BROWNSTOWN & TANZANIA, 4
January 2001: by
“I suddenly realised I
was in trouble.”
For some moments, Dan Noud had been distracted by the
intense stare from the man who’d turned and looked at him as
he made his way through a crowded market in Dar Es Salaam.
“There was something very odd about his eyes, and then I
became aware that another man was hovering to my
left,” the Brownstown-born Pallotine missionary recalls. “It
was then I looked down, and saw the knife ...”
it was already probably too late, Dan swung his
shoulder bag in front of his stomach as the man with the
staring eyes lunged his blade forward. There was a
ripping sound, then a metallic one, and Dan fell backwards
with the force of the attack, shouting to two African
friends who were walking a little way in front.
“I should have been dead,” he remembers. “Ordinarily,
what I’d have in the bag wouldn’t have stopped the blade.
But for some reason, when I was leaving home to go to
Dar Es Salaam that week, I had gone back to pick up a
picture of my mother. It was the metal frame that
caught the point of the knife.”
To this day, that picture of Dan’s dead mother is an even
more treasured possession than it had been, now with
cuts from the deflected knifepoint. He is convinced that it
was her intervention from beyond the grave that saved
Anyone listening to Dan Noud tell of his adventures
in the African bush would have to believe that there is
indeed a divine presence watching over him. After
almost 40 years working mostly in Tanzania, he is
physically wracked from illness and injuries, he is
often mentally exhausted with the effort of keeping
his work going on a stipend of Ł130 a month, and he has
brushed with death more often than he cares to remember.
‘home’ is two metal freight containers placed on top
of each other, the top ‘storey’ being his living quarters,
the bottom one a store for scarce medical and other
necessities and an ‘office’ to meet with people who want his
In the meantime, with the help of many of those same people,
he is building a school which will probably also act
as a dispensary.
It’s the third, or maybe the fourth time he has done
this. Every time he has completed a project, be it a small
hospital or a school, and it has become self-sufficient in a
growing African community, he has moved on to start again.
Somewhere further out in the bush, places which many of the
rest of us would describe as ‘God-forsaken’.
But Dan sees beauty and God in the most desperate
of places and direst of conditions. And maybe he
perversely finds it easier to do so there than back at home
in Ireland, where he sees mostly a stifled Church.
Maybe reflected in the fact that he will often be given a
spontaneous round of applause after ‘preaching’ a homily
in a local Kildare church while home on leave.
Certainly, not many of the home-based priests have to
deliver babies on the side of a dirt road, drive
badly mauled victims of big cat attacks up to 200 miles
to hospital, or give emergency treatment to a
syphilis-ridden ‘parishioner’ on the kitchen table before
Not too many of them suffer from recurring malaria -
an endemic illness which kills annually four times as
many Africans as does AIDS and which regularly has brought
Dan himself to death’s door. Few, I suppose, would have had
to carry the top of their finger 150 miles to have it
sewn back on after it was lopped off by a closing car door.
That last didn’t work so well, and after six months of
complications, including gangrene, they finally
had to amputate Dan’s finger completely. Now he can’t
even type easily, because the operation left other fingers
permanently crooked. Which is a pity, because Dan’s
stories should be preserved, if only to show the
strength of faith in adversity. And sometimes the opposite.
Africa can be a very
unforgiving environment, and mortality is high.
Privation is the order of pretty well every day, and Dan
Noud could long ago have been forgiven if he’d
decided he’d done his bit and come home to an easier life.
But it won't be so, because ‘home’ is now where he’s
spent the last four decades. Brownstown, where he was
born and where his family have lived for generations, is not
where he’ll retire to.
Because, while the environment and the life can be
unforgiving, the people of Africa have a special
place in Dan’s heart. And he in theirs. “When I’m
old, they’ll look after me,” he told me. “When I die,
Africa is where I want to be buried.”
Dan Noud has spent many tens of thousands of pounds
in his endeavours, but rarely has a penny to his own
name. Friends in County Kildare have for many years
responded to his calls for help, raising money for
his projects, finding him a 4WD vehicle or - the last
time he was home - a motorcycle, so he can get around
(The bike was part of a fairly recent close encounter
with the Grim Reaper, when, after discharging himself
from hospital, he fell asleep while riding home and
woke up in the trees beside the bent Suzuki.)
He sometimes ‘does the
rounds’ of wealthier parts of the world, preaching on
occasion in the US to raise funds, and he is appreciative of
financial help that comes from a number of European
sources, including German aid organisations.
And though he has spent most of his life away, he
still keeps in touch with Ireland every night, via
the short-wave transmissions from RTE of edited
versions of radio programmes here. A small radio, a gift
from a friend, is his only ‘luxury’.
It makes you think, doesn’t it? Especially at this
time of the year.
Dan Noud can be contacted at SCP 178 Kateshi, via
Arusha, Tanzania, East Africa. In the meantime, a number
of fundraising functions are planned for the near future in
Newbridge. Donations can be made to a special bank account
in Kilcullen under the name of TOIL, a group of people who
give Dan Noud a dig out when they can.
Do what you can,
because divine intervention is OK, but is best saved for