Essays · Family & Friends

Legson Kayira

Families have many stories. One of ours involves a man named Legson Kayira. Giving Legson a home during the 60’s is something my family is proud of, and should be. They took him in, which was probably not really as easy as they let on, and then proceeded to make a life long connection with him. In fact, during my mom’s wedding last summer one of the events we have pictures of was a phone call to London, where Legson and his wife have lived for several years. In the photos my mom and all of her siblings who were present are lined up along the side of the house talking on the phone, or waiting to talk on the phone, to Legson.

Today I was looking around for info on Legson Kayira because, I think, I’m facinated by the story of a man who would walk across Africa to get an American education, and I’m proud of the part my family played in his journey. Legson later wrote a book called “I Will Try” about his experience and has written others since. My grandparents had a copy of that book and I remember as a young child being told the story of Legson’s journey and how he stayed with my family (grandparents, mom, and her siblings) after arriving in the states, during the time he attended Skagit Valley College. At the time several articles were written about his journey and experience and during my search I happened to find the article from Time Magazine called Destination: Skagit Valley. Amazing what can be found online.   My favorite part of this particular article, of course, is the quote by my grandmother. It’s classic Martha. As for our family’s part of the story, it’s classic for them. They took in a man who valued education because they could appreciate that aim, and because they felt they had something to offer him, which, for my part, I can testify to. It’s an amazing family, who has, throughout the years, touched many lives in such a postive and great way. They’ve left, and are still leaving, an incredible legacy, of which Legson Kayira is a small, yet amazing part.


49 thoughts on “Legson Kayira

  1. Legson’s story appeared in l971 in “The Guidepost Treasury of Faith. I remembered it and will tell it again when I preach at Faith Christian Church, Hollywood, Fl August 19th.

    When I was at Bethany (graduated the year Legsdon entered Skagit) I took five girls home to Jacksonville, Fl for the ten days of Easter vacation. One from France, Two from Austria, one from Argentina, and one from Holland.

    We had a budget of $50 each and a letter from Mayor Hayden Burns who later became Governor of Fl. It read: “Extend any courtesies to these students as my guests in Florida for the next ten days.” We got into everything free, up one side and down the other in the state of Florida. At home, Mom and Dad made it happen with bunkbeds for sleeping and meals. The famous Rudy VAllee loaned his boat for us to water ski up and down the St. Johns River on Christmas Day and black sweaters had been put into the boat for us to wear because it was cold.

    When we hit the state line and stopped for a break from the cramped 1961 Chevy coupe, the girls said, almost in unison,
    “why does it smell so sweet?” I, a native, had not noticed.

    These were Fulbright Scholarship students. And this country was much better for the experience and so were their countries. Now 70, I still love all five girls and miss them greatly.

    I suppose that’s why, when I re-read Legsdon’s story, I cried with such appreciation for his strong character and love for his creator. We are all children in the family of God and know that God is the Father of that family.

    I then searched for him on the internet to see if he still is pursuing his goal, to be president of his country.

    1. Am Arnold Kayira
      I need to write him so May I have his email address, am at university of Malawi

    2. Arnold… I never give out his email address, but I will pass on your message to him and your email address and if he wants to write to you he will. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I just finished ‘I Will Try’ and am so pleased to read your notes. This book is wonderful, simply and powerfully written. Thanks for your post.

  3. hello legson kayira is my grandpa he is currently living in London with his second wife please contact me if you want more information!

    1. Amelia please I would like to get in touch with your grandpa. I am a Zimbabwean writer who was so inspired by your grandpa’s 1st novel that I became a writer because of him. It would be a dream come true to get in touch with him. I will try was the 1st novel I read in English when I was 12 years old. It’s about time I read again, this time with the eyes and heart of an adult. Hopefully I will be strong enough not to cry.

    2. Hi there Amelia. My name is Kondwani Kayira. I am currently working at Medway Maritime hospital in Gillingham Kent. I would like to meet Legson and talk about things in general. You may or Legson can call me on 07466 555059 after 17:30 hrs.

      I had contact with Legson when I was in St Andrews University way back 1988 – 1991. There was a British gentleman whom I met there who put me in touch with Legson. The gentleman had named his beautiful house in St Andrews Karonga house, after a district name in the Northern region of MALAWI.

