Family wants King Charles to visit village where royals launched house 88 years ago

Shiraku says the family holds special ties with the royal family to date as Britons have been travelling from England to the village to see the magic house the royal family graced.

The mother of one says the connection between the family and the British is so special and strong that they have kept and maintained the original architecture of the house.

"We have instructed all our workers, family members, and even our next generation that no one will ever temper with the original structure of the house, it has to remain the way it was 88 years ago. It was a great honour for the royal family to visit our sleepy village out of big cities and towns to open the house and we have to pay them back by maintaining its originality," said Shiraku.

The rich relationship the owner of the house enjoyed with the late Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom stands stronger than the house itself. Pinned on the wall is a silver footprint with writings indicating the building was opened by Her Highness Princess Margaret, sister of the queen on September 19, 1956.

Inside the white, red and blue polished structure of the house, the relics of a royal visit remain intact albeit with a little modification to maintain their original glow. The pictures and names of then young Princess Margaret adorn the walls and doors taking one back in time.

The veranda is big enough to accommodate a toilet on the right and a kitchen on the left, creating space for a waiting room at the centre for visiting guests. From the waiting room, you are ushered into a spacious living room that lies in the middle of the other four rooms inscribed with writings of Princess Margaret on the wooden shade blue door.

The house's ceiling is painted with the colours of the United Kingdom flag. The owner of the house, James Shiraku, a former employee of the East Africa Railways and Harbors (EARH) between 1924 and 1969, was one of the first locals in Khwisero and Kakamega County to own a permanent house.

He got the house design in 1935 from Jagit Singh and Malkit Gudwar Singh, then the engineers of EARH and built the house the same year.

According to Belinda his grandfather who was born in 1907, was the link between the Kenyans working at EARH and the British colonialists then. He worked as a caretaker at a workshop and was the only person who spoke a bit of English, a factor that endeared and elevated him above his peers before the Britons.

Belinda Shiraku showing their family house (Martha's guest house) where Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opened on September 19 1956 at Mundeku on Khwisero on November 1, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

"As a hardworking man at the railways, with good English, my grandfather earned many recognitions from the British officials and that is how he was able to interact with the royal family and end up gracing the opening of his house, "said Shiraku.

Belinda adds that after the death of his grandfather his father Gibson Shiraku extended the relationship between the family and the Britons due to the nature of his work.

"My father was a City Commissioner attached to the famous Provincial Commissioners in Nairobi and he used to travel a lot abroad and through such engagements and tours he took advantage of it to bring Europeans to Kenya and later in Khwisero to see their footprints," said Shiraku.

In 1956 when Queen Elizabeth visited Kenya, Shiraku was appointed to give a present to the queen on behalf of EARH workers and it was during the occasion that he told the queen about his only permanent house. After Queen Elizabeth returned to England, she sent her only younger sibling Princess Margaret to open the house on her behalf, regretting she could not make it herself.

Shraku who had not married for 25 years, had vowed not to enter the house until a great person launched it. After it was opened by a member of the royal family, he moved into the house with his first wife Martha Shiraku, and later married a second wife, Dorscilla Ayuma.

As Kenyans continue expressing their mixed reactions to the royal family's four-day state visit, residents of Khwisero remember her for sending her only sister to the remote village. Princess Margaret also conferred a certificate of commendation to Mr Shiraku who had utilized his hard-earned meagre salary from EARH to put up a decent house.

"We pray that the King finds time to come down and see exactly what his aunt opened in one of the rural areas in Kenya. Besides everything going on around the King's visit, for us, we are great to have played host to the royal family on our soil and it will go in annuls of history as one of the most respectable and memorable moments," said Zablon Ayiro, grandson of late Shiraku.