Project Canterbury



The Story of Car Nicobar





Introduction by the Bishop of Barrackpore






I. S. P. C. K.


Mother and child.

The jetty at Mus.

The Deputy Home Minister joins in a Nicobarese dance.

Demonstration by school children.

Bishop Richardson with clergy and catechists.

St. Thomas' Pro-cathedral.

Procession outside the Cathedral.


Some time ago, my first Vicar and old friend, Bishop Bryan of Barrackpore, asked me whether I could produce sufficient material for a new booklet about the work of the Church in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. I do not think I was chosen for this job because I possess any special skill as a writer, but because I am in a favourable position to know the facts. I can speak to a considerable degree from personal knowledge and experience, because I have been in charge of the Anglican parish of the Andamans for the past six years.

Our present Metropolitan, Dr Arabindo Nath Mukerjee, sent me here to Port Blair in 1955, with the heavy responsibility of taking charge of a large and neglected parish, with splendid opportunities for evangelistic work. Before coming here, I worked in different parishes in the Diocese of Calcutta, every one of which had a long tradition and established parochial life. There everything was smooth and well-ordered. In Port Blair, however, apart from its remoteness, there was the fact that there had been no resident priest of our Church for nearly thirteen years; so I had to start from scratch. There was not even a church in my parish when I came here.

Although the Andamans are part of the metropolitical diocese, I am far away from Calcutta, and normally go there only once or twice a year, if at all. My immediate superior is Bishop John Richardson, who lives on Car Nicobar, about 150 miles away from Port Blair. There is no regular shipping service between here and Car Nicobar, so Bishop Richardson and I meet each other only three or four times a year. I have, however, paid several [v/vi] visits to Car Nicobar, and whenever I stay there I am inspired by the life and devotion of the Bishop himself, by the selfless service given by the Nicobarese priests, and by the simple life, charming nature and sincere Christianity of the Nicobarese people.

These few pages about Car Nicobar and the Andaman Islands do not constitute an historical survey of our work; neither is this an official document. It is simply a record of personal impressions of things which I have seen for myself, or of which I have learned on good authority. In order to give my readers a bird's eye view, I have decided, however, to trace briefly the story of our Church in these regions from its first beginnings up to the present.

The complete triumph of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ on Car Nicobar, and the steady spread of our Church to the other islands of the archipelago, should inspire us all with new confidence in the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, and awaken in us fresh zeal in the proclamation of that message to all mankind.


The Vicarage
Phoenix Bay, Port Blair
Andaman Islands

Introduction by the Bishop of Barrackpore

I have gained great pleasure from preparing the manuscript of this booklet for the press, for, apart from my close friendship with Padre Srinivasan and my pride in being able to claim friendship with Bishop Richardson also, I have good reason for a personal interest in the Andamans and Nicobars.

Here in Barrackpore we feel closely in touch with Car Nicobar because the Indian Air Force station on the island comes under the command of the Officer Commanding, Barrackpore, and there is constant and regular traffic between the two. Sometimes our friends among the Air Force officers give us coconuts and bananas brought back from the island.

There are other ways too, in which we in Barrackpore seem destined to have contact with the islands. Dr Agnes Flewett, one of our C.M.S. missionaries, has told us that her father was for some years stationed on the Andamans as a Forest Officer. Brigadier Gordon Richardson, D.S.O., commanding the British Gurkhas in Nepal, to whom I minister regularly, reports that his grandfather was once the Medical Officer at Port Blair. As his name was John Richardson, it is tempting to speculate that Solomon the catechist, who gave the Bishop the same name, heard it first in this connection, even though a comparison of dates makes it most unlikely that he met the doctor personally.

Quite recently a football team of Nicobarese boys [1/2] in the police force came over to Barrackpore to play in a tournament. They stayed for about a month in the great police establishment across the road from us. It was a pleasure and a thrill to have them worshipping with us in the Cathedral on Sundays, when their vigorous and tuneful singing was a great help to our little congregation.

As if all this were not enough to show how reasonable it is for us to feel that we have a special connection with the Andamans and Nicobars, I may mention one more link. Mr. George Michael, a research student in the Indian Fisheries Department, one of the keenest members of the Cathedral congregation and a faithful server at the altar, was born on Car Nicobar, his father being the Dr Royappa of Manumathurai mentioned on page 23.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are an outpost of India, lying closer to Burma and Malaya than to the east coast of India. Historically, they became part of the new Republic of India in 1947, because they had been part of the old British Empire of India. Geographically, in spite of their distance from the mainland, they have a real connection with India because they are outcrops of the great Himalayan mountain ridge, which, continuing its lower ranges through the south of Burma, submerges in the waters of the Bay of Bengal, emerges as these two archipelagoes, and then terminates in Sumatra and Java.

Of the two groups, the Andamans would on most counts be reckoned the more important, but for us the chief interest lies in the Nicobars, and particularly in Car Nicobar, the most northerly of the group, about 16 hours by ship to the south of the Andamans.

[3] Only 49 square miles in area, Car Nicobar lies as flat as a pancake on the sea, almost square in shape, with curving bays of surf-bordered sand. It is almost entirely covered with trees, of which the vast majority are coconut palms--the staple food, the means of livelihood, and, until quite recently, the only currency of its 9,000 to 10,000 inhabitants.

This is the island which must first hold our attention; it is only towards the end of his narrative that Mr. Srinivasan will return to the Andamans.

The Iona of the East

Mentioned by Ptolemy the geographer in A.D. 420, Car Nicobar received little attention from the outside world for many centuries. Perhaps some shipwrecked sailor reaching its shore would see a brown body disappearing into the jungle, with a red loin-cloth so tied at the back as to resemble a tail, and would wonder what animal he had seen.

An occasional Portuguese trader visited the island in the 16th century. In the 17th, Jesuit priests sought to evangelise the Nicobar Islands, but the climate and the lack of amenities took heavy toll of their lives. Moravian missionaries made further and more determined attempts in the 18th century. Twenty-four of them laid down their lives; eleven on the island and thirteen on their return to Tranquebar. Bishop N.C. Sargant records how "finally when the devoted band had been reduced to one, as it had several times before, it fell to J. G. Hansel to make final arrangements for departure, and for the abandonment of the mission. 'Words,' he wrote, 'cannot express the painful sensations which crowded into my mind while I was thus executing the task committed [3/4] to me ... I burst into tears and exclaimed, Surely all this cannot be done in vain!' A fourth attempt was made in 1807 by a Roman Catholic missionary from Rangoon, and in 1830-34 a Danish expedition to establish a colony also failed."

All these heroic efforts were defeated by the deadly climate, the jungle, and the privations of the Nicobar Islands, and by the evil superstitions and devil worship of the islanders. The Nicobarese remained under the control of their all-powerful witch-doctors and wizards.

But look at Car Nicobar to-day.

Only 125 years after the failure of the last Danish expedition, the Cross of Christ has triumphed. There are no more witch-doctors. Superstition and ignorance have gone. Almost the whole native population of the island are Christians, and Christians the quality of whose lives moves visitors to speak in almost extravagant terms. A Roman Catholic priest who happened to be there for a couple of days reported that he had never before been so conscious of the power and working of the Holy Spirit of God. A Dutch business man who spent an hour or two there said: "That was the experience of a lifetime. Never have I seen a more remarkable people."

But perhaps the most striking tribute of all comes from Sir Compton Mackenzie, who writes: "In all my life I have never been so profoundly aware of the Divine power of goodness as I was during my visit to Car Nicobar on the last day of February 1947."

It was, I think, Sir Compton Mackenzie who, realising that the Faith was beginning to spread from Car Nicobar to the other islands, first spoke of it as "the Iona of the East."

[5] Evangelists of the Nicobars

Under the hand of God, the evangelism of Car Nicobar has been accomplished chiefly by the labours of two men. One of them is with us still: Bishop John Richardson, of whom Sir Compton Mackenzie has written that the privilege of meeting him "will be an abiding memory and an abiding reassurance," and that he "has brought me near to comprehending what manner of man Columba was." There will be much in this booklet about John Richardson.

He, however, would be the first to pay tribute to the man to whom he owes his own conversion and earlier education, the man who has been honoured by the inclusion of his name in the Supplementary Calendar of the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon, where the latest entry reads:--

"March 15: V. Solomon, Evangelist to the Nicobars; landed 1895."

