Project Canterbury

Tucker of Uganda, Artist and Apostle 1849-1914

By Arthur P. Shepherd

London: Student Christian Movement, 1929.

Chapter XVII. Pioneering Still--Triumph out of Disaster

THE next seven months in England were crowded with activity. A brief respite at Bookham was soon followed by a round of preaching engagements lasting right up to the Lambeth Conference in June, in which month the Bishop received from Cambridge University the degree of D.C.L. In the Conference itself he took an important part. "I have had such a full time," he writes, "as even my busy life has hardly known."

One incident at the Conference he relates with some amusement.

I had also, wonder of wonders, to press on the Conference in conjunction with the Bishop of Birmingham (Bishop Gore) a resolution on miracles--which was ultimately embodied in the Report. We had a great struggle over that, but, thank God, gained the day. The idea of my being associated with the Bishop of Birmingham has tickled me immensely. But I am bound to say he was thoroughly sound.

All of which sounds more na'ive in these days of better mutual understanding than it did twenty years ago!

August he spent in Switzerland with his wife and son and a few friends, climbing and sketching, but in September he was once more in a whirl of engagements, so that by the end of the month he had lost his voice. Among his visits he stayed at Windermere with his widowed mother, and found her very frail. "I fear I shall never see her again in this life," he writes.

By December he was back in Mengo, and immediately he turned his mind, inspired by his experience of the past months, and by the promise of help from the Pan-Anglican Thankoffering Committee, to fields of new venture. His thoughts turned northeast to that great country of Karamojo, cast of the Nile and north and east of Mount Elgon, stretching right away to Abyssinia. It was unexplored heathendom, untouched by Roman Catholics or even by Mohammedans, for it lay between the two great Mohammedan routes of the Nile and the coast-route from Uganda. In February, a month short of his sixtieth birthday, he started with Dr A. R. Cook and Archdeacon Buckley on this new pioneering adventure.

They crossed the Nile through Busoga and the Bukedi country, but when they came to Mt. Elgon where the old Swahili caravan route to Karamojo ran up north, round the eastern base of Mt. Debasien, they heard that it was only usable in the rains owing to the great scarcity of water. As it was now the height of a very hot season it would have meant carrying provisions for over a week, and even then it was a risky proceeding.

If their exploration was to be a success another route must be found and the map was consulted. The only alternative was to go north through the Teso and Lango countries, stretching up to and beyond the marshes of Lake Kioga as far as Lake Salisbury. Tucker suddenly put his finger on the map north of Lake Salisbury: "I should not be surprised if we were to find a practicable road into Karamojo here, where it says, 'The people are reputed as rich in flocks and herds but very treacherous.' Let us go north."

So they went north through the Teso country, and stopped at Ngora, where A. L. Kitching was stationed. Wherever they went the sick came in crowds to Dr Cook, and among them were many lepers in every stage of the disease. Still north they went, crossing an arm of Lake Kioga into the Lango country, where they found the "treacherous" people as kindly and friendly as could be. At every village they came to Dr Cook and many of the chiefs professed their readiness to support a teacher. At length they came to Longoi through a fertile, well-watered country, and there south of them was the whole length of Mt. Debasien, and two days' easy march east was Mani-Mani, their objective in the Karamojo country. But there was no time now to go on. The Bishop's mule had fallen lame and he could take no risk of being late for the synod which was to be held at Mengo in April, and which was to consider the whole matter of the constitution. Karamojo must be left for a later adventure; meanwhile, the road there had been found and there was opened up in the Bukedi, Teso and Lango countries a vast area for missionary work, the people being for the most part ready and anxious to support teachers.

