Project Canterbury

Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar
by H. Maynard Smith

London: SPCK, 1926.



WHEN Frank became Principal of Kiungani there were over seventy boys in the school and a staff of six, which included the Matron. All the house and garden work was done by the boys themselves. There was only one paid servant, the cook, and he was an old boy. Such a staff the Mission was not always able to maintain, and there were times when the European staff was reduced to one layman, the Matron and the Principal. The number of boys also fluctuated. The diocese of Likoma established its own central school, so that nobody any longer came from the Lake. At times fresh arrivals were scarce because there was a famine on the mainland, or because there was plague or beri-beri in Zanzibar. Some missionaries dreaded lest their up-country boys should be contaminated by the vices of a great city, and some missionaries were prejudiced and suspicious because of the dominating influence of the Principal.

At one time Bishop Hine contemplated the possibility of removing the school to Magila, but it was soon clear that Yaos would not go into Bondei country, although Yaos and Bondeis would mingle happily on the neutral land of Zanzibar. The Mission could not then staff or afford to maintain two schools, and so the project lapsed for a time. The Bishop was right; but in this, as in other things, he was sadly hampered by a lack of men and means. Frank at this time did not always appreciate his Bishop's difficulties, or the reason why approved plans had to be scrapped. In after years he confessed that, though he had been often irritated by changes in Episcopal policy, he was now aware that, in just the same way, he irritated his staff. As Frank was much more prolific in schemes than his predecessor, perhaps his clergy had even more cause for complaint.


Frank could not gain control of any institution without reconstructing it. He could not even contemplate it from afar without wanting to do so. In later years, he even proposed in the pages of The Nineteenth Century to reconstitute the Church of England as by law established.

So on coming to Kiungani he began by turning the place upside down. His plans were generally admirable, he promulgated them with unfaltering decision, and he expected them to be carried out with bewildering rapidity. The prefect system, the time-table, the services, and even the school books were changed. He kept the Mission press busy printing an arithmetic, a geography and a Swahili grammar, all compiled by himself. He prepared a scheme for teaching the Old Testament in relation to the New, but the syllabus proved to be too elaborate for those not acquainted with his line of thought.

He was a born leader of men, and his colleagues found him sympathetic and lovable. They might not always agree with him, but they could always be persuaded. His mind was so clear about what he wanted to have done, and he was so ready in answering any objections which might be offered; when all else failed his smile won men to acquiescence.

The boys found him irresistible. His height and size were imposing, and the most stalwart of little liars did not dare to face the gleam of his gold-rimmed spectacles. He was terrible when dealing with offences against morals, but he conveyed to the offenders his horror of sin. In matters of discipline he was strict, but he had a sense of humour which allowed him to enjoy the vagaries of troublesome small boys.

He was a disciplinarian without being a despot. He might inspire awe, but he did not live aloof on any Olympian height. No one was ever more approachable. He was never too busy to answer questions, or impatient when listening to the longest stories. Even offenders were allowed time to formulate their excuses, and the condemned were permitted to expostulate, though the excuses rarely convinced him and the expostulations did not cause him to relent.

In December 1902 he wrote to me:

We have had our half-yearly examination and are much comforted by the results in the case of nearly all. We are as a Training School far more efficient than we were a year ago; and I have hopes and schemes for a still greater development and improvement. I introduced one new feature into the prize-giving which fairly staggered the school. After declaring that my Majesty was pleased to approve of much that the boys had done, I proceeded to inform my subjects that there were some whom the examination had proved to be mere idlers and wasters. For them also I had reserved prizes--of a different sort--which would be distributed later in the day! Oh, that you had seen the faces of the slackers! So I left them from 4 P.M. until after dinner--in awful horror and dread expectation. At 8.15 I was about to ring for the first victim, when in came a lazy youth to explain why his marks were few. As I had no designs on him I cheered him up. Later, ping! my bell rang, and up rushed a real prize-winner, all agog to know who would be called! 'Call Petro,' says I,--and downstairs he ran into the arms of an expectant throng. Up came Petro fearful and sad. One boy, one brute, one cane--and six of the very best. ' Call Martin.' Enter my godson. One godson, one godfather, one cane--and six of the very best. 'Call Antonio.' Enter the fat boy of the school. One fat boy, one thin headmaster, one thinner cane--and six of the very best. 'Call Jack.' Enter the harum-scarum of the school with many excuses. One protestant, one pope, one cane--and six of the very best. Meanwhile below were several sinking hearts, which only beat normally when Jack was heard to go weeping to bed, calling no one to take his place. And these new kind of prizes I have promised shall be given after each examination, much to the annoyance of many small kids.

