It all started for me in 1963. I spent much of my youth chasing a rugby ball around a patch of grass – and now I was off to Kenya for a rugby tour with Richmond rugby football club. Little did I know that it would totally change my life.
What is true about this extraordinary country, and its people, that binds you to it, body and soul? Perhaps it is the words of Roger Whittaker’s song, ‘my land is Kenya… so warm and wild and free’. Perhaps…
By the end of the ‘sixties, and several other rugby tours, I resolved to live there, packed my bags and started a public relations business in Nairobi. It was ten glorious years, where I got married, inherited two little boys from Patricia’s first marriage – and had a boy of our own, born in Kenya.
In 1975 I merged my business with Church Raitt to form Church Orr with Colin Church. Together, with Jesse Opembe and Michael Dunford, we started the Public Relations Society of Kenya. Meanwhile, much to my surprise, I was appointed to the Board of the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation – the only non-Kenyan – chaired by Reuben Chesire, Pamela Chesire’s father. Ken Matiba and Moody Awori also served on that board. These were the exciting years of Kenya’s post independence decade. On three occasions I had the honour of meeting Kenya’s founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. And also he young Uhuru and Muhoho when they came up to the Ark in the Aberdares with Mama Ngina. The Ark was one of my first public relations clients in Kenya.
But in 1980, it was back to dreary old UK for all the obvious reasons – principally because our parents were getting older and more fragile. I joined Ian Raitt (of Church Raitt) in 1981 and Raitt Orr was born – and still exists to this day.
So that is my life in a nutshell. It has included many years of public relations for Kenya and Kenya tourism – both in the Moi era and covering the transition from Moi to Kibaki – and meeting an extraordinary cast of characters, from Leakey, Kosgei, Kiplagat, Githongo , Kalonzo, Njonjo, and Saitoti – whose untimely death I still mourn. The list is a long one – and old friends and contacts sometimes come back into my life. In Kenya, old friendships are remembered.
It’s been a long time since I first ran out at East African rugby headquarters at Ngong Road. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Any of it.