No Happy Valley - Launch Party Dec 10th 2015





Jambo sana, sana watu wote. Mimi na furahi ko angalia watu mingi hapa leyo.
Firstly, thank you all for making the effort to come here tonight.
In particular, I would like to thank Geoffrey White who has agreed to say a few words in support of the book launch of No Happy Valley.
Geoffrey was born in Australia but grew up in Kenya where his grandfather, an Australian who moved to Kenya after service in the First World War, had a cattle ranch in the Laikipia district.

After schooling and national service with the Kenya Regiment Geoffrey completed tertiary studies in Law at the University of Cambridge and Gray’s Inn of Court in London. He then worked on Canadian cattle farm before applying to join the Department of External Affairs in Canberra. He served in the foreign service for thirty years, with five overseas postings including as High Commissioner in Nairobi from 1982 to 1986. Since retirement from the public service he has been engaged in a range of legal, philanthropic and rural activities. He was CEO of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation until 2010and has been active in the Braidwood district in landcare and catchment management work. Geoffrey received an Order of Australia in 1999 (OAM). He is married to Sally and they have four married children and fifteen grandchildren.

In view of his experiences in Kenya, firstly as a child growing up, and then as the Senior Australian Diplomat in Kenya, Geoffrey is uniquely placed to make this presentation. 


Guy Hallowes is an impressive resilient fellow who writes about what he knows.  

Guy has covered an important part of Kenya’s colonial history using the structure of a novel.
An engaging account of the Mau-Mau period in Kenya.
With some poetic license Guy has written about the tension, the crimes, the politics, the courage, mixed racial partnerships, the glories of the Kenyan countryside as well as some sex.

I agree with my sister Penelope Peel who works in a Woollahra bookshop.  The book is a ripping yarn.
For me there are words in this book that are a flash back to the past: the two year wonders or what we call blow-ins, the car tyre sandals, the rooineks, the Kikuyu women struggling with loads of kuni on their backs held with long leather straps around their foreheads and the description of a Kenyan prison as hoteli ya Kingi Georgie. Even our old school the Duke of York gets some mention.


The book gives the reader a front row seat to what life was like for farming enterprises in the Mau-Mau time. I felt the injustice associated with the treatment of Peter Lawrence and Rafiki. 

Sixty years after the Kenya Emergency this book is timely. Most of the main players in that period are either dead or long since retired. The passing of time makes it easier to read a book unshackled from the emotions of the time.
The Mau-Mau period was a dominant feature for those living in Kenya at that time. Guy ‘s book helps the reader understand the complexities of a movement which helped speed up moves to independence. And how it damaged itself through the violence of its militant wing.

Reading the book made me reflect back to the time span of the book: roughly from the end of the Second World War to the approach of independence in 1963. As someone who lived in Kenya in that period I am fascinated with the colourful way Guy handled those times in No Happy Valley.

Memories came flooding back: The Declaration of the Emergency on 20 October 1952.The ghastly oath taking ceremonies undertaken by the Mau-Mau. The dreadful murders of both Africans and Whites or Europeans as they were then known.

No Happy Valley takes the reader through some of the worst of the Mau-Mau terror.

The Ruck murders in January 1953 followed in the same year by the Lari massacre and the raid on the Naivasha police armoury.

Further, the book describes the cruel way the Mau-Mau cut the tendons in the back legs of cattle owned by European farmers.

Even as schoolboys we were caught up in the drama. Our school adjoined a Kikuyu reserve and we had to take it in turn to do night duty at our boarding houses armed with 303 rifles. When we turned 18, we were called up to serve with the Kenya Regiment as National Servicemen.

Guy has given a reasonably balanced account of these times. The Africans, especially the Kikuyu, had a real grievance about the loss of land. At the same time the British were still encouraging White settlement.
He also shows how some of the settlers like the pompous George Athill were totally unacceptable for Kenya. It was not hard to feel for Peter Lawrence.

He was a liberal person who was ahead of his times.

It shocked me to read how the primary school he built on his farm was burnt down. A senseless action by some of his White enemies.

The story of Rafiki is very compelling.  But I am not here to unfold the twists and turns of her story.

