Project Canterbury

Forty Years in Burma

By John Ebenezer Marks

London: Hutchinson and Co., 1917.

Chapter XX. Last Visit to Burma

WITH returning health and strength my desire to revisit Burma came strongly upon me. A cordial letter of invitation from my "sons" in that country intensified my longing. In August, 1898, shortly after I left Burma, a meeting of my "old boys" was held in the Rangoon Volunteer Head-quarters, at which an Association was formed, called the "Marks' Memorial Fund," with my good successor, J. T. Best, Esq., M.A., Principal of St. John's College, as President; Mg. Ohn Ghine, A.T.M., C.I.E., Hon. Magistrate, Vice-President; J. Courtenay, Esq., B.A., Sub-Judicial Service, Secretary; and Thomas Lyons, Esq., of the Finance Secretariat, Treasurer--(the latter three being my "sons")--with a strong committee of twenty, of whom eighteen were "old boys." It was from this organization that the invitation came, together with a desire to pay all my expenses out there and home.

I very thankfully accepted the invitation thus to revisit my beloved country and my dear "sons" and other friends unofficially, and without any expense either to the Society or to the diocese. I obtained the consent of my good doctors. Messrs. Bibby Bros, kindly made a very substantial reduction in my passage money on the outward journey and several old Burma friends in England contributed most generously towards my outfit, etc.

I took leave of the Society at the monthly meeting on October iQth, 1900, and slipped off quietly to Marseilles, via Dover and Calais, on the 22nd. Really, I wanted a few days' rest before embarking, and this I got in pleasant sunny Marseilles--so different from the cold, foggy London which I had left twenty-four hours before, where, indeed, I was being worked too hard. So the entire rest during the four days at Marseilles was very acceptable.

We embarked on board the good Bibby liner Staffordshire, 6,005 tons, 4,000 h.-p., on October 27th. On the 10th of November we arrived at Colombo, where our Ceylon fellow-passengers left us. At the Grand Oriental Hotel I had the pleasure to meet the Right Rev. Dr. Pym, Bishop of Mauritius, with whom I dined. Next day I went to Darley House, and spent an hour most pleasantly with the Bishop of Colombo and Mrs. Copleston. I knew the Bishop when he was an undergraduate at Oxford, was with him at St. John's, Oxford, on his last Sunday there, was present at his consecration in Westminster Abbey, and dined with him at Edmonton that night. He most kindly visited me twice on board on my way home. His brother, our Chief Justice in Burma, saved me from falling when I was taken so ill in Maulmein Church, where he was sub-deacon. The Bishop most kindly arranged to take me to my brother, the Rev. P. Marks, Chaplain of Trincomali, on my return journey.

We resumed our voyage on the 15th, and in four days arrived in Rangoon on our twenty-fourth day out from Marseilles. Our steamer was boarded by a lot of my dear "sons," and when we got alongside the wharf, Mr. Best, the Rev. B. Mahon, and others came to give me a hearty welcome. The wharf was grandly decorated with flags, and as I landed Burmese ladies beautifully dressed presented me with fine bouquets of roses, etc. The following address was read:

"REVEREND AND DEAR SIR,--On behalf of the Committee of the Marks' Memorial Fund, your "sons," pupils and friends have much pleasure in rendering you a very hearty and cordial welcome. We have been looking forward to this visit with eager expectation, and now that our expectation has been realized, we feel that we have not prayed in vain to meet you in this, the scene of your former devoted labours in the cause of education. We hope that your visit to Burma will be the means of cementing the ties which have bound you to us, and we trust that the sunny East during this delightful weather will restore you to perfect health again, and that, being filled with happy reminiscences, you will enjoy your sojourn among those to whom you have endeared yourself. You have done for us more than we can ever repay, but we trust that you will not find us lacking in our efforts to make your visit a happy one.

"Signed on behalf of the Committee and others, J. T. Best, M.A., President; Mg. Ohn Ghine, A.T.M., C.I.E., Vice-President; C. K. Davies, Hon. Secretary, Marks' Memorial Fund."

