Monday, February 2, 2009

Letter 1 From Kitale 10/10/1927

Alan has arrived at last at Kibomet Estate, after slow travel on the steamer and the Uganda Railway. Holbeck Feast was one of the many annual fairs in the Leeds district held on the last Sunday in October.

Kibomet Estate,
Kenya 10/10/1927

Darling Joyce,

Thank you very much, my darling daughter for the nice letter enclosed in Mummie’s of Sept 10th, it arrived yesterday.

Well Joyce dear, Dad has got safely to Kitale at last, after over a month of travelling by sea and on railway, of course it is not really such a great distance from Leeds to Kitale but the steamer goes only about 280 miles a day and the train on the Uganda railway often travels no faster than you could walk that is when it is climbing up the steep gradients from the town of Mombasa at the coast up into the Highland area where Kitale is, 7000 feet above sea level.
I am so glad to read that you and Mummy and Grandpa had a jolly time at Holbeck Feast . What a shame you did not get the Ten Shilling Note but we cannot always be on the winning side every time can we? Sometimes others get their chances too.
By the time the postman delivers this at your door with a Rap Rap! I expect Guy Fawkes Day will have arrived and I and sure Mummy will let you buy some Fireworks Catherine Wheels and Roman Candles & Golden Rains I think are the best, but there is good fun sometimes with a Jumping Cracker.
The weather at home will be too cold now for you to go to the Swimming Bath, but I expect such things as Dancing Lessons and getting ready for Speech Day will be interesting you now. I am glad to hear that Pat has not bitten Grandpa. I am afraid he is sometimes a very naughty and savage dog ! Soon all the shops in Boar Lane and Briggate will be decorating their windows for Christmas.
You must tell me all about it Darling, and about your Christmas Shopping

Write again soon to your loving Daddy XXXXXXXXXX

Monday, January 26, 2009

Return to Kenya, the Journey on SS Malda

It is such a long time since I posted here and many people have written to me in the intervening months with information or just appreciation of this record of Kenya in the 1920's. I even have a possible name for the young man sitting on the seed drill. I will try to combine all of them in a separate post but now it is time to resume the journey. Alan has been home...but not for long and there is no correspondence from the return journey to England. I would imagine he was in Leeds for only 4 or 5 months before retuning to Kenya to resume the work for Fowlers . This time aboard the SS Malda.

The SS Malda
Below are details and photos from the Shipping Times here

The Malda was built by Barclay Curle & Company Glasgow. Yard No 588.
Some details: Propulsion: steam, two 3 stage Brown Curtis turbines, 4320 bhp, 13 knots, twin screw.
Launched1921Built: 1922; Ship Type: Passenger Cargo Vessel;
Tonnage: 9066 grt: Length: 465 feet: Breadth: 58.3 feet: Draught: 33.5 feet:
Owner History:British India Steam Navigation Company Glasgow & London
Status: Bombed & Sunk - 06/04/1942

Ship the SS MALDA image contributes by John Ward~McQuaid,


The Letters

There are 4 letters from various ports on the journey aboard the SS Malda. They are interesting for the details of the animals on board and the hot and sweaty weather despite which, fancy dress parties were held in the evenings. Patrick, the dog at home, is still mentioned and my mother is constantly asked to " be helpful". The letters were written on headed notepaper. Below is an example from Letter 3.

Letter 1, Off Port Said , Stromboli, Dogs and the Safety of Ships.

SS Malda Off Port Said 15 /9/27
British India Steam Navigation Company Limited

My Darling Joyce

I am sorry I was not able to write to you from Marseilles but there is only one little writing desk on this ship for 2nd class passengers and so many people wanted to use it several days before we reached Marseilles that I was crowded out.
We had good weather and a calm sea across the Bay of Biscay with the exception of one day when the waves dashed over the prow of the ship and she rolled about a little. And one night there was a fog in the sea and the steam – whistle was being blown all night long.
On Tuesday we passed the Volcano Stromboli which was sending a plume of steam and smoke straight up into the sky at the base of this mountain there are a lot of little whitewashed cottages inhabited by fisher folk and their little boats go dancing over the waves surrounding the mountain.

