Project Canterbury

Tucker of Uganda, Artist and Apostle 1849-1914

By Arthur P. Shepherd

London: Student Christian Movement, 1929.

Chapter XVIII. Durham Bells again

THE Tuckers had decided to leave Bookham and to make their home in London while their son, who had finally decided on the Civil Service, was being coached for his examination. The Bishop had written from Africa of the change with dread--"We are going to live in London (awful thought!) "--and he is even more vivid in a letter written soon after his arrival to Mrs Carus-Wilson. "We are here living in a 'band box' where I hope you will come and see us. We are quite close to St Mary Abbot's and the High Street. ... In the room in which I am writing I cannot see a single inch of sky--nothing but a blank wall------!!! What a contrast to my study in Uganda, where I look out upon the Victoria Nyanza and twenty miles of country."

He made an immediate appeal for ten thousand pounds for the cathedral in Mengo, and by January 1911 seven thousand pounds had been promised. In March he was offered a vacant Canonry at Durham. Nothing could have pleased him better than to return to the old city where he had heard the great call of his life, but before taking up his residence there he set sail on March 29th for a last farewell visit to his African people.

It was sad to arrive in Mengo and to find the cathedral no more, but in its place was a wonderful spirit of sacrifice in the hearts of the Baganda which had been deepened by the response of the Church in England to their need. Already a commencement was being made with the rebuilding. Tucker's stay could only be a short one and there was no time to visit the whole of his great diocese, but from every part of it they came to Mengo, missionaries and Africans, to bid him good-bye. To the Bishop himself it was, as he had always said it would be, like the tearing out of his heart-strings, and he could hardly control himself to preach his final sermon. The last to bid farewell to him at the lake port of Entebbe was Archdeacon Walker, who had been in Uganda longer even than the Bishop and who, through all his episcopate, had been his loyal helper and second-in-command. Of that farewell Archdeacon Walker once said to the writer, with a humble humorousness:

The Bishop gave me as a parting gift a great riding cape of green canvas that he always used on his journeys. I wished that with his cloak I might have a double portion of his spirit--but that was beyond me!

On Tucker's return to England it was some months before he could go to Durham, as the withdrawal of the resignation that had created the vacancy there made it necessary to wait till the next vacancy, which occurred shortly afterwards. On January 25th, 1912, after a short sketching holiday in the Riviera, he was present in Westminster Abbey at the consecration of his successor in Uganda, Bishop Willis. Five days later he and Mrs Tucker took possession of their new home at Durham, now in the very precincts of the beloved cathedral, whose bells were no longer a reiterating challenge, but a constant reminder of how God had blessed his answer to their call twenty years before.

The summer of 1912 was cold and damp, and as soon as autumn came the Bishop felt the cold intensely and his rheumatism was not improved by it. However, although he was only in residence as Canon for three months in the year, the whole of his time was fully occupied in deputation work up and down the country. In Durham itself, too, he was always ready to help or deputize for Bishop Moule, while the Chapter elected him as their Proctor in the Northern Convocation.

It was not, however, an easy winter. After years of activity and wide executive authority, he found it very difficult to settle into the ways of a cathedral town; his scope was too limited, his colleagues' outlook was too small, their methods and aims appeared to him slight and petty. Removed, too, for so many years from English Church life into a wider, simpler atmosphere, he found those questions, which to most thinking men seem at times comparatively unworthy, wellnigh intolerable, and expressed himself about them with considerable heat.

The Church [he writes] is not equal to the occasion. Far too much of her energy has been consumed in forging for herself ecclesiastical fetters. At the meeting of the Northern House of Convocation in May the question of millinery will come up for decision--in other words, the "vestments." I think I shall have something to say upon the subject.

Of course, Tucker's habit of taking a "big" view made him perhaps too impatient, and there is an amusing letter in which he sets out in characteristic fashion the proceedings of a Cathedral Chapter meeting on one of these points that seemed to him relatively unimportant. The old Dean had died and Canon Hensley Henson had been appointed in his place, and the Chapter was considering the procedure of installation.

On Saturday last, at the Chapter here, there was a lengthened discussion on--what do you think?" How to touch the mass of the untouched?" No!" How to help forward the missionary work of the Church?" No!" How to guide the great labour movement?" No! Nothing of the kind! But--how, after the Communion Service was over, the vessels should be carried into the Chapter House for the ablutions. The difficulty was created by the presence of the Bishop. According to ancient custom, the Dean and the Sub-Dean must in the procession support the Bishop, i.e. walk on either side of him. Of course, it wasumpossible that at the same time they could carry the vessels--that would be too much! Then could the vessels be carried behind the Bishop? No; that would be unseemly. Would it be possible for them to be carried in front of the Bishop? That might be done--but by whom? The celebrant ought to carry, but at the installation he will be the Dean. He must walk by the side of the Bishop, or the great central tower would fall! Could they be carried by Minor Canons? That was hardly seemly. I was asked for my opinion. "Oh," I said, "it is beyond me altogether. I cannot plunge down into such deeps." Eventually it was decided to refer the matter to the Bishop. Just fancy five grave and reverend signers devoting a full half-hour to the discussion of such a matter! I asked myself whether it was for this I had come back from the mission field.

