More trailblazers from Saligao

When a villager from Saligao reaches an honourable and outstandingly high position in his profession, social life or any field of activity, he undoubtedly brings credit and renown to himself. But beyond that, the village of Saligao can with justifiable pride bask in the sunshine of his achievement.  It further gives the younger generation of the village youth and the youth of Goa a shot in the arm to emulate and even surpass the records created.

Hence, in days gone by, when any villagers from Saligao went into a foreign- and (for them) completely-unknown country, with trust in God, with courage as their shield, and supreme confidence in themselves to face the unknown and make good and thereby blaze the trail for many others to follow and earn a good livelihood, surely such men not only deserve our praise but also our everlasting gratitude. Two such Goan pioneers who set out to the Persian Gulf as far back as 1919 were Alcantara Gonsalves and Anthony Francis de Mello, both of Arrarim in Saligao.

Classmates up to 1907 at pre-matric levels, they left St. Mary’s School in Saligao, and went to earn a living. Alcantara Gonsalves journeyed to Karachi and Anthony Francis de Mello to Bombay. They met again in Karachi and in 1910 came to know that Messrs Shaw Wallace & Co. Ltd, Karachi were recruiting clerical staff for the Anglo Persian Oil Co. Ltd. at four times the salary they were then earning. They both applied and were selected for posts in Persia (now Iran), one for Mohammerah (now Khorramshahr) and the other for Abadan in Iran. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company, founded in 1908 was the first company to extract petroleum from the Middle East. In 1935 it was renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and in 1954 it became the British Petroleum Company (BP).

Anglo-Persian Oil Company pioneers

Anglo-Persian Oil Company pioneers

While Alcantara Gonsalves was lucky to be kept in Mohammerah because the place was fairly well developed for certain of the amenities of life such as food, clothing and housing, Anthony Francis de Mello had to face the rigours of the extremes of climate and the lack of necessities of life. He had to live in a tent for more than a year with a Punjabi, a Pathan, a South Indian and a Parsee, all in clerical service. The other people in his area were Chinese carpenters, Punjabi fitters, Rangooni masons and a host of Persian coolie labour. The Europeans, such as the Works Manager, Asst. Works Manager, Suptd. Engineer, Storekeeper, etc, were also living in tents.

In those days Abadan was a desert without a single tree and had to be converted into a city by importing everything from iron to cement and bricks. Yet he roughed it out until his three years’ contract was over.

During their initial tenure both these Goan pioneers made a name for themselves for their intelligence, integrity and hard work, so much that their appreciative superiors wanted more men like them. Then followed the second batch — brothers and relatives of the pioneers, Rudolph Gonsalves and Timothy de Mello; and subsequently, about a hundred more lads from Saligao and other parts of Goa.  Both these pioneers made sufficient money after their first contract to save enough to get married, and on his next contract, Gonsalves took his wife to Mohammerah.

These early Goan pioneers put up with every hardship that came their way in a new and unknown country that was nothing but a blazing desert with extremes of climate. And what’s the stuff that these Goan pioneers were made of? Hard as nails, tremendously diligent, and persevering and upright in every respect!

Even today there are many men and women from Saligao and other villages of Goa employed in the Arabian Gulf towns, opened to them by these two intrepid pioneers.  One cannot forget also the work done by Peter de Souza from Mollembhatt and Vincy Cordeiro from Bairro Alto for placing so many Saligaokars in the Gulf region for employment.  May their tribe increase.

- Compiled by Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas



DE SOUSA, C. Hubert; “Profiles of Eminent People of Saligao”; Panjim, 1973.


1 comment on More trailblazers from Saligao

  • Ruth Hills

    I’ve just come across your story about Alcantara Gonsalves travelling to Persia.

    My husband’s father, Anaclet Gonsalves, was born in Mohamerah in 1921, with his father’s name listed as Alcantara J.P. Gonsalves, and his mother as Merzelina Antonia P. Diaz.

    do you have any more information about the Gonsalves family, or any idea of where such information can be obtained.

    We live in Australia, but are making a trip to India in December, and will be in Goa just before Christmas. If there was a chance to locate further information, historical records, or visit places that would have been part of the Gonsalves family history, it would be good to do so.

    Kind regards,

    Ruth Hills

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