JOHN WALMSLEY was Vice-Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, when I went there to read for orders in 1896. The present Bishop of Liverpool (Dr. Chavasse) was Principal, F. W. M. Woodward was Lecturer, and Arthur Plumptre, Chaplain. Walmsley lectured on the general introduction to the Old and New Testaments, and on the special books set for the examination for deacons' orders. He also had a small Hebrew class. He was a genuine scholar, and had the true scholar's love for the Bible. He introduced us with understanding and sympathy to the higher criticism, suggesting by his whole attitude how we might learn from it, and from the new light it was throwing on the Bible, without being carried off our feet by the extravagances of some of its advocates. He was an enthusiastic and sane teacher, interesting others because he was so well-informed and keenly interested himself.
In addition to his work at Wycliffe Hall, he was Curate of Holy Trinity, one of the poorest parishes in Oxford. Many of us had our first experience of parish work and of visiting there. The Vicar was the Rev. G. C. Bowring, a most devoted man and a great character. Walmsley was as keen on his work in the parish as on his teaching; and I can still see him coming in to lecture almost breathless, after scorching home on his bicycle from a service at the jail.
I kept in more or less close touch with him after Wycliffe Hall days. He stayed once or twice with my father and mother in Gloucestershire; and he stayed with us, after I was married, in Liverpool, where for a time his brother-in-law was my curate. I also used to meet him at some of the half-yearly "group" meetings of younger Evangelical clergy, in which we were both interested. But I have no first-hand knowledge of his work at Normanton and Nottingham.
When he became Bishop we were settled in Hereford; and as it was his old home it was natural that he should fairly often come there for sermons and meetings on behalf of his work in Sierra Leone; and he stayed with us more than once. His father, whom I never knew, had had a considerable business there; but his mother and sisters, whom I knew well, had long since left the city. I came across one link with his old life which vividly suggested one large element in his character. When I was chaplain to Bishop Percival, a little old lady used to come every year to collect a subscription from the Bishop; she never wrote for it, but always came herself, and never went away without the money. Many people in Hereford must still remember Miss Watts and her quaint, old-fashioned clothes, her close-fitting black poke bonnet, side-curls, and ear-trumpet. When Walmsley was quite a little boy, Miss Watts kept a dame-school in Hereford, and he attended it. When he came back as Bishop, he never failed to go and see the little lady, who was now quite old and losing some of her powers. She always seemed to me typical of the Evangelicalism of an older generation, to which furniture, clothes, and appearance mattered little or nothing, and must be readily sacrificed to the service of God. Nothing of self, and nothing for self, but all for the Kingdom of God, seemed to be its motto. It was an atmosphere that must have been very familiar to John Walmsley; and it was certainly the spirit of his upbringing, for the whole family was just as devoted as he was. This spirit was the foundation of his whole life and work.
It was extraordinarily interesting to hear him talk of his work in Sierra Leone. Two or three things stand out. People often complain of the unsatisfactoriness of native Christians, and specially of the Christian servants. Walmsley expressed no surprise at this. He only wondered at such people's want of imagination. And he would draw a vivid picture of the terrible background of unmitigated heathenism from which these native Christians were just emerging, and recall how it still surrounded them on all sides and was ready to engulph them. Backsliding and inconsistency are not unknown even in England, where we have centuries of Christianity and civilisation behind us; and he would enlist all his hearers' sympathies for the difficulties of these simple souls just coming out into the light. They evidently had all his own. But no one would acknowledge and deplore their weaknesses more frankly than the Bishop who understood them so completely.
He would sometimes describe a service held under difficulties. For instance, there was one particularly virulent fly whose bite meant a swelling like one of the toy bladders children blow out, to collapse again with a squeak. The Africans knew the enemy well, and kept a sharp lookout for it; and the service was punctuated with resounding slaps on black limbs where the flies were spotted and killed.
Then there was the travelling--bicycling, walking, and, sometimes, being carried. The Bishop always had a delightful bundle of photographs with him, so that we could picture it all, and the "roads" and "bridges"--such bridges! it seemed as if they would take a Blondin to negotiate them--and more often no bridges at all. His visits to the Islands, which were also part of his diocese, were more restful. Wherever he was, his wonderful memory for people never seemed to fail him. I have only one letter of his left, but that one is characteristic. Of the people mentioned in it one is a cousin of mine, and the other is the son of the headmaster of the Boys' School at Kington. He always followed up everyone connected with people he knew or with their parishes. He had probably made friends with these people at some meeting, and wherever he was in his diocese, on the mainland or in the Islands, he would look them up, and send news of them to their friends at home.
