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The Last Journey for the Man of Peace


The Last Journey for the Man of Peace: A Daughter’s Remembrance

by Aye Aye Thant
November 25, 2019 is the 45th anniversary of my father U Thant’s passing. I would like to take this opportunity to share my personal recollections of a fateful time: the events surrounding my father’s funeral, when student activists in Rangoon seized my father’s body to protest the
military government’s refusal to give him a state funeral.

My father, U Thant, passed away at the age of 65 on Monday, November 25, 1974 at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, where he had been admitted a week earlier with pneumonia, a complication from cancer of the mouth. Father had been ill with cancer for one year; he’d had his first surgery on November 13, 1973.

Upon receiving word of my father’s death, the delegates to the United Nations General Assembly stood for a minute of silence and then began delivering a eulogy. The UN flag was flown at half-mast. My father’s body was laid in state in front of the Meditation Room at the United Nations. This was unprecedented and we considered it a great honor. The President of the United States, Gerald Ford, issued a statement saying that for “U Thant, loyalty was not to any one power or ethnicity, but to humanity.” He also called him “a man of peace.”
The family wrote a letter to General Ne Win, the military dictator and President of Burma, telling him of my father’s death and asking for permission to bring his body back to be buried there. We did not receive any formal response, but informally, there were a number of indications that the government would cooperate with our plan. For example, the Permanent Representative of Burma to the United Nations, U Lwin, joined my husband and me in the reception line at the United Nations where my father laid in state. This indicated to us that he was there to represent the government with the approval of General Ne Win.

Last Journey

On November 29, 1975 we boarded a Pan Am flight bound for Bangkok. Traveling with me were my husband, my 8-year old son, and the Chief of Protocol at the UN, Mr. Sinan Korle, as a representative of the Secretary-General. At every stop along the way, ambassadors from Burma received us at each of the airports where Burma had embassies. That also indicated to us that the Ne Win government was welcoming my father back home. In Bangkok, we chartered a Burmese plane. This was also a sign of approval from the government, since all commercial planes were owned by the government.
We landed in Rangoon on Sunday, December 1, and were greeted at the airport by a tremendous crowd. But, no one from the government had come to meet us at the airport.
There was also no appropriate vehicle there to carry Father’s casket. Instead, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) of Myanmar provided us a SUV to carry the casket. I was told then that arrangements had been made a few days earlier for my father’s body to be laid in state at the Kyaikkasan grounds, the former colonial-era race track.
Along with my son and the UN Chief of Protocol, I followed the casket with the UNDP representative in his car. My husband rode with one of my uncles. The streets were lined with people, some weeping, some holding their hands together in the Buddhist gesture of “kadaw,” and some saluting. I was overwhelmed with emotion: pride at seeing my father received with such love, and sadness that he could not be there himself to receive that genuine devotion and respect. I murmured something like, “Oh, he is loved.” No one in the car responded.

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​Airline Staff don’t sell only travel​ by Cecil Wagstaff (Australia)

Airline Staff don’t sell only travel

By Cecil Wagstaff (Australia)

When I was working with Air France, Bombay, in 1970s, a young couple walked in one Saturday morning.  I was at the Ticket Counter, City Office, Stadium House in Churchgate opposite Lufthansa Bombay Office.

They held Flight tickets to leave that evening for Paris on some other Airline’s Charter Flight  and wanted these accepted by Air France.  They had come to India to adopt an infant, but the Indian Government’s interminable Paperwork had not been completed.

They wanted to know if Air France would accept these on the following Monday night’s Air France flight. They had not completed ‘some necessary documentation’.

Of course Air France could not, and when I told them this the lady broke down, sobbing hysterically.  I calmed her down, with a coffee and reassurances that I would do anything I could to help, but this was not possible as you know what “Charter’ Flight Conditions’ are, and……,

That’s when they told me the nature of their visit.  They, being childless and unable to conceive had come to India to adopt an infant, and that they had no more money to buy standard Air ticket tickets home.  The Lady started crying again and her whole body was wreaked in trembling spasms.

Having given my word to help, I advised her that I myself was leaving on a holiday to London, the following Friday, and would transit Frankfurt but could divert Frankfurt to Paris – drop off the infant to their care, and proceed immediately to London. AND………that if I had their formal authority, and the completed Documentation, by the India Government Authorities – I would carry the infant with me, at NIL cost to them other than the standard infant fare.

Smiles all around and a relieved couple left on their Charter that night – as you can understand.

Hallelujah, Shock – Horror to one CLWW….. moi mich, ME!

When the Nuns from the Convent bought the infant (Eve) to the airport on Friday for our departure I then learnt the infant was only ten months old – I had assumed just under two years, when I made the offer to assist personally.

I had to honour my commitment, so took charge of the infant and we boarded the flight.

Enroute to Frankfurt/to connect to , infant Eve took very ill and was excreting from both ends.  Eve was getting severely dehydrated, with the skin on the back of her hand standing and not subsiding when we raised it to check the level of dehydration.

With the assistance of a kind Lufthansa flight attendant, we kept Eve alive, feeding her with Cecil Made Sugar Water, fed to her though the medium of a Fountain Pen self filler – thoroughly sanitized of course in a Jug of boiling water in the aircraft Galley.  We had no choice and desperate situations call for desperate action.

Got to Paris and safely handed Eve to her adopted parents, who had come with their family and entourage.  They wanted to take me for lunch – in gratitude but I could not accept this and instructed them to rush the infant to a Hospital ‘Immediately’ – there was no time for pleasantries, albeit greatly appreciated, and thank goodness they did this.

I proceeded to London, had my holiday and flew home….forgetting all about the drama on board.

I did not hear from the couple for seven years. Out of the blue, I received a letter from them begging my pardon as I (in their opinion) must have thought they were the most ungrateful people in the world, after what I had done. I had forgotten all about this.

They advised me that if they had not got Eve to a Hospital in time, she would not have survived, and had been sickly all this time, hence their inability to communicate. Eve had turned the corner and was now healthy, hence their writing.  Air France Bombay, had forwarded their letter to me in Australia, where I had migrated to in 1977.

We kept in touch over the years, regularly, Christmas, Birthdays, and still do.

Now the Epilogue to this lovely story!

In 1993 I directed and escorted the World War1 Diggers (Soldiers) on an Official Australian Government Commemoration Pilgrimage to The Western Front of World War I.

The entourage included The Australian Governor General of Australia of the time, Bill Hayden, John Howard, who was not yet Prime Minister, but held another Ministerial Portfolio, John Faulkner The Minister of Veterans’ Affairs at that time –, Nurses, Carers as these Soldiers (Diggers were all in their Nineties), The Repatriation Commissioner and Senior Departmental Officers of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, TV and Press Media.  We were some 80 Members in the entire Group.

I advised Eve and her parents that I was arriving in Paris, staying at the Hilton Hotel with the Group, and hope to meet them when I was there.

Well, guess what, they arrived in the Lobby, just as I was briefing the entire group of the Order of Service/Logistics.

When they advised the Hotel Reception, that they were there to see me, the Reception with whom I had been working closely for many weeks, ushered them into the meeting room, not even thinking theirs was a personal visit.

Marie Ange, came straight to me, threw her arms around me and gave me a big kiss. Eve, at her side, next did the same.

Mates, this memorable event brought the House down, with the Diggers all cheering – Why, you may ask?

Eve being originally from India, a beautiful 22 years old young Lady was swarthy in complexion, closer to mine. Marie-Angel being French, and also closer to my age, was extremely fair in complexion.

The group had decided for themselves that Eve was my daughter and the two had come to meet the ‘reprobate’ dad of when I would have, in their opinion, sown wild oats.

Could I convince them otherwise – you decide!

