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Name: BOLTON, John

Birth Date: ?1885

Death Date: ?1930 Kenya

First Date: 1925

Profession: Miner

Area: Lolgorien, Kisii

Married: ?In England 1923 Honora Hewat Gillmon b. 29 Oct 1900 Dacca, India, d. 1987 Hillingdon, London

Children: 2 sons

Book Reference: Hut, Smeaton

General Information:

Smeaton - controversy concerning another prospector called John Bolton. This man appeared to be something of a mystery. A lone wolf who kept himself isolated from everybody in the field, associating only with natives. It appeared that he too was a blood-brother of one of the tribes and had tremendous influence over its members. Among other things they said that he practised withcraft. I had heard this sort of story before. It did not prejudice me against Bolton, on the contrary it made me rather keen to meet him. I love probing into, and, if possible, de-bunking mysteries. …… Bolton's claim needed no actual mining, only a glorified quarrying. The quartz lay in a rubble bed covering several acres. This far there had been no need to mine at depth; there was several thousand pounds' worth of gold immediately available. His method of working intrigued me considerably. Twenty native boys sat in a row, each with his pestle and mortar, singing their endless chanting rhythm as they pounded. Swarms of other natives carried rubble in baskets and piled it up beside the pounders. From time to time the mortars were emptied and the powder sieved through gauze. After passing through the gauze it went down a wooden sluice filled with slowly running water. The sluice had riffle-ridges at the bottom, and at the end was a copper plate silvered with mercury. Gold particles washed along the sluice were, in the main, caught in the riffles, from which they were scraped, while those which escaped the riffles coagulated with the mercury on the copper plate. Every few days this amalgam was scraped off and distilled in a retort which, Bolton told me, he kept in his hut. After the metals were separated the mercury was put back on the copper and the gold added to that taken from the riffles. He had been busy recovering a good quantity from mercury when I arrived. Fully and patiently he answered every technical question I asked. My optimism increased immeasurably; these claims looked like a good augury for the future welfare of Lolgorien Field. Bolton walked round supervising the natives' operations on the sluice. He was obviously well pleased with the way his claims were coming along. He had good reason to be, I told myself. He showed me some golden grains held in the palm of his hand. "It's like my sister's hair. If you dropped this gold on her head you would lose it. She's very beautiful, is my sister. Do you like singing? She sings like an angel." The sister sounded 'phoney' to me. I have heard tell of such sisters  before. Moreover, Bolton had a curiously disconnected way of talking. His abrupt change of subject matter distracted me. I assumed a polite interest. "Yes," he continued dreamily, "I must get her some lion skins. She would look even lovelier in lion skins." The dinner served in his hut would never have kept her lovely. It was unappetizing, badly cooked, badly served; altogether untidy and unclean. Fortunately his conversation made up for the meal, despite its constant references to a faerie sister ………… The thought crossed my mind that it was a pity that a man with Bolton's strong personality and demonstrable ability should claim connection so vastly removed from his own sphere - surely no such goddess would be a sister to a nondescript white who was blood-brother to a native? ……….Experience has taught me that the description of 'strong and silent' seldom applies to men living on the world's edge. They are silent for long intervals through lack of someone to talk to, but when they have the chance they talk like a river in flood. I reckon its understandable. It certainly was with Bolton. He began by criticizing the authorities. He did not see why they should have a grudge against him for becoming a blood-brother to a native tribe. "Why should they object," he argued, "seeing that the tribe itself accepts me? There are many advantages to both sides. I get all the men I need by sending to the Chief. There are other perquisites too." Bolton's argument sounded intriguing. It contained many practical possibilities. But I had doubt about the arguer. Was he a liar? It was impossible to tell from his poker face. He spoke good English, though with an accent I could not place. It might have been Celtic; this man looked like a fey highlander or a Welsh fanatic. ….. [more on elephant graveyards, witchcraft] ………. Black magic is bad medicine, vicious stuff. Maybe you think black magic doesn't exist? I do. I've seen it. Black magic is practised in order to get revenge, or when you want a woman who already belongs to another man and doesn't want you. Oh yes it works - ask any native. They've all seen the results. Black magic does other things too. A good many white doctors would like to know some of the witch doctor's secrets about contraceptives and things. Why, any one of them knows more about that sort of thing than all the white doctors put together." ……….. " …. After all what is a tabu? You have plenty in England. The only difference is that when its practised by black men it's called witchcraft, and when its done by white men its called 'a measure to preserve social order.' Fundamentally there's little to choose between them." ….. Smeaton - Lolgorien - I headed down the main strike for Lipscomb's camp ……[story of two rhinos in his camp] … Lipscomb had another adventure story for me. He divulged that on the day after I left him Bolton came over on a visit. He told Lipscomb he was looking for lion, 5 lions to supply skins for his lovely sister. Taking their rifles, and guided by one of Bolton's blood brothers, they went to a place where the bush was thick. Behind a grassy knoll they came upon a family of 5 lions, three males and two females. Instantly the females charged - the female is always more deadly than the male. Bolton fired twice, and twice only. Both females fell dead. The males made off, but as they went Bolton fired again, and again, and again. And one by one the lions fell dead. I was amazed. This was fantastic! "Did you actually see this?" I asked. Lipscomb nodded emphatically. "I did," he affirmed. I shook my head dubiously. This prowess with a rifle was incredible. Either Bolton was a crack shot, an accomplishment which should have been known but to my knowledge had never been mentioned before, or part of his witchcraft was true. ……. [ story of meeting a beautiful girl in his hotel in Nairobi] ……"Who are you?" "I'm Ailsa," she said, extending her hand. And so I met Ailsa Bolton, John Bolton's sister. He was not a liar after all. He did have a sister who could sing like an angel and was lovelier than a rose. I could vouch for it.
See also John Boulton

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