The Church of Scotland’s first Missionary to India.
Born in the parish of Moulin in 1806, Alexander Duff was first educated in what is now the Kirkmichael Session House. He boarded with the brilliant teacher Mr Macdougall, returning home to Moulin each Saturday. He went on to Perth Grammar school then St. Andrews University where he studied theology, before being chosen as the Church of Scotland’s first missionary in India. After an initial spell in India, during which he had an important part to play in changing and modernising the country’s educational system, he returned to Scotland, where he rose to become moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. During further visits to India, Duff also played a part in establishing the University of Calcutta.
The Duff Memorial Free Church designed by L & J G Falconer in 1890, but which is now disused and sadly dilapidated.
Scottish missionaries of the 19th century enjoyed considerable status at home, as evidenced by the commemoration of Alexander Duff through the building of this once fine church.
The nation took great pride in the many men and women who left the home shores to go out and preach ‘the Word’ all over the globe.
Part of the explanation as to why the Scots should be so pre-occupied with spreading the Word overseas can be found in the competition that existed between the three Presbyterian churches which followed the Disruption of 1843 – a schism within the established Church of Scotland in which 450 evangelical ministers of the Church broke away over the issue of the Church’s relationship with the State to form the Free Church of Scotland. Also, overseas conversions were able to be presented as more glamorous than endeavours at home.
The cult of David Livingstone was very important in fuelling Scottish missionary endeavour. He was seen to embody the very characteristics which most Scots could identify with – he was from a humble background, but through diligent and hard work educated himself and gone on to become famous for his exploration of Africa.
The churches paid particular attention to the efforts of missionaries and accounts of their sterling efforts were given out regularly in journals and popularised in children’s books which were often used as Sunday School prizes.
The work of missionaries was brought home to Scots by means of the Magic Lantern Show. Audiences in church hall throughout the land were treated to images of the strange and the exotic and this novelty appeal was important in raising funds.
Literature produced by and about missionaries emphasised the importance of their ‘civilising’ work and provided and moral imperative for British Imperial Expansion.