Saturday, October 6, 2018

Cyprian Fernandes: The vanishing tribe: The first Nairobi Goan Institute


"J Christie D'Souza's 1955 GI Golden Jubilee Brochure"

Coming as they did with English education and a broad outlook in life and trained in the western way of life, Goans could not stay in seclusion.  Fired with zeal and enthusiasm they decided to muster together and found a club where they could enjoy their leisure in recreation such as reading, sports, dances, etc.  In 1899 the Portuguese Cricked Club was privately founded by 29 members who in 1901 were given a pavilion on the Railway premises by the Railway authorities.  At this time the membership had increased to 42, consisting of both Railway and non-Railway Goans.  This number gradually came down to 25 in 1903 when the funds to the credit of the club stood at a meager sum of Rs.  122-2-9 pies and its general condition was critical.  To reinforce vitality in its activities many non-Railway members were enrolled and for a time everything went on smoothly.  However, the peace did not last too long and very soon misunderstanding created by establishing a distinction between Railway and non-Railway members on the false plea that the Railways members were outnumbered.  Mr. B. Eastwood, the Chief Accountant of the Railway, and President of the Portuguese Cricket Club, in a letter dated 29th May, 1905, addressed to the Managing Committee stated: “It may not have been given in writing but it is and was always an unwritten law that the management of the Club and the power to vote, rested with the employees only”.  This was the death knell of the Portuguese Cricket Club and the birth of the future Goan Institute.  Deep dissensions arose between the two parties and the club activities were neglected.  Mr. A. H. F. Currie, Manager of Uganda Railways used his influence to bring about a compromise and settle the issue amicably.  In one of his letters he states: 

 “I shall be very sorry if any remarks of mine tend to cause friction between the Railway and non-Railway members of the Club.  My intention is quite the reverse and I feel sure that the non-Railway members having the welfare of their community at heart will do nothing likely to inure the progress of the club.....I regret that this Rule has to be enable me to give the club financial assistance and in no way reflects on the non-Railway members who have done so much to bring the club to its present prosperous position.....”

The appeal was of no avail and further deterioration set in.

Finally it was agreed to dissolve the club and the assets which amounted to Rs. 224-4-9 were divided between the Railway and the non-Railway members in the proportion of 2; 1, after prolonged negotiations carried on by Mr. Luis Sequeira on behalf of the non-Railway members who had not only the backing of the affected party but also intelligence to put up such a convincing fight which did him a great credit both among members and in public.


The controversy between the Railway and the non-Railway members led to the dissolution of the Portuguese Cricket Club and laid foundation of the Goan Institute.  Adventurous young-men decided to call a public meeting of the Goan Community to convert their desire into a reality and found a new Club.  A circular signed by a few prominent and respected Goans was issued and a meeting was held on 11th June 1905.  It was unanimously agreed to establish a Goan Club and today, we are their worthy heirs enjoy the fruit of their labors.  The circular convening the meeting reads as follows:  

“It is considered expedient that a Literary and Recreative Institution should be founded to meet the demands of each and every educated Goan resident at this Town.  A General Meeting of the Goan Community of Nairobi, on next Sunday, the 11th June, 1905, at 1-30 p.m. in order to discuss the advisability of and devise the best means on which the Institution should be founded. 

“It is expected therefore, that the meeting will be largely attended to be the utmost importance and closely affecting the social and literary interest of our rising Community”.

Dated 5th June 1905.

Signed by
M. M. D’Souza
R. Ribeiro
P. A. Miranda
F. M. D’Souza
A. A. Fernandes
J. A. Nazareth & Bros.
Lewis Siqueira
M. R. D’Souza
B. C. Siqueira

There were 50 members present.  Dr. Ribeiro was in the Chair, when the following Resolution, proposed by Mr. J. M. Campos and seconded by Mr. J. C. Rebello was unanimously carried: -

“That an Institute be founded that may meet the demands of each and every educated member of the Goan Community”.

The club was christened “INDO-PORTUGUESE INSTITUTE”.  Several other resolutions were adopted laying down the powers of the Managing Committee and setting out rules and regulations by which it was to be guided.

No time was wasted and application for one of the following sites was made to the Government: (a) Near European Camping Ground behind Victoria Street; (b) Near the new Roman Catholic Church and (c) Near Old Shop of Mr. Nazareth in Old Bazaar; but after very protracted negotiations and through the good offices of Mr. Ainsworth, His Majesty’s Commissioner, the following sites were offered by Government:  (a) Adjacent to Parklands Club; (b) Near Racecourse Ground and (c) Behind Forest Office.  The third site, where our present building stands today was selected by the Committee and then confirmed by the general body on 13-5-1906.

