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The legacy of George Leslie Mackay.

George Leslie Mackay (1844-1901) was among the most remarkable missionaries of the late Victorian era. During his three decades in Taiwan (1871-1901), he received little substantive assistance from other Canadian missionaries yet, at the time of his death, left a community of more than 2,400 baptized communicants and a much larger body of regular hearers who attended more than sixty churches led by full-time native preachers. (1) Mackay (pronounced "muh-KIGH') established a hospital, a school for girls, and "Oxford College," his training center for native church leaders. Just as important, as one of only three known missionaries in nineteenth-century China to have married an indigenous spouse, he left behind descendents who continued to play leading roles in Taiwan's Presbyterian Church after his death.

Mackay's achievements have been largely overlooked by modern historians of mission. During his lifetime, however, Canadian publications hailed him as one of the greatest evangelists since the apostolic age. (2) In Taiwan, where Christians constitute roughly 5 to 6 percent of the populace, George Leslie Mackay remains a widely known folk hero. Every day thousands of people pass by wall-size photographs of Mackay and his students at Taipei's Mackay Memorial Hospital, one of the most respected medical facilities in the island. In 2001 the government in Taiwan issued a commemorative postage stamp to mark the centenary of his death. Presbyterian youth groups can be spotted wearing T-shirts bearing Mackay's likeness, along with his motto, "It is better to burn up than rust out." Christian parents can read children to sleep with tales of Mackay printed in cartoon storybooks, while a seemingly endless stream of newspaper articles, art prints, postcards, posters, wall calendars, mugs, and medallions recalls his life. Preachers in Taiwan frequently draw upon his book, From Far Formosa (1895), for sermon illustrations, and politicians have appealed to his memory to promote various agendas.

Indeed, the legendary Mackay at times threatens to eclipse the historical missionary. As the Canadian who became "the son-in-law of Taiwan," Mackay has served as a useful icon for Taiwanese nationalism, a symbol of the warm ties binding the island to the Western democracies. (3) Christians in Taiwan often invoke him, with little historical justification, as the one who brought democratic ideals to Taiwan, a champion of the rights of Taiwan's tribal indigenes, and an early proponent of Taiwanese independence. The actual complex history of his career deserves to be better known, not only by scholars of mission, but also by Taiwanese Christians in search of a usable past.

Childhood and Education

George Leslie Mackay was born March 21, 1844, in Zorra Township, Upper Canada, the youngest of six children of George and Helen Sutherland Mackay. His parents had emigrated to Canada in 1830 from Dornoch in Sutherlandshire, Scotland, an area reeling from the harsh Highland Clearances. Sutherland was a hotbed of evangelical dissent from the Church of Scotland. The common folk flocked to revivals sparked by Na Daoine ("the Men"), itinerant Gaelic lay preachers who called upon the people to be born again and who prophetically attacked landlords and ecclesiastical moderates for their injustice against the poor. Common people listened also to controversial evangelical ministers of the established Kirk, such as the fiery John MacDonald, the so-called Apostle of the North, who often visited Dornoch on his missionary journeys. (4)

Most Zorra settlers were displaced Highlanders with strong evangelical leanings. The Mackays and their neighbors clung tightly to their religious traditions. For many years they continued to use Gaelic at home and in worship, and the "family altar" was a central part of their routine. Mackay later recollected the importance of daily prayer and worship with his parents, and especially the influence of his mother, who taught him the Westminster Shorter Catechism by heart while he was still a small child. In 1834 a zealous evangelical named Donald McKenzie received ordination from the Presbytery of Glasgow as a missionary to Canada. The Gaelic-speaking McKenzie settled in Zorra in 1835, where until 1872 he shepherded one of Canada's largest Presbyterian congregations while continuing to perform missionary duties in nearby counties. Under his leadership Knox Church in Embro became something of a "school for prophets." During the course of his long pastorate, McKenzie watched nearly fifty young men from his congregation enter the ministry as pastors or missionaries, among them George Leslie Mackay, whose father served the congregation as a ruling elder for twenty-five years. (5)

Mackay was only a few months old when his family followed McKenzie into the Free Church of Canada. Although the ecclesiastical disputes that divided the church in Scotland did not exist in Upper Canada, the evangelical leanings of the settlers led them to sympathize strongly with the Scottish dissenters. Missionaries from the Free Church of Scotland, such as Robert Burns of Paisley and his nephew, the revivalist William C. Burns, soon visited Zorra, where the people generously contributed funds to support the Free Church back home. Burns became Mackay's childhood hero, and the Mackay family closely followed his career after he went to China as a missionary of the English Presbyterian Church. (6) By the age of ten the young George Leslie Mackay had decided that he, too, would become a missionary.

