Thursday, February 18, 2021

Mission Bells in Zambia

While searching for the Ballingate Bell in Zambia, we came across three other bells that were discounted as being the Ballingate Bell for a variety of reasons. 

We established from the Capuchin Archives that my cousin Fr Theophilus Murphy was based in Mangango (Western Zambia) from 1962 to 1968, but that the Ballingate Bell was not there. Theophilus was based in Sichili from 1954 to 1961 - the bell here is mentioned in my Wicklow People article, but no photos were displayed. We discounted this bell as it is stamped with the date 1959. Interestingly, a crest on the bell indicates that it was manufactured in Saarlouis in Germany, and I wondered how it ended up in Zambia - it surely had its own story to tell.

The Sichili Bell

A second bell was located in Lukulu, where Fr Theophilus was based from 1968 to 1973. We ruled this bell out as well because of its colour, size, and shape. It turned out to have been manufactured by Rudolf Perner in what was then Czechoslovakia. Perner was a famous bell maker who specialized in bells for West Africa. It is not the Ballingate Bell, but I wonder how did it too end up in Zambia? 

The Lukulu Bell

A third bell was found hanging from a tree in Lumulunga – it was clearly stamped with the word “Zealandia” and the date “1875”. Though a possibility, we ruled it out due to its very wide shape. This bell is almost certainly to be from the SS Zealandia which was a ship built in Glasgow in 1875, but that ran aground in 1917 near Liverpool. It was carrying a cargo of mugs, sheep, and treacle. Again, I wondered how the ship’s bell ended up in Zambia, and what story this and the other bells could tell if they talked.

The Lumulunga Bell

I'm sure that there are many other bells in Zambia and other countries where missionaries worked and who brought what they could from home. It would be an interesting study to find them all and track down their original locations and how they made the long journey to their current location. 

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