A Sinkhole In History Takes Us To A Missionary In China

This is an old photograph of a wedding party that must have been in a job lot of old photos I bought recently. Someone has kindly written some basic information on the reverse of the photograph: “Francis Henry and Alice Evangeline Mosse, Married at the Legation Church, Peking, November 8th 1921“. Thirty years ago that might have been a piece of mildly interesting but totally useless information. Now, however, I have the greatest research library ever known to mankind in front of me on my desk, and I am therefore able to travel back in time and expand on these minimal details. Dr, Francis Henry Mosse was born in Buckinghamshire in January 1885, the son of the Rev E H Mosse, vicar of St Paul’s, Covent Garden. He was educated at King’s School Canterbury and Trinity College Oxford, and he studied medicine at King’s College Hospital, qualifying in 1913. During the war he served as a temporary captain in the Royal Army Medical Corp in Egypt and Palestine, and was with General Allenby’s forces at the capture of Jerusalem. After the war he decided to dedicate his working life to being a medical missionary, and in 1920 he sailed for China to take up a post as a physician to the Cheloo Christian University, under the auspices of the Society For The Propagation Of The Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) In 1921 he married Alice Evangeline Anderson, a young missionary from Duluth, Minnesota.

The couple stayed in China for twenty years and Francis Henry – who was always known as Robin – trained young Chinese men and women at Cheloo University. He fell ill with tuberculosis in 1941 and was evacuated to the USA for treatment, and he died there later that year. Alice never returned to China and died in America in 1979, aged 90. Thanks to the wonderful British Newspaper Archive, we are able to catch up with Robin Mosse in 1926, when he was on a lecture tour back in the United Kingdom. A cutting in the Warwick Advertiser & Leamington Gazette (Saturday 16 January 1926) tells of his attendance at a meeting of the SPG in Kenilworth, and his talk about his work in China. He is described as follows:

“Dr Robin Mosse, who is not a stranger to Kenilworth, and is known for his self-sacrificing work on the China Medical Missions, more than interested his hearers. His earnestness was impressive, and his personality charming, so the audience could quite understand how he and Mrs Mosse continued year after year to carry on the great work in a country where the presence of foreigners is resented”

Warwick & Warwickshire Advertiser & Leamington Gazette, Saturday 16 January 1926

This is what I really love about old photos: you can be walking along a path and suddenly fall through a sinkhole in history, and emerge in a world a long way away and a long time ago.

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