Shaw, John Robert M.B.E. (1889-1963)

Susan Neuwirth

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

JOHN ROBERT SHAW, M.B.E.: born in Yorkshire in 1889 he served the whole of his ministry in Africa. His first missionary appointment was in Aliwal North, Cape Province, South Africa, in 1914. In 1916 he was sent to Northern Rhodesia where he was stationed in the remote circuit of Nanzila. There he remained until sent to Kafue Training Institute where evangelist-teachers were trained. In 1932 he was transferred to the new capital, Lusaka, where he worked until 1941 when he answered a call to become Chaplain to the Forces in the Northern Rhodesia Regiment and travelled widely. He met and influenced many soldiers from many parts of Africa. 

Returning to civilian life in 1947 he first served at Luanshya in the team of the United Church to the Copperbelt, then became secretary of the United Society for Christian Literature which involved extensive travelling throughout Northern Rhodesia. He superannuated in 1956 and became an elder statesman of the Church, living in Lusaka. 

His interests were wide and he took a lively concern in the affairs of the District and rejoiced in the political advance of the territories of Central Africa. He was an accomplished conversationalist and had an enthralling repertoire of reminiscences, especially about his early appointments, until his first heart attack which came after conducting a service at Trinity Church. He also served on a number of local and national committees and was much honoured. This was demonstrated by the cross-section of people of all creeds, races and occupations who attended the funeral service and filled the Church. 

He was an examiner in the Government Ila language examinations and the people loved to hear him preach in their vernacular. They called him “Mundakatila” (a man of speed) and he led many souls to Christ through his preaching. He is survived by his widow who faithfully shared those difficult early days, and six children all living in Northern Rhodesia. 

He died on 1 July 1963, in the seventy-fourth year of his age and the forty-ninth year of his ministry.


John was born in 1889 at Thackley, Yorkshire, to parents Thomas Shaw, a PM minister, and Mary Ann Baron.

He married Rosa Jane Whitworth Davidson (1890-1976) on 18June 1916 at Cape Town, South Africa. They had six children.

  • Gordon Davidson (1917-1976)
  • Thomas Baron (1918-2000)
  • Marion (1923-1996)
  • Christine (1928-1974)
  • Ranald John (1930-2000)
  • David Whitworth (1932-1994)

John died on 1 July 1963 at Lusaka, Zambia.


  • Hartley
  • 1914 Transvaaal district
  • 1916 N Rhodesia
  • 1948 per USCL
  • 1955 Supernum


Methodist Minutes 1964/224

Shepherd, Shaw, Chapman Family Tree on

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


Some notes about John R Shaw written by a grand-daughter.

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