Morton, Ralph and Jenny

Reference code(s): GB 0237 Edinburgh University, CSCNWW 11
Held at: Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh
Title: Morton, Ralph and Jenny
Date(s) of contents: 1924-1958, c 1971-1972 (mainly 1924-1937)
Level of description: Fonds
Extent and medium: 1 box


Name of creator(s): Morton, T. Ralph (1900-1977)

Administrative/Biographical history: Thomas Ralph Morton (known as Ralph), Presbyterian Church in Ireland missionary to Manchuria, China, was born in Scotland in 1900. He studied at Glasgow (United Free College subsequently Trinity College, 1922-25) and was an active member of various student Christian groups such as the Student Christian Movement. He became a great friend of Robert Mackie (1899-1984) who was later a prominent figure on the Scottish ecumenical movement. T. Z. Koo, the leader of the Chinese Student Christian Movement, visited Britain in 1924 and invited Morton, with R. O. Hall, later Bishop of Hong Kong, to go to China. Morton arrived in China in 1925 and was at first based in Peking for language training. He moved to Moukden in Manchuria in 1926 where he worked with the YMCA and then on to Kirin in 1927. His work was mainly concerned with teaching and working with Chinese students, he spent much time travelling around the area, trying to build networks of student movements and attending conferences, but he was also involved in more general mission work such as bible teaching, taking services and attending mission councils. He became engaged to Jenny Baird (born 1901) in early 1926 who was at that time working for the United Free Church in Bombay. They were married when Morton was home for a brief leave in 1927 and she returned with him to China where she helped with his work and did some teaching herself. The Mortons moved from Kirin to Hsin Min in 1929 where Morton took on the more general duties of a district missionary. They remained at Hsin Min, with a period of leave in 1931 and six months in Peking in 1934 while Morton taught at the university. The Japanese occupation and increasing persecution of Chinese Christians and the authorities' mistrust of foreigners persuaded the Mortons that they should leave China and they returned to the UK in 1937. Morton served as minister of St Columba's in Cambridge until 1943 when he moved to Glasgow to become Warden of the Iona Community House. In 1950 he became deputy leader of the Iona Community, a position he held until he retired in 1967. During the 1950s and 1960s he also lectured in sociology at New College, Edinburgh and he was awarded a DD by Glasgow University in 1963. Morton was the author of many articles and books and he continued writing and preaching after his retirement until his death in 1977.

Custodial history: The collection was briefly listed by Ralph Covell in 1992.

Immediate source of acquisition: The papers were presented to the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western world by Morton's family. The manuscript China the Teacher was presented to the Centre by the author.


Scope and content/abstract: The collection is in two main parts: letters from Ralph Morton (and from 1927 his wife Jenny) to his parents and brothers describing his life and work as a missionary in China with some reference to the political situation and attitudes to religion (1925-1937); and letters from the Mortons to Robert and Dorothy Mackie referring to Morton's life as a student in Glasgow (1924) and to life in China (1925-1930); the collection also includes a few 'miscellaneous' items such as a Manchurian Student Movement Fellowship newsletter (1926) and an unpublished manuscript by Morton China the Teacher describing his life in and views on China (c 1971-72).

System of arrangement: The letters are arranged in chronological order by recipient: the first series of letters are those to Morton's family; the second are those to the Mackies; the letters are followed by other material.


Language: English and some Chinese.

Conditions governing access: Contact the repository for details.

Conditions governing reproduction: Contact the repository for details.

Finding aids: A handlist is available.


Related material: Ralph Morton wrote a number of published and unpublished articles on China and two published books: Life in the Chinese Church (London: Student Christian Movement Press, 1931) and Today in Manchuria (London: SCM Press 1939); Austin Fulton in Through Earthquake Wind and Fire (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1967) describes the missionary work in Manchuria and includes a list of sources; CSCNWW holds papers relating other missionaries in Manchuria; the David Lewis Beebe collection at the Lupton Library, University of Tennessee has correspondence between Beebe and Morton of a later period (1972-77).


Archivist's note: Compiled by Caroline Brown, Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, Edinburgh University.

Note: The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) the collection itself, (2) Through Earthquake Wind and Fire, Austin Fulton (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1967), (3) obituaries in Coracle (the journal of the Iona Community, October 1977), (4) entries in Fasti Ecclesiae Scotticanae (editions from 1961 and 1981).

Date(s) of descriptions: 31 May, 2001


Personal names
Morton | T. Ralph | 1900-1977

Corporate names
Irish Presbyterian Mission

Manchuria (China)