Skip to content ↓

View entry

Back to search results


image of individualimage of individualimage of individualimage of individualimage of individual

Nee: bro of James Bond Ainsworth, son of John Dawson and Margaret Ainsworth

Birth Date: 16.6.1864 Urmston, near Manchester

Death Date: 31.3.1946 Cape Town, South Africa

Nationality: British

First Date: 1889 - formerly in the Congo

Last Date: 1920

Profession: Joined the IBEA Co. in 1888, was Transport Superintendent 1889-1902, District Superintendent Machakos 1892-1895, Sub-Commissioner and Vice-Consul, Ukamba, 1896-1904 and Military Labour Commissioner with EA Expeditionary Forces 1917-18.

Area: Kenya - retired 1920 to SA. HBEA 1912 - Nyanza, Machakos

Married: At Machakos 3.11.1897 Annie 'Ina' Cameron Scott, MBE, American, sister of Peter Cameron Scott of the Africa Inland Mission

Children: Jock

Author: Playne, EA Diary 1903, Drumkey, IBEA, Cave, EAHB 1906, Nicholls, Olga, DSO, EA Diary 1902, EAHB 1904, EAHB 1907, Leader14, Red Book 1912, Red 19

Book Reference: Gillett, HBEA, Cuckoo, Leys, Best, Hobley, Ainsworth, Debrett 1928, Midday Sun, KFA, Permanent Way, Oscar, Watt, Police, Oswald, Moyse, Binks, Cranworth, Kenya Diary, Borderland, Fitzgerald, Tucker, Matson, White Man, EAHB 1905, Red 25, Hut, North, Curtis

School: Privately educated

General Information:

