David Read

author, guide, farmer, soldier, father, grandfather and gentleman



About the Author

David Read was born in Nairobi, Kenya, on 23rd April 1922.  Left on her own when young David was barely three months old, his mother faced the daunting prospect of fending for the family at a time when things were far from easy for a lone woman. She eventually sought a living in Masailand when David was seven, the only European woman for a hundred miles around, and there she ran a small hotel and traded with the Masai.  Here too, David spent the next seven years of childhood, a period during which he became every inch a Masai but for the colour of his skin.  His only playmates were the Masai children.  Masai became his first language, followed by Swahili before English, and he ran wild with his friends and the game, unfettered by European conventions, free to roam those wide open spaces steeped in African tradition and the Masai way of life and associating closely with nature and the wildlife in the process.  Totally accepted as a Masai by the tribe, he took part in meat festivals and other tribal gatherings and ceremonies. This period of his early life is covered in his first book Barefoot Over the Serengeti.

At the age of 14, David was plucked from the African plains and sent to school in Arusha.  Any previous lack of academic learning did not prove too great a handicap, and within three years he had drawn level with his contemporaries.  His schooling was completed by Correspondence Course when he was employed as an apprentice Metallurgist by the Tanganyika Department of Geological Survey.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined the Kenya Regiment and later trained with the Royal Air Force and served with the Kings African Rifles in Abyssinia, Madagascar and Burma.  When the Fourth Platoons were being formed for service in Burma, and David was to be posted to the Far East, Samburu servicemen put in a plea to serve under him, despite the fact that he was destined for a Uganda battalion.  After the War, he commanded the Uganda contingent in the Victory Parade in London and the joined the Tanganyika Veterinary Department, where he spent the next six years.  During this time, he covered areas that included parts of Masailand when he was able to renew his former close association with that tribe.

Having eventually acquired a farm of his own on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, also in Masailand, he went on to become a leading farming figure and prominent landowner in Tanganyika and was Chairman of the Tanganyika Farmers Association fro 1973 to 1975.  However, after Independence was granted to Tanganyika in 1961, his properties began to be gradually eroded, during which period he was employed part time by the Anglo American Corporation in Zambia as an Agricultural Consultant.  By 1975 the Tanzania Government had acquired the last of his properties and he left Tanzania for Zambia and then, South Africa, where he again tried his hand at farming, an interlude in his life that proved far from happy or satisfactory.  Finally in 1979 he returned to Kenya to join Lima Limited as their Agricultural Consultant.

Farmer, cattle dealer, hunter, keen aviator, fisherman and boat builder, Mr Read has one daughter. He is unquestionably a leading authority on the people of Eastern Africa, speaking several African dialects, but it was with the Masai that he spent his formative years, and with whom he has been most closely associated ever since.

Sadly, David passed away on 2 July 2015 in Momella, northern Tanzania, at the age of 93.