Saturday, October 6, 2018

Cyprian Fernandes: The vanishing tribe: The Goan Pioneers

The Goan Pioneers
By  J. Christie D'Souza, 
Editor of the 1955 Goan Institute Golden Jubilee Brochure 

Goa, to many a westerner, is a land of mystery.  Its situation is rather assumed than known.  To some it only exists because they meet Goans wherever they go, be it England or Portugal, America or Japan, Australia or Africa, Oxford or Rome.  

Goa is a picturesque little country on the west coast of India, situated midway between Karachi and Cape Comorin, about 150 miles south of Bombay.  Its greatest length is 60 miles, with a breadth of 40 miles.  Its total area is 1,300 square miles and has a population of about 625,000 souls.

Goa is a land of natural beauty-bounded by stretches of sea, alternating with a vista of swaying palms, hills and valleys, green fields and bleak by-paths.  It is a land where churches and chapels, priests and crosses flourish.  The religious fervor of the Goans has made more than one observer echo that Goa is “the Rome of the East” where lie incorrupt the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier for the last four centuries.  Consequently Goa has been the scene of Pilgrimages and miracles up to this day. 

Goa, where the soft accent of the people blend harmoniously with the strumming of their violins and guitars is a land of beauty, peace and plenty.  The tall spires of the mighty churches in Goa beckon with dumb eloquence all eyes to gaze heavenwards.  The sweet chimes of the village church bells at the Angelus time are the signals for all heads to bow down in prayer, that brings in its trail upon the sleepy villages an ineffable peace which is broken here and there by the recital of the rosary in every home.

To the weary sailor, Goa is a land of shelter, to the missionary, a land of peace and promise; to the politicians a land of hope and dreams; while to the Goan himself it is a land overflowing with milk and honey, human kindness and sympathy, land of honest life and happiness, free from strife and jealousy.  

When the Portuguese landed in Goa four centuries ago, they came with a sword in one hand and a cross in the other, and found both their missions very fruitful.  Vasco da Gama landed in India in 1498 accompanied by several priests.  He was followed in 1550 by Cabral, the discoverer of Brazil, who brought with him many Franciscans, followed by various other missionaries.  Goans were converted to Christianity and then followed the evolution of the Goan race.  They assimilated all that was best of western civilization, retaining however, their heritage of Asian characteristics.  Though Kipling has said that “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet” the Goan has disproved this to a great extent.  And today the Goan, all over the world is known for his hospitality and his sportsmanship, his love for music and religion, and above all for his honesty and respect for Law and Order.


Bombay Island and Bassein belonged to the Portuguese before the British came to India and therefore it is quite easy to understand how Goans emigrated to that famous port of Bombay and the suburbs which later were seceded to the British as part of a dowry to an English king who married a Portuguese princess.

The introduction of English-teaching schools in Goa further encouraged the emigration.  One seminary student from southern India studying in Bombay was forced to give up his career and seek refuge in Goa.  A friend recommended to him the waters of the hot springs for cure of the serious skin disease from which he was suffering and this remedy eventually proved successful.  In recognition of this favor, the young ecclesiastic decided to settle there and founded the first English-teaching School in Goa.  In loving memory of its founder, this school, to the day is popularly known as FATHER LYONS SCHOOL OF ARPORA, which was flourished form year to year, and has sent forth worthy sons all over the world, many of whom hold responsible posts in Government and Railway services in India and elsewhere.  This school was followed by others and it came to pass that more and more students took up to learning English rather than Portuguese.  Lucrative positions were offered to Goans as other Indians were not so keen on Government service.  Adventurous young men seeing their compatriots faring well followed their footsteps and migrated to the various parts of the British Empire.

Here I am inclined to record, not with little pride, the names of the famous Goan emigrants of gold.  Karachi has produced Cincinatus Abreo, Deputy Collector of Customs and the founder in British India of the first Goan Colony which is rightly named after him.  Mr. Edward Raymond, the first Goan Judicial Commissioner in Sind, has given many children in the service of God.  His eldest son, Dr. L. Raymond, D.D., D.C.L., D.Ph., is now a Bishop.  Mr. C. M. Lobo, B.A., LL.B., is another Goan who also rose to the post of Chief Justice in Sind; and Mr. M. Misquita, a landlord and a great benefactor of the Goan community, had the honor of being the first Goan Mayor of Karachi, the then third largest city in India.

Bombay has similarly had illustrious sons, prominent among them being Dr. Viegas, Dr. Colaco, Dr. Alban D’Souza, and Dr. Ubald Mascarenhas, all of whom have been Mayors of the premier city in India, not forgetting politician Leandro Mascarenhas and Leopold Gama.  Principal Correa Alphonso was the first Indian to be elected as Vice-President of the Oxford Union and would have been automatically President the following year had he not returned to India.