Always try to make Mummy’s household life as easy as you can and when you grow up to be a young lady it will be a pleasure to you to remember that you did your best and are a blessing to both of us.
I expect Patrick is wondering where I have disappeared to. On this ship we have a Horse and a great many dogs, a Dalmatian, a Bullterrier and a Pekingese with long silky brown hair, this little dog does not like being cooped up aboard a ship and barks a great deal when the butcher comes to feed him.

Twice during this voyage we have had what is called Lifeboat drill, that is a practice at putting on the lifebelts which are provided in the passenger cabin, this is done just as a precaution in case of accident but really there is very little risk about ocean travel nowadays. It will be nightfall before we reach Port Said.
I hope you are getting on nicely at school Have you learned to swim yet swimming is such a healthy and useful thing to know, if the Malda stops at Suez I will write to you again from there.

Heaps of love to my darling Daughter

Letter 2, from Port Sudan, the Heat, Cranes and School.

Alan drew a sketch Map for Mum.

SS Malda 20/9/27
British India Steam Navigation Company limited
Port Sudan

My Darling Joyce,

If you look at a map of the Red Sea which is shaped something like this rough you will see a place about three quarters of the way down the western shore named Suakim or Port Sudan and this is where the “Malda” arrived at about five this mooring.
There are some excellent cranes of great lifting power here and it is an important railway centre for goods traffic but as for the town itself there is nothing attractive about it. It is encircled by naked mountains of dull red rock which make you perspire even to look at them. Nothing at all like the fresh green foliage of the highlands of Kenya.

We have had very hot weather day and night in our passage through the red Sea so hot that sleep was impossible and I think that most of the passengers are feeling worn out but soon we shall be round Guadalupe and in the Indian Ocean where there are usually cool breezes.

I am proud and glad to hear you have been moved up into the big school at Cockburn you will feel yourself quite a grown up girl now. When you next write to me please tell me something about your lessons and your sports. I wish you and Mummy were here with me in this clear air and sunshine but sometimes we cannot get just what we want in the world and have to make the best of what we can get, have we not?

I will write again either from Aden or Mombasa… remember me to Grandpa and Uncle Alec and Aunt Edith and Mr. and Mrs. Harrison and Mr. and Mrs. Barraclough.. I hope you are trying to help Mummy all you can.

Your loving Daddy.

Letter 3 off Aden. Heat, Dogs and Sharks.

British India Steam Navigation co Ltd
SS Malda
Off Aden

Darling Joyce.

Well my little girl here we are at last getting towards Aden and out of this hot Red Sea.
I am sure we shall all be very glad to leave it, the poor dogs on board pant all day long and hang their tongues out and the butcher comes every now and then and sluices cold water them.
It has been hotter this time in the Red Sea that I have known it before. When the train leaves Mombasa and begins to climb up into the Highlands then the air in the evening is cool and fresh and we all thankfully breathe it in and feel healthier.
Yesterday three sharks swam for a long tome behind the vessel. They have a triangular fin on their backs which juts out above the surface of the water.

You will be wearing your winter coat now I suppose and I have just an open necked white shirt on and khaki trousers and the perspiration is trickling down my whole body as I am writing. We had dancers on the deck in the evening when in the Mediterranean but it is too hot for them now.
I will write you again if possible from Mombasa,

Your loving Daddy


Letter 4 Off Mombasa, Fancy dress, Journey end

SS Malda, Off Mombasa
British India Steam Navigation Company Limited

My Darling Joyce

Well my dear little Girl we have at last got to the end of this long voyage and I am sure we shall all be glad to step ashore and walk about a greater distance than is permitted by the size of the ship.
Last night the passengers held a fancy dress ball some were dressed as Pierrot, one as a chef, one lady in an early Victorian crinoline and poke bonnet, one man went as a skeleton in a close fitting black dress with the white bones painted on it.
This morning the ship is heaving and rolling rather a lot which is a queer sensation to anyone trying to write a letter. I shall be so pleased to receive letters from you, write to me as often as you can and tell me all the news and how you are getting on at school you will have made friends with some nice playmates now I feel sure.