On a subsequent trip of mine to Paris, about six months after this, Eve’s dad came to meet me, and we spent some time together.  Sadly he died of an unexpected heart attack barely months after we had met and the Family rang to advise me immediately.

Then, and only then did they tell me that they had always, as they always considered me as Eve’s ‘other’ dad, with a special place for me in their hearts, as Eve would not have been with them, had I not done what I have mentioned earlier.

A few years later, Eve, Marie-Ange, my wife Perveen and I met for a ‘Family’ Reunion in Bombay.

We even visited the Orphanage, from which Eve had been adopted, in Mazagaon, a suburb of Bombay, and believe it or not, there was one old man, now retired, but a nurse/orderly when the adoption had occurred, who recalled it.

We are still in contact regularly…..and Eve got married to her Prince Charming, to live Happily Ever After.

When she sent me her photo, as a Bride, leaving for the Church to get married, it was more than just another bridal photo. – Yes, I did have the proverbial ‘Lump in My throat and Tear at the Corner of my eyes’.

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This article was posted by Charmaine Craig on Literary Hub.

I do not speak Burmese, yet I understand from my late mother that pon is one of those Burmese words that are impossible to translate. “Power. Wisdom. Karma. Insight,” she once explained to me cryptically. “When your pon is elevated, you think on an elevated plane—very little about yourself, and always about others.” She hesitated. “Pon can also mean memory. You were born with too much of this type.”

This was nearly 15 years ago, when I had begun interviewing her in preparation to write a novel based on her experiences in Burma, the country of her birth, renamed Myanmar in 1989. I pressed her—I always had to press my mother, gently, to elaborate on a past that she seemed unwilling to revisit—and asked what she meant by my having been born with too much memory.

“You were just about one year old,” she said. “Not out of diapers, yet talking. You convinced me that you had once been my mother.” With a shift of her gaze, she seemed to push away the thought, just as she had apparently tried to push away my pon with a ritual aimed at making me forget my past life. The ritual had been simple, she said: feeding me rice from the lid of a pot under a stairwell when I was a baby. Was this dulling of my memory the reason that I was called so strongly to untangle the truth from the legend of her life?

Disparate details of that life had been sketched for me by Burmese expatriates living in places from Bakersfield to Paris—details emphasizing my mother’s iconic status as both a beauty queen and a revolutionary. More than once I heard, “When she wore slacks, we wore slacks,” or, “Because she had curls, we wore our hair curly.” My American father often reminded me that the Burmese government had placed a price on her head—a thrilling and terrifying tidbit, as it underscored my mother’s importance in her homeland and the fact that, if she were to return, she could forever be taken away. When I was an undergraduate, a photography professor, having recently returned from a shoot in Asia, indirectly accused me of lying about my mother’s whereabouts. I claimed she had been a longtime resident of Los Angeles; he looked me in the eye and told me to stop the charade—“She’s been spotted riding a white horse through the jungle, protecting her people,” I remember him saying.

Even as a very young child, I’d been aware that, somewhere out there, a nation of citizens regarded my mother as something of a queen, and I’d felt heartbroken when strangers in our California home assumed she was my nanny or our family maid. Yet my mother wasn’t proud of her status among the Burmese. Her disregard for image and popularity became a lesson in self-respect, one that eventually encouraged me to walk away from a burgeoning career in film and television in the 90s, when I was most often sent out on calls to play “exotic” types and aliens from outer space. Writing afforded me dignity—a dignity I felt I could endow my mother with in prose, if only I could get beyond her reticence, her humility, and her desire to keep my pon low and my memory of the past shadowy.

Known by her maiden name, Louisa Benson, my mother was not Burman, the majority race in Myanmar. Her father was Sephardic, and her mother was of the Karen ethnic nationality, one of Burma’s indigenous and chronically oppressed peoples.

She was born on the eve of Burma’s involvement in the Second World War, when the Japanese invaded, led by a band of Burmans wanting to oust the British. Her father led the family out of Rangoon on a nightmarish 900-mile trek to northern Burma. Strewn everywhere along the mountain roads was evidence of the massacre of minorities: corpses missing an arm, legs, a head, a breast, genitals—always the genitals—mutilated, chopped off, impaled, abdomens ripped open and disemboweled. And the screams. The screams and groans of the not yet dead whom no one dared to help.

Eventually, my grandfather was captured and tortured—terribly—yet he survived; they all survived. The family even went on to flourish in the post-war years, as my grandfather established an empire of trucks, ice factories, and bottling plants that would make him one of the wealthiest men in Burma. Their living room housed a beloved concert-grand Steinway, the mango tree-lined path to their portico welcomed a daily parade of vendors, and their home, like my grandfather’s businesses, was staffed with Karens—an increasingly downtrodden people to whom he now gave himself out of gratitude for their protection of him throughout the war. In 1946, he financed a Karen goodwill mission to England to plead the Karen case to the British government. When that had no effect, he joined other Karens in peacefully appealing to the government for equal rights for all of Burma’s peoples. But the Burman-dominated government proved to have another agenda.

In early 1949, civil war erupted. One night, at the age of seven, my mother was secretly sipping crème de menthe out of a little liquor glass before one of her parents’ parties—she remembered how the servants had powdered and polished the floor until it shone like a mirror, how the guests streamed into the house, and how a family friend, wearing a cravat, swooped her up and twirled her around to the strains of Nat King Cole—and the next night shots were being fired across their estate. It was the beginning of a second season of violence, loss, and exile: my grandfather would be tortured and imprisoned for years; my grandmother would disappear for months at a time, searching for ways to support her refugee family. Upon the fatherless family’s return to Rangoon in 1951, blood covered their looted villa’s walls and bullets fell from the trees whenever it rained.

My mother’s foray into the world of beauty pageants at age ten was a direct response to her father’s imprisonment. The plan, hatched by her mother, was to captivate the wife of the district commissioner. So taken was the woman with the tender pleas of this “doll-like” girl in Burmese court clothes that my grandfather was released at once—though soon he was put under house arrest.

Ironically, as her family’s freedom and financial assets were stripped away, my mother’s fame skyrocketed. Her particular combination of artlessness and “exotic” Jewish-Karen beauty—black curly mane, dewy wide-set eyes, and Sophia Loren-like curvaceousness—became a phenomenon of national pride. When she was 15, she won her first Miss Burma title; at 17, she won her second. But she was a reluctant beauty queen. “I had to be taught how to walk in heels, how to pose. It was a nuisance,” she told me. “I’d much rather have been out playing soccer in the mud, or climbing trees.” In order to fund her brother’s American education, she at last agreed to star in a Burmese film, which catapulted her into the kind of fame that can be crippling for one who values unselfconsciousness. Nevertheless, after a stint studying in America (where she met and briefly dated my awestruck father), she starred in another film: she had her family’s welfare to consider, and she learned to tune out her celebrity.

Still, fame defined her life; she was courted by the country’s political heads of power, including Katie Ne Win, wife of General Ne Win—Burma’s Prime Mister and the military leader responsible for my grandfather’s imprisonment and decades of atrocities committed against the country’s peoples. Katie Ne Win was a socialite who enjoyed having an entourage of young stars around her, and she used her power to force my mother to attend her extravagant parties. My mother’s proximity to the Ne Wins caught her in a round of political mud-slinging: Accused of being Ne Win’s lover, she escaped to Hong Kong, where she was rumored to be having an abortion. Hospitalized later for an emergency appendectomy, she was said to be recovering from a stabbing by Katie.

