The Lunar Rainbow
The Lunar Rainbow
It was one of those very rare days in England when the weather was decidedly un-British. The unusual pressure system that swirled over the British Isles that early summer’s day drew in hot moist air all the way from Africa, causing the sun’s rays to become magnified as they filtered through the moisture laden atmosphere. It was so different from the normal British sunshine that would usually seep over a cool bracing dawn and highlight the countryside in fingers of bright warmth. This heat was humid and heavy, it felt like hot syrup and I could feel my arms prickling as the fierce rays burned into the exposed skin. The sky was a steely blue, but to the east there was a huge build-up of cumulonimbus clouds under which the sky was almost black. Ominous growls of distant thunder rumbled every now and again.
Although it was still early I found that I was perspiring freely even before I set off for a walk. In truth I would have rather not gone walking in that sort of weather, but Molly, my small shaggy dog of indeterminate breed, would not even contemplate missing out on her morning walk. Rain, shine or snow, she was always ready to go, even before we’d had breakfast. She would prance around so that her tail, ears and long coat would bounce about, mirroring her inner excitement and joy. I would often wonder at the fact that the mundane act of a daily walk could bring her into such a state of euphoria.
‘Okay Moll,’ I said, patting her head. ‘Have you got everything that you need?’ She did another bouncy circuit of the kitchen, jumping up when she passed me so that I could see that she had her ball firmly in her mouth.
‘Right, that’s you sorted,’ I said. ‘I suppose I better take a raincoat although it’s far too hot to put it on at the moment.’
Very soon we were walking down the country lane, boiling in the sunshine. The atmosphere was oppressive and it was almost too much of an effort to just walk along. When we came to the fields Molly gave her ball to me and I tossed it down the green undulating slopes. Molly went after it like a rocket; her sharp little eyes noted exactly where it fell in the grass and she pounced on it and triumphantly bore it back to me so that I could throw it again. We repeated this process over and over again as we walked through the fields, and although I started to flag Molly appeared to be as fresh as when we had started the game. I wondered how she could keep going in this heat as having such a shaggy coat must make her feel so hot, but she didn’t seem to be worried about it. I was heading for a gap in the hedge at the bottom of the field, because I knew that if I turned sharp right just through the gap I would find an old stone wall that I could sit on. It was under the shade of some trees and a tangle of undergrowth, and I had previously broken away all the creepers and vegetation and made a little seat for myself so that I could sit there and toss the ball down the sloping field for Moll until she eventually ran out of steam.
As I turned sharp right through the gap I suddenly stopped. Unexpectedly there was someone sitting on ‘my’ seat. She was a woman, about the same age as me, middle-aged, I first thought, but then on second thoughts she might have been older – or younger. She was one of those people whose age is very difficult to gauge. Her shoulder length hair was almost white – or was it ash blond or a combination of both? She had a small neat compact body, sun tanned skin and her features were chiselled and aristocratic; she was very beautiful even though she wasn’t in her first flush of youth. A very pale golden retriever sat at her feet staring hopelessly into her face. When he saw me he half wagged his tail and then looked at the lady, then back at me. He was conveying to me as clearly as if he had spoken words that he had done all he could, but even his very best efforts had not been enough to cheer up his owner so maybe I could help? She was weeping quite openly, tears streaming down her face and dripping onto the front of her blouse.
I wanted to walk away. I felt embarrassed and did not want to intrude on whatever emotion that was making her cry like that, but then it seemed heartless to just walk away, unsympathetic and uncaring. Also, how could I ignore the imploring look of the golden retriever?
‘Are you all right?’ I asked hesitantly.
‘Yes, don’t worry about me.’ The lady was clearly embarrassed as she tried to wipe away the tears with a sodden tissue.
‘I have some clean tissues,’ I said, pulling some out of my pocket and handing them to her.
‘Thank you,’ she scrubbed her face and blew her nose. There was an embarrassing silence; neither of us knew what to say. Then she spoke, obviously thinking she owed me some sort of explanation. ‘It’s the weather – this unusual weather has brought back the memories of places and situations that I’ve lived in and through in the past, and it made me emotional. So much has happened and suddenly it all started coming back in sharp technicolour….’
I stared at her uncomprehendingly.
