Mrs. G. L. Mackay : Little Minnie



From: “A Cloud of Witnesses” by Elsie Singmaster,

published by the Central Committee on the United Study of Foreign Mission, Cambridge, MA.,USA.


In the year 1860 a little girl was born on a tea-plantation in a remote valley in North Formosa. The eldest child of the family had been a boy, but even though their chief desire was satisfied the parents were disappointed because the second child was a girl. Some members of the family suggested that she be killed as speedily as possible, but against this her mother rebelled.

Until she was three years old she was allowed to stay in her own home; then she was given away to become eventually the wife of a son of the family into which she was received. At the same time a little girl of about her own age was taken by her parents so that they might prepare her to marry their own son.

Little Minnie--this was the name she took later in life--had a hard task-mistress in her future mother-in-law, who trained her into family ways without feeling any love for her. She had one friend in the grandmother of the boy whom she was expected eventually to marry. This good woman’s name was Thah So (塔嫂). She listened tenderly to Minnie’s sorrowful and wholly justifiable complaints and did her best to stand between her and punishment.

Once a year, about New Year’s Day, Minnie was permitted to visit her own home where she had no longer any right. There, however, she was dearly loved and when the time came to return she managed to step into a flooded rice-field and cover her shoes with mud, or fall into th brook, and thus postpone her departure for a day. When Minnie was thirteen years old, Thah So made a journey to Tamsui not at once attend to the(淡水). The wharf at which she landed was situated in the busiest quarter of the city. When she stepped from the boat she did not at once attend to the business for which she came but turned aside and by chance heard a missionary preaching the Gospel. This young man was a Canadian of Scotch descent by the name of George L. Mackay. For a year he had been preaching without any converts. Now, however, he found a convert. Thah So not only heard but she believed, and returning home told the good news to her friends. Presently, at the invitation of her and her neighbors, the missionaries built in their village (五股坑) the first chapel in North Formosa, and along with a hundred and fifty others Thah So And Minnie became Christians.

The young man went on preaching, establishing chapels, keeping a watch upon his flock. He kept an eye also upon little Minnie and presently he asked her to become his wife. They were married and set out upon a wedding-tour to all the mission stations. Now, indeed, the Formosans believed that their missionary was theirs indeed.

Minnie set up housekeeping in a white-washed bungalow. When her first little girl was a year old she was left in the care of her nurse and other missionaries while her parents paid a visit to Canada. There she saw for the first time life on a busy farm. While her husband was away on missionary business, she did not grieve, but applied herself to learning English so that she might make herself understood without him. A second child was born in Canada and after they returned to Formosa a son was added to the family.

Mrs. Mackay was the mistress of a busy household. The front hall of the little house was turned into an office, the back hall became a dispensary. When the first girls school of the mission was built the students had to be collected, brought to the mission, clothed and fed. These early pupils Mrs. Mackay received and taught. Until her husband’s death in 1901 she took an active part in the work of the mission; afterwards she remained nearby, prepared to assist without seeming to manage or to direct. So greatly beloved was she in the city that the market dealers provided a large stock of food for New Year’s Day, festival days and Mrs. Mackay’s birthday. After her death a native pastor(T.C.G. ) sent a tribute to the Formosan Church Paper(台灣教會報,no.488, Nov. 1925.p.5-6). He said, as though he were addressing Mrs. Mackay:

“Since I met you first until the last time I saw you, full fifteen years have passed. During all these years your god life has been to us a demonstration of the following three gifts:

‘‘You were a happy woman. A non-Christian teacher once said to me, the services in a Christian Church are like the joy of a wedding-feast. How true this is we all know, but alas! How often do we relax from that joyful spirit the moment we leave the church. But whenever we saw you, Mrs. Mackay, we knew that there was joy within you.

You were a peaceful woman. Those of us who have known you, of whatever nationality, of whatever tribe, be he a foreigner, a Japanese or a Formosan, be he a relative, a friend, or a stranger, there was not one who was not drawn to you. We have never heard any one speak ill of you, and we have never heard you speak ill of others. I do not think you knew what strife meant.

You were a loving woman. We have met many who can love a few people, but never have we met any whose love was so universal, and so broad. Your love was for rich and poor alike and for the old and the young. Your love was lasting. Although some may love others for a time, your love was for all time.”

 Of her, her son said: She had a warm heart, was sincere and affectionate, unselfish and humble, patient and forgiving. Among her characteristics was a keen and ready wit. In the early days when there was persecution of the Christians, when our preachers and pastors were sorely tried, she was always the one who dispelled dark clouds with her words of cheer.

“In those days our house was i many respects more like an inn than a house. Crowds of people, preachers, students, converts, travelers, strangers, heathen, sick folks and others would constantly come and go. Meals and sleeping quarters must be provided and Mother was hospitality itself. For well nigh half a century she was associated with this mission. Of the trials and hardships of pioneer days she had a large share. She saw the first planting of the mustard seed. She lived to see thousands of converts scattered throughout Formosa.’

 Mrs. Mackay left three children. The elder daughter (Mary Ellen,偕媽蓮) is a worker for the Woman’s Missionary Society, the second (Bella Catherine,偕以利) is the wife of a native pastor, the son(George William,偕叡廉) is the Head of the Boys’ High School.

A photo and notes in parentheses were added by LES.