Archive | July, 2013

Boy problems

30 Jul

I was going to do a really intelligent post this week showing the connections I’ve found between Maurice and some more ‘greats’ of history, including his relationships with the Happy Valley (White Mischief) set. But as usual I’ve found I’m more interested in his day to day life with his boys on safari. I never thought I would smile so much or laugh so hard at some of the predicaments Maurice and his boys find themselves in. This is what makes me LOVE my research!

So here is another short but sweet story of Maurice and his boys:

In 1924 Maurice is travelling on safari in Sudan along the Dinder river. His boys are Muslim, and this is causing all sorts of problems when it comes to killing animals for meat. Maurice tries his hardest to shoot to wound the animals, and then expects his boys to be quick about jumping in to finish it off in the halal manner so that they can eat it. Too often this goes wrong and Maurice ends up with a juicy saddle of meat all to himself while his boys complain about being hungry.

April 27th 1924 he has another debate with his boys about how he can kill animals to satisfy their religious needs. He had just shot animal No. 123, a male Waterbuck. He says:

“The boys had stupidly not dashed up to halal him so couldn’t eat the meat, so I took the saddle for myself. Mohammed my cook tells me there is no need to actually cut the animals neck, just to say “alahu akhbarah” when the shot is fired. The boys however say that it might only be wounded when the shot was fired and then the magic words wouldn’t work, but if I would blow a whistle when the beast actually dies then it would be alright.
Unfortunately I haven’t got a whistle”.

The debate carries on to the next day when Maurice writes:

“The boys now tell me that if I say the magic words “Alahu AkBarah” when the beast dies it will be quite alright for a Mohammedan to eat it”.

I must say the thought of Maurice shouting in Arabic and blowing a whistle is a funny one. But I think it shows that Maurice is genuinely interested in their ways and traditions, and tries his hardest to accommodate their needs. He does understand the importance of his boys- he couldn’t hunt or collect without their skills, and he generally pays them over what his friends suggest as an acceptable wage. He always wants the boys with the best reputation as guides, and won’t settle for a new or unknown boy to give him a try. Despite this, he is always quick to blame them when things go wrong, and quick to call them lazy and useless despite the fact that they carry his safari equipment miles through the country on foot, while he relaxes on a horse or mule, or even in a car. He works them hard, and when they advise him to camp or wait because they are tired, he often ignores them and walks onwards, forcing them to follow, even up mountains!

I’m enjoying reading into these relationships, as I know they are very important to the establishment of the collection. They also say a lot about Maurice as a person. They tell me how he saw his position in the world, how he established himself, and how he adapted to living in unfamiliar countries.


Building a collection (by yourself)

24 Jul

I’ve found some good stories from the diary readings over the last week. One represents a big success for Maurice, enabling him to travel a step further in building an impressive collection. The second shows a setback and a circumstance when Maurice refused to add an item to his collection. Here they are…

The story of Maurice’s Lions.

If you looked up object Numbers 81 and 82 in Maurice’s big game book you would see that they are a lion cub and lioness. Here is Maurice’s account of killing his first lions, a great prize for a white hunter:

January 5th, 1924: “after much kelele (noise), a 9 month old cub broke near us, and I shot him with a shot through both shoulders and as he lay finished him off at about 100 yards with a shot through the back. Then after much beating a fine lioness broke out opposite to us about 40 yards off. She started to come for us but immediately changed her mind and galloped off left handed. I missed her clean when near, but got her through the shoulders at about 150 yards. She got into a thorn patch 500 yards away, so we followed in the car, and eventually were able to see her lying down about 10 yards inside the thorn patch. So I sat up on the top of the car and plugged her with the .410, killing her apparently, but gave her another to make sure. Then left her and went back to the original thorn patch to find the male lion. Couldn’t drive him out- if he ever was in there, but eventually drove out more cubs and Sid Monk and Pat Connor eventually each got one of them. Then back to the lioness, which the boys pulled out of the thorns and got our photos taken with her and the 3 cubs. Then skinned them all, put the skins in the car, after taking out the floating bones”.

It’s a pretty graphic account, and a bit shocking to read today, as are many of his entries about animal kills. Like the leopards he killed in 1921, he waits patiently as the whole family emerge one by one out into the open. These lions are a significant addition to his collection, and go a long way in building his identity as a masterful collector. After killing the leopards, he learned that he should have taken the floating bones, or collar bones, as these are great prizes for hunters. Big cat collar bones are unusually tiny, allowing them to make big sweeping strides, and they are retained by hunters as superstitious talismans or made into jewellery. We have a selection of these at Tatton in the collection, and I’ve often marvelled at them. I need to find out what happened to the lions as we don’t have the heads at Tatton with the other trophies. It’s fairly likely that we have the skins in storage. I can’t imagine that he want these great prizes to go to a museum.