Mackay attended Knox College in Toronto from 1864 to 1867. Knox professors conceived of the school as a missionary institution for training evangelists. Mixing evangelical piety and Scottish Common Sense philosophy, the Knox curriculum stressed Scripture, biblical theology, and natural science as the essential elements of Christian higher education. Knox students learned that sound scientific methods inevitably support the authority of the Bible, and that knowledge of natural science is vital to effective evangelism. Classmates later remembered Mackay as a serious scholar. He especially relished geography, geology, and natural science and participated in the Knox Literary and Scientific Society, which met monthly to present essays and debate controversial topics. (7) As a missionary, Mackay drew heavily upon his Knox experience as he built his own training school for native preachers, modeling his lessons upon the Knox curriculum and incorporating the lyceum format of the Literary and Scientific Society into his own teaching methods.

From 1867 to 1870 Mackay attended Princeton Seminary, at the time a favorite choice for North American Presbyterians planning careers as foreign missionaries. At Princeton he became devoted to Charles Hodge and participated in the Committee of Inquiry, a student organization that investigated mission theories and sponsored visiting missionaries from around the world. Mackay later recalled how he "ransacked" the library's collection of mission books and heard missions debated "a thousand different ways" during these years. (8)

Upon graduation he offered his service to the Canada Presbyterian Church as a foreign missionary and then sailed for Scotland to meet another boyhood hero, Alexander Duff. During the winter of 1870-71 Mackay sat through Duff's historic lectures on evangelistic theology and often visited Duff's home. He also studied Hindustani and considered offering himself to the Scottish or American Presbyterians as a missionary to India. (9) In April 1871, however, he received instructions from the Committee on Missions in Canada to return home to receive ordination. On June 14,1871, the General Assembly of the Canada Presbyterian Church, meeting in Quebec, appointed him their first overseas missionary, with instructions to choose a field in China in consultation with the English Presbyterian missionaries in Amoy. Weeks later, a seasick Mackay was bound for the Orient on the steamer America. Except for two furloughs, in 1880-81 and 1893-94, he would spend the remainder of his life in Taiwan, dedicated to the task of building an indigenous church led by native preachers.

Mackay later honored William C. Bums, Charles Hodge, and Alexander Duff by naming chapels in Taiwan In their memory. Assessing their precise influence upon his missionary work, however, is difficult, for Mackay never committed his own missiological principles to writing in any systematic fashion. In 1877 and 1890 he characteristically skipped the important Shanghai missionary conferences held by Protestant missionaries in China, and throughout his life he showed a marked aversion to correspondence with other missionaries. Even in his private journals he rarely engaged in theological reflection, leaving us in many cases to read between the lines and to conjecture about his ideas.

Still, a few significant influences clearly stand out. First, the blend of evangelical piety and Baconian science that suffused his early years stayed with him. (10) Mackay was a lifelong amateur naturalist who invested a great deal of energy teaching his students the rudiments of geology, zoology, anatomy, and botany as an essential component of their evangelistic work. Mackay always insisted that the argument from design was the most effective way to convince Chinese people of a sovereign God, and that evangelistic preaching ought to begin with the doctrine of creation.

Second, while never formally disavowing Presbyterianism, Mackay always exhibited the characteristics of a religious dissenter who placed his own sense of God's will ahead of denominational loyalty. Throughout his career he exhibited a fierce independence from the mission committee in Canada, and he consistently opposed establishing formal Presbyterian government in Taiwan as an unnatural "accretion" that should not be forced upon converts by foreign ecclesiastical authorities. His personal scrapbook suggests that he identified with such diverse evangelists as William Booth, De Witt Talmage, and Dwight L. Moody, men more renowned for achieving spectacular results as preachers and organizers than as theologians. (11)

Third, Mackay, like Duff, regarded the training of native clergy as his single most important task, and he repeatedly declared that only Chinese Christians could build a church in China. But unlike Duff, who targeted upper-caste Indian youth and emphasized the importance of rigorous Western education, Mackay identified more with the common people of Taiwan and sought to adapt the Gospel as much as possible to local patterns of thinking. Mackay preached and taught only in the island's dominant Hokkien language, and he selectively adapted Western education to suit the immediate practical needs of his native preachers. For him, all missionary work, including medical and educational ministry, was ancillary to evangelism.

