British Goan writer Mervyn Maciel shares his incredible story of tragedy, tribesmen, and settling in Sutton

A young Mr Maciel with tribal police in Kenya

A young Mr Maciel with tribal police in Kenya

First published in What's On
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Dodging disaster and sharing his time between his native Kenya and his adopted home in Sutton, a British Goan has published his autobiography chronciling a life most unusual.

"We were very well received, from landing at the airport to getting a job - I owe this country a lot."

Mervyn Maciel, an 85-year-old Goan, is speaking from the sitting room of his terraced house in Collingwood Road. 

His book, From Mtoto to Mzee, charts the twists and turns of a life that took him from the tropical heat of central Africa, to the rain-soaked streets of south London. 

Born in Kenya in 1929, his upbringing was touched by tragedy, as his mother died when he was aged six, and then his father and step-mother perished alongside three other relatives when their boat was torpedoed in World War Two.

Growing up in British India, Mervyn returned to Kenya to take a job in the colonial civil service, but moved with his wife Elsie and four children to England with the African nation's independence in 1963.

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

Mr Maciel with a copy of From Mtoto to Mzee

Pitching up in Sutton as the "first non-white couple in the area", the family found acceptance rather than prejudice.

He said: "We heard a lot of things about how the English did not like children, and that they preferred dogs," he says.

"But our first neighbour, Mr Shaw, who was in his nineties, said it was lovely to hear children again." 

Despite his love of Britain, Mervyn’s heart is still in Kenya, and particularly among the tribesmen of the northern provinces. 

He said: "These people from the north inspire me even to this day.

"They are very poor… but they are prepared share anything to you."

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

The author canoeing with Njemps tribesman in Kenya

A devout Christian who attends the Holy Family Catholic Church on Sorrento Road, Mervyn volunteers his time as a social worker, and devotes two days a week to working at Aid to the Church In Need, a local Catholic charity. 

In his free time, he tends a plot at Gander Green Allotments with Elsie, and writes for several magazines.   

To order a copy of Mtoto to Mzee email mervynels.watuwashamba@gmail.com; £10 including p& p; copies will be sent next month.

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

A young Mr Maciel posing with a rifle by Lake Paradise in Marsabit, Kenya

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