On to the second story: The tale of Mabbrukki’s Rhino.

This story is perhaps more tragic! One entry you won’t see in the big game book is a rhino killed on November 22nd 1923. On that day, Maurice has just killed a Buffalo and he leaves his gun-bearer boy Mabbrukki behind to begin skinning it.

He says: “left Mabbrukki starting to skin him and went off with Bankes and porters to look for camping spot. Couldn’t find it, so started back to Mabbrukki when we had heard fire 6 shots. As we got close to the Buffalo we heard 3 more shots. All this was Mabbrukki shooting a big rhino that apparently came within 50 yards of him. I abused Mabbrukki soundly for shooting; and he said he shot for it for me, and it was all the same if I or he shot it. An awful pity. It wasn’t quite dead when I got up, so I finished it off with a shot under the jaw”.

This made me laugh at first, imaging Mabbrukki so excited that he had seen and killed a rhino (another BIG prize to a hunter) for his master. It reminded me of the story in Roald Dahl’s autobiography ‘Going Solo’ when war is declared with Germany. Dahl’s boy rushes off and kills some neighbouring Germans and comes back to Dahl to tell him with pride that he has killed the enemy. Dahl is dismayed that his boy didn’t understand that he had done wrong, as his boy beamed with pride that he had committed this act for his friend.

Mabbrukki believed that he and Maurice were a team, and it didn’t matter which of them shot the animal as they were working together to hunt the animals. Big mistake for Mabbrukki! Maurice was collecting according to a strict code of conduct forged by his breeding, traditions and backgrounds. The ONLY kill that counted was his own, he simply could not admit another’s trophy into his collection. The whole implication of the trophy is that it represents one man’s story of an encounter with an animal, and subsequent domination. According to Susan Pearce, trophies can be seen as souvenirs, and no-one is interested in collecting someone else’s souvenir second hand.

Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding for Mabbrukki was his assumption that Maurice was his team-mate, when in actual fact he was very much a servant and Maurice never saw him as an equal. Although Maurice needed Mabbrukki and admired his skill, it was completely wrong for Mabbrukki to assume so much as to fire the gun of a white man.

I thought this story showed Maurice’s absolute honesty and compliance with the code of conduct for gentleman-hunters. He hadn’t yet acquired a rhino, and was desperate to get one. He could have lied and taken this one as his own. He didn’t. His moral integrity dictated that he MUST kill and acquire his own. His collection was carefully and purposefully assembled through his work and no others.

It would take years for him to have his own chance at a rhino.

Maurice’s first safari in Kenya, 1921

13 Jul

I’ve said that Maurice never made it as far as Kenya in 1920 as his father died and he had to return home. However, it was less than 9 months later that Maurice tried again. He describes his long ship journey, and the hot temperatures as they passed the Suez Canal and sailed through the red sea. He says that one day in the galley the temperature was 140 (about 60 Celsius- can this be right?! I don’t think so, as the hottest temperature ever recorded was 56.7 celcius in Canada in 1913. Unless Maurice is the new record breaker!)  and the engine room was 128 (53 celsius). I thought it was interesting that Maurice stoked for half an hour one morning, perhaps just due to his interest in the workings of the ship, or perhaps all passengers were expected to help? That was certainly the case in sailing up the Yukon river, when all the passengers had to help heave the ship safely through dangerous waters.

On July 21st, Maurice spent his first night at the Muthaiga club in Nairobi, an exclusive club frequented by the elite British in Kenya, and it would be Maurice’s residence of choice when staying in Nairobi. In his book ‘White Mischief’, James Fox described a military-style bachelor wing, cheaper rooms favoured by men for their simplicity, and knowing Maurice’s tendencies for cost-cutting and shunning of luxury it is possible that Maurice lodged there. Maurice simply describes the Muthaiga as ‘very nice’, so it must have met his particular standards.

Before I started my research, I had a misconception that Maurice was very isolated in Kenya, and travelled and collected alone. In his later years when he built his house there he was perhaps more reserved, but certainly in the 1920s he was never alone and his diaries are full of names of people he resides or conducts business with. in 1921, he didn’t travel alone from England, and already has, or quickly makes, the acquaintance of many settler families or frequent visitors, including Karen Blixen at Karen Farm. Karen Blixen is probably most famous for writing ‘Out of Africa’, an account of her life in British East Africa, and for being part of the infamous ‘Happy Valley set’. She moved there in 1914 with her husband Baron Bror Blixen. They separated in 1921, the year Maurice visited her, and Maurice later bumps into the Baron living incognito, trying to hide from his creditors. The Nairobi suburb where she lived is now called Karen in her memory. I get quite excited when I see names like this amongst the many that are not known or remembered today.

