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D. Ben Rees, Josiah Hughes: the Reluctant Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Missionary of Malacca (Modern Welsh Publications, 2016), £15   Hard back


We are much indebted to Dr D. Ben Rees for his efforts to ensure that the missionary Josiah Hughes (1804-40) is not forgotten in our age. This is a pioneering and thorough piece of work from the exceptionally productive pen of a prolific author. And the foundation stone of this study is the substantial collection of documents and correspondence which is part of the large archive in the custody of the Missionary Society at London, and among them are a number of revealing, significant letters penned by Josiah Hughes himself. There is clear evidence here of wide, in depth reading to discover more information about the subject of this important study. And in the endnotes there are numerous snippets of valuable information, including brief biographies of some on the individuals who crop up in this wondrous story, and these are of much interest to the reader as he progresses through the text.


Josiah Hughes is described here as 'a reluctant missionary to Malacca for a number of reasons' (p. 7). His father John Hughes, a native of Abergele, was one of his denomination's most prominent elders at Liverpool from 1813 onwards, and members of the family worshipped at Pall Mall chapel in the city. And it was exceptionally difficult for them at the beginning to come to terms with the busy, precarious life of a city like Liverpool.


Josiah Hughes was ordained at Great George Street chapel, Liverpool in February 1830. His great ambition was to become a missionary in India, and he travelled from Liverpool to Bombay in 1830 on board a ship which took all of seven long months to reach its destination. He then travelled on to Penang and finally to Malacca, namely his final destination, by November. Malacca is here described as 'the centre of the eastern outpost of the LMS activities in Asia' (p. 16).


After reaching his destination, Josiah Hughes started to teach in the local schools, to evangelise amongst the four linguistic communities which existed there at the time, and to act as a shepherd to the congregations which existed there at that time. In addition he took to preaching and to teach within the Anglo-Chinese College where he developed mightily, making an outstandingly distinguished contribution as a teacher. He assumed responsibility for the opening of three schools there, and no fewer than 83 children had enrolled there within a short time.


But, according to the evidence presented to us in this volume, Josiah Hughes was not always a great success as an organiser and administrator, and his relationship with the authorities at London were at times less than harmonious. In addition there is evidence of something of a clash between him and the other missionaries who were there at the same time, especially one John Evans (he was no kind of Welshman in spite of his name) who was despatched there as a missionary by the Missionary Society.


Josiah Hughes faced an uphill task in attempting to evangelise and act as a missionary at Malacca, and his difficulties there increased. And the correspondence at London is powerful testimony to the high tensions which arose, especially between individuals like Josiah Hughes, John Evans and Jacob Tomlin. And Ben Rees assesses in particular the relationship which existed between Hughes and Tomlin. Although he came across evidence of a friendly relationship between the two, he could but fail to come to the conclusion that 'the attitude of Tomlin was responsible for the unpleasant atmosphere amongst the LMS missionaries in Malaysia, especially in Penang and Malacca' (p. 27). Later on the relationship between Hughes and Evans improved somewhat.

By the end of the year 1835 Josiah Hughes was free of his association with the London Missionary Society, and Jacob Tomlin and his family (and they had four children by this time) were on their way back to London in 1836-37. By this time, the Rev John Hughes, Josiah Hughes's father, was at the height of his powers within Liverpool and 'had been a very shrewd, capable leader, with a strong will and determination' (p. 29). Even since 1830, when his son had become a missionary, his ambition was to set up evidence of missionary activities.


When Tomlin left Calcutta in order to travel back to England, Josiah Hughes was en route to Calcutta in order to discuss  an episcopal ordination with the Bishop of Calcutta at the time, Dr Daniel Wilson, namely the former vicar of Islington in London when he refused to support the Missionary Society. But an exceptionally favourable impression was made on him by Josiah Hughes's personality and beliefs, and in 1838 the bishop went so far as to visit Malacca under Hughes's personal supervision. The Bishop agreed to ordain both Josiah Hughes and John Evans, but, as it happened, this did not happen. Fate intervened in an exceedingly cruel way.


Josiah Hughes died of cholera on 25 November 1939, at the age of only 36 years. This exceptionally sad course of events is chronicled here by D. Ben Rees. Within a day of his death, his body was laid to rest in Malacca's earth, with John Evans officiating at the funeral service. And Evans himself had died, too, within a very short time. Following the deaths of these two giants, there was very little real future for the missionary cause in that region, and the cause came to an end there in 1843. And reference is made here (see p. 35 in this work) to the response of the Bishop of Calcutta to these terrible losses.


And, in that byegone age, John Hughes's family at Liverpool knew nothing of what had happened for another six months, and Josiah's death came as a terrible shock to them of course. His father lived on for another eight years, and in his will he left the sum of £83-19-6 to the Foreign Ministry of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists. But the Foreign Missionary cause continued in India – from 1840 until the end of the 1960s. And thanks to the sterling efforts of the Rev. D. Ben Rees, the pioneering work of John Hughes, Josiah Hughes and Jacob Tomlin will never be forgotten in the future.


