Remarkable Scottish missionary John Anderson, British India

Grave Finding

Rev. John Anderson,founder,Madras Christian College, Chennai

Christian missionaries who came to India under the British rule  mainly for the  purpose of spreading the ''Gospel of  Christ'' - that is the good news of His coming to provide forgiveness of sins for all who will believe in him. The mankind does not  have to feel guilty of sin and condemned to spend eternity in a place of torment. Rather in placing our sin on Christ, God ensured that all who will believe in the name of Jesus will be forgiven (Acts 10:43). 

Though some missionaries stuck mainly  to  their religious works, there  were many who had paid more  attention  to   imparting quality education in India and   establishing   good  educational institutions  than to their  missionary  works. Such missionaries, who dedicated themselves to the cause of better quality  education  in India, won the heart of local rulers and also the natives. So, wherever  they went, the  Hindu rulers, in particular,  provided  them with  lands  for building schools and colleges, besides churches. 

Madras War Cemetery,MakeMyTrip
Above image: Madras War Cemetery, the Anderson tomb in the Tana Street cemetery and the plaque on it.
One such Scottish missionary,  who made a lasting contribution to the Indian society by way of offering better education to the natives was,  John Anderson (1805–1855), founder of the mission of the Free Church of Scotland at Madras, India.  Son of  a Scottish farmer, he was  born in Galloway, in the parish of Kirkpatrick-Durham  and had his higher  education  at University of Edinburgh, specializing in Latin and Theology.  He came to Madras in 1836, having been  ordained a minister of the Church of Scotland in the same year. When he arrived in India, East India company was ruling many provinces as a proxy government for the British Crown.

The MCC campus in

Upon his arrival here,  he realized the quality  of education was  not good enough for the natives and the need of the hour  was  good  schools  and colleges. The kind of missionary work  to which Anderson dedicated  himself, was education.  He wanted to give the  benighted and unenlightened natives the benefit of  sound education  backed up by the blessings of the gospel of Christ.  Anderson never 'looked forward to numerous conversions as the immediate result of mission work,' however, he did involve in conversion work on a small scale.

Rev. Lawrie and Rev. Bowie started a school in the vicinity of St. Andrew's Kirk, Egmore in 1835.  Rev. John Anderson on their request, moved the school, the first institution  called ''The General Assembly's School,''  and  began  conducting  classes in  a rented  house on the east side of Armenian Street in Georgetown,  Madras.  Named after  the supreme governing  body of  the Church of Scotland, the school started functioning with  the headmaster and 59  boys from St. Andrew's School.  Later it came to be called  'The  Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School'  located in Chetpet, ChennaiThis first school established by Anderson in mid 1830's  later became one of the best institutions in India, known for higher  standard of education called the ''Madras Christian College'', Tambaram, a suburb of chennai and the campus  covers  roughly 375-acre (1.52 km2) of land. The  credit for the subsequent growth  goes to William Miller (13 January 1838 – July 1923)  a Scottish educationist and Free Church of Scotland missionary to Madras. However, M C C Higher Secondary School became a separate entity when  the college moved to a new location.
 Madras Christian College. Postal stamp.

Above image: The institution of Madras Christian College started with the arrival into the country in 1837 of the young missionary, John Anderson. He set up a school,

Rev. John Anderson, with help from his friends later opened several  mission schools in Madras and  in the neighboring districts. For unknown reasons in  1843, there was  disruption in the activities of church of Scotland, so he and other Scottish  missionaries  joined the Free Church, and continued their work with respect to that church. Anderson married  a  Swiss lady  one Margaret Locher, who arrived in Madras in 1847  to take up  missionary work.  In a conservative Indian society, where the women were relegated to the backyard,  Rev. Anderson  was one of  a  few missionaries  who  turned their attention to female education, not withstanding  the hurdles prevailing in those olden days  such  as  prevalence of early  marriage, restrictions  on  the movement of girls and  risking conversion to Christianity.  Slowly and surely Anderson allayed their fear and the impediments  were  gradually overcome in some measure over a period of time. Mrs. Anderson was  instrumental in starting the first girls' boarding home of the mission.  Before his last leg of his active and purposeful life, there were   seven hundred Hindu and Muslim  girls, the majority of the former belonging to families of higher caste, were  enrolled  in the schools of the mission. In deed,  it was a great achievement, thus Rev. Anderson, his wife and his colleagues instilled confidence in the native girls so  that  they  could prove  themselves as roll models to the next generation of girls in their participation in nation building and eradication  of illiteracy.

In all his work, his wife Mrs. Locher gave him her full support  and was of great help to him. He died in March, 1855 at Madras at the age of 50. The Anderson tomb is in the War cemetery on Tana Street, Chennai (Madras).

Numerous  alumni of the Madras Christian  college, took up  prominent positions in  various  fields, including national movements, politics and government offices. Prominent among them were  Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Philosopher, Statesman and former President of  India and Sir. Seshayya Sastri KCSI, former Dewan of Travancore Princely state  and later of Pudukotta Princely state. Incidentally it was  Rev. Mr. Anderson, who helped Mr. Sastri complete his early  school education by giving him moral and financial help as he came from a poor family. Till his death   Sir. Seshayya Sastri, a dynamic administrator, was grateful to Rev. Anderson for his magnanimity and true Christian spirit of love and care,  transcending religion, race and color.