Papers of Geoffrey Taylor Bull

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains 166 bundles of notes made by Bull throughout his lifetime but primarily from the mid-fifties onwards after his release from captivity and from when he travelled the world to preach about his experiences and his faith. They have been structured according to the order of the Bible chapters, beginning with Genesis and ending with more miscellaneous notes. The notes consist of general observations on a particular topic within the Bible, often used to teach classes or to preach. Also included are related cuttings from magazines or pamphlets distributed at a particular service. There is personal correspondence, for example between Bull and his wife, his children or grandchildren or occasionally friends. This is often about events in Bull's life. Often the notes Bull made were jotted down on whatever he had to hand and as such are frequently written on the back of scraps of paper or cardboard. The notes are not usually dated and as such it is hard to say exactly when Bull wrote a particular piece, but often other items within the bundle give a clue as to its approximate date. The collection also consists of photographs, often kept within photo albums and with captions written by Bull to explain the people and places within them and these are dated. Negatives are also a part of this section, some of which do not have corresponding photographs and are faded. The photos cover a wide period of Bull's years of travelling and begin with his travels through China and Tibet, documenting his missionary work and fellow missionaries along the way. There are also some more personal images of Bull and his young family whilst they lived amongst the community in Borneo. Further, there are 6 annotated Bibles, all with sections which are extensively covered with notes. Finally, the collection also includes some 19 letters of correspondence between the Brethren of Milngavie near Glasgow with various Brethren contacts, amongst these Echoes of Service and The Harvester publications. The collection is therefore a wide and varied source of information for those interested in the Plymouth Brethren, missionaries in China and Tibet during the Chinese invasion of 1950 and missionary activity at home and abroad.

Administrative / Biographical History

Geoffrey Taylor Bull was born and died in Scotland (1921-1999); in life however he spent little time in his home land and travelled extensively around the world thanks to his work as a missionary and his love of travel. Originally intended for a career in banking, Bull was a devout Christian from an early age and soon realised his true calling was missionary work. Bull became captivated especially by the work of Christians in Asia and after World War II travelled to China with his friend George Patterson, himself a famed missionary. For three years Bull, Patterson and another missionary, Bell, studied Tibetan and Mandarin on the borders of Tibet, exploring the area and preaching to its people. In 1950 however circumstances took a turn for the worst as Bull witnessed the last few days of Tibetan independence. It was during this turmoil that Bull was captured by the Chinese and taken prisoner on the basis of being a spy. For the next three years Bull was kept in captivity, at first in solitary confinement, after which he was put through a reform programme which attempted to brainwash him and convert him to communism. Bull later stated that despite the torture he suffered, it was his faith in Christ which kept him strong, and later inspired him to preach about his experiences around the world. In 1953 Bull was finally released by the British consulate and not long afterwards was married, his wife Nan would accompany him on his travels from now on and Borneo was the first destination they visited together. He served here for around ten years, before also spending time in Malaysia and eventually settling in Scotland (both of which are documented in his photograph collection). Bull became an inspiration in Christian circles around the world and was often asked to speak and give talks about his travels and experiences in captivity. In later life however, Bull's health began to wain and in 1989 suffered a violent heart attack from which he was told he only had a small chance of survival. Once again though he defied the odds and his surgeons and pulled through, living for a further ten years in reasonable health until his death in 1999. Bull was attending a service at the time and died following the breaking of the bread sermon.

Arrangement

The Papers have been arranged into the following series:

  • GBP/1 - Papers and Notes of Geoffrey Bull
  • GBP/2 - Photographs
  • GBP/3 - Annotated Bibles
  • GBP/4 - Correspondence

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The collection was deposited with the Christian Brethren Archive by Rev. Alastair Bull, the son of Geoffrey Taylor Bull in 2009.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Accruals

None expected

Related Material

The Christian Brethren collection at the University of Manchester Library holds the Echoes of Service Papers. These contain extensive correspondence between Geoffrey Bull and the staff at the Echoes of Service office in Bath, along with correspondence and newspaper cuttings relating to his period as a prisoner of the Chinese in the early 1950s (GB 133 EOS).

Bibliography

Bull, Geoffrey T., When Iron Gates Yield (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1955).

Bull, Geoffrey T., God Holds the Key (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1960).

Bull, Geoffrey T., The Sky is Red (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1968).

Tatford, Frederick A. That the World May Know, Vol. 7: Asian Giant Awake (Bath: Echoes of Service, 1985).

Grass, Tim, Gathering to his Name (Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2006).