excluded from the main office, and be attended to over the counter. This would eventually result in greater efficiency, and would certainly cut out the free access to the district clerk’s office of unauthorized personnel. Once the counter was built, the staff would be able to concentrate on their respective jobs unhindered as opposed to the old situation where a strange mixture of people, with an equally assorted number of shauris, would stroll freely through the office, while in another corner, the local Kisii gruel-vendor was doing a brisk trade doling out bowlfuls of hot gruel to some of the staff. While I had no objections whatsoever to their having a bowl of that delicious wimbi porridge during the day, the constant toing and froing certainly disrupted the smooth running of the office. My staff at the time consisted of an assistant District clerk and two typists. The Kisii clerk, Patrick, who did all the clerical work for the African courts, also shared our offices; he always had a constant stream of people, some wanting to pay court fines, others waiting for him to type out the necessary warrants which would admit them to prison. In the latter case, such individuals were always brought under police escort.
One morning, I called all my staff together and explained what I had in mind. Paul Massey, whose job it really was to organize this side of things, didn’t seem very interested and rather left it all to me. The arrangement was that my assistant, Onyango, would have an office next door to mine with a connecting door to provide easy access between our two offices. It would be his job to attend to members of the public over the new counter, and then direct them to me or the appropriate district officer/assistant. The typists were to be housed in a separate office next door to my assistant’s. I had also explained to the two office boys (Nyamwencha and Domnic) what I now expected of them. It was as much their responsibility to see that members of the public did not enter the main clerks’ offices unless there was a very real reason for them to be there. I gave each of the staff some share in the responsibility, and this in itself made them welcome the changes I was introducing. I too felt more comfortable to see the office gradually take shape and look more like an office than the shambles it previously was!
Although I had left a very detailed handing-over report with the District Officer at Marsabit, I was surprised to learn, from a telegram received from the Ministry of African Affairs in Nairobi (no doubt at the request of the P.C. Isiolo and D.C. Marsabit) — that I be sent back to Marsabit to conduct a full scale hand over. Mr. Wolff, the D.C. at Kisii strongly resisted the request, and even went so far as to inform the Establishment Officer at the Ministry how pleased he was with me. To quote his own words, “In the short time he has been here, Mr. Maciel has already knocked my chaotic office into shape.” These remarks, coming from a man who I had hardly got to know well enough, were very encouraging indeed and I was pleased to know that my efforts had been appreciated. My ego was boosted even further when the D.C. called me into his office one evening to personally congratulate me and thank me for what I had achieved in such a short space of time. The encouragement I received made me all the more determined to maintain high standards at work. I now had an office to myself — with a connecting door which gave me access to both my assistant and also the typing pool. Gordon Orinda, who was my assistant before Onyango took over, had left earlier to enter politics. He was contesting the parliamentary seat for South Nyanza alongside Lawrence Oguda (who eventually won the elections).
Onyango was a very capable clerk, and together we kept the district office running very smoothly.The Government quarter I had been allocated was in need of urgent redecoration, and I had hoped, especially in view of Conrad’s condition, that this could be done before the family arrived. I had asked the D.O. 1 (Mr. Holford-Walker) and the District Assistant Paul Massey to visit the house so that they could see its condition for themselves. I submitted the normal request for redecoration to the PWD, even though I was aware that I was asking for this job to be done well before the accepted 4-5year period. My request had the D.C.’s support, and even though the local Inspector of Works was not altogether keen on undertaking the job, he did (after inspecting the quarter himself) agree, and I must say that the whole house looked much cleaner and brighter when the redecoration was completed. Coming from Marsabit where we had a modern and well-maintained house, the housing at Kisii was something of a let down — especially since I had come to this station on promotion, and would have thought that the house would be in keeping with my grading, and of a slightly better standard.
Housing at Kisii, as in many other parts of Kenya, was still allocated on a racial basis –the Europeans occupying the best houses, the Asians, the second best, and the Africans the third best! The only exception as far as I can recall, was a quarter in the European residential area, which had been allotted to the Indian Medical Officer (DrSood). He was married to an Englishwoman. The two African Assistant District Officers also had ‘superior’ type quarters, but again, in the African residential area. Regrettably, I have to record that when it came to housing, and especially the redecoration of houses, there was always a problem if an Asian or African house needed attention. Besides, the Asian and African staff never had any choice when it came to colour schemes, with the result that the general decor and choice of colour schemes for some of these houses left much to be desired.
