Building of the new club house on 30 May 1935

S.U. History


A Brief History of Sikh Union Nairobi Club

The institution that did the most for hockey in Kenya was undoubtedly Sikh Union, Nairobi.

It started as Khalsa Union in 1920. The club was then named Khalsa Club. Both had close ties with the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Nairobi, so much so that for many years the playing grounds of this Club adjoined the Gurudwara on Race Course Road.

Then in 1926, Khalsa Union became Sikh Union. Mr Hakam Singh became the Club's first President.

Mr Waryam Singh was one of the founder members of Khalsa Club and Sikh Union Nairobi.

Sikh Union's Annual General Report for the year 1926-27 starts with the following most words:-

"The Union as at present constituted represents what you may call the ‘educated' portion of the Sikh community in Nairobi. During the years when this town was in its infancy and the Sikh population was very small consisting of persons employed in Government and Railway Offices, their needs as regards mental and physical recreation were supplied by the Railway Indian Institute......

During the year 1914, the Great War began and consequently matters concerning sports and sports institutions had to give way to more important ones connected with the war.

During 1920 and afterwards with the advent of many more Sikhs from India and as the result of the impetus which sports generally received from the competition matches initiated by the Asian Sports Association, the idea of securing a piece of ground from the Government in the vicinity of the Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) of Sri Guru Singh Sabha on Race Course Road, which had been completed in the year 1911, originated in the minds of some well-meaning and enterprising members of the Sikh community.

Amongst these gentlemen special mention must be made of Messrs. Balwant Singh, Kishen Singh and the late Sadhu Singh. Due to their energy and initiative, the now extinct Khalsa Union was created which we could say was the forefather of the present Sikh Union. The main objects of that original Union were to educate the minds of its members in such a way as to make them better fitted for and conversant with the steadily improving conditions of life among the Asian community in this country. It consisted of about 15 members but, unfortunately, due to a certain amount of incapability in appreciating the purpose of the activities of this Union it came to a very early death and whatever funds it had gathered were handed over to the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Nairobi.

Almost at the same time, however, some of the more energetic members of the community started another institution known as the Khalsa Club. This Club, thanks particularly to the activities of a number of gentlemen, of whom exceptional mention is necessary in the cases of Messrs. Mahan Singh and Bakhtawar Singh, made a tremendous advance in the enthusiasm and in the appreciation of what it stood for"

The main activity of Khalsa Club was sports, of which Hockey was paramount, with Volleyball as a very adequate second best, at least for the slightly older generation. The Club played hockey in the fields on the Race Course Road.

Internal dissensions within the Sikh community caused great hindrance in the further progress of acquiring land for club building and grounds for a Sikh Institute in Nairobi.

It was due to the wisdom of certain stalwarts of those times such as Dr Kartar Singh and others that it was decided that yet another fresh start be made and to this end it was felt psychologically proper that the Khalsa Club should become extinct and be replaced by an entirely new institution though retaining all the original purpose and the original basis, to be known as The Sikh Union.


Extract from Club publication in 1934

Extracts from a publication distributed among the guests during the opening ceremony of the new clubhouse on Sunday the 8th July, 1934:

A Brief History of the Sikh Union Nairobi

Traditions which are not valued, which are not guarded, which are not expounded afresh to every generation as in its turn it steps on to the arena of the centuries, those traditions will grow weak and pass. Therefore there is a real need and a real justification for the work of such a society as the Sikh Union, which sets itself to guard, invigorate and transmit the traditions of Sikhs.

The Sikhs are known as a martial race all over the world. Their deeds of bravery, acts of self-denial, spirit of comradeship and generous treatment of friends and foes alike, are proverbial.

Wherever they go, they carry their traditions with them, and jealously guard them. Having such a rich legacy from their ancestors, it was quite natural for the Sikh pioneers of this Colony to decide upon an easy and practicable way by which to preserve the fine traits of their race. Religious Institutions had their first attention, but, in course of time, the necessity for a Sports Institution was keenly felt, and during the year 1920 the Khalsa Club was formed. It started with football as the only game, but with the influx of further players, hockey thrived, and continued to dominate other sections of sports subsequently introduced by the Club.

During the latter part of 1926, the Khalsa Club was renamed the "SIKH UNION", rules and regulations governing the constitution were drafted, and the Institution was put on a definite and permanent basis. The objects of the Union are to provide for the social, intellectual and physical improvement of its members. The Entrance fee was fixed at Shs. 10/- and the monthly subscription at Shs. 3/-. Resulting from this re-organisation, the success achieved during the year following and the hopes then entertained for the future were accurately forecast in the Secretary's Report which ran as follows:

"I would close this report with the most gratifying remark that by their zeal and foresight the members during the period under review have laid the nucleus of an Institution which if carried on and conducted systematically on the very simple lines on which such institutions are carried on during this age of civilization, would be a source and means of satisfaction and gratitude for the coming generations of the Sikhs in this metropolis of East Africa."

Sikhs are born hockey players and take special interest and pride in this game, so much so that they have begun to regard it as their national game. Ever since its introduction into the Club's activities in 1921, the side representing the Union has figured top most whenever a competition has been held.

The cricket section was opened in 1928. Most of the players were then quite unfamiliar with the game. The start, under these circumstances, was poor and discouraging, but with hard practice, patience, and determined efforts, the standard of the game improved and today the Union has one of the best teams in the Colony. During the last local test match three of its members represented the Asian side.

