The call to Africa - missionary work in the 1800s

Many churches in Scotland had strong links with their foreign missions across the world. It was considered an important role for congregations to raise funds and support missionary work. There was a constant demand for people with different skills including teaching and the trades (carpenters, builders, printers, etc.) to volunteer to undertake work in the foreign missions.

The Slessor family attended the United Free Presbyterian, Wishart Church in the Cowgate area of Dundee. Mary’s mother was a devout Christian women who felt it was important to send missionaries to remote parts of the world. So despite the family’s difficult circumstances, she was keen for her children to consider this work, even though in general, recruits to the missions tended to be from better off families.

The Wishart Church was linked to the Calabar Mission in West Africa, an area we now know as Southern Nigeria. Churches published monthly magazines to keep congregations informed about work in the missions. Hearing about life in what where then very remote and unimaginable parts of the world such as Africa, Jamaica and China was a revelation to people back in Scotland in the 1850s and these were read avidly. Large sums of money were raised by local congregations to support missionary work and these sums were listed for each parish in magazines such as
The Missionary Record and The Women’s Missionary Magazine.

Dundee City Council, Dundee Art Galleries & Museums: Junior missionary magazine from February 1848 published by the United Presbyterian Church to encourage children’s interest in the foreign missions.

Dundee City Council, Dundee Art Galleries & Museums: Calabar Bay where Mary arrived after the five week voyage from Britain in September 1876.


Scottish Charity No. SC032781

© Mary Slessor Foundation 2016