Manuel Tavares Bocarro

The Portuguese first arrived here to try to obtain sandalwood from Timor, as this was very much sought after in China, where it could be exchanged for the porcelain and silks that were very much desired in Europe. However, the fierce Timor tribes prevented the Portuguese from building a settlement there. Consequently, they went to Solor to build a safe settlement and harbour for their ships. They first went to Lamakera where there remains a small flat piece of ground at a higher altitude which may have been the site of a small Portuguese redoubt and where there is an old cannon.

At Lamakera, the village has several old Dutch and Portuguese cannons, including one created by the most renown Portuguese cannon maker of the time, Manuel Taveres Bocarro. Bocarro ran a foundry in Macao, situated next to the Bom Parto Fortress in Chunambeiro by Penha Hill, Macau, where he cast cannons and bells in iron and bronze. The foundry produced the cannons for Portugal's settlements in India, Malacca, Japan and apparently Solor and also for places such as the Philippines, China, Vietnam and even for Portugal's rivals and enemies at the time namely, the Dutch, the Spanish and even the British. The output from Bocarro's foundry was a mainstay of Macao's economy during the 17th century. In 1641, it even sent 200 cannons to Lisbon.

The production of cannons and guns in Macau was begun in 1623 by Dom Francisco de Mascarenhas.

The year before, Macau had succeeded in fighting off the VOC which, despite great superiority in numbers, were defeated, when at the command of Batavia Governor General Jan Pieterszoon Coen attacked Macau. The VOC came with 13 ships carrying over 800 men -- including some from the Banda islands -- and attacked the Portugese who were defending Macau with a force of about 150 white and mixed-race Portuguese with an unknown number of black slaves. The attack took place on the 22nd of June 1622. The VOC lost nearly 300 men with 126 wounded and four of their ships were sunk. The commander of the Dutch forces Admiral Cornelis Reijersen was wounded and his replacement, Captain Hans Ruffijn was killed during the fighting. Despite Macau being inadequately fortified, the Portugues only lost four Portuguese, two Spaniards and a small number of slaves. About 20 men were wounded.

According to Dutch and Chinese accounts, the slaves apparently fought extremely fiercely and won the day. The Portuguese freed many of the slaves immediately after the battle as a sign of gratitude. The Chinese haitao (provincial admiral) sent the slaves who had fought 200 piculs of rice.

The Portuguese stronghold of Goa in India realized how important it was to have a permanent representative of the Portuguese crown in Macau. Dom Francisco de Mascarenhas was the first to be appointed to such a post. The attack also made the Portuguese realize how important it was to have a well-fortified town and so the foundry was established the following year. Macao was a good place for a foundry as it could import copper from Japan.

Manuel Tavares Bocarro ran the foundry from 1625 till 1645. Bocarro's father and grandfather had both been cannon makers in Goa but Manuel's were the best. Later, he became governor of Macao from 1657 till 1664.

Bocarro always christened his cannons with the name of a saint. There is another known Bocarro cannon in Indonesia, the famous Si Jagur cannon in Taman Fatahilah. It is said that Si Jagur cannon was named after Sao Tiago de Barra (St James of Barra).

After the VOC attack on Macau in 1622, an artillery battery was erected to defend Macau's inner anchorage. In 1629, this was replaced by a fort called Fortaleza de Sao Tiago da Barra (the Fort St James of Barra). As the fort's bulwarks and batteries were located close to the level of the sea water, and the Portugues were able to close off the channel way for ships to sail, ships were forced to come within range of the fort's cannons, making it very dangerous for them. It is thought that Si Jagur was first placed in this fort and named after its patron saint.

However, in the 17th century, Si Jagur was sent by the Portuguese to help defend the town of Malacca.

It would be interesting to know what the name of Bocarro's cannon in Solor was and how and when it came to Lamakera.
— Tamalia Alisjahbana (2023) "Flores and surrounding islands at Easter : Part IV - Lembata and Solor, whaling and cannons" Independent Observer Vol 06 No 267