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Name: WATKINS, Olga Florence, Mrs

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Nee: dau of Willie Adolf Baillie-Grohmann, widow of Lieut. Douglas Acland Thompson, KAR

Birth Date: 21 Apr 1889 Lymne, near Hythe, Kent

Death Date: 6 Dec 1947 Nairobi

Last Date: 1947

Profession: Farm at Koru, originally belonged to her father-in-law. Douglas had planted coffee in 1911. Col. Thompson gave the farm to Olga. Member of the Legislative Council; farmer

Area: Koru, 'Wispers' Farm, Ruaraka

Married: 1. In Westminster 1914 Thomas Acland Douglas Thompson (1887, killed in action 1915); 2. In Mombasa 13 Oct 1917 Col. Oscar Ferris Watkins CBE, DSO (1877-1943)

Children: 2. Olga Penelope Ferris 'Pella' (Montgomery) (13 Oct 1917 Nairobi -1992); Grace Veronica Ferris 'Ronny' (Hughes) (30 Aug 1920 Boxley, Kent-2011); Elizabeth June Ferris 'Tiny Wee' (Knowles) (24 June 1923 Cranbrook-2012 Oxford)

Author: Elizabeth Watkins, 'Olga in Kenya', 2005

Book Reference: Oscar, Daphne Ewings, Debrett, Hut, Curtis, Pioneers, Nicholls, Barnes

General Information:

Oscar - Nursed Africans eventually during WW1 in EA, much against most peoples ideas of what a white woman should do. ...... 'Breaking a taboo is never easy, and several senior officials' wives came to see Olga, telling her she was degrading white women by her activity, threatening that if she persisted no one would call on her. "Thank God," she replied, "This job will not give me time to return your calls!" ........... she joined the EAWL not only because she wanted to see women enfranchised but because, in a very masculine world, it was necessary to have a body to express women's interests and she used the league to help her to establish a place of refuge for children. Many European children were orphaned in the colonies and needed care while relatives were contacted and passages arranged. Yet more difficult were the cases where the parents were alive but neglected or abused their children. ........... The provision of a children's home had been near her heart since she had looked after the ten little girls during the war. Lady Northey, with whom Olga discussed it, lent it her support and her name. When the Municipality of Nairobi held its first election, the temptation was too great. She stood for election and was returned on a campaign to provide better housing for African workers, as well as the children's home. ..........….
She sold the Koru farm and bought 140 acres six miles from Nairobi town centre between two rivers, the Karura and the Ruaraka.
Daphne Ewings - Hon. Olga Watkins M.L.C. was an imperious figure - Hungarian by birth with the stature of a diva of grand opera at its most magnificent. She and her husband had a coffee estate on the road out to Limuru not far from the Nairobi boundary. One fine morning as Mrs Watkins was about to take off in the safari car for Nairobi and the business of Legco, one of the farm hands came forward with the quite unabashed request that while in town she should stop by the duka and purchase a new piece of farm equipment as the existing one was broken. It was quite usual for African employees to believe that all Europeans had only to present themselves at the Bank or the shop and all was theirs for the asking without the little matter of money available coming into the equation. Olga was taken aback by this particularly extravagant demand and required explanation. Explanation was, as usual, quite unsatisfactory; something like ".. it came away in me hand Mum" to which Olga replied in Swahili to the effect "..come off it man - I wasn't born yesterday." At this the employee looked aghast and open-mouthed and viewing the magnificent figure from head to toe, eventually stammered out in Swahili to the effect "Yes Memsahib, I can see that indeed you were not born yesterday."
Curtis - p. 134 - 'Working For Ainsworth'  Olga Watkins' experiences during WW1 - 'Olga Baillie-Graham [sic] married Douglas Thompson in January 1914 and came out to BEA to farm at Koru. Her family were British, living in the Austrian Tyrol. He was a soldier whose regiment was in India but who had been invalided out with malaria; he had stopped at Mombasa on his way home from India and bought land up country. Despite Douglas Thompson's recurrent attacks of malaria they had made some progress with the farm when war broke out. Douglas volunteered for service at once. Olga went with him from the farm to Kisumu to look for such war work as she might be needed for. A memoir by one of her daughters, June Knowles, tells the story. .......... Douglas and Olga went to the hotel for breakfast ......... she saw a man get out of a rickshaw in front of the hotel, a little bag in one hand. Obviously the doctor ... [she helped the doctor nurse a white hunter called Grey, day and night,  back to health after his arm had been amputated, then went and asked John Ainsworth, who had been a PC fpr 6 years. for work. He sent her to the Post Office to read captured German letters. After spending a night talking to injured German POWs she gave Ainsworth the information she had gleaned and then returned to the farm. Ainsworth visited her regularly until her husband came home.]
Pioneers - The Watkins of Wispers Farm - Veronica Hughes - ……. Olga then set to work to plant coffee. She ploughed 100 acres herself, driving the team of 16 oxen. And so Wispers became a family home, where we had at one time 16 dogs and 23 cats, all but 2 of these picked up as starving strays. We had a bulldog, a leopard, a tame cock, a Kavirondo Crane, two horses and the donkey who brought our water up from the river. Olga always had room for everything and everyone. She ran a little hospital (a glorified dispensary) which served all the farms around as well. ……. [more]
Between bouts of Wispers Olga would dash back to wherever my father was stationed and do her duty as a Provincial Commissioner's wife. Olga's forthright manner, outspokenness and contempt for Government red tape must have caused my father many an embarrassing moment. Once she arrived at Government House with a camp bed under her arm and said she didn’t mind how long she waited but she wanted to see HE. She did, about half an hour later.
Nicholls - the hyper-energetic Olga Watkins who stood for 'the women on the back verandahs of their houses'.
Barnes - Nairobi City Park Cemetery - Alga [sic] Florence Watkins, died 6 Dec 1947 aged 57, buried on farm at Kiambu
Blurb for Olga in Africa: Brought up in an Austrian castle, daughter of a writer who was a friend of Theodore Roosevelt as well as a pioneer of wildlife national parks in the USA and of the Kootenay irrigation scheme in British Columbia, educated at an English girls’ school, debutante at the British court, married at 23 to a soldier settler farmer in Kenya, widowed at 24 when her husband was killed in the German East Africa campaign in the First World War, recruited by von Meinertzhagen for British intelligence work, novice farmer, married again to a senior government official, first woman to be elected to the Nairobi City Council, pioneer of better urban housing for Africans, mother of three girls, coffee farmer and building contractor, elected member of the Kenya Legislative Council in place of the murdered Lord Erroll, responsible for the appointment of the first Director of Women’s Education in Kenya, advocate of rights and better educational facilities for African women, representative of the smaller coffee farmers.

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