My father William Daniel (Bill), was born in a terraced house in Brighton on the 3rd January 1925, a cold winters day. His brother George was only 15 months older than he was. It must have been a great shock to all the family who lived close by when his mother Edith died three weeks later of puerperal septicaemia. One can only imagine the anguish. All the family tried to help as much as they could, and his aunt Cissie wanted to take him to live with her. However, she did not feel she could manage George as well. Bill’s father, William Edward, did not want the children separated, and it must have been with relief, and some hesitation that he accepted his mother Jane’s offer to take care of both the children, aided by her daughter Edie. Jane, the matriarchal grandmother, was 73 years old at that time, and Edie was over 40, so it was quite and undertaking for them. Also living with them was Bob, Edie’s son who was 16 and had just started work at the time.
I think that Bill and George had a happy upbringing. Their father was living nearby, and Jane had a large family who were constantly in touch with her, so consequently Bill was at the centre of a large lively family group. All Jane’s children came to visit her, bringing their children with them, so that Billy and George knew all their cousins well, and as a result of this Bill was in touch with almost all of them for the rest of his life. He and George both attended Ditchling Road Infants School, and then the Junior School until they were the age of 11. George then went on to Varndean Grammar School, but Billy went to the Intermediate School in Brighton. He was the Head Boy, and the brightest student in the Junior School, but failed to pass the exam to the grammar school. Perhaps it was nerves, we shall never know, but Bill was to say later that he received the best possible education for his future career at the school he went to.
Having left school he started work as a junior clerk in Tamplins Brewery, where one of his jobs was to make sure that the pint samples of beer were ready in the Board Room for the Directors. The brewery was not to his liking, however, and he soon found work with Southern Railways. He remained with them until he left to join the army. At the end of his employment there he was working at Redhill, planning train and staff movements and timetables. As this was during the war, when the railway lines were often bombed and there was a shortage of staff, it must have been a very responsible position for a lad of 18!
He joined the Royal Engineers as a private, and ended as a Warrant Officer. He landed in France just after D-Day, and spent some months organising the beaches at Arromanches where the landings had taken place and where all the supplies for the army were being brought in, before moving on to Calais, where he helped run the docks for two years. I am sure that he enjoyed his spell in the army (apart from one or two frightening encounters with the enemy), and I regret not asking him more about his war experiences. Since most of my friends had fathers who had served in the war, it didn’t seem anything special to me at the time.
However, I have found a number of letters written in 1943/4 by Bill to his school friend Dave, at the time both were called up to serve in the army.
To download a transcript of these letters – click – Letters from Bill
Working in London
He was finally demobilised from the army in 1947 or 1948, and decided against going back to work for the railways. However, one of his army friends, Harry Andrews, worked in an office in London, and when Bill heard that there was a vacancy there he applied and got a job in the secretarial department of Grey Dawes and Partners. Working under Oliver Brooks, a Company Secretary for a number of businesses in the Gulf and Far East, he picked up the rudiments of accounting. The experience he gained from Oliver meant he later on he was the obvious choice for a job of Company Secretary in Kenya.
Grey Dawes was an old established trading company, with dealings in India, the Middle East and East Africa. It was this partnership which was to be transformed into the multi-national trading company of Inchcape and Co. Back in 1948, though, it was almost Dickensian, with offices in old buildings, with high desks to work at and open coal fires for heating. My father was thrown in at the deep end, and put into the Secretarial Department looking after the interests of various companies, and the family trusts of the Inchcape family, which amounted to millions even in those days. He learned and survived! At this time he was still living at home in Ashdown Road, and commuting each day to London by train.
Meeting my mother
In 1953 he met and married my mother, Joan. My mother came from a Brighton family and was in fact, living in Princes Road which was only half a mile away from the Goddards, although until then they had never met. They became engaged to be married within six weeks of meeting each other, and married within the year at St Mathias Church, Ditchling Road, Brighton on the 7th November 1953.
Although the war had been over for 8 years, life was still quite difficult in England. Housing was very short, and ration books were still needed for certain foodstuffs. Joan and Bill were fortunate to find a flat for rent in a large Victorian house at 9 Buckingham Road, Brighton. It only had one bedroom, and the bath was in the kitchen, but the rooms were large, and they were lucky to get it. It also had the advantage of being near the station so that Bill could continue commuting with ease. Joan had been working in a diary laboratory, but because that involved unsociable hours, she changed her job and worked at the local Youth Employment Bureau until they moved away from Brighton.
Life continued very happily for them. When Joan became pregnant with my brother David, they managed to find enough money for the deposit on a house at 11 Queens Drive, Hassocks and moved there in September 1955. David was born on Boxing Day that year and I was born on 6th June 1958.
Emigrating to Kenya in June 1959
There were two main reasons that my father applied for the job in Kenya, the first was that commuting from Hassocks to London Bridge every day not only was not only becoming tedious, but that it meant he was seeing little of us children. Secondly, I believe he also happened to see a confidential report about his promotional prospects in the London office which he found discouraging. He decided to do something about it.
He went out to Kenya to take up the job of a Company Secretary, but in fact was given the position of an accountant, as the incumbent Roddy Machin refused to vacate the position. He didn’t seem to mind being an this, although he hadn’t received any formal accountancy training, but had managed to acquire the necessary skills back in London as he was naturally bright.
