Mission Council Records

Canton Villages / South China Mission Council -

  • The title deeds to the various Mission properties were apparently destroyed during World War Two. The Rev Bert Davies wrote in November 1948 that before the war he had placed all the property deeds in a leather handbag with his name on it and deposited them with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Canton for safekeeping. Before leaving his manse in nearby Fong Chuen prior to internment (presumably late in 1941), he had tried to uplift the deeds from the bank with the object of "planting them somewhere for safety until the war was over". However the bank official told him that the Japanese had "sealed up everything and it was impossible get them". The only property related material he still held were a register of all the property deeds and a packet of photographic negatives of some of the property deeds. These records were placed, along with some of his own books and papers, into a case and left with Mr Hoffmeister, the Swiss Consul in Canton, to be held by him until the war was over. This case was returned to the Rev Davies in New Zealand in 1947. He then deposited the property register and photographic plates with the Missions office in Auckland. He evidently kept his own books and papers and if these were retained after his death in 1949 it would have been by his family. Rev Davies wrote that he believed (as at 1948) that the Rev EG Jansen had taken the photographic plates and register back to China. It now appears that both items were retained by the Missions Committee and and are now in our archives (assuming the 1927 property register is the one referred to). The Missions Committee had advised the Rev Davies that the photographic plates were only copies of the Sai Chuen deeds and this is what we hold now. The Rev Davies had thought they also covered the Kong Chuen Mission property but he had not examined them before leaving them at the Missions Office. Ironically, if the title deeds had been able to be left in the Manse safe at Fong Ts'uen near Canton, they would have safely survived the war. This loss caused considerable difficulties when re-registration of the land had to be proved to the Communist authorities after 1948.
  • During the Japanese occupation in World War Two, the Mission Council minute books and other records which were kept at the Kong Chuen Mission compound were buried in sealed clay jars and suffered only minor water damage. The diaries of one Missionary (Sr Dorothy Robertson) were also buried at this time and she wrote in 1960 that they were too faded to read "due to their being buried during the war". An unspecified amount of goods stored in the Mission house attics on the Kong Chuen Mission compound were taken away by the Chinese and stored for safety during the war, being returned when the war ended. The Missionaries were quite overwhelmed at the trouble their Chinese friends had gone to but had not the heart to tell them that a lot of the material stored in the attics had been unwanted rubbish!
  • Minute books and correspondence were destroyed by the Missionaries prior to their enforced withdrawal from Communist China in 1951. Copies of all minutes and most internal correspondence are held in the NZ Presbyterian Archives Missions manuscript collection. A large amount of South China Mission Council correspondence had also previously been repatriated back to New Zealand. 


New Hebrides Mission -

  • The NZ Presbyterian Mission Hospital at Dip Point on Ambrim (Ambrym) Island burnt down in 1892 with the loss of all Medical Equipment and furnishings. The Hospital and adjoining buildings were totally destroyed by a volcanic eruption in December 1913 which absolutely obliterated the area. All staff escaped safely in both conflagrations.
  • As Missionaries were more or less isolated on their individual islands, they each attended to their own Mission business in the early years although an annual Synod meeting of all Missionaries was held of which minutes survive.
  • Much of the personal individual inwards and outwards correspondence files of the New Hebrides Missionaries (no doubt being classed as their own "personal correspondence") up to at least 1948 appears to have been lost. The New Hebrides inwards and outwards correspondence files in the PCNZ Missions manuscript records cover at least part of this period including annual reports written by the Missionaries and a large amount of earlier published extracts from their letters. 


Punjab Mission -

  • Early Mission Council correspondence and minutes (which were repatriated back to New Zealand in the late 1950's by the Rev Morton Ryburn) have been attacked by large white ants.
  • Miss Lorraine Saunders, the Punjab Mission Council Secretary, wrote to the Overseas Missions Committee Secretary, the Rev JS Murray, in October 1952 : "White ants and shortage of storage space make for difficulties here in keeping old records etc. I have almost been thankful to the white ants sometimes when they have eaten some old papers! ... the main books went to I.M.B.O. [The Inter Mission Business Office] Bombay in 1937 but there are some very old ones here - and in them there is a type of book worm which can spread and cause havoc. ... to my sorrow I have found while living in the [Mission] house that this massive structure is not white ant proof. I am making enquiries with a view to buying a [new] small safe that would be ant proof and so suitable for storing all the mission deeds - which are valuable and seem to have a special attraction for white ants."


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