He was an entirely delightful person, affectionate, sincere, full of fun and of the love unfeigned which the Apostle inculcated. Wherever he was, in the train, or staying in a house, or even after a meeting, he never seemed happy till he had put himself entirely en rapport with the people he was with. He would follow up clue after clue, patiently and eagerly, with a quaint, half-pathetic, half-anxious look on his face, till at last the missing personal link would come to light, and he would instantly become and look completely happy.
He was intensely interested in everything that was going on: politics, business, his friends' interests, things great or small. He was excellent company, full of amusing and touching stories. His circle of friends and acquaintances must have been enormous; and his knowledge of men and of life was always a revelation.
Switzerland was perhaps his favourite holiday haunt. Hard-worked as he was, he realised the vital necessity for regular holidays from the appalling climate in which he had to work. He loved the heights and the great peaks, the glorious air and exercise, and, above all, the scenery refreshed and invigorated him.
The heights! They seemed typical of the man. For he was first and foremost a man of God. Religion was with him the most natural and necessary part of life. He had the great and happy gift of speaking about it just as he felt. This absence of all constraint put others at their ease as well. The thoughts of many hearts, too often sealed close, would be revealed in talk with him; it seemed the most natural thing in the world for such talk to become deep and intimate.
And now he is gone. But every friend of John Walmsley's must be glad that he fell at his post. He would of course have been invaluable at home, and it is only human to regret that the Bishop of Hereford failed, quite lately, to persuade him to accept an important living in his diocese. But it is impossible to think of Walmsley giving up any work which he had in hand, or retiring. He always put all his powers, and everything that he knew, into his work. Now he has given his all; and those who knew and loved him have to thank God for an example that will always inspire them and shame their own feebler efforts.
It is a delightful closing touch to his life here, that when he was known to be desperately ill, his own people, and Christians of every denomination, and Mohammedans, all joined in prayer that his life might be spared to them. God read the testimony of that prayer truly and deeply. He saw in it a thanksgiving for a life after His own heart--and He called His servant to Himself and to higher service.
It is hard to put into words what one would say of our Bishop as we knew him; but this book is written for his friends, and they will know that it was his personality that gave the interest to the details that look trivial in writing. He loved his work, and enjoyed packing his Sundays as full as was at all possible, one service following another in quick succession. He loved going away to the village churches as well as to the missions up-country. One Easter Sunday, though a very full day (he had five services, some at long distances), coming down from Hill Station he looked into the Kroo church, and he said afterwards that it was quite pathetic their delight at seeing him so unexpectedly; they begged him to stay and speak to them. At the close of the same day he called in to say "Good night" at the Hospital, and wished to read to us Browning's "Easter Eve," seemingly quite untired. Another Sunday he was preaching at Regent, a mountain village, and returned at 3 p.m. in the heat of the tropical sun, hoping to get a little rest before taking the monthly European service at his own house, to find it besieged by men and lads from a man-of-war in harbour to whom he had given an invitation to the service at 5 p.m., and instead of his well-earned rest he threw himself heart and soul into entertaining them, taking them round the grounds, and showing them photographs while we prepared all the food we could muster for them. The service that followed will long be remembered by some there, with its simple, earnest talk from the text "Quit you like men, be strong." At the close, his beautiful voice making it most impressive, he repeated Newbolt's well-known poem "Vitai Lampada." On Wednesday afternoons he placed his tennis-court at the disposal of the young European business men in the town, and he always endeavoured to be at home himself to join them, and merry parties they were. He liked to keep in touch with all, irrespective of creed or colour, and made a special point of paying his monthly accounts himself, as it gave him a chance of meeting some he would not otherwise meet. Also with the bills for the European service; he would go round with them himself, as it gave him something to call for, and a chance to speak to many, even though they were unlikely to come to the service.
