The History of Fort portal (Fort Gerry)

Fort portal is perhaps the most attractive town in Uganda, its situated amid lush rolling hillsides swathed in near tea plantations and clouds permitting / offering excellent views across to the glacial peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains to the west, the town centre has seen a great deal of renovation since the early 1990’s, including plenty of new hotels and restuarants, and what with the recent resurfacing of its internal roads, it is barely recognizable from the run down Fort portal hole of a few years back.

Fort portal is named after a British fortress constructed  between 1891 and 1893, on the site of the town’s present day golf club, with the aim of protecting the Tooro Kingdom from guerrilla raids by King Kabalega of the greater Bunyoro Kingdom. Fort Gerry, as it was originally known, was named posthumously after the British consul general of Zanzibar Sir Gerald Portal, who died of malaria on Zanzibar a few months later.

Norma Lorimer, who travelled to Fort portal in 1913, referred to the settlement as Tooro adding that it then consisted of about six bungalows, the bank, the Boma, the huts for a few Kings African Riffles, the Indian bazaar and the native settlement. The splendid native market at the bottom of the hill mentioned by Lorimer is still in position today, opposite the Gardens Restaurant.

Fort portal boast few urban landmarks of note. There is the faintly preposterous statute of a gun  wielding Sir Gerald Portal that stands sentinel on the roundabout almost in the middle of the town, subverted by a howler of a plaque, Sir Gerald Portal was neither a Major nor an Exploire. He never set foot with in a 100 kilometre radius of the town nor for that matter did he ever personally carry a firearm.

Perched on a hill above Fort portal is a large circular shell of the Toro palace, built in the 1960’s for Omukama Kasagama’s son and successor. Rukidi 111, then destroyed and looted after the abolition of Kingdoms in Uganda under the reign of Dr. Apollo Milton Obote who forcefully took power on May 25th 1966. Kasagama and Rukidi 111 are buried at the Karambi Tombs, 5 kilometres out of town on Kasese road.