Mau-Mau Meeting

1949.

Three years after Dad had put his life savings into the farm at Ol’Kalou the start of his dream of personal independence.

Thirty of the thirty-five families living on the farm were Kikuyu. My father spoke fluent Kikuyu. He heard two of the wives of people working on the farm talking about a ‘big meeting’ to be held on the next Saturday night in one of the tractor drivers’ huts. This was reinforced with requests for an unusual number of ‘beer permits’ (a nonsensical Government requirement where the farmer had to give written permission for an employee to brew beer). We were all away except Dad who had stayed to look after the farm. On the appointed night Dad locked the dogs in the house, blacked his face and, unarmed, went to the nearby Kikuyu village. Having identified the hut, with women all scurrying backwards and forwards with beer and food, Dad went to the far side of the hut from the door; he dug a little hole in the mud that filled the gaps between the timber the hut was constructed from and watched and listened to the meeting. He was absolutely horrified with what he saw and heard. It was a Mau -Mau meeting; there was a man from Nairobi who explained that the Mau-Mau was set up by the Kikuyu, to ‘chase all the whites into the sea.’ The man collected money from all the attendees (only men). He appointed our cook as an oath administrator and our ‘houseboy’ (I don’t like the expression either) as his reinforcer.

Dad went to the Commissioner of Police in Nairobi and told him the story. He was told in no uncertain terms to ‘shut up’. The British had plans to bring thousands of ex-servicemen to Kenya as settlers, which they did, and nothing was going to upset those plans. 

(This episode is included in ‘No Happy Valley’ the first book of my ‘Winds of Change’ trilogy. It’s entirely true. Thousands of mainly British ex-servicemen were settled in Kenya in the 1950’s and were ruined when the British were forced to buy them out at very low prices as part of Kenyan independence settlement in 1963.) 

Guy Hallowes