A Bell in Larkana

Last week I received an email from a friend that had attached to it several pictures of a bell. They were taken by a friend of his who had recently been traveling in Pakistan and had come upon a bell in a church compound in Larkana, a city in the province of Sindh.

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Yes, you are reading that correctly — the inscription is “Crocodile!” A friend who saw the photo thought it looked liked a bell from a ship. Sure enough, there was an HMS Crocodile. Here’s what the Wikipedia entry has to say about it:

She was built for the transport of troops between the United Kingdom and the Indian sub-continent, and was operated by the Royal Navy. She carried up to 1,200 troops and family on a passage of approximately 70 days. She was commissioned in April 1870 under Captain G H Parkin.

Crocodile was re-engined rather later in life than her sisters, with her single-expansion steam engine replaced with a more efficient compound-expansion type.[Note 1]

Crocodiles last voyage began at Bombay in October 1893. On 3 November, as she was approaching Aden, the high-pressure steam cylinder exploded and the ship came to a halt. The next day she was towed to an anchorage near Aden. [2] Most of the soldiers and their families were brought home on other ships. Crocodileeventually arrived back at Portsmouth on 30 December 1893, having travelled using only the low-pressure steam cylinder, and was not further employed for trooping.[3]

In 1894 it was sold for scrap.

There is a place along the coast in Pakistan, in Gaddani, where ships are scrapped. Maybe they were already breaking up ships there in the late 1800’s. Maybe that’s where Crocodile was scrapped and from where the bell began its journey up country to Larkana.

Maybe…..

So, it seems like I may need to plan a bell-hunting trip to Pakistan. Who wants to join me?

And of course, you can read stories of church bells China in my book The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China.

Note: this post was originally titled “A Bell in Sukkur” because I mistakenly thought the bell was in the city of Sukkur. The title has been edited, and a section about Sukkur has been removed. I apologize for the confusion. 

 

Bell Talk and Book Signing

I have two “Bell Talk and Book Signing” events coming up in the Twin Cities this weekend and next weekend.

The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China

Here are the details:

Saturday, February 4 @ Bethlehem Baptist Church (downtown campus)
720 8th Ave. S. Minneapolis
Time: 7:15PM (following the evening service)

Saturday, February 11 @ Bethlehem Baptist Church (north campus)
5151 Program Ave., Mounds View
Time: 6:30PM

Noël Piper will be my special guest; we will share background on the genesis of the book and some of the stories..

Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite:

Pastor Zhao fetched a ladder but refused to let Noël or me climb up there. He was happy that we were there, but no way was he going to risk having two injured foreign women on his hands! Ben, who is younger and much more athletic, grabbed his flashlight and scampered up to get a good look at the inscription. It was from this perch, high up in the steeple, that he read the inscription to us.

I will have copies of the book to sell, and will even sign them if you want!

If you’re in the Twin Cities, come on out! If you can’t make it to these, I’m hoping to have more such events schedule in March.

 

Tianjin Churches

I and a few friends spent yesterday afternoon traipsing around the city of Tianjin looking for old church bells.  Why Tianjin, you may ask?

First of all, with the high speed train that runs every ten minutes between Beijing and Tianjin, it’s an easy ‘day trip’ destination. In our case, it was just an afternoon trip. We left at noon and were back in Beijing by 7:30.

Secondly, because of the city’s history of being colonized by numerous western powers (all at the same time), there are quite a few old churches there.

We confirmed the existence of 4 old bells, most likely brought over from Europe in the early part of the last century, and we saw a hundred year old bell made in China for a Catholic Church. We were only able to get a portion of the story of this bell, but we have some leads to get the rest of the story. When I have pieced it all together I’ll post the photo and story.

In the meantime, here are pictures of the towers in which the other 4 bells reside.

Wanghai Lou Catholic Church was established in 1869 by French Catholics. This current structure dates to 1903, and, as you can see is undergoing renovations. We wandered into the compound and talked with the engineers overseeing the project.  They confirmed that there is a bell in the tower, but declined our requests for them to take us up to see it. Can’t blame them, really.

Xikai Catholic Church was built by the Jesuits in 1917, and is today the largest church in Tianjin. We had a long chat with the priest, who confirmed that there are bells in those towers, but he would not take us to see them.

The Anglican Church is now closed, but is a site protected managed by the Tianjin  Bureau of Antiquities. We could see a giant bell hanging in the tower. I’m hoping the Antiquities Bureau has some information on the bell, and hopefully some photos.

Stay tuned…..

The Bells of St. Paul’s Church

As Amy and I slipped quietly into the church pew at the old St. Paul’s Church in Qingdao (now known simply as Guanxiang Road Church) one of the ushers spotted us, smiled, and came over to where we sat. “Aren’t you the two ladies who were here yesterday asking about the old church bell?” he asked, through a big smile.  “Yes,” we replied. “Come with me,” he said, “I’ll ask someone to take you up into the tower to see the old bell right now.”

We looked at each other in bewilderment because the previous afternoon when we had stopped by the church to inquire about the bell, this very man had treated us with suspicion (wouldn’t you?) and told us that if we wanted to know anything about the church we had to first go through the municipal church office. Yet here he was, all smiles and donning the role of Mr. Welcome!

We suggested that we would be happy to wait until after the service but he was insistent that we follow him now.  He introduced us to another usher and told her “these American friends are here to learn about our church and our bell.  Please take them to see the bell.” Up we went, our dashed hopes of yesterday being rekindled with every step we climbed.

I actually hadn’t known about this church until Mr. D., usher/tour-guide at the other church down the street (Qingdao Christian Church) told us about it on Saturday.  “You should go up the street to St. Paul’s Church,” he said.  “They have an old bell.” After we were turned away on our first visit, I decided to go back and find Mr. D. and see what he could tell me about St. Paul’s Church and its bell.

He told me that the church had been built in 1938 by German Lutherans and most likely the bell was installed at that time, or shortly afterwards. I specifically asked if he knew what had happened to the bell during the Cultural Revolution.  He told me that it had been taken away and installed in a factory in another city in the province where it was used to mark the beginnings and endings of the shifts. Someone from Qingdao recognized the bell and somehow spirited it away and hid it. (How do you steal and hide a cast iron bell?)  Somehow the bell resurfaced in the last few years (I missed the details), and just last year the church purchased the bell back at an auction for the sum of RMB 40,000.

The inscriptions on the bell were written in German, which we couldn’t read, but we could make out the date: 1883. I took photos of the inscriptions and sent them to a friend of mine who is an amateur genealogist. In order to trace his family history he has learned how to read German and Danish.  Within ten minutes, he had them translated:

 Bochumer Verein Gussstahlfabrik 

(Bochumer Union Cast Steel Factory)

Der Gerechte Wird Seines Glaubens Leben 

(The just[righteous] will live by [his] faith)  (Romans)

 1883

After taking a few pictures we went back to the sanctuary for the service. At 9:25, the bells were rung, each ring announcing the truth of the inscription.

Another bell, another story of sustaining grace.

(Note:  the bell at the other church has a story as well, but that will be in yet another post.)