Project Canterbury

Tucker of Uganda, Artist and Apostle 1849-1914

By Arthur P. Shepherd

London: Student Christian Movement, 1929.

Chapter XVI. "Life in the Old Dog Yet"

BACK again in England! Maytime in England! Maytime in the little home at Bookham that he had planned so lovingly three and a half years before, but had never lived in; Maytime among the Surrey pines and heather with the loved wife who had always been ready to sacrifice the companionship of his presence that she might be companion of all his hopes and ideals; Maytime, and Hathaway specially up for the week-end from Marlborough, the shy new boy he had left behind him now in the Fifth, with several school prizes to his credit! Tucker's cup of joy and gratitude seemed overflowing,

It was only a brief respite, however, for June found him on a round of deputation visits, and busy too, as he always was in England, in fighting--even against the highest authority--for the rights of his Baganda, getting the opinion of the ex-Attorney-General on the question of African land rights. "This," he writes, "will enable one to deal with the government with some authority."

In July he had to consult a Harley Street specialist for his rheumatism, and as a result was ordered immediately to Karlsbad for treatment and afterwards for rest to the Tyrol. In the ordinary way such advice would have been financially impossible for the Bishop to follow, as neither he nor his wife ever had any private means, but owing to the kindness of friends both he and Mrs Tucker were eventually able to go. "We shall both be like the 'Innocents Abroad,'" he writes. "We know nothing of the ways of such 'resorts.'" However, they found a very comfortable and quiet hotel in Karlsbad, and it was well they did, for the fashionable worldliness of it all jarred intensely upon him, after the simplicity of his African life.

I hate the sight of men and women dressed up like peacocks and whose whole business in life seems to be to eat, drink and be merry. I do not think I could endure three weeks in the centre of the town, with the music fiend at large and the devil apparently in possession.

Artist though he was, Tucker had little appreciation and not a little suspicion of music.

At Karlsbad he also found it hard to take kindly to being an invalid.

What a come down it seems for me to be here drinking the water! To join a great throng of people carrying glass mugs and to take your turn with hundreds of invalids in receiving your portion of water seems very humiliating to one who has in his day rejoiced in his strength.

But he endured it on the assurance of the doctor that he would "leave the rheumatism behind." In a few weeks the treatment was over and they moved on to the Tyrol, where to Tucker's delight his son, who was on holiday, was able to join them. In the dry bracing air he felt a new man, and it was obvious that the rheumatism was better when he found himself able one day to climb five thousand feet without undue fatigue. In September they were back in London and ere long the rheumatism returned as badly as ever. Harley Street recommended further treatments; the Bishop, however, was not convinced.

If in a multitude of counsellors there is wisdom then I should imagine we are on the right track--but on the other hand, if it be true that "too many cooks spoil the broth" then I fear I am in some danger. I have massages .--and electric batteries--and sulphur baths--and mustard packs--and eucalyptus oil-rubbing and I don't know what else--oh! yes--hot fomentations to spine, etc., etc., but all of it seems to me at present in vain! I am not sure that I am not rather worse. Mr M----however says I am better--much better--and I suppose I must believe him!

But the rheumatism got worse, and in November he was almost tied to his chair and could not move even his head.

In the midst of it all he found time and strength to attack a proposed concession of forest land in Uganda to a Forest Company whose advertisement he had seen. In the first place he questioned "the right of the government to alienate the forests from the Baganda to whom they are secured by treaty." He also protested against the employment of Baganda to collect rubber in those particular forests along the west bank of the Nile.

The tsetse fly is found there in myriads. Well! the Baganda go in--many of them are infected with the sleeping sickness--the fly feeds upon them and passes the disease on to others and this is how the sleeping sickness is spread by government negligence and culpable complicity.

He was scathing about the Company's advertisement that the forest was not within the sleeping sickness area: Of course the sickness is not in the forest because there are no people there--but the fly is there and directly the Baganda are brought in the process of spreading the disease begins. It has been done exactly in this way in the islands and is to my mind a great scandal. Money is being made out of the lives of the Baganda.