A brief colonial interlude

Of course we need to remember just how brief was the British Colonial intervention: less than 70 years. It began in 1895 with the Protectorate over British East Africa and ended with Independence in December 1963.
Only a small percentage of the 50 million Kenyans today will have memories of the British rule and the Mau-Mau rebellion. And in any case with a few exceptions the Mau-Mau was largely confined to three of Kenya’s 40 tribes.

The Kikuyu, Embu and Meru.

The book asks the question whether in 100 years’ time anyone will remember the colonial interlude.
In passing I think the reports that President Obama’s father, a Luo, was a Mau-Mau freedom fighter might be dubious.

Jomo Kenyatta

Kenya was fortunate that, when Jomo Kenyatta was released from seven years’ confinement to a house in Lodwar in north western Kenya, he did not seek revenge. Indeed, when he addressed a gathering of European farmers at Nakuru before Independence he held out the hand of friendship.

He told the farmers that he could not forget the fight for independence but he could forgive.

His words as recorded by the famous settler writer, Elspeth Huxley were: “If I have done a mistake to you in the past, it is for you to forgive me. If you have done a mistake to me, it is for me to forgive you. The Africans cannot say the Europeans have done all the wrong and the Europeans cannot say the Africans have done all the wrong. Let bygones be bygones.”

He urged the farmers to stay on in an Independent Kenya. (a contrast to Mugabe in Zimbabwe)

The European farmers were upstanding and shouted out the catchword at the time Harambee - we pull together.

Kenyatta was right to encourage the farmers to stay. Among those present here tonight is Peter White whose father Harold developed one of Kenya’s finest farming operations in the Ol Kalou district. Harold was present at that Nakuru meeting.

After the memorial service at the Nairobi cathedral for Harold, one of the senior Africans present wrote to me about my eulogy. He thought highly of the contribution of the serious white farmers. His words: God has made the jungle but the white farmers made the development.

Guy ‘s book helps bring some reality to what it was like to be a settler farmer in colonial days.

Too many people seem to rest their view of Kenya in the colonial era as one dominated by the likes of Karen Blixen and Out of Africa, the feckless Happy Valley set in Wanjohe Valley and the social life excesses of a particular group of aimless English settlers.

Even our politicians who visited Kenya in my time in Foreign Affairs were absorbed by the so called White Mischief lot. They wished to see the billiard table in the Muthaiga Club where Lady Delamere was pleasured by Lord Errol.
There was that well known cliché: are you married or do you live in Kenya?

Some Kenyan characters

Certainly Kenya had its fair share of colourful characters. Here I think of Colonel Ewart Grogan who walked from the South African Cape to Cairo in 1897-1900. He did this to gain the respect of his future father in law to prove his adequacy as a suitor for his step daughter.

Beryl Markham: horse breeder, adventurer, pilot and farmer. In 1938 she became the first women to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. She was in the early days the only professional female pilot in Africa.
The Leakey family of course in several generations have contributed so much to Kenya. Paleontology, wildlife, museum and politics

Contribution by the white farmers

Guy reminds the reader about the contribution of the European farmers to Kenya.

Guy’s hero in his book Peter Lawrence was a hardworking farmer without much money. He and many others were serious farmers, quite unlike the socialites of the Happy Valley type.

From the very start of the British colonial rule serious efforts were made by settler farmers to build a viable agricultural sector. 

They were also caring about the people they employed and helped with schooling and basic health care. Most of them lived simple and frugal lives.

Great risks were often taken as farmers experimented with various crops, fruit, tea and coffee and breeds of livestock. While most of the farmers were from the United Kingdom there were some notable South African and

Australian pioneers.

My grandfather was one of them. He imported purebred Ayrshire cattle from Australia after the First World War. He helped Lord Delamere set up the Kenya Cooperative Creameries.

This was at a time when the dairy industry in Kenya was seen as the rock and foundation on which European settlement would be built.

Another person with Australian links was the Rev.Stuart Watt a missionary and pioneer who in the 1890s imported eucalypts, acacias and fruit trees from Australia.

Charles Anderson whose family farmed in Kenya won an MC in the First War in the campaign in German East Africa. Later he emigrated to Australia and in World War Two won a VC in the Malaya campaign. He served as the Country Party Member for Hume for many years

When Independence came, Kenya had a thriving agricultural base as well as quality tea and coffee estates.
The administrators and missionaries 

Nor should we forget the British administrators. They were committed officials who learnt the local languages and carried out their duties faithfully. So did the missionaries who played a key role in education and rural health for their flocks.  None of them retired wealthy.