He did outstanding work throughout EA and devoted his vigour of mind and body with singleness of purpose to the development, order and welfare of the tribes under his charge. After his long and distinguished career he retired in 1920. He and his wife first went to Manchester then to Guernsey and from there to South Africa. In 1924 he was asked to do an Administrative Survey of New Guinea for the Commonwealth of Australia, finally returning to Somerset West in 1925. He took an active interest in their Municipal affairs and in 1929 was Mayor of the town. He had a Champion's seat in the Chapel of St. Michael and St. George in St. Paul's Cathedral.    
Cuckoo - 1904 - 1st PC of the Ukamba Province - made Nbi his official headquarters and chief concern. ... His achievements were suitably commemorated by the Ainsworth Bridge, which spans the Nairobi river and gives access to Parklands suburb. The honour is richly deserved; as also the CMG.
Cuckoo - story of train loading his kit and stopped across road in Nbi - Foran had it moved much to Ainsworth's wrath! (p.294/5).  
Hobley - 1892 - Upon reaching the station of Machakos, we found John Ainsworth pluckily struggling to establish his influence over the Kamba tribe, with little outside support.  
Ainsworth - At the age of 20 he went out to Boma at the mouth of the Congo in the service of a trading company at the time when the Congo Free State was being formed. He was there associated for a while with that remarkable young man, Roger Casement, the same age as Ainsworth ......... sent to Europe long-awaited news of H.M. Stanley's Emin Pasha Relief Expedition .... the information that Stanley was alive and on the Uruwimi River, 1000 miles inland. In 1889 Ainsworth entered the service of the IBEA Co. His transfer was partly due to Major-General Sir Francis de Winton, a Director of the Company, whom he had met in the Belgian Congo and who came out to Mombasa in 1890 as the Company's Administrator. ........... Jan 1892, instructed to proceed to Machakos and take charge of the Ukambani District. 'I was to take over from Mr George Leigh, who was to return to the coast.' .......... In autumn 1892 he received instructions to evacuate Machakos as the Company could not afford to keep it going. Ainsworth wrote to the Administrator and asked them to reconsider and that he would remain without pay. It was a bold decision which might have jeopardised his career. He was at the time a young man of only 28. He had just received the most explicit and emphatic orders ............ (it paid off!). In 1895, when the Govt. took over A. was appointed Sub-Commissioner in charge of the Province, with a considerable increase in his duties and responsibilities, and in 1896 was made a Vice-Consul. ................ The outstanding part played in the Sudanese Mutiny campaign resulted in A. being made CMG in the New Years Honours for 1900.  Married in Nov. 1897 to Miss Ina Scott the sister of Peter Cameron Scott of the AIM. A. was married by a CMS minister, but a unique situation arose, since until 1907 a civil ceremony was legally required for marriages in the Protectorate, but Ainsworth was the only 'marriage officer' in the interior, and he could not marry himself. As the walk to the coast was a formidable undertaking for a woman and Ainsworth was heavily engaged with extra duties due to the Mutiny, the Commissioner wrote to the Foreign Secretary asking him, if Ainsworth should die before the civil ceremony could take place, to arrange for an Act of Parliament to legalize the marriage for the purpose of inheritance! The Secretary of State replied that 'if such a course became necessary the request would be borne in mind'. ................. Moved his headquarters to Nairobi in August 1899.    1906 - moved to Naivasha in swap with Hobley.   1907 - moved to Kisumu. June to August 1909 A. absent from Kisumu as Chairman of a Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of Tanaland Province. In 1932 he was informed that a Companion's seat in the Chapel of St. Michael and St. George in St. Pauls cathedral was vacant and that he was entitled to it. He accepted it, and a plate on the seat now bears his name. In 1945 he was forced to give up his public activities through declining health, and died peacefully in his sleep on March 31st 1946, in his 82nd year.  
Debrett, 1928 - son of John Dawson Ainsworth formerly of Urmston, Manchester; ed. privately; appointed H.M.'s Sub-Commr. for Province of Ukamba, EA Prot. 1895; was Vice-Consul there 1896-1904, a Provincial Commr. thereof 1907-18, a Labour Commr. (Mil.) with EA Expeditionary Force 1917-18 with rank of Col. (despatches, DSO) and Ch. Native Commr. 1918-21 when he retired; employed on special service in Mandated Terr. of New Guinea for Australian Govt. 1924; is a FRGS; cr. CMG 1900, DSO 1918, CBE (Civil) 1919.           
Midday Sun - (Nairobi) - Blue-gums with peeling bark and narrow rustling leaves, mostly planted by John Ainsworth, the town's first Commissioner, cast pools of shade along Govt. Rd.   
KFA - 'a great enthusiast for farming, gardening and experimenting with crops - a trait celebrated by some doggerel verses, written on his transfer in 1906 to Naivasha, which included the lines: - "He provides us with seeds and looks after our needs -- What a wonderful change from the era of beads!"  