‘It’s like when you hear a piece of music that was popular in your youth and it brings back memories of what you did then,’ she explained, when she saw that I didn’t understand. ‘Don’t get me wrong, not all the memories I have are sad, I have some wonderful memories and sitting here in the hot humid sunshine I was suddenly living among those memories again. I don’t know why it made me so emotional.’
I suddenly grasped what she was saying. At some time in her life she had lived in conditions like these and the strange weather had brought back the memories of those times, but I still didn’t really know what to say. Obviously she wasn’t British. Although her English was perfect I could detect an unusual accent. It was almost like that of one of the South African people that worked in the hospital with me, but not so harsh or guttural.
‘Are you South African?’ I ventured.
‘No, but I am East African,’ she said.
This would explain why the humid hot weather had brought back memories for her, it must often be like this in Africa, I figured.
Molly was fretting around my ankles. She and the golden retriever had been getting acquainted but now she wanted to continue her game, so I threw the ball for her and she ran after it while the retriever, happy now that his owner had cheered up, careered after her. They started playing tag, or whatever a dog calls that game when they chase after one another running in ever increasing circles.
‘Looks like Molly has got an admirer,’ I said with a laugh.
‘Yes, it certainly seems Jock has taken a shine to her,’ said the lady. ‘I’m Savannah, by the way,’ she added.
‘I’m Sue,’ I replied, thinking that she had a rather lovely but unusual name. ‘Would you like to walk with me? I think it’s going to rain so we should be heading back.’ We started walking up the fields toward the country lane. I was still trying to determine Savannah’s age. She strode gracefully over the rough countryside with long even strides, seemingly oblivious to the searing heat. She was no longer emotional and was chatting about inconsequential things as we walked along, but I could detect a faint aura of sadness around her which was reflected in her very lovely face. I guessed that life had not always been easy for her.
Big fat drops of rain spattered down on us while we were still out in the fields. There was suddenly a flash of lightening and simultaneously a tremendous crash of thunder, then the heavens opened and rain started to fall in sheets.
‘Gosh, I’ve never seen anything like this,’ I gasped. ‘Let’s shelter in that old barn over there.’ We ran to an old disused barn and sheltered at one end where the rain didn’t pour in through the broken roof.
‘It’s like African rain,’ said Savannah, laughing in delight. ‘Isn’t it marvellous?’
‘I don’t know about marvellous,’ I said, shaking the rain drops out of my hair. It was obvious that we were going to have to stay where we were for some time, so I asked Savannah what her life had been like in Africa. She began to tell me and her powers of descriptive story telling soon had me spellbound. I was no longer sitting in a leaky old barn in England, but transported thousands of miles away into Africa – another world.
It was one of the most intriguing stories that I have ever heard.
The Lunar Rainbow
It was strange, Doris thought, how things were so very different in Africa. Although she had been born and brought up in Kenya her upbringing by her Scottish missionary parents had been typically European, and everything she had been taught had seemed so straightforward and predictable. But Doris had found that life for her had been anything but predictable and straightforward.
She looked fondly at her young daughter, Savannah, who was presiding over a doll’s picnic. Who would have thought that it would have been Njonjo, the man that they employed to do their fencing, who would have given her the advice that had enabled her to conceive this beautiful child?
Doris had married Dennis Fellows when they were very young and both of them wanted to start a family straight away, however nature dictated otherwise. Doris couldn’t even remember how many miscarriages she had suffered. First there was the euphoria when she had missed her period, and for a few magical weeks she and Dennis were deliciously excited as they anticipated the birth of the new life that was within her; then came the deep aching pain at the base of her stomach, the blood in her pants, the painful cramps and the anguish in the knowledge that her body had expelled the child that they so desperately wanted.
The first time it happened they were both devastated, but the doctor explained that most women had at least one miscarriage during their lives and they should not be unduly worried. So they had tried again and the second miscarriage seemed ten times worse. There was not a lot that could be done for women who miscarried their babies in Kenya in those days. They were told to eat a good diet, try and relax and hope that they would conceive again and carry the baby to full term.