Soon Dad will be on the train climbing up through the Coconut groves and then the Cedar forests then out in to the open Plains of Kitale.
Help Mummy in every way you can my dearest Joyce, and say your prayers every day. I will write to you again very soon.

Heaps of love and kisses from Daddy


I will never now know how much my mother was a help to her mother.. probably about as much as I was to her!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Letter Five: 1926 Christmas in Nakuru Hospital with "Fever"

This is the last letter from the Egerton Estate time in Africa. After this the next letter is from the boat returning to Africa but this time he is bound for the hills near Mt.Elgon. Allan is ill for Christmas and in the hospital at Nakuru so I think he never arrived at the Woodmores at Keringet. We don't know exactly what was wrong with him. On the photo of the rather nice looking hospital below my Mum had written " my father was in this hospital with fever".

Nakuru Hospital

Letter 5

Nakuru Hospital

My Darling Joyce
Thank you ever so much for the nice long letter and the Christmas card you sent me. I was delighted to get them and also a fine card from Mummy and a good long letter with it. Mummy has sent me several letters which have all reached me safely in Hospital and I must write to her tomorrow.
I am so sorry I forgot to send you a special letter on your birthday but am very pleased to read in your letters what a fine lot of presents you had and some of them such useful ones too. Please tell Mummy that the cake and Pudding arrived safely and in good condition. Daddy is not allowed to eat such rich food yet but he asked the sisters ( that is the Nurses) if they would accept and eat the cake because they were so kind and watchful to Dad when he was lying helpless and ill, it is due to their care that I have got better so quickly. And the sisters said the Cake was delicious and the Almond Icing a perfect treat, they have kept a tiny bit for me to taste by and by. We will have the pudding cooked on New Years Day that is tomorrow and Dad will be allowed to have a little bit of that.

Many of the Magazines & Christmas Numbers Mummy has sent have already arrived & I share them around among the other Patients who enjoy a bit of Christmas reading to pass the time along, for some of them are more seriously ill than Dad & have to stay in bed all day, but I can get up and walk about a bit in a Dressing Gown now and am feeling stronger & better every day.

Dad is coming home on the Wangoni which is the same Steamer which took him to Africa. We sail from Kilindini (is that not a long name for a port) on Feb 22nd and the voyage takes about 28 days, it is a nice time of year to cross the seas in and it should be fairly cool in the Red Sea, which is often the most uncomfortable part of the journey because it is sometimes so hot there.
I wish my Dear Mummy and Joyce could get on the magic Carpet and fly to Kilindini to voyage home with me on the steamer, it is a delightful experience, so many days on the blue, fresh sea with foaming waves all round, but very likely you will have a voyage same day when you are a few years older & you will enjoy it. Daddy has had such a lot of letters this Christmas. From Aunt Minnie & Uncle Reavely & Uncle Alec & Aunt Edith & Aunt Nellie & Grandpa Anderson & Uncle Arnold, & from Uncle John & Mr Robinson. 15 letters came on one day. And tell Mummy a very nice one arrived yesterday from Mr Charles Fowler.
There is a long chair in my bedroom and we pull it out on to the Veranda & Dad sits on it looking at a beautiful view of Lake Nakuru & the mountains. But this is a lazy life and I hope in a few days to be strong enough to get about and do a bit of useful work again.
Lazy idle people are never happy, it is only when we are doing something like learning at school or working at a job that we feel we are helping to push the world along a bit and can be satisfied with ourselves. I am glad you liked the pieces Mummy read you from “The Christmas Carol”. It is the best Christmas story ever written. Charles Dickens was a great and good man. The Photos Mr Barraclough took of you and Mums and Patsy have arrived & very good ones they are of all of you.
I had my first bath since my illness yesterday. Until then I had to be just washed in Bed and to have a real bath was a great treat. Some gaily coloured birds, blue on the back and with yellow breasts and long curved beaks fly up and down the verandah. Sometimes if I am awake in the early morning I hear in the darkness the “cheep cheep”of birds in the bushes nearby and though all is black outside, yet in about a quarter of an hour, sure enough the Dawn begins to break, the birds know that here comes the day before I do. It is Harvest home now on all the Farms and great loads of Maize and Wheat are being carried off the Fields, a Harvest at Christmas sounds strange does it not? I hope my dear Joyce had a really Jolly Christmas and some nice presents and I hope gave some little gifts to others too. With Heaps of love to you and Mums. I shall soon be coming back home now.
Your loving Daddy