The Union undertook sporting tours of Nakuru, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar-es-Salaam, and Moshi, and entertained the public of those towns with hockey, cricket and volleyball matches and also musical performances. The cordial welcome and warm hospitality accorded by our hosts on such occasions was sufficient evidence of the esteem and regard in which our members are held by all communities.

Annual sports are a regular feature of the Union. The yearly event is eagerly awaited by young, grown-ups, and old alike, and keenly contested by members of our community. It is also gratifying to record that a large number of the trophies for which Asians competed at the recent Railway Institute sports were won by Sikhs.

A piece of ground next to Race Course Road was secured from Government in 1920 as playing fields. Considerable improvements were carried out at a heavy expenditure, chiefly met through donations. This ground fairly, though not adequately, supplied the needs of our community up to the end of last year, when it had to be finally abandoned.

After prolonged negotiations, the Government, in 1930, granted a plot off Fort Hall Road comprising 28,420 sq. ft. for the building of an Institute. The site,  though very attractive and suitable from an Institute point of view, lacked playing-fields. Various sites were inspected for the purpose of a Sports ground, and at last the present one, a portion of City Park, was selected. The lease of the Fort Hall Road plot, which was for 99 years, was surrendered in favour of the latter which could accommodate both a Club House and a Sports ground. We are grateful to the Municipal Council of Nairobi for the grant of this piece of land.

The area under reference has been cleared of all rubbish, shrubs and undulations, properly leveled and rolled, a thick layer layer of red earth to the extent of 6 inches spread over the surface and planted with grass. The conditions prevailing before our occupation were almost undescribable. A drain, which ran through the entire breath of the ground had to be diverted to one extremity. A swamp, notorious as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and a great menace to the health of the district existed in the centre but has now vanished. Several great holes from which murrum had been extracted have been filled in. The whole area which served as a promiscuous place for the public convenience of Natives going to and from Pangani and consequently spreading a horrible stench in the whole vicinity now presents a most pleasing sight. This transformation has been effected by the expenditure of the large sum of approximately Shs. 14,000/-.

The foundation stone of the Club House was laid by the Honourable Sardar Hakam Singh on 11th February 1934, and His Worship the Mayor Councillor G. Gwinnett  Bompass has kindly consented to perform the opening ceremony, on Sunday the 8th July, 1934. The building was designed by one of Nairobi's most prominent Architects, namely, Mr. C Rands-Overy, F.R.I.B.A., and was erected, under his supervision, by the well-known Contractor Mr. Lalji Kala. The Club House is 100 feet long, 61 feet broad and 25 feet high. It comprises two verandahs, one lounge, six rooms, a commodious store and balcony, and is equipped with up-to-date sanitary arrangements. A flight of eight stairs extending throughout the frontage affords additional accommodation for spectators. The cost of the building is Shs. 40,000/-,

Funds have been chiefly collected through donations, theatrical performances, cinema shows, quarterly sweep-stakes and by monthly subscriptions and contributions from members.

All the members are well-behaved, well-mannered and well-disciplined, and any Club would be proud of such members.

The all-round progress recorded above is not due to a mere chance or stroke of luck, as we are congratulated for, but is the direct result of well-conceived and well laid out plans and schemes, which have been executed with much energy and determination over the long period of 10 years.

The secret of our success lies in the fact that we possess a happy and energetic band of workers, who thoroughly believe in team work, are self-less and wholeheartedly devoted to the cause. The betterment and progress of the Union has become the mission of their lives, and they are fully supported by the General Body, which, in appreciation of their services, extended with an unanimous vote the life of the present management for a term of five years.


Club Personalities

Harbans Singh was the President of Sikh Union, Nairobi in 1959 during the club's jubilee year celebrations. He was also the President of Kenya Cricket Association and President of Asian Sports Association.

Harbans was a brilliant all round sportsman, he played hockey, cricket and football at the very top level in Kenya.

At one time he was the fastest left inner in Hockey in Kenya and the lightening way in which he used to flash though the opposing defence, enabled him alone with another stalwart, Romeo Fernandes, to score a hundred goals in a season in 1938.

Harbans was the match Secretary to the All Indian Hockey Team and as the Local Manager he travelled with the team all over East Africa. He was on the Selection committee for representative cricket and hockey for many years.

He became Vice President of Kenya Hockey Union and Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Kenya Hockey Union.

He was on the Kenya Olympic Association committee since its inception.

He was appointed Manager of the first Asian Team ever to tour abroad (the cricket Team to South Africa) but had to decline the offer. He has been Manager of representative Cricket Teams several times.

Mahan Singh, a superb player himself and the President of the Kenya Hockey Union in 1957, made the most intensive scientific study of the game. He has devoted his ever tireless energy for many years to raise the standard of this game in every conceivable way. His services were duly recognized when he was selected as the coach for the hockey team which went to the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956.

Kenya's Captain at the Melbourne Olympics Games was another outstanding Sikh Union player, Mr Surjeet Singh Deol.

Other Sikh players who need a special mention:

Mr Sardara Singh, who was nick-named ‘Chhura', (knife) for the manner in which he could cut through any defence.

Bakhtawar Singh, as a player and who imported a number of dashing players like Karam Singh, Joginder Singh Kata, Chatter Singh, Ajit Singh, Sher Singh, Bachitar Singh and Dhartidhak Singh.

Outstanding among the oldsters were also Balwant Singh, Santokh Singh, Piara Singh, Harbans Singh of Barclays Bank (President of Sikh Union 1959) and Harbans Singh from Dar-es-Salaam.

Mr Mahan Singh and Mr Harbans Singh were made patrons of Sikh Union Club for their services to the Club in the fifties.