His letters will describe his journeys up-country; on his return he would always be full of some adventure, dwelling on the humorous side and touching very lightly on the difficulties. I remember once he returned very pleased with himself, as he told us how he had travelled on a French steamer from Conakry, and the captain being a stranger to the coast was not quite sure of the way in, so the Bishop offered to bring the steamer in for him, which he did with great delight. He never minded how he travelled--any means so long as it got him to the place where he wanted to go, once crossing from Bullom sitting on a load of palm-kernels; another time coming from Conakry in a crowded sailing-vessel, he the only white man, giving up the only cabin to a sick African woman--she told me of it with great pride afterwards--he getting what rest he could through the night in his chair on deck. Only those who know what it is to travel in Africa can realise what this would mean.
He loved his work among the up-country people, also the village folk and the Kroos; they all looked to him as a source of supply for all they lacked, and a friend to get them out of any kind of trouble. A rather amusing letter was received from some Kroo people who were to be deported. After stating their grievance, they closed with these words: "We deem it necessary that we as sheeps of your fold and pasture should bring the matter to your hearing for aid and support from our fellow-flocks of your herd or herds."
Some mention may be made of his lack of business habits; but about the things that most matter he was seldom careless. I remember a lady (the Secretary for the Hospital) saying how, when calling on her, she wanted to talk over various business matters, but it seemed difficult to get his attention as he was on the floor playing with her children; but she found afterwards, to her surprise, all she had said had been noted and acted upon.
During illness he was always a wonderful patient, never liking to give in, but once in the doctor's hands obeying orders most implicitly, always cheery and bright, finding pleasure in the simplest things. And when those last days came, it was just the same; he realised his work on earth was done, and calm and untroubled he awaited the call to the higher service above, leaving behind him a memory that will always be an inspiration to those who knew him.
It was less than six years from the time I first met Bishop Walmsley in the old Navy days to the sad morning when I saw him lying at rest a few minutes after his death. But in those six years he had come right into my life, so unique were his personal charm and power of attraction. Shorter by two years was the time my wife knew him, but he was always "our Bishop" and our best friend.
I start with the days at the end of 1916, when I was in the Navy, and we were based on Sierra Leone, first in the Sutlej and latterly in the Bacchante. Here it was that I first realised his simple but unfailing hospitality. Scarce a week passed but some party of officers were out at Bishopscourt for tennis. Every few weeks he would be entertaining men and boys from one or other of the ships in port or from the numerous transports passing through. Many and various were his methods of amusing them, but some of them became a sort of sacred routine. We were always made to perch along a trunk of an overhanging tree by the beach, like a row of swallows, to have our photographs taken, and these pictures were bought up with avidity from the local photographer's when they had been printed. We generally had to prove our skill at jumping off a rock on the beach, the Bishop entering into it with boyish delight and winning with monotonous regularity, thanks to his agility and long legs. He would invariably show off his acrobatic skill by walking under a walking stick, without moving it off the floor, this despite his long legs. He was never tired of showing his wonderful collection of photos taken in Morocco, the Islands, Switzerland, etc., especially some taken during his climbing feats. In all these gatherings the key-note was a delightfully boyish joie de vivre.
He loved to come off to the ships, often as a social guest, but more often for services. His sermons always "hit the mark," chiefly because of their wonderful sympathy and power of understanding. Twice I had him off to confirm a few men and boys', and none of these will ever forget his simple, manly, and practical talks. All of us were helped by these visits to carry on the monotonous duties which fell to our lot in the War. Some, including one whom I presented for Confirmation, were braced by them to face the greater ordeal of battle and death.
Again the lighter side flashes out in the memory of those walks. It was perhaps the only side of his hospitality that some of us, with shorter legs, used to face with a certain amount of dread. Never shall I forget the first I had with him. It was, to him, a short walk of some eight or nine miles, but this in Sierra Leone is the equivalent of at least eighteen at home in England. I could keep up fairly well while our track was up the hills, and it was glorious in the cool upland breezes round Gloucester Saddle. On we went through the pretty little village of Leicester, with its riot of colour in the gardens, where I first saw his power of attraction for the children. Little black imps were besieging him all the way and some would hang on to his hand for quite a while, trying to keep up with his long strides. But the rest of the walk was something of a nightmare. It was getting late and he thought we must hurry, so we did! He led all the way, by distances varying from ten to a hundred yards, while I made a series of frantic spurts to try to catch up. Down the hills his length of stride told more and more, and we regained the level ground at a very wide interval, he striding on in front, and I keeping up a jog-trot in the rear.
