THE ICONIC JINJA GOAN INSTITUTE
BY ARMAND RODRIGUES
When Speke discovered the source of the Nile on July 28, 1862, little did he imagine that a sizeable town would replace the dense bush and elephant grass on the opposite bank.
In time, the indomitable Goan reached the inhospitable opposite bank to find himself in Jinja, which was still in an embryonic stage. Drawbacks were numerous. Most of the Goans got to Jinja by palanquin carried on the shoulders of porters. The District Commissioner’s clerk – who was invariably a Goan—had the privilege of being provided by fifty porters to carry his luggage and belongings.
It did not take long for a small clutch of Goans to populate Jinja. Goans happen to be a gregarious lot. After their basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are met they invariably gravitate towards finding a common meeting place for socializing, reading, and the pursuit of sports. The pioneers lost no time in getting together to build a one-roomed club-house where they “could read papers, and thus break the monotony of office work”. The sod was broken on March 26, 1911, and land tenure was secured by a 25-year lease. Membership was open to all nationalities.
Records are somewhat sketchy, but it is known that the first President was Mr.L.C. Fernandes.
In 1933, spearheaded by Mr.Stephen De Souza (Stan’s father), the adjoining overgrown bush was cleared and a hockey and cricket pitch set up.
Around 1935, the first Goan School was started as an adjunct to the amenities provided by the club, with the late Miss Lucy Fernandes (later wife of the late Leo Gama), as the first teacher.
In 1949, a hall was added to the modest single room which was converted to a library. As would be expected, a bar was seen as an essential adjunct and was included in the extensions. Mr.D.C. Vadgama designed and supervised the construction, free of charge. Several non-Goan businessmen donated funds for what they saw as a worthwhile cause.
In 1954, Messrs Aniceto Rodrigues and James Lobo were instrumental in floating a loan to carry our major extensions to the club that were dictated by the growing membership. Debentures were issued and the response was very encouraging.
Mr Vadgama was again responsible for the work which gave the clubhouse a secretary ’s room, a ladies’ cloakroom and a change-room for sportsmen. Not to be forgotten is the fact that women’s hockey had started in 1951, with the late Alvita Fernandes (later Furtado) as captain. Of course, ladies’ badminton was ongoing and the mothers of some of us here today, were the early proponents.
In 1963, Percy DeSouza put his sextant, spirit-level and engineering talents to good use. He laid out one of the finest turf pitches of the day, on the ground adjoining the club. Goans interacted well with all communities.
Of all the Uganda Goans in Toronto, the Jinja clan stands out as the only one that has kept the flame burning with the most annual socials. They stay true to their club motto of “Animo el fine”.
(Acknowledgement: Salient points gleaned from material provided by Stan DeSouza)