Bishop N. C. Sargant, from whom I have already quoted, writes:

"The most remarkable instance of a Tamil Christian becoming a missionary to other people is found in the story of V. Solomon of Madras. He also bore the name of Thumbuswamy and had been a convert. He became a true apostle to the Nicobar Islands, and the story begins after a convict establishment had been settled on the Andaman Islands, and the English congregation at Port Blair in 1885 established an orphanage for aboriginal boys. In the following year this work was entrusted to Mr. and Mrs. V. Solomon." [The Dispersion of the Tamil Church, p. 74.]

[6] Bishop Richardson writes of Mr. Solomon in these early days:

"He used to accompany the superintendent of the Settlement on his annual tour for the purpose of collecting boys from the Nicobars for his school at Port Blair. As a result of this, parents hid their young boys in the jungle as soon as they detected the smoke of a steamer on the horizon. I was one of those boys. The villages would be emptied of young boys, and only adults would be left behind to look after the huts. As no younger boys could be found, some older lads were seized against their will and taken to Port Blair. After a few years, they were brought back with a few pidgin English phrases they had learned by heart and of which they were proud.

"These Car Nicobarese boys felt their exile; some of them tried to escape in an open boat and were all lost in the sea. To avoid such an occurrence again Mr. Solomon was sent to open a school at Car Nicobar. A bungalow and a small school were built for him. He collected his old boys and conducted prayers on Sundays. By force he collected twelve young boys of school age, of whom I was one."

It is said that one of the reasons which encouraged Solomon to make the move to Car Nicobar was that he found the people of the island mild of disposition and easy to manage. Down to our own day, all those who have had to deal with the Car Nicobarese Christians have commented on their gentle, cheerful nature and their sense of discipline. These qualities are not the outcome of any weakness in character, for the Car Nicobarese can all when necessary show themselves to be manly and brave to a degree, and capable of great tenacity and endurance.

Some years ago, when as Archdeacon of Calcutta [6/7] I had to deal with Bishop Richardson's financial and other business at diocesan headquarters, he wrote me a letter in which he told me the following story:

"It is usual at this time of year for our people to pay visits to the neighbouring islands in their canoes. Twelve canoes started for a trip on a recent night. The sea here is noted for its bad currents and tide rip, and this party was caught in the tide rip at 2 a.m. One canoe was swamped and her crew were not able to refloat her. The nearest boat went to their help, but could only save six, including two children, and they lost two of their own number in doing so. Their canoe was too small to take more. Those whose boat had overturned fully realised that the other would go down too if they forced their way aboard, so they made no attempt to do so. They disappeared in the dark, carried to their death by the 12 knots current, still clinging to their craft.

[8] "When morning came, the rescuing canoe could not find the others, so they made for the nearest island, a precipitous rock not more than half a mile square. They were there for three days entirely without food before I found them. Being uneasy I had borrowed a motor boat from my friend Akoojee Jadwet and gone to look for them. We gave them what food we had, and took back with us ten children, all that our small boat would accommodate. We left thirty people on the island.

"On returning, I reported the matter at once to the Assistant Commissioner who immediately signalled for a bigger boat from Nancowrie. Unfortunately it was undergoing repairs. The weather was too rough for the small launch to make the trip. Then the survey party and the R.A.F. detachment kindly offered their services to drop food to the marooned party. On Sunday we flew over the island and made a successful drop of 100 lbs. of food.

"Before a rescuing party could reach them, the party managed to repair their canoe, and returned to port as soon as the sea become calmer."

Before I close this lengthy introduction, and allow Mr. Srinivasan to tell his own story, I think I should let you see something more of Car Nicobar through the eyes of an accomplished writer. The Listener for February 23rd 1950 contains an article by Sir Compton Mackenzie describing the visit that he paid in February 1947, and it is from this account that I take the following extracts:

"On landing we found all the headmen of the villages waiting to greet us, and I had a fine bout of handshaking. The Assistant Commissioner took us for a tour of the island in his jeep along sandy roads running in every direction through coconut groves. He told me he had persuaded the natives to carry for seven miles a Diesel engine [8/9] and electrical equipment buried by the Japanese and weighing several tons, and had then got it working, so that he was able to provide electric light for many of the houses. This had been much appreciated, and it had become the fashion to make up parties to sleep in a house with an electric lamp just for the pleasure of lying awake and looking at it.

"The houses are like large beehives thickly thatched with a special grass grown in carefully tended clearings in the jungle which are tabu to other crops. The houses are built on piles with metal guards to keep out the rats, and the single sleeping-room is reached by a narrow and seemingly very frail bamboo ladder. A third of the floor space in the middle is boarded, but on either side the floor is of finely pleated cane which provides ventilation. There are no windows and the cooking is done on the ground underneath. The houses of the village are built round a space of beaten earth on which nobody is allowed to throw litter--a village brown instead of village green.

"The Car Nicobarese have no money and no measures and were paid in kind for their coconuts and areca nuts, their edible birds' nests, ambergris and tortoiseshell, by the Chinese and Indian traders, being always in debt apparently, for they were sadly exploited. However, the only Indian store on the island when I went there was well-run and well-stocked and the Indian manager was obviously an honest and decent fellow.

"There is an Anglican mission with an enchanting school run by the Reverend John Richardson, himself a Nicobarese, a man of culture and saintliness who made a profound impression on me. The church is beautifully neat and filled with a quiet holiness. The east window was smashed by the Japanese. I called the school enchanting. So it is. We heard some wonderful singing by the [9/10] children, all in English without a trace of accent. Yet none of the children could speak English. But they all have English names, chosen by themselves, which they use with strangers instead of their Nicobarese names. Two little boys were called Nelson and Hardy, and one little girl had chosen for herself as a name 'Yes Please.' I much admired the way Mr. Richardson was not trying to turn the children into imitations of the west but encouraging them to be themselves and to maintain the good old customs. It is a model mission.

"That afternoon we drove to a village called Mus for the football match which had been arranged with the ship. The Narbada team were the champions of the Indian Navy and at first they were inclined to think it would be beneath their dignity to play the locals. But it was all they could do to win. The Nicobarese, playing with bare feet, kicked the ball harder than I ever saw it kicked by professional soccer players, and they ran like hares. If they could only have combined better in attack they would have won easily. Two of the sailors had to be carried back to the ship, exhausted by the pace of the game. I got very excited and drank quarts of coconut milk to keep my temperature down.

"After the football match, which came to an end when the trunks of the coconut palms round the field were stained with rose by the sunset, we drove to a dance in the village of Perka. Ninety-six girls formed a great horseshoe round a bonfire of coconut husks, stamping and shuffling upon the ground between a series of chants and moving round very slowly in a pattern that changed after each chant. The girls were dressed in sarongs and white bodices and round their heads they wore fillets of cellophane which glittered in the light of a half moon, or caught the flicker of the bonfire according to the gestures. The [10/11] sound of the shuffling feet was like a calm sea running up a steep sandy beach and receding."

Last of all, Sir Compton tells of a visit he paid next day with the Assistant Commissioner to the island of Chowra, some fifty miles south. This island has a sinister reputation. It is the headquarters of the wizardry and magic which has held the Nicobar Islands in thraldom for so many centuries, and it is the home of all kinds of evil. Sir Compton describes his visit as "a rather horrifying experience."

"Unlike Car Nicobar the villages in Chowra are filthy. Flies were thick everywhere. Dogs abounded. Round the houses broody fowls in rectangular baskets were hung up out of the way of rats. Devilish black and red figures to frighten other devils were all over the place. The women were dressed in squalid rags: the men wore practically nothing except a long red string behind, representing the tail of the dog from whose union with a woman after the flood they believe themselves to be sprung. Everybody--men, women and children--is diseased. I did not see half-a-dozen healthy people. Venereal disease, tuberculosis, elephantiasis and malaria have ravaged them. The people had no medicine of any kind, and there was no room in the little Car Nicobar hospital for even the worst cases. A few days ago I met the late Bishop of Rangoon who ordained John Richardson. He told me that last month this remarkable priest was consecrated Bishop of Car Nicobar and that he intends to convert all the islands. Then the devils that haunt the dark island of Chowra will flee and the evil in it which I felt like a physical impact will give way to good."

