By Robin Saldanha
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.
“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.
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 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.
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)