Magnificent houses and curious surnames

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

Before the Gomes’ house at Mapuça was demolished, I was fortunate to visit it. A relative of the family whom I knew as a youngster once took me there on a visit. We were ushered into the dining hall, the seat of Goan hospitality, and served coffee and dos. In such families, close friends are greeted with a kiss on each cheek, Latin style. The stranger is greeted with a warm handclasp. A flow of Portuguese, the old court language, follows.

The compact Gomes’ house at Mapuça is the ancestral house of Monsenhor Francisco Xavier Gomes Catão, a noted and meticulous Goan church historian. It was constructed from stones taken from the fortresses of Tivim and Colvale. As the first Goan commandant of Mapuça, Captain Gomes (Monsignor Catão’s forefather) apparently had ready access to such building material.

I recollect that when I was a student at the Seminary of Our Lady, Saligao-Pilerne, Monsenhor Francisco, who was our Professor, summoned me one fine evening in 1957. He inquired if I knew his niece who was married to a gentleman from Donvaddo in Saligao. I replied that I did indeed know the Fernandes family she had married into, and informed him that the family was known by the nickname Razamger. Then Mons. Catão related how he came by his curious surname (the original one being Gomes). His father was nicknamed fatão (the shrewd one) by the Portuguese, and thought it worth his while to retain this appellation. But he took the odium out of it by changing the first letter F to C.

In the 1950s the Noronha family from Neura came to settle down temporarily in Donvaddo. Fernando Noronha, a member of that revered family, sought admission at Mater Dei Institution. He was my brother’s classmate, and I too knew him then. Here is little story about the Noronhas:

“Perched on a rock in the rich farmland of Neura is Abelio Noronha’s stately mansion. The verandah provides the visitor with a breathtaking view of the lush green paddy fields stretching to the distant hills. Carved doors lead to the salon. The ivory-coloured ceiling has a rectangular floral border carved out of ebony—a symphony in white and black. Two lovely brass lamps hang from the ceiling. Of the rosewood furniture one sofa alone had been valued at Rs 18,000 in 1980. Blue china plates adorn the walls. The Noronhas trace their ancestry to the Kamat brothers of Kashmir, early converts to Christianity.”

Mons. Canon Castilho de Noronha was a member of the Portuguese parliament in Lisbon for three consecutive terms. The road from Neura to Old Goa is named after this priest-politician. Another ancestor, Romulo Salvador Noronha, was the famous lawyer of his day and a Mayor of Panjim. Once on a visit to the Noronha’s house in Donvaddo I had a chance to meet Monsenhor Canon Castilho de Noronha, Professor of Rachol Seminary, journalist and ‘Deputado da Nação’ or Parliamentarian at Lisbon. He was an erudite personality but was of short stature.

The Lozkar house at Donvaddo is now the prized possession of an Italian gentleman named Alexandro. He has kept the outer part of the old house and the nickname fixed to the fence as it was before, but has made changes to the internal structure and added some small rooms and a vast sitting room to entertain his friends. Alexandro is a keen reader of anything on Goa. Once I was invited by him to give an informal talk on the history of Saligao and its wards, its folklore and culture. He called a few of his friends to listen to me.   As I knew the Lozkar family from Donvaddo quite well I explained to them why the family of Carlotina and Frank Fernandes (he sold spectacles in Panjim and his shop was known as Frank Opticians, a joint enterprise) called their household “Lozkar”.  Many families in Saligao are known by their nicknames in addition to their names and surnames.  One of the guests asked me what my nickname was. I told them it was “Moskon”.

5 comments on Magnificent houses and curious surnames

  • Francis Afonso(St.Estevam)

    Thankyou Fr.Nascimento for refreshing my memories of Noronha’s family with some of them I had contact while in Don Bosco High School in Panjim particularly Fr.Romulo whose father if my memory is correct was the respected doctor in Santo Estevam

  • Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas

    Thank you for your comment, Francis. Last year I was based at St Francis Xavier’s Convent in St. Estevam and I am now at Holy Spirit Church, Margao. I knew the Noronha families of Neura quite closely and Fr Romulo at Don Bosco’s. I’m glad you enjoy reading my essays.

    God bless you!

    - Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas

  • Antonio Menezes

    Dear Fr Mascarenhas,
    I have read your comment on the Noronha Family, Neura. Are they related to Prof. Emerico de Noronha, my professor at the Liceu in 1961?
    Thanks and best regards,
    Milano, Italy 8/02/2010

  • Joaquim Noronha

    Thank You Fr. Nascismento for this reference to my father Dr. Romulo Noronha.
    Would love to see you in Neura for a chat..
    Thanks and best regards.

  • Erika de Noronha

    Dear Fr. Mascarenhas and Mr. Antonio Menezes,

    I happened to come across this article and in reference to the comment about the Dr. Professor Emerico de Noronha,who taught at the Lyceum; he happens to be my paternal grandfather and is related to Fernando Noronha, as all Noronhas hailing from Neura are.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Erika de Noronha

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