Eventually Doris had given up all hope of having a baby. There was plenty for her to do on their farm in the White Highlands of Kenya, so she just busied herself and tried to forget about having a child of her own. One of her jobs was to help the members of the labour force if they had a problem and also treat them if they were sick. Often it was their babies that fell ill, and Doris tried to teach the mothers a little about hygiene and good nutrition for their children. Despite this, there always seemed to be a number of children and babies coming to her daily clinic. She was aware that she was not the only one on the farm dealing with the labour forces’ health problems. Njonjo had been employed by Dennis to erect and fix their fences and he was good at his job, but it was well known that he was also a witchdoctor, and it was often to him that the black people turned when they first got sick.
‘I wish they wouldn’t,’ Doris had said to Dennis. ‘He knows nothing about hygiene, nutrition and good medicine and I’m sure he makes things worse sometimes.’
‘I wouldn’t knock him too much, my dear,’ Dennis replied. ‘For hundreds of years the black people of Kenya had no one else to turn to when they got sick, and some of these chaps are very knowledgeable about the healing properties of herbs. It is said that they can also be quite psychic, you know, they can help people get better by changing their mental state.’
‘Well I don’t know about that,’ snorted Doris. ‘It sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo to me!’
Shortly after they had had this conversation Doris was in her clinic. It was a little wooden structure that Dennis had built for the purpose, right on the edge of the compound where the labourers lived. Outside, Njongo was working nearby, stringing up a barbed wire fence. Dennis wanted it erected as it would prevent his cattle from wandering into the compound and eating the vegetables in the little gardens that his workers had made for themselves. As Doris was involved in checking the babies that had been brought in, she was completely unaware that Njonjo had wandered into the clinic and was staring at her. He watched her while she was busy weighing a baby boy and at the same time instructing his mother about nutrition. Doris lifted the baby off the scale and wrapped him in his shawl, which she was glad to see was almost clean, and for a moment she cuddled the soft, warm little body, just for a fraction of a second imagining what it would be like to hold her own baby. Suddenly she became aware of Njonjo’s smoky dark eyes studying her from the doorway.
‘What are you doing here, Njonjo?’ she asked him in Swahili, handing the baby back to his mother. ‘This is the afternoon for women and babies.’ Njonjo neither answered her question nor moved away. He just stood staring at her so intently his eyes seemed to bore into her.
‘A mind in turmoil is as canker in the womb,’ he answered at length, speaking in the same language. ‘Seek peace and tranquillity or your dreams will never be realised.’ With that he turned and walked out of the clinic. Doris stared after him wondering what on earth he was talking about. Later that evening when she told Dennis what had happened, he laughed.
‘Like you said, it was probably just a lot of mumbo jumbo. But talking of peace and tranquillity, I had an idea this afternoon. We haven’t had a decent holiday for years, only weekends away here and there, so I think we should have one. You’ve been a bit under the weather lately, my dear, so I was thinking a three week holiday at the coast would be just what you need – in fact it would do us both the world of good.’
So they booked a holiday chalet for three weeks on the south coast of Mombasa, and left very early one morning to drive almost four hundred miles from their farm, 7000ft above sea level, to the seaside. It was like having arrived on another planet that evening as they eventually parked next to their palm thatched chalet which looked out over the warm and restless Indian Ocean. The cool pristine air with the fragrance of forest and farmland had been replaced by warm humid air, pungent with the tang of the sea salt and seaweed, while the lush green vegetation that grew up country was exchanged for palm trees and a long expanse of silver white beach. The sun was setting in a blaze of orange and pink glory behind the palm trees and was reflected on every small wave and ripple in the sea, so that it danced and sparkled like liquid fire. Later on as they sat relaxing with a beer on their veranda, the bright orb of the moon seemed to slide out of the ocean and cast a glittering path along the water right up to where the wavelets broke in silver/white lace as they ran up the beach.
Dennis and Doris had a wonderfully relaxing holiday, swimming in the sea, sunbathing on the beach, exploring the little caves and occasionally going into Mombasa for a meal at the Manor Hotel, or to indulge themselves in a little bit of history when they visited Fort Jesus. When it was time for them to go home, they were rested, beautifully suntanned – and Doris was pregnant.
This time Doris had felt different right from the time that she conceived. Njonjo’s remarks seemed to echo in her head and she wouldn’t allow herself to get stressed with the thought of another miscarriage. Nine months later she gave birth to a beautiful little baby girl.
