Stories

Andre Dugand

Andre Dugand

89, Coroneagh Park

I was born in Kenya, East Africa in 1929, where I lived for forty years with my family. The political situation in Kenya wasn’t too good. And so me and my daughter decide to move altogether, so that’s what we did. Because moving around in Africa is…a bit of strife here, a bit of strife there, best if you get out of there. Came here and there’s strife too. But you know, not as bad as there. However, I had to think of my daughter. And not too many opportunities there for young white girls. So, make a move, that’s what we did. My daughter was 10 when we left. She just started her own business now, she’s done very well for herself. She’s got two diplomas and things like that. She’s an ornithologist – a doctor of birds. Then she got into agriculture, doing things in agriculture, land management, that sort of thing.

Our family growing up broke up when we were very small. Because I think my father’s side grew more French and my mother’s side more South African and German. And they didn’t get on too well. My siblings, Frank, Sally and John have all sadly passed on, many years ago. We weren’t a tightly knit family growing up. Not an awful lot there. And I’ve been a loner ever since. I’ve been a loner all my life. And there’s not an awful lot that keeps me happy for any length of time. You know it’s just come and go, come and go things. Basically, the best parts I can remember about Kenya is the weather and the animals. Then when you see the animals and knowing 30, 40 years ago they were everywhere. And now you can hardly see any. And you know, you know they’re going. That’s very distressing, very, very distressing. And I mean there’s a bunch of rhinos in a country and now there’s only 3 left. You know things like that really hurt. And you see the animals go.

My education was within a boarding school environment spending much of my time away from home. That was very regimented, which was rather tough and not enjoyable, though I did enjoy spelling and English, and still do. I enjoyed a freer existence here and still have a real soft spot for my homeland.

My six months military training commenced in 1952, during which an emergency was declared and I was then enlisted to fight in the Mau Mau War that continued for nearly four years. It was a tough time for us all, and as a peaceful person I still struggle with the main objective. War to me is the result of politicians that simply cannot communicate and generally throw young families in the firing line.

Working life began early for me and has been diverse. I spent much of my time as a diesel mechanic and this opened many doors for me along the way. I was able to adapt to many different challenges, including being part of a crew that built a suspension bridge over a tidal creek joining the mainland to an island trading post of Mombasa on the Kenyan coast. Again, another adventure saw me working with a transmission line contractor crew constructing from the ground up, power line towers that connected Kampala (Uganda) to Nairobi (Kenya) that took some 18 months to complete. As a diesel mechanic I worked on many different types of agricultural and railway line maintenance machines. My work was mainly reconditioning and maintaining them and I recall working alongside some wonderful chaps…fond memories indeed.

I had to leave Kenya because people were chopping each other up, burning houses down and fighting. All bloody political gunk. Someone just walks up and chops someone with a machete. Yeah, and bang, away they go. It didn’t happen every day, it was more often than not when it’s election time. They start killing each other because of difference and tribal things. It was probably a hundred different tribes in Kenya. I could have stayed on my own, but not with Alison there. Her mother and I got divorced when she was young. It was a love at first sight thing. I think that’s what happened to us. She disappeared, I don’t know where she is even. Alison was only a tottie, about 3 I think, 3 or 4. Alison contacted her mum when she got older, but they don’t get on at all. I told her if she wanted to take my daughter away from me she’d have to shoot me. She stuck by me and I stuck by her, and we’ve become good. She’s doing her own thing and she’s doing very well at it. But I’ve never said it’s wrong to have love at first sight. It does happen, because it happened to us. It kind of stopped…backbiting….get away, and that was it. We were pulling each other down all the time.

My daughter Alison is the light of my life, we have had many adventures over the years to include migrating to Australia in 1970. We landed in WA, and what a shock it was. 43 degrees on St Patrick’s Day, we were convinced Qantas had taken us to Ireland. Nevertheless I soon found myself in work, part-time initially and then parks and gardens with a local council. Following this was a trek up to the Pilbara where again my diesel mechanical background came in handy as I was employed for many years within the iron ore industry. This I enjoyed immensely until my retirement.

My advice to people would be never bite the hand that feeds you. I see that happening a lot, it’s very nasty. You’ve got a good job so hang on to what you’ve got. But I don’t know. In life, in many cases, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that will get you going. Stand up for yourself. As I said I’m a loner, if somebody next door is doing something that doesn’t interest me I just do my own thing. Even like here now, I do my own thing. If there’s something in the garden I’d go, otherwise I stay in my room.

I am a cloud watcher, I love doing that. They never stat the same for more than about 2 seconds. They’re always on the move and I find that so soothing. You just forget about the rest of the world. They’re on the move all the time, I love doing it. So, my biggest pastime is just sitting there doing that. And what happens? I all that (nagging sound), people are very nasty. Unbeknown to themselves, a bit catty, and I don’t like that. And if you want to tell somebody to bugger off, you stay to them to bugger off. Shut up and go somewhere else, I’d rather talk to the clouds – they don’t argue with me either.

I now live in Tasmania, relocated to Coroneagh Park. My daughter Alison moved here in 2009 and has been sharing with me how wonderful life is here ever since. She helped me relocate, I now enjoy much aged care support here. That gives here peace of mind as she is very busy with life in general. She looks after me beautifully and we catch up each week. She has been the biggest part of my life, I am an extremely proud dad.