‘I’d like to go to Africa,’ I declared as a little girl, ‘and see forests full of parrots.’ This I did. Everything I had ever hoped to see was spread out before me and the experience left a profound impression.
My great-grandparents began farming at Usa River, just west of Arusha in 1919. I first arrived in northern Tanzania in 1972, when my mother took these photographs of the house and garden where her family lived for fifty years. I longed to climb the ancient fig tree in the garden but was told a cobra lived there. It was probably on the lookout for parrots coming anywhere near it.
By the early seventies the family were busy farming coffee and often had visitors to stay. My great-uncle Tony used the farm as a base for his safaris and served as an honourary game warden having worked for many years in the Kenyan Police Force and Game Department. He was well-connected and once took Bing Crosby bird shooting, although this fact was kept secret until 2015.
I loved the outdoor way of life, was intrigued by the kitchen that was seperate from the main house, and amused by the hot water system that consisted of small cylindrical tanks known as ‘donkeys’. Everything smelt of wood smoke. The best thing was that I was able to sleep in a safari tent set up in the garden, in true ‘Swallows and Amazons’ style. It felt as if I was being swept along in an adventure portrayed in the film ‘Born Free’ when Virginia McKenna played the artist Joy Adamson who became well known for bringing up a lion cub called Elsa, eventually releasing her into the wild.
7 thoughts on “My Family’s Roots in East Africa”
Very evocative photos. Did the property remain with your family? I can see why the experience would have made such an impression on you.
Thanks for adding a question. I’d better mention that. The farm only remained in my family until 1978 but is still fondly remembered by us all. I visited the old house last January, so have some up to date photos and stories.
This is fabulous; the photos are a treasure and, as your previous correspondent says, very evocative. How I envy your experience in Tanzania. It must have been eye-opening for a teenager!
I have the diary I kept as an eleven year old and was wondering if there was enough interest in it to include it in this blog. I might use it for a non-fiction book one day.
I think that is a great idea. I am sure it would be popular and a keen seller!
It was suggested by a literary agent. I’ll have a think about the structure.
It seems, from what I’ve seen in these blogs, that you have ample material to work from.