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february/march 2016 travel news 57
After a courtesy call to the Chief Officer’s home nearby we headed on, parking beside
a new-looking church. The vicar accompanied us on down a muddy path beside fields
of maize and beans, his chatter interspersed by the lowing and bleating of cows and
sheep. After we’d passed some very tumbledown out-buildings we stopped at the long,
low bungalow lurking in a tangle of encroaching undergrowth, its tin roof rusting and
white paint chipping off its walls.
There was a brass plaque beside a scratched green door. “To the glory of God and for
the care of his children. This house Karima the gift of Humphrey and Menina Slade and
their children was dedicated on 21st March 1964 by Neville Bishop of Nakuru.”
The house seemed abandoned although the door was padlocked. Another side door
was open revealing abandoned school desks, the floors beneath them sinking beneath
dusty heaps of paper and dung. There were marks on the walls where wooden panels
had been ripped out and replaced with graffiti, broken windows and ceiling boards
adding to the mess. One room had a surviving panelled cupboard, now painted a lurid
shade of blue. I walked around the outside; a black cow with a white bow-shaped mark
on its forehead stood near a broken wall that could have once been part of an outside
The house was attractively-shaped, looking along the Aberdares towards the Kinangop.
I peered through a grimy window into another locked room with a lovely brick fireplace,
large wooden beams and an sturdy wooden door. Here, in the Slade’s old living room,
more desks were scattered about randomly, and pieces of paper and torn books littered
the dusty wooden floor as if the pupils had left school in a hurry.
As it happens I was taught English by one of Humphrey Slade’s sons, Nigel. I’d been in
touch with the late Nigel’s brother Laurie in 2014 while researching my book Hillcrest: A
History. Laurie, the youngest of Humphrey and Menina’s four children, happened to be
reading my book on Happy Valley at the time and wrote back enthusiastically. “In 1966
I stayed with a friend at Ol Kalou who was a settlement officer, and we visited some
of the houses you describe before the farms had been resettled, including Clouds. My
parents knew Idina of course but did not share her (a)moral code! And my father was
executor to Lord Erroll’s estate. We lived in Karen and my mother maintains she heard
the shot that killed Erroll when up with my sister as a baby in the dead of night!”
Humphrey Slade, I learned, had emigrated to Kenya as a lawyer in 1930 and became
a partner in the Nairobi law firm Hamilton Harrison & Mathews. Menina had arrived in
Kenya in 1925, with her parents. Humphrey became active in Kenya politics, increasingly
advocating closer inter-racial collaboration. The die was cast at a constitutional
conference in London in 1960 when the count-down began for Independence, with
Humphrey among the small group of white politicians embracing black rule and multi-
racial policies wholeheartedly. After independence he became a Kenya citizen and the
first Speaker of the House in the National Parliament, a position he held until 1970.
This plaque is on a bench which stands in Addison's Walk, Magdalen College, Oxford.
We drove on again towards Geta, past green fields and an old stable block, now a girls
school, arriving at another low, tin-roofed, stone bungalow. According to the researchers
this was “Kimble’s house” built in the 1940’s and “occupied by Kimbo (a white settler)
who left the country in 1963”. Tim Hutchinson’s directory didn’t have any Kimbles or
Kimbos, although there was a Campbell listed in the greater Naivasha area: John (a
farm manager) and Mary Campbell had been around in 1936 - although their exact
location wasn’t specified. There were no Buttons either.
Through arched windows with elaborate wrought-iron bars I could see an inner
courtyard. Outside on the grass we were suddenly surrounded by people - farmers
in muddy gumboots, giggling women and children with hacking coughs. The Deputy
Speaker arrived and the swelling group listened to their Tourism Minister speak about
the importance of old colonial houses. Solomon tickled the tummy of a thin brown dog
while a couple of brown hens pecked loudly at an empty sufuria. Brightly coloured
washing hung along the fences like bunting, although the surrounding mountains were
hung with dark clouds heavy with rain.
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