In January 1913, after the Dean's installation, he found relief from the winds and damp of the north--he was already being treated for chronic throat trouble as well as rheumatism--and from the perplexities and stress of his work, in a holiday at Palermo. How he enjoyed it!"I hear of snow storms in England and trains being snowed up. I am sitting out of doors without an overcoat and enjoying the sunshine immensely. . . . In the Cloister garden of the Cathedral here there are geraniums in full bloom--violets, daffodils, roses, snapdragons--flowers without end. The almond trees are in full blossom." The only drawback he experienced was the rudeness of the Palermitans when he was sketching, but he took it philosophically.

They crowd round until we are obliged to shut up. Yesterday I had stones thrown at me--one fell in my paint box and another about two inches long struck me on the head. However, what is worth having generally costs something.

This holiday set him up so much that in spite of the keen spring winds he kept fairly well, but life at Durham did not go as easily as in the days of the old regime. The Dean was a man of strong views and made considerable changes in the cathedral ritual from the old evangelical tradition. In these matters Tucker resented being in any measure coerced, and not infrequently found himself in open opposition to the Dean. But they were both strong men, and gradually grew to appreciate one another's good qualities.

In June the Bishop had the honour of presenting to Durham University Convocation, for the degree of D.C.L., Sir Frederick Lugard, his comrade in saving Uganda in the dark days more than twenty years before. That summer, too, a still greater event occurred in the visit to England of Daudi, the young Kabaka of Uganda, and his suite. In July they came to Durham and stayed with the Tuckers, and they accompanied them everywhere, visiting docks and factories, even going down a coal mine. But the most impressive moment of all was when the young king and his suite came to Communion at the cathedral. There, in the very cathedral whose inspiration had sent Tucker out to Africa, was kneeling the son of that royal persecutor who had all but extinguished the Church in Uganda. It caught Tucker's imagination and seemed to add another touch of completion to his work. There they knelt, "within twenty yards of where rests the body of St Cuthbert. One thought of lona--of Lindisfarne--of Durham and Uganda. Very strikingly the Psalms for the day contained the words, 'Princes shall come to thee out of Egypt, and the Morians' land shall stretch out her hands unto God.' "

August 1913 the Tuckers spent with their son, staying with friends in the north of Scotland, and the Bishop returned to Durham in September feeling better than he had done for some time. Unfortunately, however, through spending two hours in the cathedral, unwontedly chilly after the sunshine of a really warm September day, he caught a severe chill with fever, from which he took over a month to recover. "This is not such an easy process," he writes, "as it was five and twenty years ago. A good deal of the bounce has gone out of the ball." It was an unfortunate beginning for the long winter, but he would not let it interfere with his work. As soon as possible he was once more in the full swing of missionary engagements--Birmingham and Malvern, Derby and Ireland, with constant visits to London.

In November what is now famous as the Kikuyu controversy broke upon the Church. It arose from a conference which had been held at Kikuyu between missionaries of the non-Roman missionary societies working in Uganda and East Africa, including the Bishops of Mombasa and Uganda, in regard to the denominational difficulties in the African Church and the possibilities of unity. Certain proposals were drawn up and agreed upon, particularly in regard to interchange of pulpits and inter-communion, but the Anglican members made it quite clear that their agreement on these points was entirely subject to the approval of the authorities of the Church of England. The members of the conference then joined in a united Communion service at which the Bishop of Mombasa celebrated, in the only consecrated building, the Scottish Mission Church. For this, and for their resolutions, the Bishop of Zanzibar wrote a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury calling upon him to put the Bishops of Uganda and Mombasa on their trial for "the grievous faults of propagating heresy and committing schism."

