Heather Rooken-Smith

Reader Reviews

Dear Heather, I LOVED all of your book and of course having lived in Kenya and Namibia I had a double whammy and enjoyed reading about both countries especially. Love, Jenny Storm, Australia, 27th October 2017 

Daisy’s Daughter: Our Lives for Africa by Heather Rooken-Smith.
Heather is a child of Africa. She has experienced Africa as it has changed from being under the rule of colonial powers to becoming independent self governing countries.   Her story is a heart felt account of the time of transition to independence in Kenya, Angola and South West Africa. For white people, many of whom had lived for generations in Africa, the change was difficult and presented them with huge challenges in their daily lives, their values, and their sense of status and security.   Heather’s optimism and love for her family, the people and animals of Africa saw her through many difficulties during this period of turmoil. Her respect and genuine caring for them gained her in turn their love and respect. She suffered through many challenges in her personal life until at last she found peace and security living in a cottage on the banks of the great Zambezi River in the heart of Africa. The book is full of delightful anecdotes about the animals and people she cared for. My favourite was the story of Tootsie Wootsie, the porcupine who returned with her two babies after having disappeared for a year and a half. This book gives the reader a vivid account of how rich life can be for a child growing up in Africa. Congratulations on
an excellent book. Susan & Hugh Fraser, Canada, 14th November 2017

Loved your book!   It was an adventure every page and what an amazing life.
Claire Mercer, Australia, 27th November 2017

Heather… What a Fantastic account of your life in Africa! An Africa that sadly no longer exists – The Africa that all of us now living in exile grieve for. I feel very privileged to have a copy of your wonderful book thanks to my Dad who was one of the first in England to order it through Amazon! And as you know, he has his own very special copy. What I love most is the profoundly personal and down to earth touch you bring to your truly African Saga… at times unspeakably tragic, at others uplifting and funny, but at all times inspirational and compelling. In particular I love the little anecdotes you weave throughout your tale of the various wild animals and birds who come your way, you adopt, and who in turn adopt you, becoming much loved family pets. You share with us their individuality and huge personalities, bringing much amusement and reprieve to the many traumatic events surrounding you. And we are able to grieve with you at their passing, as well as the passing of the Africa we all knew and loved. I was also touched by the strong and supportive relationship between you and Ian which you make visible throughout… a bond that saw you through the toughest of times and a loss that must have hit you so very hard.  I feel such great admiration for you both: your resilience against all the heartbreak and misfortune endured; your losses of land, country and most devastatingly children.  And yet your spirit and courage endured to battle on together against it all. You are one amazingly tenacious woman! May Caprivi now be your sanctuary where I know you will continue to be a magnetic force towards all creatures seeking refuge, love and affection, for whatever reason! It won’t be long before I re-read Daisy’s Daughter and it will for ever be treasured. Thank you for sharing your incredible story of an Africa long gone. X Caroline Daniell, Australia, 29th November 2017

Dear Heather, I meant to write long before this to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. It is a fantastic tribute to Ian, in whose memory you were prompted to write, I think, and very brave of you to expose yourself to reliving the ups and downs of your life. Did you keep a diary? Or were all your experiences written indelibly on your mind? I congratulate you on starting such an epic journey at 80?-years-old/young! 
As a family, you have seen a great variety of life and as I followed your journey I was aware of how considerate and kind you were to all, with whom you came in contact. I was delighted by your animal and wild bird stories and greatly saddened at the losses you had to cope with. As a family you had many happy times which you all enjoyed to the full. It was interesting for me to learn about the troubled time in Kenya as I was away in England but I can tell you that Dorothy Meiklejohn settled in Farnham, her daughter Sally went to the States.
Your book evoked many happy memories for me in Kenya and I was lucky to have enjoyed such a wonderful childhood there. Still a very special place for me but sadly I fear for the future of the country and am content in UK as I hope you are in Namibia.
With best wishes to you and all your family for a Happy Christmas and I hope the New Year will be a good one for you all,
Rosemary Row, UK, 22nd December 2017

