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Fifty Years in Western Africa
Being a Record of the Work of the West Indian Church on the Banks of the Rio Pongo

By A.H. Barrow, M.A.
Vicar of Billinghurst, Sussex

London: SPCK, 1900.

Chapter V.

Fallangia Station--First Episcopal visit--Mr. Leacock's successor.

ON the 17th of February, 1858, the new f Bishop of Sierra Leone, Dr. Bowen, visited the Mission. He was accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Campbell, the hospital chaplain at Freetown, and Mr. Black, of the Church Missionary Society. On the 18th the steamer anchored off the entrance of the sandbar, and the Bishop with his party proceeded up the river at about noon. It was after 9 p.m. before Fallangia was reached; but soon Mr. Cyprian was at the landing-place with a large crowd of people to welcome the Bishop.

Mr. Duport was at Freetown, at the Bishop's request, busied with Susu translations, and preparing a grammar and vocabulary of the language.

The Bishop's report gives his impressions of the Mission. "And now as to the mission-field of the Pongas. I look upon it as a hopeful one. A suitable European clergyman is wanted (i.e. English or West Indian). I believe the climate is by no means so deadly as is supposed, with ordinary care, to men of fair constitution. Mr. Higgs fell a victim to the season in which he went down. What should we think of a person who went from Falmouth to Ports mouth in an open boat in winter? And the house of the chief in which he was, I do not consider well ventilated. I do not think I could occupy the room in which Higgs died, for a fortnight without feeling its effects. In fact I am delighted with the Pongas as a missionary post, and were it not for other works I have to do, should be very happy to occupy it myself, should the blessing of God remain on it Where are the labourers? This was the first visit of a bishop of the Church to the Rio Pongo.

Two white men had now laid down their lives in the attempt to found a Christian Mission among the Susu people. Mr. Leacock was at rest in the new burial-ground at Sierra Leone, Mr. Higgs in the quiet churchyard at Fallangia; and in the mean while the work was being carried on by the young native deacon, Duport, with the assistance of Cyprian, the schoolmaster. More help was at hand.

It so happened that on 6th August, 1855, Mr. Leacock, immediately on reaching London from Barbados, attended a meeting of the S.P.G., and spoke of his intended labours in Western Africa. At that meeting there was present a clergyman who belonged to a London parish, the Rev. William Latimer Neville. He heard Mr. Leacock, and became deeply interested in his work; an interest which was now at length to ripen into a devotion to it of his own life. An advertisement was put forth inviting others with a view to filling the vacancy as superintendent at the Rio Pongo. In less than three weeks four answers were received, one of which was from Mr. Neville. In his letter lie spoke of himself as "being pleasantly situated at Brompton, and in the receipt altogether of a good income"; but having an earnest desire for missionary work, he offered himself for the Pongas Mission, "in the hope that he might thereby be of service in promoting the glory of God and the salvation of souls." Mr. Neville was a master of arts of Queen's College, Oxford, having graduated in 1825 with second-class honours in classics. For twelve years he had been a laborious London clergyman--first, for nine years, in Bethnal Green; then, since October, 1854, at Brompton. He was about fifty-five years of age, had never been married, was of a strong constitution, capable of hard work, and never so well as in hot weather.

In the evening of St. Barnabas' Day a meeting was held at Brompton, at which Dr. Caswall delivered a lecture on the Pongas Mission; Mr. J. G. Hubbard, late governor of the Bank of England, being in the chair. [Afterwards Baron Addington, of Addington Manor, Winslow. Sometime M.P. for the City, afterwards Lord Addington, and some time Governor of the Bank of England.] The vicar of Brompton spoke most feelingly of Mr. Neville, and lastly Mr. Neville himself delivered a most earnest and effective address, which brought tears into many eyes. He expressed his admiration for Leacock's character, and his hope that God would enable him to follow in his steps. "But," he added, "Mr. Leacock expressed his intention of laying his bones in Afric's dust. I have no such intention. I intend, please God, to live, and to come back from time to time to tell you what God is doing among the heathen."

So wonderfully and to all appearance so casually, in God's mysterious dispensations, is the seed of future good sown and nurtured! So strangely are the links of gracious dealings connected with one another! On 6th August, 1855, Mr. Leacock spoke at Brompton of his intended labours in Africa: within three years a Brompton clergyman, then present, became his successor as superintendent of the Pongas Mission.

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