    3. hello my name is alick from northen region in nkhatabay I want to knw more about legson coz he was real true son of malawi and wher is he kids by nw prz send them to malawi coz we want them too much

  4. Legson’s walk is such an amazing story. I am sure it has impressed everyone he has met during his travels. My mother, Dora, worked in his office in Crawley in 1972 when he was a Probation Officer. (She is now 80 and remembers him still).

  5. My fourth grade teacher — Mrs. Cassidy — read this book to our class, as part of a major social studies unit on Africa. (I remember the handouts and the maps and the posters — don’t let anyone ever tell you that elementary research projects are a waste of time. I remember these more than any standardized test given today will be remembered.) I couldn’t recall the title of the book and have spent many hours searching the Internet and library and out-of-print book databases with the terms “Africa” “walk” “Journey” and so on, to no avail. But persistence paid off. As soo as I saw the title, I knew I had found it. Now I can find a copy of this book and re-read it as an adult. Thank you for this posting. It has resolved a mystery I’ve had troubling my mind for many years.

  6. Hi! My family is very familiar with the story of Legson, and I believe my Aunt Betty has met him in London. My father worked at the embassy in Khartoum and helped Legson get some clothing and a visa to go to the USA after his long walk. My brother saw your article and forwarded it to me. We are very proud of our father’s role in getting Legson to the USA, but there are many families that helped him in other ways. It is amazing the generosity of all involved! There was also an article in the 50th Anniversary issue of Readers Digest (a short recap of the story). Legson is a very inspiring person. I thought of him alot when I did the Peace Corps in Africa. Whenever I thought what a tough time I was having, I thought of his long journey that lasted more than a year, and it gave me perspective! Andie

  7. Hi, found you by Google…shot in the dark but: we are interested in doing a film on Legson Kayira. Any ideas on how to contact him would be appreciated. Please pass along my email. Thanks, Steve

    1. Hi long time you left this message but I am friend with the family if you still sant to get in touch ? x

  8. In the early to mid 60’s I was going to dental school in Wisconsin. I had a Sears Mo-Ped that I used to get to my summer job in Seattle. I decided to sell the scooter one year after I went back to school and after my mother sold it she called me and told me that someone from Mount Vernon had bought it to give to Legson for transportation to get to Skagit Vally Junior College. I believe that the scooter is mentioned in the book. It would be nice to connect with Legson to see what he remembers about my Mo-Ped.

  9. I got a copy of “I Will Try” while in first form at high school in Jamaica that was 1986. I got it because I switched with another girl who thought this would be too much reading. I cried after reading it. I have kept that book as an inspiriation and each time I meet a challenge I tell myself I will try. I have never met Legson but I will alway remember his passion and tenacity. I will never give up on my dreams.

  10. I just read about Legson in Norman Vincent Peale’s “Enthusiasm Makes The Difference” published in 1967. At this moment my daughter and pastor son-in-law are in Ghana attempting to gain promised passports and visas for the two orphan children they’ve adopted. They are Fia and Kwame, 3 and 4. They are having significant difficulties getting help locally and may be forced to leave them and return to the U.S. next week. I’m going to tell them of Legson to help inspire them.

  11. I am Malawian in disapora and would like to know where Legson is. Why has Legson kept a low profile while there is too much at stake. Yeah, Olney I would be grateful in you could send to me his postal or even email address.

  12. I am Legson’s second wife. He has lived here in Lodon for over 35 years. He had to keep a low profile for many years because he had lost favour with the then President of Malawi, Dr. Hastings Banda. Legson has four children and seven grandchildren and in May will celebrate his 71st birthday. He is also finishing his fifth novel. He is humbly amazed that so many people remember him and are still interested in him.

    Legson can be contacted at our e-mail address:

  13. @Julie Kayira:I first heard about your husband’s amazing story in 1991 when I was in Form 1 at Rumphi Secondary school in Malawi. Back then, we could not speak about him openly for fear of getting arrested by Dr Banda’s government but his story used to inspire us a lot in our quest for education and better life.

    It is now close to 15 years since Dr Banda fell from power. Legson can now safely go back home and help in the development of the country. There are so many lessons that we can can learn from him.

  14. Thank you for the wonderful and inspiring website, and the article about Legson.

    My wife Gudrun and I used to have him over to our house on University Avenue and 52 Street in Seattle, probanly from 1965 on, while he was still in town. I remember a really nice dinner in the front yard one time. Just the three of us sitting around a card table above the passersby on the sidwalk below.

    Thanks to all who post here. I’ll send him an email, and hopefullly get together one day.