Perhaps Mackay owed most to the evangelical tradition of the Scottish Highlands, to Donald McKenzie, and to his boyhood hero, William C. Burns, who had gained notoriety among China missionaries for his itinerating ministry through the countryside of Fujien Province. Mackay, too, became famous for itineration and for his desire to live among the common folk of Taiwan. Throughout his career he stirred controversy by criticizing other foreign missionaries and insisting upon indigenous leadership in every facet of ministry. It is tempting to see his cadre of Taiwanese preachers as a parallel to Scotland's Na Daoine, a zealous group of lay itinerants whom Mackay regarded as superior to any seminary-trained Presbyterians from the West.


Mackay's identification with the common people of Taiwan led him in 1878 to marry Tiu Chhang Mia, the seventeen-year-old adopted granddaughter of his first female convert, Thah-so. "Chhang-a" would play a vital role in his ministry throughout the remainder of his life. Believing passionately that the people of Taiwan were equal to Westerners, he married his own daughters, Mary and Bella, to native preachers and spent his life attempting to preserve the independence of his movement from Canadian control. Although Mackay was not completely free from the ethnocentric biases that typified Victorian Christians, his deep love for Taiwan was authentic. It would be difficult to find any other missionary of his era who more clearly exemplified the principles of missionary identification. (12)

Early Ministry in Taiwan

Mackay's career falls neatly into two major phases. The first extends from his arrival in Taiwan in December 1871 until his first furlough in 1880, by which time he had already become a celebrity in Canada. The second extends from his return to Taiwan in 1881 until his death twenty years later. During the first phase, Mackay launched an amazing itinerating ministry that quickly reaped impressive results. The consummate pioneer missionary, he chose as his field the previously unoccupied north end of the island because he longed for freedom to follow his own methods and to learn by trial and error. Remarkably, by the end of his first summer in Taiwan he already had a cadre of dedicated converts who remained faithful leaders throughout their lifetimes, and these became the nucleus of a rapidly growing movement that more closely resembled an indigenous Chinese sect than a Presbyterian mission. (13)

Mackay had extraordinary linguistic abilities. Working at first with a native tutor loaned by the English Presbyterians in Amoy, he began his ministry by studying Chinese characters and the spoken language for as many as sixteen hours a day. Blessed with a prodigious memory, he learned to write one hundred new characters daily and spent the balance of his time practicing his reading and speaking with anybody who would listen to him. After only a few weeks his first tutor ran away, but Mackay had already met a young literati, Giam Chheng Hoa, who agreed to move in with him and become his new teacher in exchange for religious lessons. Giam and Mackay forged a deep symbiotic relationship grounded upon unfeigned mutual respect and admiration. The course Mackay pursued would have been impossible without this foundation. His first convert, and later the first ordained native pastor, Giam knew the island intimately. In a very real sense he became Mackay's teacher and was the catalyst for the conversion of the other first four recruits. Throughout the first several years of Mackay's ministry, this group marched barefoot together throughout northern Taiwan, dispensing Western medicine, pulling teeth, preaching, and establishing chapels. (14)

The growth of Mackay's movement was phenomenal, suggesting that social conditions in North Formosa were unusually favorable for conversion. But Mackay's personality and tactics also played a crucial role in his success. Having launched his itinerating campaign, he often passed weeks at a time without contact with other Westerners. If he suffered culture shock, his journals do not reveal it. Instead, he seems to have relished his growing intimacy with the band of men who traveled with him day and night. As they walked, and whenever they rested, Mackay taught his recruits Bible, theology, natural science, and materia medica; they in turn taught him the details of their culture and "how to speak like a Chinese" person. Never staying in one place for more than a few days at a time, they spent less than six months in the port of Tamsui, Mackay's ostensible headquarters, during his entire first seven years on the island.

Mackay believed that his wandering lifestyle imitated Jesus. He certainly was familiar with the example of William C. Burns. But unlike Burns, who had almost no converts to show for his years of itineration, Mackay had already established seven chapels and had more than seventy baptized followers by the end of his third year in Taiwan. By the time he returned to Canada for his first furlough, his so-called peripatetic school had trained some two dozen preachers who weekly proclaimed the Gospel to more than a thousand regular hearers. Many foreign observers noted the remarkable devotion that existed between the missionary and his followers. To them Mackay was not so much the agent of a foreign religion as a prophet and spiritual father. (15)

But where did other Canadian missionaries fit within such a movement? Mackay regarded his visible success as incontestable proof of both divine blessing and the wisdom of his methods. Throughout his life he stubbornly resisted any pressure from Canada to change his ways, repeatedly leading him into conflict with church leaders at home. The mission committee wanted Mackay to accept additional missionaries and to build a more traditional mission compound in Tamsui. Beginning with James and Jennie Fraser in 1874, it sent out a series of missionary couples to assist Mackay. These newcomers soon found themselves marginalized from the actual life of the community, Mackay leaving them alone in Tamsui to learn for themselves the language and to establish their own roles. (16) Except for the last couple, William and Margaret Gauld, none of the "assistants" stayed long in the island.