Brigadier “Brig” General Lin Htin was a Karen 16 years my mother’s senior and one of Burma’s most notorious rebels. He had a bullet lodged in his skull, illegitimate children scattered across the country, and the distinction of having been reported slain countless times. When he asked my mother to marry him in 1964, he was in Rangoon pursuing peace negotiations for the Karen—negotiations that would soon irreversibly break down. The marriage was a sensation, and before long the spies following them numbered in the tens and twenties. My mother and Brig were forced underground, to the jungle war zone. “I would open my eyes at night,” she told me, “and see Brig beside me, looking up at the ceiling, strategizing.”

A year into their marriage, Brig and my mother lost their only child, an infant boy; and then Brig, too, disappeared. Before leaving her in the jungle to attempt another round of peace negotiations, he paused, as if prescient, and cautioned her never to believe rumors that he had been killed. He would someday resurface, he promised. When he didn’t return, she received communication from Rangoon authorities declaring him dead and urging her to return to the city to be reunited with her family. But her father-in-law radioed her conflicting information: “Do not come back. They will chop you into one thousand pieces.”

The next year marked the period she would later be most unwilling to speak about. Yet, as I learned in the weeks after her death—when one of her remaining sisters sent me 26 pages of reflections my mother had penned as many years earlier—it was a period about which she had been willing, haltingly, to write. In these reflections she elliptically describes how, after Brig’s disappearance, she donned military garb, cut off her long curly hair, and led his brigade toward a mountain range where another faction of the Karen Army was stationed, one resistant to the peace talks Brig had pursued. “Brig’s men looked to me as a leader who would negotiate for them so that they would not get swallowed up.” She dispatched neutral villagers to the rival Karen brigade headquarters, requesting safe passage, and was permitted to advance with one bodyguard. The two of them had to cross the Salween River to reach the rival brigade’s headquarters, and when they arrived, she was presented with traditional Karen women’s clothing. “But I politely refused,” she writes. “Dressed like a woman I would be at a distinct disadvantage in our negotiations.”

Her written account stops short with this, though I know from what she and others have told me that my mother successfully convinced this general to reconcile and pursue a shared agenda of pan-ethnic peace—an act of huge significance at that critical juncture, when the government was reigniting its ruthless program of dividing and subduing ethnic minority groups. Still, the details of what she went through in the year that followed—when she lived as a soldier on the Thailand-Burma border and acted as a liaison to other ethnic leaders—remain cloaked in mystery for me, as do her reasons for parting from her people in 1967 and marrying my father, who, after eight years of unuttered love for her, had connected with her family (now mostly in America), at last confessed himself to her in a letter, rendezvoused with her in Bangkok, and arranged for her to enter the US as his wife.

“When you do something, you have to think about yourself and others,” my mother often stressed to me. “If you think only of yourself, you’re no better than a cow.” For a time after my birth, she was drawn into the cocoon of parenting. Yet all along Burma called, and with the Burmese military crackdown in 1988, she reemerged as a leader in the Burmese pro-democracy and human rights movements, advocating passionately for inter-ethnic dialogue and protections for children and the displaced, and eventually facilitating the resettlement of what would be over 50,000 refugees to this country.

Not long after I abandoned my first version of the novel based on her life, my mother died, in February 2010. A few days later, I ventured to a modest yellow house serving as a Burmese Buddhist monastery in Baldwin Park, Los Angeles, where I had been invited to a ceremony in her honor. I had never visited the monastery before, but I knew it was a place where my mother—though not Buddhist—had both given and received consolation, a place inhabited by the monk she affectionately called “Pon Pon,” whom she had met while pursuing an internationally ground-breaking lawsuit on behalf of unnamed plaintiffs in Burma (the corporation Unocal had turned a blind eye to the displacement, forced labor, murder, rape or torture of tens of thousands of villagers by the country’s military during the construction of a gas pipeline).

Memory was not yet for me a powerful antidote to loss, as it would become later, when I would write the final version of the novel that will be published this May. As the monks at the monastery, including Pon Pon, recited rounds of discordant prayers, I searched for signs of my mother’s spirit everywhere: in the reflective glass of a cupboard that shelved sacred objects, in the white picture of day through the open window, in the face of the Buddha over the altar, in Pon Pon’s surprisingly innocent eyes.

Following the ceremony, Pon Pon and I sat alone near the altar and he pointed to one of the folding chairs lining the walls. “She sat there,” he said, and then, pointing elsewhere, “and she sat there. And, another time, there. Tell me, do you think she is here with us?”

“What do you think?” I ventured.

“I asked you first,” he countered. “When I heard that you would be coming, I told myself she would come with you, that maybe she would come here.” His uncertain eyes moved from mine back to the edges of the sanctuary. “I cannot believe she is dead. I don’t believe it.”

For a span, we sat in silence, wondering, I think, about evidence and faith, disappointment and disbelief.

“You know,” he continued finally. “She was my friend. And when I speak about my friend, I want to cry. She had a beautiful mind. And she was part of our hope.”

The child in me still yearned for her world to begin and end with mine, though I knew—had always known—that she was Burma’s.

Charmaine Craig is a faculty member in the Department of Creative Writing at UC Riverside, and the descendant of significant figures in Burma’s modern history. A former actor in film and television, she studied literature at Harvard University and received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine. Her first novel, The Good Men (Riverhead), was a national bestseller translated into six languages. Miss Burma is out now from Grove Atlantic.
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Follow your dreams by Cecil Wagstaff

Follow your Dreams

By Cecil Wagstaff (Australia)
What does a derelict Tennis Court at the Corner of York & Sule Pagoda Roads, Rangoon, with an enormous mango tree growing next to it, in the 1950’s, later developed and a Cinema & Hotel development (The Thamada, Or The President) Cinema, the original 1937 Version of a movie of the James Hilton Book ‘Lost Horizon’ by Frank Capra, an extraordinary Teacher of Geography at the Methodist English High School or M.E.H.S., in Rangoon, a Teacher, Daw Lily Hein Tin,  who inspired two schoolboys whom she taught and instilled an immense appreciation of her subject in them, these two schoolboys who originally lived in Rangoon, but later moved to Pakistan & Australia respectively, forged links in a chain that commenced way in 1958 and still endures.
Let me please elaborate:

One Cecil Leighton Wynter Wagstaff, was a really mischievous  schoolboy, who was always in trouble with this Geography Teacher …and other Teachers too, if he may add, particularly his English teacher, lived and grew up at No. 5 York Road, Rangoon, next to the Tennis Court, with his late beloved parents, Moira & William Wynter Wagstaff.
No. 5 York Road was a Boarding house run by his late beloved Grandmother, Phoebe (lovingly known a Buddee) Pereira.  He learnt to ride his first bicycle (a Raleigh) Sports Model which was a borrowed bicycle. He was devastated when the Court and the mango tree were demolished and uprooted respectively, by developers, more the mango tree, as he used to shoot mangoes down with a homemade catapult, a banned implement, nowadays.  This was the 1950s where every naughty schoolboy had his ‘prized ‘catapult’ or Gwa as it is called in Burmese.
The Developer, built what is now The Thamada Cinema & Hotel, which opened in 1958.
As with all Cinemas, it ran movies for a few weeks before opening its doors to the public, and one afternoon, being the inquisitive chap Cecil was, he was wandering around the construction site of the Thamada Hotel, which was still incomplete, and heard Sounds of movies within the Cinema Complex.  Curious, as always, he found his way into the Cinema Complex, and found himself enjoying the ‘Free Movies’.
Unbelievable luck, better than winning the National Lottery, perhaps or knocking down a half-dozen mangoes.  The movie, which was about to start was Lost Horizon, in Black & White, the original 1937 version, starring Ronald Coleman & Jane Wyatt.

