Harold was born on 8 January 1872 in Guildford, Surrey. He studied theology at the Edinburgh Congregational Hall, and medicine and surgery at Edinburgh University. He was ordained in April 1902 and was appointed to the LMS Central African Mission as a medical missionary. He married Rebecca Purves Stewart (b 1877) on 19 April 1902 and they left Britain for Africa two weeks later.
It must have been a leap into the unknown to travel thousands of miles into a strange and only recently discovered area of the world. It was, after all, only 30 years previously that Stanley said to another LMS missionary in Central Africa, "Doctor Livingstone, I presume ?"
Harold and Rebecca were initially stationed at the Kambole Mission in Zambia but were swiftly moved to the Kawimbe Mission in Northern Rhodesia which they considered to be their own station. On returning there from a visit back to Kambole in 1908 Harold said it was pleasing to learn by the welcome of the people that they were glad to have us back.
When I visited the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, I was able to look at one of their special collections which consisted of :
- annual reports made by Harold to the LMS summarising his work between 1902 and 1910. This blog contains actual quotations from these reports in purple.
- photo albums donated to the archives by one of his daughters. These included photos taken of other missionaries but, more interestingly, family snaps, a few of which I've included on this blog.
I have transcribed some of these reports and you can read them in much more detail, should you wish to, on my general genealogy blog (#39). We need to remember that times were different in those days before the Great War, and attitudes were very Victorian and built on the fact Britain still had an Empire. My observations and quotations need to be seen in that light as a nod to how the world has changed rather than being a criticism of people's attitudes.
Having arrived in what must have been an alien world, it is hardly surprising that the first thing Harold had to do was to build a house to live in and then to learn the language.
He says that during the last month of 1902 and the first four months of 1903, being the rainy season, he had spent a great deal of time doing the later. The rest of his time was spent doing medical work, superintending the drainage, general sanitation and dealing with the work of the printing press.
The press was used to print hundreds of sheets used for teaching including ones for the alphabet, syllables and words which were used in all the missions schools. They also printed some hymn sheets.
Apart from a few meetings, his time was spent superintending brick making and building outhouses for his new house. In addition he would often spend three to four hours a day buying in food for the workmen. He said one’s odd moments and evenings were generally spent in preparing addresses. Very often one felt it was better to go to bed !
From what I have seen and heard I can say that Central Africa is an unhealthy place for the careless man and the man who is not looked after. He says to leave a man alone on a station for even a short time is to invite him to run great risks as regards health. When a man is attacked by a fever of a serious type, unless he has another European at hand to nurse him, his chances of recovery are greatly minimalised. To expect help, sufficient to meet the need, from a native boy however devoted or well trained he be, is to lean on a broken reed. The progress of a severe fever is so rapid that, generally, the man called to assist arrives to find that the man is either well again, or that he is dying or dead. I have already had three cases that would support this statement and my colleagues can give me many more.
- a man spends ten times the amount of time looking after his servants, his food and the house than he would attending to his wife.
- a wife can ensure his food is cooked well and served at regular intervals.
- his wife can keep the house tidy.
- he runs no risks from such things as unboiled or unfiltered water.
- she will help prevent unnecessary waste which generally occurs in bachelor establishments out here.
- a wife can have a positive moral effect on the boys. When there is no lady in the house the boys are rarely properly looked after. They become lazy and careless and in many cases steal. As house boys are often among the most promising boys on the station this is sad.
- a man’s health is better as he runs less risks and, for the sake of his wife, he is more careful.
- When a man is ill he has the privilege of an attentive and careful nurse.
In 1904 the first of their three daughters was born.
