Project Canterbury

Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar
by H. Maynard Smith

London: SPCK, 1926.



'I AM very tired,' said Frank on Victoria platform as he said good-bye to me for the last time. He had been just nine weeks in England, and had had only three days rest--two of them he had spent in seeing Sussex win a cricket match.

First, there had been the strain of the Congress, with its crowd of people who wished for a few words during the luncheon and other intervals. Then he had to deal with hundreds of letters about the telegram to the Pope and the speech on tabernacles. All the time he was moving about the country; and as a specimen day I may note that he left Liverpool early one morning, worked at Dartmouth Street on diocesan business up to the last minute, then caught the train to Brighton and spoke for over an hour in Hove Town Hall. This sort of activity went on day by day, and he had to decline no less than 300 invitations to preach. No wonder he was a tired man after such a holiday. He looked forward to some peace on his voyage, and wrote at the end of it that he was rested, though he was far from well when he reached Zanzibar.

His doctor writes:

The Bishop was very highly strung and I never looked on him as a strong man, and advised him to go slow, but his answer was always--The work has to be done.

The work went on. In June 1924 he wrote to Mr. F. B. Palmer, the Treasurer of the Mission:

The Ruvuma country will, D.V., soon have about twenty priests, white and black; and my necessary tour is at least five hundred miles. This comes rather hard, when each day there are countless matters to be settled and 'words' to be heard. However, If and when I 'go out,' please see that the diocese is divided --it will be far better.

He was tired, but he was still writing cheerfully, much interested in the Labour Party and hoping great things from it, and not much interested in 'Copec,' from which he expected nothing but talk. At the end of September he was at Kizara with his old friend, Canon Pearse, and wrote:

We did a lot of climbing in very beautiful hills, but frankly I am not good at climbing, and only like it when I get to the top.

On October 15 he was already suffering from the carbuncle which was to cause his death, but he said nothing about it in a letter to his mother, though the following extract proves that he was tired.

It is odd to find oneself in the seventeenth year of episcopate, but so it is! I sometimes wonder how much longer the diocese will find it can endure me. Young men come along, and I guess that after twenty-six years one has cranks, which the tropical climate is said to develop. But on the other hand one can understand in a minute matters which a new bishop could not understand at all. So there are two sides to it.

The worst of it is that I have now to re-shoulder work that Spanton has done for me, and done amazingly well, for years. I can, however, get workers to help me here. There are days when the brain is too tired to do more than look on at the world! And even looking on is wearying! Then there are days when one can go on all day and not be too tired. Old age and the tropics! My boys laugh when I tell them that in London I am looked on as quite a young bishop!!!

On my way back from Kizara ... I picked up jiggers in my toes somewhere, and they developed to a great size before I recognised their presence. The result was that I could not wear a boot on my right foot on Tuesday afternoon for some hours, and my foot swelled a bit, which made walking troublesome all the way home. I rested the foot on Thursday, preached to ordinands Friday and Saturday, and am all right to-day.

I have now completed a tour of the diocese, and it has taken a year to do it, without hurry, and allowing for some extra attention to particular parts. It now remains to do it all over again--Selah! What a life it is!


He was off again on the Monday morning to Korogwe, and I cannot do better than quote Fr. Douglas' letter to Archdeacon Mackay about his last days.

The Bishop had been at Korogwe from October 18-22. He came back to Hegongo on the 22nd in the same train as the Kiungani safari. Fr. Cyril and I were at Muheza and walked back to Hegongo with him. He seemed quite well. That was on Wednesday. The following Saturday, October 25, he went to Kwa Mlingote in order to do some preaching there and in the neighbouring villages, a sort of ' Mission.' He was to return the next Tuesday, October 28, so I went along the Misozwe Road to meet him that evening. He looked very tired and poorly, and he told me he had been suffering much pain from a large boil on his back. He said that he had sent for some dawa^ and that Martin had been attending to it all right, and he hoped that it would soon drain itself out. He also told me that he thought he had fever on him. He spoke very happily of the work he had been able to do at Mlingote during the days he had been there, in spite of the pain he had been in, and said the people had all been very nice and responsive. The next afternoon, Wednesday, October 29, I went in to see him. He was lying on his bed, in great pain from the boil. He said it was agonising pain, but that he believed it was going on all right, and that Martin was dressing it for him satisfactorily. He was quite himself and discussed various things: the coming Conference of Bishops of East Africa in Zanzibar; a letter he had had from India inviting him to go and talk about brotherhood to Indians. He said that he would really like to do this, if it could be arranged some time: it would be such a first-rate holiday for him. He said he had not had a proper holiday for five years, and evidently was conscious that he needed one. I left him that Wednesday evening, feeling very sorry for the pain he was suffering, but having no anxiety in my mind whatsoever as to his recovery. I did not go to see him again till the Saturday. I knew that he had sent for the Reverend Mother on the Thursday morning, and that she and Sister Mary were looking after his back, and I thought he would probably sooner not see people till he was better. I heard in the course of those two days that the boil was not a boil, but a very bad and large carbuncle, and that it might be a very considerable time before he recovered. I saw Sister Mary on the Friday afternoon, and she told me she and the Mother were worried about his condition, and that they had sent and tried to get a doctor from Tanga, but that the doctor was away. Also she told me that they had tried to persuade the Bishop to be brought down to Msalabani to be nursed there; but that he had refused, saying he would rather stay in his own house. Hearing that he had become so bad, I went over to see him on Saturday morning. The Mother was there then, so I could not go in. But I went across again about 11.30, and had a great shock when I saw him. He was sitting up in bed, breathing very badly, and looking ghastly. He was very deaf, from the quinine he had been taking, I suppose, and I found some difficulty in making him hear. But he spoke to me normally, and said that he had been reading some stories I had sent him over, and asked me to send him some more, if they were very light reading. I have forgotten to mention these things.

