Sandgate, three kilometres East of Torrington, in the beautiful wooded countryside with spectacular views of South Downs in England was where the future President of Kenya went to escape the vagaries of World War II.
The bracken and silver birches punctuating woods and farmlands made Jomo Kenyatta feel like he was in rural Ichaweri. No wonder he kept kienyeji chicken and cultivated vegetables and tomatoes.
Kenyatta worked part-time at the tomato hothouse section of garden marketers, AG Linfield & Sons, in between giving lectures at the Workers Education Centre, where he met Edna Grace Clarke, a teacher.
Edna had taken to liking the man who easily found four-pound (Sh20) a day jobs in West Sussex, due to labour shortage occasioned by the war, and gave lectures - on colonial themes - to soldiers under the Forces Educational Scheme.
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So, when her parents were killed in an air raid, Kenyatta’s sympathies and shoulder to cry on had Edna completely bowled over in 1942, before Jomo shortly put her in the family way.
The pair’s marriage at the Chanctonbury Registry Office in Sussex meant the future president was guilty of bigamy, since he was already married to Grace Wahu in a traditional ceremony, and later Mama Ngina.
Peter Magana was born and the 71-year-old long time executive at the BBC was their only child from their four-year marriage.
Kenyatta left his young family a year after World War II ended in 1945. He however constantly wrote letters to his old roommate, Dinah Stock (who had encouraged him to take refuge in Sandgate until the war ended). In fact, it was Dinah who suggested that the royalties from Facing Mount Kenya be used for Magana’s education.
By then, the book had sold over 9,000 copies. In response, Kenyatta wrote to Dinah and said, “I entirely agree with you that the money should be used to help Magana with his education. I will certainly make the necessary arrangements with the people concerned.”
Jeremy Murray-Brown, Kenyatta’s biographer, writes that although Dinah delivered the letter to Edna, she never got any dough.
But Kenyatta kept in touch with Edna through letters and one in 1957 had him writing back, “The news from you gave me great comfort and consolation to my soul.”
Edna Clarke died in 1995 aged 86.