Transcription of letters from
Henry F. Grieve to John Baillie, 1889-18911/
Jan. 29, 1889.
I was interested in hearing lately from Annie that you and Walter2/ [ed.: a line drawn from "Walter" in blue, with Frances Emma Webb née Baillie’s writing, "John Baillie’s brother"] had gone with a party of Kaffirs across the Queen River and had held a Christian service at a kraal about six miles from Barberton. This seems to me a first rate way of carrying on Mission work: the good news is carried to the people, they hear it, and where their hearts respond to it the Spirit of God carries on His work – convincing them of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and eventually revealing to them the full light of the Gospel by faith in the Lord Jesus. Where the people thus receive the truth they wish for teachers, and so the way is open for one to go to reside among them. It occurs to me that you can work very usefully in this way, with Barberton for your centre. By organizing excursions of this kind you will familiarize the native mind to the work of evangelization, and some of the men most likely will develope [ed.: sic] into apt teachers and preachers of the truth, able to instruct their heathen tribesmen and willing to go amongst them for that purpose. Such men being perfectly acquainted with the native language, mode of thought, and manner of life, would be the better able to fit the truth to them. The fact that you found on your arrival at Barberton the natives meeting for worship without any authorized teacher shows that they are capable of holding fast what they have been taught; and there is therefore ground for hope that the seed which you sowed by the Queen river will take root, spring up, and bring forth fruit.
Annie tells me you have taken a trip to Swaziland3/ [ed.: sic] – found the country mountainous, and thinly peopled. Probably for the present your sphere of work is to be found in Barberton where large numbers of natives congregate whom you are able to influence for good, leading them in the way of salvation & preparing them to carry the good news all around.
Our friends at Barberton have done nobly in raising ₤1000 for their new chapel in about two & a half years, besides supporting their minister. Mr. Underwood has himself been a missionary in Swaziland; could he now induce the Barbertonians to send an evangelist into that country? I suppose his official position would only allow him to recommend this to the Chairman of the District; but if the promise of support was given there need be no difficulty.
Feb. 6. We are glad to know your Mother is as well as could be expected after the surgical operation. I hope she will soon be free from suffering pain now.
There is quite a revival in trade here. Ship-building is going on actively, and marine engine building. Is business any better at Barberton? The trade there will depend upon the turn-out of gold: I have not heard what the prospects have been lately.
Mr. Spencer Walton is announced here as having lately come from South Africa. I saw him some years ago at Keswick. He is to hold a series of meetings for a week, and they are to be followed by a Missionary Convention.
There is a widespread interest in the affairs of Central Africa. Lately Mr. Arnot was here giving an account of his peaceful explorations; and in Newcastle there have been lectures delivered by Convr. Cameron and Mr. Moir (Manager of the African Lakes Co.) The two last named agree in declaiming against the Arab raids which are depopulating the country, and they think there should be an organised and armed resistance to them. A clergyman who went out from Newcastle lately to the East coast (I think near Mombasa) wrote home an account of a meeting of freed slaves who were in danger of again being stolen – they resolved to fight for freedom and this young missionary declared in his letter that he had made up his mind to lead them if it came to fighting.4/
Father & Mother keep fairly well. It is a cause for thankfulness to God that Father keeps so well and hearty in his old age; and Mother too though she has suffered frequently is able to go about comfortably in the house. They remember you & Annie always at family prayers and take a deep interest in all your concerns.
In your last letter you asked me to join you and Annie and Walter in prayer for the natives of Swaziland. I hope often to do so, and I should like to receive the information which you propose to send about the people from time to time. It is satisfactory to know that affairs between them and the Dutch have been arranged without war.
We are pleased to know that Walter is now settled safely in Barberton, so that you have the advantage of his society, and he has a fine field for training for usefulness. I send him my kind remembrance.
Please give Annie a kiss from me.
Wishing you all peace & prosperity.
