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.
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.