Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Christmas 1925 and The First Letter 23 January 1926

Christmas 1925.
There are no Christmas letters but these two photographs of Allan and the Woodmores at Molo. I havn't found any information about the Woodmores yet but a little initial reseach turned up records of the grave of a Percy Woodmore in Nairobi. He died in 1933 at the age of only 45. I am sure this must be the same person.

Molo. Kenya 1925. Xmas. Percy Woodmore's Brother, Wife and children. Mrs Percy Woodmore.
Allan is on the left with the dog

The Mule Buggy, Molo, Xmas 1925.
Self , Percy's brother, wee Peter, Percys brothers wife and Percy.

The First Letter

Allan writes here from Engata Farm and later changes the spelling to N'gata and I think he was already at Lord Egerton's Estate from where he will write the next few letters. The details of the land are fascinating and animals are always mentioned. Patrick is the naughty dog at home. We have a photo of Patrick somewhere. Reading these letters makes me realise why we always had a dog.

Engata Farm
Kenya Colony

My Darling Joyce,

I hope you are well and happy my dear little girl, and think sometimes of Father seven thousand miles away in Africa.
The sun shines hot all day long here and great blue dragonflies and moths, nearly as big as sparrows go buzzing up and down, And we have seen Ostriches running wild on the Farm and near the railway, Zebra and Antelopes and there are scores of lizards running as quick as lightening up and down in the bright sun.

The Carts are pulled by Oxen, we have no horses here and a little dog goes in front to guide the team of oxen, sometimes sixteen are harnessed to one Cart and they go slowly along, pulling their load of Maize, which is what you call Pop-Corn, and there are miles and miles of maize all growing to make beautiful Blancmange and Semolina Puddings and Cornflower Moulds for you to eat in Leeds and Oxford.

I hope you have been to the pantomime and taken Mummy too, are not the little children pretty and what a fellow bold Robinson Crusoe is. I am sure you must be getting on finely and you write and draw so well; you must try to draw me a picture of poor old Patrick and then take him for a walk to the lake at Middleton.

Today is Sunday and I think of you in Sunday School and I am well and happy too though far away round on the other side of this great big world.

Many Kisses Dearest Daughter.

I am putting an image of this first letter up here. I may not with others unless there is a nice letter heading or something particularly interesting.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Along the Suez Canal, through the Red Sea and so to Africa

A month long journey from Southampton calling at Lisbon, Gibraltar, Malaga, Marseilles, Genoa, Port Said, Port Sudan, Aden and eventually Mombasa. I know we have more postcards of some of the ports which I will be able to post later but there are only these two at present. He will be here in Kenya on this first trip until 22 Feb 1927 when he returns to the UK, again on the SS Wangoni.

The Military Hospital Gibraltar

The Wangoni arrived at Port Said on 7th November 1925 by this time a very busy international port which developed since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. I quote Blake Burleson's book (and see previous post) to give an idea of what it must have been like.
"Within walking distance of the ships one could find a post office, tea houses, cafes, a railway station, sporting clubs, department stores of various kinds, mosques with tall minarets, churches and synagogues. Walking along the Rue du Commerce was like walking on the midway at a circus ; shopkeepers, sidewalk vendors, jugglers, fortune tellers and magicians courted the tourists."
Another fascinating detail from his book is that Port Said was one of the first places in the world to use gaslight in the streets to increase the visibility for ships.

Port Said: The Customs Quay

On from here they went through the Suez Canal south to the stifling heat of the Red Sea. My grandfather talks in future letters of the terrible heat, it being too hot to, either sleep at night or, hold the deck parties and dances they had enjoyed in the Mediterranean. On a future journey in 1927 they had dogs on board . He writes "the butcher comes every now and then and sluices cold water over them" . Blake Burleson writes that mattresses would be taken on deck at night to take advantage of whatever cooling breeze they could find.

Arriving finally at Mombasa on 12 November 1927 they dock at the Port of Kilindini and then I think he would continue his journey by rail on the Uganada Railway to the station of Menengai just north of Nakuru.
This is a copy of his photograph. From here perhaps by car to Lord Egerton's Estate at N'gata.