Colonial balance sheet

So what is the balance sheet of the colonial era?  In Colony to Nation, Sir John Johnson who served in the Colonial administration and later as British High Commissioner to Kenya concluded that the most outstanding failure was preventing the Mau-Mau rebellion.

No Happy Valley targets the sleepy response of the British Government and particularly the Governor until June 1952 Sir Philip Mitchell.

The book describes how the British took a blind eye to the warnings in the years between the end of World War Two and the Emergency.

The growth of landless Africans

The impact of the return of African servicemen from World War Two and emerging political awareness.

Concluding comment

Peter Lawrence described his farm as God’s own country. It is. But the White Highlands concept was a colonial fantasy. The Europeans were but temporary stewards of the land.
Guy, well done.    No Happy Valley will interest anyone who wants to read an engaging novel based on Africa. And it will not just appeal to old Kenyan hands.
I have pleasure in launching:  No Happy Valley.


I have always thought that my own and a very few others experiences in Kenya harboured a story that needed to be told, hence this book No Happy Valley.

Many will have heard of Kenya’s Happy Valley of the 1930’s (are you married or do you live in Kenya). This particular Valley was in the area described in the book.

I believe and I think have succeeded in creating a balance between the various racial groups in the country; I have certainly tried to present more than just one point of view.

At its most basic No Happy Valley is just an easy read adventure story set in Kenya, between 1946 and 1963.

As far as I am concerned the history and geography of the time I have described are accurate. I have read many books on the period, to try to ensure this, including the lengthy and tedious British Government sponsored Corfield report on the origins of the Mau-Mau.

The characters in the book are of course wholly imaginary.

Also I was there, so lived through the whole period which led up to what I have described as the transition to majority rule.

Although the book is a novel there are a number of incidents in the book that actually occurred:

There is an elephant charge in the early part of the book. I know that happened since I was one of the people being charged. In the book the elephant died, since I needed the tusks for another part of the story. Readers will be glad to hear that in real life we did the elephant no harm. We blasted fifty or so shots over the animal’s head and he turned tail.

One of the book’s main characters attended a Mau-Mau meeting in 1949. They obviously didn’t know he was there. The same thing happened to my father, who spoke fluent Kikuyu, so clearly understood what was being said. In the fictional and real situation, the reports to the police went nowhere; they were told to keep their mouths shut. After the Second World War, The British Government had a policy of settling thousands of British ex-servicemen in the colony and were determined that nothing was going to interfere with that. The Mau-Mau emergency was declared in 1952 and Kenya gained its independence in 1963.

Our immediate neighbour was murdered in much the same way as I describe in No Happy Valley.

The general image of the Kenya farmer encouraged by the Happy Valley set, books by Elspeth Huxley and some others was that of hard drinking, idle wastrels living a life of luxury and being waited on hand and foot by the local Africans. I will read you a short passage from No Happy Valley which describes the house we actually lived in: (P 62)

The cottage had been thoroughly cleaned and the walls whitewashed.  And since there were no ceilings, Jenny had gunny bags (grain sacks) cut up and then sewn together and put in as ceilings; they were also whitewashed.  Jenny had found a way of adding red and green dye to the whitewash; the effect of this was sometimes rather garish but it did break the monotony of the harsh white.

The bath was Peter’s idea; he cut a 44-gallon oil drum down the middle lengthwise, then cut out two ends and welded the remaining two pieces together.  The effect was like a boat with two blunt ends.  The major difficulty was keeping the bath upright, which was achieved by placing a length of four by two timber against one side of the bath, the other being against the wall.  The family managed this quite well, but visitors sometimes ended up on the floor with the contents of the bath.

The toilet was a “long drop” about 100 yards from the house.  Running water was only available from the outside storage tank so flush toilets were unknown.

Probably not that different to many places in Outback Australia at the time, but nevertheless not a life of idleness and luxury. Certainly Geoffrey’s uncle Harold and his family, who lived in the same district as us, lived much as we did and were as hard working as anyone- although I don’t remember them having the luxury of a bath made from a 44-gallon drum.

Hopefully what I have achieved in No Happy Valley is authenticity. I have had a few reviews which indicate just that.