Nanyuki Branch

No history of the League in Nanyuki can be separated from the story of the land and its settlement by Europeans....

 

In 1910 Mr. J. Murray surveyed the area preparatory for European settlement; an area previously sparsely occupied on a nomadic basis by the Laikipiakil – oshon (subclan) of the Maasai. In 1911 an agreement was made with the Maasai in which the few remnant Maasai in the area were to move to the south (roughly to the Lemek area) and a few European families already settled in the Lemek area would move to make way for them, thus leaving the loosely described Laikipia area for European farming and the area around and south of Narok for exclusive Maasai occupation.

 

It was prophetic that Mr. Murray should have carried out the survey of the area since his relations worked two important farms in the district at the time. Mrs. George Murray (of Marania) and her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Gordor Murray, (of Lolomarik) are living links for the League with this early history of the area.

 

The very earliest settlers for Nanyuki were Mr. Paice, Nat Barry and Vaughan Kenealy, all of whom arrived in the area in 1910.The remoteness made settlement difficult but other families who arrived before the 1914-18 war included some famous Kenya names: 'old' Mr. Randall and his large family, William Seagar Bastard and his family, Ted Aggett (the Aggetts had previously been in the Lemek area and were thus directly linked with the land exchange) Lex Smith, George Webb (whose family have only left the area in this decade), Raymond Hook (whose daughter, Hazel, worked valiantly for the League and for the Cottage Hospital), Alec Anstey (whose daughter, Margot, was a strong League member for Nanyuki, an ex Vice Chairman of the League), and Pat Kenealy (whose widow, Mrs. Kenealy Craig, was a member).

The Nanyuki branch started in 1926. It is most likely that this was a result of a surge of both 'soldier settlers' and other settlers just after the war. The best-known settler wife and mother was then 'Granny' Bastard, wife of W.S. Bastard, and she was the pivot of all the help given to the new settler wives. It was she who would teach them how to make yeast from bananas and how to cure ailments in children when doctors were far away. She was thus a natural first 'District Vice-President' and held office for the first two years of the League in Nanyuki. The Bastard family farmed in the area until the mid 70s, and there is a picture of 'Granny' Bastard in the 1968 League Scrapbook.

Mrs J.J. Paterson (Marjorie)

Founder members of the League with 'Granny' Bastard include some well-known names in the district: Helen Cleland-Scott, Yvonne Lewin and Rosalie King. Also among these founder members was Renie Gascoigne whose husband was one of the famous soldier settlers from the 'Garth Castle' who started the farming enterprise 'Gunners' Venture'. Lionel and Renie ran the Cash Stores… the first shop in Nanyuki… and later Lionel started Gascoigne and Co. (originally Estate Agents and later on Accountants). Renie's son, Patrick continued this business; his wife, Joan, was a member of the League and then her daughter, Gill Llewelyn (member of Executive Committee, Councillor and prominent leader of Home Industries) was a senior member of the League… three generations of Nanyuki members. Another original member to have a spider's web of connections with the League was Phyllis Barkas… Her son married Peggy, daughter of Lady Mary Boyd (both members) and later Peggy's daughter, Amanda, married the son of well-known member Jane Kenyon… and the tradition went on. Mrs. Anstey was another founder member whose daughter, Margot, was a very senior member of the League, having been Vice-Chairman in the past and a Councillor for many years.

 

After 'Granny' Bastard's term of office Mrs. Soames led the branch for one year, 1927/28, until Lady Mary Boyd took over and ran the Nanyuki branch for seven years. This was a period of great development for the district; the railway reached the town, St. George's Church was built, and the Sportsman's Arms was opened. Jane Tatham-Warter (pictured below), daughter of Lady Mary Boyd had a daughter, Joanna Mac Callum, who also became an active member of the branch… yet another third generation Nanyuki record!

 

Lady Mary Boyd's term of office ended in 1935 and Mrs. W.M. Turner took over until 1938. The district Minute book for the war years and immediately after are not available and so there is a gap in the record but it is known that Nanyuki members worked very hard for the troops throughout the war. The K.A.R. unit that had been at Meru moved to Nanyuki in 1937 and Lady Mary Boyd organised a hospital for the troops at Nanyuki with E.A.W.L. help.

 

After the Second World War there was a new surge of development for the area; fresh settlers arrived and the district expanded. In 1951 the Nanyuki Cottage Hospital was opened and, ever since, has been strongly supported by the E.A.W.L. of Nanyuki.

 

Miss Hill-Williams, Mrs. Thomas Pipe and Mrs. Gerald Robinson were D.V.P.s in the years 1950-54. After this period there was the 'reign' (and there is no better word for it) of Mrs. J.J. Paterson. Marjorie Paterson was an American by birth, widely travelled, especially in China, and she and her husband had come to Kenya to retire. Marjorie was not the stuff of which retirement is made; she threw herself into the League – and all its charitable work with great sincerity, intelligence and with gentle humour. Many are the stories about her… for example… she is remembered as the lady who introduced the hula-hoop into the Nanyuki area… and led some quite hefty ladies into the delights of this exercise!

 

Marjorie's many sincere qualities made her an ideal choice for the local Chairman and she held office again in 1959 (Nancy Bastard and Janet Davis filling the intervening years) until 1977… a long record of devoted service to the League of which Nanyuki is justly proud. Failing eyesight finally caused her to give up her position in 1977 (to Carol Strong, a worthy successor) and Marjorie died in 1984 at Nanyuki Cottage Hospital in her 90th year. Marjorie also appears in the booklet for the League's 60th Jubilee, she was a Member of Honour of the League.

 

During the years that Marjorie steered the League in Nanyuki a mass of steady development went on and the district went through the years of adjustment following Independence. Marjorie worked hard to make the branch a multi-racial entity and through her quiet sensibility this became a reality. Charitable work continued with constant help for the local hospitals and for the Child Welfare Society, which opened a home for orphans in Nanyuki during this period.

 

Through Marjorie, Nanyuki branch responded to the League H.Q.'s appeal in the early 70s concerning the plight of the elderly in Kenya with discussions concerning Nanyuki Cottage Hospital and, after much fundraising started by Carol Strong and continued by Biddy Davis (the following Branch Chairman), enough money was raised to add a Geriatric Unit to the Hospital. Many members of the community joined the League in this effort and the 12-bed unit has been virtually full ever since it opened in 1982… a great blessing for Kenya.

 

The hospital continued to be a focal point of fund raising and the League backed the largely American financed Out-Patient Dept. and Family Planning Unit opened in 1986.

 

Carol Strong and Biddy Davis (Branch Chairmen 1977-80 and 1980-85 respectively) were both great organisers of necessary fundraising events much enjoyed by the local community… international dinners and lively motor gymkhanas amongst other events.

 

The Nanyuki branch of the League today? It is still strong with a healthy number of members. Numbers were boosted by the sad closure of two neighbouring branches in the eighties, Nyeri and Laikipia. Apart from retired members and some whose interests are in business in Nanyuki, most of the members are based on farms in the district and Nanyuki must be the strongest 'farming' branch of the League, with members far flung… from Lewa Downs to Mweiga… from Ol Maiso to Marania. Because of this not many members get to meetings but this does not mean that interest is lacking… transport and time are often short on the farms… but the branch always gets splendid support for major events and for charitable fundraising. Above all it is a very friendly branch in which everyone knows everyone and help is always available… is this not a major work of the League?