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Background


Queen Elizabeth II of Britain has fond memories of a tiny Anglican church in Naromoru. It was after attending a "Divine Service" in this church on the morning of Tuesday, February 5, 1952, that young Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, proceeded to the Treetops hotel from where they learnt that she had become the queen following the death of her father, King George VI.
 

Getting There


Situated along the Nyeri-Nanyuki highway
 

Key Attractions


Tiny Anglican Church In NaromoruThe small church on the banks of the Naromoru river on the Nyeri-Nanyuki highway, prides itself of having the express permission of Her Majesty to hung a replica of her Coat-of-Arms - "Hon Soit ut Mai Pense". The item was made in silk from a picture supplied by Westminister Abbey. A plaque at the bottom reads: "Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth attended Divine Service in this church on February 5th, 1952, and has graciously allowed her Coat-of-Arms to be hung" in the church.

After the Coronation of the Queen on June 2, 1953, a highly valued 8-metre-long blue carpet known as Coronation Carpet was sent the following day to the Naromoru church from Westminister Abbey. The following day, and unknown to her, she climbed down the stairs of Treetops as the Queen of England. Princess Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, had died in the night of February 5/6, 1952, and being the first in line of succession, young Elizabeth automatically became the queen.

The tree house was then a three bedroomed wooden affair, with a huge verandah from where to watch herds of elephant, buffaloes, waterbucks, black rhinos and warthogs, to name but a few as well as birds such as crowned cranes. When the winds part the clouds, there is the ethereal picture of Mt. Kenya, the only mountain in the world on the Equator, framed in front of the hotel.

Queen Elizabeth visited the famous hotel again in 1983 and expressed concern about the destruction of trees by the big mammals. In July 2002, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie Rhys-Jones, followed the footsteps of his mother and inaugurated the Queen’s Jubilee Forest.

The area surrounding the hotel is being reforested. Since May, 2002, 250 indigenous trees of 11 different species from the Aberdares, have been planted. Prince Edward planted a mugumo (fig) tree just like his mother did in 1983. During the visit of the royal couple, six elephants visited the watering hole as did 44 buffaloes, three spotted hyenas, two mongooses, 32 warthogs, 21 waterbucks and one impala.

 

History


Major Baynes had donated the land on which the church is built and had laid the foundation stone on July 24, 1949. The local white community contributed money for its construction. Naromoru and the neighbouring Nanyuki were then at the heart of white settlement in the country.

Settlers owned vast ranches in the area where they kept sheep and cows and cultivated wheat. Nanyuki suffers from settler hangover. There is a by-law which was enacted in 1949 that bars female donkeys from the town. The town, and its not far-off neighbours of Rumuruti and Nyahururu, were important administrative centres in the White Highlands that also embraced semi-arid plains extending from the Nyeri Valley to the then Dorobo reserves of Samburu District.

The settlers had a railway line with a terminus at Nanyuki to ferry their produce to Nairobi and Mombasa for export. 'Natives' tilled the land and looked after the thousands of livestock on the ranches. Any behaviour that was 'indecent' to the memsahibs (white ladies) provoked reactions that led to extreme consequences. With this kind of puritanism, it was hardly surprising that the settlers decided to discipline the town’s donkeys for putting one memsahib in an embarrassing situation as the 'natives' watched.

The story is told of this memsahib who one day was carrying her purchases from a shop to the car. In the vicinity, a female donkey was on heat and two males were attempting to mount her. The white lady’s attention was drawn by the commotion. She stood petrified, watching the action. Then she collapsed – either from shock or excitement, or both.

The matter reached the ears of the authorities and within days, a by-law was tabled before the civic council for deliberation. The accusation against the donkeys was so overwhelming that the famous by-law of 1949 banning female donkeys in Nanyuki was passed unanimously. It is a by-law that current civic leaders strongly believe should continue in force. The local residents agree. Deputy Mayor James Wamai, a Nanyuki resident 37 years, remembers vividly an incident that took place in 1971.

A trader had bought a female donkey and on his way home passed through Nanyuki where he stopped to have lunch. He tethered the donkey to a tree as he ate his lunch. The poor fellow was unaware of the 1949 by-law. His donkey brayed, and since the beasts of burden have a strange way of talking to each other, the town’s 20 males heeded the female’s loud and clear call. They galloped wildly, scaring people as they dragged the carts along. Some took short-cuts, pulling their carts over open drains and trenches.

The carts overturned as the donkeys hurried on, freeing themselves as the harnesses tore off. Wamai recalls: "The donkeys broke free and were chasing the female donkey through the town streets into the business premises. They caused so much chaos in the town that residents would not like to see a repeat of what happened. As long as there are no female donkeys in the town, the male ones will keep the peace."

The long and the short of it is that three days later, the female donkey died. For the owner, the worst was yet to come. The authorities invoked the 1949 by-law and the owner of the animal was charged, found guilty and fined Ksh. 500. As if that was not enough, he was ordered to bury the animal.

 

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