Your affectionate brother
2 Salem Terrace. Feb. 13th 1889.
Last week I sent you a letter in which I suggested that you might be able to have a native evangelist for Swazieland maintained by the people of Barberton. In the meanwhile it seems that our gracious Lord has put into the heart of an Englishman to send two such teachers there, and he has by this mail written to consult you on the matter. This is cause for gratitude and praise to God who hears the prayers of His children, and answers them in His wisdom. I took leave from office work this afternoon to attend a meeting of the Missionary Conference, and there Mr. Walton spoke of his intention: I hope to-night to give him a sovereign towards this proposed mission. He purposes visiting Barberton on his return to South Africa, and he may also go into Swazieland. It was what you wrote to us about the opening for preaching the gospel there that led Mr. Walton to think about that locality.
I enclose a programme of the work in which Mr. Walton is engaged in South Africa.
To-night there is again to be a meeting at which Mr. Brooke (a young fellow from Central Africa) & Mr. Walton will speak.
One point strongly emphasized at these meetings is the felt need of "power from on high". Mr. Glenny expressed this to-day by speaking of the salvation of men as a thing utterly impossible by human power but possible to God. He has returned from a visit to North Africa in Dec. when he found the missionaries feeling the work extremely difficult, but looking up to God. Mr. Reg Radcliffe prayed fervently for a blessing on all the saints at home & abroad, and for the exercise of the power of the Holy Ghost.
Your affectionate brother
Tuesday, May 21st 1889
My dear John,
We are just now rejoicing in beautiful May sunshine. The spring has been backward with us here; we have had a long succession of easterly winds and very little sunshine until Saturday last, but that day and the three subsequent ones have been an agreeable change.
We were the more glad that Saturday last was a fine bright warm day as we had an important work to do that day. It was arranged that Emma & Fanny & I should go with my brother to Dumfries – a distance of 105 miles. My brother has been staying at Dunston, near Gateshead, for the last four weeks; but for a permanent (or prolonged) residence we chose the Royal Institution at Dumfries. This place was built and endowed by a gentleman named Crichton, whose name it bears, at a cost of over ₤100.000 for the use of persons in the middle classes suffering from mental disorders. The patients pay according to their means from ₤40 a year upwards to several hundred, and any profits go to the benefit of the institution, no private profit being made and the officers receiving fixed salaries. You may imagine that the prospect of taking Samuel there was a painful one. It was nearly four weeks since we had seen him and since he had been torn from home, and it was doubtful how we might find him and how he would bear his removal to another place. The events proved that God was better to us than our fears. We found Samuel in his usual health and he was no trouble on the journey. At the Institution he quietly parted from us without asking any question.
The place where he is now staying is beautifully situated on rising ground commanding extensive prospects. To the west and north the view is bounded by hills in the distance, and the gardens round the house afford space for walking exercise. When we were there the warm sunshine falling on the trees and shrubs all around seemed to transport us to another climate. The medical superintendent (Dr. Rutherford) and his young assistant whom we saw were gentlemanly and kind, and the attendant who travelled with us also gave us satisfaction. I hope my brother’s residence there will be good for him. In all the way leading up to it there appears the hand of God; and at present we must walk by faith, not by sight. In the world to come we shall know in a different sense to what we know now. "Now we know in part: then shall we know even as also we are known".
The illness of my sister Jane5/ culminating in death was a severe strain upon us. We saw here becoming thinner and weaker as days passed by and yet she held to the hope that she would be well. It was not until the very last that she felt that she must die, and on a Thursday afternoon (the day before Good Friday) she passed away shortly before I came in from my office work.6/ Mother and Emma & Fanny were all with her to comfort her in her last moments and commend her spirit to God.
It had been Jane’s wish that Samuel should be safely removed before her decease, and we had made preliminary arrangements. After the funeral these arrangements were carried out, and all this added to the mental toil and sorrow of heart of our bereaved household. It is by the grace of God that we have borne up under our afflictions.
