Everyone who served in the Provincial Administration in Kenya knew of the death in
1946 of Hugh Grant, who was speared through the back by a young Maasai. The
tragedy was not a result of tribal conflict. Narok, where Grant was District
Commissioner, was at peace. It was an example of a clash of cultures. Grant was doing
his job, attending a cattle sale. The Maasai love their cattle. The chiefs had designated
those cattle owners who were to bring beasts to the sale. One warrior, Karambu ole
Sendayo, had ignored the order. Consequently his favourite black bull was seized for
sale. He pleaded to keep the bull and offered up several other beasts instead. But Grant
was adamant and the bull was sold. Karambu's control snapped and he threw his heavy
spear unerringly. Grant died on the spot. Karambu was arrested by his fellows, tried by
due process and executed. The Maasai elders, deeply disturbed by the killing, held
special stock sales and contributed #2000 to the education of Grant's children.
The dramatic story is at the core of this finely produced book by Grant's daughter
Anne Goldsmith. She has used letters from her father and his colleagues and the family
photos to recreate a life of service in war and peace.
Hugh Grant's roots were firmly in the Highlands of Scotland, in the family estate at
Knockie. He joined the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders in 1915, was wounded at
Mons and won the M.C. and bar. He was later seconded to the King's African Rifles in
Kenya, serving in the remote northern deserts. He met his wife Pauline when he was on
safari. In 1930 he joined the Colonial Service in Kenya.
Like many of his ilk Hugh Grant was in his element serving in the Somali areas of the
Northern Frontier District. The forts may have seemed romantic, but the reality was
tough safaris on foot or by camel. Grant had proved himself as a leader of men, and he
was a crack shot. As DC Wajir in 1940 when war came to northern Kenya he also
commanded Grant's Scouts, an irregular force of Somalis which acted as an intelligencegathering
screen in front of the army in the campaign against the Italians.
Grant rose in seniority and had to leave his beloved Northern Frontier for more
populous districts. The bomas he and his wife and children lived in are vividly
chronicled by photographs from the family album. They evoke life in colonial Kenya,
working with Africans, enjoying different homes and gardens, travelling through the
bush, a time of confident enjoyment of a dramatically beautiful land.
Anne Goldsmith's book is indeed a saga of one family and two countries, Scotland
and Kenya. She has edited the letters and pieced together the connections, which remain
strong. Hugh Grant's son Guy still lives on a ranch within sight of Mt Kenya looking
out over the hills of the north which Hugh had loved to climb. His daughter Anne lives
in the Highlands. She has created a memorable story of a life, and a book which is a
pleasure to look at and handle. The delightful sketches of Kenyan landscapes and
wildlife extend the family links. They are drawn by Murray Grant, Hugh's grandson.