In June 1919 I went to Sierra Leone as Chaplain to the Bishop, my wife accompanying me to keep house at Bishopscourt. The Bishop went on leave very soon afterwards, and most of the first month was a rush to get things fixed up for his departure. But I had two little trips with him, and as it happened they were the only two occasions when I was able to accompany him on any of his visits outside Freetown. The first was for the consecration of a little "Bush" church at Monkey Bush, where he also confirmed a number of candidates, mostly "country folk," who had been heathen or Mohammedan before. This was a delightful experience, as it gave me the only insight I was able to get into the actual missionary work of the Sierra Leone Church. The Bishop's heart was in his work, and, while the number of converts has not been large in late years, I saw what a joy it was to him to bring a few more of the lost sheep into the fold of the Good Shepherd. And I know he shared my delight in the primitive mud building, thatched with native grass, with the rough poles supporting the roof and verandah. It all harmonised with the surroundings and with the people in a way in which some of the more ambitious churches of Freetown so sadly fail to do. After the service, and after a hot and dusty tramp through the bush, we were regaled with "palm-oil chop," kindly provided by one of the congregation.
The other visit was one in which my wife and myself shared a trip up the river to Bunce and Tassoh Islands. The former is uninhabited, and we went there to examine the interesting remains of the old fort, now overgrown with creepers, which was used in the sad slave-days both by the Portuguese and by the British to keep the captured Africans pending the arrival of a ship which was to carry them off to the plantations. The Bishop had meanwhile gone further up the river, and we returned to Tassoh to await his return. The rainy season was on, and while we were waiting it came down in sheets. The little church was packed. The time of the Confirmation Service was long past. No sign of the Bishop's boat. We had just given up hope, and concluded he had been prevented by weather, and we had decided to hold a service of our own, when his boat loomed in sight through the driving downpour. We all scrambled into waterproofs, etc., and gathered, a bedraggled crowd, on the beach to help a much more bedraggled Bishop ashore. The service had to be curtailed as much as possible. He was very tired before it began, but he gave of his best, then as always, and the congregation gave him a great send-off as we started on our return journey in the dusk. It was fine now, and the effect of the phosphorescence was glorious. It was very late before the lights of Freetown appeared ahead, and it was a tired party, especially he, who reached home about 10.30, quite ready for supper and bed.
There followed a glorious rush to get him off. The Prahsu arrived one Sunday morning, and the Bishop, not expecting her so soon, was taking service at Kissy, three miles out. A car was requisitioned from a kind neighbour to go and fetch him away in the middle of the service. My wife, assisted or hampered, as the case may be, by three of our "boys," was feverishly stuffing his clothes into dilapidated bags. Some had to be unpacked again when-he arrived, to find something he wanted. At last we sent him off with hasty good-byes, and watched through the telescope while the anchor was hoisted on board. The Captain had promised to wait. Had he given him up? No; he had spotted his boat coming off, and was wasting no time. The ship was actually under way as we saw the boat come alongside, and the Bishop bundled on board, bag and baggage. This was his ordinary method of going on leave.
During all the time he was at home, and until the precarious methods of transit round Morocco and the Canaries rendered regularity impossible, he was unfailing with letters every mail. This was not the least remarkable trait of a versatile character, that, however unmethodical in business matters, he never failed to keep up a regular correspondence with his friends. The letters we got there were seldom on business, and it was during this period that I should say our close friendship began. His letters were always delightful, and so full of the man. You got to know him better through them than when he was out, and was generally too rushed to have much time for conversation. But from the time he left England, we lost touch with him to such an extent that we never quite knew when he might turn up on one of the various boats arriving in harbour. Each of them, mail-boats, cargo-boats, and tramps, were all scanned with the telescope for signs of the tall lanky figure with the flying coat-tails, but in vain. Weeks passed, and at last we got a wire, mentioning a certain boat. Then we knew where we were. It was almost six months from the tune he left when the Prahsu (it was she again) dropped anchor, and I joined him on board. There were countless activities, and plenty of worrying problems awaiting him, but he found time to tell us of his adventures by sea and land. His chief joy was always Morocco, and he came back laden with photos of his visit to Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains. He had been held up, as he generally was, waiting for a boat to take him to Las Palmas, and he eventually reached there on Christmas morning, by heroically accepting the offer of a "shake-down" on the saloon table of a small French coaster. Incidentally in this connection I might mention that those photos of Morocco came out on the occasion of every fresh visit that was paid to Bishopscourt. He never tired of showing them and recounting the glories of Atlas.
