HAD A PENCHANT
FOR OTHER MEN'S WIVES
- - 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)
TWO OF A SIX PART
SPECIAL ARTICLE by
- - 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
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
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:
- - Edward
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
"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."
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.