He was enthralled with the regions of the Karakoram and Himalaya Mountains, the location of the legendary Shangri-la, those were projected on the largest screen (of the time), that he had ever witnessed.   He was enthralled and fascinated, and could picture himself amongst those mountains.  He vowed to get there – one day.
The years rolled by, Graduation from school in 1962, a job with a Travel Agency, Mandalay Tours and Travel Service, and because he spoke French, courtesy of the teachings of his MEHS French Teacher, he got this job and the next at Air France in 1963, in New Delhi, India, and these took him to the far flung regions firstly in Burma, including Pegu, Mandalay, Loikaw, getting to meet and even share a meal with the Padaung Tribe (the Ladies with the elongated necks, with rings around this, for support.
In 1963 after he moved to India and joined Air France, then Lufthansa and secondly, these took him to the far corners of the World, all the major and not so major cities he wanted to visit.  He married and had two lovely and loving children, Michelle & Craig, but till he left India to migrate to Australia in 1977, he had not fulfilled his dream of getting to his ‘Shangri-La’.
Undaunted he made several trips, to Pakistan, albeit for ‘other reasons’ ……………..but still not to his Shangri-La.  On these trips he constantly sought ‘someone’ who would be interested and willing to accompany him to these mountains.
At long last, he found this very special person, in his long-time and closest friend, one, Mohamed Amin I. Gaziani.

Amin and Cecil had been in school together from Std.7.A, and by coincidence, the class when they first met and became friends had ‘Homeroom Teacher’, the Geography Teacher, mentioned earlier.
Amin and Cecil planned the trip, with most of the organizing having to be done by Amin, who lived in Islamabad at the time. Islamabad being one the closest major cities to get to Shangri-La.
Then in 2001, the next century following the century when the dream was dreamt, it finally happened.
In August 2001, Cecil, his loving wife Perveen (who was really not to keen, but did, for Cecil’s sake), Amin (whose wife Farida could not accompany the group, due to their daughter just having presented them with a grandchild, but was pleased to let Amin accompany Cecil, as he had done for many years albeit on other outings and visits to Karachi, and a group of Amin’s other friends, began their odyssey.
From Islamabad, along the famous Kararoram Highway, which replaced the Old Silk Route, to Besham, then further to Chillas, Gilgit, the capital of Pakistan’s Far Northern Areas or F.N.A, to Hunza or Karimabad, the town believed to have inspired the novel Lost Horizon.
Lunch at Besham overlooking the mighty Indus River, one night in Chillas, two in Gilgit and two wonderful nights were spent in the Hunza Valley.
Standing at the Junction Point of the three Highest Mountain Ranges, The Hindu Kush/The Karakoram & The Himalaya, at the confluence of the mighty Indus River and the slightly smaller, but awesome swiftly flowing Gilgit Rivers, in the valley below, demonstrated the awesome power of Almighty God Who created all this, and humankind’s – diminutive part we play in Our World.

One of the two nights’ stay in Karimabad or Hunza, coincided with the Birthday of the Mir, or Leader of Hunza.  Amin, Cecil & the group were fortunate to receive an invitation to his Birthday Dinner, and watch Fireworks (sic.) Display, at his Official Residence. This through our Group Leader’s personal contacts.
The Fireworks Display is not what we know in the Pyrotechnics of today, and although our current fireworks teams do a magnificent job, spare a thought for the people of the Hunza.
The fireworks there are actually old automobile and Truck tyres that are hauled up the steep mountain-sides, manually, many days & weeks in advance. These are arranged in varying shapes and designs, such as Cars. Ships, ancient and modern, aircraft, Castles, even Disney Characters, and a Coca Cola Bottle.
When darkness fell they were set alight (environmentalists will shudder and die a thousand deaths).  Burning tyres are rolled down the hillside, to great the appreciation by onlookers.  Definitely not the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Hong Kong Harbour, or New York’s Times Square, on New Year’s Eve, but spectacular, nonetheless.
From Karimabad, our group proceeded further along the Silk Route, to Sost, the last Border Town before one crosses the famed Kunjerab Pass and the Border between Pakistan & China at 16,500 feet above mean sea level, where the air is so thin, even matches will not light.


Cecil exchanged Caps with a Border Guard, as a gesture and token of our Group’s respect and appreciation.

The Karakoram Highway which replaced the Old Silk Road was built at the cost of many brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice and paid with their lives.
It is tragic, but a credit to the detail project management of the planners of the Karakoram Highway.  Empty Graves were prepared in advance, and those that were not filled, on completion of construction, with a brave Road Construction worker, are still there, for all to see, in a Cemetery in Gilgit.  A credit, as these ensured proper and respectable grave sites so that in the event of a life being lost, the hero, was not subject to a hastily dug grave on a hillside, and this also ensured the hero received a ‘fitting burial’.
Returning from Sost, the group stopped at Gulmit and were amazed to see a school Cricket team – why you may ask?  Cricket is played with a Passion in Pakistan?
Well this Team was wearing the Green & Gold Colours of Australia, with ‘AUSTRALIA’, boldly emblazoned on the chest and back of the shirts. Unbelievable!  In this remote part of the world.  Of course we stopped for photographs and a chat. How could we not?

Even more unbelievable when Cecil asked them for a name and address to send the photos to, the Captain responded, saying, ‘Sahib, please send these to us via The Internet’ !!!!!! …..and gave his internet address.  Later on his return to Australia, Cecil sent them all, caps from Australia…………………and the photographs via The Internet.  He is happy to say that he is still in touch, to date, by e-mail……………….of course!
However, one must give credit to the Administration of the Hunza Region.
Education is a prime objective of the Mir of Hunza with 92% of the population, being educated and they are working hard to move into the modern age.
The Crime Rate in the Hunza is an amazing Zero percent, and Yes, there are NO Police there.  Food is plentiful and the longevity of the people is astounding, with health rates being excellent, no doubt the lifestyle and conditions are contributing to this.

They work hard, BUT never rush.  Cecil saw someone who looked like a 70 year old man with about a 50 pound load on his back, walking up a hill, walking slowly, but getting to the top, nevertheless.
Truly a Shangri-La.

Returning to the city of Islamabad, we were advised that a Flash Flood had washed away the one bridge that gave access to the plains.  This was at the village of Shatial.
We had no choice; we had to halt and could go no further, until alternate arrangements could be arranged. We had to hire porters, as they did in days of Frontier Travel of centuries ago.
We were advised that three men had been washed away in the disaster, one corpse had been located, work was underway, digging out another man, who was found to be still alive, and there was a full scale rejoicing, but sadly, one was never located.  We had to, ourselves, clamber down the steep sides of the riverbank and up the other side.
In the village of Shatial, we secured two rooms, in a tiny road-side truck stop venue, the only road-house in Shatial, there are No Hotels or even Boarding Houses.  We nicknamed this the ‘Shatial Sheraton’, and spent the remainder of the day there – the Ladies in one room, the gents in the other, as per the custom that prevails in those regions.
We had a Grandstand View of the Pakistan Air Force and Army Helicopters flying up, along and through the River Valley, flying in Men & Equipment to mend the Bridge, and we learnt that this may have taken up to three days.
Fortunately for us, when we contacted the organisation from which we had hired our vehicle, we learnt there was another group heading up to the Kunjerab Pass who had hired a vehicle from the same Company as we had, but that vehicle would take a few hours to get to Shatial.  We made arrangements to use theirs, when it arrived, and they would take ours that was stranded there, when they got to the other side of the now demolished bridge.
We had a few hours wait, as you will understand.
We asked the owner of this only road-house in Shatial, if he could cook a meal for us. He obliged, but advised he did not have sufficient plates as the number of people who used the road-house never exceeded four (two rooms, after all) at any given time.

