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three pairs of lovers with space

MICHAEL DAVIDSON IN RANGOON, 1949

 

The following story was recounted by the English boysexual journalist Michael Davidson in his autobiography The World, the Flesh and Myself, published by Arthur Barker of London in 1962. He elaborated considerably on the romance described in the chapter “Rangoon” of his later memoir of his Greek love affairs, Some Boys.

Davidson arrived in Rangoon in April 1949, aged fifty-two, being sent there to cover the Karen war against the government of newly-independent Burma, and stayed about two months.[1]

 

Maung Tay Ba and Michael Davidson at the Schwedagon Pagoda, 1949

And I, in 1949, was there [in Burma] as a journalist: a few blissful months in the company of the gentlest of boy 'bearers', Maung Té-hung,[2] who taught me to take flowers and candles to the lovely gods of the Shwé-Dagon, while he daintily performed the prettiest devotions. The memory, inerasable, of that small brown sobbing figure in its chequered lungyi, waving, wavering, meltingly abandoned on the Rangoon River jetty when I left, still brings back my own flooding tears which so astonished my companions in that beastly seaplane.  […]

Earlier in this story I've mentioned Maung Té-hung: my small, brown, loving companion for all my Burmese stay. We used to go out to the broad silvered lagoons north of Rangoon; chartering a small sampan, bathing and basking on the long slim banks of sand; we spent long contemplative hours among the gilded Buddhas of the great and wonderful Shwé Dagon pagoda, where the yellow-robed boy monks ate their rice among the golden gods and Maung Té-hung offered flowers to his favourite idol. When I moved into a room at the Pegu Club he came with me; none of the members—English civil servants working for the new State, senior employees of Burmah Oil, a bank manager perhaps—seemed to consider it odd. Thinking now, as I often do, of that enchanting and good boy, I feel a fraud: how could a man as selfish as I, one so generally unworthy, have been granted the sweet devotion that Maung Té-hung so unstintingly gave? …

The Pegu Club, Rangoon

 

[1] A document of the British security services (National Archives  (KV 2/2975/1), says Davidson arrived in Rangoon from Calcutta on 23 April and left it for Singapore on 26 June. Hence he must have spent about two months with Tay Ba.
    The same security services documents says "it seems that he was particularly attached to Chinese youths in Rangoon [...] and doubtless will enjoy his stay in Singapore."
    The security services said they had the support of the police in Rangoon in keeping him under observation for suspected communism. They had been warned of his intended visit by the Burmese embassy in New Delhi and had subjected him to a thorough search and investigation on arrival. The security services' observations about him with boys are apparently only incidental. All they had to report of him politically was that the Oriental Secretary in the British Embassy saw him and said he "struck him as being quite definitely Communist and he made biting references to the ' "fascist" Daily Mail' who were trying to re-introduce British imperialism into Burma."

[2] In Some Boys, Davidson calls the boy Maung Tay Ba. His name was most likely Htay Aung (ဌေးအောင်); Htay Ba does not correspond to any widely-used Burmese name. Burmese people do not use surnames, so this would have been the only name he had. Maung (မောင်) is a courtesy title for a male from birth until approximately twenty years old; it can also form part of a male given name, though probably not in this case as two-syllable names were the custom at the time of Davidson's visit.