Dr. A C Rebello, KCSG, MLC

By Robin Saldanha

Dr. Alfred Camilo Rebello was born on 15th July, 1890 at Kallianpur in South Kanara. His father Peter George Rebello was the hereditary Patel and Honorary Magistrate of Kallianpur. His mother Helen (nee Aranha) was elected the first lady member of the Madras senate, as Peter was the highest tax payer in the Madras Presidency.

The young Alfred was sent to Bombay for his education at the age of 5 to the home of his uncle, the illustrious F.A.C. Rebello, Esq. BA, JP., who was the Accountant General, Bombay Presidency. He had his early primary education at St. Stanislaus School, Bandra and then passed his Senior Cambridge at St. Xavier’s High School, Bombay. His Uncle Cyril advised him to do medicine so he joined St Xavier’s College to study science. He then proceeded to Grant Medical College and secured the MBBS degree of the University of Bombay in 1913. “With the object of specializing in Diseases of the skin, I became an assistant to Dr. Major C. Fernandez, MD. I worked as his assistant for seven years. During this period, I had an opportunity of seeing and treating most of the skin infections common in the Tropics.”

The diligent and handsome Dr. Alfred fell in love with the charming, beautiful Mary Fernandez, the first born of Maj. C. Fernandez, and married her on 20th November 1920 at St. Francis Xavier Church, Dabul. The afternoon of the same day the couple sailed for Europe. 
In London, he worked under renowned Doctors at various hospitals and clinics, some of them being Dr. Graham Little of St. Mary’s Hospital, Dr. Gray of the University Hospital and Drs. Griffith, Bunch and Sibley of St. John’s Hospital. Dr Alfred so impressed the foreign doctors with his knowledge, training and professional expertise that besides working as their assistant, they even entrusted their clinics to him during their absence of leave. In France he worked as foreign assistant at the St. Louis Hospital, Paris. It was in Paris that his wife Mary gave birth to their first son, Désiré in 1921 (Dr D.J.A. Rebello who too became a famed dermatologist). 

In 1922 Dr. Alfred was awarded the Duke of Chesterfield Medal, after a competitive examination for diseases of the skin, held at St. John’s Hospital, London.   Dr. Alfred was also clinical assistant to Dr. Parsons Smith, the Dean of the National Hospital for Diseases of the Heart, London. He took the D.P.H. course in Bacteriology at the University Hospital under Drs. Teale and Embleton.

“While specializing in Skin and Venereal Diseases, I took every opportunity of keeping in touch with General Medicine by attending the various clinics at the University Hospital, the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptics, the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and the Brompton Hospital for Chest Diseases.” He secured the D.T.M.H.(Lond) soon after. In 1923, his second son Alan was born in London (Dr. A.J.A. Rebello, KC*HS, KSG). Dr Alfred was elected Fellow of the London Dermatological Society and of the Dermatological Section of the Royal Society of Medicine (London). On his return to India he was appointed as Professor of Dermatology and Honorary Physician in the Skin Department of J.J. Hospital. 
In 1926, Dr. A. C. Rebello was appointed the First Honorary Dermatologist of the King Edward Memorial Hospital and Honorary Lecturer in Skin and Venereal diseases at the Seth Gorkhandas Sunderdas Medical College. Dr. Jivraj Mehta who was the Dean of the KEM and first CM of Gujarat held the young Dr. Rebello in high esteem and stated “due to the efforts and skills of Dr. Alfred the KEM Skin and OPD has the greatest number of daily patients for any specialized department in the hospital and is one of the largest in the country”. 
His only daughter Helen was born in 1930 and is the only surviving member of the family. In 1932 he was appointed Honorary Dermatologist of the Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children, Parel. His youngest son Peter, also a doctor, was born in 1937. 

On his retirement from these hospitals in 1946 he continued to be a Consulting Dermatologist. He was elected a Life Fellow of the G.S. Medical College and the King Edward Memorial Hospital Research Society. He was given a silver casket and silk scroll from the staff of the G.S. College and KEM Hospital. Glowing tributes poured in as he was highly respected and loved by his students, staff and doctors. “Your clinics were always a pleasure to attend and you relieved the monotony and tedium of medical teaching with witty sallies that kept our interest alive. Your lectures were appreciated not only for their knowledge imparted but also for their lucidity and thoroughness”. “The poor of this city will long remember the kindness and sympathy you have bestowed on them” Numerous medical books were dedicated to Dr. A. C. Rebello by his past students.

