'The longer I stayed in Kenya the more I enjoyed being there'

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'The longer I stayed in Kenya the more I enjoyed being there'


Frank remembers a car accident in Kenya.


Frank Gaynor


Trinity College Dublin




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Frank Gaynor

Is Part Of

Adolescence and Early Adulthood


Life Story

Spatial Coverage

Kenya, Africa

Temporal Coverage


Life Story Item Type Metadata


At the beginning of 1965 I visited Kitale Club on a few occasions and started getting to know a few people there. It was at an agricultural show in Kitale that I first saw a Toyota vehicle for sale. I had no difficulty with the older farmers and found their conversations interesting. Their sons were more likely to be artificially polite, very racist and arrogant. One evening I went for a meal in the Club restaurant with two of these young farmers. As the waiter entered the dining area with our food my two colleagues laughed loudly as they pelted him with knobs of butter. I trained with the Kitale rugby team a couple of times - often enough to confirm that my sporting future lay elsewhere. I was gradually developing a circle of friends outside the Kiltegan circle. The longer I stayed in Kenya the more I enjoyed being there. I had seen only a small fraction of what that huge country had to offer in terms of mountains, valleys, lakes and beaches, and I was very impressed. I could not compare it with Ireland because at that stage I had yet to see Antrim, Donegal, Kerry or Wicklow. There was also the interesting world of wild animals and birds that I had barely touched on. I was gradually learning more about how the Asians, Africans and Europeans interacted. I was beginning to think about extending my unwritten two year contract when suddenly my plans changed. After dark on 17th March 1965 as I was driving from Kitale to a party at Kiminini Mission I saw a single light in front of me. Presuming that it was a motorcycle coming towards me, I moved slightly to the left and crashed. I remained conscious and was able to get out of the car. I had a number of cuts on my face, caused mainly by the steering column. A passerby took me to Kitale hospital where a doctor proceeded to do some stitching without giving me any anaesthetic. Next morning I woke up in a 'whites only' ward. As the doctor toured the ward the man in the bed beside me asked 'Who is this young man that came in during the night?' The doctor replied: 'I don't know him, but from the language he used on me last night I presume that he's Irish'. Had he used an anaesthetic the language might have been different. Later, I was interviewed by a policeman who first listened to my version of events and then proceeded to tell me that I had crashed into a tractor, a Ferguson 20, that was travelling in the same direction. The light I had seen was a ploughing light over the rear right wheel of the tractor. At impact the bolts at the gearbox had sheared; the engine and front wheels went to one side of the road and the big rear wheels went to the other side. An African farmer and his young son, who were on the tractor, were shaken but not injured. The VW was a write - off but at a distance it did not look badly damaged. A photo of the VW sitting proudly beside the two halves of the tractor appeared on the front page of the East African Standard. Six months in Matunda without a car did not appeal to me, and I did not have the money to buy one. I knew that one of the priests was going on leave for six months and that his car would be garaged during that time. There were three months to go to the end of the school year. Fr. Paddy was in charge while the bishop was away attending the Vatican Council in Rome - the same Fr. Paddy who had made some hasty decisions for me at the gate in Clondaliever. I put two requests to Fr. Paddy: first, that he allow me to use the car that was about to be garaged; secondly, that he allow me to return to Ireland at the end of the school year. Again he was frighteningly decisive: he refused to let me have the car, and then said that a RAPTIM flight was due to leave Entebbe about ten days later and that he would look for a seat for me on that flight. Two days later he informed me that my one - way flight home was booked. As I was not officially in Kenya I could not officially leave the country. I overcame this obstacle by going to Nairobi and having my passport stamped as a recent arrival in the country. In Nakuru I linked up with a car that was taking two Italian priests from Nairobi to Entebbe. By the time we reached Kampala I felt that I had heard sufficient Italian to be able to speak the language. As we drove through Kampala we saw some army movements near the residence of the Kabaka of Buganda. A couple of weeks later the army took control of the residence. This was the first step in a series of events that eventually led to the years of terror under Idi Amin and the second bloody coming of Milton Obote. The RAPTIM flight took us to Amsterdam where we were treated to a relaxing cruise on the canals. My focus now turned towards home and Ireland.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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