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Papers of David Clement Ruffell Scott

Identifier: Coll-223

Scope and Contents

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.


  • Creation: 1881-1895

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Conditions Governing Use

Contact the repository for details.

Biographical / Historical

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 hisCyclopaedic Dictionary of the Mang'anja Language(1892). Much of the periodicalLife and Work in Central Africabetween 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.


1 file


The letters are arranged chronologically in one file.

Physical Location

Gen. 717/10

Other 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.

Existence and Location of 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.

Related Materials

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.

Papers of David Clement Ruffell Scott (1853-1907)
Language of description
Script of description

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