Con Benson

Name ID 1703

See also

Johnston, Erika The other side of Kilimanjaro
Page Number: 086a
Extract Date: 1950's

Coffee stealing

Gladys was watching the molasses spraying with evident approval. It was just the sort of thing she would do to protect her own crops.

Not many months previously there had been the matter of coffee stealing on one of her plantations. Every day she pestered the District Commissioner, Arusha, for some action. In final desperation in order to get rid of her, and never dreaming she would take him seriously, he suggested that a solution might be to shoot one of the coffee stealers if caught redhanded. It might discourage the others. Gladys promptly issued her nightwatchman at the coffee factory with a gun. A few days later she appeared for instructions for the disposal of the body in the back of her car.

The stunned D.C. was most disconcerted, and a case had to be instituted against the nightwatchman. He got off with a light sentence because it was proved that the thief was armed and had threatened the nightwatchman.

During the molasses spraying, Archie and Robin shouted instructions and counter-instructions to everyone to add to the general confusion, for in the dark with only hurricane lamps to see by and people milling around with hoses, pumps and sticks, it was anything but an orderly operation. Gladys, who was a great admirer of Archie's, suddenly asked him one of those inanequestions women tend to ask at the most inopportune moment. Forgetting the hose in his hands spewing out sticky, black molasses at a high velocity, Archie turned to reply. The full force of the spray hit her on the chest. She reeled back and stepped into a deep concealed wild pig hole and almost vanished.

Poker-faced, Archie and Robin rushed to her aid, wiping as much of the molasses off her as they could. She retired to Robin's house and a bath looking not unlike a negro minstrel.

She had hardly left when Lady Morveth Benson, the wife of the owner [Con Benson] of the last farm along the line, ventured to remark that she thought it was all rather cruel and her sympathies were with the poor little birds. Archie and Robin turned on her with narrowed eyes and their hoses. She beat a hasty retreat, and was found later in Robin's sitting room with an almost empty gin bottle, playing her guitar to a rather subdued Gladys.

Extract ID: 4459

See also

Johnston, Erika The other side of Kilimanjaro
Page Number: 017
Extract Date: 1951


Archie, exhausted by his war work and saddened by the break up of his first marriage, took Robin at his word when after the war Robin asked him to come and spend a holiday in Africa. He initially came out in 1947 and continued to repeat this visit annually, usually during January and February, for the next eleven years.

Together they began to plan going into partnership over some farming project. Archie found that the simplicity of life in East Africa, and the fabulous energy the sun gave back to him, was the contrast he required to his active London life. Robin himself was becoming increasingly interested in Tanganyika's long term future. He felt if he became a farmer, like his father before him, and thereby rooted in the soil, he could play a more permanent role in the country's development than permitted to a transitory civil servant. He had met David Stirling, the founder of the Capricorn Africa Society, and felt that his policy of common citizenship and a multi-racial form of government might well be the answer for the East African states where the Africans, though still backward, must soon begin to move politically, and there was a small settled European and Asian community.

He resigned from the Colonial Service in 1951 when he was allotted one of the Ol Molog farms. His colleagues thought he was quite mad. Surely every diligent Administrative Officer only had one goal in life-to be a Governor finally. How irresponsible of Robin carelessly to throw that chance away.

The opening up of Ol Molog with this group of unusual men did not escape the English press, who had some wild, misinformed theories about it. Perhaps the most amusing was that Sir Archibald McIndoe had taken over the whole area and given each farm out to one of his Guinea Pigs, as his war patients were called, with "2,000 each to start them on their way. Archie however was unamused, particularly when Con Benson, an eminent London merchant banker who was given farm No. 8 and visited it annually, came over to Ol Orien with the newspaper cutting in his hand and slyly demanded his "2,000.

Extract ID: 4452