“I am giving you my honest considered opinion that Delamere cannot stand the sun. Some men simply cannot. On several occasions he has been made sick by the sun.” — Delamere’s trustee
By Amos Kareithi
When the irresistible beauty of Africa’s warm sun and her intriguing dense forests teeming with wildlife casts a spell, it leaves a nature lover breathless in desire. This has happened to some aristocrats who have gambled away their future and titles in Europe to forever bathe in the infectious warmth. Back in the day when little of Africa, her land and its people was known to Europeans, some aristocrats were notorious for forfeiting their inheritance and spending the rest of their lives in carefree hunting and merry making.
The dramatic entry of Hugh Cholmondeley, one of Kenya’s most colourful pioneers who started off as a hunter then turned into an agricultural expert and also doubled as a politician, policy maker and soldier captures the enterprising souls whose undertakings still have a bearing on our lives, a century later.
Even before he ventured into what was then referred to as British East African Protectorate that later became the Kenya colony, Cholmondeley, famously known as Lord Delamere had never led a dull life.
Entranced by Africa
He came from a titled family whose ancestors were accustomed to large swathes of land, and money was never a problem. In fact, the first baron of the Delamere estate, Thomas Hugh Chomondeley, who lived between 1767-1855, had literally bought the title, according to www.delamere-education.com. Matthew Firestone, Stuart Buttler Paula Hardy and Adam Kartin in their book, Kenya, explain that he bought the title from the British Crown at an overpriced figure of 5,000 pounds; which to the prevailing economic standards today is about 2 million pounds or about Sh260 million!
Even then there was a feeling that the title had been overpriced. But the purchaser of the title had no problem forking out the money to outbid two other gentlemen who were also chasing the title whose monetary value stood at 1,200 sterling pounds. This was the price the Lord had to pay to own thousands of acres of forested land in Chesire, England.
When the grand old man passed on, he left his heir; the second baron to contend with the overspending that almost ruined the estate, according to a research being conducted by some scholars in England.
And when the third baron inherited the title, he was only 17, and decided to abandon his dream of pursuing a career in the army so as to manage the family estate. Whatever grand plans he had evaporated like the morning dew at the onset of the sun, as soon as he learnt about Africa and the hunting prospects it presented.
Charles Miller in his epic book, The Lunatic Express, recounts how Delamere was entranced by Africa when he first set foot on Africa in what was then known as British Somaliland where he had come to hunt lions.
Apparently, although Delamere loved Africa, its sun made him sick, going by accounts given by a trustee who said: “I am giving you my honest considered opinion that Delamere cannot stand the sun. Some men simply cannot. On several occasions he has been made sick by the sun.”
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