Dr. Sir Augustus D’Souza held the post of the Director of Medical Services in the United Provinces and Dr. Gama had been in a similar capacity in the Bombay Presidency.  Other towns have had their illustrious sons and among the younger generation Dr. Valerian Gracias, D.D., D.Ph., D.C.L., is the first Goan Cardinal and Archbishop in Bombay, a product of St. Patrick’s High School, Karachi, which so far has given three other Bishops, namely, Dr. L. Raymond, Dr. Edwin Pinto, and Dr. Michael Rodrigues, led by the first saintly vocation of Fr. Vincent Lobo, B.A., LL.B. and followed later by numerous vocations in the vineyard of Christ.

I would be doing injustice if I were to omit names of those Goans who have been recognized not only in Goa, but on the European continent for their brilliant career.  Who has not heard of Francis Luis Gomes, the famous author; or Abbe de Faria, the founder of Hypnotism; of Venerable Jose Vaz, the Apostle of Ceylon; of Padre Agnelo, a miracle worker; of Dr. Froilano D; Mello, the famous Bacteriologist of the French Academy; of Capitao C. D’Souza of Mozambique military fame and a host of others.

These and others have made history of the Goan race an though some of us in this dark continent follow humbler occupations, it cannot be denied that Goans have set an example to the African races by their good behavior, their piety and brotherly love and above all conscientious work which has gained them admiration and affection from Europeans, Indians and Africans alike.  In the pioneering days there was not much field for professional people and those few who had came to live a missionary life and undoubtedly some of them have identified themselves with the progress of the Colony and recognition of their services has been awarded in various ways.  Dr. Rosendo Ribeiro, O.B.E., was the first doctor to detect bubonic plague in Nairobi.  Dr. Alexander D’Souza, father of Goan education in East Africa, and Dr. Edward Dias and others have made a mark in this country, while among officials Mr. D’Costa, M.B.E., Mr. Rego and Mr. P. Lobo have done their bit in Uganda.  Mr. R. A. Oliver, Mr. C. F. Gama, Mr. F. L. Gracias, M.B.E., Mr. Jos A. D’Souza and several others have contributed their share in Kenya and a few others in Tanganyika.  In Zanzibar, Goans have held key positions and Dr. Albuquerque’s services cannot be forgotten.  In the commercial community there was one who by dint of toil and labor had become a business magnate in Uganda that is the late Mr. Norman Godinho whose charities extended far and wide.  The Goan School in Kampala was donated by him. 


Before the Portuguese came to Goa, they had well established themselves along the eastern coast of Africa right from Lamu down to Beira including Zanzibar.  Many Goans had accompanied the Portuguese and had established trade with the Arabs and later had settled in Zanzibar.  This induced others to follow and in course of time crossed the narrow seas on to the Mombasa Island which then belonged to the Sultan of Zanzibar.  It is not known exactly when the first Goan arrived in East Africa but the first settlement was established prior to 1880, for it is known that one Dr. Noronha was a medical officer in the service of the Sultan of Zanzibar before 1880 and Dr. August Braz De Souza was the Portuguese Consul General on that island during 1885.  When the British East Africa Company was granted a Royal Charter in 1880 many more Goans were taken into the service of this Corporation.  There were at least three Goans employed with the Imperial Company since its inception, namely Mr. A. A. Fernandes.  During 1895 the Company surrendered its Charter and most of the Goan employees were absorbed in the various Government Departments, Mr. Castellino in the Treasury, Mr. Lobo in the Public Works Department and Mr. Napoloeon D’Souza in the Secretariat.  On the 8th of August 1896, the first rail of the New Uganda Railway was laid at Kilindini, Mombasa, and the railhead was pushed forward steadily into the interior.  Mr. Whitehouse was brought from India as the first Chief Engineer who in turn procured many Goans from Karachi through Messrs. Jevanjee & Co. who had an establishment there.  Similarly Messrs. Nazareth Bros. Imported many more Goans to assist them in their flourishing trade.  Gradually more Goans entered British East Africa and traveled interior with the advancing Railway, though many having traveled on foot had preceded them and settled in Uganda.  Many had to undergo trials and tribulations and some of them still narrate the stories of the lions of Tsavo, where some morning they woke up to find one or two companions or coolies missing.  During 1899 the railhead reached Nairobi and the same year the Provincial Headquarters which was at Machakos till then with Mr. Lewis Sequeira as Head Clerk, moved into Nairobi.  In Nairobi the Goan population consisted mostly of Railway employees with a few form Government Administration, as the seat of Government was till at Mombasa.  Quite a few merchants who had established themselves at Mombasa, had opened their branches in Nairobi and a major portion of trade passed through the hands of th merchants, such as Souza Junior & Sons, C. P. V. Rodrigues & Sons, M.R R. D’Souza & Co., Knowles, the Photographer, The Nairobi Bakery and several other businesses.

When the Government Headquarters were moved from Mombasa to Nairobi in 1905, the Goan population had increased considerably numbering nearly 200 souls.  They had firmly established themselves in trade and commerce and manned all Government organizations and Railway Administration, thus participating in laying the foundation of the British Colony which today we call KENYA - OUR COUNTRY OF ADOPTION.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment


  This invaluable collection of photos was sent to me by David Mungai. He says it is “for the acknowledgement of Kenyan History, the celebra...