Everyone Knows Father Moran

fathermoran© 2006 Brooke Allen
brooke@brookeallen.com www.BrookeAllen.com
Originally published in International Family Magazine

As a young amateur radio operator (ham call sign: N2BA), one of the more interesting people I spoke with on short-wave was Father Moran (ham call sign: 9N1MM). He was born in Chicago in 1906. In 1929 he moved to India. In 1949 he made his first trip to Nepal, which had just opened its borders to foreigners. In 1951 he established a boy’s school a short distance outside of Katmandu and later he was instrumental in setting up additional schools for both boys and girls.

For many years he was the only licensed amateur radio operator in Nepal, and perhaps the most famous in the world (with the possible exception of the late King Hussein of Jordan, call: JY1). I had heard of him from my high school chemistry teacher even before I passed my first ham license exam in 1966. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that I was finally able to crack the inevitable “pile-up” Father Moran would generate whenever he’d appear on the short-wave bands.[1]

In 1979 a friend from work and I decided to take a week off and fly around the world.[2] I decided that it would be my goal to meet Father Moran in person. My friend Jack, (ham call: K2BMI), had met Father Moran a few years earlier on a similar trek.

I asked Jack, “How do I find Father Moran?”

He said, “When you arrive in Katmandu stop anyone and ask, ‘Where is Father Moran?’ Everyone in Nepal knows Father Moran.”

On the other side of Immigration at the airport in Katmandu was a card table to which was taped a hand lettered sign. “Tourist Information.” Behind the table sat a young woman.

I asked, “Where is Father Moran?”

“Ah.” She nodded, and began to unfold a map. She inspected it carefully and then drew a small “X” alongside a road outside of the city.

“Is that where Father Moran has his school?”

“No. That is where you stand at two o’clock this afternoon. It’s Monday and Father Moran goes shopping on Mondays. He will come by this road at a little after two and you just wave him down. He will be driving a blue Volkswagen Beetle. He will take you home.”

“What?” I was flabbergasted. “I don’t want to see him right now. Could you tell me how to find his school on my own?”

“Well, how long will you be in Nepal?”

“Four days.”

“OK. You will want to hire a taxi for your time here. It’s the best way. Just don’t pay more than $20 a day.” She smiled, “Ask your driver to take you to Father Moran. Everyone knows Father Moran.”

Our driver would arrive at the hotel at 5:00 AM and sleep in his taxi until we would wake him and ask to be shown around.

Wednesday morning I asked, “Do you know Father Moran?”

“Of course; everyone knows Father Moran.”

At his school in Godavari, I gave Father Moran the gift I’d brought from the States; a pair of 12JB6 final amplifier tubes for his Drake transmitter. They tend to burn out and they weren’t to be found anywhere in Nepal.

He let me operate his radio and then he invited me to join him for lunch with the other priests.

He asked me to sign his guest book. This was a standard hotel registry with space for perhaps 1,000 entries. I was to sign volume 6. It appeared that my trek was not unique. He had met Edmund Hillary who he helped in becoming oriented to the country before his climb of Everest. Queen Elizabeth II had visited along with King Juan Carlos of Spain (ham call: EA0JC). The entire crew of an Apollo mission visited to present him with a photo of Nepal taken from space. There were thousands of entries from people famous and unknown.

Father Moran died in 1992 after 40 years in Nepal. He seldom left the country that he loved.

If you meet someone from Nepal ask them if they know Father Moran. I know the answer. “Of course; everyone knows Father Moran.” If they are over the age of 30, they have probably met him in person.

You can travel the world to find worthy people, or you can be a worthy person and the world will travel to find you.


How to Leave a Legacy

In June of 2006 I was attending a hedge fund conference outside of London. I would have an entire Sunday, and two weeknights with little to do. I found a group of people on the Internet (www.hospitalityclub.org) who were dedicated to acting as hosts to travelers, providing everything from simple conversation to free accommodations.

I began writing to members with interesting profiles, asking if they might join me for a meal or a drink.

One member, Hem, was from Nepal so I wrote to ask him if he knew Father Moran.

Yes. I know Father Moran. I was a student there in St. Xavier’s School in Godavari, Kathmandu.

Let me know about the suitable time to meet up.

Thanks,

Hem

Even though he died 13 years earlier, everyone still remembers Father Moran.[3] At lunch in London, Hem brought a photograph of his grammar school graduation. There, in the upper left corner stood Father Moran.

It was clear from our brief conversations that Hem was well educated and had good values and habits.

Father Moran’s legacy was fondly remembered for he had done something in common with many other great people.

If you want to be remembered by people, teach them something. If you are really ambitious, start a school.


[1] A “pile-up” is ham slang for a large number of people calling simultaneously.

[2] No, we weren’t rich. We both worked for an airline and we could fly at greatly reduced fares.

[3] You might argue that you’ve never even heard of Father Moran, but by now you have.

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Author: Brooke Allen

A social entrepreneur and retired Wall Street executive.

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