In its recent obituary on Sir Rex Surridge, a former Acting Governor of Tanganyika, who died recently at the age of 91, the Daily Telegraph recalled how he had fought vehemently, in the late 1940’s, against the ‘Groundnuts Scheme’. The idea had been to plant groundnuts on a large scale in the ‘rocky wilderness’ of Tanganyika. Surridge recalled that huge tractors as big as houses were used to clear the bush; fertliser was ordered – on one occasion a convoy of lOO-ton railway trucks arrived carrying gunny bags containing what was thought to be urea but was found, after it had been spread on the land, to be cement. The Scheme was eventually abandoned at a cost of more than f19 million.

Sir Rex was standing in for two years during the illness of the then Governor, Sir William Battershill, affectionately known as ‘Battered Bill’.

Father Cox, as he was most widely known, was born in 1912 and died on 23/1/01. He will be remembered well both in the Diocese of Masasi in Tanzania and also in the Parish of Ermington in Devon, UK.

After serving his curacy in Gorton, Manchester, he offered himself to the missionary society founded by David Livingstone, the Universities Mission to Central Africa, and was posted to the Diocese of Masasi in 1944 where he remained until 1972.

The full story of those 28 years can never be told but he has left a tremendous legacy in buildings, and, such was his personality, that no doubt he is even now a legend among Tanzanians. ‘Bwana Kelele’ (Mr Noise) had a powerful voice which went with his physique as well as his generous and enthusiastic Christian service to those around him, regardless of the cost to himself.

Amongst other places he served at Newala (1944), Chidya, Nachingwea (1952-56) and Mtwara (1956-62) before becoming Procurator of Masasi Cathedral in 1963 while Trevor Huddleston was Bishop of Masasi. Bishop Huddleston has said about those years at Masasi “I can’t imagine I would have achieved anything without him. He was a ‘Jack of all trades’ and a master of each one”.

Bishop Huddleston’s first priority on arriving in Masasi was to rebuild the Theological Training College, St Cyprian’s at a beautiful site on the Rondo Plateau. Father Cox was given the task of building the chapel, an octagonal building with seven stained glass windows telling the story of creation designed by Jonathan Kingdon. Bishop Huddleston writes “If of Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral, it could be said ‘Si monumentum requiris circumspice’ (if you went a memorial look around you) so could it be said of the glorious little chapel et the Rondo, a fitting memorial to Ronnie”

Father Cox also built a new Nursing School, children’s ward end operating theatre et Nkomaindo Hospital. There were village churches rebuilt; Mtwara and Nachingwea churches; the Diocesan Library; the girl’s department at Mahiwa Farm School (now CCM); and many other smaller buildings.

Leaving Africa was a great wrench for Father Cox but he proved equal to the challenge and served the Perish of Ermington well from 1973 to 1988 when he retired. In Ermington there was undoubtedly a small corner of Masasi. He was made an honorary Canon of Masasi Cathedral end Commissary to Bishop Richard of Masasi in 1984. Without neglecting his parishioners, even inspiring them to help, he continued to work tirelessly for Tanzania and was planning a visit to Masasi in July this year.
Christine Lawrence

(Donations in memory of Father Cox will go to Masasi. P1ease send to Britain-Tanzania Society, 45 Heath Hurst Road London NW3 2RU)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.