On his return, the Bishop was, of course, very busy, and was perpetually dashing around Freetown to one or other of the neighbouring villages. Whatever he had to do, he seemed always to be in a hurry. He would bolt his meals hi a shocking manner, sit waiting as patiently as he could while we struggled to finish ours, and then rush off at his usual swinging gait.
In the evening, which was the only time he really was free from outside interruptions, he would relax completely, and these evenings at Bishopscourt are'the happiest of all my memories while I was out there. After dinner, he would generally go over to take prayers at the Mission Hospital, and, however tired he was, I know that he enjoyed this time. He loved to hear the native nurses and the patients singing hymn after hymn of their own choosing. He loved to talk to them and to pray with them in his own delightfully simple way. He loved, above all, to wander round the cots where little black chubby fingers waited to greet him, before the little eyes were closed for the night. Then, after his cheery "Good night," he would come back to Bishopscourt, and revel in foolish games. At times he would talk a bit, but not often on serious things at that time of the day. He loved to talk of Oxford days and such like; or he would get out some of his poetry books, and read to us: Kipling, Newbolt, and Calverley were his most frequent choices. "Vitai Lampada" was probably his favourite par excellence, and this gave us the real motto of his life. No one ever "played the game" more consistently than he. Work and play were all done in the same spirit of thoroughness, fairness, and unselfishness.
On the rather rare occasions when he did unfold some of his deeper thoughts on spiritual matters, what struck one more and more was his remarkable width of sympathy. Brought up himself in a definitely Evangelical school, he could always appreciate the standpoint of other schools and the good work that people of variant views were doing. I remember in particular his telling me of a very extreme church where he had been present at the "High Mass." He said one of the clergy asked him afterwards how he had enjoyed it, and whether anything in it worried him. His reply was that he had been able to appreciate most of it, but there was one thing which did worry him, namely, that the celebrant had sat down during the Nicene Creed. Without wishing in the least to enter on anything controversial, I would only emphasise the point that in an elaborate service, of a sort to which he could not have been used, the only thing to which he took verbal exception is one which has worried men of far more advanced Churchmanship than that with which an Evangelical Bishop would be usually credited. It was typical of the man. It was a curious fact in this connection that there were two Church papers which were sent out to me while I was there, both anonymously--the Church Times and the English Churchman! I think both of them were distasteful to the Bishop, because of their party lines, but I know that the latter in particular was very repugnant to him.
I can remember him in many moods during that time: I can see him at the end of a long Sunday, tired, but enjoying the little service in the Hospital; I can see him feeling very seedy at times, but refusing to give up, until the doctors read the "Riot Act" very plainly. I shall never forget him bustling about, with coat-tails flying as usual, helping to get the patients into the Mission Hospital, when the Colonial Hospital was burned down; but I like best to remember him in his most human and even boyish moods, trying to induce some very proper native nurses from the Mission Hospital to jump off a rock on the beach; playing tennis as if everything depended on the result of that particular game; or entertaining guests at tennis or at a dinner-party with droll stories of his adventures, or with tricks or conundrums. I can see him on the occasion of our Christmas dinner-party joining heartily in "Old Maid," until the game was interrupted by the advent of a Tarantula spider, when he assiduously led the chase with a slipper. Most of all I remember him as he came on board to see us off on the Onitsha. Thoughtful as always, he had remembered my taste for Avocado pears, and he came off with pockets just bulging with them. I thought he would never come to the end, as he emptied one after another of these pockets on the cabin table. So we bade good-bye to him after a stay which would have been longer but for doctor's orders, and we carried back to England with us a new and a most precious friendship, which we were able to renew later at home. We took with us too a new inspiration from the intimate acquaintance we had enjoyed of one of the best, one of the humblest, one of the kindest, and withal one of the most human of men.
