Memories From Scottish Missionaries Go Display Capital

Tuesday, 08 June 2010


A record of the experiences and challenges that faced Scottish missionaries setting out across the globe have come together to form a fascinating exhibition at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The public are able to view letters, journals and photographs from several 19th and 20th century missionaries who left Scotland in order to bring Christianity, education and medical knowledge to the far reaches of Africa, Jamaica and India.

The 'Scottish Overseas Missions' display, which opened earlier this month, features material drawn from the Church of Scotland World Mission Council archive and other linked collections. The display is timed to coincide with 'Edinburgh 2010', a conference being held in the city this month to mark the centenary of the World Missionary Conference in 1910.


The display includes a letter from the East India Company granting permission to the Church of Scotland for their first missionary, Alexander Duff, to set up a mission in Bengal 'for the education of the children of the native population'.


Duff reached Calcutta in May 1830, having been shipwrecked twice during his journey, and losing almost all of his library, some 800 books.  Despite such setbacks he went on to make the General Assembly Institution he established in Calcutta one of the finest schools in India.


Martyn Wade, CEO of the National Library of Scotland, said: "The 'Scottish Overseas Missions' display focuses on the overseas missions of the main Scottish Presbyterian churches. The items we have selected for display provide a fascinating insight into the lives of the missionaries who devoted part - or in some cases, all - of their lives in service to the church."


Another key exhibit in the display is the last known letter written by Jane Haining, missionary in Budapest, who died in Auschwitz concentration camp. Haining was matron of the girls' school of the Church of Scotland's Jewish Mission in Budapest, and remained at the school during the war. Shortly after Nazi occupation of Hungary in 1944, Haining was arrested and transferred to Auschwitz. She died in the camp in July 1944, only two days after the letter was written.


Also on display are letters from Mary Slessor.  Born in Aberdeen and a weaver in Dundee's textile mills from the age of 11, Slessor set her sights on mission work and travelled to Calabar (Nigeria) in 1876. Slessor quickly picked up the local Efik language, which she used in negotiations with native chiefs as she moved away from the established mission stations to push further into the interior of the country.


The 'Scottish Overseas Missions' display runs until June 30. For more information on the National Library of Scotland's collections visit


Notes to editors:

'Church of Scotland Overseas Missions' exhibition - below is the full list of items set to go on display at the National Library of Scotland from June 2 to June 30:

Journal of the Calabar Mission, 1849-1850


  • Pamphlets from Old Calabar Mission Press Iquau Abasi; eke Unfongwed, 1851
  • William Anderson, Introduction to English grammar for use of the Old Calabar Mission Schools, 1852


Mary Slessor, missionary in Calabar

  • Letter of Mary Slessor, undated
  • Letter of Mary Slessor, February 1914
  • Photograph of Slessor and some of her children


Statistical atlas of Christian Missions, 1910


Letter, East India Company, 1829


Isabella Plumb, missionary in Sialkot

  • Diary, 1891
  • 'A holiday walking tour in the Himalayas', 1909, and manuscript notes
  • Isabella Plumb with other missionaries and Sialkot staff, c.1910-1920


Dr Graham's Homes, Kalimpong, Eastern Himalayas

  • Statement and subscription book, 1900
  • Letter of Katherine Graham, 23 October 1901
  • Photograph album, Kalimpong, c. 1890s
  • Letter, Everest Expedition, 9 June 1933


Jane Haining, missionary in Budapest

  • Letter, Auschwitz, 15 July 1944
  • Photograph of Jane Haining
  • 'Jewish Mission Quarterly', October 1944
  • McDougall, David. 'Jane Haining' biography


Donald Caskie, minister in Paris

  • Letter from an escapee, 12 June 1941
  • Caskie outside a church, c.1940s
  • Telegrams of Caskie to Church of Scotland
  • Letter from anxious relative, 1 July 1941
  • Identity pass, 1944

Livingstonia Mission


  • Cape Maclear journal, 12 October 1875
  • The Laws family and others, c.1880-1890
  • Livingstonia staff album
  • 'Livingstonia news', 1893


Archibald Clive Irvine & the Chogoria Mission


  • Letter of Archibald Clive Irvine, October 1922
  • 'Chogoria' newsletters, 1930s
  • Photographs and album