The man who wrote that letter understood boys, and one is not surprised to learn that they never resented his severity.


In some ways Kiungani was very unlike an English school. An English boy is sent to school that he may receive instruction, and not primarily that he may attend the school chapel; but, as Frank wrote:

The African boy comes to school because he is a Christian, and he expects that his religion will be the chief subject in the course of his studies. In addition to the two services which all attend, the Eucharist and Evensong, a very fair number come to Matins, Sext and Compline. Very often we have a large congregation at Compline. In Lent twenty boys went without breakfast every day in order to send money to Lebombo --in Holy Week thirty-eight. Result, fifty rupees, of which over 2000 pice were given by the boys. The devotion of the boys at their Communions is often very striking.

This was written in Central Africa soon after he first went out, and long before he was in charge of the school. About the same time he wrote to his mother:

Holy Week and Easter came very quickly somehow. Lent seemed to fly past. The boys were very good. They do a prodigious amount of church-going. Sitting still is not so hard for them as for English boys; and a good many of them do really try hard, I am sure. An African's Good Friday would put English folk to shame. Our boys were in church at 6.15 for an hour, at 7.30 for three-quarters of an hour, at 9.30 for half an hour, at 12 for three hours and at 7 for one hour. They made no noise all day long and ate no food till sunset. Easter Day was very happy. We had everybody at Communion at 7--104 in all; and at 9.30 we had our great service with much noise of hymnody. This week the boys have had four days' holiday. We had sports for them on Tuesday, King took an excursion out on Wednesday, and yesterday afternoon we beat the Englishmen in town (at football) by 4 to 1.

That is one side of the picture, but there is another. The English boy goes to school with fifty generations of Christianity behind him, and finds in his school a tradition which, if not strictly Christian, has been largely influenced by religion. The African boy had none of these advantages. He had been nurtured in heathenism, and its moral standards seemed to him natural. He came to Kiungani full of faith, but with no formed habits of Christian living. He found there boys of many tribes and alien traditions. There was no common acquiescence that certain things are not done.

In such a school it was difficult to inculcate esprit de corps, though much was done through games, and African boys with bare feet could usually defeat football teams from men-of-war in the harbour. This was not merely due to their nimbleness of movement, but to their excellent team work; but, alas! the team spirit did not always extend beyond the touch-line.

One of the difficulties Frank had to face resulted from the patronage system by which boys were maintained in the school. An astute office in London found it easier to interest a parish in a particular boy's education than in the school as a whole. In dozens of English parishes collections were made and prayers were said for some black boy who wrote letters to his English patrons in Swahili, which usually concluded, like the letters of English schoolboys, with a list of his personal requirements. Unfortunately some of the parishes were rich and some were poor. Some found it a hard matter to get together the requisite sum, while others could well afford presents in addition. This led to a good deal of discontent, and Frank issued an ultimatum about presents. One boy had no less than three footballs sent him; and found himself in a serious dilemma. He could not play with three balls (or with one, for that matter) by himself; but all three were his own private property, and how could his ownership be preserved if other boys used them? The problem was solved by one of the staff buying all three balls for school use. It was a real problem, and the boy was not merely a dog in the manger. More civilised people feel the same difficulty when owning, and being responsible for, property which is only valuable when used by the public.

Soon after an English boy becomes a prefect, his housemaster has to impress on him that it is sometimes better to have a blind eye, for the English boy delights in responsibility and enjoys disciplining other boys. But the African boy, when promoted to be a prefect, was very proud of his privileges and immunities: he swaggered, but tended to regard the boys beneath him as no longer worthy of his consideration, and to feel it a hardship that he should be expected to concern himself with their misdoings. All through the eight years that he was Principal, Frank was for ever trying to inspire a sense of responsibility and corporate fellowship; and the measure of his success is seen in the many old boys who are working for the Mission or for the Government to-day.

