SOLDIER, SAILOR, BANKER, BUSINESSMAN, MOMBASA CLUB
CHAIRMAN AND MOMBASA YACHT CLUB COMMODORE
- - 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
- - Ray Kester at
his 85th Birthday luncheon,
held at the Mombasa Club
'Bryson Room' on January
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.
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
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
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