The collection consists of nineteen letters from Scott to his close friend the Reverend James Robertson written mainly from Blantyre, Nyasaland (Malawi) from the time of his arrival in 1881 to 1895, the year in which his wife and brother died. They describe in some detail the work of the mission and his experiences in Africa.
Papers of David Clement Ruffell Scott (1853-1907)
- This material is held at
- ReferenceGB 237 Coll-223
- Dates of Creation1881-1895
- Language of MaterialEnglish.
- Physical Description1 file.
- LocationGen. 717/10
- Direct Link
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
David Clement Ruffell Scott, Church of Scotland missionary in Malawi and Kenya, was born in Edinburgh in 1853. He attended school in Edinburgh then spent some time working in an actuary's office before a calling to the church led him to study Arts and Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. He was a brilliant student graduating M.A. (1878) and B.D. (1881). Scott was ordained in 1881 and immediately sent to be head of the Church of Scotland mission at Blantyre in Nyasaland (now Malawi). He was responsible for virtually restarting the mission as all the previous staff had either resigned or been dismissed. Scott was a brilliant linguist, his interest in African culture and closeness to African people can be seen from his Cyclopaedic Dictionary of the Mang'anja Language (1892). Much of the periodical Life and Work in Central Africa between 1886 and 1898 was written by Scott. His efforts created a mission that was regarded as highly successful. Scott suffered a series of personal setbacks in 1895 with the deaths of his wife, brother-in-law and brother, and later of the daughter of his second wife. This, coupled with the Church of Scotland's decision to side with white settler critics, led him to resign in 1898. In 1901 Scott returned to Africa, to head the Kikuyu mission in British East Africa (Kenya) which had just been taken over by the Church of Scotland. However his work at Kikuyu was not as successful as his work at Blantyre. The death of his second wife in 1902, a series of illnesses, and criticism of his methods of running the mission marred the final years of his life. Despite this, his ability to relate to Africans remained unchanged and he attracted a number of outstanding Kikuyus to the mission. Scott died at Kikuyu on 13 October 1907.
The letters are arranged chronologically in one file.
Conditions Governing Access
Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.
The papers were presented to Edinburgh University in 1964 by the Reverend Neil Bernard of Edinburgh.
The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Anderson, Gerald H. (ed.). Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998. (2) Macpherson, Robert. The Presbyterian Church in Kenya. Nairobi: Presbyterian Church of East Africa, 1970.
Compiled by Caroline Brown, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division. Revised by Graeme D Eddie.
Other Finding Aids
Alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. The collection is mentioned in the Edinburgh University Library subject checklist (C3) Manuscripts on Africa.
Alternative Form Available
Edinburgh University Library Special Collections has a microfilm of the collection (Mic. Dup. 405). A copy was sent to the Kenyan High Commission in 1982 and the National Archives of Malawi in 1984.
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for details.