Clive Irvine

Archibald Clive Irvine (January 1893 – 1974) was a Scottish medical missionary to Kenya. He was an early proponent to stopping female circumcision. He worked primarily in Chogoria, Kenya, where he introduced coffee cultivation. He was the founder of the PCEA Chogoria Hospital and is the namesake of the Clive Irvine College of Health Sciences on the slopes of Mount Kenya. Clive also started the Chogoria Girls and Boys schools.

Early life and education[edit]

Archibald Clive Irvine was born in January 1893 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England to John Archibald Irvine and Annie Mary White. He was the oldest of six children, with three sisters and two brothers. His father was a Presbyterian minister.[1]

After graduating with a degree in both the arts and medicine and surgery from Aberdeen University, Irvine joined the military as a medical officer. He served as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps in German East Africa during the First World War from 1917 to 1919. He often was in correspondence with African porters coming from Uganda and Kenya, gaining knowledge of "native" medicine as well as fluency in Swahili and Kikuyu.[2]


In 1915, the Church of Scotland Mission (CSM) had built a mission station in Chuka with the guidance of John W. Arthur and had plans to evangelize the Chuka-Mwimbi area. During Irvine's time in the war, he met Arthur who invited him to join the CSM. In 1919, Irvine rehashed interest in bringing Christianity to the Kikuyu and surrounding areas. He offered to work as a medical missionary for the Kikuyu mission and was posted to Tumutumu mission station.[2]

Irvine joined the CSM station at Tumutumu in July 1919.[2]


He was appointed to set up the Chogoria mission station and arrived on 12 October 1922.[2] Chogoria was found, by Carr and Arthur, to be a suitable site, situated near Mount Kenya, relatively central, with a waterfall to provide irrigation and hydroelectricity. On 12 October 1922, Irvine arrived with his wife and newborn son. For help, he had three teachers from Kikuyu, native assistants, and many from local villages who were eager to be paid for work.[2][3]

In 1922, Irvine set up a mission hospital, now Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) Chogoria Hospital.[2]

Irvine treated the major diseases of yaws, leprosy, and tuberculosis. Within two years of the inception, Irvine treated 11,000 outpatients.[4] He regularly detailed his life in his 'Chogoria Days' articles that were published in Kikuyu News.[citation needed]

Irvine focused on treating yaws, an illness he believed almost fifty percent of the population had. He routinely treated distant villages with mobile dispensaries.[2][5] The medical staff in Chogoria were conducive to its eradication in the area.[6] In addition, he gained support from the Mwimbi by taming the problem of bush pig attacks on farm land by poisoning them with strychnine.[2] Athletics were also used as a way to attract locals, holding sports days with events like the needle threading race.[7]

Irvine often ministered to the Mwimbi people through public prayers, hymns, sermons, and lessons. He would also baptize. In 1933, he was officially ordained.[8]


The spread of Christianity in the Chuka-Mwimbi area frequently came into conflict with the native beliefs of the area. Irvine outwardly opposed and competed with the local healers by targeting their specialties treatments such as foot and leg problems. Irvine often butted heads with the Njuri-Ncheke on the basis of religion. Although a membership in the Njuri meant a high social rank, he would not allow a Christian convert join. He considered it to be pagan and a threat to his teachings and Christian beliefs.[2]

From 1928–1932, there was major opposition to female circumcision or female genital mutilation (FGM) from the British missions, especially from the Church of Scotland. This was led by Arthur which ultimately led to him being denounced by the Kikuyu Central Association and losing the political backing of the natives.[citation needed]

In 1947, Irvine stated that the Church would accept a hundred unexcised women. While the schools did not expel excised girls, he publicized that all the top girls were not excised. It was said that in the 50s, the students were examined to determine if they had been excised; if they were, they were separated from the others and shamed.[9]

Personal life and death[edit]

In 1921, Irvine married Margaret Joyce Carr, daughter of wealthy contractor and sponsor of the Church of Scotland Mission (CSM), Ernest Carr, in Nairobi, Kenya. She gave birth to their first child, Austin John Anthony, the next year in Chogoria. They later had two more children, both also born and raised in Chogoria. One son continued in his father's footsteps and became a medical missionary in Chogoria.[1]

Irvine retired from his medical work in 1961 but continued to minister, teach, develop Chogoria until the end of his life. He died in Nairobi in 1974.[8]


The PCEA Chogoria Hospital, founded by Irvine, is currently (2024) considered the largest mission hospital in Kenya. The mission hospital had 120 beds by the time of his death including outpatients, maternity, men's, and women's wards. In the 1970s, the hospital was passed from the Church of Scotland to the PCEA and was rebuilt to have 295 beds.[10]

Honoring Irvine, the Clive Irvine College of Health Sciences is named after him. The dormitories were rebuilt in 2021 with a grant from USAID. There were over 300 enrolled students at that time.[11]

The boys and girls schools that were founded by Irvine are currently the Chogoria Girls High School and the Chogoria Boys High School. The two schools shared classrooms from 1953 and briefly merged from 1965-1968. They now operate separately as national boarding schools in Kenya.[12]

Irvine was the mentor for Jerusha Kanyua who the PCEA proclaimed as a saint.[13]

Irvine also had a significant impact on the agriculture of the Tharaka-Nithi County by initiating the coffee cultivation in Chogoria.[14]


  1. ^ a b Ancestry Library Edition[verification needed]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Fadiman 1993, p. [page needed].
  3. ^ Hutchenson, Charles W.; Stevenson, William Black (1923). Kikuyu: 1898-1923: Semi-jubilee Book of the Church of Scotland Mission Kenya Colony. Foreign Mission Committee of the Church of Scotland. p. 64. hdl:2027/uva.x000180789.
  4. ^ "University of Southern California – Dr Irvine examining a patient, Chogoria, Kenya, ca.1924". Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  5. ^ "University of Southern California – Medical safari, Eastern province, Kenya, ca.1924". Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  6. ^ "University of Southern California – Building a new ward, Chogoria, Kenya, ca.1926". Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  7. ^ Cunningham, Tom (2016). "'These Our Games' – Sport and the Church of Scotland Mission to Kenya, c. 1907–1937". History in Africa. 43: 259–288. doi:10.1017/hia.2015.12. JSTOR 26362139.
  8. ^ a b,exact,Irvine,%20Archibald%20Clive,%20medical%20missionary,%20Kenya,%201893-1974,AND&mode=advanced&offset=0
  9. ^ Thomas, Lynn (2019). "Mau Mau and the Girls Who 'Circumcised Themselves'". Politics of the Womb. pp. 79–102. doi:10.1525/9780520936645-006. ISBN 978-0-520-93664-5. S2CID 242598343.
  10. ^ "About Us – PCEA Chogoria Hospital". Retrieved 2023-12-13.
  11. ^ "Clive Irvine College of Health Sciences at Chogoria". Medical Benevolence Foundation. Retrieved 7 January 2024.
  12. ^ "Chogoria Girls High". Kenya National Examiners Council. Retrieved 7 January 2024.
  13. ^ Nkonge, Kagema, Dickson (1872–1974). "Kanyua, Jerusha". Dictionary of African Christian Biography. Retrieved 2023-12-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Ogutu, M.A. (1979). "DUALISM AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF COFFEE IN MERU, KENYA, IN 1930s". Transafrican Journal of History. 8 (1/2): 140–159. JSTOR 24328509.