To return to my call to the Ministry - My parents held the definite view that anyone choosing this career should avoid a course of uninterrupted academic preparation. He should gain experience of working with people so that a minister would know something of what different types of people do and of the problems faced by those who sit in the pew. I have always been grateful for the view. However, I do not underestimate the parallel fact that those who do continue an uninterrupted academic course gain experience of the problems and temptations known to the academic.
Perhaps a year or two in National Service was a good thing or, as that requirement no longer obtains, a year or two as a worker in Voluntary Service Overseas or in this country.
Neither of these outlets were thought of in my days so I had a year as a Junior clerk in a firm of storage contractors (office boy - but we did not have any tea breaks in those days so I was not required to include this in my programme). The company held shipments of grain, carbide and much else besides, straight from ships until collected for distribution. This gave me the advantage of moving amongst dockers and labourers in general. Then, for two years I worked with my father in wholesale boots and shoes, meeting a very different type of shop and office workers.
When my parents saw that I was still intent on my vocation, they arranged that I go to Wicklow where I studied Greek and general subjects under well qualified tutors. One day, a neighbour at home was talking to my mother and said “I have not seen your youngest son for some time - is he all right?” My Mother told the lady that I was away, studying for the Ministry. “Oh wasn’t he getting on well in business?” was her reply.
Like me, my brother Day (David) had worked for several years after school in a well know insurance office and, being old enough he had served in the Royal Air Force towards the end of the first world war. Also, like me, he had heard the call to the Ministry. In 1923 we both took up appointments in the far north of Ireland. He went to Portstewart, Co Londonderry, and I went to Bushmills, Co Antrim, two miles from the Giant’s Causeway. As learners or assistants, we worked under the supervision of senior ministers.
The work was not easy for, apart from burning the midnight oil in order to study, I had responsibility for four churches. We had to use ordinary push cycles in those days and each Sunday morning, I pedalled to Castlecat - better known as Billy, I cannot say why. Then home for lunch (five miles return trip.) Then on alternate Sunday afternoons to Ballymoney (22 miles) one week and Ballycastle (24 miles) the next Sunday. To complete the Sunday I had to conduct a service at 8.0pm in my home town of Bushmills.
Monday was a holiday. I took up and enjoyed golf with my brother in Port-Stewart. The Golf Links, stretching along the seashore has nine holes. At one hole in particular, the wise golfer plays inland and out to the green, thus avoiding a narrow, rocky inlet of the sea. I decided to depart from this triangular approach one day. I got a good drive across the inlet but, I could not find my ball. This caused much laughter by all except me. Assuming my ball had joined many others in the sea, Day played on and gained the hole- he had played the safe course. He put his hand into the hole to withdraw his ball, but came out with two. We all examined the ball and were satisfied it was mine. I had holed out in one. (Bogey 3)
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday required much more cycling than Sunday for I had afternoon visits and an evening meeting in each of my four churches. I could not possibly keep up enough preparation to give different addresses, so I used one throughout Sunday and a second for the four weeknights.
I had very comfortable lodgings in Bushmills. A small but adequate bedroom, a separate study with a fireplace. My landlady provided all food, services, laundry, light and heat. For all this I paid 25 shillings per week. She kindly did any mending I required out of her big profits!
Apart from our weekly golfing together, Day and I occasionally could get a local preacher to take a week-night service and we could get another free day. I could spend a night or two in Portstewart or he could come to me in Bushmills. During one of his visits to me, we cycled the twelve miles to my weeknight appointment and he kindly gave the address for me.
Now, amongst the members were two elderly sisters. They had invited Day to come with me and spend the night at their farm, two miles away. I had accepted the kind invitation. I had heard that one of their brothers was mentally ill and gave the sisters much trouble. I thought that our visit could be a bit of a let-up for them.
After the Service we walked home with them, pushing our cycles. They had gone to a lot of trouble assembling a large bed in their lounge, there also was a table with a very adequate cold meal set for five, the ladies, their second brother and us. After a good supper the table was cleared and we enjoyed some music. I played for well known hymns and songs. Then we sat round the fire. Day sat at one side while my chair, back to the door, faced the fire place. As we talked, we heard knocks and sounds of movement in the room above. The older sister went to investigate and we could hear a gruff male voice complaining about something. On her return she glanced at her sister and indicated that he was coming down. I was relating some experience or other but no one was listening to me. Rather, all were riveted on the increased sounds above. I kept on, gallantly as the sounds were now on the stairs. I had been told that the man had been staying in his bed for the past six months. The door handle turned and I could see alarm in my brother’s eyes and, as I too could see in the mirror over the fire the head and face, I too was alarmed. His hair was matted and no comb had been used for many a day, nor had a razor been used on his shaggy beard.
No one passed any comment as he drew up a chair and sat down beside me. He was silent for the rest of evening but did partake of a cup of tea with us all. When we had said good night to all, he withdrew and went upstairs again. Day and I spent much time in protection against any attack. We placed a heavy china basin on one window sill and the matching jug on the other. We then arranged chairs by the door and placed another heavy china object used at night (the alternative facility was the other side of the paved yard). This article we precariously balanced on top. If the door opened there would be a crash. We got into bed but did not sleep, anticipating the noise of crashing crockery. An hour later we thought the attack was about to start. Overhead noises, then again on the stairs. But all was well. We had the relief of hearing the front door being opened. The interspersed with the click of a ferruled stick, footsteps faded into the distance.
Next morning, we hurriedly removed the barricades, replaced the china objects and were in bed again in time to give a sleepy “come in” as our hostess arrived with a tray, complete with teapot, milk and cups. Soon after breakfast we left the farm, but now we shared the secret sorrow those sisters had held for so long.
In 1924 my brother and I together candidated for the Ministry of the Methodist Church in Ireland. We both passed all the examinations and interviews and were accepted. Because of the large number of successful candidates, the Training College could not cope with all at once. So Day, four years older than I was would have to wait one year whilst I must wait for two. He was then appointed to Enniscorthy in Co Wexford, whilst I would stay another year in Bushmills and then move to Dungannon, Co Tyrone for the second year before entering training college.
With the onset of winter and the increased number of hours I had to spend on the roads, trying to cycle into head winds, I often had to walk for miles because of gales blowing in from the north Atlantic. My eldest brother felt moved to do something about it. He bought me a light motor bike, a Sparkbrook two stroke. It was a real life saver avoiding those dreadful hours of pedaling and pushing. My predecessor in the job used to tell of how he had to walk against the storm nearly the whole twelve miles to Ballycastle. Then, during the evening, the devil took hold of the tail of the wind and turned it round, with the result that he had to walkk practically all of the way home again. This kind of experience, which I too had shared, was not conducive to study. I reckoned I must have four hours a day with my books.
The improvement in transport was not all sunshine. One night as I was homeward bound, the engine stopped. I was on a road I seldom used. I checked on the petrol etc and all seemed right according to my elementary knowledge of the engine and all its works. The kick-starter gave no sign of life, neither did my runs of a hundred yards, pushing the machine in gear. Fortunately I was near a farm house and, pushing the Sparkbrook I called at the door to ask permission to sleep in the barn at which I had had a glance as I passed. The farmer would not hear of it. I must come in and have something to eat first. Splendid news, for I was very hungry. Whilst eating, I noticed the farmer’s wife several times left the room and each time she returned, shaking her head gently for the attention of her husband. Finally, as we sat round the fire, she again returned and this time nodded. He announced “We can do better than the barn and can give you a bed.” I was taken to a child’s room. The bed was warm and obviously had been occupied up to a very short time before. I then realised that the wife’s frequent visits were to check the that the child was really asleep, and the final nod said “mission accomplished” - the sleeper had been carried to another room, probably the parents. I took his place. I went to sleep hoping that no other motor cyclist would come to the farm seeking a place to stop. The good Samaritan farmers would have had greater difficulty shifting me to a vacant spot.
Talking of good Samaritans brings back another incident connected with the Sparkbrook. I saw another motor cyclist by the roadside, staring helplessly at his bike. I stopped and offered to use my limited knowledge to diagnose his trouble. I found that his carburetter was clogged up, so I set to and cleaned it in and out. Within ten minutes, I had the engine running as usual. The rider was very grateful and I left him packing up his tools etc. About a mile further down I got a puncture. I got ready to repair it. Whilst thus engaged, I heard the chug of a machine and was not surprised to see it was my friend whom I had helped. I was surprised, however to see that he only slowed down, giving sufficient time to shout “Thanks again.”
My thoughts? Well I would still prefer to be in the place of the Samaritan.
In the saga of my motor-cycling days, I graduated to a Douglas bicycle and sidecar and found added pleasure in the safety of a third wheel, greater power and being able to carry a passenger in comfort instead of on the pillion.
The Douglas had a rubber belt drive which normally functioned well, but along the north Antrim coast, conditions often were not normal. It was snowing hard one night as I drove past the ruins of Dunluce Castle and, as the snow beat into the exposed part of the coast I could not move forward. No one with any sense would be on the road on a night like this - perhaps that is why I was there. I got into the side car, wrapped up in whatever covering I carried and dimmed the carbide lamp, the only light on the bike. I dreaded the darkness and loneliness of the hours until daylight would come. Perhaps a couple of hours later, the wind rose into a storm, the snow changed to hail and the hail to rain. Gradually beating into the rubber belt, the snow was washed off. Tremendously relieved, I decided to see if the Douglas would start. Thankfully it did and, and hour later, I was tucked up in my own bed instead of the discomfort and cold of the side car. This attachment to the bike is excellent when one is in a sitting position but definitely not designed for use as a bed.
During the two years of gaining experience in the towns mentioned while I awaited entrance to College, there came the opportunity to visit London again. This time the trip was to extend my geographical knowledge further than ever before. I visited France for a short time and enjoyed the novelty of buying French postage stamps to use on my postcards home.
I found the French language very different from my school boy lessons from a variety of French teachers. Nobody now asked me if I had seen my grandmother’s spectacles nor expected me to reply as the text books tried to teach me. In fact, on a certain tram ride, there was a little English boy in great distress - he was lost. The conductor asked me if I were “Anglais”. I said “Oui”. In very speedy French he sought my help. Why do French people speak so quickly? I asked the boy for details of name, where he had boarded the tram, how his parents were dressed. When it came for me to pass on all this information I found that no matter how loudly I shouted my French, nor how much I waved my arms, the conductor, silly man, did not appear to understand. He thought I was speaking in English.
On my return to London I decided that I would like to see how the other half of mankind live and to gain experience through roughing it. I looked up ‘Hostels’ in the Telephone Directory, left my suitcase in the Left Luggage department at Euston taking with me only my pyjamas, tooth brush and razor wrapped in brown paper. I found my way to near-by Store Street, to the Salvation Army Mens’ Hostel. I had an immediate set-back. I had French money but had forgotten to change it. The only English coin I had was a treasured golden half sovereign which had been given to me at the first wedding I had conducted. Reluctantly, I tendered the coin at Reception. The clerk looked at it, and me, suspiciously, help it up. examined it. He asked me where I had got it an how long I had had it. I was embarrassed, more, I was frightened that the police might be brought in. After deliberation, he put a tick opposite a bed number and gave the change. My bed, not yet seen, would cost six pence (old pence) Supper was next. I queued and for threepence got a big mug of tea and a thick slice of bread with jam on it. Then up several flights of clean stone steps - there was no lift. The large dormitory with about fifteen beds along either side had the same number in the middle. My number was right in the middle of the middle.
I unwrapped my parcel, donned my pyjamas and was somewhat embarrassed by the glances in my direction. I was later to observe from new arrivals, as I pretended to be asleep, that pyjamas were an unusual luxury - I was in a world of men living much closer to nature.
Next morning my money was still safe beneath my pillow. I watched my neighbour deftly folding a square of rough cloth around each ankle to serve as socks. Breakfast was ready, tea, bread and a slice of bacon. This swelled the price to sixpence. As it was Sunday and I was going to church in Westminster Central Hall, I had my shoes polished by an obliging gentleman who carried on his practice on the pavement near Euston Station. This operation cost the same as my cooked breakfast.