Shortly after my return to England the Bishop asked me to take over the editorship of the Sierra Leone Messenger, and this may be said to mark the third stage of our friendship. I may say at once that it was a difficult and at times a heartbreaking job, because of the dear Bishop's lack of method. I never could get him to see that if a number was due out at the beginning of a month, he must despatch the matter he wanted at least six weeks in advance. He would generally send it off from Freetown about the time that the Messenger should be in print! As a result we got later and later, and I used to think myself lucky if it came out a month behind time; but when his matter did arrive, it was always worth waiting for. His chatty accounts of his tours up-country and in Morocco, etc., were always crammed full of interest. As one who has worked for one of the big Missionary Societies at home, I could only wish that all who write from the foreign field could find the art of making their letters so interesting. [Mr. Lewis was Organising Secretary for the S,P,G, in the Diocese of Oxford, 1920-22.] The Bishop's letters were not confined to particulars of his missionary work, which are apt to be dull reading by themselves; they were full of the man, of his adventures, and of the little comedies which normally brightened up his missionary tours.
The amazing things he did on foot and with his bicycle in tropical weather used to alarm those of us who knew the place, and how regardless he was of his limitations. Carriers going astray, or going on strike and "downing burdens"; perilous river-trips, with the bicycle hugged between his knees, in frail dug-out canoes; and unpremeditated bathes in swollen rivers: these were fairly frequent events in tours which could never be called lacking in interest. Morocco and its wonderful development were an unending theme of his when he had been visiting there. His stays at the Canaries were a real joy to him, as his letters clearly showed; it was such a complete and, I think, restful change in his activities. I learned more of his popularity in other ways: in the course of travelling round on my deputation work, it was quite a frequent thing to find some who had met him there, and all told the same story of his charm. In a remote village on the Berkshire Downs I found people who had played tennis with him at Orotava, when he refused to give up, though crippled with asthma. On the boat coming out I met other residents of the Islands, to all of whom he was a personal friend; and, as we were sorting his letters at the end, we found a pathetic commentary on the welcome which always awaited him there--in two letters, each written from a would-be hostess, and each written evidently without the other's knowledge, in order to get in first, and secure the coveted privilege of his visit. But of all of my memories of him as editor of the Messenger, it is his last letter that stands out most clearly. It was written at the time of the sad divisions in the ranks of the C.M.S. and contained a wonderful confessio fidei: he spoke out in this as I have never known him speak at any other time, and many others said the same.
It was a happy coincidence, if we should call such proofs of God's providence by that name, that this should have been his last printed utterance: in it he seemed to let himself go; he lashed the people who were trying to accentuate party differences in no measured terms, quoting his old Vicar at Penge, "You are what you impute," and Barrie's famous dictum in his Rectorial Address at St. Andrews, "Go through life without ever attributing to your opponents motives meaner than your own; nothing so lowers the moral currency." He singled out in particular one Church paper for its bitter partisan attitude. Then he proceeded to state his own convictions in a calm and convincing way.
During these last two years, when I was working at home, my wife and I kept up a regular correspondence with him, and when he was in England he never failed to come and see us. Sometimes it was just a flying visit, as when he was up in Oxford for a gaudy at his old college (B.N.C.), when he would dash out for a few minutes to look us up at IfHey or arrange for another few minutes on the station-platform before his train left. At other times we had the greater privilege of entertaining him at our little cottage on the Cornish moors. I know he loved to come there when he could, and that he stayed as long as his numerous engagements allowed him. When he was recruiting from his previous attack of blackwater he stayed a whole fortnight with us, and, though some of the things he did in the way of walks and bicycle rides would have turned his doctor's hair grey, yet such was his power of recuperation that he really left us a new man. There were times when I dared to read the "Riot Act" to him then, as when I found him bicycling up a hill that I never attempted myself. My wife of course kept him in better order when he was in the house; and what glorious expeditions we had together, both on our beloved moors, and all over Cornwall!
And now I come to the sad close of it all. After two and a half years in England, I went out to the West Coast as chaplain at Lagos in 1922. One of the chief things I had been looking forward to was seeing him on the way out. As we anchored in the river at Sierra Leone, I scanned every approaching boat for signs of the familiar lanky figure in black (I never knew why he clung so tenaciously to black) with the khaki helmet, but no Bishop appeared. I began- to think he must be away, as I was sure he would come off if he were at home; then a letter was handed to me from Mr. Denton, saying he was desperately ill. A minute later the captain showed me a note he had received, saying he was dying. I rushed ashore to the Nursing Home only to find that he had passed away a few minutes before. The disappointment and shock were dreadful, but this is not the place to dwell on my own feelings. Most fortunately I was able to break my journey, and stay for the funeral. Of this I will only say that it was a wonderful tribute from people of all races to a wonderful life.
