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  Authors and Book Reviews  

April 10 - 17, 2000

 

 Coastweek   Kenya


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JOSS HAD A PENCHANT
FOR OTHER MEN'S WIVES

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Coastweek - - One of Ali Khan's mule teams on Government
Road, 1920s. Seizing Ali Khan's rhino-hide whip, a cuckold
Major Ramsay-Hill lashed Joss in full public view at Nairobi
Station in 1928. The incident was never forgotten by Joss's
often humiliated detractors.
  
(PHOTO: COURTESY - ERROL TRZEBINSKI) 

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PART TWO OF A SIX PART SPECIAL ARTICLE by ERROL TRZEBINSKI

Coastweek - - It is true that Josslyn Victor Hay, had a penchant for other men's wives.

But that's about it.

Undoubtedly he would have led (White settler) Kenya had he been allowed to live, and stepped into Lord Delamere's shoes; No-one had satisfactorily filled these since the father of white settlement died in 1931.

No, his death was not instigated by some jealous cuckold.

He was assassinated in cold blood.

Meanwhile the prime suspect, the ageing Broughton's name was never cleared and having walked free from a sensational trial, poor Broughton committed suicide eighteen months later, in the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool.

My opinion about the murder and the 'Happy Valley' theme, began to alter after I had visited a simple annexe, with a leaking corrugated iron roof, at the home of Edward 'Roddy' Rodwell on Mtwapa Creek five years ago.

Here Roddy had written his weekly column, 'Coast Causerie' for the East African Standard, for long as I could remember.

He and his wife Olivia, had known Lady Idina, Erroll's first wife as a neighbour at first and then they became close friends.

Olivia and Roddy sat by Idina's bedside often in the last weeks of her life, and she had admitted to each of them individually during one of their vigils, in:

Coastweek - - Edward 'Roddy'
Rodwell - whose weekly column,
'Coast Causerie' appeared in the
East African Standard. 

"I know who killed Joss ... and before I die, I will tell you who was responsible."

Alas she had slipped into a coma so this was never to be.

Roddy had been so impressed by her intention to break her silence, that he wrote in 'Coast Causerie':

"I feel I should record my recollections of Lady Idina's remark made so many years after the trial, because she did not believe in Broughton's guilt; someone else was the culprit.

"Perhaps ... the story is not told in full."

Roddy's direct sentiment, this simple statement, decided that I should tackle a full length biography of the 22nd Earl of Erroll, for somehow I sensed this was somehow overdue.

My own meeting with Joss's first wife, Idina, had been on unavoidably intimate terms; I was seventeen or so, a nursing student at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital for Women in Nairobi when she was admitted as a patient on the private ward where I worked as a probationer.

I was too young to qualify for training at the Middlesex Hospital.

For ten days I observed her during the early stages of terminal cancer.

She was always charming, down to earth, funny, an unforgettable and arresting character, who never complained about the pain which was already invading her slim, heavily freckled body.

I was merely a cog in a small team of hand-maidens, trainees, to be summoned by her bell.

At around 5.00 p.m., I used to dread that sound when visitors crowded her room. Besides male admirers, there were usually at least three or four alarmingly sophisticated women present at her bedside; they were always exquisitely dressed; gaiety prevailed as they conversed with one another - often in French.

Idina always took pleasure in arranging her flowers for herself, there were so many flowers that her room resembled a bower.

Her former home at Mtwapa is testimony to her passion for garden; flowering shrubs enhance the garden today where she planted them.

Even now I can see her in my mind's eye, propped up on pillows in that smoked- filled room, her cigarette in its long amber holder, with a smudge of carmine lipstick at one end, her voice was husky, slightly babyish in tone but beguiling all the same: her laughter was infectious, as she gesticulated grandly to an adoring circle.

How gauche I felt without make-up, clad in white uniform and flat shoes, like an insect - intrusive -, needing to be swept away by the brush of an elegant hand while undertaking mundane requests - fetching a bed-pan, or iced water, finding yet another vase or summoning the ward sister because a pain-killer was required.

Though I never saw Idina again after she was discharged I never forgot her.

Typically she had left a case of champagne for the ward staff.

I drank mine from a tea cup, since there were not enough glasses to go round.

I vowed never to drink champagne again ... unless it was chilled and served in a flute but that was over fifty years ago !

Idina is buried in Mombasa, next to one of her two sons, both of whom perished in the Second World War.

 

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