Our friends have been kind in expressing their sympathy and in praying for us. Remember us still in your prayers. I feel much for Father, whose advanced age naturally deprives him of his natural strength and makes him more likely to suffer in his health from trouble.
I received a letter from you last week and a newspaper. I hope you will often write as to your hope of missions in Swaziland and whatever interests you. I did not understand from what I heard Mr. Walton say at the missionary meeting that he expected you to superintend the proposed native teachers; he only spoke of his hope to send two men and I assumed they would be under his own direction but I thought in writing to you he sought for information as to the locality &c. The newspaper tells of dark intrigues by certain foreigners who seek to turn everything to their own private advantage, and the influence of such men must be prejudicial to others who seek to do good. The extracts I enclose show also that there is a disposition to annex the country on the part of the Dutch, and that this leads to the question of English control. What future arrangements may be made I do not know; but we know that the Lord Jesus claims all kingdoms for His own. If you are favoured to be an ambassador of Christ to this people I shall rejoice with you. May God guide you!
Your affectionate brother
We recently celebrated the third anniversary of your wedding, and we wish & pray continued happiness to you & dear Annie.
October 29th 1889
We are much obliged for the amount you have again sent to help pay Samuel’s expenses. It is very good of you to do so, and more than we would expect, and it is of much use in relieving the strain which would otherwise be felt. At the same time I should regret if this crippled your resources. I must leave the matter with your discretion. At any rate what you have done in this way strengthens the bond between us and shows that our interests are one and I trust that God’s approval & blessing follows your gift.
I am glad to know that the medical book arrived safely. I hope you & Annie will continue all right. On Saturday afternoon I took tea with a friend who then told me that in his youth he used to like to study doctor’s books! I thought it was a queer task. He was very emphatic in praise of wheat bread – (brown bread as we call it at home) – made from the entire grain; this he said contains all the elements of nutrition we need, while other foods contain only some of those elements; he affirmed that a dog fed on white bread only would soon die, but on wheat bread only would live and thrive. The name of the friend to whom I refer is William Lennox. He is tall and spare and dark like you7/ , and he recently married the niece of some old friends of my father and mother. Before his marriage, I took an interest in him on seeing him attend our chapel, and I found he had been a traveller in the wine & spirit trade, but knowing the trade to be a bad one and injurious to his own health he relinquished it. He was also very desirous to find salvation, and knew he could not serve God until he gave up the business. At the time I first called upon him he lived with his parents who kept a public house. We had then a long conversation together, and he subsequently joined our church. He is now a simple earnest Christian & his wife is so as well; his parents have given up their business, and he believes that his mother is converted though he is doubtful about his father. Of course he is now a total abstainer from strong drink and condemns it earnestly.8/ He is now engaged in the sea trade. I mention these things because they interest me and perhaps will please you.
We are glad to know that all is going on well with you at Barberton. It is well you get on nicely at the new Store, where Mr. Voysey is. Annie mentions in her last that it was your busy time. You are also busy in the Mission school and jail-visitation. I see from the letter that you enclosed to me from Mr. Walton that the native mission is now associated with the Cape General Mission, and that Mr. W. may visit the neighbourhood shortly. I admire the Christian spirit of Mr. Walton and his friend Dudley Kidd. I am not able to form an opinion as to their methods as these are not yet put into shape, and the circumstances of the case are better known to you on the spot than to others away from it. You will not do anything rashly and as these men have asked counsel of God and look to Him to open the way, I hope all will be done wisely and well.
It is cheering that you have had tokens of success in your work amongst the natives. In John 9.4 we read the words of Jesus – "I must work"; in preaching from these words on last Sunday our minister (Mr. Marris) remarked that the revised version reads "We must work"; and he said it is true of every Christian worker that the Lord works with him. This is our crown of encouragement. Because it is the Lord’s work it will be sure to prosper, though you may not now see it. Our minister spoke of the joy of harvest time as depending on what had previously been done in the dismal days of ploughing & sowing when no one gave heed to the work; but the worker’s reward depends not only on his success but on the work – "to every man according as his work shall be".
