Remarkable People

ID #5214

Robert Moffat, Missionary, South Africa.

Robert Moffat (1795–1883) was a Scottish missionary to and father-in-law of David Livingstone.

Moffat was born in Ormiston, East Lothian. To find employment, he moved to Cheshire as a gardener. In 1814, whilst employed at West Hall High Leigh in Cheshire, he experienced difficulties with his employer because of his Methodist sympathies. For a short period, after he applied to the London Missionary Society (LMS) to become a missionary, he took an interim post as a farmer at Plantation Farm in Dukinfield. In 1816 he was formally commissioned at Surrey Chapel in London as a missionary of the LMS.

In 1820 Moffat and his wife proceeded to Griquatown where their daughter Mary Moffat (who later married David Livingstone) was born. The family later settled at Kuruman, west of the Vaal River, among the Bechuana. Here they lived and worked passionately until 1870 when they returned to Britain. During this period, he made journeys as far north as Matabele country (Zimbabwe). The results of these journeys were communicated to the Royal Geographical Society. Whilst on leave in Britain “Missionary Labours and Scenes in South Africa” was published in 1842. He also translated both the Bible and The Pilgrim's Progress into Setswana.

Besides his early training as a gardener and farmer, and later as a writer, Moffat developed skills in building, carpentry, printing and as a blacksmith. On his return to England he received a testimonial of 5000 pounds.

Robert and Mary had ten children: Mary, Ann, Robert (who died as an infant), Robert, Helen, Elizabeth (who also died as an infant), James, John, Elizabeth and Jean. Their son John Smith Moffat also became an LMS missionary and took over the mission at Kuruman before entering colonial service. Their grandson Howard Moffat became Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
He died at Heigh Leigh near Tunbridge Wells in 1883, and is buried at West Norwood Cemetery. Residents of High Leigh organise am annual memorial run that begins and ends at his cottage.

His printing work in Kuruman was made possible by a press that was taken to Kuruman in 1831. Moffat made used it until 1870 when he retired. In 1918 it was taken to the Kimberley Public Library where it remained until its return to the Moffat Mission in 1996 where it is still used to produce commemorative documents. RSARM

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Last update: 2014-03-30 20:30
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.4

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