The days of the Missionary are over we are told by the Secretary of a Missionary Society. Pioneering belongs to the past.
I agree that we smile at the early picture of a missionary as a man standing in the shade of a palm tree, further protecting himself from tropical sunshine with a topee, holding a large umbrella in one hand and clutching a Bible with the other. Or, of the lady, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and showing an inch of white petticoat below her dress, and labeled “Mish”. I have seen both of these people, but it has all changed as the years have passed. Today, the missionary, still welcomed in many countries, goes out as a colleague and partner of nationals. Other missionary folk, now black or coloured come to our shores, also as equals and, I hope, are welcomed. For a missionary is one who is sent. Sent with a message. My dictionary does not introduce colour, nor confine missionary activity to the 18th and first half of the 19th century.
The Missionary is alive and well.
I accept the limitation of ‘pioneering,’ but then, I am largely ignorant of the vast interior of South America, for example. Possibly thrilling stories of pioneering have yet to be written, simply because the missionary work they will describe has yet to be undertaken.
Our story of pioneering may be part of an unfolding record or, if pessimistic, it could be the last to be written. So, in my memoirs I have put ‘Partners in Pioneering’ on paper. Doing so has given great pleasure as I recalled the days of long ago.
In his ‘High road to China’, Cleary writes: “ The year 1920 is almost as remote as 1492 or 1066 to a lot of people. An old man’s memory does not always recognise the calendar, but it does not alter the truth of what he experienced.” An African gerontologist spoke of the death of an old person being like a library in flames.
If I did not record our story, soon it would be too late. The generation of large congregations who attentively listened will be silenced, and the story will be forgotten. So, without further delay, I have got on with writing, before all I remember could also, like the library, disappear in flames.
I was born in Dublin while Orville and Wilbur Wright were still celebrating their success in being the first ever to make a controlled flight in a powered, heavier-than-air machine. The flight covered 852 feet. That is not very far, just the length from my house to the pillar box where I post my letters. Yet 852 feet is a long distance when I have left only one minute to catch the post. It also was a long distance for the Wright brothers - but they traveled by air.
At the same time, Henry, the son of an Irish farmer who had been forced to emigrate to the USA because of the potato famine which killed a million of his compatriots, founded the Ford Motor Company.
This was to lead to the automobile, still a commodity produced by specialists beginning with Daimler, becoming a less expensive, mass produced car. Ford made this possible by placing his engine at the front of the chassis instead of the less accessible engine underneath the floor boards, and his introduction of the production belt whereby a regular supply of vehicles was delivered to assembly gangs, each member of which performed his particular function in turn.
I am glad I was born at this time - the dawning of a new age of flying and motor transport. I have seen so many other wonders being developed and launched, spectacular inventions which made us gaze in awe in the early years of the century. Many are now so much taken for granted that wonder has ceased, but despite modernisation, they were born in my early days.
So, for a while I want to talk of life as I remember it in the first and second decades of the 20th century. Of horse drawn trams, replaced by steam engines pulling people and goods, replaced again by electric trams and trains. Of my first ride in a motor car and in a solid tyred char-a-banc with a door on either side of each seat. Of Cross channel steamers, and I mean steamers, not M/Vs and of liners with two or even three funnels. Of the first sighting of an airship, and of 1001 very common place modes of business and means of travel. Of the splendidly uniformed regiments - infantry - cavalry and hundreds of khaki clad cyclists silently riding in absolute precision.
This was all happening at that time. Of course I could not have believed that in the long life before me I would be privileged to see some seventy countries and travel round the world several times - to spend a year at sea, and of a missionary career in Africa for a quarter of a century.
Yet, so it was and that is the story that unfolds in this record of memoirs.
sectionSounds of Dublin We had some pictures at home illustrating ‘Cries of London’. I can so clearly remember some cries of Dublin.
There was the man who walked around the streets and roads with a pack on his back and cried “Umps to mend”. He repaired umbrellas. Like him, another man offered his services in repairing wicker work and reseating cane chairs. Then there was the curious two wheeled contraption with a wooden leg where the third wheel should be. The operator would lower the stump leg, then seat himself behind a large round sandstone, revolved by his pedals and would sharpen knives and scissors. My musical interest was aroused each Saturday morning when a familiar sound came from the front porch. There was the Dulcimer man striking his strings with a light hammer, as in the Xylophone. He rested his dulcimer on a tressel. Still on music, frequently a barrel-organ was wheeled into our road. It’s loud organ and piano sounds came from a heavy paper roll the perforations of which passed over a row of tiny open ended organ tubes offering a selection of two or three octaves. This instrument was welcomed by young and old. A much simpler organ was played by its owner as it rested on a three foot pole. On the top of the organ sat a monkey. The poor animal was trained to go round with a can to collect the money, but he had such a lot of scratching to do that he often laid down the can.
