Happenings, News

Voyage to ‘Paradise Singapore’

In this second, and final, instalment of W. G. Horley’s Journal on his voyage to Singapore, which he referred to as a “paradise”, he recounted his experiences East of Suez. He resolved as a schoolmaster to make a difference to his pupils, more than fulfilled as an outstanding and well-loved missionary and educator in Malaya.

homepage-July 2005

‘ADEN — Friday December 29th 1893 — About 30 Mohammedan pilgrims have come on board from Mecca. They are Malays who have travelled from Sumatra to Mecca and who are now returning home to Sumatra. They look very picturesque in their white turbans and gaily coloured dresses.

I cannot help thinking that these Malays put to shame many Christians: they have travelled thousands of miles to go to Mecca, have undergone hardship and trials innumerable for the sake of following the prophet Mohammed, and yet thousands of so-called Christians will not go100 yards to a place of worship on Sunday, much less suffer for Christ. These Malays are not ashamed to kneel down at sunset and pray to God; they care not who is looking, and yet what cowards we Christians are (as a rule) …

Friday January 5th – For the last four days we have been steadily sailing across the Indian Ocean and for the last two days the sea has been rough and consequently I have again been sea-sick. O! the misery of sea-sickness!

This evening we have arrived in Colombo, the chief sea-port of Ceylon. It was about five o’clock when we steamed into the harbour and the island looked very green and beautiful. On the breakwater waiting for my arrival was dear Bros Gracie and Tebbs accompanied by a Mr Lover of Colombo. I also made by the aid of the fieldglass that I had in my hand that Miss Tasker of Sheffield was with them. I felt like praising God when I saw them and I did do so when in a few minutes they came off in a boat to the ship …

We were soon on shore and I found that a car with a bullock attached was awaiting us to take us to our bungalow. It was rather a novel experience to ride behind a bullock; however after much jolting we reached the bungalow safely. On the journey I was struck with the beauty of Colombo, the lovely palms and cocoanut trees, the cinnamon trees and many, many others which were strange to me. A sweet perfume pervaded the atmosphere which reminded one of Bishop Heber’s hymns:

What though the spicy breezes Blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle, Though every prospect pleases And only man is vile.

Friday January 12th – We arrived at Singapore early this morning and as we steamed in the harbour we admired the beautiful scenery which surrounded us. Truly it seemed like a miniature Paradise. When we had anchored at the quay two missionaries came on board to welcome me to Singapore.

All praise be to God for thus bringing me safely to my destination. When I had landed I was conducted to the bungalow where several other missionaries welcomed me, and I was soon sitting down to a good breakfast which I enjoyed without fear of sea-sickness.

Everything seems strange to me. My room looks out on to a verandah and it has no windows whatever, but four large folding doors which open out on the verandah. We have all kinds of tropical trees around us, large palms which are like huge fans, these are called the “Travellers Palm” because if you cut one of the large leaves, you can get two or three pints of water, also there are bananas, cocoanut trees and many others …

Sunday January 14th — We have services in the Chapel on Sunday at 7.30 in the morning and Sunday School at 8.30 and evening services at 5 o’clock, and an evangelistic service at 7.45 at another chapel. I preached at the last service and we had a blessed time …

I expect I shall take up the Malay language and for a few months I shall have to help teach in Anglo-Chinese School. In this School which is a part of the Mission there are about 400 Chinese, Malay and Eurasian boys. It was a blessed sight to see them all together and to hear them sing some of Sankey’s hymns. I pray earnestly that God will make me a blessing in their midst. Nothing short of their conversion will satisfy me. O! dear friends, pray for me that my spiritual life may be sustained.

I have felt very lonely these last few days, but yet “God is with me”. I was much cheered however with receiving by the mail yesterday, some letters and papers from dear old England. Some lady had sent me two copies of The Life of Faith.

And now, farewell dear friends, do not forget me in your prayers. I remember you all with joy and thanksgiving. I shall be pleased to hear from anyone who cares to write to me. My address is (M. E. Mission, Singapore.)’ — Excerpts from W. G. Horley’s handwritten journal, slightly edited.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.