At the General Meeting a new Managing Committee was elected for the year 1906.  Mr. J. M. Campos was detailed to draw up the constitution which was finally approved by the general body.  In the Rules the name was changed to "THE GOAN INSTITUTE OF NAIROBI" and from 19th May 1906 it is know as such.  

To push the scheme forward a Loan of Rs. 4000 at 7% was approved and full details of requirements of the building were drawn up.  It may surprise many of our present young members to know how every detail was minutely discussed in the Committee meetings, such as “Foundation 3 ft. deep, thickness of the walls 16 inches, height 14 ft., cement and lime mortar 1: 3, doors 4ft. wide, etc., etc.”

Several difficulties had to be faced as the tendered price was far more than the sanctioned amount of Rs. 6,000 and consequently the contract had to be split up into masonry work, wood work, ceiling, roofing, etc.  The masonry works 75 ft. x 25 ft. was let for Rs. 2,400, including 49 pillars.

When everything was ready for making a start, a big “storm” arose and it almost looked as if it was going to destroy the very foundation for which preparations were being made.  The committee decided to have a modest and simple ceremony of laying the foundation stone by the Chairman, Dr. R. Ribeiro.  Seventeen members objected to this procedure and thought that a matter of such great importance as that should be decided by the general body at an extra-ordinary general meeting agree to invite the H.M. Commissioner, all the high officials and the leading members of all communities and to drink the toast in champagne.  The Chairman was asked to send a letter to the Chief Secretary arranging an interview with His Majesty’s Commissioner.  The Chairman declined to do so and stated that he would have nothing to do with the ceremony.  Another extraordinary meeting was convened when the Chairman’s attitude was deplored and to avoid any further unpleasantness it was finally agreed to have a humble and modest ceremony and that the Vice-President, Mr. Leandro D’Mello, should lay the foundation stone which was done on 22-7-1906.  In the Goan customary way the Catholic priest was invited to bless the foundation and a small gold cross was laid therein. 

The incident of misunderstanding was followed by the resignation of the Chairman from the post, trusteeship and membership, but he rejoined as a member several years later.

In spite of the indifferences of many members and faced with tremendous financial difficulties the BUILDING was completed through the zeal of those whose courage could not be daunted.  Here I am inclined to mention some of them in the roll of honor as the pillars of that edifice.  They are Messrs. Luis Sequeira, J. M. Campos, Leandro D’Mello, J. A. Nazareth, Timothy D’Souza, R. A. Nazareth, F. M. D’Souza, M. R. D’Souza, B. C. Sequeira and a host of others whose names will be found on the Founders List.  There may be several others whose names are not recorded in the annals of the Institute.  To all of them, living and dead, our homage is due and I dedicate this humble record of mine to their honor.  

The opening ceremony was performed on 1st December 1906, at 3:30 p.m. by H.M. Provincial Commissioner, Mr. C. W. Hobly, C.M.G., in the presence of a very distinguished and representative gathering of the citizens of Nairobi.  This was followed by a grand gala dance in the evening.

This, in brief, is the history of our Goan Pioneers and of the foundation of the Goan Institute in Nairobi, one of the several milestones that Goans have erected in this country.  The Golden Jubilee celebrations are the last functions that are being held in the premises which our forefathers have left us as a rich legacy.  Through the generosity of the Government we have been given the change of user of the present property and as the local rates tell very heavily on our meager resources, we have now disposed of the Duke Street property to Messrs. E.A. Breweries, Ltd., Nairobi, for a very worthy sum, which has enabled us to erect a modern and comfortable club house on a two acre plot on the Juja Road, adjoining our playfields.  Messrs. Bhalla and Thakore, Registered Architects, have drawn the scheme which is a storied building and as the pictures display, should be one of the finest club houses in Nairobi, which should be a civic pride to the City of Nairobi, a memorial to our Goan Pioneers and a healthy place of recreation for the future progeny of the Goan race so that under such aesthetic surroundings our children may grown up as worthy citizens of Nairobi and loyal and law-abiding subjects of our young and progressive country, Kenya.  May this new building which will replace one of the first and premier stone buildings in Nairobi depicting faith of our forefathers in this country, prove a common meeting place for members of all races and bring about peace and harmony in our future generations that they may enjoy the fullness of life and co-existence in their adopted homeland “Kenya”.

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