Lastly there was Mary Coulter, the vegetable woman who carried on a door to door trade. She arrived, pushing a three wheeled wicker basket carrier, laden with a variety of greens, carrots, potatoes etc. Unfortunately, poor Mary had a drink problem. Often as she wended her homeward way having spent too much time and money in places that declare Guinness is good for you, she would burst into singing. It was always the same tune, but with altered words she would sing God save our gracious...Pope.
In the Ludlow household at the turn of the century(19th to 20th) the word ‘Travel’ was in regular use for my father was a commercial traveller and, apart from holiday intervals each Monday morning he set out for a different area in the south of Ireland, and was busily engaged there until Friday.
In those days, of course, travel was so different. Father always ordered a cab to take him to whichever railway terminus he would use for his itinerary. The Broadstone for the Great Western Railway or Kingsbridge for the Great Southern. No taxis, no cars, just the slow but reliable horse and cab. We did not have Hansom cabs with the driver at the rear - just a lofty seat in front, open upholstered square interior designed to carry four persons. The chassis was so constructed that a bar bearing a wheel at either end, projected slightly beyond the rear of the cab. This, unintentionally provided a seat for youths with tough posteriors. Often when a cab bore a non-paying passenger like this, a spoil-sport youth on the pavement would call the driver to “scut the whip” whereupon the driver would lash his whip over the top of the cab and catch the youth with a stinging flick. One of my sisters hired a cabby at a Station. He set out in the right direction and turned along the Quays. As the horse followed along the Liffey, an observant cabby driving in the other direction, noticed the strange position in which Elsie’s driver sat. He immediately stopped his horse, ran over and also stopped the other. The old cabby was dead. He was a well known driver and had several times won the Dublin Cabbies Derby.
A fresh cabby took over. Luggage was transferred and Elsie got home safely. The dead driver was removed and his horse and cab driven to the stable. This is the only time I have ever heard of someone dying at the reins.
Horse drawn vehicles were used for all sorts of transport. I have ridden a toast rack type of horse drawn tram, linking a town with the railway stations. Larger firms did all their deliveries by horse drawn vans, usually displaying advertising matter on the sides. Smaller shopkeepers had their deliveries carried by boys riding three wheeled cycles with a box-like container opening at the top, perhaps to give easier access. As one would expect the whole outfit was painted pillar box red and the riders were dressed with the official uniform.
I remember one Christmas Eve as two of my older brothers were home for the holiday, we were out for a walk. As we approached a canal bridge, we overtook a young lad pushing what appeared to be a heavy load up the hill. My brothers were sorry for him working so late on that evening. The stepped out and each put a hand to push the cycle van. Eventually they got it to the top of the bridge- the doors at the front opened and out jumped another youth of the same age. He called to his mate “Your turn now”.
I have digressed from the commercial traveller. Having been away all week, one would think that Father had had enough travelling. Not so. Mother and he very frequently took us children for a Saturday treat. The venue was not always the same. Sometimes it would be Luean. This meant a tram ride into the city, a change to another line which took us out along the side of Pheonix park which, apart from being beautiful, covers three square miles and is twice the size of London’s Hyde Park and Regents Park together. The tram ran on a separate strip of land alongside the road.
Our favourite venue was Howth Head. This again meant a tram to the city centre and then from the Great Northern Railway Station, a train to Sutton where we changed to an electric tram operated by the railway. This ran on railway lines and slowly climbed until we reached Howth Head. At the summit we always had a good tea, played games, walked along the cliffs or sat on the grass listening to the band. Then came the thrilling tram run down the steep route to Howth Station. The trolley was lowered and on our descent we relied entirely on the braking system. Dangerous perhaps, but I never heard of any accidents.
I must refer to the ancient steam-tram from the Dublin suburb Terenure to the Mexican sounding Poulaphouca where, some twenty miles away is the large reservoir safeguarding Dublin’s water supply. The tram was hauled by an engine with a tall smoke stack. It had a couple of double deck carriages and, sometimes a goods van attached. It too, ran alongside the road with interesting villages - Templeogue, Tallaght, Blessington and then Poulaphouca. We always sat on the upper deck, shielding our faces and clothes from the engine smoke with newspapers. Delightful Saturdays they were - real family occasions.
