My Mother, Jean Kirk, and Her Collection of Rare Photos of His Highness the Aga Khan

BY ALLISON WALLACE
Perth, Australia

Introduction

My mother, Jean Kirk, was born in London in 1928 and died in Tasmania in early January 2014. She lived in London until 1956 when she married my father who had been born in Kenya to English parents, who had settled there in the early 1920’s.

Mum trained as a teacher in London and was passionate about the importance of education, the communication of knowledge and the enhancement of the individual through such knowledge. During her time in Kenya, she held the position of Principal at the Aga Khan Primary School in Nairobi where His Highness the Aga Khan on at least one occasion, privileged her to host a visit. Finally, in 1964, my mum and dad migrated to Tasmania where they were to settle for the remainder of their lives.

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His Highness the Aga Khan with Jean Kirk, the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s.  Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

Mum was to remain in education for the rest of her working life. In terms of her interests she cared deeply for animals and their welfare and her local community.

Shortly after she died, I opened one of her albums and came across a collection of photos of His Highness the Aga Khan’s visits to the Primary School during her tenure as the school’s principal. At about the same time, my internet search led me to this website containing pictures of the Aga Khan’s visit to the school in 1966. Thus I connected with Simerg, and my sincere hope is that the photos I have provided will trigger happy memories among those who were students and teachers at the school some 50 to 55 years ago! Of course, vintage photos never seen before will also please members of the Ismaili community, and others interested in East African history.

Note: Please refresh page if your browser displays thumbnail images or overlapping photos/text.

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PHOTOS TAKEN APPROXIMATELY IN 1959

 

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His Highness the Aga Khan stops by to see the work of a student during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School, Nairobi, approximately in 1959. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan stops to see the work of a student during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School, Nairobi, approximately in 1959. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0472_001-s-nfHis Highness the Aga Khan with Mrs. Jean Kirk, the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, during his visit to the school approximately in 1959. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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The Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, looks on as His Highness the Aga Khan is garlanded during his visit to the school approximately in 1959. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

PHOTOS TAKEN APPROXIMATELY IN THE EARLY 1960’S

0458_001-s-nfHis Highness the Aga Khan seen being greeted by Jean Kirk, the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960′s. Jimmy Verjee, the Education Administrator of Aga Khan Schools in Kenya, is seen alongside the 49th Ismaili Imam. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan, centre, with the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, and the Education Administrator, Mr. Jimmy Verjee, during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0466_001-s-nfKenya’s future President, Daniel Arap Moi, Education Administrator, Jimmy Virjee, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School Jean Kirk, during the Ismaili Imam’s visit to the school, approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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The Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, His Highness the Aga Khan and guests enjoy an outdoor event during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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The Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, with His Highness the Aga Khan at an outdoor event during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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Students offer a prayer as an indoor event gets underway at the Aga Khan Primary School during His Highness the Aga Khan’s visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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School children and guests join His Highness the Aga Khan and the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, for an indoor ceremony during the Ismaili Imam’s visit to the school, approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0457_001-s-nfSchool children and guests join in laughter with His Highness the Aga Khan and the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, in an indoor function during the Ismaili Imam’s visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0473_001-s-nfA cross-section photo of boys and girls of the Aga Khan Primary school at an indoor function attended by His Highness the Aga Khan during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Seated at extreme left with hand on chin is Sir Eboo Pirbhai, one of the longest serving Ismaili leaders of the 20th century, and next to him is Daniel Arap Moi who later became Kenya’s President after Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0490_001-Aga Khan and Kirk

The Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, and His Highness the Aga Khan observe students as they engage in art-work, during the Ismaili Imam’s visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan with the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, and school teacher Ms. Shireen Kassam (left) during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan keenly watches over the work of a student during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0492_001s-nfHis Highness the Aga Khan keenly watches as a student appears to tackle an art assignment during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0456_001-s-nfHis Highness the Aga Khan with a smile on his face watches students as they work with clay during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School in Nairobi approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan partakes of light refreshments during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan being shown notes during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan in a Standard I classroom during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan, flanked by the Administrator of the Aga Khan Education Board, Mr. Jimmy Verjee, and class teacher Ms. Shireen Kassam, watches several young artists at work, while the Principal of the school, Mrs. Jean Kirk, looks on from behind, during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0479_001-s-nfAnother cross-section view of boys and girls of the Aga Khan Primary school at an indoor function attended by His Highness the Aga Khan during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Sitting on either side of him are the school‘s Principal, Jean Kirk, and the education administrator, Jimmy Verjee. The fifth person to the right of His Highness in bow tie is the Darkhana Mukhi, Rehmu Verjee. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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The Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, and the Aga Khan Education Administrator look on as His Highness the Aga Khan signs the visitors book during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

Date posted: Sunday, May 4, 2014.
Date last updated: Saturday, July 26, 2014 (a portrait photo of His Highness the Aga Khan that was previously shown on this page has been removed and is now more accurately reflected at Photographer, Sarfraz Sadaruddin, Releases Two Unique 1957 Portraits of His Highness the Aga Khan Under a Creative Commons License — A First!)

