Robert Moffat (1795-1883), Scottish Congregationalist missionary to Africa, was born at Ormiston, Haddingtonshire, [Scotland], on the 21st of December 1795, of humble parentage.
He began as a gardener, but in 1814, when employed at High Leigh in Cheshire, offered himself to the London Missionary Society, and in 1816 was sent out to South Africa.
After spending a year in Namaqua Land, with the chief Afrikaner, whom he converted, Moffat returned to Cape Town in 1819 and married Mary Smith (1795-1870), the daughter of a former employer, a remarkable woman and most helpful wife.
In 1820, Moffat and his wife left the Cape and proceeded to Griqua Town, and ultimately settled at Kuruman, among the Bechuana tribes living to the west of the Vaal river. Here he worked as a missionary till 1870, when he reluctantly returned finally to his native land. He made frequent journeys into the neighbouring regions as far north as the Matabele country. The results of these journeys he communicated to the Royal Geographical Society (Journal xxv.-xxxviii. and Proceedings ii), and when in England on furlough (I839-1843) he published his well-known Missionary Labours and Scenes in South Africa (1842). He translated the whole of the Bible and The Pilgrim's Progress into Sechwana.
Moffat was builder, carpenter, smith, gardener, farmer, all in one, and by precept and example he succeeded in turning a horde of bloodthirsty savages into a "people appreciating and cultivating the arts and habits of civilized life, with a written language of their own." He met with incredible discouragement and dangers at first, which he overcame by his strong faith, determination and genial humour. It was largely due to him that David Livingstone, his son-in-law, took up his subsequent work.
On his return to England he received a testimonial of £5000. He died at Leigh, near Tunbridge Wells, on the 9th of August 1883.
See Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat, by J. S. Moffat (1885); and C. S. Horne, The Story of the L. M. S., (1894).
From The Encyclopædia Britannica. 11th ed. New York: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.
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