I replied, heartily thanking all for their kindness and this grand reception, and expressing my intense happiness at being once again in beloved Burma.

A carriage and pair conveyed Mr. Best, M.A., Mg. Ohn Ghine, C.I.E., Moung Shwe Bwin, K.S.M., Judge, and myself. Other carriages, to the number of nearly one hundred, followed. Our guard of honour consisted of over sixty youngsters on bicycles, each bearing a flag of welcome. Immense crowds, larger than I have ever seen on such occasions, greeted us on our way. The police kept the road clear for us all the two miles to the College. We halted at appointed places, where Burmese damsels gave us sherbet and other delicacies in golden bowls, and bouquets.

Arrived at St. John's College, we found flags and arches of welcome and a grandly decorated mandat, or tent, beautifully adorned and ornamented. Here an address of welcome was presented to me to which I replied in Burmese, glad to find myself talking that language again--though occasionally stuck for a word, from long disuse.

Then we assembled in the College Chapel, where I returned thanks for God's great mercy in bringing me once more to my dear people. Dinner in the head-master's lodge ended this red-letter day in my life.

The next few days were spent at the College and in paying visits. The Bishop of Rangoon received me most cordially and kindly, as did also His Honour Sir Frederick Fryer, the Lieutenant-Governor of Burma.

On Sunday, the 25th, I preached twice in the College Chapel, which, on both occasions, was well filled with native and European worshippers. In the morning I preached in Burmese on the Gospel for the day, and in the evening in English. I knew from the first that it would be inconvenient for me to stay long at the College. I was its founder and first principal---the only pucka one until Mr. Best came, and my position there might be misunderstood. A constant stream of visitors interfered with the quiet working of the College. So, with the consent of all concerned, I took rooms at a club in the heart of the city, accessible to all at any time, and with no trouble about housekeeping.

Before I left I went with the Principal all through the College, and was thoroughly pleased with the work. It had, of course, changed considerably since my time. Some changes I should very likely have made myself. Others rather jarred upon my feelings, and yet I have no doubt that they had become necessary by the development of circumstances. The College was very different when I gave over charge in 1895 from what it was in 1864, and one must expect similar progress in 1901 and hereafter.

I had long and pleasant interviews at his residence and mine with the Hon. H. Kun Saing, C.I.E., Sawbwa of Hsipaw, a Shan potentate, whom I have known under various circumstances for the last thirty years, and who was very anxious that we should establish a Mission amongst his people, the highlanders of Burma. He had dined with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle three years previously. His beautiful territory, since the opening of the famous Goteik Bridge, is now accessible by rail from Rangoon. His two sons were in the S.P.G. Royal School, Mandalay, and at St. John's, and came to England with the Rev. George Colbeck, and then went to Rugby. The younger, Saw Khe, the Maington Sawbwa, Regent of Hsipaw, was my dear kind friend in Rangoon, and was, at his own request, photographed with Ko Shwe Hman and myself shortly before I left.

On Sunday, March I7th, against the advice of my good Medicus and hostess, I went and preached a short farewell sermon in Burmese at St. John's College Chapel, said "Good-bye" to all the dear people there, and came back very, very tired and went to bed.

On the following day a very large number of friends and myself were taken in a photographic group on Dr. Pedley's lawn.

On March 29th, 1901, I had again to say "Good-bye" to Burma. I was too weak to allow of any very great parting ceremony. I was weary with saying "Good-bye" privately, but many old boys came with their carriages to escort me to the wharf. There a very large assembly of all nationalities, of both sexes, and of all ages, came to bid me farewell. A beautiful address was read to me, and a purse of sovereigns handed to me for expenses, my full passage money having been paid. Mr. Best and Mr. Mahon called for three cheers to help me out with my very sorrowful thanks and good-bye.

The Irrawaddy Flotilla kindly placed a steam launch at my disposal to take me to the S.S. Cheshire, which at 2 p.m. sailed for England.

I had said "Thank you," from first to last, to all my friends, my "sons, daughters and grandchildren." They asked me on the wharf to promise to return next year. I could not promise, but I would not say "No."

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