Tucker was thrilled at the promising results of their tour and immediately set about planning how the new country should be occupied--quickly, while they were still alone in the field. He knew quite well that no supply of European missionaries could be forthcoming sufficient to cope with the needs of the million or more people in Teso and Bukedi ready and anxious for teachers. He must look elsewhere, and his thoughts immediately turned to the Church in Uganda with its seventy thousand Christians, and its marked instinct for missionary work. He would have Baganda missionaries in these new countries, going, as the Mohammedan missionaries went, with nothing or little in the way of possessions, dependent upon the hospitality of the chiefs, of whom more than fifty were already prepared to receive a teacher. The maintenance of these men would amount to very little, and provided they had European supervision they would be far more effective just because they were Africans. He immediately appealed to the Pan-Anglican Thank-offering Committee for a grant of four thousand five hundred pounds, the interest of which, while it would hardly support one English missionary, would maintain a hundred such Baganda evangelists. At the same time he appealed to the Church in Uganda for the men and found in them a ready response.

In spite of all this encouragement there were increasing difficulties in the work. The rapid development of the diocese meant constant strain between different types of men, and continually the Bishop was the mediator, a task which he performed so well that few realized how much it taxed him. Moreover, three weeks after his return to Mengo he was faced with the synod at which he was to bring up again the eleven-year-old question of the constitution. He had great hopes this time, though none the less great anxiety, but when the matter was actually laid before the conference of missionaries he found that they were all of one mind, and the constitution for which he had worked with such firmness and patience for so many years was passed by the synod. The Bishop's joy at this result was unqualified and it was soon increased by hearing that not only had the Pan-Anglican Committee enthusiastically granted him four thousand pounds, but that Mr Flint had made himself responsible for three years for the three hundred pounds a year he had asked for. Even before the special appeal had been issued twenty-five Baganda had volunteered to go out as missionaries.

In June the Bishop started on a tour to Bunyoro and Toro, travelling, in spite of his advanced years, without another European, only attended by his boys. On this tour he met with two adventures which might have tried the nerve and strength of a much younger man. On his way through Bunyoro he had caught a chill which had brought on a touch of bronchitis, and for three nights he had not slept. Suddenly his sleep returned, but in the middle of the night he was awakened out of a heavy slumber by what he thought was the bellowing of cows near his tent. Knowing that the herdsman was careless and fearing that the straying beasts would pull his tent down, he shouted to the boy that if he did not tether them at once he would be punished. The answer came back, "They are not cows; they are lions!" The Bishop listened. The boy was right. The lions were roaring within thirty yards of him, so close that he could hear them snuffling. He listened for a while, but weariness was too strong for any other feeling and he fell asleep. Again he waked to find the roaring still in progress, but once again sleep prevailed. When next he woke it was daylight and the lions had gone. "It was an amusing experience," he writes, "and, I fancy, a somewhat unusual one!"

The other experience occurred on his way back to Mengo, when he was caught in one of those sudden, cyclonic African storms. His tent was swept away and in a moment he was beaten to the earth by the wind and rain, and could not long have survived its fury, had he not been dragged by his head-man to the shelter of a little grass hut. There he crouched, with his boys, the trees crashing around them, a torrent pouring over their feet, while they momentarily expected their frail and rocking covering to be swept after the tent. Fortunately one of his boys had had the presence of mind to beat an alarm upon the drum which Tucker always took with him, and a neighbouring chief sent a rescue party, which guided them in a lull of the storm to the shelter of his house.

So he returned to Mcngo from a journey as adventurous and arduous as any of his earlier years. He found himself involved at once, as he had been so often before, in championing the cause of the comparatively helpless African, and no less hotly did he fling himself into the lists than he had done in the old days.

The trouble arose from a proposal of the Governor, Sir Hesketh Bell, to introduce Indian immigrants into Busoga, where the ravages of sleeping sickness had decimated the population. Now that the disease had been checked, the Basoga were gradually beginning to increase in number, but they were still quite unable to cope with the needs and possibilities of their country. To introduce Indian settlers, however, would mean the ultimate extinction of the Basoga, and to take advantage of their misfortune and consequent weakness in order to rob them of their land was in Tucker's eyes an act of wanton cruelty and injustice, which he opposed with all the strength of his character, sending a very strong condemnation of the proposal to the official Government Commission. He was probably helped by the fact that Sir Hesketh Bell was being transferred to Northern Nigeria, but in any case he completely won the day for the Basoga.