That night I returned to Store Street, got the same bed, to my surprise and, to my further surprise I found it had clean sheets and pillow slip. I gained much useful experience that week-end and, ever since, have had a very high regard for the Salvation Army.
On completion of the two years 1924-26, I started on my training - mainly theological but also a course in education at Queen’s University. I am not an academic and did find concentration on reading some subjects rather difficult. But as this is the record of Ludlow’s Travels, I will not expand on what I was taught and my response thereto. I will include a few small items and three bigger records.
The week-end in college frequently was the occasion for an appointment in a village or town church where we filled vacancies due to illness or under-staffing problems. I valued these week-ends. Hospitality was provided in homes of great variety, from simple farm houses to much more luxurious residences. Being a week-end resident made me feel much more a part of the community when leading worship on Sunday. During these weekends I got to know some splendid people and had wonderful opportunities for conversation.
I have never taken much interest in flowers. I love colour, variety and perfume in a garden but, when I say that gardening and music were the two pastimes which helped to keep me sane during so much study, I regarded my work in the garden as the donkey work. In the big grounds that surrounded our college, the official gardener undertook all grass cutting and flower bed work. I organised some willing students in clearing, laying paths and steps etc and many a happy afternoon.
Music, as mentioned elsewhere, has been a great friend. The Principal’s wife very kindly allowed me to use her piano. On wet afternoons and at other free times, I practised many hours. I was appointed Precentor and each morning at prayers, it was my job to decide on tunes to hymns selected by whoever was taking prayers that morning. My tuning fork came in as a useful check on the note on which I would raise the hymn. We had no musical instrument in the dining room where prayers were conducted.
Annually the Methodist Church ran a Missionary Summer School. It lasted a week and was mostly held in Dublin, in one of our Boarding schools, during holidays. It was a well attended function, all young people availing of the opportunities for fun and frolic as well as listening to speakers on leave from overseas stations. For several years I was the musical director and played for those times when music was required, as well as organising the much enjoyed concerts when often new talent of worth was discovered.
The long three years in College, long to me, slowly passed. I do not think I have explained that six of our men who were accepted as candidates in 1924, had offered for service overseas. As a result, we were required to undertake three years in College instead of two. Our stations were announced Two to India, one Ceylon, one Rhodesia and two West Africa - Gold Coast and for me, Nigeria.
All six of us were ordained in Cork at the Conference of 1929. We had still two years of Probation to complete. These would be used in language study in the country to which we were designated.
With Ordination, our Irish training was at an end but before turning to a new chapter, I will merely refer to a wonderful journey to the U.S.A and Canada and my work there for two months. The full story of this vacation travel is given in Part Two - World Travel. I will end this chapter with one final item of preparation.
I was thrilled when I learned that I was to serve in West Africa, the very centre of the iniquitous slave trade. Thankfully the capture and export of human flesh had ceased but this blot on mankind was not the only ugly fact associated with that part of the world.
West Africa was far from being a health resort. Consequently it was important that the missionary societies should give special training and preparation for volunteers. Medical aid was very sparsely spread over West Africa. In fact, apart from big towns, there was none excepting the occasional Mission station with limited facilities. In London, Livingstone College sought to make things easier for missionary candidates. They ran three month courses. I was sent to one of these and was launched into lectures galore, demonstrations and hospital rounds. To give confidence to defenceless sufferers in hospital and clinics which were horrible and shocking and then quietly informed that we would see much worse in Africa. The only difference out there would be that we would be completely on our own, no consultants, no advice. “o” said our lecturer “stick the knife in, the patient may die, but he’ll die in any case if you don’t.” He was, of course, referring to nasty abscesses and the like.
We qualified as surgeons in ninety days! I did not keep record of how often I did actually stick the knife in, during the twenty five years out there nor how many were given extensions to their lives but, I do know that when I paid one of our return visits some thirty years later, one nice lady was still alive. It was she who recalled and perhaps over graphically described just what I had done for her and how I had done it. The Lord had been good to her. I also know that in the still early days of my ‘practice’ I did something which not only proved to be the best possible solution to my faltering diagnoses and surgery, but also the commencement of a partnership in pioneering on the grand scale - I married a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. But, of this, more later in its Correct chronological place in this record.