Dr. Rebello’s consulting rooms were in Khandelwal Bhavan on Hornby Road. He chose to set up his clinic here as it was close to Victoria Terminus and easily accessible to the hundreds of patients who used to consult him from outstation. Dr. A.C. Rebello was the leading Dermatologist of his time besides being an eminent public figure. He commanded an exhaustive practice as he was renowned for his professional skills and care, be it Maharajas, Princes, India’s leading industrialists, religious and the poor; all of whom he would attend to with the same devotion and time. His advice to his patients was ‘Shanti’, as he felt most problems were caused by worry. He once told a doctor he was treating, if you feel an itch join your hands and pray! He still managed to find time to head and be on the board of several organisations both professional and religious. His linguistic versatility was the envy of many and the admiration of all. He could speak Konkani, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tulu and Tamil besides being fluent in French. While in Europe he studied medicine in French, Italian and German.

The Rebello family shifted residence to Bandra in 1937. While house hunting, Mrs. Rebello chose the house Dr. Rebello used to walk past as a child on his way to school; it was called Hussein Manzil. He bought the sprawling estate, with a bungalow and 2 cottages on Hill Road and named it ‘Kallianpur’. Mrs. Rebello turned the grounds into beautiful landscaped gardens, with every possible flowering plant, fruit bearing trees, vegetables, poultry, piggery et al. Their beautiful home was open to all, numerous relatives and friends stayed with the family. It was the scene of many lavish parties, dances and dinners. In fact, the KCA held many socials at Dr. Rebello’s home as the drawing room floor made an ideal dancing hall. The spacious veranda was often used for various Catholic Association meetings.

Dr. Rebello was President of the Bombay Medical Union from 1951-52 and the President of the Indian Association of Dermatologists and Venerolgists (IADV) from 1952 to 1956. He was also an examiner of the Bombay University.

Great and substantial has been his contribution to the mitigation of Leprosy in India, which in the 1930s was more taxing and intractable than it is today. He was one of the promoters of the Indian Association of Leprologists founded in 1950 and was the Vice President for 2 terms. He was appointed to the Board of the Acworth Leprosy Home, Bombay and was responsible for instituting the Acworth Leprosy Clinic which continues to function to the great benefit of its patients. Envisaging Leprosy as a national problem he accepted nomination as Member to the Governing Body of the Indian Council of the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association, Delhi and continued to be a member of its successor body The Hind Kush Nirvan Sangh till 1954.

He was an elected Member of the Bombay State and Maharshtra Legislative Council from September 1955 to April 1962. He was a member of the K-Zone Food Committee, President of the Catholic Students Union, President of the First Bombay Catholic Youth Conference and Chairman of the Mangalorean Garden Homes Co-Op society for over 25 years. He was then elected President of the MGHCS. He gave his property on Hill Road, Bandra to revive the MGHCS, now Rebello House, refusing an offer of 20 lakhs from a Sindhi buyer in 1960. Those he trusted as friends from the MGHCS cheated him on the property transaction and taking advantage of his generosity and age, charged him for 3 flats in the society. He would often tell his family “Never trust sweet talkers”, but invariably he fell prey to them. He was Chairman of the Nasik Catholic Sanatoria Co-Op Soc Ltd. As well as a member of the Governing Body of Sophia College Bombay from 1943 and the Chairman from 1956-66.

For his distinguished service and munificent largesse to the Church, Dr. A.C. Rebello was conferred a papal knighthood; Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great by His Holiness Pope John XXIII. The Investiture was held at St. Peter’s Church, with His Eminence Cardinal Valerian Gracias conducting the ceremony.

