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Hugh Petre Barclay
Late Irish Guards

by Peter Nutting
formerly Irish Guards

Petre Barclay died at his home at Meningai in Kenya on 23rd May 2021 aged 86. After school at Wellington he went up to Cambridge to study Agriculture before joining the Irish Guards by way of National Service. After the Guards Depot, Caterham, he went to Eaton Hall and was commissioned in July 1957. As he was older than his contemporaries, he was then posted directly to the Battalion at Pirbright, where he spent the rest of his time before leaving at the end of 1958.

Petre was born and brought up in Kenya and had something of the wild colonial boy about him. He was a good games player and a very good shot. He was a strong personality and was physically tough, and as a result was very well liked during his short time in the Irish Guards. Everyone said he would have been a superb wartime soldier.

Two stories perhaps highlight his character. On one occasion, in Curzon Street, he stopped his car with the intention of reversing into an empty space, but before he could do so, a large chauffeur driven car drove into the space. The driver got out and rudely said ‘the next time you want to be a bit quicker off the mark’. Petre walked up to him and hit him very hard in the solar plexus, and then drove off leaving the chauffeur groaning on the pavement. A few years later he was living with many others in a fine house at 13 Eaton Terrace. The door was always open and a rather annoying young man who was known to most of the residents developed the habit of arriving noisily in the middle of the night, climbing the stairs and going to sleep on a sofa. In the process he usually woke Petre up, who warned him he would throw him out if he did it again. A few mornings later, having been woken in the middle of the night,  Petre found him asleep on the sofa, picked him up and threw him down the stairs. He told him never to come back again and then opened the window and threw his bag into the street below.

Petre’s father Hugh Barclay had won an MC in the First World War before becoming an early settler in Kenya in 1919. He farmed on a very large scale at Meningai near Nakuru until 1972 and independence when he parted with some land. When Petre took over there was around 5000 acres remaining, and later he sold some land to Daniel Arap Moi, the President of Kenya, who became his close friend.

After leaving the Army, Petre divided his time between London and Kenya before marrying Carol Macleod in 1961. They returned to Kenya and he farmed in partnership with his father before taking over completely. He was endlessly hospitable to his friends from London and lived a wonderful life at Meningai. Much of the land was arable and because it was on the Equator, it yielded two crops of cereal each year. Petre acquired an aeroplane, was a good pilot, and also kept a small water-skiing boat on Lake Baringo, encouraging his friends to spray the hippos. To get to where the boat was anchored off a beach, it was necessary to wade chest deep into water, in the company of crocodiles; Petre used to say that Baringo crocodiles are harmless and don’t bite!

Latterly Petre was more and more in demand to help the Kenyan government with its agricultural policy. He gave his time willingly but found committees tiresome and time consuming, taking him to Nairobi and away from Meningai. Not by nature a patient person, he was well-respected and much in demand as an adviser; he had an ability to get things done.

Some 25 years ago, Petre acquired a lease of Kiwayu Island on the northern coast of Kenya. It had an airstrip and a rustic house but was a wonderful holiday destination and base for sea fishing. Sadly in 2008 Petre crashed his aeroplane on the island with Carol, who tragically was killed while Petre was badly injured. Later, Somali terrorists raided and kidnapped some tourists staying at the Kiwayu Tourist Camp nearby on the mainland and so it was no longer an area to visit.

Although he only spent two years with the Irish Guards, Petre loved the connection and the friends he made there, and since he left, many Household Division officers on exercises in Kenya have enjoyed his hospitality and regarded a visit to Meningai as a highlight. Petre is survived by his four children, Karen, Edward, Camilla, and Jonte, who is now running the Meningai Estate.


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