British Empire Article

Contributed by Elsie Maciel

by Elsie Maciel
Coping Without a Resident Doctor in Kenya's Northern Frontier
"Punch" Bearcroft
Marsabit had a cottage hospital staffed by an African Hospital Assistant, with nearby C.M.S. Missionary nurses ready to assist when required. There was no resident doctor as such, and all emergency cases had to be sent down either to Meru or Nyeri, while more serious cases were flown out to Nairobi in a Kenya Police Airwing aircraft piloted by a one-armed pilot who was everybody’s favourite.

I became quite ill during my pregnancy and had to be flown out to Nairobi. As the plane landed at Marsabit airfield from a frontier location (Banya), I noticed a very tall, strong and badly wounded Kenya policeman lying on a stretcher on the floor of the aircraft. He was badly wounded during a border raid. I was very lucky to have been offered a lift, and once strapped to my seat, felt very comfortable and knew that the policeman was safe too. I also realised then why everyone respected and trusted the one-armed pilot whose name was “Punch” Bearcroft. He truly cared about safety, and as though to provide that little extra entertainment, even flew us within striking distance of Mount Kenya, a sight I so love. He also commented on the various places we were flying over.

We arrived at Nairobi by tea time, and after making sure we were all safely deposited in the hands of our Carers, the pilot flew back to his base in Nyeri. I shall never forget the kindness of everyone, especially the pilot.

Coping Without a Resident Doctor in Kenya's Northern Frontier
Conrad Maciel
I stayed with my parents at Kitale where our first baby, a bonny boy (Clyde) was born in a makeshift room of the Native Civil hospital. Clyde was such a treat and the centre of attraction. He grew up well and I returned with him to Marsabit, a station I enjoyed so much until two years later when I became ill again during my second pregnancy. Sadly, our second son, Conrad, was born with a congenital heart condition, and due to lack of adequate medical facilities in Marsabit, it was felt that we should move to a district where proper facilities existed. On two subsequent occasions, I had to be flown out to Nairobi with Conrad who was placed in an oxygen tent, and attended to by a doctor all through the flight. These were sad times indeed, and I was sad to leave a district I loved so much and move to Kisii in South Nyanza.

Here too, the wet and damp weather didn’t suit and after a brave struggle we lost our dear Conrad. Not long after Conrad’s death, we were blessed with a healthy bonny boy (Andrew) who was born at Kendu Bay on the lakeshore.

Time went by and we were moved to Njoro (heaven on earth), and were blessed with two lovely daughters, Josey, and two years later, Pollyanna, both born at hospitals in Nakuru. We spent six very happy years in Njoro and left for England in 1966, after my husband’s post was Africanised.

A poem which my husband Mervyn Maciel composed on the first anniversary of Conrad’s death:

To the everlasting memory of our adorable son Conrad, who left us on 3rd January last year, these verses are proudly dedicated.

Mervyn, Elsie and Clyde

January 1959

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1956 Map of Marsabit Region
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