An English boy comes to school with a sense of decency, and, even if he falls into grievous sin, he is ashamed of himself and at any rate hopes that his mother will never know of it. An African boy from a heathen village had no such inhibitions, and no one who has not lived with unconverted natives can have any idea of the moral atmosphere. The boys were genuine enough in their religious fervour; for the most part they were trying to lead a Christian life; but it is easier to adopt a new creed than to break with ancestral habits. Before we condemn them, we should remember that Christian Englishmen make light of things they know to be wrong because everybody does them, and we need not be surprised if Christians of the first generation find the same excuse for any number of sins. The yearly holiday was the testing time. The boy who had lived under discipline and kept straight, when sent back to his own village to live in a heathen society, very often could not bear the strain of resisting temptation. Frank learned, however, in those years of many disappointments, that real progress may be made in spite of many falls, and that grace may restore the penitent.

By 1904 he was able to report a great improvement.

On the whole we live in great peace and not a little sanctity! We say our prayers and play our games and on the whole have a decent tone beyond that of past years.

The next year he was in England. Scandals broke out and several boys had to be expelled. As soon as Frank heard of it, he cut short his much-needed furlough, to find that his deputy had behaved quite wisely and that the trouble was over. He wrote to a lady in England who was much distressed to hear that the boy supported in her parish had been expelled:

Africa is Satan's own country, and the priest's heart has to live on the future victory that is certain: the present is all pain. I didn't dare write about W------. He was very dear to me, just because of the many years of watching over him. It was the same old story: the same sin, but the occasions of it, I think I may say, were just a little less easy to avoid. There was the absence of the Head, which always makes a difference in a boys' school: there was the holiday time: there were two very evil new boys: there was Mr. ------'s break-down and the coming of a new chaplain from England. ... So the Devil took his chances and W------fell and fell badly; and the Bishop and my locum tenens decided that he must go. So I never saw him again. I heard from him last week. He is in good work at Mombasa in Government service. He lodges with an old U.M.C.A. boy, who has a son here. From a worldly standpoint he is all right: and is steady, respectable and so on. For the rest he tells me he is still a little sore at the manner of his departure, but not so sore as he was. I do not think that he will ever ask to come back. I do not know that it would be possible to take him, for his character is too well known now for him to be acceptable as a teacher. But I do believe that he will yet make a good man. If only he goes on as he has begun, avoiding idleness and drink (which are not his failings), he will in time win the victory. Please tell the children they must never forget him. They must ask for him a truer sorrow, a personal sorrow for sin; and that he may have grace to be brave enough to be good while living in a bad city.


So much for the difficulties of Kiungani in the first years of the century. Frank began his life there very happily. He grew younger living with the young. He became interested in football, was critical about form, and talked with gusto the argot of the game. He found in Padres Mackay and Pearse men with whom he could pray and also jape. They wrote limericks on one another and bought ridiculous toys from the bazaars of the city. The man whom outsiders regarded as a reserved ascetic could with his intimates emulate the high spirits of a St. Philip Neri.

Sometimes they had fever, and Archdeacon Mackay can remember an occasion when they stood together, each with a thermometer in his mouth, having arranged that the one with the highest temperature should go to bed, while the others carried on. On another occasion a missionary arrived from Magila for a holiday. The fever-stricken staff received him with enthusiasm, and then all went to bed and left him to run the school. He was a Godsend!

When Frank returned from his first furlough, he found everything changed. Mackay had been moved by Bishop Hine to other work; and the lay schoolmaster was not in sympathy with the ecclesiastical tone of the school, and had talked a great deal to fellow-missionaries and also to the boys. There had been much gossip and exaggeration about the supposed Rome-ward tendencies of Kiungani, and people were asking: 'Were not the boys priest-ridden, and would it not be well to put the lay schoolmaster in Weston's place?' The gossip had spread. The boys had heard of it and they expected a change.

