A walk through the expansive Donholm estate in Nairobi’s Eastlands area may not seem like much at first – especially to those of us who landed on planet earth just the other day.
A quick chat with the older Kenyan folk – the uncelebrated custodians of Kenya’s history, changes all that as a whole new side to this suburb is revealed.
Donholm was the home of James Kerr Watson, a prolific architect credited with the design and construction of numerous monumental buildings in Nairobi today such as the Kenya National Archives building.
Watson owned 4,600 acres of the Donholm estate that stretched from the eastern side of the City Stadium to the modern-day location of Donholm estate. The estate was named after the Donholm estate in Glasgow, UK.
Watson also laid the foundation for modern-day Kenyatta Avenue, then known as Sixth Avenue. It was later renamed Delamere Avenue. It is also said that most of the palm trees we admire today in Nairobi were planted by this man.
When he could not deliver his milk to the city, he built his own murram track and called it Donholm road. Donholm road is the present-day Jogoo Road.
But it is, perhaps, the role Watson’s Donholm estate played as a centre for developing the dairy sector in Kenya that is fondly remembered to date. At Donholm, the first cattle dip in Kenya was built.
The cattle dip was part of ongoing research efforts to explore ways to combat the dreaded East Coast Fever that had become a menace among cattle farmers in Kenya.
It is also in this very place that the first breeds of Ayrshire cows in East Africa were tried for their adaptability to the tropical climate.
Next time you are around this heavily congested suburb of Nairobi, pause to imagine that at one point in the past, pedigree Ayrshire roamed free and a cattle dip lay somewhere waiting to save Kenya’s dairy sector from the threat of disease.
Watson is, of course, long gone. He died at the age of 77 and now rests at the City Park cemetery. His grave is just a few metres from Pio Gama Pinto’s. Pio Gama Pinto was a great nationalist and a celebrated Kenyan hero. Now you know.