Sue Wood

Name ID 1693

See also

Johnston, Erika The other side of Kilimanjaro
Page Number: 019
Extract Date: 1950's

A Fly in Amber

To quote Susan Wood's book "A Fly in Amber" about those early days at 0l Molog, when she and her husband, Michael, used to visit Robin before they bought the farm next door from its original owner: "From Robin came the leadership of the community, for he possessed a personality which made men follow him and want to be doing things in his company."

While working like a man obsessed on his own farm, Robin somehow found time to knit the community together. His tent, and later his house, was often the pivot of the area. To it Ol Mologans went when their morale was flagging or they wanted to share the pride of some achievement, or they needed support, advice or just laughter, for Robin has a quick wit and an amusing turn of phrase. He manages to extract the maximum amount of humour out of any situation and can make the most mundane happening sound extremely funny.

Extract ID: 4453

See also

Johnston, Erika The other side of Kilimanjaro
Page Number: 110
Extract Date: 1950's

Managing two farms

As Michael got more and more involved in the Flying Doctor Service and spent most of his time out of Nairobi, the Woods decided to sell their Limuru farm and base themselves at 0l Molog. They had owned Engushai adjoining us for a number of years, running it under management, and now bought Derek Bryceson's farm next to it.

When Sue took over the management of these two farms, most people were rather sceptical. Certainly there were a number of women in East Africa who successfully ran farms, but on the whole they were tough and had been brought up to it. Sue with her deceptive gentleness, tolerance and slightly ethereal quality, was hardly the person to be in charge of a labour force of Africans, who tend to treat their own women like chattels and do not on the whole like European women to be in authority over them. But the doubting Thomases had obviously discounted the steel in two generations of missionaries, whose hardships and frustrations in the Congo, where Sue was born, and tenacity to overcome them, would consider running two farms a comparatively easy challenge, and Sue moved into her new role with remarkable concentration and effect.

Extract ID: 4460

See also

Johnston, Erika The other side of Kilimanjaro
Page Number: 00 dust jacket
Extract Date: 1971

The Other Side of Kilimanjaro

Erika Johnston, daughter of one of East Africa's early pioneers, writes her personal story which is one of the closing days of the British Empire; and it is bound to stir nostalgic memories in the minds of all associated with it or the countries of which she writes.

Married to Robin Johnston, ex Administrative Officer of the Colonial Service and a distinguished fighter pilot, she tells of their farming life on the northern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro and how, reluctantly, they finally decided to leave Tanzania following Independence. Sir Archie McIndoe, the well-known plastic surgeon, was a partner of their farm and a regular visitor to them in East Africa. Close friends and neighbours were Michael Wood, the motivating power behind the East Africa Flying Doctor Service, and his wife Sue, daughter of the great missionary, Alfred Buxton. The personalities of these remarkable people come vividly alive, as does that of David Stirling of Western Desert fame and founder of the Capricorn Movement, which strove so hard to find a solution to racial problems but found ill-success amongst extremist politicians.

Here is a personal story of a full life in a glorious setting, the Johnston trials and successes, their deep affection for the country and their African associates, their lovely farm and their aspirations.

There is humour and pathos in this moving story of a chapter in the life of Tanzania which is unlikely to be seen again.

In rescuing this story from the oblivion which might have overtaken it in the prevailing mood of British publishing, the publishers feel that they are performing a real service in accordance with the best traditions of their firm.


Dust Jacket by Ernest Ullman

Extract ID: 4463

external link

See also

Guardian (UK)
Extract Author: Richard Hughes
Extract Date: July 13, 2006

Susan Wood, Obituary

Susan Wood, who has died at her home outside Nairobi aged 87, spent most of her life in east Africa, and did much in support of women. In 1975, with two Kenyan women, she founded Kazuri (Swahili for small and beautiful), a bead factory, at the bottom of her garden in Karen, outside Nairobi. Today it employs 200 women, mostly single mothers, and exports to six countries. In 1990 she was an awarded an MBE.

In the early 1950s, Sue and her husband Michael (later Sir Michael) Wood, had joined David Stirling in setting up the Capricorn Africa Society in the belief that all the races in east and central Africa should work together to create a society free from discrimination. She was a moving spirit in the 1956 Salima conference, when more than 200 men and women - black, white and brown - lived, argued, ate and drank together for three days, something that had never happened in Africa before.

That year Sue stood for the Kenya parliament on Capricorn principles in a Europeans-only constituency. Her red hair, bright blue eyes and incisive mind made her a good candidate, but the voters were not ready to give up their privileges and she lost. The demand for independence across sub-Saharan Africa overcame that innocent enthusiasm and a few years later Capricorn closed in Africa, though it continued in London, as the Zebra Trust, caring for mainly African students.

Sue was born in a mud hut in the Congo jungle to missionary parents; and, at the age of two, carried in a hammock to the Nile when her family returned to England, where she spent her childhood. She met Michael while training as a wartime nurse; they married in 1943 and later moved to Kenya.

In Nairobi, she raised four children and supported her husband's medical work, which included founding the Flying Doctors, later to become the African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF). In 1960, she wrote Kenya: the Tensions of Progress, an analysis of the pre-independence political situation. Four years later came an autobiography, A Fly in Amber; she also wrote some volumes of poetry, dedicated "To Africa, my home".

Sue and Michael moved to a farm on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, from which Michael flew to the AMREF headquarters in Nairobi and throughout east Africa while Sue enjoyed being a farmer. In 1975 the farm was taken over by the Tanzanian government, and the Woods, sadly but without complaint, moved to Karen. Michael died in 1987, but Sue continued to entertain her family and the many visitors connected with AMREF and FARMAfrica, the charity which Michael had started to help farmers improve their stock and production.

Sue's warmth, humour and generosity suffused her life. She always saw herself as an African and had a deep understanding of the struggles they faced. She said: "I love the people, and I love Africa because everything is unexpected, nothing goes quite straightforwardly." She is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Extract ID: 5156