What to do? Amin, resourceful as ever, went to the local Marketplace and bought a second hand Melamine Dinner set (Melamine ware is manufactured in Pakistan and they do a good job).
We had a great meal, eating with our fingers (right hand only, as custom demands), and then advised the Owner, that he could keep the Dinner Set, with the Compliments of our Group.
Getting back through Besham was a major concern, as we would be travelling at night….Besham is notorious for Dacoits or Armed Robbers.  So what did we do?  We waited a wee bit longer for another vehicle which was leaving and the two vehicles traveled in a Convoy, with only their Parking lights on steeply curving Mountain Roads, – hazardous, but, the Drivers seemed to feel that this was the safer of the two options – so who were we to argue with experts.
The Fact that we got back safely to Islamabad, is a tribute to their skills….and boy, were we relieved when the lights of the first major town, after Besham, came into view.

Cecil and Amin have been back to their beloved Mountains, since then, and hope to keep going back as often as they can. On these they have had the privilege of seeing some of the magnificent Twenty Thousanders, Peaks over 20,000 Feet. To name a few, K2, Nanga Parbat, Masherbrum (Cecil’s favourite mountain peak), and many of the lower ones, perhaps not as well known namely Rakaposhi, the Twin Ulter Peaks & Lady’s Finger, Gold,Peak, Diran Peak.
Cecil’s love of the mountains also took him the Eastern Himalayas to see Kanchenganga and Everest (in Nepal) – he saw Everest, but only whilst airborne. As these were in India, Amin could not accompany reasons, sadly, because of the political situation that exists between those two countries.
Again, another trip with Amin, to Skardu, Lower and Upper Kachura Lakes, Sadpara Lake, Shigar, the Deosai Plains at 14,500 feet, and the Sanctuary for the Himalayan Brown Bear, Khapalu and very close to the L.O.C. or ‘Line of Control between Pakistan & India. We even shred hot cup of Tea with the Pakistani Brigadier and his platoon of 12 Soldiers, who politely accosted us enquiring to what we were doing there.
We have seen and thanks to our favourite Geography Teacher been able to identify the physical features, Ox-Bow Lakes, Rift Valleys, ad have gazed on the magnificent Passu Glacier – just awesome!.
We also enjoyed a cup of hot Goat’s Milk with the owner of a small farmhouse overlooking picturesque Upper Kachura Lake.

Cecil now has another dream – to go and live up there, and, inspired by the 5year old daughter of the owner of the Farmhouse, but who had no school to attend, to build a small school for infants, perhaps be the Administrator, or even teach, as any idiot, even himself, can teach basic A/B/C and 1/2/3/ and Amin is assisting him in this.
Can he realise this dream too? …………………….….Only Time will tell.
Every Good story has a sequel. Can the Sequel of this story be written?…………………………Cecil hopes so

Blogs Notalgia Posts Reflections Uncategorized

The Foundaions laid by Our Respected Principal Mrs. Doreen Logie’s by Cecil Wagstaff

The Foundaions laid by Our Respected Principal Mrs. Doreen Logie’s 

Another  True Story in The Life & Times of this Reprobate …………….only there was a break of several Years in between the related events:

In the year 1975/77,  I was working with an  Airline at Bombay Airport

A certain First Officer on one of our flights made an innocent mistake which led to some pretty serious consequences and could have required our Flight to be seriously delayed 

The issue involved a breach of Customs Regulations, and could have also cost my Airline hundred of thousands of Dollars with passengers Costs, due Missed Connections etc.

I offered to pay the maximum penalty which could have been applied, personally guaranteing this with My Personal Cheque,  only for this F/O to be not held  in Custody, pending resolution of the issue and provided a Personal Financial Guarantee that he would return to BOM  to face any charges,  by depositing my Personal  Cheque to cover this and Customs released him to Operate the Flight

  • Fast forward to…………….. SEPTEMBER 2008 
  • I am at Frankfurt Frankfurt/Rhein Main Airport a Now Long Retired from ALL Airlines,  with which I had worked in Australia but still travelling as a PAD (Retired Ailine Staff on a Discounted Saff Ticket – Subject to Load)  (Airline Mates can relate to this)
  • I had resigned  in 1977 to emigrate to Australia, in that year ….. and this was NOT a LH Retired Staff Ticket
  • Trying to get  seat on board a connecting Heavily Booked Lufthansa Flight , after attending my School Reunion (Lasallian Schools in Rome SEP 2008 – I was a student at St. Paul’s High School, between stints at MEHS
  • I had chatted with the Check-in Staff, even telling them I had been with LH, but no longer was , and this probabl they had been born (they were very young ladies who also later  advised me that I had very Little chance of a seat, but that they would notify the Cockpit Crewe and seek appoval to offer the Spare Crew Seat, or Jump Seat  to me
  • This I  also expected to  become  a NON-Option as I was not in Possession of an ASIC Identification Card Airport Identity Security Card, which is now Mandatory, for Cockpit Travellers Crew & Staff), with Security Measures being tightened 
  • I later went and sat in the Standby Staff Area, w.a.i.t.i.n.g.
  1. I saw the Commander of the Flight come in and he  started  discussing ’something’ with the Traffic Counter Staff…..who were pointing to me while this was in progress
  2. The Commander (‘a pretty stern 6 foot 2inch  or so, tall German’) strode towards me and I thought I would be in b.i.g. Trouble for  me seeking this Jump Seat, and that Ishould have known better
  3. He said, ” are you Cecil Wagstaff. I concurred, sheepishly . “YESIR”
  4. He then said,  Cecil Wagstaff, Cecil Wagstaff, do you know who I am? – to which I again responds sheepishly – “NOSIR” 
  5. I am Captain —— -, but when we first met I was Only a First Officer, and if you had not got me out of a F@*&#**@ Mess, caused by my stupidity,   I may not even have been a F/O…needless to say and never made it to Flight Commander. I could have lost my job
  6. He then related what I had done …..for him in 1976…I had not at first remembered,  as one does NOT keep ‘Favours Done” in Memory Banks………and it all came back to me, in a Flash

A Favour repaid as:

His next words were”…….. “Of course you can travel in My Aircraft’s Cockpit. Bugger the Rules……….I know I can trust you,  JUST  AS YOU TRUSTED ME ALL THOSE YEARS AGO……”???

That,  Mates is true, as it happened to me, and exactly as I related it to you

A FAVOUR REPAID More than 32 years Later

Blogs MEHS Notalgia Posts Reflections

An Ode in Appreciation of Our Dear Ole ‘M.E.H.S. by Cecil Wagstaff

An  Ode in Appreciation of Our Dear Ole ‘ M.E.H.S.

A Debt We students can n’er Repay


Methodist English High School

Yes, Indeed, we are “Proud of Thee”

If it was not for M.E.H.S., where would any of us be?


A Rhetorical Question, perhaps?

Yes, Us Blokes, Guys, Gals, Ladies & Chaps

Would NOT be where we are, 

WE would NOT have gone very far 

So only thanks to the Education we received

From our many Teachers who with and their help, achieve 

And  we could make something of ourselves

Pursuing our Youthful Ambitions on then on to Better things on shelves

To grasp these and 

With our Teachers’ Guidance & Help

Achieve Great Lives for Ourselves

In The Wide Tough Challenging World of the Future

Yes only our teachers could nurture

Helping US – To Conquer 

The Problems & Difficulties we would one day have to face

A Herculean Task – like Olympians in Races

Discus Throwers or Rowers 

And win, with a Grin on our faces


Not Just A Champion amongst Schools – rather,  The very BEST

MEHS Notalgia Posts Reflections

THE HAND OF FRIENDSHIP FROM A STRANGER, in The Australia Outback (Broken Hill N.S.W ) by Cecil Wagstaff

 My TRUE Story:

I arrived at BHQ Airport on a Flight from Adelaide to connect to SYD with several (six) hours to wait for my onward flight 

I was in the Airport Waiting Area reading, when a gentleman approached me.

