The Flame Trees of Thika (1982)




Director:     Roy Ward Baker.

Starring:  Hayley Mills (Tilly Grant), David Robb (Robin Grant), Holly Aird (Elspeth Grant), Nicholas Jones (Hereward Palmer),  Sharon Maughan (Lettice Palmer), Ben Cross (Ian Crawford).

UK miniseries on 2 DVDs


English settlers colonize Kenya.  The flame trees have bright red flowers and were planted by the wife along the road to her house.  Thika is the nearest village. 

Good mini-series about the childhood of British writer Elspeth Huxley in Kenya during the early years of settlement.  It was a great place to live as long as one enjoyed, or at least could tolerate, danger and hardship.  There was the danger of dealing with wild animals such as leopards, hyenas and pythons.  There was the unknown of what the native Kenyans might do.  (Fortunately, they were largely friendly during that early period.)  There was crop failure do to a lack of knowledge about Kenyan soils (and the government agricultural pamphlets were of little use). 

Another problem was solitude and loneliness of living in the wild with neighbors a long way away.  This was probably the greatest danger for at least one woman, who at first only had her two small dogs to console her day to day.    

Holly Aird was very charming in the role of the young Elspeth who seemed to relish the excitement of a new country with all its exotic and strange things and inhabitants.    

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.   


Historical Background:


1498 the Portuguese under Vasco da Gama visited Mombasa. The Portuguese came to rule the coastal area from Malindi to Mombasa.

1885 the Germans established a protectorate over the Sultan of Zanzibar's coastal possessions.

1888 the Imperial British East Africa Company arrived in the area.

1890 Germany handed its coastal holdings to Britain.

The British were building the Kenya-Uganda railway through the country.

1895-1905 the Nandi tribe led by Orkoiyot Koitalel arap Samoei fought to stop the railway. The Nandi were eventually put into a native reserve.

1900s (early) British and English settlers arrived. Many settled in the interior central highlands where they grew coffee.

By the 1930's about 30,000 white settlers lived in the area.

The area was home to over a million members of the Kikuyu tribe. As the whites grew in economic and political power, the natives were forced to live as itinerant farmers, pay a hut tax and be granted less land in exchange for their labor. As their poverty grew, more and more of the natives were forced into the city.

1952-1959 the Mau Mau rebellion against British rule. British and African troops were used to help put down the rebellion.

1953 (January) Major General Hinde appointed director of counter-insurgency operations.

1953 (May) General Sir George Erskine appointed commander-in-chief of the colony's armed forces.

1953 (May) the Home Guard was officially recognized as a branch of the Security Forces. It was made up primarily of loyalist Africans. By the end of the conflict, the Home Guard had killed some 4,686 Mau Mau (42% of the total insurgents).

1954 (January 15) Waruhiu Itote (General China) captured and interrogated revealing more of the Mau Mau command structure.

1954 (April 24) opening of Operation Anvil placing Nairobi under military siege; any supporters of the Mau Mau were moved to detention camps.

1956 (October 21) Dedan Kimathi captured. This signified the ultimate defeat of the Mau Mau.

1957 the first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council wound up with a victory for the Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Jomo Kenyatta.

1963 (December 12) Kenya became independent.

1964 Kenyatta became Kenya's first president.

1978 death of Kenyatta. Daniel arap Moi became President.

1979 being unopposed, Daniel arap Moi retained the Presidency.

1983 (January 8) a coup, led by a low ranked Airforce serviceman, Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka, was attempted. The coup was suppressed by Loyalist forces.

1983 being unopposed, Daniel arap Moi again won the election.

1988 Daniel arap Moi won again. In this election, voters had to que up in a line behind their candidates (instead of using a secret ballot). This was the climax of a very undemocratic regime.

1991 Kenya passed a constitutional amendment creating a government structure with a multi-party system.

1992 and 1997 in multiparty elections, Daniel arap Moi won re-election.

2002 Moi was constitutionally barred from running. Mwai Kbaki, running for the opposition "National Rainbow Coalition", was elected President.



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