Christine Nicholls’ blog, 9 May 2012
I was interested to read about Mombasa Golf Club in your April/May issue. I lived in Mombasa as a child (my father, Kit Metcalfe, was head of Mombasa Primary School just above the golf course) and at low tide we went snorkelling at the foot of the cliffs below the course. What riches lay there! Scores of golf balls hit over the cliff into the sea by inept golfers. What madman had built a golf course by the cliff, we wondered? We gathered up the balls, climbed back up the cliff, sneaked round the back of the clubhouse, and sold the balls to caddies who then presumably sold them on to players at a handsome profit. We made regular pocket-money in this enterprising fashion.
I was sad to read of Monty Brown’s death in the last issue. We had been in regular correspondence, because he was writing a book on the swashbuckling hunter Fritz Schindler, killed by a lion in 1914. I had written in my Red Strangers: the White Tribe of Africa that Schindler was engaged to one Violet Donkin. Monty wanted to know where I got this information and whether I had more details about her. Thus began a joint search by both of us. Monty discovered Violet supervised the Scott Sanatorium (named for Henry Scott of the Church of Scotland Mission who died in 1911), a convalescent home built near Nairobi’s Catholic mission in 1912. Northrup McMillan (of McMillan Library fame) generously donated money for the enterprise. In 1913 its first patient, H.K. Wood, of Chania Bridge (later called Thika), wrote to the papers: ‘No one who has tested Miss Donkin’s method of treating those recovering from fever can have anything but praise for her and her staff’ (The Leader, 26 July 1913).
Miss Donkin lost her fiancé when the reckless Fritz Schindler lost his life. She remained on the London Midwives’ Register until 1928, and then disappeared. It may be that she changed her name by getting married. I cannot find a record of her death in the English registers. Possibly she stayed in Kenya and died there. It would be good to know about her later life, should anyone have any information. It is a pity that Monty’s book on Schindler was cut short: it would have been a fine read. Here is a picture of Schindler’s grave in Nairobi cemetery: