Scott, David Clement

Reference code(s): GB 0237 Edinburgh University Library Gen. 717/10
Held at: Edinburgh University Library
Title: Scott, David Clement
Date(s) of contents: 1881-1895
Level of description: Fonds
Extent and medium: 1 file


Name of creator(s): Scott, David Clement Ruffell (1853-1907)

Administrative/Biographical history: David Clement Ruffell Scott, Church of Scotland missionary in Malawi and Kenya, was born in Edinburgh in 1853. He attended school in Edinburgh then spent some time working in an actuary's office before a calling to the church led him to study Arts and Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. He was a brilliant student graduating M.A. (1878) and B.D. (1881). Scott was ordained in 1881 and immediately sent to be head of the Church of Scotland mission at Blantyre in Nyasaland (now Malawi). He was responsible for virtually restarting the mission as all the previous staff had either resigned or been dismissed. Scott was a brilliant linguist, his interest in African culture and closeness to African people can be seen from his Cyclopaedic Dictionary of the Mang'anja Language (1892). Much of the periodical Life and Work in Central Africa between 1886 and 1898 was written by Scott. His efforts created a mission that was regarded as highly successful. Scott suffered a series of personal setbacks in 1895 with the deaths of his wife, brother-in-law and brother, and later of the daughter of his second wife. This, coupled with the Church of Scotland's decision to side with white settler critics, led him to resign in 1898. In 1901 Scott returned to Africa, to head the Kikuyu mission in British East Africa ( Kenya) which had just been taken over by the Church of Scotland. However his work at Kikuyu was not as successful as his work at Blantyre. The death of his second wife in 1902, a series of illnesses, and criticism of his methods of running the mission marred the final years of his life. Despite this, his ability to relate to Africans remained unchanged and he attracted a number of outstanding Kikuyus to the mission. Scott died at Kikuyu on 13 October 1907.

Custodial history:

Immediate source of acquisition: The papers were presented to Edinburgh University in 1964 by the Reverend Neil Bernard of Edinburgh.


Scope and content/abstract: The collection consists of nineteen letters from Scott to his close friend the Reverend James Robertson written mainly from Blantyre, Nyasaland (Malawi) from the time of his arrival in 1881 to 1895, the year in which his wife and brother died. They describe in some detail the work of the mission and his experiences in Africa.

System of arrangement: The letters are arranged chronologically in one file.


Language: English.

Conditions governing access: Contact the repository for details.

Conditions governing reproduction: Contact the repository for details.

Finding aids: Alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. The collection is mentioned in the Edinburgh University Library subject checklist (C3) Manuscripts on Africa.


Related material: The papers of John William Arthur, who was also at the mission at Kikuyu, at Edinburgh University Library contain references to Scott and his death. A list filed with the Arthur collection mentions some Scott material that is not amongst the material now in the Library. The papers of Arthur Ruffell Barlow, Scott's nephew who was at Kikuyu from 1903, are also at Edinburgh and include material about the history of the mission during Scott's time and some pamphlets and reports produced by Scott. Dr Brian McIntosh in his doctoral thesis The Scottish Mission in Kenya 1891-1923 (Edinburgh University 1969) has a comprehensive list of sources for the history of the Kikuyu mission. Material on the mission at Blantyre is in the National Archives in Malawi and the Synod offices at Blantyre. These sources are described in Blantyre Mission and the Making of Modern Malawi by Andrew Ross (Blantyre, Malawi: CLAIM, 1996). There is also relevant material at the National Library of Scotland which has the records of the Church of Scotland and some Scott correspondence. The papers of George Shepperson at Edinburgh University Library contain a collection of photographs, some of which are of Blantyre.

Copies: Edinburgh University Library Special Collections has a microfilm of the collection (Mic. Dup. 405). A copy was sent to the Kenyan High Commission in 1982 and the National Archives of Malawi in 1984.


Archivist's note: Compiled by Caroline Brown, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives.

Note: The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions Gerald H. Anderson (ed.) (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998). (2) The Presbyterian Church in Kenya Robert Macpherson (Nairobi: Presbyterian Church of East Africa, 1970)

Date(s) of descriptions: 7 July 2000

Linguistic work
Nyanja language

Personal names
Scott | David Clement Ruffell | 1853-1907

Corporate names
Blantyre Mission (Malawi)
Church of Scotland
Kikuyu Mission (Kenya)