[12] The Reverend M.D. Srinivasan

Like the preacher who does not know how to stop, there is just one thing more that I must say before I stand aside. That is a word about the Revd M. D. Srinivasan himself.

As he has mentioned in his preface, he and I are old friends, our acquaintance going back to the time when he was a theological student at Bishop's College, Calcutta. He then became my assistant in the busy parish of St Thomas, Free School Street, Calcutta. During the three years that we worked together happily there I gained for him and for his lively and devoted wife a great affection and respect, and I count it a privilege that I am godfather to their eldest son.

Mr Srinivasan says little about himself in his account of the work in the Andamans and Nicobars. Members of the General Council of our Church, however, having had first-hand reports of the progress of the work there since Mr. Srinivasan went to take charge of Port Blair, realise fully what a great work he is doing. In the Andamans he is known and respected by everyone and wields a strong influence. His devotion to his flock is single-minded and unremitting. In the Nicobars, he has been a great help to Bishop Richardson, and from the many conversations which I have had with him I have come to realise that there too he exercises a wise and beneficent influence.

+ Ronald Bishop of Barrackpore

I. Early Days

From the time that the British took over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, until 1950, they were part of the Diocese of Rangoon. Just prior to that date India and Burma had not only become independent countries, but were independent of each other. As the islands came within the territory of India, it was advisable that the ecclesiastical jurisdiction should be exercised there by an Indian diocese, and therefore in 1950 they were transferred to the Diocese of Calcutta.

From 1863 onwards there was a succession of Government Chaplains having charge of the Andamans until 1923, and thereafter we had Diocesan Chaplains until 1942. Our Church records give us a complete list of chaplains who served at Christ Church, Port Blair. The last of them was the Revd V. M. Kemp, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese when they occupied the islands. He was removed to Burma, but was one of those who managed to survive all the ordeals of life in a prisoner-of-war camp, and is now living quietly in retirement at Yercaud in South India.

As is generally known, the British Government established a penal settlement at Port Blair, but that no longer exists. Most of the officials in the Andaman and Nicobar administrative services in those days were British; some were Anglo-Indian, and a few were Indians.

[14] Many people have the impression that the old Government chaplains did not take any interest in evangelistic work among the indigenous population. That would certainly not be a true generalisation in respect of those who served at Port Blair. Some of them certainly took a genuine interest in the spiritual welfare of the convicts, and also encouraged and helped in the evangelistic work on Car Nicobar.

There are twenty-two islands in the Nicobar group, of which only nine are inhabited. Car Nicobar has always been the most important island of the group. At present, out of a total population of 14,000 Nicobarese, nearly 10,000 live on Car Nicobar. The people of Car Nicobar are of Mongolian descent, and probably reached their present home via Burma. Bishop Richardson has told me that in the old set-up, the work on Car Nicobar was always considered part of the spiritual responsibility of the chaplains at Port Blair. It was through their efforts that the Anglican Church started work on Car Nicobar.

They were of course by no means the first people to try to evangelise the Nicobars. There were other attempts in earlier days, made by the French Jesuits, the Portuguese, and by Danish and Moravian missionaries, but all the best efforts of these Christian stalwarts seemed to end in failure. Gross superstition, witchcraft, fear and darkness continued to reign over the islands.

II. Mr and Mrs. Solomon

A new beginning was made when Mr. V. Solomon established his mission on the island of Car Nicobar in 1896. He started work at Mus, the native village of John Richardson, whose name at that time was Ha-Chev-Ka. [14/15] The twelve boys with which Mr. Solomon opened his school were all given the Christian name of John, but the new surnames varied. For some time, Mr. Solomon was employed as Government Agent for the Nicobars, and Observer of the Meteorological Observatory erected on Car Nicobar. Later on, he gave up the Government [15/16] post, and devoted himself entirely to the work of the Church. He had his own special method of introducing the Gospel message to his boys. He took Scriptural verses dealing with the goodness, love and holiness of God, and with God's plan of salvation, and these he taught his boys to repeat by heart. They were then encouraged to repeat these verses at home, and as they went about among the community. After due preparation, John Richardson, along with some other boys, was presented to the Revd C.P. Cory for Baptism in 1900.

Mr. and Mrs. Solomon carried on their work with great diligence and devotion until 1909, when Mr. Solomon died at Rangoon. A remarkable obituary notice by Mr. W. W. D'Oyley, Deputy Superintendent of the Andaman and Nicobar Commission, reads in part as follows:

"The death on November 22, 1909, in Rangoon, of Mr. V. Solomon, Tamil Catechist in charge of the S. P. G. orphanage at the Nicobar Islands, on his way to Madras on leave, is a great loss that will be felt by all the inhabitants of Car Nicobar, where Mr. Solomon resided; by the natives, both Christian and heathen; by the foreign traders; and by the Government.

"Mr. Solomon's services in the cause of Christianity and civilisation have been invaluable. He was sent at the beginning of the year 1896 to start an orphanage at Car Nicobar, the most important island of the group, containing 3,500 natives out of a total population of 6,000 ... Mr. Solomon had previously been for many years in charge of an orphanage for Andamanese at Port Blair, to which Nicobarese boys were also admitted. It was found that this institution would better serve its purpose at the Nicobars, owing to the dwindling population of the Andamanese, their incapability to receive intellectual instruction, and the difficulty of preventing the boys under [16/17] instruction from coming and going as they pleased; while the Nicobarese boys, who come of an intelligent race, capable of useful instruction, were away from their homes.

"All the inhabitants of Car Nicobar had got to regard 'Sol,' as they nicknamed him, as their father, and were ready to do anything for him; they went to him for advice in all matters and referred all disputes to him. His example has induced many of the islanders to embrace Christianity, or if not actually to become Christians, to give up the barbarous and superstitious customs of their own religion, which is regarded as a kind of animism.

"Mr Solomon has made a thorough study of the Nicobarese language, customs and habits, and his reports thereon were considered so valuable ethnologically as to be sent to the Royal Society for publication.

"The number of Nicobarese converted by him to Christianity amounts to 128, of which twenty-eight are children in the school, nineteen boys and nine girls. Besides the 128 Christians, many more of the islanders have been led to abandon their savage customs, to cultivate vegetables and fruit for their consumption, to drink tea instead of tari (toddy), to sew and to do carpentry. Their former customs of infanticide, devil murders, felling coconut trees on the death of their owner, dragging about the bodies of deceased persons, burying them with live animals and so on, have altogether been given up in the principal village of Mus, where the mission station is.

"Before his arrival in the island, traders were not allowed to remain on shore after their ships had left, owing to the murders that occurred, but now they live there safely all the year round, and have several fine shops and houses."

Thus, a remarkable life of devoted service had come to an end, but the light that he lit still goes on shining. [17/18] For the time being the light continued to illuminate Car Nicobar through the life and work of his widow, Mrs. Anbu Solomon, until her own death twelve years later in 1921.

In those days shipping services between Car Nicobar and Port Blair or Rangoon were very meagre. Perhaps once in three or four months a steamer might call, but there was no other means of communication between Car Nicobar and the rest of the world. Now, there is a wireless station at Car Nicobar, so that at any time messages can be received and transmitted to Port Blair. Recently, too, radio-telephone connection has been established between Car Nicobar and Port Blair, and a small unit of the Indian Air Force is stationed at Car Nicobar. Hence there is a regular weekly I.A.F. service between Car Nicobar and Barrackpore. But in spite of all these conveniences, when officers from the mainland are posted in Car Nicobar, they still feel that they are in a lonely and isolated place.

Without any of these amenities, Mrs. Solomon decided to stay alone and to continue to work for the cause of Christ in a strange place. Truly she must have been a brave soul. In addition to her school and evangelistic work, she taught the Nicobarese girls many useful arts, such as cooking, sewing and embroidery, housekeeping and many other similar things. Her name "Anbu" in Tamil means "Love." True to her name, she had shown remarkable love for the people of Nicobar and for the cause of the kingdom of God. Her selfless service was amply rewarded by the loyalty and affection shown by the inhabitants of Car Nicobar.

