t
he story begins in 1933, when Gordie’s grandfather, Howard, was posted to Africa as a missionary. With a degree in History and Divinity from Cambridge University (England), Howard came to Kenya as a pioneer of education and Christianity in Kikuyuland. We can only imagine his excitement as he boarded what was then known as the ‘Lunatic Line’ from the port city of Mombasa to the highlands, and watched from the window as the train chugged through miles of wilderness full of wild animals.

Elizabeth joined him two years later in 1935, when she sailed to Mombasa to be his wife. Their first posting was on the forested slopes of Mt Kenya, at Kigare Mission Station. Elizabeth wrote poignant memoirs of their time there:’…the closely written sheets of notepaper contained news of the little wood and iron bungalow which Howard was preparing for our first home. His news was of his efforts to learn Kikuyu, of long tramps over hills to tiny schools and churches; walking in the forest and seeing Colobus monkeys, and elephants and on one occasion coming across a leopard caught in a somewhat flimsy native trap.‘ When she arrived, Elizabeth travelled into the interior: ‘the train wound its way slowly over the narrow gauge track, climbing 5,000 feet over 300 miles of bush country. I peered out of the mosquito netted windows. The stately coconut palms of the coastal belt gave way to fat Baobab trees and squat thorn bush. A million stars studded the African night. It was strangely warm’. She was met by Howard and they started life in Kenya amongst the Kikuyu people. Howard’s tutor in the Kikuyu language was none other than the renowned anthropologist, Dr Louis Leakey.

Tony was the first-born in 1938, and indulged with an independence that some of us can only imagine today. His youth was shaped by thrilling exploration and adventure in the wilds, much of it on horseback. One story tells of him chasing zebra across the Athi Plains attempting to catch them by their tails.

Shaped by these early years with rod, rifle and horse, Tony’s idea of horseback riding safaris was predestined. With no capital but a huge amount of enthusiasm and conviction, he felt instinctively that safaris on horseback would work. And he was right.

Gordie had the good fortune to accompany Tony on many of his safaris from a very young age, and a love of space, freedom and adventure rubbed off on him, alongside an extraordinary affinity with the camp crew (with whom Gordie would frequently travel in the trucks out to camp, eschewing the comforts of a plane or four by four vehicle). Exploits with the crew were a huge part of the safari for the young Gordie, and today many of his team come from the same families.