The Taiwanese 台灣人 Tâi-Oân Lâng

Welcome to the Taiwanese Site! This is a collection of the stories of the past Taiwanese who had contributed to Taiwan in various aspects. We encourage readers' comments. Contact point, email contact at or ** Last Update April 26, 2012 **

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Rev. Dr. Thomas Barclay 巴克禮 博士

Sixty Years of Dedication

- Rev. Dr. Thomas Barclay
- Mrs. Barclay (Elisabeth A. Turner)
- First Taiwanese Newspaper: Taiwan Hu-Sia Church News, July 1885

Looking into the church history of Taiwan in the 19th century, one would wonder what else was there if there were no missionaries from Scotland. The majority of British missionaries, if not all, were from Scotland. Even the beloved Rev. George Leslie Mackay was born to the Scottish parents in Canada.

Rev. Dr. Thomas Barclay was not just another missionary from Scotland. He could easily hold the title of the longest serviced missionary (1875-1935) in Taiwan. In the span of those sixty years, Barclay’s dedication to Taiwan was really above and beyond. Even though Barclay was born in Glasgow, Scotland, he seemed to be born for Taiwan.

At the age 15, Barclay was already a freshman at the University of Glasgow. He had everything going right in the fields of science and math. Even his story was later included in the Britannica Encyclopedia. On his 16th birthday, Thomas Barclay had decided to offer himself to God’s services. Upon graduation from Glasgow, he entered the Free Church Divinity College, then did his post graduate study at the University of Leipzig, Germany, for one year.

He arrived at Amoy in 1874 to learn Taiwanese dialect (Holo) and then onto Formosa (Taiwan) a year later. For the next 60 years, his life was more Taiwanese than many Taiwanese.

While settled in Tainan, Barclay worked closely with Rev Hugh Ritchie and Dr James Maxwell to set up a training institution for the local ministers. It was called the Tainan College (府城大學.) It is now Tainan Theological College/Seminary. It was the very first college ever in Taiwan then, it is now one of the finest theological institutions in Southeast Asia. In 1885 he started another very first: the first newspaper in Taiwan with the first printer, called The Taiwan Hu-Sia Church News (臺灣府城教會報.) It is now The Taiwan Church Press (臺灣教會公報.)

In 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan. The Tainan city officials and citizens asked Barclay for help. On October 20, he accompanied by Rev. Duncan Ferguson (宋忠堅牧師) walked more than two miles at night to pay a visit to general No-Gi (乃木希典將軍,) and successfully arranged the peaceful entry of the Japanese soldiers to the city the next morning.

During his second vacation back in England, Barclay made a wonderful decision. He married Elisabeth A. Turner, a registered nurse, in 1892. Mrs. Barclay turned out to be an important source for the family members and friends of the missionaries. She took care of them physically and spiritually. They met regularly for Bible study and prayer meetings near the College campus beginning 1903. It became part of the congregation of the Maxwell’s Memorial Church in 1906.

In 1921 the congregation became an independent church called East Gate Presbyterian Church (台南東門教會,) one of the most dynamic churches in Taiwan. Two former presidents of the Tainan Theological College/Seminary were from that Church: Dr. Shoki Coe (whose father was the first pastor of the church) and Dr. C S Song (whose father and brother were the elders of the church.) East Gate Church later adopted the name as Dr. Barclay’s Memorial Church.

Besides the first college, the first printer, and the first newspaper in Taiwan, Dr. Barclay’s major contributions to Taiwan including the completed revision of the Romanized/Taiwanese Bible and a dictionary.

There are three dictionaries still referenced among the businessmen and missionaries in Southeast Asia wherever Amoy dialect is spoken. All were made possible by British missionaries:

  • “Chinese English Dictionary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Amoy” (廈門音漢英大辭典,) by Rev. Carstairs Douglas (杜嘉德,) published in 1873 by Trubner & Co., London.
  • “Supplement to Dictionary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Amoy” (增補廈門音漢英大辭典,) by Rev. Thomas Barclay with the assistance of Rev. Iu Su-Iong (楊士養.)
  • “New Dictionary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Amoy” (廈門音新字典, also known as 甘字典)by Rev. William Campbell (甘為霖) - another University of Glasgow and the Free Church Divinity College graduate - who also pioneered the ministries to the blind people in Taiwan.

