Back to search results
Name: ALLEN, Frank Maurice 'Bunny'
Nee: bro of Robert Kenneth 'Ba' Allen and John Denys Allen
Birth Date: 17 Apr 1906 Kingham, Bucks.
Death Date: 14 Jan 2002 Lamu
First Date: 1927 Dec 28
Last Date: 2002
Profession: White Hunter - took the Duke of Gloucester on safari to the Athi plains with Beryl Markham
Area: Nanyuki, 1950 Mtumaiyo Farm, Lamu, Hut - Kibwezi Sisal Estate, 1941 Nyeri
Married: 1.1930 Grace 'Babs' Borrius 2. 1950 Mrs Murielle Joffe b. 1906, d. 1995 arrived in Kenya 1927 3. 1997 Jeri Warden, his companion of 40 years
Children: 1. David Wanric (1 July 1932 Kenya-2017); Anton; Lavinia (Ryan)
Book Reference: Markham, Quest, Rundgren, mini-Sitrep 10, Hut, Wheel of Life, Web, NY Times, Telegraph, Into Africa, Chandler, First Wheel, Second Wheel, Sitrep 2, Red 31
War Service: 6th King's African Rifles in Madagascar and northern Kenya, Captain
School: Sir William Borlase's Grammar School, Marlow
Gazette 6 Dec 1938 Aberdare Voters List
Quest - Petley's Bar ........... Ba Allen, known in Swahili as the Laughing One, may expound to you on the wiles and charms of Ethiopian ladies or his gypsy heritage ..... If Ba's brother 'Bunny' is in town, dressed in a calypso shirt and his one gold ear-ring he will explain to you the intricacies of brewing palm wine. ........…..
mini-Sitrep 10 - Bunny - a good friend of the late "Born Free" lion expert George Adamson learned to shoot while poaching game in the grounds of Windsor Castle to feed his gypsy family. He was taken on his first professional safari by Bror Blixen - the husband of Karen Blixen, author of 'Out of Africa'. With them was Denys Finch-Hatton, the dashing pilot later played by Robert Redford in the movie of the book. "They were great days," says Bunny, who still suffers from an old hip wound; he was gored by a buffalo in the fifties. "We're slowly dying off, chaps like me .......... Tied on a cord around Bunny's neck are two lion claws. "You see this nose", he says, motioning me closer. "It was broken by a lion, but he chipped his claws in the process". .......... "I found most actors were built up to be quite wonderful," says Bunny, "and they were pretty good-lookers, but not particularly intelligent. Ava Gardner was probably the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Grace (Kelly) was very pretty but didn't appeal to me as much. I think Clark Gable agreed with me. He was having an affair with Grace at the beginning of filming Mogambo and switched to Ava half way through." Bunny is too much of a gentleman to kiss and tell - at least not until his fifth whisky. But Ava Gardner once said of him: "He is the kind of man most any girl would trust to lead into the jungle". "One has affairs but some are harder, more sustained, than others", says Bunny, grinning wickedly. "I would kiss Grace goodnight. With Ava, I would kiss her goodnight and be there to kiss her good morning." Bunny observes philosophically, "I always found women to be the same as game - when they are troublesome you either stand your ground or backpedal smartly."
Chris Minter: Naro Moru 1927, Lamu 1960
Wheel of Life - "After Jack Soames and the guests had gone back to England, I [Bunny Allen] thought it a good idea to move over to Mervyn Soames's farm ….. … Jack Soames had often said that he must take me down to Nairobi to meet the chief game warden, Archie Ritchie. As we drove there in his Chevrolet hunting car, Jack discussed my safari future: "Very shortly, Lady Alice Scott is coming out. She wants you to take her onto Cole's Plains to catch game. …… As we trundled through to Fort Hall, I said to Jack: "Thank you for all this. You are a wonderful friend to me." In response, he turned on his most lovely smile, and said: "And I'll lend you one of my Rigby .470s." I really was in heaven. The gun I had dreamed about, and soon I was going to use it. ….. I now carried my own beautiful Rigby .470, one I had acquired from one of my near neighbours, Segar Bastard, who had a wife and a beautiful young daughter named Joy.
