Mary Chapman and Bolo, the Deaf boy from Burma
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 24 May 2012
Sometime around 1900, a Miss Mary F. Chapman left Britain to become a missionary in the Far East, working for the Church of England Zenana Mission which was active in India, Ceylon and Burma. Her sister Lena, received an M.B.E. in 1930. Mary, after being at Kensington High School, did mission work in Tinnevelly, then went to Mount Lavinia in Ceylon, founding a school there in 1911. After the war Mary went to Burma (1920), supported by the Thankful Hearts League which she had helped organize (Children’s Newspaper, British Deaf Times). The League had raised a remarkable £27,000 and consequently she was able to start the Mary Chapman Training College for Teachers of the Deaf in Rangoon, where they taught Burmese, Shan and Chinese children “not merely trades, but how to become social and, most important of all, Christian beings. Around 1930 the work was handed over to the Bible Churchman’s Missionary Society, and in 1931 Mary Chapman was able to fulfill her dream of doing missionary work in Palestine. Her aim was to train teachers who could then teach Deaf children of their own particular religious or ethnic group.
Bolo Ba Mu Martin (the appended ‘Martin’ coming from the church in Bedford that sponsored him), was born in about 1915. He ended up in the Rangoon school. He became a skilled cabinet maker and carpenter, and was a King’s scout. He wished to go with Mary to Palestine and raised the money for his fare by painting picture postcards. From the 1933 Children’s Newspaper we learn that Bolo, then 18, was on holiday in England, and gave a broadcast with Mary Chapman on 20th August 1933 about the missionary work.
I found this record on the web, showing Bolo as becoming naturalised in 1963, and working as a porter at a hotel in Dunbarton:
LIST of Aliens to whom Certificates of Naturalisation have been granted by the Secretary of State and whose Oaths of Allegiance have been registered in the Home Office during the month of April 1963.
The date in each case is the date of naturalisation. Bolo Ba Mu, known as Bolo Ba Mu Martin ; Burma; Hotel Porter; Loch Lomond Hotel, Balloch, Dunbartonshire. 19th March 1963.
Quite what became of Bolo in the intervening years, and after 1963, I do not know, but there may be people who recall him from those latter years. With all these leads I think someone could put together an interesting story about Bolo and the Rangoon Mission. Over to the researchers!
Hull, Miss S.E., A few words on the extension of our work. 4 page pamphlet, Historical Collection. ca. 1920
[Article updated with new link 16/12/2015]
12/4/2019 The Children’s Newspaper is no longer freely available and unfortunately I cannot give the exact reference to the issue or pages as I originally linked to the pdf.