[19] III. John Richardson's Early Life and Training

From his early years John Richardson showed signs of his future powers of leadership. When Bishop Knight of Rangoon first visited the island, he saw the need of supplying the mission at Car Nicobar with educated indigenous leaders. He therefore selected a few promising boys and one or two girls to be educated and trained in Church schools in Burma, in order that they might in due course return to the island as teachers of their own people. So it was that in 1906 John Richardson was sent to Mandalay, to a school under the charge of the Winchester Diocesan Mission. The head of the Mission at that time was the Revd R. S. Fyffe, who later succeeded Bishop Knight as Bishop of Rangoon, and his headmaster was Ernest Hart, who in later years was a great help to John Richardson on Car Nicobar itself.

John stayed in Burma for a period of seven years, an important period of his life, in which he not only had the benefit of an English education, but also grew in faith and in Christian virtue. He soon attracted the attention of his teachers because of his reliability and eagerness to learn. His teachers formed great hopes for him, and were careful to develop his latent powers of leadership. He was a sturdy boy, a good wrestler, and soon became a notable football player. It was he who later introduced this game among the Nicobarese, where it has become their most popular sport.

In the booklet called In Face of Death there is told this typical story of John's schooldays. [Eagle Books No. 68: Edinburgh Press.]

"Every week someone from the school had to fetch [19/20] money from the bank, and it was not long before this duty was given to John. He also had to take the money needed for the week to Myitha, six miles from Mandalay. No one had any fears about him; he was completely trustworthy.

"One day he set out for Myitha as usual, but failed to return at the expected hour. Time went on, and consternation reigned at the school. What could have happened?

"At last, to everyone's relief, John appeared, a little tired and very dusty, but safe.

"'My dear boy, whatever has happened?' exclaimed the Principal. 'We feared you had been attacked on the way.'

"'Oh no, sir,' replied John simply. 'It was just that I could get no conveyance to Myitha, and had to walk both ways.'

"The reply was typical of John. Whatever difficulties he encountered, he would not just sit down and wonder what to do. He would take the simplest and most direct method of reaching his goal."

In due course, John was confirmed at Mandalay by the then Secretary of the S.P.G., Bishop Montgomery, father of the famous Field-Marshal.

In 1912 he returned to his island home and started his life's work there as teacher and catechist, under Mrs. Solomon. She was immensely pleased to receive back her young pupil, and was filled with joy that he had come back to work among his own people. With characteristic humility, she said: "Well, John, you have come back now with full qualifications. You must take charge of the work, and I shall work under you." But John, with equal humility, replied: "Amma, (mother) how could I do that? I am your pupil. It is you and your husband [20/21] who taught me all I know. Therefore you should be in charge of the work." This conversation shows how John's character was developing, and that he had the real marks of a leader. He who wants to lead others must be willing to take orders from others. "Obedience is better than sacrifice," says the Bible.

Thus with complete harmony and fellowship, Mrs. Solomon and John Richardson carried on the work. John visited village after village, and several new boys were added to the school. One day Mrs. Solomon decided that the time had come to speak about his marriage.

"John," she said, "none of the girls here are fit to be your wife. You are a well-educated man, and therefore I suggest to you that you should marry an educated girl from the mainland."

"How can I do that?" said John. "I am a Nicobarese. I live here, and am one with my people."

"True," replied Mrs. Solomon. "But an educated wife from the mainland would be of great use to you in your work."

"No, Ma," said John firmly. "She might be a greater hindrance than a help, because she would perhaps not fit in with our way of life. And what is more important, I would be alienating myself from my own people. I am quite sure it is better for me that I should marry a girl from Car Nicobar itself."

In 1921 it was necessary for Mrs. Solomon to undergo an operation at Port Blair, but it was of no avail, and after a lifetime of faithful service she entered into her rest. John must have felt the loss of his teacher very much, yet with courage and faith he now assumed the whole responsibility for the work.

Meanwhile the administrators also came to know more about John Richardson and his abilities, his utter devotion [21/22] to his people and to the cause of the Church. On occasion he was asked to act as Government Agent with first-class magisterial powers, and was in fact offered the position of a permanent Tehsildar. These opportunities of promotion in Government service were never a temptation to him. Even if they had been, he would have set his face against such worldly ambitions, for he had definitely decided to give his whole life for the service of the Church and his people. It was a tribute to his devotion that by now almost everybody in the island looked to him for guidance and advice.

A great step forward in the Christian history of the island was taken when, soon after John's return to Car Nicobar, the S.P.G. sent the Revd George Whitehead, a scholar and missionary, to help him in the work of translation which had been begun by Solomon. They went through the work which had been done by that pioneer before they started afresh. His translation had been done under great disadvantages, especially as he had no educated islanders to help him. The new translators had to go back again almost to the beginning. The language was reduced to writing, using the English script. Mr. Whitehead was a man of great diligence, and although he did not stay very long on the island, such good progress was made that John was able to continue the work of translation confidently after his colleague had left. Working together, the two of them completed the first Nicobarese Primer, the Book of Common Prayer, with a few selected Psalms, and the translation of the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The remaining parts of the New Testament were the sole work of John Richardson.

The British Local Government centred at Port Blair gave considerable help to the work of the mission. They made an annual grant to help with the educational and [22/23] medical work. Two large timber buildings were erected for the growing school for boys and girls, and, at a little distance, another timber building for a hospital. The hospital was served by Tamil doctors. Bishop N. C. Sargant writes of this period:

"Dr. Seth Ashirwadam of Tinnevelly and his young wife came to Car Nicobar and started medical relief work. Due to his untiring and successful work sick people crowded to him by day and night, so much so that at length he fell ill and died. Dr Royappa of Manumathurai and his wife Rajammal succeeded him, and continued the medical work for many years until in 1935 family reasons made necessary their return to India.

"Meanwhile in 1933 Victor N. Kemp, who had worked among the Tamil people in Rangoon, was placed in charge of the Nicobar mission, and he was fortunate in finding at Madras a young Malayali doctor named Stephen Jones, who proved a most capable doctor and did a great deal to improve the hospital and to win the confidence of the Nicobarese. He was on the island when the Japanese occupied it, and was imprisoned and wantonly shot."

Another person who was a great help to John Richardson in these early days was Ernest Hart, his former Mandalay schoolmaster. He was appointed Government Agent in the islands towards the end of the First World War, and held that post for ten years, till his death on the island in 1928. During that period he helped John greatly.

It was in the early thirties that, unknown to John, the decision was made that he should be ordained. I believe this step was taken largely on the advice of the Revd V. N. Kemp, who realised that the Church on Car Nicobar could never be properly served by a priest who lived as far away as Port Blair.

[24] Accordingly, in 1934, Bishop Norman Tubbs asked John to come to Rangoon. He arrived at the Burmese capital on a Sunday morning, at about 5 a. m., and the Bishop himself came to meet him, and asked him to disembark at once. The Customs officials were not available to conduct the usual formalities, but the Bishop managed to get permission for John to leave the ship without them. His ordination to the diaconate was fixed for that very day. Within a few hours he had to be in the Cathedral for this great event. To his old friend and school Chaplain, the Revd W. R. Garrad, John confided that he had no cassock. "Don't worry, John," said Mr. Garrad. "You shall borrow a cassock from a choir boy, so that you can go through the service." And so John was ordained in a borrowed cassock and I think there is something symbolic about that.

On the following Sunday he was ordained to the priesthood, the haste being necessary because the SS. Maharajah was leaving for the Andamans, and there was no certainty when she would call at Rangoon again. A few days later, the Revd John Richardson, to give him his new style, sailed for Port Blair; the first Nicobarese priest. After staying for a few days with the Revd V. N. Kemp, the two clergy and certain officials set out for Car Nicobar, with the Chief Commissioner, on board the station steamer.

There is no harbour in Car Nicobar; only two landing places, one on the eastern side of the island at Malacca, and the other on the western coast at Sawai Bay, near Mus village. During the monsoon, landing at these places may prove dangerous. Indeed, when Mrs. Violet Alva, Deputy Home Minister, paid a visit to Car Nicobar in 1959, her canoe upset off Mus, and she was in danger of drowning. It was Bishop Richardson who jumped into the water and saved her life.