Web - Salon Wanderlust - The Last of the Great White Hunters - …. Second gun to Denys Finch Hatton on the 1928 Prince of Wales safari and reputedly one of aviator-author Beryl Markham's legion of lovers, Bunny hunted with Bror Blixen as well as Finch Hatton, J.A. Hunter and Philip Percival, the doyen of African safari guides ….. The last of a tough, gentlemanly breed. At 92 Bunny is a handsome old dog with dark bedroom eyes and a high, intelligent forehead. He wears a single golden hoop in his left ear, his magnificent nose has been broken three times, most recently by a pouncing leopard, and the ring finger of his left hand is missing. "Torn off in a Land Rover door on Nanyuki High Street," he says, waving the vanished digit. "Don't miss it a bit. All it ever did was get in my way. When it went, sliced right through, I caught the gold ring in my right hand but the finger dropped into a ditch. An Indian grocer found it and gave it to me a week later. Deep blue it was ….. And useless as ever." …..Beryl Markham … "And you, Bunny? Did she bring you much pleasure?" "Me? Me? Oh, never, absolutely not. I kissed her in the morning and kissed her goodnight, but never in the middle of the day - and the middle of the day means romance." Born, he claims, of Gypsy stock and raised in Windsor in the south of England on the Thames, Bunny earned his nickname as a boy skilled at snaring rabbits. He took the hunting skills learned from his Gypsy mentor, Piramus Berners, in Windsor Forest and applied them to stalking wildlife in Africa………. ….Cape buffalo. They're quite the most dangerous animal in Africa - I'm sure they take more human life than any other. Though I grew quite tired of killing, I'd shoot a buffalo today if I had the chance. ….. … "Once we were stalking buffalo," he [David Allen] says, ….when we rounded a clump of bush and five buffalo rushed out and came straight for us. Bunny stepped in front and shot the first two bulls. With the third bull on him, he fired again: Click. No shots left. Bunny dropped his rifle, grasped the animal's horns and vaulted onto his back." "Luckily, his horns didn't touch me." Bunny says, looking back on those years. "I must have ridden 40 or 50 yards up there." "Then I got him in range and fired," continues David, "praying my bullet wouldn't hit Bunny. When it slammed into the buffalo's brain, he did a somersault and Bunny disaoppeared under him. 'My God,' I thought, 'I've killed my father.'" "Not a bit of it," says Bunny, laughing, "I went under the beast's belly. Soft and warm it was in there ….. Lovely spot to snuggle down." ….. Bunny worked on several films, among them "King Solomon's Mines," "Mogambo" and "Nor the Moon by Night". ….. Bunny's legend doesn't rest on his hunting laurels alone - he was also a notorious man with the ladies. "Bunny cut a terrible swath among the women," says his wife, Jeri, pretty, petite and 10 years Bunny's junior. "A safari wasn't a safari unless Bunny had an affair. You could usually tell when the clients gathered around the campfire the first evening which it would be." …… "Once he took a beautiful American woman, her husband and their gorgeous 20-year-old daughter on safari," says Jeri, her sweet voice edged with fluting laughter. "The girl took a fancy to Bunny, and the first night slipped into Bunny's tent and his bed. A half-hour later, mother did the same." …. "I've an eye for beauty, I believe," says Bunny, a dedicated amateur painter. "Not just a beautiful girl, but a beautiful landscape or a beautiful animal. But a beautiful girl, certainly." Bunny played an integral role in the biggest safari in East African history, which moved out of Nairobi and made camp on the Kagera River, where Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda meet, to film MGM's "Mogambo", directed by John Ford and starring Clark Gable, Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner. It would be "a big picture - we're big!" Sam Goldwyn had assured Bunny when they met in Hollywood. Goldwyn hired Bunny to run the safari - which required feeding and bedding 500 people under canvas 300 miles from Nairobi, the source of all supplies. Bunny also acted as white hunter and Gable's stand-in. ……
