The Mau Mau Uprising – So far away but so close to home

May 20 2016

Hi John

It is a stunning clear day on the harbor. I can still remember you telling me of the first time you landed in Sydney and then took the ferry to Manly, retracing a tiny part of the final step of your sea journey from Africa. I am not sure what was more exotic to my childish ears, your description of the harbor or the fact you had come so far across the sea. Both were equally foreign to a boy who had rarely ventured outside the farm gate.

I am not sure what year you actually came to us; I do know it was between 1954 and 1956: I was not yet old enough to go to school but, old enough to become your shadow; in thrall to your accent and your strength.

You were this tall, strongly built Rugby player from a Kenyan farming family, who had come to Australia on a working holiday and somehow you finished up working with us. From memory, I think you stayed at least two years.

Memory been what it is, I am not sure whether you predated Bill, shared my time with Bill or whether Bill was invented to replace you when you went home.

The scratchy radio broadcasts from radio stations 100 km away, the daily “Border Morning Mail” newspaper from Albury, which arrived a few days late, the weekly Land Newspaper and of course; the Weekly were our only real contact with the outside world at that time.

At lunchtime each day, the men would gather in the kitchen to listen to Country Hour on ABC radio before heading back out to the paddocks or down to the sheds.

The news would always precede the Country Hour and I vividly remember the silence in the room as news of the Mau Mau Uprising, now unfolding in Kenya became the headline of the daily broadcasts.

It was hard for a young boy to grasp just what this meant to you, but I knew it was important.

Prior to this, you had often told me stories of your childhood and the wonderful native people who had effectively raised you. I had difficulty reconciling these stories with the violence unfolding and the bile and hatred now directed at these same people.

Your attitude to these people changed as the crisis deepened and I recall a deep sadness at what was happening in your homeland. Eventually; you left us to go home and I felt your loss enormously.

I can still vividly see me; perched on wheat bags under a burning, summer sun, the roar and dust of the old Fordson tractor pulling the header in the background, and you; skewering wheat bags in preparation for the trip to the silos, as we chattered endlessly.

The sense of sadness when you left was palpable and whilst today; we would probably argue about the rights and wrongs of what was happening in your homeland. I am eternally thankful for the times I spent with you. The kindness and gentleness you showed me, is something I still treasure.

Bruce

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