I have not heard much news from Africa lately. From short paragraphs in newspapers it appears some parts of the Transvaal are suffering much from drought, so that the flocks are in jeopardy. There was a note lately that Sir F. de Winton was making some arrangement in Swaziland, but the case was not explained. I have seen nothing lately about the Delagoa Bay railway; is it going to be laid towards Barberton or is the project abandoned? You will know that in Central Africa the Great Powers are portioning off the country. Besides the Congo Free State on West Central Africa the Germans, English & Italians are taking under their control large sections on the East side. The British East African Association possesses a coast line of 840 miles from Mombasa northwards, giving access to the Victoria Nyanza and the upper regions of the Nile. The regeneration of Africa has commenced, and we may look for great things in which you too have your share.
With love to you & Annie
Your affectionate brother
Kind regards to Walter.
2 Salem Terrace, Sunderland,
Sep. 2, 1890
I had the pleasure of receiving a letter from you lately, and this week also Mother received one. I suppose you will hardly know the great pleasure your letters give us. Will you try to remember that we value your letters?
In your last letter you had not received news of the death of our dear Father, but you anticipated it and would receive the news almost immediately. It was a time to us of continued watching and painful sympathy with Father’s weakness, but he is now entered into the rest that remains for the people of God. I am thankful for the influence of my father’s character upon myself; he was on the Lord’s side, and his aim was to induce all to serve God in sincerity and truth. I have a fancy that your little son John Henry in his photo bears a resemblance to his grandfather’s features. I wish that he may resemble him too in his physical & moral sturdiness. I am glad to know your home still is so happy, and rendered more so by the advent of the baby. Our happiness & yours are linked together; if you rejoice, then we are made glad.
We have been favoured lately with a fortnight’s chance at the little village of Brancepeth about 4 or 5 miles West of Durham. We found a temporary home in a comfortable house where the people were kind and attentive; they gave us the use of their books and told us the best parts of the neighbourhood and shewed [Ed.: sic] us some places themselves. We had access to the grounds of a Castle close bye [Ed.: sic], and this was an advantage to us and enabled Mother to enjoy a nice clear walk amid beautiful lawns and trees. We also attended the services at the Church on the Sundays and enjoyed them. The whole locality has only thirty houses.
We were interested in your account of Mr. Dudley Kidd’s visit, to which we had been previously looking forward for some time. After the long period during which you had been looking towards Swazieland it must have been with a keen zest that you set out in company with r. Kidd on the proposed tour. The way in which you or Mr. Kidd saw both Col. Martin & Mr. Shepstone and obtained the information you sought is certainly ground for thankfulness to God. I think also that the result of your discussions is a token of Divine guidance, and I am glad to hear from your last letters that it meets with the approval of the Council at the Cape. It is some months since that I expressed my view to you that Barberton formed a good centre from which to organize and lead out small companies of Christian natives, and it seems that is the plan upon which you propose to work. There is also now the immense advantage in prospect (through the Cape Mission) of your hands being free to engage fully in Native work; and upon this prospect I send you my hearty congratulations. There is the further advantage of having the Native workers themselves sustained by the help of the Mission, besides the teaching & training which they will receive by your means. From the first expression of your concern for the Swazies up to this present time (not to mention previous links in the chain) there seems to me to have been a beautiful succession of events; small in themselves sometimes but leading up gradually to such an arrangement as you have sketched out. Surely the hand of our Heavenly Father has been shaping events for your good & His glory and the extension of the Kingdom of His Son in the hearts of the outcast Kaffir tribes. I trust you, dear John, will receive continually from the Divine hand that ‘authority’ which marks the heaven sent messenger, and makes him a power for good.
I remain, Dear John,
Please give Annie and the baby a kiss from me.