Obituary - NY Times Feb. 16, 2002 - Bunny Allen, the last of a generation of professional hunters in East Africa who prided themselves on having as sharp an eye for their clients' wives as for their four-legged quarry, died at his home on the Indian Ocean island of Lamu last month, his family said. He was 95 Mr Allen, whose real name was Frank, turned a youthful knack for poaching royal game in Britain into a skill for hunting buffaloes, leopards and elephants with the rich and famous in Africa. He belonged to a coterie of whites in Kenya who consorted with princes, presidents, diplomats and movie stars on luxurious tented expeditions into the savanna where champagne and mischief flowed as freely as hunters' yarns. In one interview he recalled gazing at the face of a leopard as it began to maul him. "I remember thinking to myself, 'What beautiful eyes you have.'" Mr Allen said in 1984. An African retainer dispatched the leopard and saved him, he said, a reminder that, while white hunters harvested the glamour, they frequently depended on black Africans. Mr Allen once said that each of his clients was accompanied by a staff of 5 Africans. Mr Allen lived long past Kenya's 1977 ban on hunting. He began his African career as an assistant to Bror Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton, a big-game hunter of the 1920's and 1930's and lover of Isak Dinesen, author of the novel "Out of Africa," who was married to Bror Blixen. There were rumours of a romantic association with Ava Gardner, who travelled to Kenya with other stars, including Clark Gable and Grace Kelly, to make the movie "Mogambo" in the early 1950's. Mr Allen was hired to manage the 300-tent camp in southwestern Kenya for the movie's cast and crew. "I think it was the peak of his career," his son David said in a telephone interview from Nairobi, Kenya. "It was his biggest camp under canvas, with over 1000 people." Earlier, he scouted the Congo River for locations for "The African Queen," starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Mr Allen always denied having an affair with the flier and author Beryl Markham. "I kissed her in the mornings and I kissed her good night, but never in the middle of the day," he was quoted as saying. In the secret code of Kenya's licentious "Happy Valley" set of aristocrats and settlers, kissing someone in the middle of the day was said to mean romance. Otherwise he did nothing to dispute his reputation as a Lothario. On a hunting safari, he once said "emotions are stirred which spill over into the evening. Affairs are inevitable." But he insisted on discretion. His son David said: "One piece of advice Bunny did give me was: no matter who you go to bed with, don't tell anyone. If the woman wants to talk about it, that's up to her. It's her reputation." Claiming to be a descendent of gypsies, Mr Allen arrived in Kenya from Britain in 1927 looking for work as an apprentice hunter and set up his own safari companies, hunting with Philip Percival, the model for the character Pop in Ernest Hemingway's "Green Hills of Africa." Like other safari hunters, whose way of life was resented by Kenya's first generation of African leaders as a colonial relic, Mr Allen had his share of brushes with buffaloes and lions. He liked to tell the story of a lion breaking his nose only to chip its claws in the process. But he died peacefully, his son David said. He is survived by his second [sic] wife Jeri: a daughter, Lavinia, another son, Anton: and six grandchildren.
