January 13 - 19, 1995


 Coastweek   Kenya

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Coastweek - - She not only cared for people, but every living thing - animals, birds and plants as well as the environment generally.

Helen Shaw loved Kenya and during her three years in Argentina, pined to return.

It was with great shock that her good friend in London, John Byrne, had received the news from her son, Zbginiew, that Helen had died.

Helen a well known hotelier had retired there after being in Kenya for 38 years.

She came to this country together with her husband, Wing Commander Peter Shaw who had served with the Royal Air Force during World War 2.

Together they managed Lake Manyara Hotel when it first opened.

Peter died in 1966 when they were running the Banda Hotel, Nairobi.

Coastweek - - Helen Shaw.

Thereafter, Helen carried on managing hotels and clubs in Kenya. They included Holiday Inn, Bamburi, Casuarina Hotel and the Red Lobster, Shanzu, Shelly Beach Hotel, and Mombasa Club (as Catering Manager).

She also worked up country at the Kentmere Club Limuru and Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi.

Prior to her retirement, she was managing Tiwi Sea Castles on the South Coast.

Helen was a founder member of the Skål Club of Mombasa (John Byrne being its Chairman for several years) and a great lover of animals and birds many of whom owe their continued existence to her.

Any found in a pitiful state after being abandoned or cruelly treated she looked after or called in the KSPCA.

She spent much money on their rehabilitation and the three Kenyan cats accompanying her to Argentina were among those she had saved.

Unfortunately, all later disappeared, leaving Helen heart broken.

Born with ‘green fingers’ she spent much of her spare time with her ‘shambas’ (gardeners) tending plants and trees which flourished.

Her gardens were not only beautiful, but immaculate.

Lovely interior gardens sprung up wherever she went.

Helen maintained high standards of service and hygiene, as well total fairness in dealing with staff to whom she was affectionately known as ‘Mama’.

Guests were made to feel at home and cared for.

Many from Kenya and overseas have remained her firm friends throughout the years.

‘Disco Nights’ when Helen was manager of the Casuarina Hotel are still remembered with nostalgia when the ‘Buffalo Disco’ was playing there.

It was the most swinging place in Mombasa on a Friday night.

Helen remained a Kenyan citizen and in a letter written a few months ago admitted:

‘I love Kenya from The highlands to the sea – as Roger Whittaker says in his beautiful song ‘My land is Kenya’.

‘As a hotelier, I seldom had problems with my staff and I shall never forget the way they looked after me when l was nearly dying from malaria.

‘God bless my driver at Tiwi Sea Castle, especially’.

‘I miss my ‘shambas’ and their dedication in looking after gardens, also the many people who were all always very helpful and polite, including government officials, District Commissioners, District Officers, Immigration Officials and the Kenya Police.

‘I miss the fisherman with whom I used to chat, also my elderly blind beggar at Likoni Ferry.

'I never passed without giving him something which was always received with a smile and a big thank you.

Helen’s letter concluded:

‘I miss all you dear people in Kenya and will never forget you.

‘I send you my love and thanks for all the help you gave me during my 38 years there.

‘l am a Kenya citizen and shall die a Kenyan citizen.

‘When I look at the sky and see an aircraft disappearing I wish I could fly back to Kenya to the land I love and to see all of you again’.

Helen was a very fine and gracious lady, and a hotelier of whom Kenya can be justly proud.

It is indeed sad to have to say Kwaheri for the very last time.

 - Coastweek correspondent Neta Peal, Mombasa.



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