By Dr. Kranti K Farias
KCA presents to you another eminent personality in the community, the Late Jerome Antony Saldanha, who was President of the Kanara Catholic Association, and known for his service to the community, to society, and in public life. This is a commemorative article as their tribute in the 150th year of his birth.
Jerome Antony Saldanha was born on April 25, 1868; one year before the Mahatma. He was affectionately called ‘Jerome Bab’ by all those who knew him in Mangalore, and in Bombay. His father, Mr. Joseph S Saldanha of the Gadialgar Saldanha family, retired as Huzur Sheristadar of the District Court, Mangalore. His mother was Mrs. Delphine Saldanha of the Umzoor Saldanha family. He married Monica (Mocubai) daughter of Mr. Salvadore Pais, Coffee Planter, Mangalore. They had three sons, and three daughters.
Jerome studied in St. Aloysius College, Mangalore, till his F.A. and then in the St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchirapalli, from where he passed his B.A,. Then, he went to Bombay, where he got his LL.B. Degree. He even passed the Marathi Examination held before the Central Committee for Departmental Examinations in Bombay on March 25, 1901.
Mr. Saldanha joined the Service of the Bombay Government on October 5, 1892. He held appointments in the Secretariat, Judicial, and Political Departments at Bombay from October 1892 till May 1901. He had postings and promotions to various parts of India. His services were placed temporarily at the disposal of the Government of India, Foreign Department, Simla, from June 28, 1904 till March 31, 1906. He was promoted as Assistant Judge and Assistant Sessions Judge of Thana in September 1914. He was soon invested with the powers of an Additional Sessions Judge. From June 1920 till January 1921, he was deputed for drafting the Karachi Municipal Bill. He became Joint District Judge and Additional Judge of Dharwar in November 1921, and was transferred in the same capacity to Thana in January 1923. He retired from Government Service on April 25, 1923.
Scholar and Writer
Mr. Saldanha was a noted Scholar and Writer. He took keen interest in ethnology, and was elected President of the Anthropological Society of Bombay in 1923. He wrote several articles in the ‘Mangalore Magazine’, and other journals on the history of Kanara, the Konkani language, and other subjects. He also wrote articles in the Bombay Law Journals. His books were 1) Indian Castes, Vol. 1, Konkani Castes 2) Notes on the First Englishmen in India and other subjects 3) Savantvadi Legal and Judicial Manual 4) The Law of Salsette Land and Town Development 5) Hints to Jurors and Assessors 6) ‘Hints on Civil Ecclesiastical Law in India’ and ‘Notes on Canon Law’, edited jointly with Father A Marcy S.J., the well-known authority on Canon Law.
With special interest in the cultivation of the Konkani Language and Literature, he delivered scholarly lectures in Mangalore, and under the auspices of the Kanara Catholic Association, on ‘Kanara Catholics’ and on ‘A Honor for our Community’.
Post-retirement activity – as Legislator and Nationalist
After retiring from Government Service, Mr. Saldanha settled down in Mangalore. He got elected in 1923 to the Madras Legislative Council, first as an Independent Candidate from the West Coast Indian Christian Constituency, then got re-elected in 1926 as Congress Party Candidate having joined the Indian National Congress in 1925. In 1937, he stood for Election to the Madras Legislative Council, and won as a Member of the People’s Party. On the latter becoming defunct after some time, he joined the National Democratic Party.
His son, the late Gerald J Saldanha, also a former President of KCA writes, “It was a great event in our life when my father, as the President of the South Kanara District Congress Committee, had the honour and priviledge of presiding at a public meeting addressed by Mahatma Gandhi some time in 1929.”
J.A. Saldanha stood for self-government for India within the British Commonwealth, and for Joint Electorates. He was in the Chair at a meeting held at the Balmatta Boys School on May 3, 1932 to further the ‘Buy Indian’ Movement. The Kanara Indian Christian Civic League of which he was a Member, on October 15, 1932 resolved that the League favoured Joint Electorates with reservation of seats for Indian Christians and safeguards for ensuring election of candidates acceptable to the community. The committee supported the ‘Quit India’ movement and required all Members to help that Movement.
His work for the Kanara Catholic Association, Bombay.
At the AGM of the Aloysians in Bombay on May 29, 1898, with Mr. D B Pinto, B.A., in the Chair, it was unanimously resolved that an Association be formed for the furtherance of common interests of the former pupils of St. Aloysius College, Mangalore. J.A. Saldanha, was elected President. This was the precursor of the Kanara Catholic Association of Bombay (KCA).
Jerome A Saldanha was one of the Founder Members of the KCA formed in 1901, when he was elected Vice President, and then again in 1917 and 1918. He was elected President in 1907, 1908, 1909, 1915, and 1920. He joined Messrs. F.A.C. Rebello, F.L. Silva, and others in founding and fostering institutions and Co-operative Housing Societies for Catholics in Bombay at Bandra, and in other suburbs including the formation of the Mangalorean Co-operative Housing Society, which consisted almost entirely of KCA Members. He worked for the amelioration of Catholics in the city, especially of those coming from Mangalore, getting them jobs through his recommendation. The Kanara Catholic Association presented him with a Gold Medal in 1918 as a token of appreciation of his services. Mr. Saldanha was appointed Justice of the Peace, and this was considered a great honour to the community.
It was at the SpGM of 1919 that Rules of KCA were amended. Mr. Saldanha moved a Resolution to start a Fund for the poor of the community called the ‘St. Anthony’s League’. Poor Mangaloreans had to be identified, and loans given to those coming to Bombay, and without means to start life. The funds had to be raised through donations to the League.
The KCA Sporting Club was started at this time under KCA Rule 31(a), proposed by Mr. Isidore Coelho, and strongly supported by Mr. J.A. Saldanha. Rule 50 was introduced to admit ladies as Founders, Benefactors, Donors, or Life Members, and also Ordinary Members. However, they were not allowed to vote, nor were Student Members. Mr. J.A. Saldanha also proposed that the Association be registered under the Societies Registration Act. The Resolution seconded by Mr. J.L. Saldanha was put to vote and was carried unanimously.
The 75th Birthday of Jerome A Saldanha, which fell on April 25 was celebrated with great joy with a public felicitation in Mangalore, with an address read by Mr. C.L. Lobo, Vice-Chairman, detailing the various activities of Mr. Saldanha, and the unveiling of his photo by Dr. L Fernandes. A Thanksgiving Mass was celebrated for the Golden Wedding of Jerome and Monica Saldanha on January 28, 1944 at the Milagres Church.
Mr. Saldanha dies on March 8, 1947. He was buried in the Milagres Church, Mangalore. There was an extremely large crowd showing the esteem in which the deceased was held amongst all classes. In the Mangalore Municipal Council, a Resolution was passed on March 10, placing on record its sorrow on his demise, and its appreciation of the great services rendered by him to the town, during the time he was a Member of the Council.
“When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart”. (Russian Proverb)
This is our thought, as we think of this noble soul.
1. KCA AGM and Minutes of the Managing Council.
2. Souvenir of the Golden Jubilee of the KCA, 1951.
3. Notes by Dr. Michael Lobo (extracts from the ‘Mangalore Magazine’, Mangalore.
4. Dr. Kranti Farias, “The Christian Impact in South Kanara”.
5. Church History Association of India, Bombay, 1999, pp.258 ff.