Livingstone College - Early Days

Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by A. Mortimer, M.P.S.

EDINBURGH is famous for many things, but not the least important is the fact that the World’s Missionary Conference met there in the year 1910. At that remarkable Conference were gathered missionary enthusiasts and missionary workers from every quarter of the globe, and from all the great Protestant denominations. The men and women who have the welfare of missionaries and mission work at heart were there to communicate the results of their own experience and to gain wisdom and knowledge from the experience of others. The problems of the missionary cause, some of which had given reason for anxiety all the world over, were discussed with discernment and enthusiasm.

The method adopted was to hand over to Committees composed of experts the various questions and problems to be submitted to the Conference for their consideration and report. The Commission on “The Preparation of Missionaries” met, and the report prepared attracted at the time, and is still attracting, a great deal of interest and attention. Part of the report dealt with the missionary’s training in elementary medicine and hygiene, under the heading “The Fundamental Features of Missionary Preparation.” The case for a sound training in elementary medicine was well put by this important Commission. A few extracts will suffice to show all friends of missionary enterprise this urgent need.

“It goes without saying, but it ought not to go without consideration, that every missionary sent abroad should be in good health. It is the part of effective preparation to see that he both knows how to keep himself so, and has formed a habit of paying reasonable attention to the subject. This involves that a man going to a new climate, especially if he is likely to be some distance from medical attention should know enough of normal physiological action to be able to watch over his own body with as much intelligence as a typist does over his machine, and he should know enough of the actions of drug’s not to play rash experiments.”

“Over-anxiety is a grave evil. Missionaries go abroad to do mission work, not for the good of their health. On the other hand there is a morbid pride in being overworked and run-down, in being too busy to keep well, and an uncalled for carelessness in such matters is also a great evil. The body is God’s tool. It is a true sacrifice which gives it up to be laid down in His service, but not before we have got all the work out of it which a thrifty use can get.”

“It is not enough to say that the medical missionary on the spot can look after the health of his colleagues. It requires that the non-medical missionaries themselves should understand the dangers with which they are surrounded in tropical climates, or they will not escape. In missionary life it is not possible to have a medical missionary at every station, but it is possible, by a comparatively brief but definite course of instruction in the homeland to put into the hands of every missionary not only the power of guarding himself against disease, but also the power of dealing with a considerable variety of minor complaints and of doing much to relieve suffering and to enhance his own influence.”

Then the report went on to mention the names of the two colleges where such instruction may be obtained:—Livingstone College, Leyton, London, and the Medical Missionary Institute, Tubingen, Germany.

Whatever missionaries did a few years ago one cannot even guess, for Livingstone College has only been established some eighteen years. No doubt some of the missionary societies arranged for their men to have lectures and a little practical hospital experience, but no systematic training was possible. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” would prove only too true in many cases, and in others the student would go far too deeply into certain branches of study while neglecting others. The knowledge many of these missionaries acquired was put to very good use, but the sad fact remains that many men went out totally unprepared to treat common diseases in themselves or others.

To fill this gap was the desire of three medical men, and Livingstone College was the result. One of these was Dr. Harry Guinness, who recognised the need of medical training for his own students at Harley College, and who had returned from the Congo greatly impressed with the needless loss of life caused by lack of elementary knowledge of hygiene and medicine. The second was Mr. McAdam Eccles, the celebrated surgeon and lecturer on Temperance subjects, who from the beginning has taken a keen interest in the work of the College. The third was Dr. C.F. Harford, the present Principal of the College (to whom I am indebted for the early history of the institution), who had returned invalided after three visits to West Africa as a medical missionary.

Early in 1893, practical steps were taken to inaugurate the scheme of medical training intended primarily to help missionaries to preserve their own health, and, secondarily, to render simple help to those amongst whom they might be working.

The designation “Livingstone College” seems to have been the result of a real Divine inspiration. It combines the ideas of missions and medicine, and undoubtedly would have been sanctioned and encouraged by David Livingstone himself had he been alive, and was warmly approved by those who have the best right to safeguard the honour and memory of the great Scotsman. The Council had one layman in its treasurer, Mr. R. L. Barclay, who still holds that important position.

The first idea had been that the work should be affiliated to Harley College, but it was eventually decided that the new College should have an independent existence, and in this way it has been enabled in a special manner to be a handmaid to all the missionary societies and a meeting ground for all.

During the first session there were fourteen students, representing various societies and more than one nationality. The practical work ,was carried on at four centres, West Ham Hospital, Dr. Barnardo’s Hospital, and Connaught Road Hospital, under the care of Dr. Manson. In addition to the hospitals the students were able then as now to get further practical experience through the instrumentality of a medical mission.

For the first term of three months the work was commenced in premises rented from Harley College, but by January, 1894, the new scheme had so firmly taken root that it was transferred to a semi-detached house in Mornington Road, Bow, and, in that month, an inaugural lecture was delivered by Professor Alexander Macalister, of Cambridge, the first of a series of addresses by well known medical men which have proved the sympathy of the medical profession. From that day to this the medical press has given its support to the College, but only because of the scrupulous care which has always been taken by the authorities of the College to secure that its students should recognise their limitations and in no way trench upon the domain of the medical missionary or of the qualified medical practitioner.

Dr. C. F. Harford, the principal, and Mr. McAdam Eccles, who came three times weekly from the West End have shared the work of lecturing. Dr. Patrick Manson (now Sir Patrick Manson) also commenced a series of lectures this year, for it must be remembered that neither of the great schools of tropical medicine had yet been founded. As is so well known, Sir Patrick Manson is an expert on tropical diseases.

Though passed in humble surroundings, the first year was memorable and the progress of the experiment proved that such a college was a necessity.


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1912/298

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.