Pics: Ganesh S Perla
May 28, 2008
Genteel in personage,
Conduct and equipage,
Noble by heritage,
Generous and free.
- Henry Carey, English poet (1700-1743).
That turns out to be an apt description of Ligoury Urban D'Sousa Prabhu whose path I crossed because I was invited to attend a meeting of the local heritage society under formation in the stately heritage mansion he built in 1933-34. How do I date the mansion? Ligoury is very history-conscious. His estate, south of Colaco Hospital on Bendore Road, is dotted with many buildings, each with a descriptive introductory marble tablet. Even the compound walls are not spared. The main mansion, which hosts two daughters of Ligoury, Margaret D'Abreo and Sophie D'Souza, is identified with the marble tablet which reads: St Joseph's Highland 1933-34.
The family, including the daughters, is listed on another marble tablet fronting a building named "Marcelline Nilaya" which reads: Built and dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour by Sri Ligoury Urban D'Souza Prabhu in commemoration of his Diamond Jubilee 1883-1958 in loving memory of his departed wife Lily Jane, as a token of his love for his wife, Marcelline and children – Gladys, Rita (Rev Sr Candida AC), Sophie, Joseph, and son-in-law, Charles Sequeira Naik, MA, LLB. O. Lord Bless our home and grant us peace. And in a little space left on the tablet, he squeezed in the words "Grandson Gregory".
Ligoury's daughter, Margaret, disowns any knowledge of any grandson by that name. Was it wishful thinking about a grandson to be named after a grandfather or a Pope? The latter is possible because Ligoury's life was marked by help to priests, nuns, seminarians and the churches. The compound wall bears another tablet reading: St Pius X Villa Nook. Yet another tablet, on the north gate of the estate, on the lower Bendoor Cross Road, reads: The Beauty Spot. There is yet another building named, Sacred Heart Ashram, which has a tablet showing the year of construction as 1950 and incorporating the Hindu sacred sign of OM. Margaret says there had been more tablets which have been discarded during renovations.
One has to depend on oral history for a background on Ligoury. He belonged to a planter's family which had its coffee estate- Camrose - in Chikmagalur. He did not want to mess up with his family and opted out to manage Harley Estate at Sakleshpur, owned by a Britisher – Godfrey. He had a generous streak when it came to helping the religious communities. When the Sisters of Charity established their Belvedere campus, on two tree-covered low hillocks off Angelore Church, Ligoury helped them out in many ways so much so his children had the nuns as godparents. He also invited them to Sakleshpur, providing a convent-school complex for them on a scenic campus. Besides building the large cross at Nanthoor, he gifted churches with statues. He would select bright children of estate labourers and put them in boarding schools in Mangalore for studies.
One particular instance brings out Ligoury's penchant for helping. Next to his mansion there used to be a jhatka stand where horse-drawn carts would wait for customers in the pre-autoriksha era. One of the jhatkawallas approached Ligoury for a favour. His daughter was due for marriage but there was no proper venue. He had identified a large unoccupied house in the neighourhood and if Ligoury gave a recommendatory letter to the owner, the marriage could be celebrated there. Ligoury said who was he to give a letter to the owner and offered his own mansion for the celebration. There was a noisy celebration with mass cooking on the premises and a brass band blaring away through the night. By next afternoon, the groom's father was over the hill with excessive drinking. How did Ligoury react to this apparent abuse of misplaced generosity? He coolly had the man carried to his own bed to work out his hangover and walk out sober the next day.
Ligoury stuck with his marble tablet fetish unto the last and to the Bendoor graveyard. His first wife, Lily Jane, born 12-7-1899, married on12-6-1916, died on 15-5-1940. The life-long builder he was, Ligoury planned the tomb to accommodate also himself as well as other family members.
Ligoury provides a large vertical slab, a sort of double bed, to incorporate his own marble tablet when he died on 30-11-1980, at the age of 97 years, his second wife, Marcelline, who died on 6-2-2004 and his son-in-law, Desmond D'Abreo, who died on 25-10-2000. Thus, the tombstone bears four marble tablets.
John B. Monteiro, journalist and author, is Editor of www.welcometoreason.com (Interactive Cerebral Challenger) website.