For Frank this was a bitter experience, and he had to face it alone. At once he re-established his ascendancy in the school, and the lay schoolmaster shortly afterwards resigned; but he was miserable that during his absence the boys should have wavered in their allegiance. It took longer before he had cordial relations with his fellow-missionaries, and he was obsessed with the idea that the Bishop at this time did not trust him. He was very sad when he wrote to me in 1902:

Truly, it is not good to live alone. It is very bad for me to be away from the men whom I respect. Oh, for an hour of Gore, or Stuckey or Father Hollings! Yet it is written that every man shall bear his own burden.

While sympathising fully, we have to admit that his isolation at this time was really his own fault. He was very sensitive, and quite wrongly thought that he was disliked. In consequence he shut himself up; and his fellow-missionaries talked of the 'Hermit of Kiungani' and thought that he despised them. I cannot altogether endorse the excuse which he offered me:

The only fault to which I can honestly plead guilty is that I do not make time to go about from station to station. Truly I haven't time. My works are too many. I must therefore pay the penalty.

The truth was, he was shy. That did not hinder him from going to those who, he knew, had need of him, from offering service to the poor, the outcast and the children, winning from them a rich response. But he did not sufficiently at this time understand his duties towards his equals, who also had need of him. He had only to give to them in order to receive again, and the pnly obstacle to their friendship was his own fear of intrusion.

Like most shy people who shrink from personal interviews, he wrote letters. It is true he wrote to me:

'There are times when letters are better left unwritten: when it is safer to keep the pen in one's own pocket, and not make too many remarks --about the weather! ' But his wisdom outran his practice. He could not impress on paper the sweet reasonableness which he showed in conversation, and the glossiest paper could not convey his smile. His letters, like his lecture notes, were clear and to the point, and his arguments had a cogency which provoked replies. This was especially true about his correspondence with his Bishop; and Dr. Hine was also a shy man, but his pen had a point and his style was neat and incisive--he could be cutting. In one letter Frank writes:

It is an awful thing to be in the tropics--alone--backbitten--Bishop-banged--and over-busy all at once.

In other letters he speaks as frankly of the Bishop's kindness, and he never doubted for a minute the Bishop's ability and zeal. Frank, although scrupulously obedient to authority, was not a good subordinate. For one thing, he was always sure that he was right, and felt bound to maintain his convictions for the satisfaction of his own conscience. Secondly, he could never restrict his interests to his allotted job, and was apt to think out a policy which was not concerned with Kiungani. His Bishop recognised his value and gave him a free hand in the school, but he was determined to run his own diocese and was fully competent to do so. So was Frank, but they could not both do it at the same time, and the amusing point is, that Frank would have said quite truthfully, he had not the least wish to encroach on anyone's prerogatives. He was not an egoist, he had renounced ambition; but he could not help making plans, or wishing to have them carried out.

These little misunderstandings were not in themselves of the least importance: they were like transient clouds which do not break into showers but melt away; yet as they passed they cast their shadow on FrankjWeston and brought into relief certain characteristics. He was no wild man spoiling for a fight, no reckless controversialist wishing to shock his fellows, but a very sensitive creature who felt pin-pricks intensely, though only to intimate friends could he reveal his feelings.

All through those long years there was a great heart hungry for sympathy, and no one has expressed more clearly how love demands a response; but his isolation was due to his own shyness and reserve. He had many intellectual interests and no one with whom to discuss them. It was only for five months that he had Ernest Corbett as a friend: then Corbett died and he was more lonely than before. The Christ in the loneliness of Gethsemane became the Christ of his adoration; the Christ Whose love was rejected was the Christ Whom he could understand and interpret. Those who listened to his sermons remarked that he never preached without a reference to Gethsemane and the Passion. To suffer and endure became his creed.

But we must not exaggerate. Many men are sad, when they retire into themselves, who are far from unhappy in their outward circumstances. I for one never took too literally letters that were written after midnight in a room where the temperature was at least 87° and the writer's temperature anything over 100°. Frank was too busy to be really unhappy, and his heart was in his work. He cared for his boys one by one, and his influence was great. We may even say that his aloofness from European society at this time was an ultimate blessing, for it enabled him to penetrate, as few have done, into the recesses of the African mind.

