Project Canterbury

Forty Years in Burma

By John Ebenezer Marks

London: Hutchinson and Co., 1917.

Chapter V. Ordination at Calcutta

IN spite of constant ill-health, I resumed work at the school, where we had enlarged the buildings, added a gymnasium, a bathing tank and separate class-rooms. Just at that time the news arrived that the master for the European school had been selected and was on his way to Maulmein. In pursuance of our undertaking we had perforce to surrender our European scholars to him. The boys were most unwilling to go, and several of the parents declared that as they had not been parties to the contract they would not withdraw their boys.

One at least got up a petition to the Archbishop of Canterbury, protesting against this interference with the liberty of the subject. But it had to be done, though I confess that I did it sorrowfully. The master arrived, a good schoolmaster for England, but incapable of accommodating himself to the ideas of the Chaplain and committee of the new school, and to make a long story short, the school was not a success and terminated in a dramatic disagreement.

Before that happened, however, my younger brother had arrived, and we had both left for a visit to Calcutta on the invitation of Bishop Cotton. I spent my time in Calcutta as the guest of the learned and ascetic Dr. W. Kay of Lincoln College, Oxford, the friend and associate of Dr. Pusey, and his under-study as Professor of Hebrew at Oxford. I was also the guest of the genial F. R. Vallings, the secretary of the S.P.G., one of the kindest-hearted men whom it has ever been my good fortune to meet. My recreation was visiting La Martiniere College for boys and girls, the Calcutta Free School and similar institutions. In all these schools I took the liveliest interest. I felt that they were hardly up to the English standard, especially as regards the relationship between masters and pupils.

There was a standoffishness which was irksome to me, and which I felt to be not wholly beneficial to either party. More mutual trust and affection might well have been encouraged without loss of dignity or infringement of discipline.

The Director of Public Instruction, Mr. Woodrow, was a man after my own heart, a pupil of Dr. Arnold of Rugby, and a believer in "Tom Brown's School Days," which I confess to be my educational text-book. Let me mention, in passing, that the then Bishop of Calcutta was the "new master" of that celebrated work. The Bishop lacked in one thing only--geniality--but in everything else he was excellent. When I sat with him in Bishop's Palace and poured out my soul with regard to Arnold's methods, he glowed with enthusiasm, and once burst out, "I wish you could have been with us at Rugby!" So did I.

La Martiniere College had a curious history. It was one of three institutions founded by a bequest of General Martine, a French adventurer, who made a fortune by manipulating the jewels in the crowns and coronets of the Princes of India. On his death he left a very large sum of money for the foundation of three schools which were to be named after him, one in Calcutta, one in Lucknow, and one in his native city of Lyons. He stipulated that the education was to be given to European and Eurasian children in the Christian religion. The question as to what precisely was meant by this term having come before the courts, it was decided that a scheme should be drawn up by Dr. Wilson, who was then Bishop of Calcutta, the Roman Catholic Bishop, and the senior Presbyterian chaplain! A very curious document was produced and was accepted, but the Pope, on hearing thereof, at once prohibited it, and declared that he would accept no scheme which was not wholly Roman Catholic.

The management of La Martiniere School at Calcutta and Lucknow consequently passed entirely into the hands of the Anglicans and Presbyterians. The principal at that time was a Cambridge Wrangler, a great mathematician, a typical college don, a kind, good fellow, but wanting in health and strength, which prevented him from entering into the game? of the pupils. As director of studies he was excellent. It was not his fault that he was not an Arnold or a Woodrow.

The Calcutta Free School had a different history. It was founded by Lord Clive with the spoils of his victory, and it has done immense good amongst the poorer class of the Eurasian population of Calcutta.

Amongst these children I found great delight, and I am by no means ashamed to confess that I made friendships among them which have continued till the present day. One of the most interesting memorials of my Ordination on November 1st, 1863--when the Cathedral of Calcutta was crowded by my young friends, pupils and teachers of the Calcutta schools--was a beautiful pocket Communion Service, with the inscription: "A token of affection, from the boys and girls of La Martiniere, Calcutta," and a Bible inscribed: "Presented to the Rev. J. E. Marks by the pupil teachers and boys of the Calcutta Free School, as a small memento of their gratitude for the interest he took in their welfare, and of their affection for the kindness he showed towards them at all times, especially by promoting their amusements."

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