Milne, William (DNB00)

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MILNE, WILLIAM (1785–1822), missionary, was born in 1785, in the parish of Kinnethmont, Aberdeenshire, and employed in his early years as a shepherd. At the age of twenty he resolved to become a missionary, and passing through the regular course of studies at the college of the London Missionary Society at Gosport, he was ordained there in 1812. In September he sailed for the east, arriving at Macao in July 1813. An order from the Portuguese governor compelled him to leave the settlement, and Milne proceeded in a small boat to Canton, where he was joined by his colleague, Robert Morrison [q. v.] Shortly afterwards Milne made a year's tour through the Malay Archipelago. Settling down at Malacca he mastered the Chinese language, opened a school for Chinese converts, and set up a printing-press, from which was issued the ‘Chinese Gleaner.’ He also translated portions of the Old Testament into Chinese, and became principal of an Anglo-Chinese College, which he was mainly instrumental in founding at Malacca. In 1818 he received the degree of D.D. from Glasgow University, and in 1822 his health failed, and he went on a visit to Singapore and Penang, but died on 27 May, four days after his return to Malacca. Milne married in 1812 a daughter of Charles Gowrie of Aberdeen, who predeceased him in 1819.

Milne was author of:

  1. ‘The Sacred Edict,’ London, 1817, 8vo.
  2. ‘A Retrospect of the First Ten Years of the Protestant Mission to China,’ Malacca, 1820, 8vo.
  3. ‘Some Account of a Secret Association,’ a paper read before the Royal Asiatic Society by the Rev. Robert Morrison, 5 Feb. 1825.

One of his sons, William Charles Milne (1815-1863), missionary to China, ordained 19 July, and appointed to Canton, sailed on 28 July 1837, arriving on 18 Dec. at Macao, where he assisted until 1842 in the Morrison Education Society's House. Proceeding via Chusan, Tinghae, Ningpo, and Canton, he arrived at Hongkong in August 1843, and was nominated with Dr. Medhurst [q. v.] to commence a station at Shanghai. In 1844 Milne visited England, but, returning to China in 1846, he served on the Translation Committee, part of whose work he subsequently attacked. In 1852 he again visited England, and terminated his connection with the London Missionary Society. He afterwards went back to China as an interpreter under the British government, became assistant Chinese secretary to the legation at Pekin, and died there on 15 May 1863. Milne married Frances Williamina, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Beaumont. He was author of:

  1. ‘Life in China,’ 1858.
  2. ‘Critical Remarks on Dr. Medhurst's Version of the First Chapter of St. John,’ and contributed to the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ of October 1855, an ‘Account of the Political Disturbances in China.’

[Works in Brit. Museum Library; Memoir by the Rev. Robert Morrison, D.D.; Life and Opinions of Rev. William Milne, by Robert Phillip; Memoir in the Christian Library, vol i.; Gent. Mag. 1822, ii. 649, 1863, ii. 381; Irving's Eminent Scotsmen; information supplied by the Rev. G. Cousins.]

A. F. P.