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Percival: an encyclopedia of Portuguese history of Goa

By Prajal Sakhardande

Percival Noronha, a walking talking encyclopedia of Portuguese history of Goa, has passed away. Percival, to us, was a ready reckoner on Panaji’s and Old Goa’s history in specific. And that is lost now. He was not a trained historian in the academic sense yet his deep interest and involvement in the tourism sector made him a master of the realm of Goa’s history and heritage during the Portuguese rule.

As secretary of the Indian Heritage Society, Goa Chapter, he, in his own way, created awareness of many a historical site to the local and foreign delegates on visit to Goa. I remember my first introduction to him while I was a student pursuing my masters in history at the Goa University wherein my erudite professor Dr Pratima Kamat had invited him to conduct for us the Old Goa Heritage Walk and Noronha made a very informative presentation on the history and heritage of Goa. Professor Pratima Kamat and Percival Noronha are my earliest inspirations in this field.

Many times, I requested Noronha to bring out books on Panaji and Old Goa and Portuguese Goa’s history. Unfortunately, inspite of his huge body of knowledge in this field, he never sat down to do that. He was always generous in giving us information about history. I remember he was a great help while we were saving the historical gunpowder millstones. He was a pioneer in laying the foundation of the branch of Indian Heritage Society, Goa chapter, along with stalwarts such as Vaman Sardesai in the early 80s. Apart from his deep interest in history, he was equally interested in astronomy. He founded the Friends of Astronomy Society in Goa and created awareness of astronomy amongst youngsters, especially school students.

I would describe Percival as an agnostic. He carried a sense of nostalgia about the Portuguese era. Hailing originally from Divar island, he lived in the Latin Quaint Quarters of Fontainhas and it was a conclave for many a researcher and curious students of history. I remember his letters to me regarding my articles in this paper. He corrected if we made an error in history writing. A bachelor, he lived a simple life and made himself available to students and researchers as and when called for. He drove his car till the recent years. He was a pioneer in the carnival celebrations too in the 60s. He was a friend of our Goa Heritage Action Group. I offer him my humble tribute on behalf of all students of history in Goa and abroad. We will miss him.  

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