Project Canterbury

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 XV.

Sad death of a missionary--Importation of spirits--Losses of the mission--Ordination at Freetown of Bishop Crowther--Consecration of Bishop Ingham--Proposed boarding- school--Brainaia Station.

THE fortunes of the Mission to the Rio Pongo have, indeed, been most strangely varied, and the year 1880 seemed to be one of the turning-points in its history. The conversion of old Mrs. Lightburn to Christianity opened the door at Farringia, and now her death in the faith and fear of Christ Jesus firmly established the new station in that town. More workers were needed in order to keep the staff complete, and the Bishop of Sierra Leone, on Trinity Sunday, May 23rd, admitted Mr. Samuel Hughes, of Fourah Bay College, a Licentiate in Theology of Durham University, to deacon's orders to fill the vacancy at Fotobah. Mr. Hughes commenced his work on October 1st. By the time he was able to join his station his help had become a very sad necessity to the Mission, for in August the Rev. D Brown, who had begun at Farringia with so much promise, was taken away. He had gone to Freetown, where lie had been married on July 8th by the Bishop, to an old fellow-worker in the schools of that place. On August 11th he sailed in the cutter Rotomba for the Rio Pongo, taking with him all his wife's baggage and the furniture necessary to furnish a home for her, intending that she should follow by the next opportunity. The day after (the 12th), while passing the Brainaia bar, the vessel was capsized by a sudden squall, and nearly all on board were drowned, Mr. Brown among the number. The grief felt by the Farringia people was very great; they sent special messengers at once down the river to see if the report which reached them were true. Mr. Doughlin, writing about his sad loss, said: "Poor fellow! he has gone from the work he loved so much, and the privations he bore so unmurmuringly, to receive the Master's approving smile in Paradise. I know something of work and its difficulty out here; but the secret of his success was--he never returned from any work in church, school, or district without watering it with his prayers. He was at Farringia just a year and a couple of weeks, and lived all the time in the house of a slave. In this way he learned the language, the character, and the habits of the people, and was able to set them an example. Full of zeal, wisdom, and tact--full, too, of love, he could truly say: 'I have been going in and out amongst you.' I do not know what we shall do to fill his place." Again the work was left short-handed, and again the good Bishop came to the rescue by sending Mr. Samuel Cole in November to fill the post of catechist at Domingia, and thus set Mr. Doughlin more free to visit and encourage his fellow-workers.

An extract from Mr. Cole's first report gives some idea of the terrible evil by which England undoes so much of the good done by its missionaries. "A steamer came from England this day--a large vessel, filled completely with rum and gin. [Nine thousand casks of rum, 2600 demijohns of rum, 4000 cases of gin, and several thousand cases of assorted liquors.] There was not a single yard of cloth in her. When some one on board was asked if only spirits had been brought, he said: 'Yes; and there is such a quantity of spirits on board that will make the whole Susu country drunk for weeks together.' Spirits demoralise the people and paralyse missionary efforts. The effects of spirits in the country are very painful."

The most striking events of the year r88i were again of the nature of losses. Each of the three centres, Barbados, Africa, and England, lost its master from its head. The retirement of Dr. Mitchinson from the diocese of Barbados removed from the Board an able and willing friend. The resignation of Dr. Cheetham deprived the Rio Pongo of a father who had always taken the very greatest interest in the Mission, and been most self-denying in his efforts to advance the work--on one occasion spending Christmas Day at sea in a miserable boat rather than omit the visit to the stations which he thought it necessary to pay. Another and a severe loss was sustained by the death of the Rev. George Forster Barrow, the English Secretary, who died somewhat unexpectedly on November 17th, after three years of most indefatigable work in the interests of the Mission. His place as Hon. Secretary was taken by his brother, the present secretary.

The general work in the mission field progressed steadily, although neither Mr. Doughlin nor Mr. McEwen were in good health. The latter, being compelled to seek for rest and change of scene, visited England, where he did good work for the Mission by preaching and lecturing during the winter of 1881 and spring of 1882. He pressed much the long-felt necessity of opening a boarding-school, where some of the older boys might continue their education and be trained with a view to mission work, should they prove fitted for it.