He advised me that it was customary to close the Airport as no one was there till an hour before my SYD Flight Departure

He was operating the Helicopter which was taking a Nurse further into the Outback, and would not return till very much later that evening. 

He also owned and operated of Café at the Airport, which was also closing for the time 


He asked me what I would do.

I said, having no choice I would just have to wait outside the locked Airport. 


He then tossed a Bunch of Keys to me and said, there is my Ute (Aussie Term for a Car with a Flat tray at the Back like a mini-Truck) parked at the back…….take it and drive around town), as it is worth visiting 

The Mine is right down the Middle of the Town which is divided by it, in a massive Hill, on both sides . …….and worth visiting

The Railway Museum is worth a visit as was the Tourist Centre , The RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service, the Pro Hart Art Gallery, and other places of Interest including a spectacular Monument to Miners who lost their lives.


The Buildings are early Federation (1901)

I was astounded at this….he did not know me from a Bar of Soap….and I said this……..!!!!!!

I got looks of many of the Townsfolk…………..and knew why !


When I asked where I could refuel the Ute before returning it to where it was…he said, please do NOT bother…..see that Petrol Pump just inside the Airport Perimeter, 

I own the Petrol Distribution for  BHQ, just leave the Ute where you found it with Keys in the Vehicle

I had a great time, driving around with folk looking at the Stranger Driver,  knowing it was not the owner who was well known to them

That is true Country Hospitality in the Outback…..Unbelievable, perhaps  but every word is true….I have experienced it personally…………………..Only in Australia !!!!!!

Would this happen in the anywhere else ?……..YES, AT MEHS

Many of us have never met each other personally or during our School Days……but we have extended our hands in Friendship across The World via MEHS and this Website

MEHS Notalgia Posts Reflections Teachers Uncategorized

Let the Lamp Keep Burning by Selwyn Saw Win

Let the Lamp Keep Burning is a reprint from the booklet Fond Memories.

Blogs Notalgia Posts Reflections Teachers Uncategorized

MEHS History As Told by Frank E. Manton and Karis B. Manton

  by Thomas B. Manton


 In the beginning…

Frank Ernest Manton was born on Sept. 4, 1901 in East Liverpool, Ohio to Thomas C. Manton, Sr. and Fanny Manton. He was a graduate of East Liverpool High School and then worked in the steel mills, which were a part of the City along the Ohio River. After several years of working, Frank enrolled, along with his older brother Albert, in Ohio Wesleyan University in the famous Class of 1927. He and Albert were very active in sports and music, and both of them were members of the famous Ohio Wesleyan Men’s Glee Club that toured Europe in the summer of 1927 after they graduated from college in June of that year.

Karis Elizabeth Brewster was born on April 12, 1903 in Hinghwa, Fukien Province (now known as Putian, Fujian Province) China during the waning years of the Empire of China. Her mother was Elizabeth Fisher Brewster who arrived in China as a missionary teacher in 1884 and married her husband in 1890. Karis was first educated in Hinghwa and then went at a very early age to the newly opened school in Shanghai called the Shanghai American School. In 1916 her father, the Rev. Dr. William N. Brewster, died while enroute to the General Conference of the Methodist Church where he was to be named Bishop of the Methodist Church. Thirteen year old Karis was called in by one of the missionaries resident in Shanghai to be told that her father had died in Chicago. Karis was very close to her father and for several years after that traumatic experience, she talked to her father. Karis graduated from Shanghai American School in 1922 and immediately went on to Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU). Her father, Dr. William N. Brewster, was a graduate of the OWU’s Class of 1883 and her two grandfathers also attended OWU in the 1840s just after its founding. Karis’ brothers and sister also graduated from OWU. She was right at home. Karis was a very active student leader in college and was Vice President of the Senior Class while Dr. Frank Stanton was the class President. Dr. Stanton went on to be President and Vice Chairman of CBS.

In the end of April 1926 one of Frank’s classmates came home from a date and said to Frank, “I went out with a lovely girl tonight who is not right for me but would be perfect for you – Frank.” Frank had a date with Karis and within five weeks of their first date they were engaged to be married.

Karis then left to teach in China for nearly 4 years. When she arrived in 1926 she taught at the Girls School in Hinghwa and then later she taught at Hua Nan College (for girls) in Fuzhou – the capital of Fujian Province – just 65 miles north of Hinghwa. In the late 1920s, however, those 65 miles took them two days traveling time. Today it takes two hours.

Frank, after completing his senior year at OWU and the above-mentioned historic tour of Europe with his brother Albert, become the Director of the YMCA in North Canton, Ohio for the next three years.

After being apart nearly four years and writing back and forth – not on the Internet – but where a letter would take 30 days from the U.S. to China one way – Karis returned to Vancouver, B.C. Canada by ship from China on the Canadian Pacific steamer. She took a train across the country to Ohio and with Frank drove to New York City where they were married two weeks after setting foot on North American soil in the chapel at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Thus started a life together of 57 years of wedded bliss and great adventure.

New Jersey Years

Frank started as a student at Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, New Jersey while Karis was both a teacher in the school system in northern New Jersey and did social work. Frank and Karis served churches in Paterson and Fort Lee, New Jersey. Those days were very tough since those were the darkest days of the Depression in the United States. Karis always wanted to go back to Asia as a missionary and it seems like Frank was very anxious to do the same. The chance came after the birth of their first child, Karis Elizabeth Manton, on October 9, 1936. In 1937 the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church sent them out to Burma to be the Minister of the Methodist English Church in Rangoon. They undertook this voyage when Karis was less than one year old.

The pre-War Years in Burma

The small Manton family (Frank, Karis and Karis Beth, as she was called) settled into a large wooden house behind the Methodist English School, which was just next to the Methodist English Church of which Frank had been, appointed the new pastor. Those were very happy years. Frank and Karis we getting used to living in British-ruled Burma when the war clouds gathered over Europe. In 1939, just before Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Thomas Brewster Manton was born on August 12, 1939 in Dufferin Hospital in Rangoon. He was always smiling and had a very happy disposition and therefore Grandmother Brewster who was still in China would ask by letter is “Sunny” still sunny? So the first two of the children’s nicknames were formed. Sissy for Karis Beth and Sunny for Thomas. On September 2, 1941 David Frank Manton was born also in Dufferin Hospital in Rangoon and due to his lovely light brown hair was called Sandy.

Several months later war came to Burma. On December 23, 1941 the Japanese conducted their first bombing of Rangoon. Immediately, Frank volunteered as an ambulance driver to pick by the dead and wounded. The second raid on Rangoon took place on Christmas Day of 1941. The American consular authorities and the British Government of Burma then ordered foreign women and children out of the country. They gave the order one night, days after Christmas, and said we must be on the ship, which leaves at 6 o’clock the next morning. Fearing further Japanese bombing, there was a complete black out for the entire city of Rangoon. Karis used very small candles to pack one small suitcase for herself and each of her three children. When they sailed the next morning, Karis did not know when she was to see Frank again, if ever. Karis took their three children – ages 4, 2 and 3 months by ship across the Bay of Bengal and then took them by train to a hill station in northern India called Almora to wait for her husband, Frank.