Mackay considered the Frasers, who had small children, a major nuisance. The mission committee in Toronto instructed him to build a Western-style home for the couple, to give up his ill-conceived efforts to go native, and to lodge with the Frasers until a "charming" Canadian lady could be sent out to share his work. Although Mackay grudgingly built the house, he categorically rejected the rest of the committee's wishes. (17) Instead, at the suggestion of his students, in May 1878 he married Tiu Chhang Mia, a "little sister" who was well known to all the native preachers. It was a brilliant move on Mackay's part, sealing with holy matrimony his unusual mode of living. Never again would Canadian leaders urge him to settle down with other missionaries. Instead, "Chhang-a" at first itinerated with Mackay and his students and became the revered spiritual mother of the growing movement.

Furlough and Settling Down

Marriage and the arrival of his first daughter, Mary, in 1879 required lifestyle adjustments. His first furlough in 1880-81 marks the start of the second, or "domestic," phase of his ministry. Leaving their infant daughter in Taiwan with Chhang-a's grandmother, Mackay and his young wife sailed to Canada on a world tour, visiting Malaysia, India, the Holy Land, Rome, Paris, London, and Scotland before arriving in Zorra six months later. For Tiu Chhang Mia, not yet twenty, this first trip away from home and first encounter with the world church must have triggered a mix of emotions. At each stop they explored historical sites, mosques, temples, and cathedrals. Everywhere they visited the missions of different Christian denominations. The trip convinced Mackay that his own methods were the best for Taiwan, giving him ammunition that he would later use when answering critics of his mission.

Although Mackay's marriage was controversial, his family and the local people of Zorra embraced Chhang-a warmly. Unable to speak any English, she initially feared Mackay's departure for his obligatory missionary tour of the Canadian churches. By the time he returned from his first round of visits, however, her shyness had vanished. She informed him that she felt comfortable with his family and that he could travel for as long as he needed. Dubbed "Minnie" by the locals and the Canadian newspapers, she became a favorite at gatherings of Zorra church women. (18)

During his furlough Mackay received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Queen's University and addressed packed assemblies at churches and public meetings throughout Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic Provinces. Contributions for his work poured into the Presbyterian mission fund, money that he used upon his return to Taiwan to construct a home for his family, build larger churches, open a boarding school for girls, and construct Oxford College as a training center for native preachers. For the rest of his life Mackay would itinerate only twice a year, the remainder of his time spent teaching and directing affairs at "headquarters" in Tamsui.

But celebrity and increased wealth proved a mixed blessing, for with it came mounting pressure from home to expand the Canadian presence and establish a more normal Presbyterian mission. He received especially strong pressure from the Women's Foreign Missionary Committee, which wanted to send single women teachers to assist him. (19) Throughout his career Mackay engaged in a constant battle to keep funding from Canada without strings attached. He demanded freedom to set mission policy without intervention, threatening to resign and take all of the converts with him if not granted autonomy. The mission committee in Toronto knew that the irascible missionary was not bluffing. For twenty years he successfully blackmailed them into giving him free rein to pursue whatever policies he pleased.

As a result, nothing resembling the typical Victorian mission compound existed during Mackay's lifetime. His goal was to see his community develop into a fully self-governing and self-propagating native church upon his own death. To this end, he would allow only one missionary couple at a time to come out from Canada to assist him, and he made it clear that these newcomers would be required to serve under the supervision of native Christians. These assistants were allowed to study language, plant gardens, help maintain the buildings in Tamsui, write letters home, and perform small tasks assigned by Mackay. But they did not engage in direct evangelism or teaching native church leaders, responsibilities that Mackay kept tightly in his own hands and shared with chosen native Christians. (20)

