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From Uganda to Dundee – Charles Kasaja Stokes

Charles Kasaja Stokes in 1984 at the aged of 89 (image from

Charles Kasaja Stokes was the son of Nanjala Malyamu Magudaleene and Charles Henry Stokes, an Irish missionary-turned-salesman in East Africa in the late 19th century. Charles Henry was originally married to an Englishwoman and had one daughter. However, his wife died soon after their daughter Ellen (or Nellie) was born. According to Raymond Moloney (see Sources below) Charles Henry helped Chief Mwanga of Uganda to evade capture by giving him the use of his boat. In reward the Chief gave Stokes a maid servant called 'Nyanjala' as a wife. Christine Nicolls, on the other hand, claims that he married another woman and 'Nanjala' was one of his two mistresses. Moloney also states that Stokes got on well with the indigenous African people and saw them as equals. Although he traded ivory and weapons, he refused to trade in slaves.

Alas Charles Kasaja never knew his father. Charles Henry was arrested in January 1895 by the Belgians, for trading arms with their colonial enemies Britain and Germany. In a botched trial he was convicted and sentence to death by hanging - just a few months before Charles Kasaja was born. The whole incident caused an international incident and was known as the ‘Stokes Affair’.

Somehow the Ugandan-born Charles Kasaja ended up at a mission school in Kikuyu, near Nairobi in Kenya, where Minnie Watson, a Dundonian missionary, was based. His mother survived until at least 1958, so he wasn't an orphan. He attended Minnie's school in Kikuyu, where she appears to have taken him under her wing. It’s not clear if she adopted him officially or just sponsored him in his education. At some point in late 1907, Charles and another boy named John McQueen were sent to Dundee to continue their education at Morgan Academy.

They were both admitted to the school on 6 January 1908. They were staying with Minnie’s family at Wortley Place, just a stone’s throw away from the school. Sadly no logbooks or other records from Morgan Academy survive from the period that could give us any clues about Charles and John’s lives in Dundee. According to the records Charles left school in November 1910, and in the 1911 census he is listed as a shop boy in a Grocers.

Morgan Academy admission register entry for Charles Kasaja and John McQueen (Dundee City Archives Ref: S85/2/1/2)

A 1927 article from the Evening Telegraph about Minnie Watson states that Charles was well-known and popular in the Maryfield area. Charles attended the 15th Battalion of the Boys Brigade, which was based at Ogilvie’s church on Albert Street. In July 1908 he came 2nd in the Under-14s 100-yard Flat Race at a Boys Brigade meeting in Dairsie. In January 1911 he also competed in the 15th Brigade team at the Dundee & District Juvenile Gymnastics Championship, helping them to beat Panmure by just half a point.

The boys were only in Dundee for a few years, and probably left sometime late in 1911 or possibly 1912. After Charles returned to Kikuyu, he got a job working as a medical dresser (some articles claim he trained in this profession in Scotland), and had a long career as a medical lab technician in both Uganda and Kenya. Nicholls states that he was involved with setting up the blood transfusion service in Uganda. Charles was left land in Kampala, Uganda, by the Regents of Buganda, in recognition of his father. This is where he spent the latter years of his life. He married Sarah Nambalilwa and had eight children, six of whom survived to adulthood. His eldest daughter was named Minnie after his adoptive mother. Two of his daughters moved to London. It was whilst visiting them in 1994 he died at the age of 99.

Written by Sarah Aitken, Dundee City Archives


Morgan Academy Admission Register (Dundee City Archives)

1911 Census of Scotland (via

Dundee Courier 31/7/1908, 23/1/1911 & 10/2/1936

Evening Telegraph 4/2/1927

Raymond Moloney, S J, 'Charles Stokes 1852-1895, An Irishman in 19th Century Africa' in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review Vol 87, No 346

Nicholls, Christine, ‘A Most Unusual Missionary’, Old Africa website -

Louis, W Roger, ‘The Stokes Affair and the Origins of the Anti-Congo Campaign, 1895-1896’ in Revue belge de Philologie et d'Histoire, 1965, 43-2 pp572-584

Illiffe, John, East African Doctors: A History of the Modern Profession (Cambridge University Press, 1998)

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