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Papers of Annie Gray Buchan (1895-1988)

Identifier: CSWC 16

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of: notes and reminiscences written by Buchan after her return from China with some original items and correspondence (1925-1984); talks and addresses concerning China mainly given in the UK by Buchan (1928, 1946-1986); pamphlets and printed items about China including ones on and by Buchan (1941-1989); papers on Eric Liddell and personal items belonging to Buchan (1921-1987); and photographs and pictures of Buchan and China (1920s-1950).


  • Creation: 1921-1989

Language of Materials

English, Chinese

Conditions Governing Access

Contact the repository for details. This collection is open (date of decision 28 August 2021).

Conditions Governing Use

Contact the repository for details. Photographic materials in CSWC 16/2/2 must be handled using gloves.

Biographical / Historical

Annie Gray Buchan, London Missionary Society missionary in China, was born in Peterhead on 24 September 1895. She trained as a nurse in Dundee and Edinburgh, then applied to the London Missionary Society and was accepted for China. Her missionary training was at the Women's Missionary College (St Colm's College), Edinburgh and on completing this she sailed for China in February 1925. After spending nearly a year in Peking studying the language she moved in 1926 to Tsangchow to work in the hospital for a few months before settling in Tehchow where she was matron at Siaochang Hospital. Despite occasional evacuations of the missionaries due to fighting the hospital expanded and was registered as a training school for nurses. Annie Buchan was there for nearly fourteen years, with two periods of leave in 1931-32 and 1937-38, until the Japanese invasion forced the missionaries to leave in 1940. She then worked for a time at the Mackenzie Memorial Hospital in Tientsin until she secured permission from the Japanese to visit her sick friend Margery Brameld in Peking. While she was there all British subjects were sent to internment camps, but she stayed on to nurse her friend in the mission house and later at the British Embassy until Brameld died in 1943. Buchan was sent to the Weihsien camp in Shantung province where many of her missionary colleagues, including the former Olympic sprinter Eric Liddell, were already being held and where she did valuable work in the camp hospital. She was released at the end of the war and returned home, arriving at Christmas 1945 in poor physical shape. Despite this she was determined to go back to China as soon as possible. A return to the north was impossible so she accepted a post at Hankow as matron of the Union hospital. She remained there from 1947 until 1950 when she finally returned to Scotland. She resigned from the mission in 1951 and worked as matron at the Colony for Epileptics near Glasgow from 1953 until 1955. She was also active in the formation of a local committee in Peterhead for World Refugee Year (1959-1960) and gave talks and addresses and took classes throughout the 1960s and 1970s.


1 box (2 files)


The material has been rearranged several times either by Buchan or by William Speirs, sometimes, for example, written reminiscences have been mixed with material for talks and addresses and vice versa. Where possible the reminiscences and addresses and talks are arranged in chronological order.

Custodial History

Much of the material in the collection consists of reminiscences, addresses or talks written by Annie Buchan, there are few letters from her while in China as she destroyed most of those written to her father when she returned to Scotland. She gave the reminiscences to her nephew, William Speirs, to assist with his biography of her. Speirs then possibly reorganised the material for his own purposes. The collection was briefly listed, and further reorganised, 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 William Speirs in 1989.


None expected.

Related Materials

The archives of the London Missionary Society (now Council of World Mission) are held at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. There are several biographies of Eric Liddell, a close colleague of Buchan, which refer to the work in north China or to Buchan herself. W.F. Rowlands, also a colleague, wrote The Plain and The People about missionary work in north China (Westminster: Livingstone Press, c 1938). Buchan herself described her life in Adventure in Faith (1973) and her nephew, William Speirs, edited a volume of her memoirs A Scotswoman in China (1988). A number of Chinese language books that were part of the collection were placed in the library of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World.


The biographical history was compiled using the collection itself, in particular the pamphlets Adventure in Faith (1973) and A Scotswoman in China (1988).

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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