British Empire Article

Contributed by Mervyn Maciel

by Mervyn Maciel
My Brother Wilfred (Maciel)
With Tom Mboya
Wilfred was the youngest of three brothers - the eldest being the late Joseph Maciel, S.J., then me and lastly, Wilfred.

Tragedy was to strike us very early in our lives. When Wilfred was just 3 years old, our mother died at childbirth. A heart-broken husband was left behind to bring up three young boys. Many years later, in 1942 to be precise, a further tragedy was to befall us when, on his return voyage to Kenya (after overseas leave in Goa), the ship, the ill-fated S.S. TILAWA, in which our Dad, step mother and 3 very young siblings were travelling, was torpedoed by the Japanese during World War II. I feel that these two tragedies were to leave a lasting scar on Wilfred, that were to affect him in later life.

Wilfred was born in Nairobi on April 7th 1932, and saw early schooling at Dr. Ribeiro's Goan School in Nairobi. His education continued later at St. Paul's High School, Belgaum, St Thomas's High School, Aldona, Goa and finally,

St. Xavier's High School in Bombay. After secondary school, Wilfred did a brief stint at Arts College in Bombay before proceeding to England where he finished his education, initially pursuing a B.Sc (Econ) degree and latterly at the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts, doing graphic designs, marketing and advertising. There were also brief educational interludes at Lincoln College, Oxford and Kings College, London. Wilfred took part in plays at Westminster Cathedral, the Scala Theatre and even at performances at the Royal Albert Hall and Wembley Stadium.

My Brother Wilfred (Maciel)
With Jomo Kenyatta
On returning to Bombay, he worked in a senior executive capacity with the well known advertising firm BOMAS, the local Benson Advertising Company, which later became Ogilvy and Mather. While in India, Wilfred extended his communication interests into journalism and showed a keen interest in African affairs during the pre-independence days.

It was he who was the major promoter of the immensely successful lecture tour of India by the late Tom Mboya before independence. Years later, he became the first Indian journalist to interview Mzee Jomo Kenyatta after detention, at the world-famous Maralal Press Conference. During this brief stay in Kenya, his freelance exploits took him to Uganda, the Congo (where he was imprisoned for a short while). It was also here, in the Congo that he met my old friend Mwangi Macharia, the Trade Union activist who was restricted to the Northern Frontier District, and who I had known during my days in Marsabit. From the Congo Wilfred travelled to Angola where he was to witness the struggle for freedom from Portuguese rule at first hand. His later meeting with President Julius Nyerere and Foreign Minister Oscar Kambona in Tanganyika was to result in Nyerere breaking off diplomatic relations with Portugal after hearing Wilfred's first-hand report on the situation in Angola.

Wilfred was an advertising man at heart, and counted among his many friends, the legendary David Ogilvy. He next joined East African Airways as Marketing Manager. In this important post, he was to meet many of the rich and famous of the world; but Wilfred was a man of the people.

When East African Airways broke up, Wilfred worked for a while as Marketing Manager of Kenyan journalist Hilary Ng'weno's newly-formed publishing company. Later he worked for McCann Erickson and many years later for Serena Lodges & Hotels as their Marketing Executive.

My Brother Wilfred (Maciel)
With Pope John Paul II
Wilfred was a perfectionist and could always be relied upon to maintain high standards in any job that was assigned to him. In this connection, many may remember his valuable contribution during the visit to Kenya in August 1985 of Pope John Paul II to inaugurate the 43rd Eucharistic Congress. He was part of the Public Relations team whose responsibility was also to bring out the Congress newsletter, HABARI. Wilfred was a many-talented individual, but simple at heart and always mindful of others' interests.

In later years, ill-health forced him out of gainful employment and he found refuge with the Little Sisters of the Poor. And yet, from this humble abode, he found time to help fellow journalists and advertising men and women with words of encouragement. During his working life, although he earned a decent salary, he gave most of it to the poor.

The keyword in Wilfred's vocabulary was "Survive", and he called himself, Survivor; and in the words of Hilgary Ng'weno, "he had every right to call himself that, for during the last two or three years of his life, Wilfred literally survived a dozen muggings, robberies and beatings by thugs. During these sad and painful encounters with criminal elements in Nairobi, he lost manuscripts on which he had been working, including an intended autobiography and a nearly-completed biography of the late Jawaharlal (Joe) Rodrigues, that great Editor-in-Chief of the Nation Group of Newspapers".

Wilfred's colourful life was cut short on 29th July 1994 in a road traffic accident on the Thika road - a few yards from his chosen home - Nyumba ya Wazee.The many hundreds of people, of all races(including priests, Nuns, Foreign correspondents, and ordinary wanainchi) who attended his funeral, will always remain as a lasting tribute to a loving brother and great survivor whose heart lay in the Africa he loved so much.

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