On the Wednesday morning he had managed to walk across to Hegongo chapel for a confirmation of some Msalabani Christians; and on the Friday, when he must have been very ill indeed, he persisted in getting out of bed and confirming two women whom Mrs. Hellier brought up from Tanga. The Reverend Mother had tried to persuade him to put Mrs. Hellier off", but he said she had better bring the women up as arranged and he would manage to confirm them somehow. It is obvious, I think, that he ought never to have attempted these two confirmations. His temperature was very high at the time he confirmed the two on Friday--104 or 105. Well, I left him on Saturday at midday (All SS.) realising that he was very bad, but from the way that he was able to talk to me I did not realise how bad. Saturday afternoon, I went down as usual to help with shrifts at Msalabani, and when I had done I met Sister Mary in the quad about 4.30 P.M. She told me she did not like the Bishop's condition at all: she said she thought he was very ill indeed, and that it was most unfortunate no doctor could be procured. She said they had arranged that the Reverend Mother should be with him that night, as he must not be left. Shortly after getting back to Hegongo, I got a message to say that they had sent a man to Tongwe to ask Beal to go down to Tanga early on Sunday morning on his motor-bike, and to try to get a doctor by hook or by crook. At midnight, or shortly afterwards, I was called up to go over, as his condition had become much worse. I took the Blessed Sacrament and the holy oil and went across. I saw at once he was dying. He was apparently unconscious, but I did what I could. He was able to consume the Host, and I anointed him. I can't tell if he understood at all or not. About 2 A.M. we went for Sister Mary, as the Reverend Mother wanted another Sister to be with him. We also sent for Raymond and John. The Bishop was quite unconscious now, so I took Martin and Raymond and John into the Oratory, and said some prayers with them. We then lay down for a bit, as the Mother did not know how long it would last. She said that the Bishop, being such a strong man, might live a good many hours yet. However, at 4.30 the change came. We went into the room and I said the prayers for the dying, and the end came at once, on Sunday, November 2, at 4.30. I left the Mother and Sister Mary to vest him in alb and stole and chasuble, with his pectoral cross and ring. I came home and wrote the necessary letters to Birley, Sehoza, Cyril, and the others. At day-break I think it was generally known. We sent a man to stop Beal on the road from going down to Tanga.


The following is an account of the funeral translated from a Swahili article by the Deacon, Raymond Adam, and published in Mambo Leo, the native paper for Tanganyika Territory, published under Government auspices at Dar-es-Salaam.

The Burial of the Lord Bishop of Zanzibar.--When we had finished making him ready it was Sunday morning. Letters and telegrams were sent to Europe, and many prayers were said for his soul. I and others prayed by his body there in his house. We did not go to the prayers of the family [the Parish Mass]. From 9--11 crowds of people, Christians and those not Christians, from Magila, Tongwe, Misozwe, Bwembwera, Mkuzi--they all crowded up that they might see the face of their father for the last time. Although the Europeans tried to restrain the people that they should not cry, there arose an exceeding great lamentation--it was a wonder! Men as well as women wept for him, as for us, say nothing about it, anyone who knows me and the Bishop, he will believe what I say.

At 2 o'clock we fastened the body up that it might be carried to the church, for all that morning he lay clothed in his vestments. Now we fastened him up ready for burial. At 3 o'clock we carried him to the church at Msalabani, and he was taken into the church, and the Christians crowded in, and we prayed for him.

