So in 1951, my father took up the job in Kenya. Leaving my mother, my two brothers and myself in England, he joined two other men in Murka in Kenya. One of the men had lost his arms when he was run over by a steam roller as a child, but there wasn’t anything that he couldn’t do.
There was nothing there when they arrived. They made habitation of sorts from the packing cases that the machines came in. And eventually they built better accommodation.
My father had been in Kenya for two years before the accommodation was suitable for my mother and brothers to join them. We didn’t see my father at all during this time.
He was on the point of returning to the UK if the family didn’t join him so he wrote to my mother and suggested that they bring Dorothy (my mother’s sister) with them. (In those days it took up to six weeks for a letter to reach England as mail went via sea).
My mother didn’t want to go, but we had a lovely parish priest in Luton who said it would be a wonderful opportunity for the children and this along with Dorothy’s decision to also come, was what persuaded her.
I was 13 and Brian was 16. He had left school, and was working on a farm in Toddington, near Luton. We were both very excited at the prospect of moving to Kenya, although we couldn’t imagine what it was like. By coincidence Tony was already in Mombasa as he had been posted there in the military police.
My father arranged for all of my mothers personal possessions and furniture to be crated up and sent to Kenya so that she would be made to feel at home. Unfortunately they arrived in the rainy season and the Kenya customs opened the crates and didn’t fasten them properly so that by the time the crates were transported to Murka six weeks later the water had destroyed everything inside. The sewing machine, which was her pride and joy had rusted. My mother burst into tears.
However, there was a catholic priest who worked not far from Murka and he was training young lads as carpenters, so he took all the remains of the furniture to his workshop and he did a fantastic job and salvaged as much as they could.
Life at Murka was quite primitive, and since there was no local school, I went to a boarding convent in Nairobi, which I hated, so that only added to my mother’s worries and difficulties in settling in Kenya. I was very homesick and it never got any better. As a result of this experience, I vowed I would never send the girls to boarding school, and so when we travelled with the UN I was determined that they would go to the local schools.
Two years later aged 18, I left school in Nairobi. My father did a four years contract, and then had six months off, and since my mother hadn’t been very well and needed a hysterectomy they went back to England, and I travelled to the UK on my own.
On returning to Kenya, my father got a four-year contract with the PWD (Public Works Department) in Mombasa and we moved to Changamwe, a suburb of Mombasa. By this time my mother had settled in Kenya and was quite happy to return.
My father was usually out at work all week at Mararai, which was the source of the water that was piped to Mombasa.
One Sunday morning at Mass one of the nuns recognised that I was an old girl from Lorretto Convent in Nairobi and asked me if I could assist with the young children. I only did this for about three months before we were attacked during the Mau Mau.