Mary Slessor and Africa

On this day in 1915 one of Scotland’s most famous missionaries, Mary Slessor, died. Her portrait is widely circulated thanks to it being used on the Scottish £10 note issued by the Clydesdale Bank (with a map of Calabar in Nigeria and African missionary scenes on the reverse). As MacKenzie has observed, Slessor is ‘often depicted as one of the principal heroines of missionary endeavour in Africa’, but in public perception she tends to be overshadowed by male missionaries, particularly David Livingstone. Mary was one of a significant number of female missionaries actively engaged overseas, many of whom were supported by societies such as the Greenock Ladies’ Overseas Missionary Association.

Born in early December 1848 near Aberdeen, the Slessor family relocated to Dundee when Mary was still young. It was …

Exploring Africa: Mungo Park

Early September 1771 saw the birth, in Selkirkshire, of one of Scotland’s most famous explorers: Mungo Park. After being apprenticed to a surgeon in Selkirk, Park attended Edinburgh University between 1789-91, receiving a surgical diploma at the end. It was not, however, as a surgeon that Park would leave the most lasting mark, but as an explorer.

It was through his brother-in-law, botanist James Dickson, that Park first met a Sir James Banks – famous for having taken part in James Cook’s first Endeavour voyage. By the time he was introduced to Park, Banks was president of the Royal Society. It was from that position that Banks was able to secure a post as assistant-surgeon for Park aboard the Worcester East Indiaman, which brought Park to Sumatra. …

The Legacy of the Free Church Abroad

On 18 May 1843 a large number of clergy withdrew from the established Church of Scotland – an event that became known as the Disruption of 1843, and led to the foundation of the Free Church of Scotland. The history of the Free Church is intrinsically connected with many a Scottish venture and settlement abroad, but perhaps nowhere more so than with the establishment of Dunedin, Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand. This is the case because Dunedin was organised under the New Zealand Company’s offshoot, the Otago Association, as a Free Church Settlement in 1848, thus bringing a large number of Free Church settlers to the country to build a ‘new Edinburgh’ in the South Seas. Here, and as a direct result of the 1843 Disruption, Scottish …