Saturday June 20th 1891
We have now reached our summer time again with its greenness, its flowers, and its fruits. The meadows are looking gay with daisies, clover & buttercups. The shops are showing cherries, strawberries & new potatoes. The parks & gardens are being laid out with flower beds to bloom during the next two or three months.
On Thursday evening I called to see your Mother. The week before I had found her exceedingly weak, and depressed; this time however there has been a change for the better which I hope may continue. She still takes a keen interest in all your affairs at Barberton and follows your explorations in Swaziland.
Annie says you were at Mahamba. Then the native minister whom you saw would be Daniel M’simang, the father of the native teacher who worked once with you in Barberton? Mr. Underwood was once at that place and used to refer to the old man.
June 24th. Yesterday I got holiday & went to visit a friend who has gone to live in a village in Northumberland called Felton (your side of Morpeth). I found him living in a little house something like yours at Barberton. It is on the summit of rising ground having a small garden in front & looking over to a corresponding summit opposite on which the old church stands. The neighbourhood is beautified with woods & scattered trees as well as pasture lands. My friend and his wife take an interest in your work and remember you in their prayers. They have a photographic group showing Mr. & Mrs. Spencer Walton, Dudley Kidd, & their helpers, who went out two or three years ago to South Africa. This picture occupies a prominent place in their bedroom. I had a pleasant day with them and enjoyed the walks and intercourse with persons whom I met.
We are looking forward with interest to the movements which you may undertake. May you have the wisdom and grace which come from above to direct and sustain you! It must be a trial to you & Annie’s feelings to leave again the little home to go to an unknown and uncivilized place. I trust you will have the comfort and courage of heart necessary to sustain you. The assurance that Jesus commands the good news to be preached to all is your warrant and the power of the Holy Spirit will be your endowment.
I hope to go with my Mother & sisters to Rothbury for a fortnight next month. At first we intended going specially on Emma’s account but afterwards we thought the same lodgings would do for all, and the change would be beneficial to us. I am glad that since Emma went to the faith healing home at Leeds she is keeping better in her head – this is a great relief. I think however that while we believe in God we will be careful to use all suitable means to ensure health.
You know that your dear Mother began to use certain foreign homeopathic remedies but latterly she has not been able to continue them. If she is able to resist the sickness probably she will resume the use of this means, which seems calculated to give much relief. She has still continued outward applications and thinks they do her good.
It is just a year now since we lost my beloved Father. He was then struggling with the throes of death: now he is for ever free from physical weakness and from earthly sorrow and rests with God. I often have transient moments of anticipation when I look into the future and see its rest and reunion and glory. That future now seems far away; but though it is distant, it is certain, and the certainty should compensate for the waiting.
We can afford to be calm and brave and patient. Hope too brings energy.
I have not seen my brother Samuel this year. When I went in the spring to Dumfries expecting to see him I found he had gone for a time to another country house, and I have not gone since. It may be a pleasant change for him, which it would be a pity to prevent by his coming back to Dumfries to see me. The doctor writes saying he is well & cheerful.
The sunny summer makes the sea-side pleasant – don’t you think of the bright sparling [ed.: sic] water & cool breezes, and "a dip in the briny"? We have got a big pier at Nokes [ed.: illegible] (not opened to the public yet) and fine promenades on the banks. It has just been decided by our Commissioners to begin the corresponding pier on the south side. Each pier is intended to be about 2800 feet long and the total cost will be more than ₤300,000. Cement blocks made on the spot form the principal part of the structures.
It will be about Annie’s birthday9/ when you get this: will you give her a kiss for me? Kind regards to Walter.
With love. Your affectionate brother
Aug. 19th 1891
So you have at last got fairly launched on a purely missionary career! No doubt you will meet with many and sore disappointments, but be of good courage enduring hardness as a good soldier and your labour will tell for the progress of our Lord’s Kingdom in the hearts of men. An old lady was at our house last night (Mrs. Edmundson) and she prayed that the headman near whom you live may be disposed to receive the gospel. As the people are readily led by their chiefs I imagine it would be well to begin at the top. St. Paul did not shrink from preaching to the leading men in his day, even making his appeal to the Emperor.