The real heart of the Christian community in North Taiwan was the expanding network of chapels in the interior of the island. These were the exclusive preserve of the native preachers, whom Mackay himself trained and appointed. Critics charged that Mackay was unfaithful to Presbyterianism and acted as a bishop over the native church. Mackay angrily rejected the notion that Western institutions could be simply transplanted to Taiwan by fiat. To be lasting, church polity would have to evolve gradually out of the "inner workings" of the Chinese mind. In the meantime, he insisted, Christians in North Formosa already enjoyed authentic self-government without the creation of formal Presbyterian structures. Every one of the churches elected elders, and he was in constant contact with these leaders, with whom he deliberated in all matters confronting the community. He likewise consulted the preachers constantly, and in 1885 he and a group of elders together laid hands on Giam Chheng-Hoa and another early preacher named Tan He, ordaining them as the first two native pastors in Taiwan. Henceforth these two men sat with Mackay and any ordained Canadian assistant in regular "mission councils," discussing policy together. For Mackay, the reality of shared governance mattered more than strict conformity to Presbyterian polity. (21)

Mackay himself handled virtually all of the instruction at Oxford College, lecturing daily on topics ranging from biblical studies to geography to natural science and medicine. His advanced students assisted him with teaching younger students how to read and write Romanized Chinese. In fact, the school more closely resembled a lyceum than a Western college. Each student was regularly assigned composition and debate topics, which they would deliver as formal speeches that were critiqued by peers as well as by Mackay. Twice a year, before and after each term at school, he took his most advanced students on lengthy itinerating trips into the interior of the island, to give them experience preaching in public and facing opposition. The training at Oxford College was not designed to instill a liberal arts education, but rather to equip self-confident preachers, teachers, and healers who would soon hold responsibility for chapels of their own.

The boarding school for girls, designed to equip Bible women and Christian wives, was likewise under native leadership. Tiu Chhang Mia herself, assisted by some of the older Bible women, served as headmistress and surrogate mother for the girls, who came from churches throughout the mission field. In a controversial pamphlet addressed to the Presbyterian women of Canada, Annie Jamieson, wife of Mackay's third assistant John Jamieson, defended Mackay's refusal to accept Canadian women teachers. Tiu Chhang Mia, Jamieson observed, toiled away day after day, "while ladies in Canada know nothing ... of what she is accomplishing." Chhang-a knew "just how to deal with her own people." She "works away training girls, helping women, attending to the wants of students, caring for and thinking of everyone but herself. She is known and loved by converts throughout the whole field." Jamieson confessed that she had initially resented Chhang-a but in time came to understand the wisdom of Mackay's position: "While the Doctor is busy arranging matters or preparing messages in front of the house, people will be out back pouring stories into her sympathetic ear. I would gladly relieve her, for I am sure she is often tired, but then who of them all would dream of coming to me? I did not grow up among the people. I have not been to their homes; I do not know their children and aunts and uncles and neighbors, and all about their family troubles. How could they be expected to come to me?" (22)


Second Furlough and Death

In 1893 Mackay and Chhang-a returned to Canada on a second furlough, this time bringing with them their three children and a young student named Koa Kau, a future son-in-law whom Mackay wanted to introduce to the Canadian church. He left behind the Gaulds, only recently arrived in Taiwan, who were still unable to speak the language. The furlough, he informed the mission board in Toronto, would prove that the native preachers were fully able to sustain their church alone "if all foreigners were withdrawn." This time landing in Vancouver, the missionary was dumbfounded when his wife and Koa Kau were not permitted to disembark until a head tax had been paid. Although the matter was soon cleared up, Mackay spent the rest of his time In Canada speaking out against racism and demanding an end to discrimination against Chinese immigrants. As moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1894, he had a very visible platform from which to thunder his opposition to anti-Chinese prejudice in Canada, as well as his faith in the complete equality of Chinese Christians. (23)

During his furlough, the Sino-Japanese War dramatically transformed the situation of the Christians in Taiwan. Claimed as a colonial prize by the victorious Japanese, Formosa was to become a showcase of Japan's ability to administer an empire as efficiently as the Western powers. Although Mackay stated his optimistic belief that the change in government would ultimately prove a blessing, the transition brought a host of new problems. Perhaps most obvious was the Japanese insistence that all educational and medical facilities on the island conform to modem Western standards. To survive under Japanese rule, Mackay clearly would need to adjust his missionary methods to satisfy colonial administrators.