The 1921 diary is special in many ways. He begins his special numbering technique for his collection, so I really see this year as him marking out his identity as a serious and organised collector. He numbers animals killed in sequence, 1,2,3 etc., and any other object collected between the animals will be numbered 1a, 1b, 1c etc. until he kills animal No. 2. This shows that the animals were the main focus of his collecting, and they are always marked in the diaries. The other objects are not always mentioned, but I can locate them a rough collection date and location by looking at the collection of the animal nearest them in the number sequence. Interestingly, the collected object No 1 is a Zebra, killed on July 27th. I wonder where this Zebra is now? Certainly not at Tatton. Perhaps it was given to a museum, kept in Kenya, or even not made up into a specimen, as some kills were not considered worthy of keeping, or else were spoiled in skinning or in preservation. But thanks again to his record keeping, I know I can find out by going through his game book, which lists measurements and intended location of the specimen.

In this diary, I particularly like his description of an organised safari he undertakes between August 18th- September 18th, with 8 of his friends, including one lady, who herself seems to be a crack shot. although he is disappointed not to have got a lion or an elephant, the highlight of Maurice’s safari is undoubtedly August 23rd. His gun-bearer Mabbrukki spots 3 cheetahs in a bush. Maurice is given his gun and waits. One emerges, he shoots it. He waits. The second emerges, he shoots it. He waits. Finally, the third emerges from the bush. He shoots it. The account is very factual and lacking in compassion, which makes it tough reading today. When he goes up to them, he is overjoyed to realise that they are leopards, not cheetahs. “Mabbrukki very excited and shook me warmly twice by the hand” (despite the fact that Mabbrukki spotted them and lined up his shot, Maurice gets the credit!). All three were females, one was elderly.

So why was he so happy to have a leopard and not a cheetah? European safari-goers at this time were obsessed with ‘The Big 5’. These were elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino and leopard. If all 5 were killed, the hunter’s skill in tracking and shooting was recognised and celebrated. Maurice would have been desperate to acquire all 5, and of course he eventually did, as well as many more rare and exotic creatures from around the world that marked him out as a serious and dedicated hunter, rather than a simple fashion-follower on organised tourist safaris. Maurice really evolves into a successful hunter on his trip. He is off at sunrise, often before the others have woken, and he tests different combination of clothing for practicality and durability in the bush. He tests the best soles on boots for sneaking up quietly on his prey, and he dies his Terai hat with strong hot coffee “making it a splendid hunter colour” to improve the camouflage and his image as a master-hunter.

Gradually, his friends leave the safari and returns for home, but Maurice spends a few more days alone, seemingly reluctant for it to all be over. On September 18th, a month after setting out, his friends send him 12 boys as porters to carry his camping equipment and animals back to their house. He summarises his trip: “I used 47 cartridges on 26 head = 1.8 cartridges per head bagged”. Not bad!


Maurice and his Parents

7 Jul

This week I did a 10 minute talk for the history department research day at MMU. It was my first talk and my nerves almost got the better of me! I gabbled a little fast, and wish I’d tried to say less and taken my time, instead of letting my thoughts run away. I’m glad that I had the chance to practice speaking in a friendly environment, and I learnt a lot about good presenting techniques from some of the other speakers. I’ve applied for a couple of conferences in November so fingers crossed I get a paper accepted and then I’ll be able to deliver a full 20 minute paper.

My research this week has led me to think about father-son relationships.

NPG x15802; Alan de Tatton Egerton, 3rd Baron Egerton of Tatton by Sir (John) Benjamin Stone

Alan de Tatton Egerton (1845-1920), Maurice’s father

I’m just starting to read Maurice’s diary from 1920. This was a big year for Maurice in more ways than one. It is the first year he attempted to travel to Kenya, the country that became so important to him in the following years. It is the year he met the Selwood family on board the P&O Kalyan, whose son Kenneth would become his great friend and executor of his estate at his death. Most significantly for me, it is the year that he begins to number his collected animals and other objects, so beginning the cataloguing and recording of his now ‘official’ collection. But perhaps most significant, it was the year that he inherited the title of Baron of Tatton and the land and fortune that came with it on the death of his father.

In his diary, Maurice leaves London on August 25th. On August 30th the ship arrives in Gibraltar to take on more coal. He is interested in the monkeys, and remarks that:

‘there are only 14 Barbary apes on the Rock, being kept down to that number because they carry consumption. They are fed every day; are the size of a man; the old apes throw most of the young ones over the cliff’.

The journey to East Africa is long and tiresome compared to the quicker flights that Maurice was able to take advantage of in the 1950s, and the ship also stops at Marseilles, Naples, Port Said and Port Sudan before it reaches Aden on September 16th.