It is a pleasure to see this work appearing in graceful, readable Welsh and English which are both a real pleasure to read. And this little work is outstandingly sleek in its appearance, a pleasure to handle and hold on our bookshelves where it will find an honourable place side by side with so many other works penned by this talented, hard-working scholar who is about to celebrate his eightieth birthday in August of this year.


J. Graham Jones

A brief history of the Liverpool Welsh

Who are they ?’ What have they done ?
Liverpool Welsh have been an integral part of the Liverpool scene since the heyday of the slave trade and the building of the docks in the last decade of the eighteenth century. Shipping became an occupation  that attracted men from Anglesey and Caernarvonshire and when the clever welsh poet and  Anglican divine Goronwy Owen  settled at St Mary’s Church, Walton in 1755 he loved coming to the waterfront to converse in welsh with the sailors from his native hearth of Anglesey. These men and women of Wales came in their thousands between 1760 and 1860 and in that period at least 16 Welsh speaking chapels and churches were built. By 1900 Liverpool had around 90 Welsh Chapels, Churches and mission halls to cater for the spiritual and cultural needs. By 1815, within Liverpool there was a Welsh town. The  Little Wales plaque to remember their coming  is on the right of Pall Mall north of Leeds Street junction and I usually take Welsh visitors to see it since it was placed there in the summer of 2007.

Though young and usually poor the immigrants were  men and women who were determined to make a better world for themselves, though the presence of the ‘press gangs’ in the town was to say the least an hindrance. Many of them were staunch young Calvinistic Methodists escaping from the persecution of the Anglican establishment, the local vicar and the squire in particular. They found comfort in an alien land as exiles.

Most of the exiles were involved in shipping and the building industries.  Some of them became  architects and hundreds of them established building firms . They were very involved in the growth of Liverpool from a small fishing village into a huge port and a cosmopolitan city by 1880. The Welsh, through these builders, such as Owen Elias and David Hughes, played their part in the extension of the city to Kirkdale, Anfield, Walton, Everton, St Domingo, Islington and Kensington. Townships such as Everton and Anfield became welsh in speech as Sir James Picton  informs us, Welsh in culture  and  prominent in the commercial and shopping world. The streets were often given Welsh names by the builders and not only in Toxteth, but all over the city. Young men  who arrived in Liverpool were given support by the Elders of the welsh chapels many of them large builders. Within two decades many of these  immigrants would have succeeded beyond all expectations. Their heritage is still around us, and a Welsh trail is very much needed to indicate where the welsh stores and companies were located.

 Medicine also attracted able young men as doctors and young women as nurses in the Liverpool Hospitals. The Anglesey bonesetter family of Evan Thomas were responsible, through him and his eldest son Hugh Owen Thomas and his wife’s nephew, Sir Robert Jones, for the growth of Liverpool as a centre for orthopaedic medicine. The  outstanding Welsh medical giants include Dr Robert Gee, Dr Thelwall Thomas, Professor Owen H.Williams,  Dr Goronwy Thomas, Dr Howell  Hughes  and Will Lloyd-Jones. Remarkable men of medicine from Liverpool served the Foreign Mission of the Presbyterian church of Wales in North East-India, in particular Dr Gordon Roberts and Dr R. Arthur Hughes. It was the Liverpool Welsh community  which   inaugurated this specific witness from 1840 till 1970.The University of Liverpool which educated these medical  parishioners attracted young students to study in Arts, Law and Science. Many of the notable men of letters in Welsh history taught at the different departments.  The Celtic department was well served by the poet J.Glyn Davies, a native of Toxteth, followed by  Idris Foster who later left for Jesus College, Oxford, Melville Richards, D Simon Evans and Dr Nicholas Williams. In History Professor W. Garmom Jones had a great deal of influence  while in Law Professor D Seaborne  Davies  was gifted  as a  speaker. The University of Liverpool as well as the John Moores University and the educational  provision in the schools of the city have been well served by the Welsh teachers

 Music is another sphere of culture  where the Welsh have been influential.  The Liverpool Welsh Choral Union has been honoured for its long and distinguished contribution by being given the Freedom of the City in 2013.  Welsh publishing has been  well documented and Modern Welsh Publications is still in existence and has its own website. The  eisteddfodic tradition  has a long and distinguished history from 1840 till 1990, and Welsh poets of distinction have laboured in Liverpool. Welsh hymns and Welsh tunes have been written and composed in the city and are still sung Sunday after Sunday.

 A great deal has been written on the Liverpool Welsh in the last 30 years and the Merseyside Welsh Heritage society is an important link in preserving for posterity the  rich and unique cultural life. The monthly newspaper called Angor is worth ordering for £10-50 a year, for it underlines the events that have happened and will happen among the Welsh communities.

Prepared for the Liverpool Welsh website on 14-2-2014 by Professor Dr D.Ben Rees.