Of course, his main raison d'etre was as a medical man. A number of his early reports refer to the lack of patients and he says he only spent a total of two hours dispensing medicines in the first three months he was in Africa. For the rest of his first year (1902) he reports that the medical work, though small, was fairly interesting. The great majority of cases involved simple things like coughs, diarrhoea, occasional malaria, cuts, ulcers and simple eye inflammation. He says most could have been treated by someone with just a little training. If one had to depend for patients on Kambole and the little villages near at hand, a medical missionary would not be needed. He speaks of wanting to attract more patients from outlying districts and his hope to eventually have a hospital in which to treat them. He says he has twice been called upon to treat Europeans - one was a colleague with dysentery and twice a colleague who had a severe bilious attack of malaria and subsequently Blackwater Fever.
In 1903 he says the medical work was far from satisfactory, half an hour daily would cover the time spent. Disappointingly, they only had 5 patients per day on average. However, by 1908 things were certainly looking up and his report was a lot more positive : During the 7 months of the year I have treated over 1500 people. As usual most of their sicknesses have been of a trivial character. There have been a large number of pneumonia, pleurisy, malaria and a few operations.
His dream of building a hospital seems to have come to fruition. He reports that the outstanding event in my year is the building of our hospital. Now the building is roofed and next year, after the floors and ceilings and doors and windows are in, the hospital will be opened for patients. I have dreamt of and planned for this hospital for the last six years and therefore it is with satisfaction and thankfulness that I see it so nearly ready for occupation. Our prayer is that the hospital may be the means of bringing to many, comfort and health in times of sickness and that many patients may be lead into the Kingdom of God by what they hear and experience within its walls.
He says the hospital would be opening for business in 1910. He says people come willingly from a distance for treatment. However, they are all unwilling to pay the small sum I ask but are beginning to realise that no pay means no medicine. They can afford to pay but because in the early days they received everything for nothing they fail to see why they should pay now.
The 1904 report says they had trained a couple of people as potential missionaries but the woman, I regret to say, had to be suspended from church fellowship four months later because she was guilty of adultery. This was obviously an ongoing problem as another report describes adultery as a being a sin and considered wicked on a par with alcohol, of which, he says some of our most trusted and most useful Evangelists have failed lamentably and morally. In most cases the fall has been distinctly traceable to drink.
When he first arrived there were no regulations dealing with those who drank the native beer and became intoxicated. Some of the church members habitually held and attended beer feasts which led to all kinds of evil. Some church members also took part in impure dancing and impure nature ceremonies.
By 1910 he was able to report that the evil dances and the impure ceremonies have practically died out.
Early on, because of his ignorance of the language, he wasn’t able to take part in the preaching and teaching on the station which frustrated him. However, by the end of the second year he reports that he could make himself understood by the native.
He says he took his share of work in the teachers' school with another woman and his wife. The attendance was very large and progress was made. He mentions briefly that Mrs Wareham has conducted her class for women at which the attendance has been fairly good. But he adds that he would like them to have a central school.
Harold reports that the Sunday services have been well attended but there are still many, especially among the women who do not regularly attend. He talks about a couple of classes they run including one for anyone who seems to show the slightest interest in the teaching of Jesus. However, he questions the different motives of those who attend. It seems to be either because -
- they are really interested
- their friends come i.e because it is fashionable, or
- they come because they can leave work for an hour (i.e. they are one of his employees)
The women of this country are far behind the men as regards interest in any higher life. The men are indifferent, the women are terribly indifferent.
He gives some insight into what is really happening when he says the people among whom we work are neither hostile to the gospel nor do they long for it. They are indifferent and it is difficult to persuade them to think of anything beyond eating and drinking and their daily work. They will listen to our words and agree with most of it but when we ask them to put them into practice in their daily life, most decline to take that step. However, he believed that, almost unknown to them, the teaching of Jesus was influencing their lives. He thought many of their evil habits and old superstitions were slowly disappearing. His theory was that when they did practice them they did so more or less secretly because they were so ashamed of them - perhaps they just wanted him to think they had given them up ?
Harold died in Edinburgh on 4 February 1955 and Rebecca died on 15 March in the same year.