Other things, however, were not going so well. The stress and strain of the past few months were beginning to tell upon the Bishop's long-tried constitution, and acute dyspepsia had laid hold of him, affecting seriously the action of his heart. The only way of dealing with the trouble was by strict dieting. "So I live continually," he writes, "on Lenten fare." But he saw that it was the beginning of the end. "My only hope is in a temperate climate."

One reason for his dyspepsia was the bare simplicity of his life--he still lived in the same native house--and the fact that his boys' cooking was not supervised. Indeed, living and travelling so much alone, he had developed a habit of indifference towards his food and ate his meals too fast. One missionary, who loved to have the Bishop as his guest, always said that he himself never got time at meals to eat enough!

If, however, the years had adversely affected Tucker's health, to his character they had only brought a ripening of judgment and a mellowing of what in earlier days had sometimes appeared a somewhat hasty austerity. Every Sunday afternoon the entire mission at Mengo gathered in the Bishop's house for tea, a function which none cared to miss, not only for its social intercourse, but specially for the contact with the breadth and sympathy of the Bishop's mind. He had not always been wholly free from personal prejudices and one of these was against smoking, which he intensely disliked. One missionary, who once deprecatingly said that he only smoked on Sundays, Tucker somewhat grimly asked if he only gave up stealing for six days in the week! But even in these smaller matters time had brought a greater tolerance--though he never smoked himself.

The years too had only more deeply endeared Tucker to the Baganda, and nothing was more beautiful in its Christian simplicity than when his household had gathered for evening prayers and, prayers ended, they sat round the Bishop's room, talking to him and asking questions about what he had read or of some other need. By this time he had attained a very useful grasp of conversational Luganda, though he was never at his ease in preaching and it was many years before he attempted it. When he preached his first confirmation sermon in Luganda, he somewhat anxiously asked a teacher in the vestry afterwards what he thought of the address. The man replied with great politeness that it was most impressive, and could only have been better if the Bishop had spoken in Luganda instead of in English!

However, he committed to heart a number of addresses in Luganda which he was able to use on most occasions. This enforced habit sometimes brought him into great difficulty and never more so than in this very year, 1909. It was the ordination service at the Cathedral and for the first time there was only one candidate for deacon's orders. The service, which Tucker had committed to memory, was in the plural, and the difference in grammatical construction in Luganda is very marked. The Bishop did not realize his quandary until he began to speak. Hopelessly he floundered, and the audible promptings of Canon Baskerville from his corner reduced him to an even worse state of bewilderment. With true African politeness the Baganda showed no consciousness of the awkward situation. Years before, when some young Baganda had shown amusement in a similar situation, the old chief, Nikodemo Sebwato, had sternly rebuked them: "It is not our custom, when our fathers make a mistake, to smile."

In December 1909 Theodore Roosevelt, ex-President of the United States of America, visited Uganda, and the strength and simplicity of Roosevelt's character made a strong appeal to the similar qualities in Tucker, while Roosevelt himself carried away a deep impression both of the Bishop and of the wonder of the Christian work in Uganda. Indeed, on all sides the Church was progressing by leaps and bounds and already many Baganda missionaries were at work in Bukedi. "When I leave Uganda finally," Tucker wrote, "the one man in the world whom I shall envy will be my successor."

Meanwhile the dyspepsia was increasing and the heart symptoms were growing worse, and after a visit to Toro in May 1910 he wrote privately to the Archbishop of Canterbury that he thought the time for his resignation had arrived. How much he felt it he expresses in one of his letters to Mrs Carus-Wilson.

The countries outside Uganda are opening up at such a tremendous rate that it needs a man in the full vigour of youth to tackle the long journeys involved in their effectual evangelization. The work I am sure will suffer unless a change is speedily made. What I shall suffer in parting from this work I dread to think. It will be like parting with a portion of my very life. I have lived for it, prayed for it, striven for it, dreamt of it, and now to part with it will be almost more than I can bear to think of.

It was arranged that he should return to England in the autumn to discuss the whole matter.