    Ross Scott

  15. I remember Legson from the ’60’s too as we were political science majors together and he came to yard parties and dinner at our house in Ravenna. He lived in a room in a Laurelhurst home, as noted above. We were “friends”, but I’ll never excuse my behavior in not being a more frank and helpful confidante by not mentioning the slightly offputting smell of his underwear and his room. I always expected him to go back to Malawi and replace Banda, who in retrospect was one of the less oppressive leaders of the region. “President for life” was the objection most prominent about Banda, right? I went to the Peace Corps, then worked a career as a railroad clerk.

  16. Thank youvery much fthe contacts.I am a medical doctor working in kingston,jamaica.I the president of african rescue mission a humanitarian organisation.
    I want to invite elder legson kayira to jamaica to a seminar that we are planning next year.
    Thank you again for posting his contacts to us .Africa is ours we are far but it will always be in our hearts.

    1. Bongelo… The email addresses provided here were provided by Legson’s wife. If you are having trouble accessing those email addresses I apologize, but I have no other information to give you. There were two provided, did you try both?

  17. Hi tokenhipygirl,
    Thank you for your note.I finally got to send my mail. Thank you.

  18. I am glad to have come across this site. I am from southern Tanzania, just east of Lake Nyasa/Malawi, and we see much of northern Malawi from our home. When we were in secondary school, Legson Kayira was one of our heroes, through his book, “I will Try.” I am happy to read about him on this page.

  19. My preacher was talking about him today in chuch and I just wanted to know more about him.
    Its just amazing what good does with his people

  20. My friend Darlene is searching for her old friend Julie halford kariya, wife of legson. Can you help us find contact info for her? Thanks!

  21. I thank God that today I can read many comments from people of all walks of life testifying about this legend: Legson Kayira.

    I am a Malawian, and I am one of the admirers of this great man. I visited his village in Mpale close to a village where my sister is married to a son of once politician late Harrison Kayira who once assisted Legson with a pair of shorts.

    Growing in Malawi my dad used to talk about this man and his I will try emblem. I have always wanted to meet this man because he has inspired me a lot. I want to make a special request to him and his family that they should consider coming and connect wi their roots back home. I guess we need him more than London does! Please pass that request to him. His village has many challenges; no safe drinking water, poor road network, poor school blocks etc… I believe Legson would help his people very much if he would come and try to give back to his community and his country.

    Besides the youth who mostly don’t know
    him will be inspired to do more in life if they hear his story.

  22. I knew Legson at the University of Washington. I met him first in the college cafeteria. He was reading a newspaper at the time. We had political science classes together, and I knew his first wife as well. I met him in late 1963 or early 1964, can’t remember exactly as it has been many years. But we were good enough friends that on my birthday in 1965 he gave me a copy of his first book, I Will Try, one of his advance copies. After my purse was stolen in 1967, I lost track of him.

    Legson told me in those years how he wanted to work in government. He was being educated to be a leader. But Malawi has been a troubled country, and some of his dreams likely unrealized for that reason. I am happy if he is well, happy, has children and a loving wife, as I have heard. I now own a magazine, but two years ago, while the editor of a local town paper, I wrote for another national site about Legson and who he represents, not just for me but many other people. His spiritual journey is far more important than his education and career ideas of the time, as even then his devotion to God was apparent. At one time when my Mother was very ill, Legson offered me money to visit her, as I was a struggling student with my husband also in school. He showed me his passbook savings book to prove he had plenty from his book advance.

    I am grateful to be in whatever loop includes this wonderful human being and to acquaint myself with those who reached out to him initially to help him get an education. He subsequently changed many lives himself.

  23. Thanks to this site, I will be able to get in touch with this generous human being from the humble areas of Wenya, Mpale and sorrounding villages. My name is Kondwani Kayira. My father (Gesman Kayira from the KANYAZULU lineage) always told stories about Legson. When I came to study at St Andrews University in Scotland I communicated with Legson (between 1988 and 1991), then lost touch again when I went back to MALAWI. I’m at MEDWAY MARITIME HOSPITAL in Gillingham, Kent at the moment and would like to get in touch again just to chat.

  24. I havew never met this awesome person Legson Kayira. Just read about him, It’s so inspiring that I used his stroy to inspire others. A great human being having taken a great journey to empower what one’s mind can do.

  25. @Tam He was my father`s best friend, they use to share same desk in class sometime back they use talk on phone and exchanging letters with Dad but I was young by than. How can I get in touch with his family. please help.

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