[25] To go back to 1934. When they reached Car Nicobar, the monsoon weather was so bad and visibility so poor, that the canoes could not get near the steamer. It so happened that the Chief Commissioner, who had exclusive authority over the station steamer, was a poor sailor. He got so out of temper with the weather and with waiting, that instead of allowing John and Mr. Kemp to land, he gave orders to proceed to Madras. So to Madras the clergy had to go.

There, the great man left the visitors to look after themselves, while he proceeded to Poona for a conference. Twelve days later, on his return, the steamer set out again, and John thought to himself that now at last he would be taken back to his home island. The steamer, however, went to Port Blair, and no further. Finally, after spending some days there, he got another boat to Car Nicobar. All these free rides had cost him four and a half months!

When Bishop Richardson was talking to me about this incident, he said: "Whenever I start something new, at the beginning everything seems to be difficult, and I have to face many troubles." As a priest, he devoted his time to shepherding the Christians, and to spreading the Gospel among the non-Christians on Car Nicobar; but his work seemed to make very slow progress. At times he thought that his people would never as a whole accept Christianity: perhaps he would end his life in disappointment.

IV. Tragedy and Triumph

Prior to the Second World War, Car Nicobar lived in quiet isolation from the rest of the world, and its people [25/26] continued their own simple way of life. During the war, from 1942, they found themselves in the thick of the conflict. The story of that fiery trial has been told more than once, and I shall not repeat it here in any detail.

Seven thousand Japanese soldiers arrived and took possession of the Nicobar and Andaman Islands. At that time, the Christians on Car Nicobar numbered about five hundred out of a total population of nine thousand. The Nicobarese were made to flog each other to death; they were tortured; they were subjected to forced labour; and every Allied air raid was followed by reprisals and cruelties. One hundred and four Christians lost their lives by burning, beating and torture. John Richardson, their unquestioned leader, suffered imprisonment and torture, and the loss of some of the members of his own family. Twice he was condemned to death. On the first occasion, he was spared when the Japanese were warned that his death would be the signal for the whole island to rise in revolt. The second time, he was saved by the unexpected ending of the war, after he and his Christian companions had spent the night preparing for death.

During the time of the Japanese occupation, John gave such splendid leadership to his people, and the Christians faced their trials with such exceptional courage and faith, that as soon as the war ended, village after village came almost en bloc to be admitted to the Church.

Mrs. West, wife of the then Bishop of Rangoon, has in her book Car Nicobar given a graphic description of the phenomenal growth of the Church on Car Nicobar in the years immediately after the war.

Bishop West paid three visits in the years 1947-1950, on each of which he confirmed about eight hundred people. By this time, the overwhelming majority of the people had been baptised; John had been made an Honorary [26/27] Canon of Rangoon Cathedral; and Ezekiel, Benjamin and Watchful had been ordained to the Sacred Ministry. The new Church was born out of great tribulation; but out of that tribulation there came great triumph.

The next chapter of the story opens with the meeting of the General Council of the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon at Delhi in 1950. During that session, it was agreed that Canon Richardson should be consecrated as Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Calcutta, to have charge of the Nicobar and Andaman Islands. Thus the islands would have the benefit of the whole threefold ministry of the Church, and the advantage of regular and frequent episcopal ministrations; while the Church recognised the outstanding qualities and achievements of the man whom God had used for the evangelisation of Car Nicobar.

While the General Council was still in session. Canon and Mrs. Richardson, with their children, arrived in Calcutta, not knowing exactly why they had been sent for. On Sunday the 15th January 1950, John was consecrated as Bishop in St Paul's Cathedral, by the Metropolitan, assisted by the Bishops of Assam and Rangoon, together with the Assistant Bishops of Rangoon; one a Burman and the other a Karen. This was a great step forward in the work of the Church in the islands.

In 1951, Bishop Richardson went to England for the celebrations in connection with the 250th anniversary of the S.P.G. He made a great impression on the minds of Church people in Britain, and his visit put Car Nicobar on the map. The romantic story of the conversion of a whole island has become known throughout the Anglican Communion and beyond.

In 1952, Bishop Richardson was nominated to represent the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian [27/28] Parliament at New Delhi, a unique distinction for a Bishop of the Christian Church. He served in this capacity for five years. It meant many trips to Delhi, and entailed his absence from his home and work over considerable periods. His absence from Car Nicobar inevitably was a loss to his work, but at the same time it gave opportunity for the younger leaders to learn to bear responsibility. Since his term of duty in New Delhi has ended, the Bishop has been very happy to stay on his island, and devote his whole time to his work.

V. Continued Progress

In recent years, a number of developments and important events have taken place which have helped forward the work of the Church in the two groups of islands under Bishop Richardson's care.

To some extent the first of these governs and leads on to the others. This was the far-reaching decision made by the General Council meeting at Poona in January 1953, when it was unanimously agreed that these islands should be taken as the mission field of the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. This was the first time that our Province had taken up a particular field as their own evangelistic area. It was perhaps due to this move that I was chosen and sent to Port Blair.

Then in December of the same year, the Metropolitan, the Most Revd Dr. A. N. Mukerjee, paid a three-day visit to Car Nicobar. This was the first time that the Metropolitan of India had ever visited the island. Bishop and Mrs. Richardson, with three priests and all the headmen of the villages, were at the airfield to receive His [28/29] Grace. All the islanders were thrilled to receive the head of their Church, and village after village competed with each other in the warmth of their welcome to their distinguished visitor. Addresses of welcome were presented on behalf of the whole Christian community and of the Mothers' Union. During the visit His Grace saw for himself the marks of a strong and growing Church.

The Metropolitan dedicated St Paul's Church at Perka village. The impressive service was attended by the entire population of the island. Hundreds stood outside, as the church itself was packed to its utmost capacity. His Grace also laid the foundation stones of two other churches: St Andrew's at Kenyuaka and the Church of the Epiphany at Chuakcheucha. Of these two churches, the first one is now being extended, and the second one is completed.

The next outstanding event was the consecration of St Thomas's Pro-Cathedral on the 16th March 1958. For this purpose, the central parish church at Mus was enlarged, and re-dedicated to the glory of God and in honour of St Thomas, the Patron Saint of India, and to the blessed memory of Mr. and Mrs. Solomon, the first evangelists of Car Nicobar. The whole construction of the Cathedral Church would have cost two and a half to three lakhs of rupees on the mainland. But in Car Nicobar, the entire labour was free, joyfully given by the inhabitants. Hence the total expense was about Rs. 90,000/-. This went only to meet the cost of the materials.

The present writer had the joy of participating in the great service of consecration, as the preacher and officiating registrar. The service was most inspiring and moving. Well over 3,000 people attended, and many more were waiting outside the church. Each parish church sent its representatives, and it was an occasion of great [29/30] rejoicing and festivity. In the evening there were sports, and an exhibition of handicrafts done by the members of the Mothers' Union. Guests from other islands too were present, including the Rani of Nancourie and the Rani of Katchall. At night there was a sumptuous dinner for all the guests.

The Pro-cathedral was the scene of another great service on Advent Sunday 1959, when four Nicobarese were ordained to the priesthood. They had been deacons for three years, and had been trained under the Bishop. On this occasion also I was privileged to preach and otherwise take part in the service.

The ordination of four more priests was an event of special importance because until now the Bishop had had only three priests to help him, and so he and they were overtaxed on Sundays. Even now, however, there are only six priests working with the Bishop, and ministering to ten churches on the island. One of the newly ordained men was sent to Nancowrie, his home island, and I shall have more to say about this later.

I have already mentioned that there are ten churches on Car Nicobar. All of them have been built by the people themselves, without any financial help from outside, for they have a proper enthusiasm for building their own places of worship. All the parishioners concerned with the building of a new church usually raise among themselves the whole amount of money needed, but other parishes send token contributions as a gesture of fellowship. This sturdy self-help seems to be part of their working philosophy of life. Their enthusiasm for church-building is also an indication of their deeply rooted Christian faith, and their loyalty to their Church.

The islanders are at present passing through a period [30/31] of church extension, because in every parish they have a feeling that their church is not big enough. In some parishes they are planning to build church towers also.

