Saturday 18 February 2023

Hugh Ritchie - from Greenock to Formosa

Hugh Ritchie was born in Millport in 1841 (parents Robert Ritchie and Sarah Crawford) but was brought up by his aunt later moving to Greenock where he found work as a shop assistant.   However, deeply involved in St Thomas' Free Church, he became a teacher in the church's Mission School in the old church building in Dalrymple Street (later the Free North Church).  The 1861 Census shows him living at West Stewart Street with his sister, Sarah Ritchie. 

He was drawn to missionary work and through the Foreign Mission Committee of the English Presbyterian Church studied for the ministry at Glasgow and London.  He was licensed and ordained in 1867 and immediately set sail for his first post in Takao Formosa, now Taiwan.  Before leaving, Ritchie had married Eliza Caroline Cooke (1828), daughter of Lancelot Cooke, shipping merchant, Cape of Good Hope.

In Formosa Ritchie travelled and explored the area, writing of his experiences to friends back in Greenock.  Some of these reports were published in the local newspaper and various other publications.  Providing medical aid to the local people was also part of the mission overseas and he writes:-

"Day by day we were surrounded by scores of these poor people who wanted medicine - many of them wanted it badly ... I was well furnished with lotions for washing eyes and ulcers ... but when difficult or serious cases were presented, they were recommended to attend our hospital, as a passing visitor could do such cases no good." (From The Chinese Recorder & Missionary Journal 1875.)

Hugh Ritchie died in Formosa in 1879.  His young son Robert had died six years previously.  Both were buried in the Takow (Kaohsiung) Foreign Cemetery.

His widow Eliza Caroline Ritchie remained in the country greatly involved in the education of women, establishing a Girls School Her health was poor but she continued her work, eventually retiring in 1884.  She settled in Glasgow with her son, William Laughton Ritchie.  Eliza died in 1902 at the age of 73.

Lancelot Cooke, Eliza's father - an interesting article can be found here.

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