Frank stayed on through continued bombing of Rangoon where he continued to volunteer as an ambulance driver until Rangoon was declared by the British government an open city – in other words, a city the British could not or would no longer defend against the Japanese invading army. Frank packed a small suitcase with his Bible, hymn book, and walking stick, and some colleagues got into his 12 horsepower Opel and started driving north of Rangoon – on the Road to Mandalay. From Mandalay he drove on to Monywa where he abandoned his car in exchange for a riverboat up the Chindwin River – fleeing before the invading Japanese armies. As soon as he arrived in Kalawa, he started, along with hundreds of thousands of fellow refugees, the long trek to India. It was on that road that at least 50,000 people died for what they called “black water fever” or malignant malaria. Frank took great 8-mm black and white movies of this trek through as dense as any jungle in the world fleeing an invading army. By the grace of God, Frank survived the horrible walk of hundreds of miles through thick Burmese jungle to finally land up in northeastern India. He was then able to cable the fact that he was alive and catch a railroad to where his family was staying in Almora. It was a very, very happy family reunion.

“Peaceful India”

After a certain rest period, Frank was assigned to be Minister of the Taylor Memorial Church in Bombay, India. The family then moved to the parsonage, which was an apartment above the church. Frank, Karis and the family welcomed many refugees who were fleeing from the Japanese war in both Burma and China. A very special visit was Karis’ younger brother’s family who had a hair raising journey across war-torn China and then flew the famous “hump” from Kunming to Assam in India. Our family was go glad to see the Harold Brewster family with Dr. Harold, Dottie, Betty, Marybelle, Priscilla and David who had survived such an ordeal. All the adults and cousins had a great time until the Harold Brewsters sailed for the United States from Bombay.

During the hot season in Bombay, Karis took the children to the hill station of Mussoorie in the foothills of the Himalayans to get out of the heat of the plains and to attend Woodstock School, which had been founded in 1854 and was by now a very international school. The youngest Manton arrived just a month after Karis’ 41st birthday. William Arthur Manton was born in Landour Community Hospital on May 23, 1944, delivered by Dr. Bethel Fleming – a great missionary doctor who when on to found Nepal’s best hospital – Shanta Bhavan in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu. By that time Frank and Karis, somewhat with tongue in cheek added to the precious-given nick names of their other children – Sissy, Sunny, Sandy – and now it was Sufficient.

The now six members of the Manton family sailed from Bombay on August 12, 1944 – Thomas’ fifth birthday. That was his first memory because he got a box of dates for his birthday. The USS General A.E. Anderson was the troop ship on which the Mantons sailed back to the USA. There were mothers and 25 children (with Karis at 7 and Thomas at 5 and all the rest younger) in one cabin and then all the fathers and other men were in the hold. The ship was shadowed by Japanese subs as we left Bombay to sail down south of Australia (stopping in Melbourne overnight but not leaving the ship) and then zig zagging across the South Pacific, finally arriving in Long Beach, California — the USA where the younger half of the family had never been.

Sojourn in the United States

The Manton family then crossed the continent by train and bought a house in Tenafly, New Jersey where Frank’s oldest brother lived. He bought the house on Hickory Avenue for a princely sum of $6,000 and less than 18 months later – with the post-war boom in full swing – sold the same house for $14,000. To this missionary family, it was a fortune. The War was now over and it was time to return to Asia. We took the long way. First we traveled to Lakeside, Ohio – a Methodist campground on Lake Eire where we stayed for nearly 6 months. Then it was off to the west coast to take our ship to Asia. But sea transportation was still very limited and we ended up living with very generous relatives in Oroville, California for several months. Finally in March 1947 we sailed on the American President Lines’ SS Marine Adder back to Asia.

Back to India

While stopping in Manila we were told there were no accommodations for families in Rangoon since 12,000 permanent buildings has been destroyed in the city during the War. Therefore, Frank disembarked at Madras enroute to Rangoon. Karis and the rest of the family (aged 10, 7, 5 and 3) when on to Bombay and then took the train up to Woodstock School. The family was in India – “Present at the Creation” of independent India and Pakistan during August 1947. We were somewhat sheltered from the riots and partition that followed since we were up in the hills. Yet we were very aware of the incredible turmoil that was going on all around us where millions were killed while many Muslims fled to newly-created Pakistan, and Hindus fled from Pakistan back to the independent India. War broke out that year in Jammu and Kashmir between these two newly-independent former British colonies. War has never ceased since then.

At the beginning of December, the Manton family returned to Rangoon – by train to crowded Calcutta and then on to Rangoon by ship with as much war surplus food as we could manage to buy and carry from Calcutta. The big item was #10 tins of peanut butter by the case.

Return to Burma

Having seen the independence of India and Pakistan and the turmoil that brought, we were now going to see the birth of the other large British colony that was being given its independence.

A bit of wartime background might be useful at this point in the story.

A Note on inside wartime Burma

The student movement against the British during the late 1930s and the 1940s was critical to the independence of Burma from the British. The thirty “comrades” of this movement left secretly to be trained in Japan – the one Asian country that could help other Asians “throw off the yoke of British colonialism”. The leader of that group was a very young 25 year old man called Aung San. Another one of those comrades was 30 year old Ne Win. To the Burmese nationalist’s the invading armies were liberating the country from British colonial rule. Finally in 1943 the Japanese permitted these “comrades” to form a government with the much older Dr. Ba Maw as Prime Minister and the under 30 Aung San as Minister of Defense and Commander of the Burmese Army. Thirteen years after that I had the fascinating opportunity of interviewing Dr. Ba Maw.

At the end of 1943 and early 1944 this same Burmese leadership came to the conclusion that they were really a puppet government under the Japanese military Command. At that time, secretly, the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) was formed by Aung San and others. The AFPFL then became the leading post-war political party in Burma led by Thakin Nu who was Burma’s first Prime Minister.

Aung San and his colleagues (including Ne Win) were continuing to train the Burmese army to oppose the now re-invading British and allied army coming from India. Finally as the Allied army reached central Burma and passed Toungoo on its march southward, with huge fanfare, the Burma National Army departed Rangoon to allegedly fight along side their Asian brethren, the Japanese. The Japanese army was retreating southward as the Allied forces were pushing them very hard. The Burma National Army then came up from the south and trapped substantial number of Japanese troops in a pincer movement – a plan that Aung San conceived and implemented with great secrecy and effectiveness. Thus Aung San became a hero to many persons on the allied side.

Yet all were not at all happy with his long term collaboration with the then-hated Japanese military. Some of the important tribal groups, like the Shans and the Karens, just to mention two, were very loyal to the British during the entire war and in turn were promised independence after the war. Yet because Aung San represented the majority Burmans, the British had to deal with Aung San and didn’t want the country to be dismembered into many smaller states. Yet there were people in the British military that still thought of Aung San as a traitor to the allied cause and wanted to kill him. It is being charge now that some of those English elements collaborated with U Saw, a rival to Aung San as Burma’s first independent Prime Minister, to kill Aung San. Just on this trip to Burma I saw for the first time the actual room where the cabinet was meeting and where half of them were killed on July 19, 1947 including Boyoke Aung San. His daughter, Ma Suu Kyi, was two years old at the time.

This struggle between the majority Burmans and the various minority groups has continued to this day and has had a profound affect on Burma’s political life.

Now back to the main story…

Return to Burma

When the Manton family returned to Rangoon by ship during the early part of December – Burma was still reeling under the shock of half the Cabinet being assassinated. The bodies of the fallen heroes of the country were still laying-in-state in the Jubilee Hall – named after the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Thomas remembers being taken by his parents to pay our respects to Boyoke Aung San who was laid out in a glass enclosed coffin. He had never seen a dead person before and therefore along with the soldiers “barking” orders, he was very scared but it is indelibly printed in his memory.

It was wonderful to have the whole family together again for the first time in Burma for Christmas. We lived with another missionary family in a three-story building where at first all six of us shared one large room partitioned off by cupboards and curtains. It was luxury when the older other couple moved to another residence and we had two rooms for the six of us.

