Jacob Kennington and his wife Lyle on the steps of the house they built
Jacob Kennington was born on 24 July, 1875 in Blenheim, New Zealand, the son of William Kennington and Mary Cargill. He had served for the New Zealand Army in the Boer War, fell in love with Africa and determined to return there to live, an ambition which took him some years to fulfil.
Jacob married at The Church of the Nativity, Blenheim, to Jean Lyle Gordon, known as Lyle, who was born on 9th November, 1872 in Liverpool, Lancashire, the daughter of John Allan Gordon and Elizabeth Duncan.
Jacob Kennington, his wife and eldest son
Jacob was eventually able to leave for Africa and after some months during which he bought a tobacco farm and established himself he sent for his wife and children. Lyle and the six children left from Wellington on 30th July, 1926 and sailed from Adelaide, South Australia.
After disembarking at Durban, the family made its way north to the Central African Federation (of the British Protectorates, Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland), making for Fort Jameson, Northern Rhodesia. Jacob had met them in Durban having bought a Morris car and a truck for the farm. Bob drove the car with his mother and the girls while Jacob, Ken and Gordon were in the truck with the family's personal and household effects. After spending a week in Durban, their journey took them through Portuguese East Africa and and into Nyasaland, crossing the Zambezi at Tete. Continuing north they entered Northern Rhodesia at Fort Manning and on to Fort Jameson town to stock up for the farm. Five days after arriving at Fort Jameson Jean Lyle Gordon arrived at her new home with her six children.
The two youngest children, Jacob Gordon, known as Gordon, and Daphne Faith, were put in boarding school at the convent school in Blantyre, Nyasaland and the older children found employment, Robert Gordon (Bob) and Kenneth William (Ken) on the farm and the two older girls, Lucy Lyle and Grace Gordon in the nearby town of Fort Jameson.
Once Gordon had left school and was also working there, Bob and Ken found work as motor mechanics, Bob with Milward’s Garage in Lilongwe and Ken with Stansfield’s Garage in Blantyre, both Nyasaland.
Conditions were primitive with these countries being entirely undeveloped. There were many hardships and among them was failure of the rains and consequent crop failure. All goods were transported by road, usually in convoy in case of breakdown. Medical facilities were practically non-existent with French Catholic, Scottish Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed Church Missions providing nursing aid not only to the indigenous people but also to the sparse European population. There was no electricity and even as late as the 1960s only the larger towns enjoyed this luxury, rural areas being powered by paraffin unless there was a private generator. Jacob’s wife, Jean, died on the farm on 18th August, 1941 and their youngest son, Gordon, who didn’t marry, remained with his father to run the farm. Jacob died there on 25th August, 1959.
Children of Jacob Kennington and Jean Gordon are:
Robert Gordon Kennington, who was born on 1st September 1903 at Blenheim New Zealand and died in July 1970, Reigate, Surrey, whilst visiting his sister Lucy. During WWII Bob was in the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Regiment, King’s African Rifles serving in Burma (for which he received the BEM), India and North Africa. He was a mechanic working for the same company since leaving the family farm. He didn't marry.
Bob Kennington, about 1939
Lucy Lyle Kennington who was born on 24th June, 1905 in Blenheim, New Zealand. A year after arriving in Fort Jameson Lucy married Hugh Leishman and they had one son, Forbes Leishman, born 1929 in Fort Jameson. They lived in Reigate, Surrey. Forbes married Janet Pearson and they had a son, Andrew.
Top: George and Grace Hardie, Bottom: Hugh and Lucy Leishman 1927
Grace Gordon Kennington, who was born on 5 August, 1907 in Blenheim, New Zealand. Grace married George Hardie eighteen months after their arrival in Fort Jameson and they had two children, Sheila Kennington Hardie and Anne Kennington Hardie. Sheila and Anne Attended the university at Cape Town and their parents settled in the Eastern Cape. After graduation Sheila taught music at the university and was a pianist in the Cape Town orchestra, turned to harp and was the principal harp for the CAPAB orchestra from 1971 to 1996. Sheila married Hewitt Rossouw who has since died. Anne married Len Edgecombe, a civil engineer working on projects around South Africa. They had four children, Clive (died 1992), Katherine (married Ivan Weiner), Helen (married Gary Dalton) and Malcolm.
Len and Anne (Hardie) Edgecombe, Sowa Pan, Botswana
From L. Ivan and Katherine Weiner, front, Amy, Lucy, Mrs. Sandra Moller; Gordon and Helen Dalton; Richard Dalton; Malcolm Edgecombe
Kenneth William Kennington who was born on 6th April, 1910 in Blenheim, New Zealand and died 6th April, 1990 in Grahamstown, Cape, South Africa.
Ken Kennington, Lake Nyasa, about 1939
Daphne Faith Kennington who was born on 31st January, 1913 in Blenheim, New Zealand and died 7th April, 1988 in Johannesburg, South Africa. She lived with her sister Grace and brother-in-law George Hardie for some years before moving to South Africa. Daphne married Hugh Lucas late in life and they lived in Johannesburg.
