Joachim Gomez was born in Kilakarai, on May 8th 1886, as the son of Mr. Arokiam Gomez, a sailor and Mrs. Amirthammal Poobalarayee.
Like his father, Mr. Joachim Gomez also became a sailor in the Merchant Navy, soon after school. He passed the exams conducted for Merchant Navy officers in Bombay and earned his Master’s ticket in 1934. He became the Captain of the dredger named ‘Tuticorin’ in the old Tuticorin Port. A dredger is a vessel used for Dredging, equipped with power shovels, to remove excess sand, soil and other material from a sea channel or river bed, to provide sufficient depth for sailing vessels, so that they do not run aground. At that time all ships could reach the shore in the old port, due to regular, efficient dredging.
Captain Joachim Gomez served almost continuously for many years, as a Board Member, in the Turicorin Port Trust, a signal honour, given in recognition of his outstanding service as the Captain of the Dredger. Once a big boat sank in the sea near the harbor, with the cargo. The owner of the boat sought the help of the Port Officer at Tuticorin, to salvage the boat. The port Officer, an Englishman, replied wryly, “If the Captain of the Dredger can do it, let him do it!” Captain Joachim Gomez took up the challenge and worked hard almost non-stop, at the arduous task, for three days and three nights and accomplished what seemed a Herculean labour. The Port Officer was impressed and even considered naming a channel in the new Tuticorin port, after the Captain, as the ‘Captain Joachim Gomez Channel’. But unfortunately, that officer was transferred back to his motherland, England, before he could carry out his intention. Captain Joachim Gomez also died soon after, in Service, after superannuation, and so this did not become a reality.
He had a helpful nature and enabled many individuals and families to advance in life, both by securing jobs for them and by extending monetary help to those in need. He was a benefactor to many, irrespective of caste and creed. He felt he had a special mission to help those who were in sea service. Many seamen, to whom he lent a helping hand professionally, rose up to be Captains. He was compassionate to the aged, the orphaned, the abandoned and the poor. When he saw an aged fruit vendor carrying a heavy basket of fruit in the hot sun, he would buy the whole basket and send him or her home happily. When he died, many street vendors of fruits and vegetables came with their baskets to pay their last respects to the ‘Mavarasan’ who cared for them. At least once a month, he would go to the orphanage and bring about 8 to 10 children home on a Sunday, give them a bath and treat them to a delicious non-vegetarian lunch. As it is said in the Book of Proverbs, 22:9, “Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.”
Captain Joachim Gomez had many talents. He could sing well, dance stylishly and also act well. He was a skilled swimmer, who could dive into the sea, from the sailing ship, keep under water for many minutes, holding his breath, and resurface again, a long distance away from the diving spot. He loved to do acrobatics in the water. One might say, he took to water like a fish.
He married Santhiyagumuthammal D’Almeida and they had nine children. He was an affectionate and responsible husband and father. He loved his children and also disciplined them. He woke up the children at 5 a.m. daily and insisted on daily mass. Among his children Captain Bernard Gomez followed his father’s footsteps and then handed over the baton to his son, Captain Lawrence Gomez. According to his children, Captain Joachim Gomez treated his wife like a queen. They were a devoted couple. Mrs. Gomez continued her husband’s tradition of hospitality. A niece, who lived in Tuticorin from 1953-1956, from age 6 to 9, remembers nostalgically the delicious Sunday lunch which she enjoyed with her mother, at the Gomez home in Kerecope street, once a month or so!
In February 1952, when Captain Joachim Gomez was in service after superannuation, he fell ill due to very high blood pressure. He availed one week’s casual leave, but passed away suddenly, probably due to a massive heart attack on February 11th 1952. The Tuticorin Port declared a holiday on his day of death and remained closed, as a mark of honour to him. The Port Officer, an Englishman, accompanied the cortege till the cemetery and was visibly moved. In his letter of Condolence to the Captain’s widow, the Port Officer wrote, “The world has lost a meritorious Captain par excellence, as great as Vasco-da-Gama and Magellan.” He sent many baskets of flowers as a floral tribute to the Captain.
Captain Joachim Gomez loved India and devoted his time, energy and knowledge for the betterment of the Tuticorin harbor, where his name is still a legend, because of his selfless and devoted service. He was a man of principles, who had good will towards all. He had many favourite sayings and loved to speak in metaphors. One of them was that Opportunity was a swift flying bird, which crossed one’s life rarely and so one should be quick to catch it, when it did. Echoing the poet Longfellow, he used to say, one should lead an outstanding life and leave one’s footprints on the sands of time. Captain A. Joachim Gomez did just that!
(This article is the joint effort of the Children of Captain Joachim Gomez – Miss Xavierammal Gomez, Mr. Thomas Gomez and Miss Mary Gomez, with help in compiling from his niece, Christine.)