I bought Heather's book from Amazon and gave it to my mother Maureen (93) for Christmas - what an amazing story and just so wanted to say how much I enjoyed it and lived your lives for a bit, cant stop thinking about you all and the Malindi days, I am actually sitting here in Malindi while I write this. In 2014 Tom Fraser (my husband) think you may remember him too, and I did a road trip from Kenya to Namibia and think drove straight past your lodge on the Caprivi Strip and had no idea Heather was there until I read her book…….would have loved to have seen her again, and of course Keith and Mary and family. So I just wanted to say Hello and if you ever come up to Kenya you are more than welcome, and hopefully we will be back down South some day. Lots of love, Gilly Barrett now Fraser, Kenya, 30th December 2017

Dear Heather, Now that we have both read your book, I join the line of people to congratulate you on an extraordinary effort. What an amazing family you are – real pioneers with such courage to keep starting again. We greatly sympathize with all your tragedies to family and animals and it is a real eye opener to remember the terrible violence and loss of life during the Mau Mau and wars. Oh what a waste of young and other innocent people. You deserve your happy quiet life now and I hope somewhere along the line you will pick up yet another animal! It is good to know that Ian will now be well remembered. Love, Gillian and Muff (Martin) Becker, South Africa, 7th January 2018

Dear Heather and Lindsay, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your book twice. Brought back many happy memories of life in Sotik back in the 50’s and 60’s. We did pretty much all the same thing with horses, fishing, hunting, coast holidays. Hector and Jane Bastard were particularly good friends of my folks and I spent lots of time over at their farm Simbout. I particularly enjoyed the second paragraph on page 222 where you talk about Hector wearing bombis/lungyis. My Dad, Theo de Mattos, went to Burma in 1936 and was there before, during and after the war and he wore them till the day he died. He introduced Hector to them from wearing them at various polo tournaments and fishing trips! He had them made from old Burma pairs as a pattern by the local tailor in Chemagel where Hector obviously also had them made. They were a one size fits all type of garment. My Dad actually closed down Hector's two farms in Sotik, Simbout and Jesume, as part of the handover for the first million acre scheme. He left Kenya early about April/May 1965 by ship to Beira, drove to Underberg via Rhodesia arriving there sometime in June 1965. Initially, my Dad was on Sangwana with Hector and then moved to Nottingham Road about June 1966. He died at his house in Fort Nottingham, Natal Midlands, on 26 December 1990 aged 74. Many Thanks.
Regards, Paul de Mattos, South Africa, 16th January 2018

Have read the book now - so very interesting and much to remind me of our early residence in Kenya, especially our great lifestyle before the Emergency. I loved the style Heather used to put all that history on paper. You could almost imagine sitting on the verandah with a nice hot cup of coffee and just listening to her telling it like it was just yesterday. Loved it! Neil & Biddy McDonald, Australia, 20th January 2018 

Dear Heather, I have today completed your book. Wow, what a saga. My emotions have been on a total rollercoaster. Your exit from Angola and all your animals that had to be left. What a nightmare dealing with the whole situation. I was so very sad for you and Ian. What made me very cross was the guy who helped himself to your tobacco and didn’t think to pay you the courtesy of handing over some of the proceeds. Better you didn’t know what he had done. Your restart in SWA must have been difficult with so little to help you along. Well done anyway. Very enterprising with a huge amount of effort involved by you both. I loved the stories of your various animals. Some sad endings to say the least. At home in West Kilimanjaro we had an assortment of animals - hedgehogs; a vervet monkey - her mum was killed stealing mealies; a lion cub that Robin rescued on safari - we gave him to an animal orphanage near Arusha. Dikdiks as well - one lived to a ripe old age. My Mum, Marghie, was good with animals and was always being given things to look after. We got a wildcat kitten - her best friend was a Siamese tom and another little stray I found in Moshi. Mum and I were the only ones she trusted. My sister, Phyllis (Gray), was also a nurse. Started her training in Boksburg near Jo’burg. Went on to the Nairobi hospital for a while with Kay Ulyate. She also did intensive care training in Bristol before moving to the Katherine B.B. in Mombasa. She eventually ran a top notch Jersey herd in Richmond, Natal and now lives with her eldest son who is a farm manager in KZN. So glad to hear you are well settled in your Buffalo cabin with some animals to keep you up to speed and fantastic family to look out for you. Love, Sally Copp (Ulyate), Scotland, 13th March 2018

