Papers of Alexander Sandilands and Doris Sandilands

Scope and Content

Papers of Alexander and Doris Sandilands relating to the earlier years (1927-1940) of Alexander Sandilands' missionary service in Bechuanaland [Botswana] and South Africa, including correspondence, diaries and photographs. The correspondence primarily consists of personal letters from Alexander Sandilands to his mother, Annie Jane Sandilands, in Scotland, at roughly fortnightly intervals, with occasional letters to other relatives (most notably to Doris Sandilands after her return to Britain in 1937 with the Sandilands' children). The letters, diaries and photographs describe the Sandilands' initial journey to their mission station at Maun, subsequent trips to locations such as Livingstone, Bulawayo and Johannesburg, and the daily work of the missions at Maun, Serowe and Tiger Kloof.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alexander Sandilands MBE (1896-1979) was ordained as a Congregational minister in Christ Church Congregational Church, Friern Barnet in 1926. He was appointed as a London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary to the Bechuanaland Protectorate [Botswana], and sailed there with his wife Doris Sandilands (1902-1990) in September 1926. He was subsequently stationed at the LMS mission stations at Maun in Ngamiland, Bechuanaland in 1926-1931 and 1932-1939; at Serowe, Bechuanaland in 1931-1932; and at Tiger Kloof, South Africa in 1939-1940. In 1941-1946 he served as chaplain to the African Auxiliary Pioneer Corps in the Middle East. He was granted leave of absence for literature preparation in England in 1946-1948, and on his return to Africa was instrumental in establishing the Bible School at Kanye, Bechuanaland, to provide theological education for local church leaders.

In 1956 he was asked by the LMS to begin a revised translation of the Bible into Tswana to commemorate the centenary of Robert Moffat's translation. A revised translation of St Mark's Gospel into Tswana by LMS missionaries led by Alexander Sandilands was published in 1957. Among his other published works during his service with the LMS were A hundred and twenty 'Negro spirituals' selected chiefly with a view to their being used by Africans in Africa (1951); Introduction to Tswana (1953); and a translation of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress into Tswana (1954). Alexander Sandilands retired from the LMS in 1961 and moved with his wife to Canada, where he subsequently became a minister in the United Church of Canada. He was awarded the Royal African Society medal in 1963.

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Custodial History

Donated to SOAS in 2004 by Alexander and Doris Sandilands' son Ian, who organised the collection prior to its donation. In particular, some of the photographs were removed from a series of family photograph albums. The photographs were annotated by Ian Sandilands with numbers reflecting the order in which they were removed, and with the dates of the letters and diary entries which were believed to refer to incidents captured in the photographs. The photographs were then arranged by Ian Sandilands into annual files corresponding to the dates of the related diary entries and letters. Similarly, the letters and diaries were annotated with the numbers of the related photographs, allowing the letters and diaries to be cross referenced to photographs in the corresponding annual files. This arrangement means that a small number of photographs relate to different dates than the dates of the annual files in which they are held: e.g. where a letter referred to an incident that was photographed at an earlier date. Some of the photographs are later reproductions made by Ian Sandilands.

Related Material

Papers relating to Alexander Sandilands are held in the archives of the London Missionary Society (part of the Council for World Mission collections) held in Special Collections at SOAS, including correspondence between Alexander Sandilands and the London Missionary Society, reports from Sandilands, and photographs taken by or about Sandilands. For further information, see the lists of CWM/LMS South Africa incoming and outgoing correspondence for 1927-1940; South Africa files in the Council for World Mission accessions for 1941-1950 and 1951-1960; and reports and photographs catalogued on the SOAS Special Collections database. See also the SOAS Library catalogue for books in the SOAS Library authored or translated by Sandilands. Letters relating to Alexander Sandilands' service as a chaplain during the Second World War are held in the archives of the United Congregational Church of Southern African in Johannesburg.