On Christmas Day the new church at Farringia was used for service; but the formal dedication was put off until January 2, 1882, in order to give the other missionaries the opportunity of being present. Crowds of people attended the services, and eighteen adults were baptized. Mr. Doughlin preached the sermon from Gen. xxviii. 17. It was dedicated to St. Paul, as the lady workers of St. Paul's, Clifton, had done so much to help in its foundation. Mr. Morgan, the missionary, in his report, adds: "I was baptized at Paul's, Barbados, educated at St. Paul's school, and it would give me great happiness, if it should please God, that my ordination should take place at St. Paul's, Farringia, which I have striven to build;" but this was not to be. Early in May, 1882, Mr. Doughlin, being in bad health, went to Freetown, and his place was supplied by Mr. W. C. Morgan, as catechist, a Licentiate in Theology of Durham University, and thus the Mission was left for the time with only two ordained clergy in residence, Mr. McEwen returning from England on June 9th.

On his settling down once more to work, Mr. McEwen's first care was to rebuild Mr. Clark's church at Fotobah, which had fallen into a very bad state of dilapidation. He proposed now to use stone for the walls and tiles for the roof; and the result was the erection of the first really permanent and strong church fabric in the Mission. The Christians of the island worked hard early and late, most unselfishly and without stint or grudging, feeling proud that they were permitted to take part in so good a work. This was the third church built or restored at Fotobah in eleven years.

In the beginning of the dry season Dr. Crowther, Bishop of the Niger territory, and an old Rio Pongo boy in the C.M.S. days, passed by Freetown on his way from England to his diocese. At the request of the English Committee he consented to hold an ordination at Freetown for the Mission during his stay there, as the See of Sierra Leone was still vacant. Accordingly Messrs. R. B. Morgan from Farringia and W. C. Morgan from Domingia were admitted to deacon's orders by Bishop Crowther on November 12th.

On February 24th Dr. E. G. Ingham was consecrated sixth Bishop of Sierra Leone, and directly afterwards sailed for his diocese.

The reports and letters of the missionaries having for some time strongly urged the necessity of establishing a boarding-school, into which the more promising children might' be gathered from the day schools, the matter was taken up by the committee. The S.P.C.K. [The Society has been a neverfailing helper of the Mission. It has made many grants to Churches and Mission Houses, and has printed the Susu Books which have been widely used.] promised a conditional grant of £125 towards the building fund, and by the help of the great efforts made by the secretary of the Clifton Association, the sum of £500 required for the buildings was soon collected. The erection of the buildings, however, were still delayed, pending the decision which was to be arrived at with regard to a matter of the greatest moment to the welfare of the Mission--viz, the appointment of a bishop, or European head to the work. It was felt that the school or college, should be where the bishop was, and the most suitable place for the bishop's residence, or that of any European principal, seemed to be the Isles de Los. On the other hand, the Isles de Los being British territory, are included in the diocese of Sierra Leone, and thus the missionary-bishop would not be resident in his own diocese. The situation of the school was thus a difficulty until the question of a bishop had been decided. Ever since the beginning of 1884 the extreme need both of a bishop and a training college has been kept prominently in the foreground by the English committee, and a conditional promise of a grant of £2000 was obtained from the Colonial Bishopric's Fund, towards the endowment of a new see.

Early this year Chief Lewis Wilkinson, the son of the old Chief Richard Wilkinson, was taken ill, and on February 1st he died. It was he who as a young man, nearly thirty years before, was sent by his father to convey Mr. Leacock from Tintima to Fallangia, on his first arrival at the Rio Pongo.

In 1885 a very strong appeal reached the committee from Bramaia, praying that a mission station might be opened in that place. It will be remembered that ever since the days of Mr. Neville, the same appeal had come from time to time. Now, mainly through the efforts of the Clifton Association and its indefatigable secretary, subscriptions were obtained to guarantee the salary of a catechist, and it was determined to undertake this new field of work. It was finally arranged that Mr. Miller should be sent there from Farringia. On Ascension Day, May 14, 1885, the Rev. R. B. Morgan was admitted to priest's orders by the Bishop of Sierra Leone, and thus there were two priests and two deacons on the staff.

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