At 5 o'clock Padre Samwil Mwinyipembe caused all to pray Vespers of the Dead. When he had finished, Archdeacon Birley of Korogwe began the Burial Service, and then in the middle, when we went out to take the body to the grave, Padre Canon Samwil Sehoza finished the prayers. Everyone you looked at, he was crying.

At the end of the prayers, the body was covered up. Ah! alas! the lamentation which arose was very great. People cried very much. Then we returned to the house at a quarter-past six to thank the God Who had given us a good father, and now had carried him to a place of greater peace that he might rest from the troubles of the world. God grant him eternal rest and let light perpetual shine upon him.


Frank was an apostle to Africans: he devoted his life to them, and therefore the judgment of Africans upon him is more important than any other. I will quote first of all the letter which Roman Catholic natives in Zanzibar wrote to Archdeacon Hallett, and then the words of Raymond Adam in the article mentioned above.

We, the native Catholic Christians, members of the congregation of the Vicariate Apostolic of Zanzibar: we write with great sorrow this letter as our message of condolence on the death of the Rt. Rev. Frank Weston, Lord Bishop of Zanzibar. We give our sincere sympathy to you, Archdeacon, and to all the Archdeacons, Canons, Priests and laity of the Zanzibar diocese. With deepest sorrow we say that we have lost a good Bishop, friend and helper in the light of Christianity, in Central Africa.

This we say: this Bishop was not a Bishop to the Christians of his own diocese only; but he was the Bishop to love and aid all sides, and therefore he was a great helper to Christians of both sides during our needs and troubles. We could rely upon him in all cases. During his wonderful tours of Mission work he acted with friendship and kindness towards our four bishops of the East Coast of Africa. That is to say, he was good and kind to our four bishops, and to the Fathers and Christians belonging to the Vicariates Apostolic of Zanzibar, Bagamoyo, Dar-es-Salaam and Kilimanjaro.

Another of his valuable works was particularly to stand for liberty in opposition to any form of compulsion in the control over native Christians and non-Christians. Therefore we hope and are sure that his Lordship's valuable works and his life's deeds will not be forgotten in our hearts at all. Also, because of his holy life, we are sure, through our Mighty God and our Lord Jesus Christ, his Lordship's soul is at rest in peace before the Holy Trinity in heaven. 'Exoramus pro [anima] famuli tui Frank Weston. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei; Requiescat in pace.'

Now we hope the Venerable Archdeacon of Zanzibar will kindly write to us on the next memorial service for the late Bishop Weston, or on his anniversary day, so that we can attend the service in the Cathedral.

We give our sympathy to you, Archdeacon, and to all Bishop Weston's relations and brethren, members of U.M.C.A. We hope God will give our friends of the Zanzibar diocese a good shepherd and kind bishop very soon.

Your very sincere children in Christ,


Now let us hear the deacon Raymond Adam, who belonged to the little group of men who composed what Frank called his family.

Who does not remember his goodness? Who did not get an opportunity to talk with him when he passed them in the villages? Many saw his long journeys and, how when he went on them, he met with many people and held sweet counsel with them.

Many loved him and rejoiced in him, for he was an hospitable man and generous, a helper to every one who came to him in need. He talked with them, and was a Father of good counsel to all who came to him open-handed--and his door was never shut. He despised no man. He carried every man as a father does his children. He was a great leader of the flock which God gave into his charge. He loved black people unto death.

Bassi! he, who did not know his face, heard of him. He who heard not of him was indeed very far from this mainland, bassi, let such a one hear of him to-day --this was what the Bishop of Zanzibar was like.

I think there was no European who knew black people better than he did, their characters and customs, their hardships and their longings. I think there was no European who did more to range himself on the side of black people, and who was so desirous that they should advance. Who is there that has talked with the Bishop of Zanzibar and would not assert that the things which I have said are the truth?

So Raymond tried to commend his beloved Bishop to the Swahili-speaking people of East Africa; but when he wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Gore, the Chairman of the Mission, he dealt chiefly with the holiness of his life. As a holy man he was reverenced by Moslems, Arabs, and Indians who knew little of the Christian religion; but to the poor and outcast who came in contact with him he was simply the man with the big heart.

In England men thought chiefly of his abilities. They thought of him as a man of many gifts, a dominating will, and a somewhat surprising outlook upon life--a good man but a disturbing personality. In Africa they thought of him as the holy man with the big heart.

We need not further discuss his merits or their reward, but leave them with the Great God Whom he had the courage to obey.

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