TALENTED HOTELIER WHO LOVED THE KENYA COAST
- - 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
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
She came to
this country together with her husband, Wing Commander Peter
Shaw who had served with the Royal Air Force during World
managed Lake Manyara Hotel when it first opened.
Peter died in 1966 when they
were running the Banda Hotel, Nairobi.
- - 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.
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.
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
'I never passed
without giving him something which was always received with a smile
and a big thank you.
‘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.