Papers of T. Ralph Morton

Scope and Content

The collection includes: correspondence to the Morton family; correspondence to Robert and Dorothy MacKie; notes by Morton; and a manuscript of China the Teacher by Morton, recounting his work in and experience of China.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Ralph Morton (known as Ralph), Presbyterian Church in Ireland missionary to Manchuria, China, was born in Scotland in 1900. He studied in Glasgow (United Free College subsequently Trinity College, 1922-25) and was an active member of various student Christian groups such as the Student Christian Movement. He became a great friend of Robert Mackie (1899-1984) who was later a prominent figure on the Scottish ecumenical movement. T. Z. Koo, the leader of the Chinese Student Christian Movement, visited Britain in 1924 and invited Morton, with R. O. Hall, later Bishop of Hong Kong, to go to China.

Morton arrived in China in 1925 and was at first based in Beijing for language training. He moved to Moukden in Manchuria in 1926 where he worked with the Young Men's Christian Association and then on to Jilin in 1927. His work was mainly concerned with teaching and working with Chinese students; he spent much time travelling around the area, trying to build networks of student movements and attending conferences, but he was also involved in more general mission work such as bible teaching, taking services and attending mission councils.

Morton became engaged to Jenny Baird (born 1901) in early 1926 who was at that time working for the United Free Church in Bombay. They were married when Morton was home for a brief leave in 1927 and she returned with him to China where she helped with his work and did some teaching herself. The Mortons moved from Jilin to Xinmin in 1929 where Morton took on the more general duties of a district missionary. They remained at Xinmin with a period of leave in 1931 and six months in Peking in 1934 while Morton taught at the university.

The Japanese occupation and increasing persecution of Chinese Christians and the authorities' mistrust of foreigners persuaded the Mortons that they should leave China and they returned to the UK in 1937. Morton served as minister of St Columba's in Cambridge until 1943 when he moved to Glasgow to become warden of the Iona Community House. In 1950 he became deputy leader of the Iona Community, a position he held until he retired in 1967. During the 1950s and 1960s he also lectured in sociology at New College, Edinburgh and he was awarded a DD by Glasgow University in 1963. Morton was the author of many articles and books and he continued writing and preaching after his retirement until his death in 1977.

Access Information

Open to researchers. It is essential to arrange an appointment in advance to view the archive in order that someone can be available to help. Please contact us by email at Telephone the Centre on: 0131 650 8900. Postal address: Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh School of Divinity, New College, Mound Place, Edinburgh, EH1 2LX

Acquisition Information

The collection was presented to the Centre by the Morton family. The manuscript China the Teacher was presented to the Centre by the author.

Other Finding Aids

A paper finding aid is available to researchers visiting the Centre.

Archivist's Note

Description originally written and researched by Caroline Brown in May 2001. This had been added to Archives Hub in August 2012 by Louise Williams.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction of materials (for example by digital camera) is free for private research and educational use, although we ask researchers to sign an agreement. Please contact us for enquiries on using the material in a commercial setting, for which there will be a fee. Contact us by email at Telephone the Centre on: 0131 650 8900. Postal address: Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh School of Divinity, New College, Mound Place, Edinburgh, EH1 2LX.


We do not expect more material to be added to this collection.

Geographical Names