Although I had felt that the family should now join me, I had still not decided on transport arrangements. The African bus service to Kisumu would be far too cumbersome, especially for Conrad, and I finally resigned myself to hiring a private taxi, regardless of the cost. I had already asked Elsie to stand by to move to Kisii at any time and as Conrad himself was improving slightly, I felt that the journey from Kitale to Kisii should be made in some comfort. I was granted a few days’ leave to get down to Kitale, and on arrival there made arrangements for a taxi to take us all back; admittedly the cost was prohibitive, but there was no alternative in the circumstances. As good luck would have it, an old friend of my in-laws, and a man who had served for many years as Revenue Officer at Kitale, had called to wish Elsie goodbye. Major ‘Sammy’ Weller, though old, was a very active man and ran a mixed farm at Cherengani where he had a considerable acreage under cultivation — mostly coffee and maize. “Mr. Weller” (as we always referred to him) had known Elsie since she was a young girl and had a great regard for her. When he heard of our plight over transport and the high fare I had agreed to pay for the taxi, he immediately came to our rescue and offered to drive us down to Kisii in his own car. I just couldn’t believe this, but was grateful for his offer which I readily accepted.
Since, the journey to Kisii, via Kakamega and and Kisumu would be too much for a man of his age, I had suggested that he should spend the night with us at Kisii and perhaps leave the following morning. He was quite welcome to stay on for a few more days if he so wished. He was very glad of the invitation, and we eventually arranged to leave on the Monday morning. As for luggage, we had only two suitcases to take along and now that I had a Government house, made arrangements for my baggage to be transported by MessrsNoormohamedMangia of Marsabit since most of my heavy baggage was still in the D.C’s store there. My mother-in-law decided to accompany us on the journey to Kisii, and in a way I was pleased about this, especially since she would be a great source of comfort to Elsie who had already suffered a great deal as a result of Conrad’s continued ill health.
We left Kitale early on that Monday morning, travelling at a steady speed through Kakamega and stopping briefly en route at Kisumu. The 75-mile drive from Kisumu to Kisii took just under two hours. It was certainly a long trip and we were all quite tired when we arrived at Kisii later that afternoon. Despite the limited accommodation we had, we managed to make Mr. Weller as comfortable as possible. He was a very easy guest who could adapt to any situation. He settled down comfortably that night and after spending a day with us, he and my mother-in-law left for Kitale. I couldn’t thank him enough for his kindness.
Although Kisii had a cool and damp climate, the area around the township, and especially the Kisii highlands, must surely have been one of the richest agricultural areas I’ve known as far as African farming was concerned (I use the term ‘African farming’ since only Europeans were allowed to farm in the ‘White Highlands’ in those days). A large area of the Kisii highlands was planted out to coffee, and later through help from the agricultural department, the local farmers were even encouraged to grow tea, which they did very successfully. In the warmer regions of the district, not far from Lake Victoria, some of the best fruit was grown notably pawpaw and custard apples. The Kisii also grew a fair amount of bananas, and during the period I was stationed there, it was possible to buy a whole cluster of sun-ripe bananas for about Shs.1/- from the local African market or the many fruit vendors who often hawked their produce around the houses of the Government staff. A few miles outside Kisii, on the road to Kisumu, at a place called Oyugis, some of the best ground-nuts were grown.
On the domestic front, we had taken on a Kisii lad to look after Conrad. His job was really to carry Conrad about and keep the poor child amused. Elsie tackled all the other house hold chores and also did the gardening and in no time at all, we were able to boast of a very attractive and colourful garden, a lush green lawn, and even a home which, thanks to Elsie’s good sense of taste, had been beautifully decorated and adequately furnished. Although the house had been
decorated a short time ago, the colour schemes were far from pleasing, and we decided that the only way out of this was to buy the paint privately ourselves. This is precisely what we did, and it was nice to be able to paint the walls and doors in a colour that matched some of the furnishings around. Elsie even managed to get one of the local Kisii craftsmen to make us a three-piece lounge suite from the cane that this region is noted for. The rustic-carved, garden-type of chairs were very common in Kisii and could be bought for around Shs.5/-. Elsie wanted the sofa to be equally simple, and though the craftsman had never made anything like this previously, he was quite willing to ‘have a go’. We were delighted to see the finished product after a few weeks; Elsie spray painted the entire furniture in a light shade of pink so as to blend with the general decor of our lounge. Little by little, we bought the other items we needed, including a paraffin-run refrigerator.
