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  OBITUARY  

July 30 -August 05, 2004

 

 Coastweek   Kenya


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RAY KESTER

SOLDIER, SAILOR, BANKER, BUSINESSMAN, MOMBASA CLUB
CHAIRMAN AND MOMBASA YACHT CLUB COMMODORE
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Coastweek - - It is always difficult to do justice to the life of someone in a short address and, in attempting to do so for Ray, I am conscious that others present knew him for longer than I did.

I did, however, know him for nearly 30 years and was associated with him in the running of two of Mombasa's Clubs for much of the time so that I hope that I may be able to do justice to his memory in the following few words.

I know that Ray initially trained as a Banker before enlisting in the British Army in 1940 at the start of the Second World War.

He was soon in action in Northern France as part of Britain's Expeditionary Force and, following the retreat of that Force, was eventually evacuated from the beach at Dunkirk: an experience that he described to me on several occasions as being extremely frightening to a new, young soldier.

He was then posted to Mombasa where he served for the remainder of the War and, having evidently formed a bond with East Africa, remained there after the war.

Coastweek - - Ray Kester at
his 85th Birthday luncheon,
held at the Mombasa Club
'Bryson Room' on January
14, 2004.

His first job after demobilization was as a bursar at Makerere University in Uganda but it was not long before he returned to Mombasa to work with Bunson Travel Ltd. and then, in the mid 1950s, he joined Southern Lines Ltd where his financial ability was used to put order after its formation.

Southern Lines then operated a fleet of Coasters carrying general cargo and petroleum products on the East African Coast, around the Indian Ocean Islands and up to the Middle East.

The distinctive quartered logo of the Company carried on the funnels of the Southern Cross, Southern Isles, Southern Dawn, Southern Pioneer, Southern Trader, Southern Baobab and Southern Sky was a familiar site in the Port and around the Company's base at Mbaraki.

This base was also home to Southern Engineering Co. Ltd who were responsible for the maintenance of the vessels and for general marine and structural steel work in Mombasa.

Both Southern Lines and Southern Engineering were sold in the 1980s and from their ashes arose the phoenix of the Southern Group of Companies which in time came to include Southern Credit Finance, later to become Southern Credit Banking Corporation Ltd., Fidelity Shield Insurance Company Ltd and Senator Credit Cards.

As a Director of this Group Ray was closely involved with the setting up and administration of the Group's activities and was for some years its Chairman.

His reputation for competence and honesty was recognised by his appointment to influential Committees of the Federation of Kenya Employers, the National Social Security Fund, and on the Appeals Committee of the Income Tax Department, (now known as the Kenya Revenue Authority) and he continued to discharge these duties until his retirement.

This busy life did not, however, prevent him contributing in full measure to the two Clubs at which much of his leisure time was spent, and I know from my personal experience how much time and effort he gave to both.

Firstly, he was a keen sailor and sailed Umeme, his Lightning Class dinghy, for many years, assisted by his regular crew Mohammed, in the racing programme of Mombasa Yacht Club.

Incidentally Umeme had quite a history being brought, allegedly under her own sail power, from Zanzibar after the revolution there.

The boat has now been extensively restored by Michael Smewing and I know that Ray was very pleased to think of her still being sailed at the Club.

But Ray not only took part in the sailing: he also made major contributions to the running of the Club and was for many years a regular on the Club's General and Sailing Committees.

He was Commodore, that is the equivalent of Chairman in non nautical language, of the Club for the years 1961, 1962 and 1979 and, having myself served with him on the same Committees I know how much the Club benefited from his wise words and financial advice.

It's probably true, however, to say that Ray's first love apart from his business commitments was for the Mombasa Club.

Here he played his regular games of snooker, took his Saturday lunches with his particular friends at the same table for many years and was a familiar and welcome face in what was then still the Men's Bar.

[Now, of course, renamed the Main Bar as Ladies are welcomed as Full Members of the Club.]

He was, however, again not just content to make use of the Club's facilities but contributed to its running.

He was for approximately 25 years a Board Member, was President in 1967 and was Chairman in 1977 and 1987.

After leaving the Board he took over from John Bryson as Chairman of the Club's Finance Committee and provided good, sensible advice to this Committee.

I am sure that all Mombasa Club Members here will remember his comprehensive presentation of the Club's Accounts at General Meetings and his ability to answer their questions on these Accounts thereafter although questions were usually few because of the way in which he had presented the Accounts.

It is, of course, a matter for sorrow that Ray's last years were dogged by illness but I, and I hope all of you, will always remember him as the calm, confident and above all trustworthy Ray Kester whose life we are met here today to commemorate.

- A.P.B., Mombasa.

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