This little girl now grasped her child’s teapot in her chubby hands and shakily poured Ribena into the small cups that were set before her toys. Savannah did not take after her parents in looks, Dennis had dark hair and flashing dark brown eyes, while Doris’s hair was bright titian in colour, her eyes were greyish green and when she smiled she had endearing dimples on her face; but Savannah was quite different. According to the family history a number of her ancestors had come from Scandinavia and she had inherited some of the Nordic features, with her ash blond hair and blue eyes. Her lovely face was very appealing and it was obvious that she would grow up to be a beauty.
Sunlight filtered through the trees, warming the pristine air and making a dappled pattern on the blanket on which they sat. The velvet green lawn stretched away, ending in a boarder of colourful flowers. Beyond that the farming land sloped away from them in various hues of brown, and then as the ground dropped away into the valley there were shades of pastel blues, greens and greys.
It’s so beautiful and peaceful, thought Doris, it could almost be Scotland. But they weren’t in Scotland, they were in Kenya and Doris was only to aware of the stirrings of restlessness and discontent among the Kikuyu people, a tribe of Africans amongst which they lived. She was worried that there might be an uprising, just as there had been in the Belgian Congo where Europeans had been targeted by the Africans. Many were killed before the majority of them were evacuated. Doris knew of missionaries there who had been friendly with her parents that had escaped with only their lives and the clothes they were wearing. She hated the thought of putting her own precious daughter through something like that.
Doris looked at Savannah again and smiled. Her daughter had thrived in the invigorating climate of the White Highlands and she was a happy little thing. Although both sets of her grandparents were dead and she had no other relatives in Kenya, Savannah didn’t suffer a lack of love. Both her parents doted on her of course, and she was a favourite of the African house-staff who often brought her little gifts – a handful of cape gooseberries, a stick of sugarcane or even a couple of newly laid eggs. Kairu, their cook, whom they called Mpishi (cook), would sometimes fashion a few of the biscuits he often baked into the shape of strange animals, just for Savannah.
Kairu was married to a woman called Njeri who was employed as an ayah for Savannah, and she took care of the child when Doris was busy with farm work. Njeri would take Savannah out in an old push-chair, trundling her along the farm tracks through sand and potholes in the warm sunshine, while butterflies and dragonflies danced around them and birdsong filled their ears. If it was too muddy for the push-chair, Njeri would carry the child on her back secured in a cloth sling in the way all the African women carry their babies, so Savannah could feel the warm comfort of Njeri’s ample body as she swung along with sure rhythmic footsteps. She would sing African songs to Savannah in a surprisingly melodious voice and speak to her in Swahili and also Kikuyu, so Savannah learned both languages along with English.
They also had two house-boys, Kamau and Phinias, but the one Savannah liked best of all was the kitchen toto, the youngest member of the house-staff, who was employed to wash the dishes and keep the kitchen clean. He was little more than a child himself and he would often try and sneak away from his duties so that he could join her in a game. He would exclaim in awe over her beautiful toys and books, because he and the other black children could never afford the luxury of bought toys. They made their own toys out of wire and string, so the brightly painted wooden and porcelain toys that Savannah had seemed absolutely marvellous to him. He would stare with delight at the pictures in her books, and wonder at the fact that even animals seemed to wear clothes on the far distant planet of England! He would build castles with her bricks, push her on her tricycle and help her arrange her little dolls in the doll’s house. He could speak and read a little English and liked to practice while he was playing with Savannah.
‘This Savannah,’ he would say, putting the smallest doll in the biggest doll’s bed. ‘Best bed for Savannah.’
‘No, no, that’s the bed the daddy and mummy sleep in,’ Savannah would object. ‘The small doll must have a little bed.’ They would play contently until a wrathful Mpishi would arrive to drag Julius back to his duties in the kitchen.
