Villagers prepare to bury British-born architect the Luhya way

Friday July 12 2019

Barry Leonard Humber, 80, succumbed to cancer and will be buried in Kakamega County, in line with Luhya traditions, on July 13, 2019. PHOTO | COURTESY


A village in Kakamega County on Friday prepared to bury a British-born architect who came to the country 41 years ago and decided to settle and work with rural communities to improve livelihoods.

Barry Leonard Humber, 80, Mr Humber came to Kenya in 1978 and was enthralled by the warm reception he received from communities in the western part.

He spent much of his time working on architectural designs for hospitals, commercial buildings and private homes.

Mr Humber died last week after battling cancer for the last two years.

He was so at home with members of the Luhya community he lived with that his burial on Saturday will be in line with their traditions.



The Briton had planned to settle in Kakoyi village after marrying a woman from the local community but his dream turned into a nightmare as she abandoned him for another man.

Mr Humber was shocked when he learned that the woman fled with the other man after selling almost the whole of the 38-acre parcel of land he had bought. She left him with just three acres.

Life was never the same for Mr Humber after his marriage ended as he struggled to eke out a living, having lost a fortune.

He did not build himself a decent house, living instead in a tiny, two-roomed, mud-walled, semi-permanent house at Kakoyi village along Kakamega-Malava road, in Kakamega North Sub-county.


Little is know about Mr Humber's life in Britain but he told those who were close to him that he loved Kenya and had no plans of returning home.

The people said his only regret was that the woman he loved and married ended up betraying him, leaving him desolate.

Villagers who interacted closely with Mr Humber said he lived a simple, quiet life and sacrificed his little income to buy food and basic needs for the poor.

He did not even own a car and travelled in matatus as he went about his work.

Some believe Mr Humber never recovered from the heartache.


An itch on Mr Humber's right ear, which ulcerated, forced him to seek treatment at Kakamega County Referral Hospital, where he was diagnosed with cancer.

His condition got worse as he shuttled between that facility and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.

Ms Rose Otera, a nurse at the Kakamega Hospice at the referral hospital, closely interacted with Mr Humber as he underwent treatment.

“He was a modest man who lived a simple life and made many friends. He loved the community in which he lived and had big plans to settle in the country,” she said..


Mr Christopher Shigavah, chairman of Bukhakunga Mercy Home for the Aged, said Mr Humber was a member given his condition and age.

"We decided to enlist him for support because of his poor health," said the chair of the non-governmental organisation.

Villagers said Mr Humber kept to himself when his health started failing.

James arap Humber, Mr Humber son, said his father's death broke his heart.

“My 'dad' was very sick but he bravely battled the cancer which confined him to his bed in the dingy mud house. I will always remember him for the cheerful moments we had together even when he knew life was fast ebbing."

He spoke on Thursday after his father's body was transported from the mortuary ahead of a burial in line with Luhya traditions.