Eldoret Branch

Eldoret is situated at an altitude of approximately 7,000 feet on the Uasin Gishu Plateau. Farms originally pegged out for settlers were numbered, and that on the Sosiani River allocated to "van Ardt was given the number '64'." He found the land unsuitable for farming and in 1910 it became the site of the Post Office; the township was therefore known as '64' until 1912 when officially named Eldoret by the Governor.

 

There were at one time four branches in Uasin Gishu - Eldoret, Turbo-Kipkarren, Moiben and Kipkabus. Mrs. Mervyn Ridley was DVP Moiben in 1937 and retained this office until the Branch closed in 1952.This was always a very small Branch and barely survived the War years.

 

Turbo-Kipkarren was inaugurated in 1938 with Mrs. Brodhurst Hill at the helm. After many years Mrs. Byatt Scott took over from her and was followed by – Mrs. Flora Russell, Mrs. Pockney, Mrs. Warrack, Mrs. Gault and finally Mrs. Gypsy Barnard who was the last before this branch closed down in 1964.

 

Unfortunately no files seem available to tell of the activities of Kipkabus. Nevertheless this district was extremely active and did excellent work entertaining the forces during the War. Mrs. Jean Crosskill was a member there before she and her husband moved to Molo.

Now Eldoret Branch is the only one that remains. There are few early records of Branch activities since it started with Mrs. Goodfellow as the first DVP in 1926, but the Eldoret Hospital was then, and always has been, the main object for fundraising and indeed, other assistance.

 

During World War II when staff was scarce or non-existent, members used to work there voluntarily to help out. An EAWL representative sat on the Hospital Board.

 

Annual functions were held by the Branch to swell hospital funds, such as Balls, at the Eldoret Club or Hill School. This tradition carries on into the present day, and the sums of money raised today in one evening would seem astronomical to those earlier members.

 

 

Indeed, under the leadership of Mrs. Joan Ibbetson, who took over as DVP in 1955 and instituted regular Branch meetings, members expressed their indignation at the monstrous sum of money the Branch was asked to contribute towards the Harrison House project. How could they be expected to raise £500! However, seeing that other Branches had reached their target, Eldoret was not to be outdone, and somehow the money was raised, and the branch had the honor of having a room named after it.

Probably catering each year at the A.S.K. Show made some of the money. Between 1957 and 1962 Mrs. Newton did the VIP tent and the EAWL catered for the members, and the public. Latterly Kipkabus Branch ran the public restaurant.

 

In 1957 Eldoret's tapestry-depicting a "runner" postman with his cleft stick for carrying letters-was designed (as can be seen in the picture, or go to the gallery) by Mrs. Gwen Bristow and embroidered by Mrs. E.C. (Pixie) Steyn, who later became Vice President of the League. Edith Klapprott designed the Kipkabus tapestry. Josie Sandhu, Edith’s daughter, remembers watching her mother working at the design until she got it right. It shows Herman Klapprott on a white mule watching his mother in an ox wagon being pulled out of a mud hole. When Christmas cards were printed using the tapestry pictures, Mrs. Joan Ibbetson and Mrs. Gladys Wright made and sold tablemats using the pictures and raised money for Branch funds.

 

In 1960 Eldoret found itself the first reception area for refugees from the Congo, who passed through en route for Nairobi. The trains arrived at night. The EAWL, with great assistance from the Red Cross and all local people, organized a reception centre at the Town Hall; food, clothing and petrol were given out. Refreshments were laid on at the Railway Station. For ten days the Town Hall was manned for 24 hours a day; accommodation was found, small toilet necessities provided and comfort and succor given to those who had fled to safety. Fortunately an interpreter was available. Mrs. Tait, the D.C.'s wife, was a tower of strength in this emergency, and in all other Branch activities, though she steadfastly refused to take office.

 

The work of the Branch continued throughout the 60's.I n 1962 Council was held at Eldoret in the Uasin Gishu Arts Building. Turbo and Kipkabus Branches combined with Eldoret to organize the occasion, and Kipkabus, too, helped in 1964 in providing leave accommodation for British armed forces serving in Aden and the Persian Gulf.

 

The Branch compiled a Scrapbook to celebrate the League's Golden Jubilee in 1967, and some of this Branch History has been culled from it, and from the recollections of Mrs. Gladys Wright, a member, first of Moiben, since1937, then of Eldoret. In 1970 she was a Vice President, and a member of the Executive Committee for 3 years,

Traveling to Nairobi to meetings twice monthly! She recalled, in 1968, a soup kitchen was started to feed destitute children. All communities gave food, and the Municipal Council and the tanning Extract Company gave Great assistance. Two members of the Branch were always present whenever the kitchen operated, to supervise. Re-Christened a 'Nutritional Centre' the Soup kitchen was eventually taken over by the Red Cross.

Up until the early '70's the Branch thrived and was always a keen supporter of the Home Industries Exhibition. Records will show how very often in the 50's and 60's the Branch carried off the Grigg cup, awarded for the Branch winning the most points overall – and in1973, they won it again.

 

The '64' cup for the Best arranged the Eldoret Branch presented Branch exhibit. However, with the departure of so many families for other lands, membership declined, over the next ten years.

 

The few stalwarts who remained managed to stave off complete closure and, from the Minutes, seemed to have an interesting and enjoyable time, always holding an annual Christmas Fair, a dance, jumble sales, catering at the Eldoret Show, and even hiring themselves out for wedding receptions and the like on occasion!

Thus they ensured that financial help for deserving locals was always forthcoming. Interest in the Branch revived in the 80's, due largely to the efforts of Mrs. Betty Steyn, ably assisted by the former Branch Chairman of many years standing, Mrs. Vina Carruthers. Membership increased to over 30, which although small by Nairobi standards, did not prevent Eldoret from once again winning the Grigg Cup in 1984 and 1985.

 

The Branch maintains a lively involvement in all League activities as well as various local projects notably the Orphanage run by Kipchoge Keino and his wife, which continues today, as can bee seen in the picture below thus continuing the Branch's long tradition of interest, support and concern for the local community.

Kipkeino school started by the runner Kipchoge Keino and his wife.