Rev. Dr. John Ross

1842 - 1915

Missionary, regarded as the founder of the Protestant Church in Manchuria and the first to translate the bible into Korean. Ross was born in Rarichie (Easter Ross), the son of a tailor, and educated at Hilton school. He trained for the ministry at the United Presbyterian Theological Hall in Edinburgh (1865-69). He was sent on brief missions to Stornoway, Barra and Portree (1870) before leaving for China two years later. He worked successfully as a missionary in Manchuria but was attracted to extending his mission into Korea - then a country closed to foreigners. At a time before the Korean language was standardised, Ross produced a language primer in 1877 and a grammar in 1882, going on to direct the first Korean translation of the New Testament that he arranged to be taken into Korea by traders. This work was very influential in the development of the Christian Church in Korea, which now represents 30% of the South Korean population.

Ross published several other works relating to East Asia; namely Chinese Foreign Policy (1877), History of Corea (1879), The Manchus (1880), The Boxers of Manchuria (1901), Mission Methods in Manchuria (1903), The Original Religion of China (1909) and Origin of the Chinese People (1916).

Ross was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Glasgow (1894) and retired to Edinburgh in 1910, where he died at his home at 12 Marchhall Crescent. He lies buried in Newington Cemetery. The flowering plant Iris rossii, native to Korea and China, was named in his honour. He is revered by many Koreans and remembered by a plaque in Mayfield Salisbury Church (2006), where he was an elder, and by another in Portree Parish Church (2010). The University of Edinburgh offers John Ross Scholarships for Korean students studying divinity.

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