The British Empire Library

Tribute to Pioneers: Index of Many of the Pioneers of East Africa

by Mary Gillett

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by C.D.S.
Mrs. Mary Gillett's "Tribute to Pioneers" - an index of many of the Pioneers of East Africa, has recently been revised and republished. It contains more than 2,000 names of those who arrived in East Africa before the end of 1914. To quote from Mary Gillett's own "Foreword" to the revised edition: "Before 1875 little was known of British East Africa. It was called "Darkest Africa, the Whiteman's Grave', but little by little, year by year, with the building of the Uganda Railway, and with great courage, with genius and with great humour, a gradual flow of very gallant men and women - Pioneers indeed - blazed the trail and carved the progress of that vast country. Europeans, Asians and Africans all played their part, with unyielding determination. Struggling on, they opened up the country. Missionaries, administrators, farmers, traders, medical men, engineers, veterinary surgeons and sportsmen arrived. Enduring many difficulties and the great hardships of disease, lack of water, tribal warfare, wild animals, snakes, ticks and intense heat, these Pioneers valiantly persevered and succeeded in developing a very wonderful country. Gradually it became rich in agriculture - coffee, tea, sisal, and maize were cultivated, cattle and sheep estates were developed. Game Reserves were formed, and belts of forest maintained. Minerals were discovered and, when the tsetse fly menace was overcome, horse breeding commenced. Settlers, Missionaries and the Government started schools and hospitals, conditions gradually improved, and more trust began to emerge between the races. Language difficulties prevailed but with perseverance and the help of gesticulations, a greater understanding eventually materialised."

These were the earliest "colonials" and, at a time when it seems to be the fashion, almost as much in public circles as outside, to denigrate the work of these former colonials, those who subscribe to this attitude would do well to take note and reflect on the achievements of these earliest Pioneers and their successors in the most difficult of conditions. They might then have a change of heart.

As Mary Gillett goes on to say: "Now all is in the hands of the rising generations - they must go on persevering and making improvements, and, with God's Blessing, long may East Africa and her people prosper."

British Empire Book
Mary Gillett
J.M. Considine


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