The Station: Menengai

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Voyage to Mombasa on the SS Wangoni (complete with Ship's Cat)

The Wangoni was one of the great German East African /Woermann Line steamships that took adventurers across the world. It operated passenger and cargo services between Germany and East African, West African and South African ports and between South Africa and India.
The journey must have been fascinating with such a motley crowd of passengers from adventurers, business men, tourists, big game hunters and military personnel.
I found out by accident that Carl Jung was also travelling on this ship on his way to make a survey for the British Government. In his excellent book, Jung in Africa Blake Burleson devotes a chapter to this voyage He describes the atmosphere on board, the passengers' reasons for travelling, the after dinner conversations ranging from the terrible catalogue of diseases they may encounter to " fears and fantasies of this "terra incognita" of the Dark Continent.

I have yet to find out who Mr and Mrs Percy Woodmore were and what relationship they had with Allan Thackeray, but here is a photo of the three of them with small unnamed girl.. (I wonder what happened to her).

Photo on Board

Written on the back is
"Mr and Mrs Woodmore & Self. photo by Capt Maxwell, Bay of Biscay."

Postcard of the Wangoni : It must have been sent to Mum in a letter..

“My Darling Joyce. This is the steamer Father is in, You would like to see my little cabin and the narrow bed like a couch where I sleep. We have a nice Pussycat on the steamer, but not a dog. Sometimes the spray of the sea comes right over the deck and we have to run or else it would soak us. Your loving Father”

The Deck of the Wangoni.

Another photo postcard. I would assume these were for sale on board.

On the back is written “Bay of Biscay, S.S Wangoni outward bound to Mombasa 1925”

A few word about the journey in the next post.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Setting out to Africa 3pm 15th October 1925

My grandfather has written,
"Tender “ Duchess of York” coming alongside S.S. Wangoni” at Southampton 3 pm Thursday October 15th 1925. Just on the right of the far side ventilating shaft are Mrs Woodmore sat down with back to Camera, myself and Mr Woodmore (he is looking upwards) "

The photo was obviously taken and sold as a souvenir to those on board the Wangoni as it set off for its voyage to Mombasa. On the bottom there is a small stamp saying Leonar and a number and crude lines printed for an address.

This first image, a mixed group of people frozen in a snapshot on a grey day in October waiting to start a voyage of at least a month. My grandfather looking down, Mr Woodmore looking skywards with Mrs Woodmore sitting by him .. what can they have been imagining lay ahead of them?
It must have been a moment of very mixed emotions for them all.

I am going to write some more about the Wangoni in the next post and I am indebted to Blake Burleson whose book "Jung in Africa" arrived 2 days ago with such wonderful descriptions of the journey. It is only a week since I discovered that Jung was on the same ship as Allan Thackeray, and, although I have only read just little of the book, it had already brought vividly to life some of the realities that lay behind these faded photos and yellowing letters.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

About this blog...

I am in the process of preparing a blog of letters and photographs from Kenya and India in the 1920´s and early 1930´s. My grandparents, Allan and Annie Thackeray sent them back to their daughter Joyce who was living in Scotland while her parents were travelling. My grandfather was an engineer for John Fowler of Leeds and was working with the steam ploughs in both Africa and India. The letters are to a young girl, my mother was 8 at the start of the letters, so are not so much about the trials and tribulations of the work but more about general life and of course fond questions about her well being etc but there are some fascinating glimpses of the countries and people.

The first post will be about the journey from Southampton to Mombasa on the SS Wangoni which set sail 26th October 1925 incidentally with Carl Jung on board too.
Should anyone stumble across this first page and have any interesting information re the John Fowler Co, the Thackeray family or agriculture in Kenya and India in the 1920's and 1930's please don't hesitate to contact me. I have many missing gaps. I never knew my grandfather, was too young to ask my grandmother much before she died and my mother died 3 years ago...I don't even know if we have any relations alive on the Thackeray side.
My email is val.littlewood@gmail.com
I would love to hear from you.