We will never know how successfully Mackay would have adapted to the new reality. Late in the winter of 1901 he discovered a small lump in his throat that turned out to be an aggressive cancer. British physicians at Tamsui and the mainland were helpless to arrest the progression of the disease. On the afternoon of June 2,1901, George Leslie Mackay breathed his last. As word of his death spread from church to church, a stream of mourners descended upon Tamsui, where Mackay's body rested in a glass-faced coffin in Oxford College. Young and old crowded around the coffin, reaching out to touch his face. His daughter Bella described the scene in her diary, noting that "young men wept like a child as well as old men, women and children. Some would remain weeping over the coffin for a whole hour, then they would go out of the room, then they would re-enter again and weep more bitterly than before." (24)

Giam Chheng Hoa presided over the burial of his dearest friend. Eighteen of the oldest preachers and elders carried the coffin to the grave that Mackay himself had selected years before. The cemetery was too small to hold all of the mourners that gathered from around the mission field, including more than three hundred non-Christian dignitaries who came to honor the fallen missionary. Many converts from distant stations could not arrive in time for the burial. For days they streamed into Tamsui, to sit beside Mackay's grave and weep, as Bella recorded, "like one having lost a father." (25)


For all his unusual characteristics, George Leslie Mackay was very much a man of the Victorian age. He shared his era's tendency to rank races and cultures along an evolutionary scale, sometimes asserting the inferiority of the island's indigenous tribal peoples to the dominant Chinese populace. His journals occasionally engaged in the sort of Orientalist representations of Asian civilizations that modern students of culture seek to avoid. He was no champion of interreligious goodwill, confidently predicting the future annihilation of Buddhism, Taoism, and other forms of "heathenism" with triumphalistic certainty. His acerbic attacks upon Roman Catholic "papistry" were only slightly less virulent.

Despite his flaws, to a degree that has been rare in any period of history, George Leslie Mackay allowed himself to truly encounter and to be transformed by the people he sought to serve. During his first weeks in Taiwan, as he drove himself relentlessly to learn the language, he recorded in his journal that he wanted "no barriers" between himself and the people. This desire to become one with the people, to identify with them as wholly as he possibly could, deeply touched many of those whom he encountered. Thousands responded by accepting his Lord as their own and reorienting their lives around the new community that he had called into existence. Possessing an authoritarian temperament, as his critics correctly charged, he exercised his power to carve out for the native Christians a degree of autonomy and freedom perhaps unparalleled among China missions of his day. That he is still lionized in Taiwan by Christians and non-Christians alike, long after most other Victorian missionaries have been forgotten or deconstructed, testifies to the enduring bonds that mutual affection and respect can forge between people of sharply different cultures.

Selected Bibliography

Mackay's mission correspondence is located in the United Church of Canada Archives in Toronto, along with valuable correspondence of his Canadian assistants. The Jennie Fraser Papers are especially helpful. His personal journals are preserved at Aletheia University in Tamsui, Taiwan. Copies are also held at the Taiwan Theological Seminary Archives in Taipei.

Works by George Leslie Mackay

1895 From Far Formosa: The Island, Its People and Missions. New York: Fleming H. Revell.

Works About George Leslie Mackay

Ion, A. Hamish. The Cross and the Rising Sun: The Canadian Protestant Missionary Movement in the Japanese Empire, 1872-1931. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfred Laurier Univ. Press, 1990.

Keith, Marian. The Black Bearded Barbarian: The Life of George Leslie Mackay of Formosa. Toronto: Board of Foreign Missions, 1912.

Mackay, R. P. Life of George Leslie Mackay, D.D., 1844-1901. Toronto: Board of Foreign Missions, 1913.

McDonald, Graeme. "George Leslie Mackay: Missionary Success in Nineteenth-Century Taiwan." In Papers on China, vol. 21. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ., East Asian Research Center, 1968.

Rohrer, James. "Charisma in a Mission Context: The Case of George Leslie Mackay in Taiwan, 1871-1901." Missiology: An International Review 36 (2008): 227-36.

--. "George Leslie Mackay in Formosa, 1871-1901: An Interpretation of His Career." Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society 47 (2005): 3-58.

--. "Mackay and the Aboriginals: Reflections upon the Ambiguities of Taiwanese Aboriginal Christian History." In Christianity and Native Cultures: Perspectives from Different Regions of the World, ed. Cyriac K. Pullapilly, pp. 263-75. Notre Dame, Ind.: Cross-Cultural Publications, 2004.