As we have said he was a great listener, and the budding teacher found him very accessible. An African really at ease, with his tongue loose, has a marvellous gift of expression, and while he talked the great open eyes burned with sympathy behind the glasses. Frank was also a master of the Socratic method, and would interject questions without disclosing his own opinion, and so help his disciple to clear his own thought and criticise himself.

The boys, whom he had trained, returned to be teachers on mainland stations; but they wrote him long letters about their difficulties, and were not afraid to communicate their criticisms on the Missions which they served.

So, before he became Bishop, he had an intimate knowledge of the whole field from the African point of view. It was no doubt partial and largely wrong, but it was always a useful corrective to the views of the white missionaries.

I gather that these teachers were not always pleasing to their superiors. Complaints were made that they were not sufficiently humble, and did not always fit into the established groove. I expect that these complaints were largely justified, for it is always an awkward moment when a boy begins to think for himself, and feels that he has a right to do so. I have never worked on an African Mission station, but I have known many undergraduates in their second year at Oxford, and some have been a trial to their parents and elderly friends.


The following is an extract from a sermon preached in 1905, and published in Central Africa.

'I looked and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore my own arm brought salvation unto me, and my fury it upheld me.'--Isaiah Ixiii. 5.

The loneliness of Almighty God in His war against sin! Can we conceive of it? Can we realise it? Yet the Holy Spirit, in many passages of the Scriptures, has taught us that God's most holy Will cannot conquer Satan completely until some other created will has chosen to be allied with, to be on the side of the Divine Will, and to prove its friendship with God by endurance and suffering.

Long before this world was, Satan revolted against the Good Father: and there was rebellion in heaven. The eternal goodwill of God was opposed by the wicked evil will of Satan. But there was no victory for God until St. Michael and the holy angels deliberately took their place by God's side, giving their wills to be one with His Will. In the moment that they so chose to obey, the war in heaven began and ended: Satan and his evil fellows were cast out from heaven.

God will not consent to be alone. He will not act in loneliness. St. Michael knows it, and the holy angels know it.

And men? We do not even think about it. To us it is not even a matter of speculation. For how can the Creator of the universe be lonely? How can the Judge of all the world be limited by loneliness? So we ask, indignant at the suggestion.

But the Holy Spirit has not so taught us. For ever since Satan entered upon his kingdom in this world, and made rebellion against God, the Spirit has sought to build up here and there a human will into close union with the Divine Will, so that in some way Satan's power might be held in check. And the measure of the Holy Spirit's success is the holiness of those of whose line came Mary, the spotless Virgin, and her son Jesus.

All this the Spirit has put before our eyes as in a picture both in the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah was granted by the Spirit the vision of the great soldier of God who was grieved in the moment of victory by the slackness of the chosen people, who cared neither for the honour of God nor for the sufferings of His chosen warrior. Alone the warrior went to the battle; alone he fought, was wounded, and conquered; alone he returned, bleeding and blood-stained, to a lonely triumph. And this vision was fulfilled on that night in which the lonely Christ lay alone in the Garden, under the cover of thick darkness, in the presence of Him who is invisible, pouring out His blood from His sacred face as He wrestled with His horrible foe.

Jesus of Gethsemane is the perfect revelation of the Divine loneliness. For He is Eternal God. He, the Eternal Son, in the power of the Divine desire for the souls of men, went to His agony alone, calling forth no answer from the hearts of men. Alone He longed for souls; alone He agonised; alone He shed His blood. The many slumbered and slept, while a few were conspiring to seize and slay Him.

And again, He is Son of Mary. His heart is the creature of God. And in the whole wide world on that night there was no one who could come to the Father in ready obedience, no one who could cry 'Not My will but Thine be done,' except the lonely Jesus.

Truly God was alone that night with the human heart of the Eternal Son!

The night passed: the Son went alone to His death! But so niighty was His power of human obedience that the spell of loneliness was broken. Men crept to Him in obedience. And in their obedient self-surrender the Divine Will found the wished-for way of resisting the Satanic will.