Photographs: Copyright. Allison Wallace (Perth, Australia).

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About the contributor: Allison Wallace, daughter of the late Mrs. Jean Kirk, holds an administrative position at the University of Western Australia in Perth.

We acknowledge with deep gratitude the contribution by Allison Wallace in spending many many hours gathering original photos of His Highness the Aga Khan from her mother’s photo albums, and making them available for us in electronic format. Her mother, Mrs. Jean Kirk, as Principal of the Aga Khan Primary led an institution created by the Ismaili Imamat that seeks educational excellence by cultivating great students through hard work and a dedicated and motivated staff. The school prided itself in being among the finest in East Africa during Jean Kirk’s tenure, beloved mother of Allison Wallace.

Please also visit our photoblog, http://www.simergphotos.com, to view this piece in a modified photo version.

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We invite readers to help us complete the photo captions by providing names of teachers and students who have not been identified. Also, we invite you to contribute short anecdotes that you can recount as an eye-witness to these two visits to the school made by His Highness the Aga Khan. Please complete the feedback form below or send an email to Simerg@aol.com.

15 thoughts on “My Mother, Jean Kirk, and Her Collection of Rare Photos of His Highness the Aga Khan

  1. Wow!! A little before my time (’73 – ’79 not counting nursery which was also at aga khan) but I remember the hall with it’s round windows where we had parade at times (remember balcony too) – looks so cool now. I remember watching movies like Amar Akbar Anthony and Evil Knievel as a treat during closing day ( or was it the day before closing day? ). There was also a piano at the front of the hall where Mr Okoyo taught us music. Beautiful memories. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Brilliant memories and thank you Allison for your kindness in sharing these with all of us. I was at AKPS in those days and can recognise a few friends and many teachers. I have been living in London for the past 40 years and but still miss Nairobi dreadfully!
    Ghazala ( Chishty ) Mirza.
    London, UK

  3. Thanks Allison for sharing the photos and I think it is a good idea to circulate so the students or their families might recognise and enjoy them. God bless mum, Mrs. Jean Kirk and family. Parin Shariff.

  4. I think the teacher who was showing notes to His Highness the Aga Khan was my aunt, Mrs Abdulsultan. I have no idea when she taught at the Aga Khan Primary School but it looks a lot like her.

    • Zulobia – Your intuition is correct. The teacher is your aunt, the late Mrs Daulat Abdulsultan, who was my Std (Grade) 6 teacher in 1967. I remember her very well and had the good fortune of meeting her again in Vancouver in 2008, over 40 years later. These pictures are taken during the May/June 1961 visit of Mowlana Hazar Imam to East Africa just at the dawn of the independence era. So your aunt must have taught at this school in the 1960’s and 70’s. I have many former classmates who still remember her. Zahir Dharsee, Mississauga, Ontario.

  5. Excellent photographs. I was unaware that the principal, Mrs. Jean Kirk, born in the UK, had eventually settled in Australia. I am from Kenya residing in Perth for four years now.

  6. Thank you to all of you for your comments. I had not realised the value of these photographic images. If I uncover more which I think would be of interest to you all I shall supply these to Malik as well.

    Best wishes

    Alison Wallace

  7. Thanks Allison for sharing the glorious services your beloved and great mother has done for the less fortunate people of our globe. No doubt God didn’t need our Prayers because He is above all and omnipotent. Great are the people who serve the creature of God. We always salute such people and our hats are always off for such personalities who give their life for education. “Seek Education from Cradle to Grave” is a well known saying of the Holy Prophet of Islam Muhammad (s.a.s).

    • Hi Nizar

      I remember coming to the school a few times when I was little. As we left Nairobi in 1964 I would not have been any older than 5. I remember Mrs Kanji who was, I think, the school secretary. I also knew Mrs Irene D’Souza.

      Thank you for commenting on the photos

      Alison Wallace

  8. Great pictures. God bless Mrs. Jean Kirk and family. Thank you so much Allison Wallace for sharing your’s mother wonderful collection.

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