Once Upon a Time
'Margaret Helen Brown
an Autobiography'

by Bob Johnston

February 17, 2016


Once Upon a Time

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Margaret Helen - Brown An Autobiography

I have had cold feet writing about myself. It would be a sort of autobiography and may sound something like boasting. I would hate that! My life has been so full of adventure: evacuations, wars, famine, refugees, etc. that to do a short sketch would be difficult.

First of all, I have always been proud to have been born and receive my early education in Bruce County, first at Union S.S. No.3, Bruce and Kincardine, Tiverton Public School and Kincardine High School. I think walking the two and a half miles to school up the boundary in the depth of winter strengthened me to face difficulties in later life. My mother had already created in me a joy in poetry. I owe much to Mr. Perry, our principal in Kincardine H.S., who made Wordsworth live for me and become my favorite poet.

Dr. J. Lovell Murray was minister of Knox Presbyterian Church and both he and his wife left a deep impression on me. Their son, the Rev. J. Lovell Murray, left for mission work in India just when I entered high school and this deepened my interest in missions. Tiverton Presbyterian Church also had much influence on my life. I was only nine years old when Rev. Kenneth MacLennan became our pastor. He and his wife had recently returned from the Mission in Honan, China. My interest in China was deepened.

I entered Queen`s University in the autumn of 1909. My cousin Margaret Walks of Elderslie, was also at Queen`s and both of us took extra classes outside our work in the Theological College to prepare us for mission work. I was designated for work in the Honan Mission of the Presbyterian Church of Canada on July 30, 1913 in Tiverton and my cousin the next day in Paisley. We sailed on a Japanese boat for Shanghai on September 9 and arrived in Honan on October 19.

I opened the first full Primary School for girls within the old city of Hwaiking---population 30,000. After my furlough of 1920 I opened a school for married women. From 1925-27 we had our first round of Communist troubles. All missionaries had to be evacuated from the coast during those years as there was serious fighting in Honan.

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The 1920`s was the War-Lord period and Honan, being half-way between Peking and Hankow, was frequently a battle ground between Northern and Southern War-Lords. I usually managed to get outside the city to the Missionary Compound before the city gates were closed, when fighting began.

Unable to get back into Honan after my 1928 furlough, I represented the Mission on the staff of the Christian Literature Society for China in Shanghai. Dr. Donald MacGillivray was Secretary General of the Society at the time. He was born on the 12th Concession of Bruce. His wife had founded “Happy Childhood” the first magazine published for children in Chinese.


Next month: Part 2—The War Years. Adapted from her article in the 1971 yearbook of the Bruce County Historical Society

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016