Loved reading Heather's book –– it was a delightful read and very inspiring. Had a wonderful time in Kenya and Tanzania. I am very much looking forward to returning in the near future. Heather Bryant, USA, 28th March 2018

Dear Heather, I really wanted to tell you how very much I enjoyed your book. It was lent to me by my close friend, Dawn (Freddie) Lahner, as she knew I used to live in various parts of Africa.
I “connected” to your stories on so many different levels, and although we did not have any harrowing encounters with warring factions - as you did - the parts where you had to leave animals behind really struck a chord! I came to Africa as a bride of 4 months from England, when I was 23. My (new) husband, David, had a contract on a hydro-electric scheme in Northern Nigeria. We were 500 miles north of Lagos, murram dirt roads, on a camp site.  I'd informed David that, as we were going to live in Nigeria, the very first time I saw a snake, I'd be back on the plane, home to Manchester, England. Well, my first encounter with the much-feared reptile was within 2 months of arriving, followed by several other snake experiences! Despite my fear of snakes, my love of Africa was greater and I stayed. I quickly collected a goat (my first wedding anniversary present from David), a parrot (who lived to 38 years old and died with us in Johannesburg), monkeys, dogs, and a Crowned Duiker. I had many adventures in Nigeria (mostly caused by me not being familiar with the local customs!) and thoroughly enjoyed dancing in the Nigerian market at night time to the sounds of the drums, and starting a school in 2 grass huts for the village children. After 2 years, I returned to Manchester, England to have our first baby. When I tell you I was 8 and-a-half months pregnant and was hauling onto the plane a parrot and a basket of pineapples, you will maybe recognise a kindred spirit! We then drove to Zambia via Cape Town a short while later, with a 10 month old baby, and settled in the Copperbelt in Zambia. I had another child in Kitwe, but we were very soon to relocate to Nairobi. Your chapters on Mombasa, Gedi, the rope hauled ferry and Malindi (ordering lobsters from the fishermen!, and snorkelling on the reef) brought wonderful memories, and I dreamt of Kenya, Lamu and Zanzibar all night long. Those were very happy days indeed. A very short sojourn back to England showed us that our children were Africans through and through. They hated the cold weather and having to wear so many clothes, going to school in the dark and coming home in the dark. So we came to Johannesburg and have been here since 1979. David died 7 years ago. I often tell my stories to friends and they say “You should write a book.” I shall be 75 this week and it seems if I don’t make a start very soon, I never shall! Please be assured your book brought very much pleasure to me, and made me realise that we strong ladies are quite capable of surmounting the most varied of circumstances! Kindest regards, Angela M Barker, South Africa, 1st April 2018

Dear Heather, I have just read your book, found it wonderfully inspiring and could not put it down! Amazing story of resilience, heartbreak and triumph.
I was brought up in Africa - my father was a missionary venturing from England at the age of 23 in 1933. My mother - a nurse - was born of Cornish parents in Jo'burg. My two sisters and I had a wonderful childhood in Mufulira in Zambia and Nairobi in Kenya. Even though we did not have much money we were wonderfully happy and some of our dearest friends were African. We still have family in Zimbabwe and South Africa - also in Mexico and Australia. I am in touch with a friend, now living in Vancouver (I live on Vancouver Island) Canada, who I was in school with at the Kenya School in the fifties. I am in my eighties now but still the magic of Africa is ever with me.
(I am married and had two daughters. One unmarried, and our youngest died just before her 28th birthday of an air embolism while scuba diving - "The best day of my life" - her words on the day she died. She was doing what she loved that day). My heart goes out to you for your losses hundredfold. Your book brought back so many wonderful memories - holidays in Kalk Bay and Fisher's Hoek, and Malindi (Lawfords Hotel) - to name a few. Ann and David Taylor were friends of my youngest sister, Margaret Piper, who died in 1999 and is buried in Kilifi cemetery. I am in touch with the Taylors via WhatsApp messaging because of Margaret even though I have never met them. Can you believe it? This constant thread woven into the tapestry of life.
Thank you for writing the book. I shall treasure it! Getting older is difficult but the memories we have are amazing!
Yours very sincerely, Frances (Pengelly - née Bedford), Canada, 22nd April 2018

