Prof. D. C. Sperling approached Hon. Tom Mboya just after independence and asked him if Strathmore should change its name, as most Schools, roads, public buildings etc. were doing at that time. Hon. Mboya told him there was no need since Strathmore was fully African since the beginning and the name had already made history. At that time the full name was Strathmore College of Arts and Sciences.
But where did that name come from?
According to the first Principal, Prof. Sperling, and the first Bursar, Mr. Borruso it came about after checking on many possible names. Strathmore was chosen because the dirt road, next to the College was called Strathcona Road. Strathmore sounded better and had a meaning nearer to the geographical site of the College. ‘Strath’ in Scottish means valley, just as ‘loch’ means lake. It also seems that ‘more’ means big or large. If you look at the map of Scotland you will see that it is full of ‘lochs’ and ‘straths’. One or two of these valleys look wider and are called ‘Strathmore’.
Where Strathcona Road got its name is beyond the scope of our present research. Perhaps it has to do with the first Baron of Strathcona and Mount Royal (1820-1914) whose original name was Donald Alexander Smith. He was the builder and financier of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and he was born in Forres, Scotland. We know that Nairobi was originally a railway town and this might have been a way to honour one of the great railway entrepreneurs of the time.
Okay this is history, but geographically, where are these places called Strathmore now?
They are, of course, to be found in Scotland. There you have two different valleys that share the name besides a river, a lodge and a district. Of the two valleys, the better known runs from South to North on the uppermost Northern tip of Scotland and through it runs the Strathmore river. The second valley gives way to the river Broom which runs South East to North West and ends in Loch Broom where the city Ullapool (57.54N 5.10W) is.
Strathmore River runs through the Strathmore Valley and ends in Loch Heilam, which seems to open out to the sea near the small village of Hope [58.20 N 4.38W], not far from the city of Tonge.
The Strathmore district is North of Dundee, between Forfar and Kirriemuir.
Strathmore Lodge is situated on the eastern most part of Scotland, some twenty miles South of Tunso and about twenty miles West of Wick. Strathmore Cottage can be booked for a holiday over the internet.
I wish I could show you pictures of these places but I am afraid we cannot travel that far. If you are lucky enough to visit any of these places you might consider sending us pictures.
Right… and what about the rest of the world?
Without trying to be exhaustive you can travel to Canada and visit the town of Strathmore [51.05N 113.18W] in the province of Alberta, West of Calgary, Strathmore [17.48S 142.23E] some miles North of Croydon, in Queensland, Australia,a suburb of Melbourne which takes pride in its identity, Strathmore in Tulare, California, [36.14N 119.05W] etc.
Surely you will find more places named Strathmore in other Commonwealth countries too.
Are there other people or institutions named after the geographical names?
If you dig into a bit of ancient British History you will find that from Roman times Strathmore appears way back then. Here is a excerpt of ‘The Dark Ages in Scotland’ taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica:
‘Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman governor of Britain (AD 77-84), was the first Roman general to operate extensively in Scotland. He defeated the natives at Mons Graupius, possibly in Banffshire, probably in AD 84. In the following year he was recalled, and his policy of containing the hostile tribes within the Highland zone, which he had marked by building a legionary fortress at Inchtuthil in Strathmore, was not continued. His tactics were logical, if Scotland was to be subdued, but probably required the commitment of more troops than the overall strategy of the Roman Empire could afford.’
Later we find in the same source reference to the castle of the Earl of Strathmore, known as Glamis and related to king Macbeth (yes the one in Shakespeare’s play)
Glamis is a castle and village in the district of Angus, Tayside region, Scotland. The present castle, a fine example of Scottish Baronial architecture, dates from the late 17th century, though the site is believed to have been occupied since the 11th century, when the Scottish monarch Macbeth was thane (ruler) of Glamis. In 1372 the castle became the seat of the earls of Strathmore.’ You can visit their beautiful web page
Later in modern history the Earls of Strathmore became even more famous:
The youngest daughter of Claude George Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne (d. 1944) was Elizabeth Angela Marguerite (née Bowes-Lyon), also called (1923-36) Duchess of York. In 1952, she became Queen Elizabeth, now the Queen Mother, by marrying King George VI. Elizabeth bore two daughters, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, the future queen Elizabeth II (b. April 21, 1926), and Princess Margaret Rose, the future Countess of Snowden (b. Aug. 21, 1930). After her husband’s death on Feb. 6, 1952, and the accession of Elizabeth II, she became known officially as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She remained one of the most popular and admired members of the royal family.’
With this we have a bit of the historical background to the name of Strathmore.
Among other “Strathmores” there are:
Businesses: Strathmore Mineral Water in the U.K., Strathmore Hotels in the U.K., Strathmore Paper in Canada, Strathmore Pupepts in Australia, etc.;
Institutions: Strathmore Art Centre; and even schools both primary and secondary e.g. Strathmore Primary School, Strathmore Secondary College in Melbourne, Strathmore School in Aberdeen, New Jersey.
None of them (not even those which might have started activities in East Africa recently) has any historical, legal, economical, or other relation with either the University or School in Nairobi.
If you want to find out more on your own just type the name of Strathmore in any search engine (Yahoo, Excite, Google), and you probably will find about a thousand more. Recently we did a quick search and we got about 8,000 pages).