Because of the added strain on Elsie as a result of Conrad’s condition, we now took on aMkisii houseboy by the name of Simeon. Between him and the ‘mtoto’ (John Kebasso), they managed to cope with the various jobs around the house. With his condition showing little improvement, it was necessary for Elsie to spend a lot of time with Conrad, often carrying him for hours on end. When I returned from work each evening, I would relieve her to some extent by taking Conrad over, and trying my best to help with what sometimes became a desperate situation. Clyde, somehow sensing the demands on our time, managed to amuse himself in the garden by getting one of the domestic staff to play with him. John Kebasso was quite young himself, and so enjoyed spending his free time with Clyde. On occasions when Conrad had a ‘brighter’ day, Clyde would always expect him to play with him, little realizing then that the poor child was so restricted in the amount of exertion or exercise he could take.
Whenever possible, and the Kisii weather permitting, we would get out and go for walks. On all such outings, we had to carry Conrad along since a pram or push chair were of no avail. His heart condition meant that he always wanted to be held in the upright position whenever he was awake.
In the short time we had been in the district, we had made many friends. The Europeans had their own club and kept very much to themselves. They also used the Kisii Hotel, a typical English inn type of establishment. The Asians had recently formed a club which they called the South Nyanza Sports Club. Its consititution was multi-racial and its members consisted mainly of local Asians from the business community, some from the civil service and other commercial organizations in the town. Justin D’Souza who worked for the transporters, Gethin& Dawson, was a popular member of the club and he and his wife (Grace) frequented it fairly regularly. Dr N.D. Chaudhri, the private and ever-popular medical practitioner, was another regular at the club, as was my old friend Germano Gomes. The only non-Asian members of the club were Senior Chief Musa Nyandusi of Nyaribari location — who was its Vice-President, and Chief ZachariaAseda of the Kisii highlands. The President was DrChaudhri. There was not much of indoor activity at the clubhouse – not for me at any rate, since most of those who frequented the place normally played various card games (unfortunately, l have never been a lover of card games ever since my childhood days!) Outdoor activities included hockey and cricket and fixtures were organized with the Government African school and also the Goan Institute at Kisumu.
In addition to the Goan and other Asians employed in the civil service, there were three other Goan families at Kisii. Prominent among these was Mrs. Mascarenhas, an elderly and well-spoken lady who, like Major Gethin, was one of the early pioneers in this part of Nyanza. She must have been in her sixties when we were there. The others consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Justin D’Souza who I have referred to earlier. Justin, although once an employee of the Administration, was now employed by Messrs. Gethin& Dawson. Mr. John D’Souza worked for the African Highlands Tea Company, and like Justin D’Souza, he and his family were provided with decent housing free of charge. The furniture they were provided with was far superior to that supplied by the Kenya P.W.D. Another asset was that they were provided with indoor sanitation which the Government Asian quarters lacked. Indoor sanitation made all the difference, and I could hardly believe that coming from the wilds of Marsabit , where the sanitation was understandably primitive initially (we later had indoor sanitation), the Asian clerical staff at Kisii were still using the old bucket-type of system. For this job, the Administration employed a handful of sweepers recruited mainly from the Embu and Mwea-Tebere areas of the Central Province. I considered the whole system to be unhygienic.
The John D’Souzas, who had two daughters, were good friends of ours. Being mobile, they were able to show us some of the beautiful countryside around this vast district. Kisii had more than its fair share of rainfall and this no doubt accounted for the greenery around the whole township and adjoining areas. There was never any shortage of fresh produce, and the weekly market was well stocked with fruit and vegetables of varying kinds – all at very reasonable prices. Eggs were plentiful, so too poultry, and many of the locals would bring their produce for sale at the houses of the Asian staff. I recall buying some of the best pawpaws and pineapples here and very cheaply too. Conrad’s condition was unpredictable. There were days when he appeared quite normal and fit, but this condition would deteriorate very suddenly and without the slightest warning. It is because of this peculiar situation that we were unable to plan anything, particularly outings, in advance. This was, in some respects, very unfortunate, and added to the pressures already on us. On occasions when the D’Souza family would drive us to the nearby highlands location of Manga, the whole trip would prove such a relaxing experience. The air in and around the highlands was so bracing, and the lush and neatly laid out shambas of the local Kisii farmers presented a very soothing spectacle.
