Project Canterbury

Forty Years in Burma

By John Ebenezer Marks

London: Hutchinson and Co., 1917.

Chapter XIX. Last Days in Maulmein

UNDER Bishop Titcomb the work of the Church in British Burma made excellent progress. He established the Rangoon Additional Clergy Society, and made his influence felt all over the huge diocese. He took special interest in the S.P.G. Orphan Home, which he aided munificently, and at his recommendation it was called the Diocesan Orphanage for Boys. He frequently invited our orphans to garden parties at Bishop's Court, where the ladies of his family, his efficient coadjutors in every good work, most kindly entertained them.

The accident by which Burma was deprived of his services caused us the greatest sorrow. The roadway on the side of a Karen hill on which he was walking gave way under him, and he fell some twenty feet, injuring his spine, and necessitating his ultimate retirement from Burma, to our deep regret. His name will always be revered and loved in the diocese. His successor was the Right Reverend Bishop Strachan, M.D., who from 1863 had been one of the most prominent of the S.P.G. missionaries in Madras Diocese. It was during his episcopate that Upper Burma was annexed to the British Crown, and the whole country, by leaps and bounds, began to advance in material prosperity, so that now Burma is the largest territorially, and the most prosperous financially, of all the provinces of our great Indian Empire.

After fifteen years' absence I visited England again in 1890, bringing with me two of our students from St. John's College, who, with myself, were most kindly received by bishops and clergy and other friends whenever I had the pleasure of going on deputation for S.P.G. Especially did Archbishop Benson take a most kindly interest in these youths, who in a short time were called to the Bar of the Inner Temple, and are now practising as barristers in Burma. The dear Archbishop, whom I had known in Lincoln in 1875, gave me a beautiful large Prayer Book for our chapel, and in many other ways showed his kind interest in our work. It was during this visit that I was so fortunate as to secure as assistant and coadjutor my dear friend, the Rev. Bernard Mahon, the son of the highly-respected Vicar of Leigh-on-Mendip and S.P.G. Diocesan Secretary. His expenses were paid by a noble lady who heard my appeal for help in Westminster Abbey. Of how great value his services to the College and Mission have been all are aware who know Rangoon.

I returned, after six months' absence, with renewed energy, but with failing powers. Every month told me that a great institution like St. John's College needed a younger and stronger man at its head. Frequent illnesses interrupted my work--although my visits as chaplain to Tavoy and Mergui usually reinvigorated me.

All our institutions were in full activity. The College Cadet Corps in connection with the Rangoon Volunteer Rifles was instituted in the time of Bishop Titcomb, and received the high commendation of Lord Roberts, General Sir George Chesney, and others. The Orphanage had over a hundred boys, but was a source of deep anxiety financially.

The College had a band of excellent workers--"Shway Yoe," C. I. E., Messrs. W. B. Rutledge, W. B. Tydd, W. Wemyss, R. H. St. John, J. Courtenay, Ko Shwe Hman, and others--to whom its prosperity and success must be ascribed and my heartiest thanks ever be given. I must also mention the excellent work of the late Rev. A. Salmon, my locum tenens in 1890. "Shway Yoe" (now Sir Jarnes George Scott) was head-master in Bishop Titcomb's time, and left us to become H.B.M.'s Resident at Bangkok. He was a man who would adorn any station, and as our headmaster, our leader in all that was athletic and manly, we honoured and loved him then, and we shall never cease to regard him with admiration and affection. He did the school great good by infusing or evoking among the boys the athletic spirit which has never since died out.

In 1895 I was stricken with severe illness, heart complaint in a very painful form rendering any exertion difficult and dangerous. I was ordered to England, and feared that my work was done. The Society's Honorary Consulting Physician, Dr. Ogle, confirmed my fears. After a short time, however, I seemed to recover, and went on deputation again, but though I earnestly wished to return to Burma, I had grave doubts whether I ought to resume the care of St. John's College. With the consent of the Society the question was left to the decision of the Archbishop of Canterbury, whether I should return to St. John's, or accept the chaplaincy of Maulmein (my first love), under the Additional Clergy Society.

After a most kind and patient inquiry at Addington, His Grace decided that I should resign the college and take the chaplaincy in Maulmein, Tavoy and Mergui. I spent two and a half very happy years at Maulmein, with frequent visits to and from my old pupils in other stations. But I felt that I had but little strength even for that lighter work. On Sunday, July loth, 1898, whilst celebrating Holy Communion in the beautiful St. Matthew's Church, I suddenly became ill, and must have fallen had not my kind friends, Messrs. F. S. Copleston and K. G. Burne, sub-deacons, come to my help and carried me into the vestry, I was again sent home, loaded with kindness and help from all, especially Surgeon-Colonel Sinclair, C.S.I., and Dr. Pedley and my dear colleagues and pupils of St. John's, an institution which, under the very able and efficient management of Mr. J. T. Best, M.A. (Cantab.), is fuly maintaining its highest reputation. I was over two years in England, an invalid for the most part of the time, but, when well enough, pleading for the dear S.P.G. From the Society and its officers, especially the Rev. Secretary Prebendary Tucker, I have ever received the utmost kindness, sympathy and consideration, both in Burma and in England, so that my visits to the S.P.G. Office have been among the most pleasant and encouraging episodes of my sojourn at home.

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