Moses Somake, was born in a Jewish family on June 6, 1875 in Lahore. His family was from Spain and had also lived in Iraq for some time. He passed away on April 6, 1947 in London, by a heart-stroke. Some sources also describe him as an Iraqi Jew but differ as to whether he was born in Iraq or was of Iraqi heritage but born in India. He spent most of his life in Karachi before migrating to England in the mid-1940s.
Moses Somake married Mary Wyse, daughter of Simon Wyse, in 1900 in Karachi. They had five children, Joe, Ellis, Kathleen (Kitty), Victoria (Vicki) and Annabelle (Anna). The couple was usually invited to the Viceroy’s garden parties. They were also of the few who were introduced to the Prince of Wales when he visited India.
No one knows precisely where he learnt his art but it is a known fact that he was a member of the Society of Architects in the first decade of the 20th century.
His portfolio embarks the religious diversity that existed in Karachi in the early 20th century including designing a mosque, a Christian club, and a school for Zoroastrians. He always placed his signature at a reserved spot on all his buildings. Many of the buildings still remain: some, including the Karachi Goan Association Hall and the BVS Parsi School, still fulfill their original purpose, while others are neglected or have fallen into disuse.
Moses gave up his practice of architecture after leaving Karachi, even though he was very young to retire. “He was always designing things and kept his notes and drawings on the shelves of his big roll top desk,” says Doreen Curran and Mary Keizer. The Somake family left Karachi for London in Sept 1922, for higher education of their children. Ellis became an architect and Joe pursued law.
Moses Somake’s granddaughter narrates, “I pulled out the old letter and documents of my grandfather (which are in a briefcase inscribed M.J.H. SOMAKE, M.S.A., ARCHITECT AND C.E.) I also have some correspondence: reference letters from 1893 to 1895 describing M.J.H. Somake, first as an assistant draughtsman, then as draughtsman who can make finished drawings from rough sketches and estimate quantities. It almost looks as if this was all the formal training he had. Unfortunately, none of us knows where he studied architecture.”
“Papa was a kind and caring person and loved to play games with his grandchildren. His house in London was bombed during the World War II. Luckily, he was safe because he had already moved away during the Blitz. Most of his belongings (including many of his papers and designs) were destroyed or badly damaged. He stayed with us in Norwich (where we had evacuated during the war) for some time. After the war, he moved back to London and lived in a hotel. When we returned to London, he came to live with us. He died peacefully on April 6, 1947 in London, from a stroke at our home,” says Doreen.
Edward House was named after Somake’s son Ellis Edward, who later became an architect himself. Ellis studied from London School of Economics (LSE) and University College, London. He was a gifted interior designer.