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 XVI.

Statistics--Retirement of Rev. P. H. Doughlin--Death of Rev. J. W. Hayward--Archdeacon Holme's tour of inspection--Retirement of Barbados Board from main responsibility of Mission--Death of Rev. John Rigaud.

the end of 1885 the French census reported that the population of the Rio Pongo proper (which comes of course under the influence of the Mission) is 36,544. At Domingia, which is perhaps the most important centre, there were 533 entries in the baptismal register, and of this number 447 were still attached to the Church. At the town of Domingia itself there were 196, the rest being scattered throughout the district. The population of the several islands of the Isles de Los group was found to be 1200, of which number 713 persons were attending the ministrations of the Church. The baptismal register contained 525 names; of these about 150 were people living at Conakry, on the island of Tumbo, which almost adjoins the mainland opposite to Factory Island. At Farringia Mr. Lightburn estimated the population at 2000; at Bangalong and Sangha close by, 500 and 1,500 respectively; while the baptized Christians were at Farringia 200, and at Bangalong 27. Whilst on the subject of statistics, it is worth mentioning that on Sunday, June 28, i385, the marriage of William da Silva and Hannah his wife, was celebrated in Fallangia Church. Da Silva was redeemed many years ago by some ladies at Clifton, and his wife and child in 1881 by another Clifton lady, but for some time after their redemption the (woman was unwilling to be married in church. Mr. Hughes, reporting this marriage, says, "when it is known that our native Christians are very averse to Christian marriage on account of the obligations imposed; when it is also known that we cannot boast of a dozen native marriages solemnized in the church since the commencement of the Mission, all will agree that it is a matter of thanksgiving to Almighty God."

On July 8, 1886, the Mission suffered a great loss in. the retirement of the Rev. P. H. Doughlin. He had done good work since he landed in Africa nearly nineteen years before, in October, 1867. After spending a short time in England, Mr. Doughlin was appointed minister of St. Clements in South Naparima, Trininad, where he settled. [Mr. Doughlin revised, and was mainly instrumental in completing, the New Testament, the Order for Morning and Evening Prayer, and the Occasional Services in Susu. He also prepared a reading book for schools in the same language, which has been published by the S.P.C.K.]

A very old friend of the Mission was removed by death on August 2, 1886--viz. the Rev. J. W. Hay ward, rector of Flintham, and commissary to Bishop Rawle of Trinidad. For many years, as its secretary, he was the mainspring of the undertaking. During this year Archdeacon Holme, of St. Kitts, who was in England on leave of absence, offered to visit the Mission and inspect and report on its state and present requirements. His offer was gladly accepted, and on December 19th he landed at Bullabina, opposite to the Isles de Los. After visiting Fotobah, he proceeded in an open boat to the Rio Pongo, inspected the stations of Domingia, Farringia, and Fallangia, to the delight and encouragement of the missionaries. He brought home a full and valuable report on each station, its church, school, and buildings--besides photographs of places and people. From Fallangia, Archdeacon Holme [Afterwards Bishop of Honduras.] walked over land, accompanied by the missionaries, to Bramaia, where he had an interview with the king, and obtained from him a concession of land for a mission station and many promises of help. After leaving Bramaia the archdeacon sailed down the river to Dubrika, and thence to the Isles de Los.

The widespread poverty and distress which had fallen on the West Indian colonies during the last three years, from the sudden and serious depreciation of their staple products, rendered it no longer possible for the Barbados Board to raise the sum necessary to meet its engagements with the missionaries; and in August letters were received from the president and the secretary, communicating, at the unanimous request of its members, this deplorable fact, and announcing the necessity forced on them to retire, at the close of the year, from the main responsibility for the support of the Mission, and from the future direction and control of its affairs. These they entreated the English committee to assume, promising to leave no effort untried to assist the committee under its onerous charge.

The alternative to this transfer, suggested by the board, was that an appeal be made to the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, to which the Mission has from the first been affiliated, to take it up henceforth as a part of its general work; or, if the funds of that Society should be unequal to this additional charge, that a similar earnest request be made to the Church Missionary Society, already largely engaged in mission work on the West Coast, with a bishop at Sierra Leone within a day's sail of the Pongas country.

After communicating with all the bishops of the West India province, and after much anxious consultation, the committee decided that it was their duty to make the effort to continue the Mission on its present distinct lines. To this conclusion they were led by three main considerations: first, that they would not be justified in imposing oz either of the two great missionary societies this new burden, Supposing that either of them should be willing to, accept it, unless it were the Only means of saving from extinction a work SO manifestly blessed of God; secondly, that it has been felt by very many, as well in the West Indies, as in the church at home that it would be a reproach to those keenly interested in the African race, if this cherished undertaking were to be deprived of its distinctive character and the channel into which their alms and their sympathies have been hitherto directed were to be dried up; and thirdly, that the encouraging report on the Mission presented by Archdeacon Holme of St. Kitts, and now in the hands of most of its friends, appeared to the committee a manifest call upon them not to shrink from assuming the responsibility delegated to them by the Barbados Board.

At the end of 1887 the Bishop of Antigua, who had for some time filled the office of chairman of the English Committee, resigned the post, much to the regret of all the members; and the Rev. John Rigaud one of the earliest friends and supporters of the Mission, was appointed.

On February 22, r888, the church at Farringia, which was a native building with a grass roof; was burned to the ground. Some grass-fields adjoining had been set on fire, and a strong wind which was blowing at the time carried some of the burning grass on to the roof of the church. Mr. Lightburn, the chief of Farringia, at once set his people to work to rebuild the walls, and it was proposed that the roof should no be covered with tiles. [The tiles were given by the Sisters of the Church, Kilburn.]

This year the English Committee lost its esteemed chairman, the Rev. John Rigaud, who passed away after a painful illness of some months. He had served on the committee for nearly twenty-five years. His place as chairman was taken by the Rev. H. W. Burrows, Canon of Rochester.

Christmas, 1888, saw the close of the thirty-fourth year, since the West Indian Church commenced its good work in Africa. Many and sore had the difficulties and trials of the Mission been, but throughout, God had been with his servants, and blessed their efforts. Never has more been done, and, humanly speaking, greater good resulted within so limited a field, than has been accomplished under God by the small band of faithful native clergy, catechists, and schoolmasters upon the banks of the Rio Pongo.

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