“Normally it is considered an honour for any leading citizen to be elected head of a cultural organisation. In the case of Dr. Alfred Camillo Rebello it is the other way about. In electing this 74-year-old eminent physician as its new President the Catholic Association of Bombay has done honour unto itself” (the Free Press Journal). Dr. Rebello, in fact, can be considered one of the “Fathers” of the CAB idea, having mooted it in 1946; insisting rightly that the movement should have its roots in parishes. Another ten years lapsed before the CAB was actually founded. With the establishment of parish units in 1958 Dr. Rebello assumed Chairmanship of St. Peter’s Unit, Bandra. “There can be no doubt with Dr. Rebello at the helm, the CAB is geared to scour newer seas and traverse newer lands”, (the CAB News Letter 1964). President of the CAB from 1964-66, during the historic days of the 38th International Eucharistic Congress, Dr. A.C. Rebello, KCSG, had the honour of receiving several dignitaries attending the Congress. The CAB also compiled the first Catholic directory, which was presented to His Holiness Pope Paul VI.

A pillar of St. Peter’s Church Bandra, Dr. Rebello founded the St. Peter’s Sodality Skin Clinic in 1946 with the co-operation of Rev. Fr Ribot, S.J., the then Rector, to cater to the needs of the poor and middle class of greater Bombay; even the neighbouring States would avail of his gratis services. Every Thursday for the next 25 years he would devote the day attending to patients, which was continued by his son Dr. D.J.A. Rebello.   A benefactor of the Church, he helped with his time and talent as well as monetarily aiding the projects of His Eminence Cardinal Valerian Gracias. Dr. Rebello was a good friend of His Grace Archbishop Roberts S.J. In fact, he spoke to the Archbishop on behalf of Fr. Winnibald Menezes, to have him transferred to Bombay from Mangalore.  The General of the Society of Jesus, Pedro Arrupe, wrote a personal letter to Dr. Rebello thanking him for his dedicated service to the fathers of the Province and his devoted work in the Sodality Clinic.  Dr. A.C. Rebello and his family had the privilege of sitting at table to tea with Pedro Arrupe S.J. at Vinayalaya, Andheri. Dr Rebello would say “God has given me the talent and I am giving it back to God”.

Dr. A.C. Rebello was President of the KCA from 1940-44. He began by appointing various Committees to examine and handle some of the immediate problems that confronted the community. An Employment Bureau in which unemployed youth were to register their CV and members were encouraged to inform the bureau of vacancies in firms, mills, factories etc. An Improvements Committee to collect subscriptions for the Association and report suggestions of the people they contacted. An Editorial and Literary Sub-Committee was appointed to look after the publication of the “Mangalorean Review”. The Committee made history in 1941 by providing every member of the KCA a free copy. An Entertainment Committee to organise the annual socials and functions. Dr. Rebello also appealed to members with leisure time to help the St. Anthony’s League which was set up for the poor of the community, to visit them and see to their corporal as well as spiritual needs. An Office and Club House was opened at 14 Noble Chambers, Fort, which was a great necessity at the time. He made an appeal to the youth to avail of the facilities of the Sports club, also encouraging the ladies to form their own hockey team. Dr. Rebello managed to bring about unity amongst the members during his tenure, and the General Meetings were more representative of the community than in the past. 

Dr. A.C. Rebello enjoyed playing bridge, singing Konkani songs, listening to records of Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, Tino Rossi and Edith Piaf. Inspite of his work and numerous commitments, he would find time to travel to Kallianpur to visit his parents whom he revered. He would always attend family functions of relatives and friends. He never turned away anyone who came to him for assistance. Born in a large family, Alfred was the third sibling among his brothers and sisters, who distinguished themselves in their careers. Albin Rebello, IA&AS, OBE, FRES, FRSS; Alphonse, Chief Appraiser of Customs Bombay; Albert, Deputy Director Agricultural Dept, Central Provinces and Berar; Alex, Agent of the Imperial Bank; Fr. Avelino, Principal of St. John the Baptist High School, Thana, author, and famed for exorcism; Anthony, District Officer Forest Dept, Baroda; Fr. Aloysius S.J., educationist in the Missions and Principal of St. Xavier Boys Academy. Dr. Rebello’s 5 sisters were all teachers, Annie Rego, Agnes Gonsalves, Adelaide Rebello, Alice Mathias and Sr Marie Alex ICM, (Angela) Principal of various schools in South India.

Dr A.C. Rebello passed away on the 13th of June, 1974

“We owe a duty towards our Community and we can fulfil this duty best by joining the KCA and taking an interest in the activities. We shall be helping a Catholic cause, and we, as Indians professing the Catholic faith should by the way in which we act and live, be an example to our fellowmen.” A. C. Rebello (The Mangalorean Review) 

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