Zbigniew Nowicki was born on 9th October, 1929 in Poland. He lived there for ten years with his parents and two sisters. During the war his father was taken away and shot by the Russians - then he, his mother and sisters were deported to a camp in Siberia, where they stayed for two years. Young Zbigniew caught rabbits and acquired vegetables thro' devious means to supplement their meagre rations, until the family were released and made their way to India overland, where they were settled by the Red Cross in a camp near Poona, with a lot of other Polish women and children. Zbigniew did his schooling here and then went on to Engineering College. After the war in 1947, the family wree put on a ship transporting refugees to the U.K. The ship then had to put into Mombasa for repairs; the family, fearing post-war Britain, decided to jump ship.
They started life in Kenya in yet another camp in Mombasa and later, when the two sisters got married, they moved to Nairobi. Zbigniew got a job with Marshalls in 1949 as a spanner boy in Kingsway Workshop. He knew no English except "Good morning," "please" and "thank you" and was then given the name Nick, because no one could pronounce his name. He soon picked up his 'fractured' English and some Swahili. He worked his way up in Marshalls Workshop to become Workshop Foreman. During this time he started motor rallying in Peugeots.
In 1959, Nick was sent to Nakuru to become Branch Manager in what was quite a small branch. He did well and built it up by sheer hard work and his engaging personality into the large branch it is today. He later became a Director of Marshalls. His rallying career was legendary. When he teamed up with his great friend Paddy Cliff, they seemed to be an unbeatable pair and in 1951 they won what was then the East African Rally Championship. Then during that year he married Gill, who was a physiotherapist at the War Memorial Hospital. Nick continued to rally for 20 years, winning the Safari in 1963 giving Peugeot their first major victory and again in 1968 driving Peugeot 404s - both these years were vey wet, with only seven finishers. Roger Barnard in his book referred to Nick as "the mud master." When he retired from rallying, he kept on his motor sport interest as an organiser and was Chairman of the Rift Valley Motor Sports Club for many years, and was instrumental in having a go-kart track built at the club.
Nick retired from Marshalls, having served 40 years with the company. His retirement was a sad loss to Marshalls and to all those who worked with him. It was not long before Nick was offered various jobs - these included Trimborne Engineering, Fiat Agri, Lonrho and CMC [Motors]. Nick was never happier than when he was wheeling and dealing, be it cars, tractors or machinery as this true tale relates:
Nick was a born salesman and I shall always remember this particular deal that he did with two customers, both of whom were fellow-countrymen, who came to Nick within a period of a week of each other looking for a good clen 404 saloon. The first fellow-countryman was shown a recent trade-in, which he tested, liked, and concluded the deal and would collect the car the following week. The car was handed over to me in the workshops to carry out some jobs required by the new owner. A couplpe of days later, the second customer came to Nick looking for a nice 404 saloon as a surprise for his wife. Nick showed him the 404 that had already been committed, but the customer insisted that he must have this one, whereby another deal was concluded for the same car. After the customer left, I went to Nick and said "you really have a major problem on your hands - you have now sold the same car to two customers." He looked at me and said "Starey, don't worry, I have other good 404 'in sleeve,' and know that wife of last customer will 'liked' colour better of car 'in sleeve.'" Nick then arranged with the lady to see the car in question - she was very taken with the car and colour, agreeing with Nick that she did not like the colour of the car that her husband had agreed to take. After the customers had collected their respective cars, satisfied and content with their purchases, Nick then came to me with a grin from ear to ear and said "Starey, Uncle Nick always have something in sleeve."
Nick enjoyed life to the full and always enjoyed a party. Having retired twice from Fiat Agri, he was given two rousing farwell parties.
Nick's other great love after motor sport was fishing. He was often to be seen at Malindi of Kilifi with another great friend, Mike Hughes, on Mike's boat. They won many competitions and the only fish Nick never caught was a marlin, but made up for this by catching bass from his small cabin cruiser which he kept on Lake Naivasha, then in later years he loved to fish trout on the rivers and dams up-country.
He lived very happily at his small Bahati farm with his wife Gill, his dogs and cows for 23 years, until his sudden death from heart failure on 26th June this year.
Nick was a great character, a wonderful salesman and full of fun. Sue Neylan once said "he taught me to Cossack Dance and drink vodka" - that was typical of Nick. When rallying he seemed to have a "sixth sense" in getting away from tricky situations, which he put down to luck.
Although he had several illnesses in later life, he never gave up and seemed almost indestructible to the end.
He will be sadly missed by all of us, but will be remembered for his kindness, generosity and friendship.