Barclay was believed to be closely living and working with the Taiwanese. He had many Taiwanese friends and he picked up the street talks wisely. That was also why his linguistic usage of the Taiwanese Bible (白話字聖經) was so popular because they were so close to the lives and the hearts of the locals.

During his sermons, he seldom, if ever, talked about his personal experiences. It was understandable that the discovery of his life and ministries upon his death became a moving chapter in Taiwan church history.

  • Barclay had a pajama for some time. The obvious worn out areas were near his knees. He was the man of prayer, and he always knelt down while praying.
  • Barclay also left a statement of Dedication when he decided to offer himself as a missionary at the age of 16. He affixed his signature at the end of the statement on his birthday every year (first:1865-11-21; last:1934-11-21.) During his married life, he also asked his wife to do the same with him.

Here are the last few lines of Thomas Barclay’s Dedication:

And if any surviving friend should, when I am in the dust, meet with this memorial of my solemn transactions with Thee, may he make the engagement his own: and do Thou graciously admit him to partake in all the blessings of Thy covenant through Jesus the great Mediator of it; to Whom with Thee, O Father, and Thy Holy Spirit, be everlasting praises ascribed, by all the millions who are thus saved by Thee, by all those other celestial spirits in whose work and blessedness Thou shalt call them to share. Amen.

當我睏在土粉的時,若有我在世的朋友,有人讀著這個我與你所立嚴肅的約,願他也能將這個成做他自己與你所立的契約。願你讓他有份於通過大中保耶穌基督所立聖約,各樣的福份。大中保耶穌,就是親愛的天父,你與你的聖神是堪得你所拯救的全人類,以及受召天頂一切有份於你的工作與祝福的,這些靈的讚美的。阿們! (台語)

Barclay was named the President Emeritus of the Bible Society of England in December 1918. He was also awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree by the University of Glasgow in June 1919. He died in Tainan, 1935, two years after his complete work of the Taiwanese Bible. In the midst of the thousands mourning friends, Thomas Barclay (1849-1935) was laid to rest – a distinguished gentleman, and another deeply loved “sticky-nosed” British/Taiwanese.

Acknowledgements: This article has been written with the references from various websites, and from "Formosa For Love" by Rev. S C Pan, published by Jin Kong/Taiwan Church Press.

Related Websites: 台南神學院


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to add that our beloved Rev. Thomas Barclay not only introduced our forfathers with Christianity in the late 1800's, but also planted churches and made a few of the silblings pastors serving our awesome God around the globe. We are indebted to him and his wife greatly. Some day later I would like to share with you great stories how he endured through the hardship in Nei-Pu, Pingtung, Taiwan if the author desires.

Needless to say, our family in our 6th through 9th generations since Rev. Barclay's visit to the village are really blessed presently.

Paul Lin
Houston, TX

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any way that we can download the Amoy Romanize Bible from the net? I can find the other versons like Chinese Union Version and others... but not this one that was translated by Rev. Dr. Thomas Barclay. Appreciate you help and God Bless.

Michelle, Singapore

1:12 AM  
Anonymous LW said...

I have just discovered that Elisabeth Turner [Mrs Barclay] was my great, great aunt. I send best wishes to the Barclay Memorial Church from my mother [aged 94] who remembers her mother speaking frquently of Tom Barclay.

Laurence Whitley, Glasgow

4:17 PM  
Blogger Stephen Chen 陳中潔 said...

Dear Paul Lin: Please feel free to share the story that you mentioned here. You may email me at the story and I can post it as you wish.
* * *
Dear Michelle(Singapore): Email to (The Taiwan Church Press Editor) who may be able to help you in terms of downloading the Taiwanese Bible version.
* * *
Dear Laurence Whitley(Glasgow): It is always good to know how the past has shaped the form of the present. Dr. Barclay's legacy is still going strong, beyond the city of Tainan, onto wherever the Taiwanese/Christians are, worldwide.

S Chen
- A graduate of TTCS

5:11 PM  
Blogger dave said...

Rev Thomas Barclay was mentioned in our family history book. Specifically how God had saved my great-grandfather from a life of opium addiction.
I thank God for His love and grace on our families,and also for Rev Barclay's dedication to a life of God's work.

D. Huang
Chicago, IL

9:17 AM  

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