Obituary - Daily Telegraph - 18 Feb. 2002 - Bunny Allen, who has died in Kenya aged 95, was the last of the Great White Hunters; his name was known across East Africa for his prowess with a rifle and for his romantic appeal to women, notably Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. His reputation was at its height in the 1950s, when he was renowned for running the best, and the most expensive, safaris in Kenya. Clients such as Prince Aly Khan paid handsomely to shoot the big game - elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard - for whose whereabouts Allen seemed to have a sixth sense. This ability came to the attention of Hollywood's studios, and he was regularly employed to find the wildlife needed as a backdrop to such lush epics as King Solomon's Mines (1950) and Where No Vultures Fly (1951). In 1953, he was put in charge of the largest safari seen in East Africa when John Ford came to Kenya to make Mogambo. Allen, who had 20 white hunters under his command, stood in for Clark Gable, the film's star, when there were dangerous scenes of charging animals to be shot, and also found time to conduct love affairs with the film's other two stars, Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner, then married to Frank Sinatra. When the film was released, Allen was deemed so integral to its success that he accompanied the three actors on the publicity tour, and appeared on What's My Line? On American television. Yet despite such glamorous connections, Allen was at heart a brave and energetic hunter, who loved the outdoors life, even when it imperilled his own. He was mauled by leopards several times and once found himself in the path of a charging Cape buffalo while holding an empty rifle. Flinging it aside, he vaulted nimbly over its horns and landed on its back. Bellowing loudly, the enraged creature cantered some 50 yards with Allen up top before his son shot the beast dead. It agile jockey was then in his fifties. He was born Frank Maurice Allen on April 17 1906 and grew up near Maidenhead, Berkshire. He derived his character less from his father, a timid man who worked for an insurance company, than from his masterful mother. Her father, who built carriages for the Royal family at Windsor, had Romany blood, and as a young boy Frank made friends with gipsies who lived in Windsor Great Park. From one of them, Piramus Berners, he learned the ways of the woods, and the skill he acquired of snaring rabbits earned him the name "Bunny." He was educated at Sir William Borlase's Grammar School, Marlow, where he was a fine oarsman and an outstanding boxer. Then in 1927, having formed a taste for travel as a boy when he had followed his mother and her lover to Canada during the Great War, he went out to Kenya, where his two older brothers were already working. One of these, Ba Allen, later became Haile Selassie's chief of police. Bunny soon found a job managing a farm for Mervyn Soames, whose brother Jack was a central figure in the colony's Happy Valley group of settlers. He soon began to entrust Allen with taking his guests out shooting, and the new arrival's natural affinity with the bush and instinctive shooting ability brought him to the attention of two of the best respected white hunters, Baron Bror von Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton, whose love affair with Blixen's wife Karen later formed the basis of the film Out of Africa (1985). Allen soon became Finch Hatton's partner on shoots, and was one of the guns on the Prince of Wales's safaris in 1928. In time, he took part in three royal safaris, and in the early 1930s helped the future Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester to catch cheetah which were wanted to race against greyhounds at White City. Allen's party captured them by the simple expedient of galloping alongside and diving on their backs. Despite his middle-class background, Allen's considerable charm and professionalism in the field won him admittance to the more upper-class and slightly older coterie that dominated Kenyan society. He was also helped by his strong, dark good looks - an equal measure of Christopher Lee to Stewart Granger - which allowed him to take full advantage of a looseness of morals that gave rise to the joke "Are you married or do you live in Kenya?" Allen would eventually work his way through three long-suffering wives. He came to know well the aviatrix Beryl Markham, Joy Adamson and Philip Percival, the hunter personified as "Pop" in Ernest Hemingway's The Green Hills of Africa. Yet Allen was no snob and, having learned Swahili, also enjoyed an excellent rapport with the natives, on whose skills as gunbearers his life often depended. Following Finch Hatton's death in the early 1930s, Allen continued to work with Blixen, and gained a reputation as one of the finest