In addition to the Provincial Administration, there was a fairly well staffed agricultural department at Kisii, a veterinary department, public works department and even a Resident Magistrate’s Court, not forgetting the Kenya Police Divisional Headquarters. There were also the co-operative and marketing departments (this last establishment coming under the control of the Maize Marketing Board). The co-operative department, whose Accountant was a Goan named Alick P. H. D’Souza, played a great part in encouraging local farmers to start and manage their own co-operatives. There was also the Local Native Council (LNC for short, and later renamed ADC — African District Council). The District Commissioner was President of the LNC and the Secretary during my tour at Kisii was a very tall and well-built Luo by the name of Paul Mboya.
For his services with the council, he was later awarded the M.B.E. The Treasurer was an Englishman — Joe England, and the Cashier, Mr. Remedios, the gentleman I stayed with when I first arrived at Kisii. On the education front, the township was well served for schools — there was a well-run Government African school and a Government-aided Asian school. In the district as a whole, there was a very high number of schools run, in the main, by the various missionaries.
Work-wise, I found myself involved in a variety of jobs which were, strictly speaking, those of the Office Superintendent. Paul Massey was not very happy at his job, and this resulted in fairly frequent absences from work owing to illness, brought about no doubt through lack of job satisfaction. On such occasions I was always asked to step into the breach and run the office administration side of things, in addition to my own duties as district clerk. Paul had very much wanted an outdoor job – he liked to go on safari, get involved in some of the decision making, etc. He had seen many a young District Officer command considerable authority, and I feel that his exclusion from this élite cadre must have been partly to blame for his attitude at work. His colleague, Ray Hawes, the Revenue Officer, did a considerable amount of travelling as part of his job since South Nyanza was a very vast district, and one of the main jobs of theD.RO was to organize tax collection throughout the district.
The District headquarters at Kisii housed not just the district office, but also the Resident Magistrate’s Court and offices. Mr. R. M. Bainbridge, an elderly New Zealander was Resident Magistrate at the time. When he retired, he was replaced by Mr. J. McEvoy. The revenue office was situated in a separate block, and Ray Hawes’s staff included Germano Gomes (the Cashier), Robert Ouko (revenue clerk) and the two tax clerks. Robert was a brilliant young Luo, very studious and hard working. Within a short time he had won a scholarship to study in Ethiopia. He did so well in later years, and became a very important and trusted figure in MzeeJomo Kenyatta’s government, rising to become Kenya’s Foreign Minister.
There was much opportunity for sport at Kisii, and as a member of the South Nyanza Sports Club, I sometimes represented them at friendly cricket and hockey matches against staff and students of the Government African school, and even accompanied the cricket team whenever we played against the Goan Institute at Kisumu. On some of our free weekends, we would accompany the D’Souza family to nearby Kendu Bay on Lake Victoria or some of the neighbouring regions like Riana and Asumbi. At Asumbi there was a very flourishing Catholic mission run by the Mill Hill fathers. The district as a whole was well served for schools and hospitals — all run by missionaries of different denominations. At Kendu Bay, the Seventh Day Adventists ran a very popular and well-patronized hospital, staffed at senior level by Americans. This hospital was a great boon to the many people who lived around the area, and also to other residents of Kisii who preferred the services of a private hospital to those available at the Native Civil Hospital at Kisii. On our trips to Kendu Bay, we would use the Government guest-house as our base; most of the day would be spent fishing at the nearby pier and returning to Kisii late in the evening with quite a sizeable catch of fresh lake fish.
During our stay at Kisii, we were also fortunate in visiting the Macalder Mines which employed a very large number of Africans. On one such trip to this area, we called at the residence of an elderly Goan couple — Mr. and Mrs. Mascarenhas (no relation of that pioneering woman, Mrs. Mascarenhas of Kisii). This couple ran a small duka at a place called Sakwa in the heart of the African reserve. They had been in the area for quite a few years, and I admired their courage in sticking it out alone in this area. They were well liked by the locals since theirs was the only non-African duka in Sakwa at the time (as far as I can recollect anyway). We were very touched by the hospitality they extended us especially since our visit had been unannounced.
There were several Catholic missions in the district, and the one nearest us was at Nyabururu. Here, a Dutch priest, Jac Van der Weyden was in charge, assisted by two other priests, all from the Mill Hill order. The church itself was very large and was always full of people on Sundays and other holy days. The local Mkisii would travel long distances to get to church, many of them in their Sunday best
Owing to the distance of Nyabururu from Kisii boma, a long-standing arrangement was in operation whereby one of the priests came out to say Mass at Kisii once a month. At this Mass, which was held in a small chapel not far from the Asian residential area, the majority of the congregation consisted of Goans, with a sprinkling of Europeans and Africans. I was never really able to find out why – but for some unknown reason, the task of entertaining the visiting priest always fell to the Goans! A rota system was devised and in this way the priest got to meet all the Goans on the station. Why only the Goans I shall never know — perhaps the missionaries knew where to come when they needed help!