Suddenly on September 17th, having made no mention why, Maurice is awaiting the arrive of the P&O ship Kaylan back to England, which has been delayed due to a stoker strike. It sets off on the 19th, and arrives into Marseilles on the 30th. Maurice doesn’t wait for it to complete the journey, presumably as he is in a great hurry to get home, so he jumps ship, taking a train into Paris and arriving into London via Calais on October 1st. So ends his diary, and there is no more word from Maurice until June 1921 when he sets sail again to try and make it to Kenya.


The P&O Kalyan, which sailed between 1914-1932

The reason of course for his hasty return was that he was notified of the death of his father, Alan de Tatton Egerton. It does seem to me to be unusual that this massive event isn’t mentioned specifically in the diary, even though I have to accept that the main purpose of the diaries was to record his travels and collecting, and not sentimental feelings. Yet later on, Maurice does mention the deaths of several friends, including Hugh Cholmondeley, Lord Delamere, in 1931. I’ve been told that later still, at the death of his mother, again not a ripple of emotion is recorded in his diary, and this time he doesn’t even bother making the journey home. I’m looking forward to confirming that when I come to read that diary later on. We have always speculated at Tatton that he had a difficult relationship with his mother, but reading how desperate Maurice was to get home ASAP has made me curious to find out more about Maurice’s relationship with his father. Surely a father must be the key influence on a son’s life, and as ever, I need to know more about how Maurice became Maurice. Yesterday I had a nosy through some files and records at Tatton to find out more.

I’ve always thought how sad and bitter tasting it must be for aristocrats to finally come into their inheritance and titles, as it would generally have meant that they had lost their father or close relation. They might finally gain independence and financial freedom, but they must first arrange or attend the funeral of their relative. Although I know that Alan de Tatton made some important technological improvements to Tatton and seemed to have been a really interesting modern man, I think he is sometimes overlooked as a noteworthy figure, especially in comparison to his elder brother Wilbraham, the 2nd Baron and later Earl Egerton, whose achievements in statecraft and industry are celebrated more widely.

The Guardian yearbook of 1912 gives a biographical account of Alan, celebrating his achievements at Eton, in the military, in the masons and later in politics, all usual and expected career choices for a young man from an aristocratic background. He was interested in game hunting and travel, and these were obviously the interests and talents he passed onto Maurice. Alan first took Maurice abroad, and they were together in Zimbabwe in 1896 (the year of Maurice’s first diary) when the Matabele uprising took place.

Alan married well, presumably pleasing his parents, and chose Anna Lousia Watson-Taylor, eldest daughter of Simon Watson Taylor of Erlestoke Park, Wiltshire. That family had made their fortune in sugar plantations in Jamaica (and so presumably through the salve trade). Although there had been a blip in their fortunes in the early 19th century, seeing the sale of the contents of Erlestoke in a 24-day auction of 3,572 lots in 1832, Simon had done well to claw the family back into respectability and had been restored to Erlestoke in 1844. The marriage produced three boys, but sadly the eldest William died aged 2, and Cecil the second son died aged 17. Maurice was their only surviving child.

Something Maurice had in common with his father was that they were both younger sons, and for both of them growing up it would probably have seemed unlikely that they would inherit the Barony of Tatton and the Tatton estate. Alan’s father William is supposed to have said that he wanted him to learn a useful profession. So perhaps more unusually for someone of his background, and something that isn’t mentioned in the Guardian biography, is that Alan spent three years in training with the engineering firm Messrs. Sharp, Stewart & Co, arriving at 8am and working a full day like any other working class man. On the sad death of his first son William, the death certificate records Alan’s profession as ‘Civil Engineer’.

Perhaps this training towards a profession inspired Alan to direct his son Maurice in a similar way. Although at first he was intended for the diplomatic service, his family noticed his real talents were in land management, and so he completed several terms at agricultural college.

I think I can see patterns in the upbringing of Alan and Maurice, suggesting that Alan wanted his son to lead a useful life and make the most of his talents as he himself had done. It seems obvious that Maurice should return hastily to England on hearing of Alan’s death as he would need to make necessary arrangements to take over the title and estate. But I hope that a lot of his haste was due to the fact that he had lost a father whom he cared about. Thanks to Maurice’s lack of emotion in his records, I’ll never really know.

I still wonder why Maurice never wanted to experience being a father himself. Could this be down to accepting the end of the influence of his class, or his reluctance following an unhappy childhood, rather than just the absence of opportunity or finding the time? But his kindness to local boys in Knutsford and boys in his employment suggest that if he had been a father, he probably would have raised them to enjoy the privileges of being increasingly free to explore and find a place in an expanding world… a legacy given to him by his own father.