In the summer two or three events of importance occurred that were in a way a fitting climax to his long episcopate. The first synod of the Church under its new constitution met in July, and to Tucker's great joy everything passed off very happily and successfully. After so many years of waiting not only was his cherished plan adopted, but he had actually witnessed its effective working. On the second day of the session the whole synod adjourned to the gloomy swamp where, twenty-five years before, the boy martyrs had been slain, and there the Bishop dedicated a silver granite memorial cross given by Bishop Wilkinson of Northern and Central Europe. A wonderful ceremony it was, witnessed by representatives of the whole Church in Uganda, grown in twenty-five years from a little handful of persecuted fugitives to seventy thousand souls. Among those present were many who remembered vividly the cruel act that had hallowed for ever that dismal spot.

A fortnight later a great sensation was caused throughout the land by the arrival in Mengo of Mwanga's remains. He had died seven years before in Seychelles and had been buried there, but many of the Baganda--so greatly did they honour their Kabaka--refused to believe the report or to give their unqualified allegiance to the young king, Daudi.

It was for this reason that the remains were now sent to Uganda. Great crowds came to the funeral service, which was a Christian ceremony--Mwanga had died a Christian--the first part of the service being taken at the cathedral and the last at Mtesa's burial-place. It was again a fitting climax to the ceremony at the martyrs' swamp that the royal murderer of the Christians should be given Christian burial.

The day after the funeral Daudi was solemnly invested with all the insignia of kingship. He was taken outside the palace gate and made to stand upon a drum upon which was spread a lion's skin, while a leopard skin was spread over his shoulders and he was arrayed in terra-cotta bark clothes with bracelets on his arms and copper-headed spears and a shield in his hands.

Mutalaga the blacksmith brought a sword, which he gave to Kasuji, who in turn handed it to the young king, saying, "Take this sword and with it cut judgment in truth. Anyone who rebels against thee, do thou kill with this sword." Solemnly the king beat the ancient drum Mujaguzo, whose carved pythons' heads had listened to its deep rumbling for nearly four hundred years.

Then came his craftsmen offering him the product of their toil. His herdsmen brought him milk, his brewers beer, his armourers their spears, his smiths their hoes. Then the royal bearers carried the boy king on their shoulders back to his palace, where a reception was held.

Three days later Daudi was fourteen and on the next day, in the presence of a great congregation, he was confirmed by the Bishop in the cathedral. "Nunc dimittis" might well have been the Bishop's thought, as all these happenings seemed to crown the years of his love and labour and to lessen the sadness of his approaching departure.

On September 19th he embarked at Mombasa, and when he arrived at Aden, a telegram was put into his hands. He opened it and read, "Cathedral destroyed by lightning, September 23rd." He was stunned! Could it be true? Had yet another blow fallen on his beloved people who had endured so much? Then* cathedral, the pride of their hearts, the witness of their devoted self-sacrifice, destroyed!

His first instinct was to return to them immediately, but on second thoughts he saw the uselessncss of such a step, particularly in view of his health. He knew the Baganda, and the missionaries who were leading them. He knew they would resolve and act bravely. He would go on to England and rouse Christian opinion there to help his stricken people.

Of course no details had yet reached him of the catastrophe or its consequences, but his trust was not misplaced. The disaster had been complete. Within ten minutes of the fatal flash the whole reed roof, dry as tinder, was ablaze, and in another quarter of an hour it had fallen in. But after the first stunning moment the Baganda chiefs immediately faced the task of rebuilding with the same courage and determination with which they had erected the cathedral originally. At a meeting purely of African Christians the following resolution was passed:

In the matter of rebuilding our cathedral in Namirembe, we rejoice very much to take it in hand, to carry it through to completion. The money we will save from the rents of our estates, and we think that, without doubt, we shall be able in three years to raise ten thousand pounds. Every chief who has ten tenants will give the rent of four, and those who have hundreds and thousands of tenants will give in like proportion.

Forty per cent of their rent-roll for three years! When Tucker heard of it he knew more surely than by the numbers of baptisms that the seed that had been sown in Uganda for the past twenty-five years had borne fruit, thirty-fold, sixty-fold, an hundred-fold.

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