DID YOU KNOW THAT GERTRUDE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL WAS BUILT OUT OF A LOVE STORY?
In his early 20’s Col Grogan fell in love with Gertrude Coleman Watt while at a party in New Zealand. Gertrude’s father was a wealthy man. He wanted some assurance from Grogan that he was a tough man, and he would be able to take care of his daughter before he could marry her. Col Grogan promised to walk from Cape to Cairo. An epic journey which he trekked some 9,650kms across Africa to prove his love.
He completed the first leg of his trek from cape to Beira in Mozambique during the first Matabele war (when British were fighting with the Ndebele people in what is today South Western Zimbabwe). It was in February 1898 when he was 24years when he set on his final leg. The journey took him through Nyasaland (Malawi), Tanganyika (Tanzania), the Ruwenzori mountain region, Uganda, Sudan and then into Egypt arriving in Cairo in Early 1900. Upon returning to England he was received as a hero and married Gertrude the same year having proved that he was worthy.
Later he returned to Africa, first to South Africa. Then to British East Africa as Kenya was called then, where he settled. In Kenya he became the greatest land grabber after Lord Delamere. At one time Grogan owned about 190,000 acres while Delamere had 115,000 acres. Col Grogan owned almost the whole of Taita Taveta, much of Nairobi including Muthaiga and Ngara. Grogan road, now Kirinyaga road was named after him. He was so powerful. He had the Kenya – Uganda railway line directed to run through his sisal farm in Taveta.
After Gertrude died in 1943, Grogan built on his Muthaiga home grounds a Pediatric hospital in her name – “GETRUDES CHILDREN HOSPITAL” that completed in 1947. By then the hospital was for whites only. It is still the leading hospital of its kind in East Africa.
Col Grogan was very famous with the Africans as he was so brutal. He was the most aggressive and abrasive of the early settlers. Africans called him Bwana Chui (Mr. Leopard)
After Kenya gained its independence, he retreated back to Cape Town, South Africa where he died in 1967 at the age of 92 almost a forgotten man.
Now You Know!
Julian Smith follows Ewart’s route and comes up with the book CROSSING THE HEART OF AFRICA.
This is a good read. Coming to Kenya soon. Will get in touch.