Richard Banks Davies… and his missionary positions…

Continuing the tales of ancestors from the family of my friend, Heidi Mellings, this time dealing with her great-great-great uncle, Richard Banks Davies, a younger brother of her great-great-grandfather.

Richard was born on 3rd Sep 1860, two years after his father inherited the Moor Court estate and so was born into a very affluent and locally influential family.

In keeping with the wealth and status of his parents, Richard was educated at Charterhouse Public School and then went up to Cambridge in 1879, enrolling at St John’s College. In 1883 he earned a BA. The following year he was ordained as a deacon at the Church of St Mary’s, Nottingham where he became vicar in 1885. In 1886 he moved to the Church of St Bartholomew in Nottingham where he remained for four years.

At this point Richard decided he needed a change of direction and enrolled with the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA), a missionary society established by members of the Anglican Church within the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, and Dublin, founded in 1857.

Consequently, in 1890, Richard found himself at the UMCA Mission at Magila in German East Africa (what is now Tanzania). However, for reasons unknown, Richard lasted no more than a few months at the mission before returning to England and taking the position of vicar at St James Church in Riddings in Derbyshire where he remained for three years before deciding to try his hand at missionary work again. In 1894, Richard became missionary at the station at Isandhlwana in Zululand where just 15 years before an 1,800-plus force of British troops and African auxiliaries was massacred by a Zulu army.

Evidently, Richard had more success at this station than he had on his first visit to Africa as he remained at Isandhlwana for eleven years. From 1904 to 1908 he was Canon of Vryheid and for the last two years of that spell was also Rector of Eshowe.

Then, bizarrely, Richard set off on his travels again, this time to become missionary in Saltcoats, Saskatchewan… 10,000 miles away! I am guessing this was an aborted position because by the time he arrived in Canada he almost immediately turned round and went back to southern Africa.

Because by 1910, Richard was back in South Africa, as Missionary-in-Charge of St Columba’s Mission in Bulawayo!  The following year he moved to Springvale Native Mission where he remained until 1924 when he became Vicar of Mid Illovo, Natal.

In 1914, three days after the outbreak of WW1, Richard married Ellen McLeod, a local South African woman twenty years his junior.

Richard retired in 1930 but when his wife died in 1933 he decided to become an active clergyman again and so obtained a Licence to Officiate in the Diocese of Natal which he retained until his death in 1940, aged 79 from a chronic heart condition.

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