My chapter on Kisii would be incomplete were I not to mention two pioneers who I have briefly referred to earlier. One of these was Major Richard Gethin who, in the early days travelled throughout the district on foot I Through sheer. determination, hard work and an enterprising spirit, he set up a very successful and thriving transport business in Kisii. The firm of Gethin& Dawson was well known in the district, and when Major Gethin retired many years later, the business was taken over by his son. The other pioneer was a woman, and a Goan at that! Mrs. Mascarenhas was a grand old lady who had dared to go out and live in some of the rural areas aroundKisii and run her business. She had a shop at Riana and in addition owned property in Kisii township itself. Old age had forced her to give up activities and she later took up residence in Kisii town. She was a pleasant, well-educated and determined woman. Both she and Major Gethin were highly respected members of their respective communities and in the district generally.
There was a great deal to see in and around Kisii, but not being mobile it was difficult to cover the many interesting areas of this vast district. Elsie and I had often talked about buying a car more so because of Conrad. With a car, we felt that we could at least take Conrad out for a drive and thereby provide a change of scene and air both for him and also a much needed break for us both and Clyde too. Because of financial limitations, we could never think of buying a new car; besides, with no knowledge whatsoever of motor mechanics, I would sooner have had a brand new car than an old ‘banger’. Through Ray Hawes (the Revenue Officer), I had heard that the Resident Magistrate, Mr. Bainbridge, who was shortly to retire – intended to sell his car prior to proceeding on leave. His was virtually a brand new car, in immaculate condition, and used mostly on the home to office run and rarely on long distance trips. This would be the ideal buy, but could we really afford this ‘newish’ car? In the interests of Conrad, we had decided to sacrifice all. The problem was how to approach the Bainbridges about the possibility of our buying their car; even though I knew the couple (and Mrs. Bainbridge worked as the D.C’s secretary), I could not bring myself to ask if we could buy their car. When he heard of my interest. Ray Hawes immediately agreed to act as a go-between. He soon found out that not only were they happy to sell the car to me, but had even offered to let me come down to see and test drive it, and if the price and terms were favourable, to buy it! The testing of the car was hardly necessary since it was in immaculate condition throughout.
Later that afternoon, Mr. Bainbridge and I met and agreed on the price; the only snag was that I did not have the ready cash available, but had the necessary funds to meet the cost in my Post Office Savings account. These funds were accumulated partly from the share I had inherited from my late father’s estate, and partly from the little we were able to save. Buying the car would mean sacrificing our entire savings, but as I have already said, we were prepared to do this in the interests of giving Conrad that little bit extra in the shape of comfort.
Ray Hawes did well from the sale deal since the Bainbridges compensated him with two bottles of Scotch for introducing us. He deserved this and we were very pleased for him. After I handed Mr. Bainbridge our Post Office Savings book and a withdrawal warrant which he would cash in Nairobi, he parted with the car, and from the Kisii Hotel where they were staying, I drove home. Despite all our problems with Conrad, we were all so delighted that we had now become the proud owners of a little Morris Minor saloon – colour leaf green, reg. no. KFJ 910. Even Conrad smiled shyly as we all got into our latest acquisition and drove off to the D’Souza family to tell them about it. Everyone seemed pleased that we had bought a car and a fairly new one at that. I had learnt to drive on one of the Government trucks at Voi, but never really applied for a licence or took a test. No one ever questioned the D.C’s staff; it was always assumed that if we drove, we obviously had a licence! l decided to regularize the whole situation by applying for and taking my test. The Police Inspector who examined applicants was a very strict type of person and I was told that one of the Catholic missionaries had failed three times at the hands of this examiner. It must have been my lucky day, since I passed the test at the first attempt. Many of my friends were surprised over this especially since Inspector Cassells had a reputation of failing first-time applicants. With the added confidence I had now gained on passing my test, I decided that we should take a trip to my in-laws at Kitale to show off our good -as -new car. When we got there, they were all so pleased for us. We spent the weekend with them, returning to Kisii late on Sunday afternoon.