hunters in the colony. Then war came, and he enlisted, initially as a private, in the 6th King's African Rifles. He later became an officer, and was due to receive his commission from Lord Erroll, Kenya's Military Secretary; but the night before their appointment Erroll was murdered. The crime later inspired James Fox's book White Mischief. Allen served in Madagascar and on Kenya's northern frontier. There his skills were put to good use when two lions began to prey on both British and Italian troops, once eating a soldier in his sleeping bag. Allen used the corpses of two Italians to lure the man-eaters into an ambush, and received a congratulatory telegram from the enemy afterwards. He finished the war as a captain. In the next decade his safari business flourished. Its success was due to Allen's ability to ensure that all his clients enjoyed themselves, both in the bush and around the fire at night. Few of his rivals were so concerned that their customers had fun, and few, too, had Allen's attractiveness of manner. With the gipsy earring that he sported, and wearing his native wraparound skirt, he was also like catnip to many of his female clients; one came to his tent at night only to find her daughter already in possession. Although hunting was banned in Kenya from the mid-1970s, Allen adapted well to the changing times there, having had enough of shooting. He continued to take guests out to see game until his eighties, by when he had retired to the island of Lamu. There he built somewhat unreliable houses in the Arabic style, taught himself to paint, read the poetry of Rupert Brooke, and made marmalade. Both animals and people instinctively trusted him, and he was much respected locally for his ability to solve problems; in Swahili his nickname was "he who finds the road". He was also admired for his friendliness, although sometimes he liked to retreat to a dark corner to brood. He wrote three volumes of autobiography, anthologised as The Wheel of Life (2002) and after a documentary film of his life, A Gypsy in Africa, was released in 1996, he received fan mail from all over the world. He married first, in 1930, Babs Borrius. The marriage was dissolved, and in 1950 he married Murielle Joffe. Following her death five years ago, he married his companion of 40 years, Jeri Warden, who survives him together with the daughter and two sons of his first marriage.
Into Africa - Bunny Allen wrote that he never 'missed a chance, whether it be for a grand trophy, the hand of a lovely lady, or the collection of golden shekels'.
Obituary by Dennis McLellan - He boasted of once killing a charging rhino with a Masai spear, then dropping three more with a rifle in 20 seconds. He proudly displayed the scar on his forearm where a leopard sank its teeth until an African gun bearer blasted the animal off him. He talked about his nose, which had been broken by a lion; and his bad hip, the result of a buffalo goring. And, after a few drinks, he'd talk about the romantic liaisons he had while on safari. Bunny Allen, the last of Africa's legendary "white hunters", whose tales of big game kills rivalled stories of his pursuit of beautiful women, died in his sleep in late January at his home on the island of Lamu off the coast of Kenya. He was 95. The exact date and cause of his death were not available. Allen, who retired to a waterfront Muslim town on the Indian Ocean many years ago, had no shortage of tales from his days as a professional hunter - a career that began in 1927, 50 years before Kenya banned big-game hunting. Allen, whose part-gypsy father worked for an insurance company, grew up in Berkshire, England, where gypsies taught him to hunt. Born Frank Maurice Allen, he earned his nickname Bunny for his skill in snaring rabbits. Allen arrived in Africa at 21, hoping to find work as an apprentice to a professional hunter. His first safari was led by Bror Blixen, husband of Karen Blixen, the writer known as Isak Dinesen. In 1928, Allen was assistant to Denys Finch-Hatton on a safari with the Prince of Wales. Allen later hunted with Philip Percival, the model for the character Pop in Ernest Hemingway's "Green Hills of Africa" and organized buffalo hunts for Prince Aly Khan. During World War II, Allen served as acting regimental sergeant major in the King's African Rifles and fought the Italians in Somaliland. After battles, the dead bodies would be picked over by lions. Having been given a taste for human blood, the lions began killing the locals, who asked the soldiers for help. Taught to track lions by warrior tribesmen he commanded, Allen found and killed two lions sunning themselves after eating a villager. He later said the Italians sent a note to his regiment saying: "Please pass on our hearty congratulations to those who got rid of the man-hunters. We can now get on with the war." When