(1.) Much of this article is based upon the author's examination of Mackay's journal, held at Aletheia University in Tamsui, Taiwan, and the Correspondence Relating to the Formosa Mission in the Presbyterian Church of Canada Board of Foreign Mission Papers, held at the United Church of Canada Archives in Toronto, Canada (hereafter UCC Archives). The photograph of the Mackay family on p. 223 of this article is from R. P. Mackay, Life of George Leslie Mackay, D.D., 1844-1901 (Toronto: Board of Foreign Missions, 1913), p. 35. The picture of Oxford College on p. 225 is from George Leslie Mackay, From Far Formosa: The Island, Its People and Missions (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1895), facing p. 291.

(2.) Agnes M. Machar, "An Apostolic Missionary in China," Catholic Presbyterian 29 (May 1881): 332-41.

(3.) When the directorate general of posts of the Republic of China issued a Mackay commemorative stamp in 2001, the cachet cited his "unselfish devotion to Taiwan" and the directorate's desire "to strengthen the bonds of friendship between Taiwan and Canada."

(4.) On MacDonald, see John Kennedy, The Apostle of the North: The Life and Labours of the Rev. John Macdonald, D.D. (Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Publications, 1978). The Sutherland clearances are well described in John Prebble, The Highland Clearances (London: Secker & Warburg, 1963), pp. 57-124. On the evangelical movement in the Highlands, see Allan I. MacInnes, "Evangelical Religion in the Nineteenth-Century Highlands," in Sermons and Battle Hymns: Protestant Popular Culture in Modern Scotland, ed. Graham Walker and Tom Gallagher (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 43-68; Terence P. McCaughey, "Protestantism and Scottish Highland Culture," in An Introduction to Celtic Christianity, ed. James P. Mackey (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1989), pp. 175-205; and several essays by Donald E. Meek: "Evangelical Missionaries in the Early Nineteenth-Century Highlands," Scottish Studies 28 (1987): 1-34; "Evangelicalism and Emigration: Aspects of the Role of Dissenting Evangelicalism in Highland Emigration to Canada," in Proceedings of the First North American Congress on Celtic Studies, ed. G. MacLennann (Ottawa: Univ. of Ottawa Press, 1988), pp. 15-36; and "Protestant Missions and the Evangelization of the Scottish Highlands, 1700-1850," International Bulletin of Missionary Research 21 (April 1997): 67-72. On the Na Daoine, see especially George Robb, "Popular Religion and the Christianization of the Scottish Highlands in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries," Journal of Religious History 16 (June 1990): 18-34.

(5.) Obituary of George Mackay, dated March 21, 1884, preserved in George Leslie Mackay's scrapbook. I wish to thank Mackay's granddaughters, Anna, Isabel, and Margaret Mackay, of Toronto, for graciously sharing this with me. On McKenzie, see the material in the Donald McKenzie vertical file at the UCC Archives. On the Scottish community of Zorra, see Graham Leslie Brown, "The Scottish Settlement in West Zorra Township, Oxford County" (M.A. thesis, Univ. of Western Ontario, 1970); William M. Campbell, Zorra (Boston: Sherman, French, 1915); Marjory Harper, Emigration from North-East Scotland, vol. 1, Willing Exiles (Aberdeen: Aberdeen Univ. Press, 1988), pp. 191-239;W.A. Mackay, Pioneer Life in Zorra (Toronto: Briggs, 1899), and, by the same author, Zorra Boys at Home and Abroad (Toronto: Briggs, 1900); W. D. McIntosh, One Hundred Years in the Zorra Church (Knox United, Embro) (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1930); and W. A. Ross, History of Zorra and Embro: Pioneer Sketches of Sixty Years Ago (Embro, Ont.: Embro Courier Office, 1909). The Woodstock Public Library, Woodstock, Ontario, also has a very useful local history file.

(6.) On Burns, see Islay Bums, Memoir of Rev. Win. C. Burns, D.D. (New York: Robert Carter, 1870), and Edward Band, Working His Purpose Out: The History of the English Presbyterian Mission, 1847-1947 (London: Presbyterian Church of England, 1948), pp. 4-72. On the Free Church in Canada, see Barbara C. Murison, "The Disruption and the Colonies of Scottish Settlement," in Scotland in the Age of the Disruption, ed. Stewart J. Brown and Michael Fry (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 135-50, and Richard W. Vaudry, The Free Church in Victorian Canada, 1844-1861 (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 1989).

