Presbyterian Church of England Foreign Missions Committee: Malaya/Singapore

Scope and Content

Correspondence, minutes, papers, printed materials and photographs

Administrative / Biographical History

For many years there was only one EP missionary working in this area, John Bethune Cook who was appointed in 1881. "For over forty years Cook combined all the missionary roles, pioneer, preacher, pastor, propagandist and administrator….For long periods Cook was on his own, and at the best of times had only one or two Chinese-speaking missionary colleagues….When he retired in 1925 the missionary presence was limited to the Malay-speaking William Murray who looked after Keasberry's former Malay chapel and one Swatow [Shantou] - speaking WMA missionary Margaret Dryburgh."

Following a deputational visit in 1931 the Foreign Missionary Committee decided to strengthen the missionary team in Singapore by transferring two missionaries from China, the educationist, A.S.M. Anderson and the Revd T.C. Gibson. A visit to Singapore by the Chinese Evangelist, Dr Soong, in 1935 led to an increase in Church attendance and membership. By 1936 there were 19 congregations with a total membership of 1,362. Educational work also expanded. Further missionary recruits arrived in 1937 and in 1941 following the withdrawal of missionaries from Formosa. At the time of the fall of Singapore there were six EP missionaries, two men and four women. Of these the two men and one woman survived but the remaining three, Ann Livingstone, Margaret Dryburgh and Sabine Mackintosh died in Japanese camps.

After the war schools were re-opened and Presbyterians, Anglicans and Methodists united in 1948 to found Trinity Theological College, Singapore which later became one of the leading theological colleges in Asia. Various denominations also joined to form the Malayan Christian Council. The departure of missionaries from China in 1950 to 1951 meant that many were available for missionary service elsewhere and the Synod of the Church of Malaya invited a number to serve in Singapore and Malaya. These included not just Presbyterians but also missionaries from the London Missionary Society, the Society of Friends and the Reformed Church of America. During the period of guerrilla warfare in the 1950s the Government moved people into "new villages" and several missionaries were involved in Christian work in these villages. In 1957 the federation of Malaya became independent, Singapore followed in 1959. The federation of Malaysia was formed in 1962. In the following year Singapore, with its largely Chinese society, left the federation and became a separate state.

[Passage in quotes taken from George Hood, "1947 and all that". See also, George Hood, "Malaya the challenge".

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