As the weeks went by life in the highlands couldn’t have been better for Savannah, but not very long after the day that she had presided over the doll’s picnic on the lawn with her mother, she realised that something had changed. Being a sensitive child, she immediately picked up the air of tension that had replaced the relaxed atmosphere that she was used to. Everyone seemed edgy, jumpy and apprehensive, and the long walks with Njeri no longer happened. Her bedroom windows were secured from the inside so that they couldn’t be opened, and her parents didn’t seem to laugh as much as they had before. They also took to wearing revolvers in holsters that hung on their belts and she was taught that she must never, ever, touch them. She and Njeri had stood at a distance and watched her parents practice by shooting at bottles that they had set up on a wall. Everyone was still kind to her and loved her just as much, but she wished in her own infantile way, that someone would tell her why things had changed. But for a while no one did.
It was on a very wet Monday when she found out what was going on. Njeri had brought her into the kitchen out of the rain so she could have a glass of milk and a freshly baked biscuit, when her mother had summoned Njeri and Mpishi to her office as she wanted to speak to them about something important. Savannah was left in the care of Julius and there in the dim smoky kitchen, he told her about people called the Mau-Mau.
‘They are bad peoples,’ he told her. ‘Evil like the one in picture book called Satan.’ Savannah thought about the picture in her book. Satan was depicted as a gaunt figure, shrouded in a black garment that swirled about him. His face was skull like and he grinned in a demonic grimace, while small evil eyes gleamed out of the dark sockets in his face.
‘These Mau-Mau want to kill all white peoples,’ Julius went on. ‘They have very sharp pangas (machetes) and they creep in the night to kill white peoples.’
This all sounded very alarming to little Savannah.
‘Will they kill me and Mummy and Daddy and you and Njeri?’ she asked tremulously. She had never noticed that her skin was a different colour to that of the black Africans. In fact her parents had taught her that everyone was the same and should be treated with respect, so she hadn’t been aware of any vast differences between the whites and the blacks.
‘No, they only kill white peoples,’ said Julius. ‘Look,’ he lifted her arm and put his arm alongside it. ‘See, your arm white, my arm black. You white people, me, I am a black people. Njeri is black, Mpishi is black, your mother and father, they are white peoples like you.’
‘So the Mau-Mau will kill me and Mummy and Daddy?’
‘They would like to, but don’t worry, Memsahib Kidogo, your mummy and daddy have guns, if Mau-Mau come near, they shoot.’ He made his hands into the shape of pistols and pointed them at imaginary Mau-Mau. ‘POW, POW, POW,’ he shouted. ‘All dead now!’
Savannah felt reassured. Julius was right. Her big strong father was unassailable; he would never let anything happen to them. She felt less sure about her mother, she was so gentle and kind, but if the worst came to the worst she did have a gun as well. However, after that Savannah was often uneasy when darkness fell. If she woke in the middle of the night, she would hide, petrified, under her bedclothes, terrified that these mysterious Mau-Mau were lurking in the dark corners of her bedroom. Savannah couldn’t know what was really going on, but later when she was much older, she learned all about the Mau-Mau and what was happening at that time.
The Mau-Mau Movement began among the Kikuyu because they rightly felt that much of their land had been given to the white settlers. The Africans had regularly presented their grievances to the colonial government in Nairobi and the government in London, but all they had achieved were promises that were never fulfilled. Eventually they decided that nothing would be accomplished by peaceful means and a militant African nationalist movement was started, whose main aim was to remove British rule and European settlers from the country. A secret society called the Mau-Mau was formed and the members were required to take an oath to drive the white man from Kenya.
In October 1952, the governor of Kenya, Sir Everlyn Baring, declared a state of emergency when the attacks started. Police stations and other government offices as well as settler farms became targets for the Mau-Mau.
Being too young to understand what was really going on, Savannah did not worry much about the situation, but for her parents and the other settlers it was a very disturbing turn of events. Dennis had inherited Cedar Farm from his parents. They had been among the many early pioneers that had come out to Kenya from England to develop that British colony, and they had bought virgin land and turned it into a good little farm. Dennis had been their only child and when he took over after his father’s death, he had continued the good work and made it into a very profitable concern. Now it all seemed to be in jeopardy as their land, together with the other farms in the area, were said to be in a hot-spot because the thick forests that grew on the slopes of the hills all around were known to be crawling with Mau-Mau.
Dennis, who always exuded an air of bright capability and was never one to sit and do nothing, decided to call a meeting with the farmers in his area. They all assembled at his house one afternoon together with their wives, and while they drank tea and ate Mpishi’s delicious cupcakes they discussed the situation.