(7.) Knox College Literary Society Records, Archives of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Toronto. In addition to Vaudry, on Knox College, see Brian J. Fraser, Church, College, and Clergy: A History of Theological Education at Knox College, Toron to, 1844-1994 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's Univ. Press, 1995); Michael Gauvreau, The Evangelical Century: College and Creed in English Canada from the Great Revival to the Great Depression (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's Univ. Press, 1991); and D. C. Masters, "The Scottish Tradition in Higher Education," in The Scottish Tradition in Canada, ed. W. Stanford Reid (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1976), pp. 248-67.

(8.) Mackay to Thomas Wardrope, April 23, 1891, Foreign Mission Correspondence, UCC Archives (hereafter FMC). On Princeton and missions, see Daniel B. Calhoun, "The Last Command: Princeton Theological Seminary and Missions (1812-1862)" (Ph.D. diss., Princeton Theological Seminary, 1983), esp. pp. 183-234.

(9.) Mackay, From Far Formosa, pp. 20-21. On Duff, see Michael A. Laird, "Alexander Duff, 1806-1878: Western Education as Preparation for the Gospel," in Mission Legacies: Biographical Studies .of Leaders of the Modern Missionary Movement, ed. Gerald H. Anderson et al. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1994), pp. 271-76; William Paton, Alexander Duff(London: George H. Doran, 1923); and George Smith, The Life of Alexander Duff, D.D., LL.D. (New York: American Tract Society, 1878).

(10.) On the impact of Baconianism on evangelical religion in the early nineteenth century, see Theodore Dwight Bozeman, Protestants in an Age of Science: The Baconian Ideal and Antebellum American Religious Thought (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1977).

(11.) Mackay's scrapbook.

(12.) On this theme, see Jonathan J. Bonk, The Theory and Practice of Missionary Identification, 1860-1920 (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989).

(13.) I develop this point more fully in "George Leslie Mackayin Formosa, 1871-1901: An Interpretation of His Career," Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society 47 (2005): 3-58.

(14.) The crucial role played by Giam Chheng Hoa is clearly described in Mackay's manuscript diaries, which bring the organizational dynamics of the movement into sharp focus.

(15.) Henry Noel Shore, a British naval officer who had observed many China missions, spent a month traveling with Mackay in 1880. Shore was "astonished" by the "adoration" Mackay's converts showed him. He had never before witnessed such intimacy and devotion between a missionary and native Christians. See Shore, The Flight of the Lapwing: A Naval Officer's Jottings in China, Formosa, and Japan (London: Longmans, Green, 1881), pp. 204-5. See Rohrer, "George Leslie Mackay," for additional contemporary testimonials of this nature.

(16.) Jennie Fraser deeply resented Mackay's attitude, thinking him "unkind ... to leave us in a strange land as he does. He won't do a thing but train the helpers." Jennie Fraser to Maggie Wells, July 8, 1875, Jennie Fraser Papers, UCC Archives.

(17.) George L. Mackay to William McLaren, undated 1875, FMC.

(18.) In addition to Mackay's journals and scrapbook, this paragraph draws upon a Mother's Day "Radio Talk," dated ca. 1932, written about Tiu Chhang Mia by her daughter-in-law Jean Ross Mackay. A copy of this document was graciously given to the author by Mackay's granddaughters.

(19.) Mackay to William McLaren, August 4, 1883, FMC.

(20.) In a characteristic letter to William McLaren, chairman of the mission committee, Mackay rejected instructions that he assign James Fraser a larger role in training native students: "I intend to have ... young men traveling as usual with me over whom the other brethren in the field will have no control. You know men don't think alike, and as I have such clear evidence of God's blessing attending my mode of procedure, I will yield to no man" (emphasis Mackay's). Mackay to McLaren, June 10, 1876, FMC.

(21.) Mackay to Foreign Mission Committee, December 10, 1888, FMC.

(22.) Annie Straith Jamieson, Some Things That Should Be Known to the Ladies of the Women's Foreign Missionary Society in Canada (Hong Kong, 1888), p. 9.

(23.) Michael Stainton, "Mackay and the Poll Tax" (paper presented at the Canadian Asian Studies East Asian Conference, LaMalbaie, Quebec, November 2007).

(24.) The diary is quoted by Bella Mackay in a letter to "My dear Uncle, Aunt, Cousins," July 12, 1901, in the possession of Mackay's granddaughters. A slightly different version of Bella's letter was published in the Presbyterian Record and is preserved in the Mackay vertical file, UCC Archives.

(25.) Ibid.

James R. Rohrer is Associate Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. He teaches American religious history and the history of Christianity. From 1993 to 1998 he taught history in Taiwan under the auspices of the United Church Board for World
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Author:Rohrer, James R.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:9TAIW
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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