Miguel Caitano Dias - the last general of Goa
by Bailon de Sa
We are observing the 150th birth abniversary of the great
master surgeon, General Dr Miguel Caitano Dias on July 9.He was the last General of Goa and belonged to the Portugues Medical
Crosp. Born in a simple home, he had an insatiable desire to study but had no material resources to fulfill his ambition.
His elder brother, Major Santana Dias, a pharmacist, came to his rescue and took him to Portugal where young Miguel registered
his name in the faculty of medicine of the University of Lisbon.
Despite tremendous odds, he finished his course with
distinction and was immediately assigned to the military medical cadre of Mozambique. He spent five years there till the end
of 1887. While in Mozambique where medical and surgical facilities were either non-existent or minimal, he saved the life
of a Portugues official by amputating his gangrenous leg.
In 1888, he was transferred to Goa where began his meteoric
rise. He was promoted to the rank of Major and in the same year to Lieutenant Colonel. He was appointed chief of health services,
director of the Medical School of Goa and raised to Colonel in 1906. He retired as General in 1913.
The Portugues government bestowed on him several honours
and medals. From the Queen of Portugal, D Amelia, he received the silver medal for his work in India, and another military
silver medal for exemplary behaviour, and praised for his zeal, courage and dedication in exterminating the bubonic plague
that ravaged Panjim in 1908.
Menezes Braganza who, normally, is not very lavish in
praise of others, had said, “yet as he attained a position of prestige and eminence, he hid not take pride in it, as
he was fully aware of the obstacles he had to overcome to open a triumphant way in life. He did not boast like a parvenu.
Life among the great did not dazzle him. He remained always the same - simple, ingenuous, unaffected before the great and
the and small, perhaps he lacked the superficial varnish of behaviour that many use to conceal hidden malice, the studied
smile that often hides simulated revenge - all this that deceive the poor of spirit.”
Dr Dias was probably the greatest surgeon that Goa produced.
His judgment and prognosis of any ailment was so precise and accurate that his colleagues never contested it and the patient
was reassured of his state of health.
He had the “healing touch”. So great was
the prestige that Dr Dias enjoyed among his students, colleagues and the general public that they erected a monument in the
medical school during his lifetime. He was a mayor of Panjim municipality and president of the first Provincial Congress of
If attendance at the funeral of an individual is an indication
of his worth and popularity, the records of that time show that the funeral of Dr Dias was a veritable apotheosis. From the
Governor General and the patriarch to the humblest citizen - they all came to pay their homage to the great General - Medico
Miguel Caetano Dias. Never such funeral was witnessed in Goa.
Dr Froilano de Mello in his speech delivered at the cemetery
in St Estevam said, “on his express which he is laid in the humble grave of his native village, the son who ennobled
it most, Dr Miguel Caetano Dias.”
The end of Dr Miguel Caetano Dias was like that of a
lamp that is extinguished after a long and serene journey of glory and suffering. Storms were not lacking on his way. But
putting them aside with stoical resignation and conquering them with firmness, he had during his life the great reward that
God reserves for those who know how to live well doing good: a tranquil and enviable longevity.
There is still one person, at the moment, who deserves
our deep sympathy - his widow, the virtuous companion who, being a person of reminded sensibility, shared with him, in the
peace of their home more his sufferings than his glories.
Incomparable mother she will find in the love of her
children whom she brought up, solace in the pain of the separation of the companion of her youth and old age. For her our
homage, the homage of colleagues and students of her unforgettable spouse.”