Towards the end of 1947 we were told that independence would arrive at 4:20 AM on January 4th, 1948 – a time set as auspicious by the astrologers. Consequently we all got up at 4 AM on that date, lite our candles which occupied each window of this three story building and at 4:20 AM heard the 21 gun salute sounded by the guns of the HMS Birmingham as the last British Governor went up the light crusier’s gangway and the Union of Burma was born.

Burma was independent! The British were gone. Then the various ethnic groups in Burma tried to assert their independence towards the government of the Union of Burma. Revolt abounded by all kinds of groups, both ethnic and political.

During those days Karis became very good friends of many of the Burmese women leaders starting with Daw Khin Kyi, the widow of the fallen founder of modern Burma – Aung San. Daw Khin Kyi asked Karis to join the newly created National Council of Woman of Burma (NCWB). Karis was the only non-Burmese Daw Khin Kyi asked to join that premiere group of the woman leaders of Burma. NCWB undertook many social welfare projects throughout the country. Karis remained a member of that all-Burmese national woman organization until she left Burma in 1966. Karis was President of NCWB for one or more terms – a very high honor given to no other foreigner. Karis was fully accepted as a Burmese woman leader.

Methodist English School and its refounding

Frank had arrived in Rangoon in April 1947 and started to rebuild the Methodist institutions from the moment he arrived. The Methodist English Church was not destroyed since it was the Burma headquarters of the Indian National Army led by Subbas Chandra Bose. The Methodist English School was destroyed by British bombing and fighting in Rangoon as the war ended in Burma. It had to be completely rebuilt. That was Frank’s task.

The 33-year old Doreen Logie had been a teacher in the Methodist English School before the War and now had returned from India with her Scots husband, George, who was the Burma representative of the Valvoline Oil Company and their 5 year old daughter, Gillian. Frank, as the new Chairman of the Board of Trustees of a destroyed school, asked Doreen to be the Principal of the new school. So many people said that there was not enough money for the school to be rebuilt and education was now the tasks of the soon to be independent government of Burma. Frank was stubborn and adamant that the school must be re-started and rebuilt! Frank found from the Crusade Fund, which had been formed by American Methodists over US$1,000,000 to start the rebuilding process. Today that one million would be closer to one hundred million.

Thus started a partnership between Chairman Frank Manton and Principal Doreen Logie that made history in Burma.

The school was started in the church of which Frank was minister and Doreen was organist. They expected 30 students – 40 showed up. By the end of the first term there were 90 students. Then Frank, with money from American Methodists, started rebuilding the school – room by room. The school had over one hundred students when some classes we moved from the church to the school. Major building was done during 1948. Frank was in charge of the reconstruction and sometimes acted as the construction overseer, and Doreen ran the school as Principal. By 1949 the major reconstruction was completed and the Logies had an apartment at the top floor of one end of the school and the Mantons had an apartment at the end of the school next to the church. Soon the Mantons’ apartment was needed for more school classrooms and therefore Frank designed a U-shaped home that was built behind the church and the Mantons moved into that house. The Logie family remained in their apartment atop the school.

The Methodist English School was known as MEHS and still is referred to as MEHS by everyone.

When Thomas taught physical education there in the year between high school and going away to college (1956-7), there where 5,400 students attending MEHS in both the morning school and the afternoon school. Thomas received Ks. 150 per month or at that exchange rate US$30 per month. The current exchange rate for Ks. 150 is 30 US cents.

In September of 1998, a Minister of Burma’s cabinet called MEHS “the best school in Burma.” So many would agree. It has educated several generations of leaders in Burma from all walks of life. All of Ne Win’s six children went to MEHS their entire schooling. Aung San Suu Kyi was a student there before her mother, Daw Khin Kyi, was named as Burma’s Ambassador to India and Nepal. The wives of many of Burma’s current generals were students of MEHS. An overwhelming number of the leaders of the National League for Democracy are MEHS students and graduates.

Frank’s tasks and positions in Burma

Frank was also Chairman of the Trustees of Kingswood School in Kalaw, the Southern Shan States. Karis Beth and Thomas attended this school in 1948 while David and William stayed at home and attended MEHS.

Frank was the District Superintendent of the Methodist Church’s English speaking work, Tamil, Hindi and Telegu speaking work and the Chinese speaking work during the early post war era. He was later the equivalent of the Head of the Methodist work in Burma – not called a Bishop but had all the powers of a Bishop.

Frank was the long term Chairman of the Rangoon Charitable Society. He was also for a time the President of the American Association of Burma.

Further on Karis’ tasks and positions

Frank and Karis made a tremendous impact on the life of Burma, even though they were foreigners… but were they?

Karis held many positions in the YWCA including as its National President. She was very, very active in grass roots work with the church, the YWCA and her many other organizations that she was involved with.

With her sister, Mary Brewster Hollister, Karis published four editions of the famous Rangoon International Cookbook, which is still treasured by so many people in Burma and around the world. It has become a collector’s item.

The Final Years

My dad died in Urbana in Oct. 1987. In 1988 I took my mother as the guest of the Fujian Provincial Govt. to China… to Hinghwa (now called Putian) where she was born to celebrate her 85th birthday. It was an occasion that we all never forgot. It was days of feasting and remembrances and loving… a wonderful capstone to a marvelous life. The top communist in the province was also born in Hinghwa and used to attend both the church my grandparents founded as well as go to the school… like the Methodist English School and the Methodist English Church. He was a student of my mother’s mother.

My mother was treated like a Queen during that whole day. She “held court” in the morning and people came for miles around to see her. She was given a wonderful lunch by the Mayor and city government where they imported a three tier cake from 70 miles away to make sure they had the right kind so they could put on 85 candles. When they went to light the candles they made a mistake of lighting the outside tier first… smiles. We all helped them with the inside ones… very carefully.

In the afternoon was the main celebration. The Chinese had renovated a building that had been a warehouse shortly before but was built in 1936 by my mother’s mother in honor of her father and her father-in-law. Specially for this birthday occasion they turned it into a senior citizens’ center with a huge hall. When I escorted mother there I felt like I was taking the Queen to her audience. There were 1,400 people waiting to greet her from all over the area. There was a service of celebration whose highlight was mother’s speech. She started the speech in Putian dialect. She was so overcome by the moment. She said that her heart is so filled that the tears were coming out of her eyes… she said it in a most poetic way. After which she had to revert to English which then had to be interpreted to Mandarin Chinese and then again into Putian dialect. During mother’s speech there was not a dry eye in the whole house of 1,400 people.

That night the Church members gave mother a Chinese banquet and there was wonderful fellowship with them… about 200 people in the State Guest house.

As I mentioned, it was a highlight of our lives.

On Dec. 30, 1989, after suffering a heart attack, mother gathered her four children around her hospital bed and said good bye to each one of us. Then she quietly joined her husband of 57 years and her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Several days later the family and many friends joined together to celebrate the wonderful life she lived.


The impact of this remarkable couple has been vast. The results of the leadership they provided in Burma still has its impact through so many of the institutions they affected. Frank greatest achievement was the re-building and leadership in MEHS. Karis’ major contribution was the quiet yet forceful leadership she provided in NCWB and the other organizations with which she was associated.

Their children are very, very proud of them. It is hoped their grandchildren will learn more about them so they can be proud of them as well.

MEHS still is going strong with 6,500 students and is considered probably the best school in Burma by so many people in all walks of live.

Thomas Manton
March 30, 2000

Notalgia Reflections Uncategorized

Merry Christmas Wish from Frances Mahoney

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! Mrs. Logie would be so proud to know we are continuing with her traditions and values. I still can picture her smiling face and remember listening to her piano as she played our favourite Christmas Carols during morning assemblies and at the annual Nativity Concerts.