‘I’d like to thank you all for coming,’ Dennis began. ‘I know we’re all very apprehensive about this secret society called the Mau-Mau and their intentions, and I thought that if we all pooled our knowledge and thoughts, we could, perhaps, work together to make our lives a little safer in this situation. Now, we know that these people are Kikuyus and they are taking an oath to rid Kenya of the white settlers – that’s their objective – but does anyone know exactly what’s going on? From what I can gather, there have been a couple of attacks on whites, but far more blacks have been attacked and killed, in fact the very first man to die at the hand of the Mau-Mau was a Kikuyu chief by the name of Waruhiu.’
Dave Dunn spoke up. He was a tall thin man with sharp intelligent eyes and a balding head, who had a dairy farm in the area. He had two teenage sons, and his wife, Betty, was the sister of Patrick McCall who was a police officer in the district. Having that close contact enabled Dave to be better informed than the other farmers.
‘The Mau-Mau are performing strange ceremonies late at night deep in the forest,’ he told them. ‘These midnight assemblies are bestial rituals that mock Christian rites and include the eating of human flesh and the drinking of blood.’ There was a collective shudder from the little group of people listening. ‘Native people are being dragged from their beds at night, they’re beaten or maimed and forced to swear oaths of initiation to the secret society,’ went on Dave. ‘They’re attempting to stir up the whole of the Kikuyu tribe to support their demands for independence, and for the return of the Kikuyu land that they claim the whites have stolen over the years.’
‘What absolute bloody nonsense!’ exploded Guy Folland. ‘What were the Kikuyu doing with this land before we came here? They grew a couple of sticks of maize and a few potatoes at the most. We’ve developed the land, made good profitable farms and supply the whole of Kenya with our produce!’ Guy was a small, volatile man, who had a tremendous sense of humour and was very popular in the district. His wife Diana was a lovely person who was very quiet and placid – the total opposite to Guy.
‘Well, I suppose the Kikuyu don’t see it like that,’ said Allan Welford, who was a bachelor and relatively new to the area. He was a thoughtful, studious kind of person who liked to think about things from all angles. ‘But,’ he went on, ‘what they are ignoring completely, of course, is the fact that the land occupied by the European settlers has, in recent years, been designated a kind of buffer zone between the Kikuyu and their traditional enemies, the Masai tribe.’
‘Well, be that as it may, they are obviously not going to take that into account,’ said Dave. ‘But we have to accept what we are dealing with here – these people are absolute savages. Apparently there are at least seven stages of oath-taking, which can take days or weeks to complete and include the drinking of blood, eating portions of human flesh, cohabiting with animals and ingesting bits of brains from disinterred corpses. After the seventh stage the members have to repeat the cycle and reinforce their vows by beginning again. No one is exempt from this requirement, men, women or even leaders of their society. They swear to rid Kenya of whites, and plan to attack the white people using pangas as their weapons. They feel that if their attacks are brutal and bloody they will have us running like rats in no time at all.’
‘Well they might just be a bit disappointed, especially when they are confronted by whites who are armed with guns.’ said Guy, pugnaciously.
Johan Joubert had been sitting silently until then. He was an Afrikaans man, originally from South Africa, but had been living in Kenya for many years now. He was a big man, as strong as a bull, with a craggy face and blue eyes faded from squinting into the sun. He ran his farm well, but everyone knew that he also liked to go hunting and had a little Ndorobo tracker called Pepie who, he claimed, was the best tracker in Kenya. Johan’s farm was called Miti Mingi and was situated on the hill overlooking Dennis’s farm. Now Johan made a noise in his throat that sounded something like a low growl.
‘These Mau-Mau are vermin,’ he said in his guttural Afrikaans accent. ‘We must hunt them down like rats in the barn. If I called them baboons, I would be insulting the baboons; they are worse, much worse, and if we don’t exterminate them there will never be any peace for the white man in this country. We must all carry guns and not be afraid to shoot.’
‘Yes, we must all arm ourselves,’ agreed Dennis. ‘It will probably be prudent to carry revolvers at all times, not just the men but the womenfolk as well. We also need to sort out a signal system, so if anyone comes under attack at night they can signal to their neighbours to come and assist them. We should make sure that we have guard dogs – and what about employing Masai askaris?’