I would like to see you in your new home. It must at first be lonesome to live away from civilized life, and at times there will perhaps be a feeling of insecurity. I do not fear for you, however. I expect you will win the confidence of the people; and besides you have the courage of a good conscience, and so you will not fear. We were interested to know about the stock you have taken from Barberton and we look forward to your having the place under cultivation with your own garden & trees etc. Is the ground hilly where you are? Is it close to a kraal or at a distance? Are the kraals permanent or do the people move about?
We were pleased to have the photo group you kindly sent, and especially to have the portrait of David your present helper. He is a reliable looking man and is a great acquisition. I hope he will be staying near you. Is he a married man? If so, would it not be well for him to settle beside you? In him you have a native helper such as you proposed to train at Barberton, but you see you have him at once all ready to your hand. I am glad you had the counsel and aid of Mr. Dudley Kidd, and that he went with you to make a start. He is just the right sort of man to help you forward – I imagine you will be good friends now.
We thank you for your thoughtful kindness in sending the help towards Samuel’s expenses. A fortnight ago Fanny & I went to the place where he is now staying; it is a house held by the Chrichton Trustees as a country home, a few miles south of Dumfries and not far from the Solway. It was a showery day when we went, with overcast sky, and rain fell as we walked from the station through the extensive park by which the house is approached, so we stood for some time under the spreading branches of some tall old beech trees that form an avenue. The house was not far off – a fine square building in grey stone with an upper part like a look out, surrounded by lawns and trees, perfectly secluded, and looking like what it is in reality – a lordly mansion. We walked under the trees until the rain abated and then as we proceeded along the roadway the sun began to appear and made the park look bright. A large portico forms the entrance leading into the lofty hall beyond and the different parts of the building communicate with the hall. We were kindly received by a slender middle aged lady of gentle and gracious manner; she gave up her room to us so that we might have a quiet interview with Samuel, and we stayed there two or three hours until time to leave for the train. We found our brother in good health, he was evidently pleased to see us and to stay in our company while he looked over a Pilgrim’s Progress we had brought him and otherwise spent the time until we left. Miss Purvis (the lady housekeeper) caused us to be served with dinner together – just the three of us – and afterwards showed Fanny & I [ed.: sic] some of the rooms. We went into the library (where the patients have access to well filled shelves of first class books) and into the ladies’ sitting room – both large apartments, well furnished, and looking out to the park outside where a lake is visible. We also saw the billiard room and the conservatory & flower garden. Afterwards a cup of tea was served to us, and a vehicle was sent to convey us to the railway station. We left Samuel still sitting in the room & saw him as we drove past the window. Our visit gave us a most favourable impression, both of the advantage of such a fine residence and of the kindness with which it is managed – I believe a true Christian kindness. So you see that into what is a darkened part of our family life there fall gentle rays of light softening the gloom and sometimes creating beauty.
I saw your dear Mother about a fortnight since. She seems depressed with the fear that she will not regain her strength. She is keenly interested in all your movements in the distant land. I fear she is not rallying to such a degree as to give us confidence in her recovery. We must commend her to God.
I saw Mr. Clement Thompson a few days ago. He tells me that his relatives are all dead now. He is however married and lives happily with his wife and two children. He promised to spend an evening with me, when I hope to interest him with some account of your life in South Africa.
We are now nearing the end of our summer. For some time past the weather has been changeable, so we have not had so much enjoyment as we would otherwise. We were away at Rothbury for a fortnight, and I think we were all the better for it. I am thankful that Mother & sisters & I were all able to have this treat together. We were staying with kind people, and that helped us much.
I hope Annie is keeping well and John Henry as well as yourself, and that you will continue to be useful and happy in your lives. I send a kiss for Annie.
Your affectionate brother