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Name: PETLEY, Percival Allan 'Percy'

image of individualimage of individual

Birth Date: 11 Dec 1881 Lavenham, Suffolk

Death Date: 17 June 1957 Lamu

First Date: 1909

Profession: Retired planter. Hotel owner in Lamu.

Area: Lamu, Witu. 1925 Witu Plantations

Book Reference: Midday Sun, Cameron, Quest, Freeland, KAD, Red 25, Red 31, Curtis, Red 22, Red Book 1912

General Information:

Gazette 14 Jan 1958 - probate
Midday Sun - 1937 - 'Then there was Percy Petley, who kept the one and only hotel. It was not much of an hotel, and if you wanted to wash, I was told (I never stayed there), an elderly gentleman poured a bucket of water over your head. There is still a Petley's hotel, greatly enlarged and, I feel sure, with better plumbing and without the rats said to haunt the original one.
Cameron - a retired planter who keeps an hotel on the waterfront, next door to Mr Whitton. Mr Petley gave us tea upstairs on his latticed verandah, furnished with Hepplewhite and Sheraton. Fashions in the tropics are slow to change; the Arab carpenters had quite obviously got hold of a Regency manual. Squat and weather-beaten, with only one eye, and a great hollow gash across his forehead, one finger missing, and half the muscles of his left arm torn away, the result of an encounter with a leopard. Petley was very different from Mr Whitton. Being unarmed at the time he had been obliged to fight the beast bare-handed, and had saved himself by sticking his arm right down the leopard's throat and choking it. He had also been savaged by a rogue elephant and had received a tusk through his groin.                                                                                                         
Quest - Petley's Bar ....... As the favourite meeting place of the non-Moslem community ever since its founding some 20 years ago it has its own claim to Lamu fame. The first owner Percy Petley, was a farmer in the Witu area, and even today there are fantastic hunting stories told about him, such as the time he struck out at a leopard, bare-handed. In 1957 he was succeeded by Colonel Pink .….  
Freeland - Charles Whitton was a man who dressed impeccably. The only other European on the island, apart from the DC, was a man who dressed like a tramp. These two men hated one another. They would pass on the promenade during their evening perambulations without a glance or a word. And yet Percy Petley, rough though he may have been, kept a hotel that was the topic of conversation for hours throughout the world wherever travellers and hunters met. To have stayed in Petley's pub was a proud boast. It must have been one of the rottenest hotels in the world. And yet it had its charm. On the ground floor was the bar. On a small shelf was a wooden bust of Sultan Said Said. To start the evening fight one had only to put a lighted cigarette between the lips of the effigy, an unholy act that was a terrible insult to any true Moslem.
Petley himself, or Ali, the Comoro barman, would carry the bottles, as many as they could, to safety while the battle raged. Said Said always ended in the road, as did the combatants when they were exhausted. The bedrooms were upstairs where the house was divided into rooms by means of palm mats. The snores of a dozen people, the hum of mosquitoes and the rustle of cockroaches were hardly a lullaby for the fastidious. The bathroom provided the barest necessities for ablutions. One was provided with a bucket of water and a bar of soap. After soaping, Petley's directions were that the bather then tipped the rest of the water over his head. The water ran through a hole in the wall, over the floor of the ladies bathroom and then through another hole in the wall out into the street. Meals were a delight (in retrospect, that is). Petley sat at the head of the table dressed in a soiled undervest and rumpled white pants. He cut the bread against his vest and threw the slices down the table. Camel or goat meat stew went with the bread. Through the meal Petley goaded the menfolk, calling them pinchpennies and tightwads if they hesitated to buy from his collection of Arab rings, Asian nose ornaments and other bric a brac. I won't say that everyone was fond of the old man, but many of us were. He had been knelt on by an elephant and carried down the Tana with almost every bone broken. He had throttled a leopard with his hands. As a hotelier he was the end, but in those days, if one stopped off at Lamu there was no other caravanserai but Petley's.
Curtis - Paddy Schofield - Life in Lamu in the Inter War years - ......... the traders whom we children  liked best were Mr Petley and Mr Milne, who used to come for a meal whenever they returned to Lamu from one of their dubious trading trips. Percy Petley had once managed a rubber estate at Witu. Later Petley's Inn came into being ...……
Red 22 - Vice-President, Tanaland Traders' and Planters' Association - Lamu Just before the First World War, two large estates were set up by British subjects in the Witu area; the East African Cotton Syndicate which in 1910 had 10,000 acres (but more were planted with rubber than with cotton) and the Witu Rubber Estate which had 110,000 ceara rubber trees; this latter estate was managed by Percy Petley who founded the notorious Petley's Inn. ……. Witu prospered until the World Depression when prices fell so low that some of the farms, including Petley's, ran at a loss. Prices remained at a low level throughout the war years, and finally Petley was forced to sell his 640 acre farm at ten shillings an acre to Henry Burnier, a Swiss national …………… Agriculturally, Mr Burnier planned to avoid making the mistakes that Petley had made. Petley had tried to grow coconuts but the soil was not sandy enough and the farm was too far from the sea for coconuts to do well. Also, Petley had attempted to make money from a sawmill based on the indigenous timber, but because there was little local demand for the wood, and the roads were so poor that the timber could not be regularly sent out. Petley lost money on this venture as well …..
Red Book 1912 - P.A. Petley - Lamu
KAD 1922 - Vice-President, Tanaland Traders & Planters Association (and Red 25)
Gazette - 26/9/1923 - Voters Register - Coast - Percival Allan Petley, Planter, Witu Plantation via Lamu

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