Into the pros and cons of this controversy there is no need to enter here. Its facts are history, its implications have become the inspiration for a great deal of the missionary comity since accomplished, and its challenge has been largely responsible for the quickening of the desire for the unity of the Church throughout the world, and for the growing determination of the younger Churches of Africa and the East not to be chained by the denominational fetters of the last three hundred years of western Christendom. But in November 1913 the Bishop of Zanzibar's letter was like the bursting of a dam which some slow movement of nature had laid across a high mountain valley, and behind which the pent-up waters of its glacier streams had gradually gathered the mighty force hidden beneath their calm surface. The slow but sure movement of the Spirit in the Church towards a deeper obedience to the Mind of Christ in our common Christian life, and the deep desire to follow this Voice in a spirit of adventurous obedience, had in a way been held up by the fear that this new obedience might imply other deep disloyalties, a fear which easily crystallizes into a seemingly rigid conservatism. The Kikuyu Conference and the Bishop of Zanzibar's letter, however, burst through the dam, and everything swirled together for a while in a seemingly turgid and destructive stream of conflicting opinion.

In this conflict it was inevitable that Tucker should take a leading part, not only because, where he felt keenly, it was his nature to speak and act strongly, but because he was in a large measure implicated in what had taken place at Kikuyu. For that Conference was the sequence of similar action which had been taken by Bishop Willis of Uganda years before when he was a missionary in Kavkondo, under Tucker's episcopate and with his approval. By letters to the press, at meetings and in conference Tucker entered the lists boldly in defence of the Bishops of Uganda and Mombasa.

To himself it brought a new fellowship with the Dean of Durham, who warmly espoused the cause of Kikuyu. "Have you seen the Dean's letter?" he writes. "He wields a vigorous pen." The Dean himself in a memorial sermon after Tucker's death refers to this association between them.

It was a great satisfaction to me to find that he and I, from very different points of view, had arrived at substantially identical conclusions on that solemn and urgent subject. . . . Again and again he said to me, that he could not believe that a project so hopeful, so carefully planned, begun and carried through with such earnest prayer for the Holy Spirit's guidance, so plainly serviceable to the cause of truth and charity, could be destined to formal condemnation by the heads of the Anglican Hierarchy. I was accustomed to reply that the decision of Hierarchies mattered little, when the verdict of the Christian conscience was so decisive and so manifest, as in this case.

One of the immediate consequences of this controversy to the Bishop was that he postponed for a month his annual winter holiday, which he had planned to take in Algiers, owing to the expected arrival of the Bishop of Zanzibar. When he did get away the unusual coldness of the winter in that usually warm place not only failed to set him up, but had a severe effect upon his health.

In March he was in his usual whirl of preaching engagements and was beginning to feel the pressure. "I leave here (Durham) to-morrow (Friday) for Wolsingham, Leamington, and Coventry, at all of which places I am either speaking or preaching between now and Tuesday morning. When that time arrives I expect I shall feel very much like a squeezed orange!"

May followed with the rush of "May Meetings," and after Whitsun he had a most violent attack of his dyspepsia, so violent that he was sufficiently alarmed to promise Mrs Tucker that he would see a specialist when he went up to London. He was due there on Monday, June 15th, for a meeting of the committee on "Faith and Order," and insisted on going to Bath the previous Thursday to baptize a godson. On the Saturday he came to London and took a garden meeting at Isleworth, and on the Sunday he went to Broxbourne, the parish of his old friend and colleague, Archdeacon Walker, where he preached twice.

On Monday morning he came to London, and first of all paid a visit to the Academy where he had a picture "hung" for the second time in two years. Then he went to the specialist, who quickly saw that the disease was angina pectoris, but knowing that the Bishop was attending a meeting and not wishing to alarm him at once, he merely gave him one or two directions and asked him to see him again as soon as possible. Tucker lunched at a restaurant and then took a bus to Westminster. He was crossing Dean's Yard on his way to the Jerusalem Chamber, where the meeting was to be held, when an agonizing stab of pain struck him, and he fell into the arms of the Dean's chauffeur, who was standing by him.

He was carried into the Deanery, and half unconscious with pain he was able to murmur the name of his doctor in Wimpole Street, and to ask that a telegram should be sent to his wife in Stroud. The doctor came, but he passed from one attack to another, though at half-past four he rallied enough to discover that in the confusion the telegram had not been sent, and to order that it should be sent at once and signed in his own name. He died at five o'clock that afternoon, and his wife did not arrive till nine, while no one seems to have known how or where to find his son, who was in London the whole time. It was strange that he should die, as he had spent most of his life, apart from the two he loved best, but where more fittingly could he die than within a stone's throw of where lay the body of that other indomitable "tramp" of Africa, David Livingstone, Africa's great Path-Finder, as Tucker had been one of her Master-Builders.

They buried him in the shadow of Durham Cathedral on a day of summer sunshine such as he loved, fit comrade of those heroic missionary saints of the sturdy north, Columba and Aidan, Cuthbert and Bede.

"Lift up your heads, ye gates of brass,
The Cross hath won the field!"

they sang in triumph as the long procession moved slowly from the cathedral to the graveside.

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