Heather Rooken-Smith

Daisy's Daughter, Our Lives for Africa

Throughout these pages, one realises just how much Daisy ‘shaped’ Heather’s life. Whenever faced with a tough decision, be it planning ahead, contemplating the layout of a home, veggie patch, orchard or garden, one can imagine Heather, as a wife and mother, asking herself, “I wonder what my mother, Daisy, would do?”

Heather’s journey through life epitomises the true East African pioneer spirit. She has endured all manner of hardship, lived off the land, brought up a family and created a number of lovely homes. She never lost her love for Africa and nature and along the way, found time to rear orphan animals and birds which, wherever she lived, became part of her extended family.

Born in 1933 and educated in Kenya, she started training at the Nakuru War Memorial Hospital where, starting in the early 1930s, many family members were born. Her nursing training, which was to hold her in good stead throughout her life, ended just before she married Ian to become a farmer’s wife; a tough but idyllic life, interrupted by the Kenya Emergency. To be alone whilst one’s husband is chasing terrorists in the forests is one thing, to be on one’s own on a farm bordering Mau-Mau territory, must have been terrifying.

‘Daisy’s Daughter,’ is an informative and entertaining read, and throughout, Heather comes across as a caring person, one who empathised with all living things. She respected her staff, their customs and beliefs; their problems became hers and she was quite prepared to take on any professional who she felt was not providing the correct care.

The move from Laikipia to Hoey’s Bridge saw Heather blossom from a young girl into a mother, supportive partner and true friend. Subsequent relocations from Westlands to Malindi in Kenya were followed by moving to Angola. Less than eighteen months after their arrival, the Portuguese Government, with little warning decided to cede control of their African colonies, and Ian, Heather and family, and many others, with the break-down of the local administration, looting of banks and shops, were left to fend for themselves.

After a tortuous journey they reached SWA with few possessions and almost penniless. Ian stated that he ‘would never again own land in Africa,’ and accepted an offer to manage a 45,000 acre Ranch at Omitara, some 180 kilometres inland from Windhoek. Heather created yet another home, this time in an area where German & Herero were the main languages and these nineteen years were to be the longest they lived in one place and perhaps their best.

To have lost so much, including her beloved father for reasons she only recently became aware of, her youngest son, and then her eldest daughter followed by her husband, both to cancer, and to still ‘pen’ her trip through life at the age of 82, with such depth, passion and clarity, is a lesson to all of us who have yet to write or complete our memoirs. By the end of her story, Heather is once again residing in Namibia, this time in the far north Caprivi, a Province of this country she dearly loves.

Heather covers the good, the bad and the ugly that one finds in Africa. In my opinion, by virtue of its diversity, it is the best ‘book of life’ to be written by a Kenya-born; a pioneer in the true spirit of her grandparents who provided a solid foundation for others to follow.

Bruce Rooken-Smith
Kwa-Zulu Natal
South Africa


Music - Bert Kaempfert's 'Swinging Safari'