Oscar - 'He had married the daughter of a missionary, and they both led an austere life intent on improving the lot of the province in their care. Ainsworth and Oscar took an immediate liking to each other. This was the more surprising, for Ainsworth lacked intellectual interests and kept a tight rein on his subordinates, but Oscar liked working for a man who was both a hard worker and clearly had the interest of the Africans at heart.'  
Oswald - 1911 - PC at Kisumu - a charming garden the result of determined conquest by Mrs Ainsworth.  
Binks - 1900 - Nairobi - 'It has neither body to be kicked, nor soul to be damned, it has neither taxes nor rates nor restrictions, and is administered by Mr John Ainsworth, assisted by a Governor!'  
Cranworth - '... PC at Nairobi when we first arrived. Mr Ainsworth was not a settler's man, he was a native's man pure and simple. ......... None the less he was a splendid companion and I think without doubt a great man.'
Kenya Diary - Nairobi - Jan 1903 - I have seen a good deal of Ainsworth, the District Commissioner in Nairobi. He lives on the Kikuyu side of the Nairobi river where the stepping stones are. He is a first class fellow and I like him. He tells me the Nairobi river is the recognised boundary between the Kikuyu and the Masai and that his house was built where it is as it controls the crossing of the Nairobi swamp, which used to be used by both tribes for raiding. (Ainsworth's house was on the site of the present Coryndon Museum).   
White Man - At the first meeting of the Turf Club in EA in July 1900 - entries included Mr John Ainsworth's 'Lord Bobs'
EAHB 1905 - IBEA Co. 1889; Transport Superintendent 1889-1892; Dist. Superintendent, Machakos 1892-1895; Sub-Commissioner, July 1895; Acting Deputy Commissioner June 27th to August 1st 1904; CMG Jan. 1900
Curtis - p. 134 - 'Working For Ainsworth'  Olga Watkins' experiences during WW1 - Kisumu 1914 ' ......In Kisumu the sun sparkled on bright blue water, the red roads ran smooth and well kept between neatly painted buildings, everywhere there were flowering shrubs - oleander, frangipani, alamanda, bougainvillaea. It was more like arriving in a garden suburb than in an African outpost. It was years before Olga learned that this order could be attributed entirely to one man, John Ainsworth, who had then been PC for 6 years. .........  Ainsworth was short, stubby, and direct to the point of rudeness. He was also a very worried man. He had reason to believe that the Germans were fomenting uprisings.
Playne - Mr Ainsworth has been in EA for 20 years (since October 28th 1889). He was born at Manchester on June 16, 1864, and educated privately. He was Superintendent, Transport Dept. Mombasa 1889-92; District Superintendent, Machakos Dist. 1892-95; and HM Vice-Consul 1897-1904. In November 1907, he became PC Kisumu Province. He has the African General Service Medal, and the CMG was conferred on him in 1900 IBEA Co. -
Nominal List of British Born Subjects resident in IBEA Territories within the Sultans Domain, 30 April 1891 - Ainsworth, England, Supt. Transport IBEA - General Africa Staff - Appointed 26th October 1889
Nicholls - Hall disliked Ainsworth and according to him Ainsworth kept Kamba women at Machakos fort.
Nicholls - Hall's social snobbery was uppermost in his dislike of Ainsworth - 'These fellows, brought up behind a counter, get too big for their boots and make life unbearable for others.' Mrs Ainsworth's sister was the wife of Hall's cashier at Machakos, and as thus was not considered a fitting companion to Hall's wife Beatrice, though how the two women avoided each other in so small a place is a mystery. ………
EA Diary 1902 - Listed as H.M. Sub-Commissioner EA Diary 1902 - Listed as Committee Chairman of the East Africa Agricultural and Horticultural Society - Established 1901
EA Diary 1903 - Imperial British East Africa Co. 1889; Transport Superintendent 1889-92; District Superintendent, Machakos 1892-95; CMG Jan 1 1900; Sub-Commissioner July 1895
EAHB 1907 - Sub-Commissioner - Naivasha
Red Book 1912 - J. Ainsworth - Kisumu - Kisumu Province - PC at Kisumu
Considine - European School Nairobi - Jock Ainsworth - 12/7/1905 - Nbi
Gazette - 12/11/1919 - Register of Voters - Nairobi, South Area - John Ainsworth - Chief Native Commissioner, Hospital Road and Mrs Ina Cameron Ainsworth - Hospital Road
Red Book 1919 - Hon. J. Ainsworth, CMG, DSO - Chief Commissioner of Natives, Nairobi
Imperialism and Collaboration in Colonial Kenya - Chapter on John Ainsworth by G.H. Mungeam - John Ainsworth was one of the first British administrative officers in East Africa. He was also one of the longest serving. His East African career spanned no less than 31 years from his arrival at Mombasa in 1889 to his retirement as Chief Native Commissioner of the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya in 1920. During these years he had served in a wide variety of stations with increasing responsibilities and had grown into one of the most experienced and most respected officers of the Administration.
Ainsworth was born at Urmston, near Manchester on 16 June 1864. Little is known of his youth, except thatbecause of poor health his family moved to Rhyl in North Wales where he was educated privately. At the age of 20 he entered the service of a trading company and went out to Boma at the mouth of the Congo where he served for 5 years and gained experience in transport work. Detailed knowledge of his African career however only begins in 1889 when he joined the staff of the Imperial British East Africa Company and was posted to Mombasa .….….….…. {lots lots more}

Back to search results