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The Martyres of Blantyre
Appendix II. Minute of General Assembly on the Deaths of Missionaries at Blantyre


The Church’s sense of the loss sustained by the death of those missionaries is expressed in the following :—

Minute of General Assembly as to the Deaths of Missionaries at Blantyre.

At Edinburgh, the ist day of June 1891, Which day the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland being met and constituted, inter alia,—The General Assembly having been informed by its Foreign Mission Committee of the death at Blantyre on 10th November of the Rev. Robert Cleland; the death at Blantyre on 13th January of Mrs. Henry Henderson; the death at Blantyre on 17th January of Dr. John Bowie; the death at Quilimane on 12th February of Mr. Henry Henderson,— desires to record in its Minutes a tribute of respect to those greatly lamented missionaries, an extract thereof to be sent to the relatives of the deceased.

Mr. Robert Cleland was born in Coatbridge in 1857, and served an apprenticeship as an engineer. In his twenty-first year he decided to study for the ministry, with the view of becoming a missionary in Africa. lie was ordained in St. George’s Church, Edinburgh, on 29th May 1887, and sailed from London on 9th June following. During his short career of less than three and a half years in Africa he founded the mission-station of Chirazulo and was pioneer missionary to Mount Milanje. In addition to his own work, he took charge of Domasi Mission for sixteen months, making good roads and bringing in good water, while at the same time labouring with singular consecration as a missionary. He was on a tour of inspection on Mount Milanje when he was seized with the fever from which, five days afterwards, he died at Blantyre.

Mr. John Bowie, M.B., C.M., was the son of an esteemed citizen of Edinburgh, and was a very distinguished student at the University of that city, carrying off the gold medals in Physiology, Natural History, Practice of Medicine, &e. He had entered on a London practice, and was rising into eminence, when he made up his mind to devote his life to mission-work in Africa, joining his brother-in-law, the Kev. D. 0. Scott, B.D., at Blantyre. He went out to Africa early in the summer of 1887, accompanied by Mrs. Bowie. His great skill as a physician and surgeon and his true missionary spirit made him a pillar of strength to the African Mission, and his death is deeply deplored alike by Europeans and natives. Always kind and ready to encounter every danger in the path of duty, he died of diphtheria, contracted in an attempt to save the life of his sister’s infant son by sucking the tracheotomy tube when the child was dying of that disease.

Mrs. Henry Henderson, born Harriet Bowie, sister of Dr. Bowie and of Mrs. D. C. Scott, was married and went out to Africa not much more than two years ago. Of a bright and happy nature, with a deep under-current of religious life, and as able as she was earnest, she was peculiarly fitted for the duties of a missionary’s wife. She also died of diphtheria, after the death of her only child. Before she died, Dr. Bowie, then himself very ill, rose from bed and relieved her sufferings, though he could not save her life, by performing the operation of tracheotomy with all his usual skill.

Mr. Henry Henderson was a son of the late minister of the parish of Kinclaven, and passed through a full Arts course at the University of Edinburgh. He was for some time in Australia, and there a career was opened to him which would probably have led to wealth. But when the Church of Scotland proposed to undertake an African Mission, he volunteered to be pioneer missionary; and to him is due the selection of the comparatively healthy Shire Highlands, now included in the British protectorate, and forming a stronghold from which the country can be evangelised and civilised. Bereft of wife and child, he set out for Europe, taking charge of Mrs. Bowie and Miss Beck, and reached Qnilimane apparently in good health. But there he became ill of fever on 9th January, and died four days afterwards.

Of those good and brave missionaries who have thus died in the mission-field, it can truly be said that there was not a thought of self in any one of them; and by laying down their precious lives for Africa, they have pledged the Church of Scotland to prosecution of their noble enterprise.

The Assembly expresses its deepest sympathy with tho widowed mother of Mr. Cleland; with Mrs. Bowie, senior, so sorely bereaved of her children; with the widow and young daughter of Dr. John Bowie; with Mrs. David Clement Scott; and with the other sorrowing relatives, and commends them all to the keeping of Almighty God.

Extracted from the Records of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland by me,

Wm.. Milligan, C. Eccles. Scot.


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