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Fowler Machinery: 1925 Consignment to Lord Egerton N'Gata Farm, Njoro,

Allan Thackeray worked on the estate for just the one year, 1926, (Lord Egerton would have been 52). He had travelled to Kenya to oversee the use of the Fowler equipment sent to the Egerton estate and the records from John Fowler detail a consignment of agricultural implements sent out to Ngata Farm in 1925.

N'Gata Farm, Njoro 1925. Fowler Consignment to Lord Egerton.
The implements were ordered 22/07/1925
Lord Egerton, Tatton Park, for Kenya Colony
11581 9/10 Furrow A/B Paring Plough
15’ Turning Harrows
14291P 15’ Turning Harrows originally to G.Caudwell06/02/1922 (22/07/1925 SOLD SECOND HAND TO Lord Egerton for Kenya Colony)
14606 11/13 Cultivator 4¼” X 1¼” X 10”
14607 4 Shaft Reversible Disc Harrows
14608 4 Wheel Water Cart 7’ x 3’ Steel Frame
14609P 4 Wheel Water Cart 7’ x 3’ Steel Frame

dispatched on 24/09/1925

This information was kindly forwarded to me by Robert Oliver of the Steam Plough Club Uk together with some preliminary details of the engines etc in the photographs.


The following photographs need information which I will hopefully be able to add after my visit home to Lincolnshire where I will be meeting up with Mr Goodman of the Steam Plough club)

The engine is a Fowler Z6 ploughing engine despatched from the factory on 6th Jan 1926 to a firm called General Real Estates Investment Trust Ltd

Detail of the above. It reads "Made in England, Fowler, Nakuru, V Kilindini" Kilindidni is the port at Mombassa.

Two engines, there is one in the distance.

Fowler Water Tank

The plough was a 6 furrow anti balance plough. ( see in the post Plough)

The 6 Furrow anti Balance Plough:

The plough is a 6 furrow anti balance plough. The ploughs used in steam ploughing are shaped like a flattened out V . They have plough shares on each end of the V and the engine pulls the double ended plough across the field with one set of plough shares in the ground and at the far side of the field, the other end of the plough is dropped down to the ground and the engine at the other end of the field pulls the plough back.
( information from Robert Oliver, Steam Plough Club UK)

The Caterpillar Tractor

I have no details of these yet, but the same people are seen again in the Fowler engine photographs.

Other Machinery:

More photographs of other machinery etc, most without notes as they are printed from the negatives. I hope to be able to add to the information soon.

The train, Uganda Railway

I think this ( middle) may be Mr Coltart who had a farm at Njoro.

This looks as though it may have been a trade show. The name on the banner by the machines is "J R Cox & Co"

This is labelled on the back "Nakuru Show bandsmen KAR." (Kings African Rifles )

I think they might be sawing the timber with the engine..( far left)

This photograph is labelled on the back " Latest 'improved' pattern water cart outside Njoro Ry Station".. with some irony I think.