The Christians of Car Nicobar are not however making the mistake of turning their attention inwards upon themselves. They are already reaching out to the other islands of the archipelago, and the younger ones are especially keen to share the blessings of the Gospel with their neighbours. I mentioned above the despatch of a priest to Nancowrie. This island was the scene of the ill-fated mission founded and served by the Moravians in the 18th century. We have a church there dedicated to St Matthew, near the house of the Rani.

As may be expected, we have adversaries who are ready to find fault with our work, and to criticise Bishop Richardson and others. At times charges have been brought against the Bishop that he is converting people in other islands by questionable methods. Time and again on enquiry it has been proved that these charges were false. At one time the Rani of Nancowrie herself was unfriendly towards the Church, but now she is changed. Although she has not become a Christian, she is no more an enemy of the Faith. She has fully realised that the future of her people lies with the Church, and to the present writer she has become a loyal friend and well-wisher. On many important matters she co-operates with Bishop Richardson.

On the island of Katchall we have two wooden churches. I had the pleasure of visiting this place, and I was very much impressed by the devotion of our resident catechist. The most important person on this island is the Rani Changa. She is very friendly towards our Church, although she still remains outside its membership for some understandable reasons of her own. Her two [31/32] daughters are married to Christian boys, and her two sons married Christian girls, and all of them have been baptised. This is another important outreach of our work, and in due course we should be able to reap a great harvest.

Our next move will be to the island of Chowra, which is the home of the witch doctors. It is a very poor island, and there is not much scope for cultivation; hence the people have to live by their wits. Traditionally, some of their leaders have taken witchcraft as their life work. Now in fair weather some of these former witch doctors visit Car Nicobar, but they cannot practise their old tricks! Shortly, a boy from Chowra who is now studying on Car Nicobar will be returning to his home island as a Christian teacher. At present he is with Bishop Richardson.

So the light of the Gospel is spreading steadily from island to island.

VI. Island Life and Customs

In the Nicobar group there are twenty-two islands, of which nine are inhabited. Racially, all the Nicobarese of the various islands belong to the same ethnic origin, but owing to isolation and want of proper communications their dialects differ from island to island. None the less, the spoken language belongs everywhere to the some origin. As I have said before, of the 14,000 Nicobarese, 10,000 live on Car Nicobar, and it was on Car Nicobar through the Christian Church that the language was reduced to writing and the first books were printed in Nicobarese. Further, the people on Car Nicobar have been in touch with the outside world much longer [32/33] than the other islands; the first school in the islands was established on Car Nicobar as early as 1896; and the administrative headquarters are now situated on Car Nicobar. On account of all these causes the people on Car Nicobar, with John Richardson at their head, are leading the way for the rest of the islanders of the Nicobar group.

The Nicobarese are of Mongolian descent. They believe that their ancestors came from Burma, and their language also is more akin to the languages spoken in South-east Asian countries than to any Indian tongue. In their appearance, dress and habits they are also somewhat closer to the Burmese. As a race they are clever in picking up other languages; a good number speak English tolerably well, and all the children are learning Hindi.

Nicobarese, generally speaking, are clean and healthy in their habits. They live in small huts built on stilts six feet above the ground, with a ladder to give access. The ventilation arrangement is made at the bottom of the house. Now, in certain villages, you will find model houses with windows properly fixed, but still the house is built on stilts. The women dress with lungies and blouses. Boys and men go about with shorts and shirts. During church services women cover their heads with a veil.

Coconuts are their staple food. On festive occasions they eat meat. Nowadays they do take fish too, and there are a number of local fruits and roots which also form part of their menu. In recent years they have learned to eat rice, and it has become increasingly popular.

In olden days toddy, a native liquor tapped from the coconut tree, was a common drink. Now the younger people have almost entirely given up toddy. Occasionally you find in a village a person who is very old, still addicted [33/34] to this bad habit, but the advent of Christianity has taught the new generation better.

The people are increasingly becoming conscious of the need for education. All the schools in the Nicobar islands are managed by the Government. Half of the teachers come from the mainland and the other half are Nicobarese. At Biglapatti village on Car Nicobar, we now have a higher secondary school. Over and above this there are about nine primary schools in the whole island. Perhaps later we may have the opportunity of a small primary school in the Cathedral compound at Mus.

One boy is studying at St Columba's College, Hazaribagh. After his graduation, we hope to send him to Bishop's College, Calcutta, to be trained for the priesthood. Six boys are studying at St Paul's High School, Ranchi. We hope all of them will go for teachers' training after they matriculate.

There are a number of young men at Port Blair. About eleven boys are fully fledged policemen in the Andaman Police Force, and there are ten young boys working in the Andaman Labour Force. There are several boys doing casual labour. This means that all these boys come into contact with people of different habits, customs and manners. Three men are in the Indian Army at Hyderabad, Deccan. They are excellent sportsmen, and they go to their Army church regularly. As years go by, more and more Nicobarese will come into contact with more technically civilized and sophisticated people.

Coconut and betelnut trees are found in plenty, and are the main wealth of the island. Every family also has a number of pigs, a large herd being counted as a sign of their prosperity.

The whole trade of the island is now managed by the [34/35] Nicobar Trading Company, a private firm, in which half the shares belong to the Nicobarese people, and the balance to Messrs Jadwet Trading Company. From 1961, year by year, ten per cent more of the shares will pass to the Nicobarese, and eventually the whole trade will come into the hands of the islanders themselves. Messrs Akoojee Jadwet Company have had a long association with the people of Car Nicobar, and it was five years ago that they took the Nicobarese as their partners. The Jadwet brothers are genuinely interested in the welfare of the islanders, and they are training them to staff and manage the business themselves. Over and above this long term policy, several times they have done real service to the people of Car Nicobar. As a result, there is a happy relationship between them, and the Nicobarese have complete faith and trust in the Jadwet Trading Company.

A Co-operative Society has been started, and is working very well in the islands of Car Nicobar and Nancowrie. On Car Nicobar alone, we have fourteen primary cooperative units. The villagers manage their own affairs, and their accounts are well kept and up to date. Time and again the Registrar of Co-operative Societies has said that not even on the mainland have they such efficient village co-operative societies. The basic thing is that there is complete honesty among the people. No one seems to know how to cheat.

Once this incident happened. From the branch shop at Sawai village, Rs. 1500 was sent to the head office of the Nicobar Trading Company at Chuakcheucha. The boy who carried this money kept the bundle of notes on the carrier of his bicycle. On the way, while he was going at high speed, the bundle fell from the bicycle, and he did not notice it. When he got to the head office, he found [35/36] his precious bundle was missing. So with a heavy heart he went back all the way. Near Sawai Bridge, he found a young Nicobarese couple, who had picked up the bundle and were discussing it.

"This is a lot of money," said the wife. "It must belong to our Trading Company, or to the Church. We'd better ask the Bishop about it."

"What can we do with so much money?" agreed the husband. "We will keep it safe, and when the owner comes we will give it back."

So the boy happily got his money back.

The building of the Passa Bridge is an example of cooperative effort. The entire project was carried out by the voluntary labour of the islanders under the leadership of Bishop Richardson, and the cost of the material was met by the village co-operative societies. The whole cost of the bridge was about a lakh of rupees. The people received only technical advice from the Government engineers.

A year ago the Government had a proposal to make a new road, taking a short cut through a number of coconut plantations. This meant that the planters would lose a certain number of trees. So a public meeting was called and the Assistant Commissioner explained to the villagers both the loss and the benefits that the scheme would entail. He said that the planters would be given compensation for the loss of their trees. The villagers listened patiently, and kept quiet for a while. The Assistant Commissioner was at a loss to understand their reaction; he was wondering whether they were in favour of the proposal or against it. So he asked Captain Thomas, their spokesman, what was their opinion. He said, "Well, we are all in favour of it, but one thing we cannot understand is, why the Government should pay [36/37] compensation. After all the road is for our benefit, and it is going to be on the island; therefore there is no necessity for compensation."

People ask me, "Well, Padre Sahib, how long will this innocency and lack of greed remain?" Time alone will answer that question.

Money was introduced in 1945. I understand the Bishop was not happy about it. Up to that time they had had a barter system. They used to send coconuts in large numbers and in turn got consumer goods. But things have changed. Money is commonly used, and people are beginning to understand its value and power. Naturally it brings in its train the evil of covetousness.