Hollywood filmmakers came to Africa in the 1950s, it was Allen whose services they enlisted. He scouted locations for John Huston's "The African Queen" and worked on "Safari," "King Solomon's Mines" and "Where No Vultures Fly." And when director John Ford's cast and crew arrived in southwestern Kenya to make "Mogambo", Allen organized and supervised a 300-tent camp, as well as 20 white hunters, an unknown number of bearers and more than a 1000 Samburu warriors. Allan also stood in for the film's male star, Clark Gable, in dangerous shooting scenes. And he reportedly had an affair with the film's female star, Ava Gardner, even while Allen's wife, Murielle, served as wardrobe mistress. "A beautiful girl, a beautiful character, a beautiful walk," he once said of the actress, who was married to Frank Sinatra at the time. "A petty chap," he said of the famously jealous Sinatra. For her part, Gardner once said of Allen: "He was the kind of man any girl would trust to lead her into the jungle." Tall, with wavy dark hair and an aquiline nose, the sun-bronzed Allen never disputed his reputation as a lady's man. "A hunter's life is primitive stuff, and not just during the day," he once explained. "It's intimate, and things happen. Emotions are stirred, which spill over into the evening; affairs are inevitable." Of the various animals he hunted, Allen told the New York Times in 1989, he had "a great admiration for the buffalo, a magnificently strong, brave and pretty formidable opponent. I had no compunction at shooting a buffalo. Most other animals I always had a slight feeling of remorse." Allen's son, David, now a gamekeeper, once saved his father's life when a buffalo charged him. Allen's gun bearer had mistakenly handed him a rifle without ammunition just as a buffalo was headed toward him. Allen avoided the animal's horns by swinging himself on top of the buffalo's head and was carried along until his son shot the buffalo. "All the soft parts of the buffalo fell on me," Allen recalled. "I got away with a few broken ribs." In his later years, Allen expressed contempt for modern-day poachers, particularly those who killed elephants by the thousands. "The older I've got, the more I've hated killing anything, including snakes," he said. "I think they all have a job in life." Allen, who wrote three volumes of memoirs, was the subject of a 1996 documentary, "A Gypsy Life." In addition to his son David, Allen is survived by his third wife, Jeri; and two other children from his first marriage, Lavinia and Anton; and 6 grandchildren. First Wheel - 'My Grandfather, on my mother's side, owned some fine farmland adjacent to the Great Forest of Windsor.
First Wheel - At about this time, and right out of the blue, I got myself married. Nothing was further from mind, when I suddenly saw this beautiful girl ……. As soon as I saw her I wanted to meet her. She had the most beautiful eyes in the world. She danced divinely ….. She was a really sweet girl, and far too good for me. However, I talked her into marrying me and we had several good years. Jack Soames approved of her and was always very thoughtful about her. I also rather think that he imagined she would steady me down. Keep me at home a bit more. Be less nomadic; yet, in actual fact, the effect was the exact opposite. ………….. Babs was a loving companion, produced three wonderful children for me and made the best rich fruitcake in the world, I left her. The final break came when the 1939-45 War took me into its arms. I never recovered from these "arms" and did not go back to Babs. I feel that she was far better without me. I was not good to her or for her. She was a splendid, lovely girl and a wonderful mother to my three children, David, Anton and Lavinia.
Second Wheel - Now about this time, I got myself married once again. This was a strange stroke of fate, because, in retrospect, I could never have done this great 'Mogambo' [film] …. Safari without the help of Murielle. ……… After the last safari with Dr Kurt von Wedel, he took me to Mombasa for a few days holiday. There I met a very beautiful girl under a coconut palm. I danced with her, fell in love with her, told her my age and she introduced me to her mother. After a period of wooing mother, I perusaded her to make the mistake of marrying me. She was a pretty woman and a wonderful business woman. We had several comparatively happy years together, although much of her time was spent in Nairobi looking after her business interests. Well, Murielle took to the job of getting the great Mogambo show on the road as a duck takes to water. And, having gotten the show on the road and under canvas, it was she who saw that the supplies came in by some means or another. She was business to the fingertips.
One of the original '500' men in the Kenya Regt. in 1937. (KR 443)
Back to search results