Before leaving steam-trams, I must tell a true story of the line that ran between Portstewart and its railway station - a distance of two miles. Although antiquated, a regular service was maintained for each train arriving at or departing from the station. After lunch one day, a lady visitor enquired how long she would have to wait at the station between the arrival of the steam-tram and the train. The conductor’s reply was brief “From two to Two to Two two”. Suitably amused the visitor then asked “Why on earth did they build the station so far from the town?” The conductor pushed his cap back, scratched his head and then said “I suppose they wanted to have it near the train”.
The transport was changing. I can well remember standing watching as the occasional car came along. It had a long running board step, bearing a couple of spare wheels, lashed to the body of the car. Either a Klaxon or the good old rubber bulb honking horn was in evidence. All cars were open topped. Some had a canvas cover which could be pulled from behind the seat to give protection from rain. This protection took time for, into holes at the tops of doors, there could be fitted celluloid windows. Drivers always wore goggles.
Great was our excitement when the news spread that at our Church Bazaar, Mr. Seaton, one of the very few early owners of the motor car in Dublin, would give rides for a shilling a time in aid of Church funds. We entered the car, up steps at the back and sat on bench seats facing each other. We were actually driven for about a mile - our first ever motor ride.
Another travel interest at that bazaar was the competition for the best entry, the cost of which did not exceed a penny. All sorts of splendid efforts were submitted but the winner was Miss Burke who had a picture post card costing one halfpenny and stuck on it was a half penny stamp. It was addressed to her brother in Fiji. It seems incredible that in those days before the first World War, the postage for a letter to the South Pacific was one penny, while a postcard went for one halfpenny.
Sometimes my brother and I were allowed to accompany our father on his commercial travels. We thus got our early introduction to hotels and to journeys of more than local length.
Soon we had more imaginative ideas and plans. We discussed these with our parents and eventually set of on our cycles right across Ireland to Connemara and Galway. Then south to the Moher cliffs, on to Killarney and the Kerry extremities of the south west. Turning east, we reached Cork City, Youghaldn Waterford and up the East Coast to Wexford and Wicklow and thus home to Dublin once more. Such trips gave us a sense of independence as well as a lot of fun. We certainly learned a lot.
Next, there came a very big development in increasing circles. I was the youngest in our party of four who boarded the Isle of Man steamer and sailed out of Dublin Bay. Passing Howth Head, Lambay Island we entered Douglas harbour. We were booked into a holiday camp on Onghan Head, our first and very enjoyable experience out of Ireland. Our trips around, and across the island included stops at Port Erin, Peel, Ramsay and, of course, the Laxey Wheel and Snaefell.
Having been half way across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man, obviously my next ambition must be to reach England. This hope was to be realised sooner than I had anticipated for, my eldest sister was Irish Secretary of the C.E. (Christian Endeavour movement for Young People.) The World Convention (the first post 1914-1918 war) was to be held in London and she was involved in organising the party from Ireland. I was delighted to be included. We set out on my biggest adventure - London. In those days we still had a twenty minute difference in times and had to change our watches en route.
The Convention was held in the Crystal Palace, that amazing building consisting entirely of glass and iron framework. Sir Joseph Paxton, architect and gardener had previous experience in designing large conservatories at Chatsworth and elsewhere, was appointed to erect a building for the Great exhibition of 1851. So the Crystal Palace was built in Hyde Park. Three years later it was moved to Sydenham, a suburb commanding a splendid view of London. Sadly, it was destroyed by fire in 1936.
I can still recall the sound of the mighty organ and see the Great Hall packed during our sessions. Areas were reserved as dormitories for women and men. It was quite an experience to settle down on my camp bed after the excitements of each day, but more surprising to awaken with acres of glass so high above us and to see the bright sunshine of the glass. It was strange to be amidst tall palm trees and large white figures from mythology, on their polished pedestals. It could have been easy to imagine we were in heaven were it not that some of the statues were not appropriately nor perhaps adequately garbed to qualify them for citizenship in the celestial sphere.
Dr. Clarke, founder of C.E. presided throughout. The opening session was addressed by Lloyd George, then in his closing days as Prime Minister.
I may not have been the youngest person present, but I can remember the impression made upon me of the bigness of the world and the problems of communication with visitors from so many countries. One day, perhaps I could visit other countries and learn other languages.
The afternoons gave us the opportunity to travel on London’s open topped buses, with a strip of canvas hanging from the seat in front. This could be pulled and held over one in the event of rain. Sometimes we had the thrill of travel by underground trains - a maze of tunnels.