The set up in Mombasa at the time was that there was a large expatriate population of employees, about 50 -60 men working in shipping predominantly and a number on the administrative side who were general clerks. Above them would have been 10 or 12 General Managers responsible for various aspects of the business, and then the board of directors. Quite an old fashioned arrangement by today’s standards.
At that time, the company head office for the whole of Africa was in Mombasa. In 1966 the centre of trade was moving away from its origins of shipping in Mombasa to Nairobi as the company beginning to expand into other areas. As well as being shipping agents for BI (British India), and undertaking the wharfage for cargo at the harbour, including a dry dock, Smith McKenzie’s now operated a Ford car dealership in Nairobi, an Automobile Assembly factory and owned tea estates near Mount Kenya, amongst other concerns. My father was part of head office, so had to move to Nairobi. The transition was made easier since the houses in Nairobi were more european in style, the lifestyle was more cosmopolitan and the climate more temperate. In addition David and I were at boarding school in Nairobi, and my father’s cousin Len Everett also lived there.
He wasn’t in Nairobi long, before he was made a General Manager, which meant his salary went up from £1,500 to £2,500 per annum, which was a big rise. When the Financial Director of MacKenzie (Kenya) Ltd. a man called Roy Hepburn retired, he was promoted to the position.
In July 1976 he was appointed the to the board of Inchcape (East Africa) Ltd, and assumed responsibilities of that company for East Africa. Inchcape (East Africa) Ltd was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Inchcape and Co, Ltd., London.
Eventually he was made the Inchcape Group’s representative for the whole of East Africa, which meant he had oversight of all the companies from Ethiopia to Zanzibar. This meant he travelled quite a lot, and Joan would go with him. They also had to entertain quite a lot, which my mother found tedious. It was nothing to go out to two drinks parties and then dinner in a single evening. Every year my parents would host a new years day party of 80 – 90 people. The catering was done by the hotel that my mother was working for, The New Stanley, who used to grumble as the staff had been working until the very small hours the night before.
My mother had done a secretarial course when she left school, although she had never actually worked as a secretary. In 1966 she decided to return to work and was employed by an agency. She could still remember how to write shorthand, but at first had to get someone else to read it, as she couldn’t decipher what she had written! It was through the agency that she ended up working for the New Stanley Hotel, and struck a very good arrangement with them that meant she didn’t have to work in the school holidays. When I was at boarding school, birthday cakes would arrive for me made by the top chef at the hotel! She worked there until 1971.
In about 1975 the chairman of McKenzies was summoned to meet President Jomo Kenyatta. He returned to the office ashen faced, and reported to my father that the President’s nephew wanted to have a controlling interest in the company, now trading as McKenzie Dalgety. Subsequently, the President’s nephew took over as Chairman of the company although he never paid for any shares whatsoever. After a couple of years, his interest in the business waned and he approached Inchcape, (the parent company), with a proposal that they buy him out. I remember my father having a stressful meeting at our house, where armed with a lawyer, he met the nephew, and the President’s son Uhuru (who is now the current Kenya President), and negotiated how much the company would have to pay in order to regain control of the business that was rightfully theirs.
Learning from this episode Inchcape started to greatly reduced their business in Kenya. This was one of the factors that influenced my father’s decision to retire aged 55.
Back to their roots
Leaving England in 1959, neither of my parents intended to return to the UK. However after a few years in colonial Kenya they began to realise that they were probably quite happy to work there for a duration and then return to England. When the country gained independence on December 12th 1963, life initially continued much as it had done before, although over the next few years there were a few high profile political assassinations and an attempted coup. This made them realise that they needed to have roots back in the UK if and when they decided return, so in 1973 or thereabouts they bought a small flat in Caisters Close in Hove. A few years later they sold the flat and bought a bungalow at 70 Woodland Avenue, Hove. At the time of Bill’s retirement, they had moved to 42 Shirley Drive and then later 54 Shirley Drive.
The decision to retire and move back to the UK in 1979 was very much fuelled by the difficulties my parents were experiencing in taking money out of Kenya. Financial exchange controls imposed by the Kenyan government had for years meant that my parents could only exchange a limited amount of Kenya shillings into sterling. Suddenly, and with little notice, the government made a law that if you had been transferring money outside of the country for more than ten years, then you couldn’t do it anymore. My father decided that he wasn’t going to stand for this, and determined to retire before the end of that year. As things turned out, a number of years after they left Kenya, the country needed to apply for funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), who stipulated that as part of the bail out, that these restrictions would need to cease. During the last ten years in Kenya, my father’s health had deteriorated and he had developed stomach ulcers. He had a major operation which was designed to cut acid secretion to his stomach, something which today is treated by medication, or at worse by key hole surgery. Whether it was this that in later years developed in cancer of the esophagus is hard to say, but I am sure it is related.
My father had worked for the same company for 32 years from 1947 to 1979. Returning to Hove, he ran a recruitment company with a friend who had lived in Mombasa, supplying technicians and engineers to work on a desalination plant in Libya. I well remember that he had a state of the art ‘Telex’ machine, which with the aid of punch tape, could transmit a message to a printer in Libya.
He had a happy and fulfilling retirement of eleven years enjoying gardening and researching his family tree, until his untimely death from cancer of the esophagus in June 1990. He will always be terribly missed.