In Summary
  • Owen was ordained a deacon in 1904 by the Bishop of London and sent to Africa to work under Bishop Alfred Tucker in Uganda.
  • In his efforts to educate civic and political leaders, Owen introduced ploughs, watermills, new crops and bookkeeping.

Located on the eastern side of Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground in Kisumu Town is the Walter Edwin Owen Memorial Park.

Its main attraction is a pillar on a platform, about seven metres tall.

The pillar was built in honour of Walter Edwin Owen, who served as a missionary in Africa for 40 years. He is remembered for fighting for Africans’ rights during the colonial era.

Regrettably, the monument has been badly neglected, with bushy vegetation allowed to grow around it, where street children relieve themselves.

The pillar is also dedicated to Owen’s wife, Lilian Olive Owen, who played a major role in his activism, especially in championing African women’s rights.

TRAINING OF AN ACTIVIST

There are four plaques on the base on which it is mounted, with one written in English and the other two in Dholuo and Luhya, the languages of the communities in Nyanza, then known as Kavirondo.

“He devoted his life fearlessly to the fight for justice for all and to the care of the sick and the needy,” reads the plaque.

Born on June 7, 1878 in Birmingham, UK, he was the fourth child of a warrant officer in the Royal Corps of Armourers.

His family moved to Belfast, Ireland, when he was still young, so he spent his childhood and youth there.

As a young man, he worked fat the Belfast Free Library, teaching himself at night. He also attended St Barnabas Church, Belfast, with his family.

He learnt of the church’s needs for foreign missions, and often discussed the matter with friends.

After some time, he left the library and took up a full-time post in the Belfast office of the Church Missionary Society (CMS).

He toured Northern Ireland, speaking to the masses about the church’s work oversees and appealing for financial assistance.

ORDAINED DEACON

After completing his theological studies and conducting pastoral and evangelistic work in Islington College, Owen was ordained a deacon in 1904 by the Bishop of London and sent to Africa to work under Bishop Alfred Tucker in Uganda.

He worked in Bungoma (Kenya), Bunyoro and Ngongwe (Uganda) and later in Kigoma and Mbarara (Tanzania), before being transferred to Toro in western Uganda in 1910. But he went there grudgingly, and only at the bishop’s urging.

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