Dear Heather, Greetings from our little 'off grid' bush shack here in il Bissel, Kajiado County, Kenya. It's 7 pm and the stars shine forth in all their glory with no artificial light pollution for over 50 miles. The ever present hyena have started howling nearby. Sundowners around the 'camp' fire amidst the sounds of the African night coupled with the wonderful new technology of cell phone internet is very much conducive to penning this thank you for a wonderful & profoundly moving life story that is fortunately now committed to print for others to share. My wife, Sabina, grabbed it first and thoroughly enjoyed it. I then read it, savouring the last chapter for today's ‘siesta’. You describe an Africa to which we 'young(er) ones' once hoped to aspire to – an Africa we can only dream of and imagine through your stories. That is why it is so important to write these things down for the following generations.
My first thoughts are of sympathy & admiration. You have suffered much more than anyone’s fair share of hardship & heartbreak yet you not only coped, survived & persevered, you seemingly emerged stronger for it each & every time. An ode to an incredible life in Africa, a testament to your beloved Ian or an exoneration of your father Lionel Carol Griffin… it is all of those & everything in between, written from the heart with complete honesty & sincerity. Who will remember (or know of) Ian Rooken-Smith now? I certainly will. Lionel Carol too. Where exactly is that Nakuru cemetery? I should like to visit and search out his headstone next time we find ourselves passing by.
I met Dr Anne Spoerry a few times. She enjoyed her whiskey at the Aero Club bar where young pilots, like myself, would be spellbound listening to her aviation escapades & adventures. My father, Bob Cronchey, like you, was born in 1933. He passed away in 2015. I'm sure you remember him from your Driftwood days as we had a holiday home just two plots to the south along Silversands beach. It's more than likely that you even tolerated me as a toddler (born 1967) since we seemed to spend our entire holiday between the Driftwood pool (kids & ayahs) or the bar (parents). The Malindi that you vividly described rekindles many happy childhood & adolescent memories. Doc Rozinger continued practicing right up until his death in the early 80s. I noted with interest that in your book you mention the SS Uganda. In 1980, I went on a school geography tour of the Mediterranean on that same vessel. Shortly after, she was requisitioned as a hospital ship for the Falklands war. I don't know what happened to her thereafter.
I wish my best friend, George Aggett, had lived long enough to follow through with his intended trip to visit you in Namibia. You would have had SO much to talk about. He was of no nonsense straight talking 'salt of the earth' farming stock with an African pedigree matching yours. Maybe I will undertake the journey on his behalf. Sabina & I would very much enjoy sharing a convivial evening or two with you beside the great Zambezi River. I salute & toast you, the author, and your extended family for lives well lived and for sharing it all. Best Wishes, Kevin Cronchey, Kenya, 13th May 2018

Dear Heather, Have just finished reading your book. I was really engaged in it, and felt as though I was living in the story, looking over your shoulder, so to speak, and being involved in all your escapades, trials and feelings.
Kenya holds the fondest of memories, and although I have recently been back to Mombasa, which saddened me because of the state of everything, I still regard it as my birth place.
Your book brought back many memories, including Davo Davidson, a card sharp, non smoker, teetotaller and pistol toting character of note, the B.I. ships which I served ten years on as an officer, including the Karanja for one year as third mate, and mice in your Ford Cortina. We also had mice in our Ford Cortina from the garage in Cape Town, and never did get rid of the smell!
Your time in Kenya obviously still holds a precious place in your heart, and although many of us felt betrayed, there is no grudge.
My aunt, Rosemary Thompson, moved to Malindi after the farm in Nanyuki was ‘sold’, and my cousin, Gaye Thompson, is still living there, although working all but full time in Maputo.
A thoroughly engaging book, and thank you for letting me into your lives. I wish you every happiness, and may the Africa you have known be always with you.
Thank you again. Love, Dave King, South Africa, 25th August 2018