On February 15th he started once more for Africa, better than he had been a few months before, but with the rheumatism still uncured. All went well as far as the Red Sea and he was rejoicing again in the warmth and sunshine, when he was suddenly attacked by rheumatoid iritis, a very painful affection of the eyes which made him practically blind. The German doctor who treated him on board did not understand the case and he reached Mombasa in a pitiful condition. To travel up to Uganda was impossible and for two weeks he lay in a darkened room in the sweltering heat, unable to read or write, a sad trial to his impatient activity. However, he insisted on travelling at the earliest moment, and with one eye covered and a little fever still on him he arrived in Mengo, to find huge arrears of confirmations and organization awaiting him. Now that he was away from the coast he quickly rallied, and except for a little weakness in the right eye he found his sight unimpaired. In June he wrote:

Physically I am still almost as strong as ever. A short while ago I rode forty miles on my mule--held two confirmations, confirming one hundred and eighty candidates--all in twenty-seven hours. Which was not bad for a cripple.

He might also have added "for a man of fifty-seven, after seventeen years under the African sun"! Two cheering pieces of news came at this time from England. The first was that his son had won a history scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford, which made it possible for him to go to the University; and the second that a picture painted by himself at Innsbruck had been accepted by the Royal Academy. On the other hand, the Bishop was again intensely disappointed at the result of the conference of church representatives in June, at which, although arrangements were made for a regular synod to be held in future, the missionaries still refused to come within the terms of the constitution of the Church.

On July 2nd he started off on a five-hundred-mile tramp through Budu, Koki, Ankole, Toro, and Bunyoro. He had already confirmed in all the stations round Mengo and this tour was in the nature of an episcopal visitation of the greater part of his huge diocese. It was also a triumphal procession. Almost daily for weeks they were met by welcoming processions from one village to another, some singing hymns, others beating drums and still more with the real native welcome of shrill cries rendered intermittent by tapping the lips with the fingers. In Ankole, where eight years before he and Dr Cook had had to wage so long and desperate a battle against heathen darkness for the entry of Christianity, all was now changed; there were churches, schools, eager bands of Christians. In one point in particular there was a marked improvement. The better class women of Ankole, unlike the Baganda women, were always veiled and in seclusion and did no work, and as a rule were enormously fat. Already, however, they were beginning to have a measure of freedom and were allowed to walk a mile or two in public, their huge figures waddling along under the privacy of a large, black umbrella with one eye showing from a half-drawn veil.

At the end of August he arrived again in Mengo, having enjoyed perfect health all the time with the exception of rheumatism.

In December an important event occurred in the visit of Mr Winston Churchill, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies in the Liberal Government, and the Bishop was much occupied with the Commissioner in receiving him and showing him round. The Bishop writes of this visit:

We have been passing through a very busy time. Mr Winston Churchill is largely responsible for it. I had to meet him on his arrival at Entebbe. The Governor expects me to be with him on such occasions and so I had a journey of forty miles. Then came dinners and receptions, etc. We had just finished building a new school room in connection with the High School and this Mr Churchill formally opened. He was, I think, much impressed with what he saw of our work and remarked how few people in England knew about it. I suppose he meant in his own circle! However, he went on to say that it would not be his fault if they did not know more about it, as he would make it his business to tell them. Mr Winston Churchill as a missionary deputation is rather an amusing idea.

However, Mr Churchill was as good as his word, and both in speeches and in his account of his visit to Africa spoke in glowing terms of the missionary work in Uganda. Tucker concludes his account of the visit with a delightful sentence: "The young man was very friendly, and did his best to make himself agreeable, which I understand he is not always anxious about."

All these months the Bishop's health was improving so that it would have been difficult to recognize in him the cripple of twelve months before. He gives in a letter an account of amazing activity and endurance:

The other day I was six hours in the saddle going to Ndeje and on my arrival played three sets of tennis and won them all. The next day I went on to Luwero (twenty miles) and held a confirmation service, one hundred and ninety candidates. On the following day I officiated at 7 a.m. at an out-door communion service--there was no room in the church, for the communicants numbered two hundred and fifty-four. It was one of the most delightful services I have ever taken part in. Later in the day I rode twenty miles back to Ndeje--and then the following day started for Mengo, twenty-five miles. Thus I did eighty miles in four days. All of which shows that there is "life in the old dog yet!"

A visit to Busoga in January completed his round of the diocese, and vin the middle of February he left for England. He had only been out a year, but his return was imperative for the Lambeth Conference. Even in that one year he had covered hundreds of miles on foot, had made up all the leeway of his huge diocese, and had initiated plans for its future.

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