I can also remember being shocked by English prices. We went to Regents Street hotel for a cup of tea. A waiter bearing a large tray with silver teapot etc sandwiches and cakes, charged us 2/6d per head. We never went there again, we could not afford such blatant robbery. (2/6d =12.5p)
Each year our parents rented a house in Skerries, a seaside resort north of Dublin. We had the whole month of August to enjoy it. Summer in those days was always sunshine - or was it that kink in a child’s memory that makes one forget the less pleasant? Anyhow, one day on the sandy beach we heard the noise of an engine. Then an extraordinary sight - an aeroplane flew past us. We could see the pilot clearly. As the plane flew over the cliffs at the end of the strand it appeared to dip suddenly. My brother and I raced to the headland and came in sight of Loughshinny and its tiny harbour. There lay the bi-plane, wings outspread on the water, and the floats (it was a sea plane) smashed, with pieces floating around. We got a piece as a souvenir. The pilot’s name was Hawker, a respected name in the aircraft industry ever since. He was taking part in a race round the coast of Britain, promoted by an English newspaper.
The dangers of flying never worried either of us when, some years later we flew along the very same coast - our first flight, in a very similar plane. We sat in the open cock-pit, in basket chairs in a straight line behind the pilot. We were well strapped in, a very necessary precaution. We held on to the cock-pit for dear life particularly when turning corners. I learned later that the correct term for this operation is ‘banked’. I forgot to mention that we had no cover, our heads and shoulders were above the sides of the plane, our hair blowing freely.
Pilots in those days were very rarely able to use a proper runway. Our pilot just circled while inspecting a possible landing place and came down safely in a grassy field. I remember being at Croydon Aerodrome (not then an Airport) when planes took off and landed on a grassy strip. There I watched the only tri-plane I had seen. This cumbersome aircraft with its three wings looked like a monster born with too many arms. A very much respected and respectable uncle of mine was bitten by the flying bug after his retirement. He had always been used to everything that was ‘the very best’ He flew as often as he could in the bi-planes of the day, but he considered the tri-planes more up his street!
’Kingsland Park’ the Dublin Methodist Church we attended in my early days holds a variety of memories. The day I was sent out of Sunday School for eating a banana during prayers. I did not notice that the devout Superintendent was praying with one eye open. The church heating system was a large coke fire beneath the centre aisle. The aisle was covered by a iron grating. The Saturday before Harvest Festival was an exciting afternoon when helpers decorated the church with beautiful flowers and fruits of many colours. The first year I was considered to be old enough to help and not hinder, I was given the job of going to the local dairy for a jug of milk. Long before the introduction of bottles or cartons as milk containers. Looking forward to the helpers tea, I returned with my full, quart jug.
Now, our caretaker was Freddie Houlihan, He had gone to refill his buckets with coke, but unfortunately had left a section of the grating open. I did not see the gap and disappeared in to the hole, clutching my jug of milk. Helpers from all over the church rushed to rescue me and, still clutching a jugless handle, I emerged, white of face from the shock and white of clothing from a quart of milk. I had to have several stitches to close a wound behind one ear. Seventy years after I still retain the marks of the time I was old enough to help and not hinder the decorators.
Christian Endeavour was a strong, attractive Society within the church. Juniors and Seniors benefited and learned to discuss. In addition to weekly meetings, we regularly had long walks up the mountains on Saturdays with an enjoyable tea at one of several farm houses high up and overlooking the city. The C.E. also had great influence in shaping the ministerial career of several youths.
Our minister, the Rev William B. Lumley gave me much help and one word of advice which I have never forgotten. When I told him of my call to the Ministry, he said “Remember, every time you preach, that for someone in your congregation, it may be the last sermon they will hear. Say something that will help them to see Jesus.”
Before leaving school, it was becoming clearer that I wanted to study and offer as a candidate for the ministry. I could not then have realised that it would be through that decision that so many adventures and so much travelling would become possible.
Because of the title I have chosen, with emphases on travel, perhaps I have given the impression that, of my parents, my father was the very strong influence in my life. This is not intended. Ours was a very happy home and upbringing. Mother did not have a vote in political affairs until 1928 when women won enfranchisement on the same terms as men. But in our home parental equality was practised throughout the fifty years of happy married life.
From Monday to Friday we missed our father, during his weekly travels, but Mother efficiently coped with household duties and responsibilities. In those days it was not only possible to find, but to employ domestic assistants, living-in, who gallantly shared in the rearing of a family of eight. Mother also carried on our evening Family Prayers, which Father took over for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.