The meeting went on into the early evening while they discussed the situation and how they might keep themselves as safe as possible. The tea cups were cleared away and Dennis brought out some beers which were drunk while each family spent time discussing with their neighbouring farmers how they could signal to each other if they came under attack. Because Johan’s farm was situated higher up the hill and behind the Fellow’s land, they were both able to see the lights of each other’s farm house at night, so they decided that every evening they would each hang a Hurricane Lamp where the other could see it. If either of them came under attack, they would douse the light, so the other would be aware that there was trouble on that farm if the light went out and come over to help.
Dennis and Doris had two big Alsatians called Monty and Rommel and a small dog of mixed breed called Sandy. Sandy was an old dog, he had been Dennis’s faithful friend for years and he now had a grey muzzle and hardly any teeth left. But the other two were in their prime and were excellent guard dogs, so Dennis didn’t think they needed to get any more. There was no talk of packing up and leaving, all of them had sunk their entire capital into their land and worked hard to establish good profitable farms. They weren’t about to give up easily.
However during the following weeks and months there were some particularly savage attacks on white settlers. Eric Bowyer was the first white settler to be attacked and killed. He lived on an isolated farm in the Kinangop area and being quite old, he was rather deaf and almost blind. The terrorists caught him in his bath, where they disembowelled him with their razor sharp pangas. His two African servants were also attacked and hacked to death by the Mau-Mau. Shockwaves seemed to radiate through the white community when the brutality of the attack became known.
Then two young lads, Twohey and Danby, who were out shooting birds with an air rifle on a farm on the Nairobi/Thika road, were murdered. Their young lives extinguished in the most horrible and bloody way.
‘They were soft targets,’ Dennis told Doris. ‘The rhetoric of the Mau-Mau suggests that they are ruthless fearless killers, but who do they pick on? The old, the young and the vulnerable.’
But as time went on the Mau-Mau got bolder and the attacks became more daring. The Meiklejohns, who farmed in the Thomson’s Falls area, not very far from the Fellows, were attacked. Mr Meiklejohn was murdered while his wife had half her face hacked away with a panga. They were folk who had liked and trusted the Kikuyu people, but no one was immune from the oaths that the Kikuyu leaders were forcing their tribe to take and no mercy was shown to them.
Everyone in the area became ever more vigilant, but the nerve racking horror of knowing that you could be targeted and slashed to death with pangas at any time, was quite appalling. No one felt safe anymore. Dennis was dreadfully worried that Doris and Savannah might be harmed when he had to be away from the homestead. He knew that although Doris was gentle soul she wouldn’t hesitate to shoot to kill if she had to defend her daughter, but he could see the strain in her face and the thought of them being butchered by violent, savage Mau-Mau made him feel physically sick. He decided that if he had to leave the farm for any reason at all he would insist his wife and daughter come with him.
A few days after he had made that decision his good friend Charles Ferguson was murdered. Charles also farmed in the Thomson’s Falls area and had been entertaining a friend of his, Richard Bingly, whom he had invited for dinner. His house-boy admitted a gang of Mau-Mau as they sat eating and they were both hacked to death and dismembered.
‘Where is this all going to end?’ Dennis asked Doris angrily. ‘Charles was a first class bloke, now he’s dead – and for what? Do these people really think that they can drive us away by murdering some of us? It just infuriates me and makes me feel more determined than ever not to be terrorised by them.’
Many of the settlers felt the same as Dennis but the attacks went on, some of which were repulsed while others left dead or maimed white and black people. It was a horrendous situation to be living in, but most of the farmers in the surrounding areas just gritted their teeth, jacked up their security and stayed put.
Since Dennis had made a decision not to leave his wife and daughter on the farm if he had to be away for any length of time, they now had to accompany him on his occasional business trips to various places around the country. Doris found that she enjoyed these outings because Kenya was a beautiful country to drive through, and she appreciated the different scenery as they sped along the dusty roads.
‘Sometimes it’s hard to remember this country is in turmoil when you travel through such spectacular scenery,’ she said to Denis. ‘It looks so beautiful and tranquil, doesn’t it?’
