The Rev. Canon R G P Lamburn.
Canon Roger George Patrick Lamburn, known as Robin, died at Kindwiti Leprosy Village in the Rufiji District of Southern Tanzania on 26 October 1993 at the age of 89. He spent 63 years of his long life as an Anglican missionary and died as he lived, in great simplicity and at peace.
Robin was born in England in 1904 and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied Natural Science. After a period as a curate in England he joined the Universities Mission to Central Africa and worked first in the Diocese of Masasi and then as Warden of St. Cyprian’s Theological College, Tunduru. During this period he became Education Secretary responsible for the administration of schools in the Masasi Diocese, as well as Archdeacon. Through these many positions, he became very well known and greatly loved among church people throughout Tanzania.
At the age of 57 he moved to become probably the first Christian missionary to the unhealthy and solidly Muslim Rufiji Delta about 100 miles south of Dar es Salaam. He established himself in the leprosy village of Kindwiti, near Utete, and started to dispense high church Anglicanism, medicine (with which he had much skill as a result of his scientific training) and Christian joy. He made little progress in evangelisation which he stated was his first and foremost concern, his few converts being from other districts. The breakthrough came in a remarkable way. As he was greatly concerned to invigorate the leprosy village with a spirit of self-help, people used to confide their problems in him. One day a young man came who was greatly shamed because, as a Muslim, he should have been circumcised at birth and, for some reason, this had not been done. Robin assured him that he had nothing to worry about and that he should go to the Sheikh in Utete to ask for the operation to be carried out and he, Robin, would bear the cost. The Moslem authorities were so touched at this act of charity that the whole attitude to the mission at Kindwiti changed from that time; a spirit of bitter antagonism developed into one of at least acceptance, if not of some measure of brotherliness.
Robin was awarded the MBE and the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanities and also received a medal from Pope John Paul II.
He possessed great personal charm and was an able raconteur. Right until the end his letters were entertaining, moving but frequently funny. His great sense of humour made him a warm companion. His particular hope was that the scourge of leprosy would be expunged from Rufiji by the end of the 20th century, a hope which science has made quite possible. He would have been very appreciative of anyone wishing to honour his memory with a donation to the Rufiji Leprosy Trust, set up to support this work. The Treasurer’s address is: Horton House, Horton, Ilminster, Somerset TA19 9RL.
(Geoff and Jenny O’Donoghue have written as follows: ‘On Tuesday morning (October 26) at 7am the British High Commissioner in Tanzania, Mr Roger Westbrook, who had arrived in Kindwiti to visit Father Lamburn the previous day, called on him. Later Father got up, had a little breakfast and then sat in his armchair to read. Later in the morning he went back to bed. At 2.30 he died quietly and peacefully while holding the hand of Father Athumani, a one-time student of his. The following day the men and youths of the village began to dig Father’s grave beneath a large tree in the garden…. Local people settled down to pray, sing and sleep beside the grave … On the Thursday the mass was held in the simple chapel next to Father Robin’s house, although the presence of over 750 people meant that the majority had to gather round outside. Then the coffin, dressed with tissue-paper garlands, bouqainvillea blossoms and a simple wooden cross, was taken and lowered into his grave).