Many moons ago, Sailendra Bhaskar got in touch with me, and wanted to know whether I could provide any information on a Rev. John Breeden who had built the Egmore Wesley Church and then gone on to found Bhaskar's old school, St. George's Homes, Ketti (Ooty). I'm afraid I was of no help, but Bhaskar, with four other old boys based in Australia, the U.K. and the Nilgiris, got down to following the Breeden trail about 18 months ago.
Bhaskar writes, “Between us, we could find huge amounts of information on the Reverend and his work, his movements in and out of India, his speeches from the pulpit and at fund-raising events in India and the U.K., and so much more. Why, one of us even managed to locate and buy two copies of a book written by the good Reverend — one of those copies was actually signed in his own hand! This copy has been handed over to the old school for safe-keeping.
“Over the months, we realised that the Reverend must actually have been a reclusive sort, who shunned publicity and actually stayed out of pictures.”
The focus of the search now became a picture of Rev. Breeden if one was available anywhere. They found 12 pictures in Egmore Wesley Church of former pastors. But the pictures were not captioned. So, was Breeden one of them? They had no idea, till one of the group, John Castellas from Melbourne, holidaying in London, visited the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies' Archives and came across a photograph of a group of missionaries who had lectured at an exhibition in Britain in 1907. The picture was fortunately captioned — and John Breeden identified, providing the opportunity to match one of the faces in the Egmore Church with it. Bhaskar tells me that now the Church will know what its founder looks like and won't have to heed the advice of a caretaker who had suggested: “Choose any picture and call it Rev. Breeden and no one will know the difference.”
St. George's Homes, which opened its doors in May 1914 after planning and fund-raising efforts that John Breeden had started in 1910, is now called the Laidlaw Memorial School and Junior College. But that's another story. Today's is a tribute to an example set for all researchers: Persistence pays.
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