The Bishop once said to me, "In olden days how many coconuts could one hide? But nowadays, if one wants, he can hide thousands of rupees." I replied, "Since your people are basically honest, we have nothing to worry about." But the Bishop answered, "The danger is there." I think he is correct.

In the matter of marriage customs the Nicobarese are, generally speaking, nearer to the Western ideas. The boy selects his own future wife, and the matter is then referred to the parents, and with their consent the marriage takes place. There is no fixed rule that the bride should come to live in her husband's house. It all depends on the need of a male member in the family. If in the girl's family there are fewer men, then the boy goes to the girl's house, and vice versa.

Each village has its own Headman. This is generally an hereditary post. But in certain cases, if the Headman proves to be inefficient, then a new one is elected by popular vote. The headman has an Assistant Headman, and three or four other members to help him. These five or six members are responsible for the management of the [37/38] whole village. This is something like our old Panchayat system in India. The Headman of a village is known as "Captain," because the chief person on a ship is the Captain. This is a reminder that the inhabitants of the island first came into contact with the rest of the world through a ship.

Boat racing and wrestling are the traditional sports of the island, and contests in them are great events. In fair weather, when they have boat races, two or three villages gather together with great rejoicing and feasting. Invariably, pork is served liberally.

Along with these games, football was introduced to Car Nicobar by John Richardson in 1912, when he returned from Burma. Now this has become a national game for the Nicobarese. Every village has a team. The Nicobarese boys are first-rate footballers; time and again they have beaten visiting teams. Nowadays, girls play volley-ball with tremendous enthusiasm.

The Nicobarese as a people are most law-abiding and peace-loving. I believe that in their language there are no abusive words. In cases of difference of opinion the matter is referred to the Headman of the village, and he tries to solve the problem with the assistance of other villagers. If an amicable settlement is not reached, the case is taken to the Bishop. Since the community life is based on mutual help and co-operation, there is a complete absence of real divisions or quarrelling.

As a result of this there are no court cases at all, so the magistrate is unemployed! In the old days there used to be four policemen stationed on Car Nicobar; neither did these gentlemen get any employment, in the absence of crime. Nowadays, there are seven policemen with one sub-inspector, because recently the Administration has opened a sub-treasury office, but even now it [38/39] may prove difficult to keep this police force occupied.

VII. Christian Practices and Prospects

A new generation of young men and women is now growing up, born after the advent of Christianity. The old superstitions and ignorance are unknown to them. They have grown up under the care and protection of the Church. They have a deep sense of loyalty and devotion to their parish churches. In every church morning and evening prayers are publicly conducted every day. All village people who have not gone to work on the plantations attend these services; this is now a well-established custom. On saints' days, and in mid-week also, Holy Communion services are held and people reverently join in the worship.

Sunday is a weekly "Easter Day", as in every church you will find people in large numbers. If you walk along the various paths of Car Nicobar on a Sunday morning, you will find men, women, boys and girls, old and young, all going towards their church.

The Nicobarese are a gifted people in the art of singing. Part-singing is natural to them, and they have taken Western music to their hearts. Anyone who has the pleasure of hearing their music will never forget it.

When Mrs. Violet Alva, Deputy Home Minister, visited the islands, a special Evensong was arranged at the Cathedral. The Honourable Minister sat with the Nicobarese women on the floor, and she was visibly moved by the devotion and the magnificent singing. After a year, I had occasion to meet the Minister at Delhi, and she told me that in all her life she had never met people like those on Car Nicobar.

[40] She told me this story. There had been a public welcome during her visit, and in the course of the meeting she asked the people what they would like her to do for them; in her position she would be able to do something to their advantage. Captain Thomas, who is the elder statesman of Car Nicobar, said on behalf of the people, "We want nothing from the Government. We want only the protection of the Government and the freedom to have our own way of life and practise our faith." Nowhere else had the Minister received such a reply to her open offer of help.

This shows the inherent nature of the Nicobarese. They do not want to depend on others. Whatever they can do for themselves, they will happily do it. This spirit of self-help is a wonderful thing.

Each parish church celebrates its Patronal Festival with great enthusiasm. It is a very big day for the village concerned, but other parishes send their own representatives to participate in the celebration with thank-offerings. In this, the Mothers' Union is foremost.

Every parish has its own Mothers' Union, and the members are responsible for the upkeep of the linen in the church. They set a standard of Christian home life, and younger mothers are benefited.

On Wednesday evenings in the old days of Mr. Solomon the few Christians used to gather in the middle of the village for prayer. Hymns were sung, portions from the Bible were read, and a short talk was given by the leader of the group, be he an ordinary layman, a catechist, or a priest. And this practice still continues with great vigour. Whatever the weather, the Wednesday prayer meeting is held regularly. It is a free service, with no set prayers, and it helps the people to come forward and share their experience with other Christians.

[41] The maintenance of the parish priests is also the responsibility of the people. They are given only a small stipend, but the people generously support them in kind. At each village church we have two or three layman who take special interest in the Church's work, and are trained by the Bishop, the idea being that the local people should themselves take the entire responsibility for the running of the parish under the leadership of their priest. There are also a few women volunteers who help the church.

The age-long isolation of Car Nicobar is now breaking. The Nicobarese have more and more opportunities to come to Port Blair and to the mainland. Several times boys and girls from the island have been to the mainland on educational tours, visiting many of the more important cities. Further, young Nicobarese men who are planters have gone to the mainland under the scheme of "Bharat Darshan." They have visited some of the notable coconut plantations in Kerala and Orissa, and incidentally, have seen many cities. Year by year, selected Headmen of villages, with boys and girls, are invited to attend the Republic Day celebrations at Delhi, at Government expense. This constant going and coming brings many new ideas and new things to Car Nicobar.

Another thing is that during such visits they have the privilege of joining in worship with our Church people in Delhi, Calcutta and other places. In the midst of all their wonderful sightseeing they are immensely impressed by our cathedral churches in big cities, and are proud to meet our bishops too. On one occasion when a party returned from the mainland, I asked the boys, "What was your most unforgettable impression?" They replied, "we met our Badha Bishop, Metropolitan Sahib; and we attended services at St Paul's, St John's and St Thomas's, in Calcutta."

[42] Further, not only do the Nicobarese go across the sea, but on Car Nicobar itself there are now many mainlanders. The administrative staff is being steadily increased. The P.W.D. has a staff of over three hundred workers. The Indian Air Force has a staging post at Car Nicobar which comes under the I.A.F. Station, Barrackpore. Under the National Extension Services, several new offices are opened up. All this means that these islanders are coming in close contact with the mainlanders. I hope that these innocent island people do not learn all the bad habits and qualities of the mainlanders!

This short account will give some idea of our work on Car Nicobar. Bishop Richardson has been used by God to win his people for the Kingdom of Christ. The Church is firmly established and the people are its loyal and enthusiastic members. Furthermore, there is a growing staff of priests and layworkers, all trained by the Bishop himself.

There is no Bishop's House provided by the Church. The Bishop lives in his ancestral home at his native village of Mus. At the Cathedral bell tower he has his office. During my last visit he told me that the time had come to build a house near the Cathedral with a guest room and provision for an office. If the Province could supply the material, the Nicobarese would give free labour.

The Nicobarese language is still in the developing stage. The publication of the New Testament and Prayer Book in the vernacular has been of great help; now more books are to be printed. There are no printed hymn-books. Every choir-boy has to copy down all the hymns in a notebook. Short stories from the Bible and some secular books of general knowledge are badly needed. In order to fulfil these needs, it is necessary for us to establish a small printing press, and it is our hope that the [42/43] whole Province will come forward to help carry out this project.

All who have visited Car Nicobar have been deeply impressed by the whole work of the Church there, and by the people, whose living Christianity is a shining torch, shedding its radiance far and wide, and steadily lighting the flame of Christ in the islands around.

All glory to God for showing his mercy towards his children in the Nicobars. It is all his doing.


