Skip to content ↓

View entry

Back to search results

Name: ALLEN, Priscilla Mary, Miss

Nee: Daughter of Rev. Roland Allen

Birth Date: 1903 - Yung Ch'ing, China

Death Date: 17 Oct.1987 - Nairobi

First Date: 1932

Last Date: 1987

Profession: Librarian: Macmillan Memorial Library (1932-1938). Medical Research Institute, Nairobi (1945-1958); Mulago Medical School (Kampala) (1958-1963); Haile Selassie Univ., Addis Ababa (1965-1968); National Museum Nairobi (1968-1973)

Area: Nairobi, Kampala, Addis Ababa

Married: Single

Book Reference: EAWL

War Service: Land Army (1939-1940); WAAF (1940-1945 - UK & Egypt) - Commissioned Officer

School: Okedene School (Beaconsfield); St. Hugh's College, Oxford

General Information:

Founder Member, Secretary & President, EA Natural History Society. Source - Hubert Allen
Women 3/87 - Priscilla Mary Allen was born in 1904 and passed away peacefully in Harrison House, Nairobi on 17th October 1987. Her end was as she had always wished it to be; an end without pain following a minor stroke. Born of missionary parents in China, Priscilla's life continued as it had started. Unusual, adventurous, eventful. She grabbed life with both hands; not one to be swept along with the tide, she had very definite views upon many aspects of life but nevertheless remained a seeker after truth and knowledge. She was a thinker and philosopher; always modest about her talents. Never in question was her faith in God and her belief in the teachings of the Bible. Armed with this faith, an Oxford degree and an interest in the welfare of mankind she spent some years doing social work in the East End of London. She joined her brother John and sister-in-law in Tanga, Tanganyika to assist with her nephew's birth in 1931: travelling thereafter to Nairobi to work in the Macmillan Library. She was later joined there by her parents Beatrice and Roland. Then came the war in 1939 and Priscilla's entry into the WAAF. After some years as an officer in Egypt she joined her father in East Africa and found the ideal setting to pursue her love of natural history and especially birds. Her subsequent career as a librarian was well suited to one whose idea of service was to help others. She spent some years at the Haile Selassie University Library in Ethiopia. Weekends and holidays saw her setting off on her donkey, exploring the fascinating countryside, staying at wayside hotels and getting to know the people and the birds. Her library work also took her to Makerere University in Uganda, a different and more lushly tropical country than Ethiopia and to her delight, a new set of birds to get to know. Thence to the medical library in Nairobi where her interest in medecine was expanded for Priscilla had wanted to be a doctor. No wonder her favourite reading matter, in later years, became the British Medical Journal. Her last job was with the library of the EA Natural History Society and National Museum where she was able to combine the job of librarian with that of honorary secretary of the Natural History Society. Visitors to the library found a kindly, helpful and erudite little person, very active in spite of a limp caused by the arthritis which was to afflict her severely later. Most impressive was her sparkling brain, her intellect, her devotion to her job. Equally important she was fun, notwithstanding the fact that she had a sharp tongue when she thought it necessary. There was no hypocrisy in her and I am sure she was loved partly because of her moral integrity in this regard. In spite of advancing arthritis in the knees and constant pain and disablement - later alleviated by operations - Priscilla's courage remained uppermost; aside from members of her family overseas and her close friends, her work, safari and birds were paramount in her life. In the last few years failing eyesight meant she could not see the birds too well; not to be beaten, even now, she took delight in being with others who could point them out to her and she constructed bird feeders in her garden close up to her windows. In spite of her devotion to natural history Priscilla also loved people and made it a point to meet somebody or to attend one of the many functions held in Nairobi - every day. If she did not leave the house at least once a day she felt deprived, she said. Although not domesticated and not very interested in household tasks she, with the aid of her servant, Macharia, entertained a lot. Perhaps one remembers most those Sunday buffet lunches, which became an institution, in the garden of her house near Westlands and where she had gathered together the most interesting people. Some she met at the many societies she joined. The EA Natural History Society, the EAWL, The Museum Society, The Astronomical Society and many others, her interests were wide and her friends many. Frail, able to walk only with difficulty, Priscilla joined her great nephews and nieces in Delhi for a trip to Kashmir in August this year; here they spent three weeks on a houseboat. She had a wonderful time she said when showing me her pictures afterwards. This was to be her last trip - the last safari of a grand and rare person. It was a priviledge to have been her friend. We mourn her passing. (part of a very moving obituary by Jean Hayes, Naivasha)

Back to search results