Before His eyes were closed in death, the thief was at His side, sealing his obedience by the patient acceptance of unknown pain, before He had risen again, Joseph and Nicodemus had wrested themselves from Satan's power, proving their devotion to God by cutting themselves adrift from their national life. And since the first Easter Day His Jisciples have been as innumerable as their sufferings have been unspeakable. The history of faithful Christians is a record of new Gethsemanes, of new Calvaries, yet new only in their settings, for in essence they are one with the Gethsemane and Calvary of the Son of Mary.

Yes; the Divine law is for ever true. In every age Satan can only be driven back in the measure that men recognise the loneliness of the Christ, and devote themselves to do His Will faithfully, even unto death.

Let me illustrate this law from the history of our Mission. Not fifty years ago, in those parts of Africa which are called East or Central, Satan held full and undisputed sway. The tribes that lived there were at the mercy of the oppressor: their national life was dying: their human development had been arrested. Civil war and slave-raiding were doing Satan's work. And no man cared. Of all the white Christians in the world no one cast an eye on the sorry state of Africa: while not a few were content to grow rich by Satan's slave labour. Yet Christ was there. The lonely Christ saw, and pitied, and sorrowed; but because of His loneliness He could do nothing.

Then by His Spirit He attracted to Central Africa a Scotchman who could see and care--David Livingstone. Livingstone came, and moved in and out among the oppressed: he saw and understood. And with a great obedience he gave himself to the lonely Christ, that with Him he might save Africa from Satan. Alone he came to England; alone he testified to Satan's unrestrained power in Africa. And through him Christ spoke to those who founded our Mission in its first days.

But even so, Livingstone's work for Africa was not yet done. Back to Africa he went; and after some ten years more of toil and service, he received his call to his truest, highest and final work. Alone with Jesus in Central Africa, he laid down his life. And the heart of Livingstone, and his most true obedience, were offered to the Father, with the heart, with the obedience of the lonely Christ j and to that sacrifice we trace the coming of much of the power that has reached our Mission from the Father above.

Meanwhile our Mission had gone out with its first Bishop, Charles Mackenzie.

But to what did it go?

Brethren, the time for work was not yet come. For men had first to learn to care! To care for the lonely Christ in Africa! To care for the poor Africans whom Jesus had so long loved! Therefore the first missionaries had to die. Willingly they went to death, laying their wills side by side with the Will of the lonely Christ, their hearts with His heart. And the glad Christ offered them with His own Will and heart to the Father; and the Father's power fell increasingly upon the Mission's work. The conquering Christ linked their wills with His Will, and began to build a fence round the poor harassed African souls which Satan may hardly cross: a fence of proved obedience, of devoted wills that have found acceptance with the Father in death.

This is the explanation of our Mission's death-roll, brethren. For this cause God has called to Himself ninety souls from among us in forty-three years. They have been called, some to die after many years of service, some to die instead of working, but all that they might prove their desire to find the lonely Christ in Africa, and to fight by His side.

And has not God's power descended upon us? Has He not been with us? Where is the Africa of Livingstone's time? In spite of all failure and disappointment and defeat, the power of God has driven Satan from many a stronghold. To-day, in many places where once he ruled, African clergy are ministering to African congregations, African priests are celebrating the Holy Sacraments. In Zanzibar, a Cathedral covers the slave market on the mainland, churches and schools mark the track of the slave-raiders.

Brethren, this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.

Only let us recognise the cost of these miracles of grace; only let us be awake to the demands that God's Will makes on all who seek to fight Satan.

'Without the shedding of blood is no remission of sin.' Whether it be in lives devoted to a service of many years, in which our Mission is still rich, or lives actually given in death, this law is true.

So, brethren, I commend this Mission to your love, your prayers and your personal care. Come at His call to meet Him Who deigns to ask your help: come gladly to fight for Him Who desires you to uphold.

Lift your arms with His arms in prayer, that salvation may come to Africa; and let your hearts burn with fury against Satan, so that with the lonely Christ you may consume all that can keep God from any of the least of the souls whom He has created for Himself.

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