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Alexander Gillon Macalpine. Malawi missionary papers and linguistic studies

Identifier: Coll-48

Scope and Contents

The papers at MSS 3086-3090 consist of biographical notes on African and missionary colleagues dating from 1893; diaries from 1897 onwards; wayside and journey notes and jottings; extracts from newspapers; notes on folklore; letters; film strip showing pictures of missionary work; notebooks; and, correspondence with church ministers in Scotland. There are printed items, including the catechism and hymns in the Chitonga language; psalms in Tonga; dictionaries; the grammar of the Bemba language; notes on Tumbuka syntax; notes for a Tonga grammar, and notes of Chitonga grammar; Tonga-English vocabulary; and, items on the building of Nyasaland and on the Church in the region.

At E2010.37 there is a collection of photographs of local people, the mission at Bandawe, missionary home life and local topography, and some manuscript and typescript fragments and sketch-maps of the Malawi (Nyasaland) highlands and along the Lake Nyasa shore.


  • Creation: 1893-1964

Conditions Governing Access

This material is open.

Biographical / Historical

Alexander Gillon Macalpine was born 11 June 1869 in Linlithgow. He was educated in Linlithgow and at George Watson's College in Edinburgh, then went to Edinburgh University and Glasgow Free Church College. He was ordained in 1893. With the exception of 1914-21 when he was Minister of Monquhitter and New Byth, Aberdeenshire, he was a missionary in Nyasaland (Malawi), mainly at Bandawe, Chintechi, and later on Livingstonia.

In his earliest years in the country Macalpine did some administrative and postal work. He became the first Clerk of the Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. He prepared a dictionary of the Chitonga language, and translated and revised the New Testament in Chitonga. Two manuscript copies of the dictionary are said to be in the libraries of Glasgow and Witwatersrand Universities.

In 1932, when he was in his early-60s, he retired to Lanarkshire, to Elsrickle, and then in 1945 he moved to Glasgow. Alexander Gillon Macalpine died in Glasgow, 8 September 1957.

The material constituting the Macalpine Malawi missionary papers and linguistic studies, was presented in 1964 and 1993 by Macalpine's son, the Rev. Alexander Gillon Macalpine, jr., and by Dr. H. Bruce Auld his grandson. A further small tranche of material was added in 2010.


5 boxes (1 m); Photographs.

Physical Location

MSS 3086-3090; E2010.37

Other Finding Aids

Handlist, H48

Alexander Gillon Macalpine. Malawi missionary papers and linguistic studies
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379