‘Yes, the beauty of Kenya doesn’t change despite the evil and violence that is happening within her boarders,’ agreed Denis.
They drove on in silence but Doris felt herself growing quite emotional when she saw the early morning African sunshine sparkling on the glistening snow of Mount Kenya and highlighting the Nandi flame trees ablaze with crimson flowers. They passed a herd of impressive elephant and then saw some giraffe grazing on the acacia trees – everything looked so placid and peaceful, but Doris felt the beauty she was witnessing was just a façade, because she knew that under the concealing jungle of the Aberdares and in the forests around Thomson’s Falls, Naro Moru, Ol Kalou and on the Kinangop, the stealthy Mau-Mau performed their gruesome ceremonies, sharpened their pangas and planned their next assault.
Most of the settlers were already living on their nerves when the most vicious and brutal attack was perpetrated on the Ruck family. The Rucks were of English heritage and had a reputation of treating their black employees in a fair-minded and charitable manner, even to the extent of supporting a clinic at their own expense, just as Dennis and Doris did. It was discovered later that the Mau-Mau had been on the Rucks’ farm for three days before the attack took place, hiding in the huts of the Rucks’ so called loyal servants. Then one night Mr Ruck had been called by his servants to see to an emergency on the farm, but there had been no emergency and he had been brutally hacked to pieces by razor sharp pangas once he was away from the farm house. His heavily pregnant wife, growing worried about his long absence, locked their six year old son in the house and went to investigate. They were waiting for her and after slitting open her swollen belly she was murdered in the same way as her husband. The Mau-Mau then went to the farm house and after breaking down the door they went into the child’s bedroom; finding him asleep they murdered him in his bed. When the bodies were found later they were so hacked and ripped they were hardly recognisable as human beings. There was blood all over the child’s toys and the entire murder scene was distressing beyond measure. But even more disconcerting it was found that the African men and women who had been in the Rucks’ employment for many years, had been foremost in the slaughter of the family.
This whole episode was dreadfully un-nerving for the white settlers, and for some it was just too much and the cut their losses, packed up and left. Such unprovoked butchery made all those who stayed watch their employees apprehensively. They appealed to Michael Blundell, the political leader of the white settlers, for help. He tried to force the government to take bigger steps to provide more protection for isolated farms, but it took weeks for them to move. The Governor of Kenya would listen to Blundell, but he took his orders from the Colonial Office. All Blundell could do was advise farmers to get rid of all their Kikuyu employees and never let a Kikuyu into their house after dark. The evicted Kikuyus ended up in overrun reserves where they were also murdered if they refused to take the oath.
Dennis was not about to throw in the towel, but he did think it might be best if he sent Doris and Savannah back to Scotland until thing had quietened down.
‘No, I absolutely refuse to leave you here and go to Scotland with Savannah,’ stated Doris emphatically, when he broached the subject. ‘You’re my husband, this is my home and together as a family we’ll face the problems. Don’t let argue about it, Denis, I really won’t budge on this.’
So Doris and Savannah stayed, but eventually all their Kikuyu employees, including Njeri, Mpishi, Kamau, Phinias and even little Julius were forced by the circumstances to leave. Doris had to manage the kitchen with just one, rather surly man from the Kisi tribe, whose hygiene was very suspect. The farm was run on a skeleton staff of people from tribes other than the Kikuyu, and still the news of further attacks continued.
As the days went by the settlers who stayed battled on, but since the government was so slow to help them they started to take the matter into their own hands and many commando groups were set up, some of which were relatively successful. The beautiful land of Kenya fell further into turmoil; it had become a place of murder and confusion where no one was happy. The evicted Kikuyus were sullen and bewildered, while the white farmers and their families were besieged in their farmhouses, sitting down to their meals with their revolvers next to their plates and the stress of the situation showing in their jumpy behaviour. In the forests commandos made up of the settlers chased the elusive Mau-Mau, because the governor was seemingly unable to provoke the colonial office into any quick useful sort of action, and the Mau-Mau themselves, driven by hate, rage or just fear of not fulfilling their duties under the oath, killed and maimed in an indescribably brutal fashion. No one knew how long this dreadful situation was going to last.