The Andamans lie north of the Nicobars, and comprise two hundred and four islands, but many of these are very small, and only five of them are big. The total group consists of 2,508 square miles, and is scattered over an area which from north to south is 147 miles long and is 17 miles broad at the widest point. The present population of the Andamans, apart from the Nicobars, is about 40,000. Five years ago it was only half that number. The population is increasing steadily, because under the colonisation scheme more and more displaced persons from East Bengal are being settled, and settlers from other States are also being brought here.

The recorded maximum temperature is said to be 96° and the minimum 66°, but owing to the high humidity 96° is really oppressive. The climate is equatorial. Two-thirds of the year we have rain, and the annual rainfall is about 123 inches. From January to April is the dry season, May to October the rainy season, and November and December are the coolest months. In spite of the heavy rainfall there is a scarcity of drinking water during the summer months (February to May) but there is a plan to extend the reservoir.

Hills are everywhere; so much so that it is not possible to find a plot of level ground large enough for an all-weather aerodrome. We have only a small airstrip at present. New plots for cultivation have to be made on the slopes of the hills because there is practically no flat ground. These islands are full of thick forests, and timber [44/45] is the main wealth of the islands; there are many streams, but no rivers. The scenery is so beautiful that it is a pity there is no tourist industry.

[46] The Andaman and Nicobar Islands form one single unit for administrative purposes, and Port Blair is the headquarters. It is a small town on a hill, with a population of 14,000, about 796 miles from Calcutta and 780 miles from Madras. Here you will find people from various parts of India, and here the Chief Commissioner and other heads of Government departments live. If you go for a walk in the main bazaar you will hear people talking in eight or nine different Indian languages.

During the British regime, from the year 1863, there used to be a resident Chaplain at Port Blair. At Ross Island, which is about two miles from Port Blair, we had our church and parsonage. It is said that these buildings were modelled architecturally on the lines of Windsor Castle! During the second World War, Ross Island had a very bad time, and it is now abandoned; nobody lives there, and the sea is encroaching on the island. The church and parsonage are in ruins. Since our last Chaplain, the Revd V. N. Kemp, was taken prisoner by the Japanese in 1942, there was no resident Anglican priest until I arrived in November 1955.

During the days of the Penal Settlement, deportees from all over India were sent here. In the course of nearly one hundred years a new community arose out of these people. Irrespective of their own mother tongue, all the deportees and their descendants accepted Urdu as a lingua franca. These people intermarried and formed a community by themselves, and now they are known as Andaman Indians. You may meet a man with a Bengali or a Tamil name, because his grandfather was a deportee from Bengal or Madras. But now his family is so inter-married with people from other States that there is no trace of the Tamil or Bengali language in the family, and proudly they call themselves true Indians [46/47] with no provincial mooring. No doubt these islands were improved by the labour of the deportees and their descendants, and hence the present day Andaman Indians rightly claim the Andamans as their home.

Among these people we have about one hundred and seventy Christians, including women and children, at Protherpore village. They are mainly field labourers, and hence they are poor.

At Cadelgunj village we have a community of people called the Bhantus. They are a tribal people who originally came from the U.P. They were brought here under the care of the Salvation Army. Since they have no spiritual leader from this organisation at present, a number of them have joined our Church.

Our people at Port Blair are a mixed group. We have a few Anglo-Indian families, several Syrian Christian families, and now a number of Nicobarese young men.

There are three other Christian bodies working in the Andamans. The Roman Catholics have a very nice church with two resident priests. The Pentecostal Mission has some followers. There are a number of other non-Roman Christians from the mainland, and they all go to the Methodist Union Christian chapel.

When I arrived here with my wife and children, we had no church. For a period of nearly thirteen years there had been no organised parish life. However, one or two of our lay people, notably Mr. N. H. Young, had managed to carry on a skeleton form of the Anglican work. During this time, in the absence of a resident priest, sects like the Seventh Day Adventists and Pentecostals tried their best to lead our people astray. Nor was the Roman Church far behind in making use of the situation to their advantage. I had to start from the very beginning. In the absence of a Church building, Mr. E. [47/48] Monin, a retired Government Farm manager, kindly lent his house for Sunday services. Thus we carried on our worship for a period of eighteen months. In October 1956 the foundation stone of a new church was laid by Bishop Richardson.

In March 1957 this small timber church was completed, and His Grace the Metropolitan made a special trip to Port Blair to dedicate it. His visit was not only a great occasion for our Church people, but it was a unique event for the whole island. The Chief Commissioner and his wife gave a dinner party in his honour at Government House.

Bishop Richardson with forty boys and a selected group of men and women, came to Port Blair to take part in the dedication service, which was held on the 27th March 1957. This church was built with a generous grant from the Metropolitan, and with the active co-operation and help of the local congregation.

On the same day there was a parish reception to the Metropolitan at the premises of the Subhas Dwip Guest House, to which all the officials and local gentry were invited. The Chief Commissioner and his wife were among the six hundred guests. During the party the Metropolitan went around the lawn and most of the guests were introduced to him. At the request of the Chief Commissioner and other non-Christian friends, His Grace made a speech. He said that the gathering was a tiny miniature of India, and he stressed the importance of national unity and harmony.

His Grace, accompanied by Bishop Richardson, paid visits to All Saints' Church at Protherpore village, and to our small congregation at Cadelgunj village.

There are some difficulties in the Andamans. The islands are full of forests, and are not much developed. [48/49] In the Forest Department, at various camps, people are working in different capacities, and each camp may have two or three Anglican members. Inter-island communications are not up to the mark, and therefore it is not easy to reach these scattered Christians. To add to the difficulties, we have storms and bad weather for two-thirds of the year. Port Blair itself is a hilly place, and people are scattered all over the hills. There are now some bus services, but taxis are still very costly. Hence it is rather difficult to gather our people together even once a week. None the less, most of them try to come to church.

At present, once in three weeks or so, either the m.v. Andamans or the m.v. Nicobar comes to Port Blair from the mainland, and if one of these boats goes for dry-docking, this means further delay; so our communication with the mainland is not frequent. Our postal service is slow and uncertain. There is a proposal to have a regular air service once a week from Calcutta to Port Blair. Our sense of isolation would be lessened if such a service were established regularly throughout the year.

At Cadelgunj village our people felt the need of a place of worship. After along correspondence with the local administration, in 1958 we were granted a piece of land for this purpose. In June 1959 a small thatched church was constructed, and it was duly dedicated by Bishop Richardson. In putting up this building our local congregation at Cadelgunj raised a small sum, and our Protherpore congregation also helped.

In 1958 we purchased Mr. Monin's House, which is adjacent to the Vicarage compound. After carrying out repairs and additions, we now have on the ground floor a hostel for Nicobarese boys, which is a great help.

Thus for the last six years we have been slowly and steadily establishing our work, and regaining lost ground. [49/50] Port Blair is very important for our evangelistic strategy. It is the capital of the territory, and is a halfway house between the mainland and Car Nicobar. Even though our priest lives in Port Blair, he has a deep concern for the work on Car Nicobar.

Here I should explain that the Nicobar Islands are under the Tribal Protection Act of 1956. According to this Act no outsider is permitted to visit the Nicobar Islands without prior permission from the Andaman Administration. This is in one way a blessing, because other sects cannot go to Car Nicobar and disturb our people. That is how it is that on Car Nicobar we still have only the Anglican Church. However, during these last six years I have made it sufficiently clear that our work in the Andamans and on Car Nicobar is one and the same, and that Bishop Richardson is in over-all charge of the work. As such, I have made it my business to go and see Bishop Richardson in Car Nicobar as often as possible.

When I came here for the first time, I was sent by the Metropolitan as a missionary priest of the Province for three years, but it looks now as though I am to stay and work in the islands for a considerably longer, perhaps an indefinite, period. The services of a priest whose mother-tongue is Urdu would be a great boon to our people at Protherpore and Cadelgunj villages. It is indeed an urgent need, and I am looking forward to the time when a priest from upper North India will volunteer to join me.

I request all our Church people to uphold me and my family with their prayers so that I may serve Christ and His Church for the glory of His Holy Name, and for the benefit of the islanders. The clergy are always in need of the prayers of the faithful, and specially so in the case of a priest at Port Blair, isolated from the main stream of the life of the Church.


The Indian Ocean

The Nicobars

The Nicobar Group

South Andaman Island and Port Blair

Car Nicobar

Project Canterbury