COMMENTARY ON “A WONDERFUL FEAT OF ADVENTURE”
This piece of writing about an adventure is less than it seems, and more. The article doesn't explain that Grogan did this so he could win the approval of his future father-in-law for his marriage. And when it was published in 1901 there was no way to know that Grogan's sudden fame was only the first of many things he would come to be known for, and that he was to play an important rôle in British African colonial history.
Do a Google search on Ewart Scott Grogan and you will find an Amazon.uk link to a book, Lost Lion of Empire. Here's a quote from the description on the Amazon site: “Ewart Grogan, ‘the baddest and boldest of a bad bold gang’ of settlers in Kenya, was one of the most brilliant and controversial figures of African colonial history. When he proposed to a young heiress, Gertrude Coleman, he needed to prove himself a ‘somebody’ to her father in order to win her hand. He did so in inimitable style, announcing that he intended to accomplish the first south-to-north traverse of Africa. In 1900, after two years of illness and extreme hardship, he arrived triumphantly in Cairo. He became an instant celebrity, and, on returning to England, at last married Gertrude. Now with a considerable fortune at his disposal, after a short but successful spell in South Africa he arrived in British East Africa. He quickly became a leader among the settlers, and embarked on a lifetime of grand projects, forced through despite government inertia, enormous natural obstacles and the looming threat of bankruptcy. Time after time he proved the doubters wrong, as he pulled off the seemingly impossible. Despite this frenetic activity, and despite his love for Gertrude, he still managed to find the time to run two separate families and father numerous children by various mothers. The abrasive and glamorous Grogan, with Delamere, was one of the founding fathers of Kenya—Lost Lion of Empire is an account both of the life of an exceptional man and the birth of a country.”
Regarding Grogan's interest in big-game hunting, here's a somewhat negative historical analysis. It's hard to imagine today what the general approach to African hunting and safaris must have been a hundred years ago.
A biography of Grogan, from a modern Kenyan online newspaper, calling him a “notorious colonial settler” but crediting him with creating some solid institutions in the country.
More online history about Kenya, British colonialism, and Ewart Grogan.
That's enough! A complex person, forgotten today by everyone except specialists; but once known widely as “Cape-to-Cairo Grogan.” If you want to want to find out more, you have the power.
ObNote: While we have no direct information on the author, Chalmers Roberts, he may be the father of Chalmers M. Roberts, retired foreign correspondent for the WASHINGTON POST. The corrspondent's father is said in the referenced article to have died age 67 during WWII, a lifespan compatible with having written the article we republish here.
—The TravelHistory Team
Click pictures and drawings to download higher-resolution versions.
REMEMBER: Peoples' attitudes toward race, religion, and culture were a lot different when this was written! The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of TravelHistory.org or of Hidden Knowledge, Publishers.