I knew all along that the end would be in harness, and terrible as the coincidence of my arrival was, I came to see that it was all for the best. I was able to help those who were left there through the first bad week, and also hi that week I was able to learn a few more things to add to what I had known already about the character of the man.
In talks with Miss Ward at the Mission Hospital, and with Mr. Denton, his chaplain, I realised more and more his unfailing charity, good-nature, thoughtfulness, humility, and sincerity. Above all I realised his utter devotion to duty. Mr. Denton told me of a meeting of the Missionary Board of the native church, at which several missionaries had asked to be brought back to work in Freetown. The Bishop's reply, in the light of what was to come, was most significant: "What I think we need is more graves in the mission-field."
I have often thought, and sometimes rather rashly said, that Bishop Walmsley was not appreciated as he should have been by many of the prominent people of the native Church. This is as it may be. At the annual meeting of the Missionary Association there that week I saw one at least so moved that he could not utter the thoughts that were in his heart. I know there were thousands of such; and if there were some who were blinded to an extent by their own pet causes and ambitions, if there were some who had taken advantage of his weakness and lack of decision in times of crisis and difficulty, I am sure that this latest "grave in the mission-field" will teach Sierra Leone many lessons that his life could not teach, and that his supreme sacrifice has not been in vain.
It was with a minimum of distress or gloom that we heard of the passing of our dear good friend John Walmsley. Already for years we had felt that his "conversation" was so much in heaven that his going home seemed quite as natural and orderly as his returning again to his far-off diocese, after one of his angel-visits to us at Birmingham.
There never has been in my knowledge one who seemed a better example of growth in grace through a devoted life of service. He was joyous and inspiring always; but during the last few years we had all observed a peculiarly graceful and almost childlike delight in the life about him.
Perhaps his extraordinary homeliness and kindly exuberance of spirit was most manifest in the nursery, to which he always slipped off on the slightest pretext to talk--half seriously, half playfully--to his little friends; and it was there that a little incident occurred, altogether trifling in itself, but perhaps just worth relating, as showing his complete grasp upon infant affections, and as shedding a sidelight which might easily be overlooked in a character so many-sided. The Bishop was, as so often, happily helping a family of very small people to say their evening prayers; and the youngest, who could hardly talk at all, having heard her elder brother say, "Good night, dear Bishop," was heard a few moments later to soliloquise, "Me lub dat big brown biscuit." The phrase "big brown biscuit" appealed very strongly to the Bishop's sense of fun; and for years he used to send books, pictures, and messages to his little friends as "from the big brown biscuit." His personality became enshrined in these little people's minds as the symbol of all that stands for live understanding and large gracefulness; and the fact that he "happened to be" (from their point of view) a missionary bishop has already borne good fruit in enlisting sympathy with God's work, such as his, in the far limits of the Christian frontier.
Let me recall another incident of his earlier life. At a time when he was living very strenuously in a very poor parish in Nottingham, it happened that Christmas Day fell upon a Monday; and he was, as generally happens in such circumstances, just about at the end of his tether physically by the end of the midday service, and resolved to get a breath of fresh air in the country on his bicycle. Once outside his parish his mind fell upon the sick-room of a young country rector, who for ten weeks or more had been laid up in bed as the result of a serious accident. He lived six miles away, and Walmsley had but two hours' respite from the imperative claims of his parish. This was all fifteen years ago; but to this day that invalid, soon after restored to full, active work, recalls his quite unexpected reception of a Christmas Communion, which he had yearned for, but shrunk from asking for on such a day, as one of the most blessed and gracious moments of his whole life. To the communicant his arrival seemed a clearly miraculous answer to prayer; to the celebrant it seemed to be but the normal object of a country ride, and the proper mode of expressing both the glory of the Divine and the sincerity of brotherly love. Afterwards, I remember well, he read a poem to me, and it concluded thus:
"Facing the foreseen doom ye know.
Through flesh and soul's extremity,
Fight on, and keep your heart alive!
I have gone through where ye must go;
I have seen past the agony,
I behold God in heaven, and strive."
John Walmsley has gone through, has seen, beholds, and strives. Dear God, rest his great heart and his pure soul, now and ever. Amen.