April 5-11, 2002


 Coastweek   Kenya

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Coastweek - - Prolific Coast author and columnist Edward Rodwell, 95, has died at the Mombasa Hospital.

In 1993 Rodwell wrote himself into the history books when 'Guinness Book Of Records' were asked to recognise his feat of completing a continuous fifty years' publication of his weekly 'Coast Causerie' newspaper column.

A front page article the in Coastweek reported:

Africa's avuncular answer to P.G. Wodehouse, James Herriot and Samuel Peppys, has been celebrating a remarkable achievement with his long running column.

Started in November 1943, it first appeared in the Mombasa Times, was continued in the Nakuru Kenya Weekly News and currently appears every Thursday in the Nairobi Standard newspaper.

During that fortnight there had been full-page feature articles in the national newspapers, television interviews, congratulatory telegrams from around the world, and, a full dress party hosted for him and his wife Olivia, at the Mombasa Club by the Standard newspapers.

Coastweek - - EDWARD RODWELL, aged 68, when he was running Mombasa's only public relations company - highlighting activities in Kilindini Port for the then East African Railways and Harbours Corporation and also helping promote the tourism industry.

Illustration courtesy GABRIELA
TAUCHNITZ from Edward Rodwell's
"AND SO IT GOES" published 1984 by
Ian Parker and Westland Sundries,
Nairobi, Kenya.

Among the guests who attended the function were the Mombasa District Commissioner, Mr. Ali Korane, Ms. Zarina Patel, who is a grand-daughter of the late Jeevanjee (founder of the Mombasa Times, which later became The Standard), the Nation Newspapers' Group Managing Editor, Mr. Wangethi Mwangi, Mombasa businessman Sheikh Abdallah Zubedi, and Robert and Ursula Brenneisen of Bamburi Portland Cement Company.

Rodwell, was for many years editor of the former Mombasa Times newspaper and two of his most forceful and well received campaigns were to preserve Fort Jesus as a national monument and to further research of the fascinating history of the Kenya Coast.

His carefully constructed writing is often marked by rare good humour, well-prepared anecdotes of a rural nature and caustic comments on the fulsome folly of bumbling bureaucracy in all its most frantic and frustrating forms.

"No story is ever complete and I like to trade in on this fact" he recalled while writing an introduction to one of his works a few years ago.

"There are writers who just give the bare bones of an incident and eschew any reference to colour, but I think the quaint, the sad and the merry circumstances of an occasion provide an important insight to the characters of the people concerned".

In another piece he wrote at some length:

"Despite the fact that for many years I have worked as a journalist and dealt with the hard facts of life both as an Editor of a daily newspaper and later as a roving correspondent, my personal interest, hobby if you like, has been the off-beat story of strange occasions and the people involved.

"Thus came about the column which far want of a better name was called Coast Causerie.

"The feature was born during the early years of the last war when news comprised little more than a daily repetition of events that bore little comfort.

"At first I wrote about history, birds and beasts, languages, ancient monuments, the excavation of coastal cities, almost forgotten Swahili legends and songs and people and their attractions.

Coastweek - - Edward Rodwell, prolific Coast author, who has
died in Mombasa aged 95.

Illustration courtesy GABRIELA
TAUCHNITZ from Edward Rodwell's
"AND SO IT GOES" published 1984 by
Ian Parker and Westland Sundries,
Nairobi, Kenya.

"In the beginning the column was no more than a journalistic gimmick, tailored to counteract the grimness of contemporary events.

"But as time passed Coast Causerie became more than a gimmick. "People were really interested in the subjects I wrote about.

"Local public interest soon demanded that Fort Jesus was preserved as a national monument; an archeologist, Mr. James Kirkman, was engaged to work on the ancient monuments of the Coast.

"I cite these two instances, but there were many more.

"I wrote 'Gedi the Lost City' in 1948 and followed this with 'lvory, Apes and Peacocks' in 1949.

"Fortunately, perhaps, both books are out of print, as are the first four volumes of Coast Causerie, sales of which reached 28,000 copies.

"I say 'fortunately' because so little was known of our past. At least the book on Gedi provided a stepping stone to the experts who followed.

"l am not an historian but I study ancient and modem history with the object of finding occasions that provide a story worth telling, events that often show a light background to what has been a dark history in our part of the African continent"

Among his numerous other achievements and designations Edward Rodwell was a former proprietor of the Rodwell Press, a director of Nyali Estate Limited, a Chairman of the Mombasa Club, and a founder member of the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association.

In the 'fifties he was a popular radio broadcaster for KBS and was often described as the 'Alistair Cooke of East Africa'.

At one time he contributed generously to formation of the short-lived 'Mombasa Press Club' and together with the late Tony Pape was responsible for the revival of the Mombasa National Agricultural Show.

He also ran a profitable public relations company, helped establish the former 'Kikambala Residents Association' and succesfully introduced Swiss Togenburg goats to his small holding out at Mtwapa Creek on the Kenya North Coast.

He even dabbled in open speed boat racing and was the first and only 'Commodore' of the Mombasa Motor Boat Regatta during the days of Sunday racing around and underneath the old Nyali Bridge.

In the Jamhuri Day Honour's List of 1994 Edward Rodwell was created a warrior of the 'Order of the Burning Spear' by President Moi in recognition of his services to journalism.

A colleague recalled this week:

"Roddy will be remembered for his marvellous writing, his great enthusiasm for life, his courage, his generosity, his warm sense of humour and his passion for the curious and fascinating."

He is survived by his sons John and Peter Rodwell and several grown up grand children.





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