Daphne Kennington, Durban, Natal, about 1939
Jacob Gordon Kennington who was born on 14th October, 1915 in Blenheim, New Zealand and died in November 1968 in Livingstone, Zambia. Gordon served with the Electrical and Armoured Car Division, King’s African Rifles in East and North Africa during WWII. He didn't marry.
Gordon Kennington, about 1939
Here is a letter from Jean Lyle Kennington to her sister-in-law Faith (Tottie) Kennington, written one week after her arrival in Fort Jameson:
October 20 1926 Fort Jameson N E Rhodesia Africa
Here we are at last. After nearly eleven weeks are now in Central Africa. We have just struck the hottest (spell?). If we had left about the end of March it would have been much better as we would have escaped all this hot weather to start with. Thay say Africa is a beautiful place I suppose it is for those that like it, I never did care for country life fresh air and scenery is all very nice but you soon get sick of it. I like living a bit nearer the city but we are two thousand miles away from the city (Durban is our nearest. We had a lovely trip all the way over. I liked Sydney better than Melbourne, Adelaide is a nice place we were 10 days in Sydney 5 days in Melbourne 1 in Adelaide a week in Durban 2 days in Lourenco Marques 3 days in Beira a week in Blantyre one night in Dedza 5 days in Fort Jameson then we came home. We are just 35 miles from Fort Jameson we got here on the 12 of October we left Willington on the 30th July. Jacob loves Africa he said he would never live in New Zealand again we might be in New Zealand on a visit in three years time.
Our nearest neighbour is a mile and a half away and others 3 miles one 7 miles and another 12 miles. Everyone about here have been to call on us and we have called on some of them. They are very nice people. Most of them from good familys at home they have come out here to make money. Jacob made two thousand last year he is buying another farm. The boys are going to work it and we have a new motor car and two motor bikes and we bought another gramophone as we sold the one we had in NZ. We have seven servants working in the house. I feel like a visitor in my own house it is the funniest life out nothing to do but do as you like……….we get two gallons of milk a day for 3 pence a gallon delivered fancy the milk man in Blenheim delivering milk for 3 pence a gallon eggs are 6d a dozen fowls 6d each but they are very small but the other food stuff is very dear. Flour and sugar 9d a pound sultanas and currants 2/3 a lb and soat 3/- a bar and a very small tin of meat is 2/6 a tin and jellies 1/3 a packet 6d and 4d in Blenheim. Biscuits the cheapest 3/- a pound its awfull the price of things I got a small tin of biscuits I don’t know if it had a pound in it or a pound and a half but it cost 5/-. Food is dear everywhere in Africa even in Durban the cakes in the shops were twice as dear as in NZ and fruit apples 3/- a dozen they sell them by the dozen there – bananas were cheap 6d a dozen or you could get 27 for a shilling. Durban is a very nice place but very hot in the summer. We are thinking of sending Daph and Gordon next year to the convent in Blantyre as there is no school up here and the convent is very nice in Blantyre we saw it when we were staying there for the week it is 300 miles from here. They could learn music and painting as well if they are inclined that way. It will do them good to be taught away from home Daph is pretty backward for her age she has been too long away from school.
Dear Tott I hope you are keeping better than you were I was sorry that I didn’t see more of you that day we went away. It was all such a rush it was kind of you to send us down those nice biscuits and chocolates to the boat. We enjoyed them very much thank you and Will ever so much. I wish we could have the trip all over again we enjoyed so much it is quiet here but the people are all very nice and kind. We have just had a note from some people that can’t get to pay us a call so they send us their cards and hope we will soon be able to call on them. I wrote to Jess by this same mail but I forgot the name of her street and her number all I could remember was (?place?) I hope Jess will get the letter. Will you tell her to look out for it and send me her address? I wrote to Granny last week so she ought to get her letter first. I hope she is feeling better mind you write to me Tott I am looking forward for all the letters I can get from NZ. I have dozens of letters to write to people in NZ. I suppose I will have to make a start or they will be thinking I have forgotten them but we have only been here a week.
Best love from us all
Yours affect. Lyle
Gordon Kennington, record breaking tusks, 1946
Lyle was born Jean Lyle Gordon, one of three daughters of John Allan Gordon and Elizabeth Duncan. John Allan Gordon was a ship's engineer and he drowned in Jamaica in 1876 whilst serving aboard SS Carribbean. Jean and her twin sister Sarah were fostered and the two older girls, Isabella and Annie were placed in the Seamen's Orphan Institution in Liverpool. In May 1883 they were discharged into the care of their mother and sailed for New Zealand.
Jacob and Lyle Kennington, grandchildren Forbes and Sheila, the verandah
Memorial for Jean Lyle (Gordon) Kennington
Bob and Jacob Kennington 1958