Turner Manuscripts

Reference code(s): GB 0233 MS 9770
Held at: National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division
Domain: archival
Title: Turner Manuscripts
Date(s) of contents: c1910-c1939
Level of description: Fonds
Extent and medium: One volume of archival material.


Name of creator(s):
Turner, Edith Emma
Turner, Robert Lister (1875-1949)

Administrative/Biographical history: Robert Lister Turner was born in Samoa of missionary parents, on 4 February 1875. He was educated at Glasgow High School, going on to excel at Greek and obtain an MA. In 1900 he became an assistant to Reverend William George Lawes (1839-1907) at the latter's Training Institute for Teachers at Vatorata in Papua; Turner later became Principal himself. In 1910, whilst on furlough, Turner married Edith Emma Calvert, of the Women's Hospital in Wuchang, Central China. Edith was to carry out missionary functions in her own right whilst living with her husband in Papua.

In 1924 the Training Institute for Teachers was transferred to Fife Bay, Isuleilei (Papua) whence it was known as Lawes College. The transfer entailed the relocation, in two ships, of fifty-two men, women and children plus much lifestock, along with the dismantled Vatorata Memorial Church and missionary house. These buildings were reassembled in Fife Bay, the pebble and sand foundation for them being carried the half a mile from the beach by women and children.

In 1930 Robert Turner resigned his Principalship to take up district work at Delena, as well as translation work. In February 1939 he commenced furlough and retirement. He had served two four-year terms as a member of the Legislative Council of Papua; he received one of only six George VI coronation medals for services to Papua and was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society for mountain exploration there. He was also an authority on Papuan folklore, as well as a correspondent of the Australian government on flora. He died on 5 February 1949.

Custodial history:

Immediate source of acquisition: Presented to the National Library of Scotland in 1957.


Scope and content/abstract: The collection comprises:
i. Typescripts with manuscript corrections of four undated lectures on the ethnology of Papua. The fourth lecture concerns the history of the London Missionary Society in Papua from 1871, including the pioneering work of Reverend George William Lawes, comments on the state of the contemporary Papuan Christian communities, and an emphasis on the importance of industrial missionary work.
ii. An undated typescript of an article called 'Taking up the collection in Papua' which describes both a Papuan congregation, and church-building.
iii. An undated typescript by Edith Emma Turner, of an article entitled 'A visit to the home of the gods', intended for publication in the Chronicle of the London Missionary Society. The article is a piece of travel writing detailing a missionaries' holiday in Papua, and includes a handdrawn map of the area visited.
iv. Letters (1910-39) of Edith and Robert Turner, from Vatorata and Delena in Papua, describing local life. Subjects covered include impressions of the indigenous people, village life, local churches, outstation visiting and mixed-race marriage.
v. Miscellaneous items including a typed extract of Turner's journal for 1932, covering issues such as local tribal politics, and church services, some biographical notes on Turner, and a photograph of him.

System of arrangement: The collection is bound into a single volume, in the order described in Scope and content.


Language: English.

Conditions governing access:

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids:
National Library of Scotland, Catalogue of manuscripts acquired since 1925 (volume VIII) manuscripts 9501-11000, charters and other formal documents 8501-8970 (Edinburgh: HMSO 1992).


Related material: The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the papers of the London Missionary Society.

Publication note:
National Library of Scotland, Catalogue of manuscripts acquired since 1925 (volume VIII) manuscripts 9501-11000, charters and other formal documents 8501-8970 (Edinburgh: HMSO 1992).


Note: Compiled using:
the collection itself
John Garrett, To live among the stars: Christian origins in Oceania (Geneva and Suva: World Council of Churches in assocation with the Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, 1982).
Biographical dictionary of Christian missions, ed. by Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1998).

Date(s) of descriptions: July 2002.

Ancient religions
Cultural interaction
Ethnic conflicts
Ethnic groups
Indigenous populations
Industrial missionary work
Interethnic relations
Mission policy
Missionary societies
Missionary work
Ordained missionaries
Religious activities
Religious communities
Religious groups
Religious institutions
Religious organizations
Religious practice
Religous buildings
Rural missionary work
Wives of missionaries

Personal names
Lawes | William George | 1839-1907 | Doctor | pastor, linguist and London Missionary Society in the Pacific
Turner | Edith Emma | née Calvert | missionary and wife of Robert Lister Turner
Turner | Robert Lister | 1875-1949 | London Missionary Society missionary in Papua

Corporate names
London Missionary Society xx LMS | London Missionary Society xx Missionary Society

Papua New Guinea
Papua x Papua New Guinea