From White Mischief: The Murder of Lord Erroll, by James Fox (Open Road Media, 2014), Kindle pp. 11-13:
Nairobi was established in 1899, on the frontier between the Masai and Kikuyu, as the last possible rail depot before the track climbed 2,000 feet up the Kikuyu escarpment, the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley. For anyone looking down into the vast floor of the valley for the first time, the sheer scale of the landscape was over powering—something quite new to the senses.
Tea was taken at Naivasha station, the beginning of the highlands, and from there on, up to Gilgil and then to Nakuru, the promised land was slowly revealed, in all its immense variety and beauty. After some miles of thorn and red rock, you emerged into thousands of acres of rolling English parkland, a haze of blue lawn rising and falling to the horizon, untouched by the plough and apparently uninhabited. Some of it resembled the landscape of the west of Scotland, with the same dramatic rock formations, grazing pastures, dew-laden mists. Streams rippled through the valleys, wild fig (sacred to the Kikuyu) and olive grew in the forests; the air was deliciously bracing, producing an ecstasy of well-being, and the quality of the light was staggering. There were scents too, the indefinable flavour of peppery red dust and acrid wood smoke that never fail to excite the deepest nostalgia.
And yet unless the land was productive and profitable, there was no point to this “lunatic express,” as its opponents had described it in England. It had been built for prestige and super-power competition, and its only effect was to drain the Colony’s budget.
The Commissioner for East Africa, Sir Charles Eliot, a distinguished Oxford scholar and diplomat, produced a scheme in 1901, soon after his arrival, of recruiting settlers from the Empire to farm the land. The idea was simply to make the railway pay for itself, by hauling freight from the uplands to the coast. The development of the Colony was a secondary consideration, indeed almost an accident. A recruitment drive was launched in London, and the first wave of settlers arrived in 1903 from Britain, Canada, Australia and South Africa. The photographs depict them as “Forty-niners” from the Yukon—a much rougher crowd than the later arrivals, who were drawn mainly from the Edwardian aristocracy and the British officer class. Nevertheless, there were many peers among these first arrivals—Lord Hindlip, Lord Cardross, Lord Cranworth, for example—and victims of the English system of primogeniture, such as Berkeley and Galbraith Cole, younger sons of the Earl of Enniskillen.
There were millionaires, too, like the amply proportioned American, Northrop MacMillan, a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt. There was the fabulous Ewart Grogan, a fiercely chauvinist Englishman who had walked from the Cape to Cairo. There were fugitives, wasters, speculators.
Above all there was the man who became the settlers’ unchallenged leader from the turn of the century until his death in 1931, Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere, who had first set eyes on the Kenya Highlands in 1897, at the merciful end of a 2,000 mile camel ride from Somalia. He had returned to England for six unhappy years, to look after his estates, but the Kenya bug had infected him too, and he returned in 1901 to buy land.
Lord Delamere was a natural leader of the settlers. He had inherited an enormous estate in Cheshire and vast wealth besides, soon after leaving Eton—where he had distinguished himself as a reckless and unruly boy, untouched by the civilising classics. He was arrogant and wasteful, with a sudden, violent temper; his political instincts were austerely feudal, and physically he was small and muscular, and in no way handsome. But he had the gift of supreme confidence in himself and in his vision of the future for the Colony, which was inspired by an old-fashioned sense of duty to the Empire—the duty, quite simply, being to annex further territory on its behalf.
Kenya was always more fashionable among the aristocrats than Uganda or Tanganyika after the First World War. Uganda was a little too far from the sea, along the railway, and Tanganyika, until then, had been a German colony. The pick of the sites in the Kenyan White Highlands had an English air, almost like the rolling downs of Wiltshire, all on a supernatural scale and under such an immense sky, that when you are first exposed to it, you may be seized both with vertigo—from the sheer speed and height of the clouds—and folie de grandeur. Such grandiose surroundings were irresistible to the English settlers and often went to their heads.