Samuel Dyer

Samuel Dyer, a British Protestant Christian Missionary to China, was born on 20th February 1804 at Greenwich, London in England to John Dyer and Eliza (Seager). He was the fourth son of his parents. His father was a Secretary of the Royal Hospital for Seaman and later became Chief clerk of the Admiralty in 1820. John Dyer was also an acquaintance of Robert Morrison, who was the first Protestant missionary to China, a connection that would have enormous implications in the life of his son, Samuel Dyer. Robert Morrison and his Chinese tutor Yong Sam-tek visited the Dyer’s home in Greenwich during Morrison’s period of study in medicine and astronomy.

Samuel Dyer was obtained early education from home town and then educated in a boarding school at Woolwich, in South East London, superintended by the Rev.John Bickerdike, a pastor with the English Dissenters. In 1820, he experienced a conversion to Christ at Thomas Wilson's Paddington Chapel in Paddington, Northwest London, under ministry of the Rev.James Stratten and soon Samuel Dyer began teaching Sunday school there. In 1822, he was formally admitted into membership.

Maria Tarn
He studied law and mathematics at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, but in 1823, in his fifth term, he terminated his studies to heed the call to missions, despite the prospect of a scholarship in view. Prior to this, he read a pamphlet, deeply impressed by the pamphlet titled ‘’Memoir of Mrs.Charles Mead of the London Missionary Society in Tranvancore, (now Kaniyakumari in Tamilnadu,) India’’, which afterwards turned his thoughts to missionary service that would occupy the rest of his life. The pamphlet consisted of sermon preached at Mrs.Mead’s funeral, ‘’All for Christ and the Good of Souls’’, “and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Samuel Dyer had an opportunity to study the Chinese under Robert Morrison, who had returned on vacation from China. Then he met two aspiring female missionaries, Mary Ann Aldersey, the first female missionary to China and Maria Tarn, whom Dyer later married. In 1824, with his father’s approval, Samuel Dyer applied to the London Missionary Society and joined the LMS seminary at Gosport, Hampshire to study theology under Dr.David Bogue. His health began to suffer because of his intense regimen of study at Gosport, walking long distances to preach in villages on Sunday and his habits of self-denial. He travelled to Islington to recuperate, study theology, Chinese and the art of printing, punch cutting and type-founding. He also studied printing work under Dr.Henderson.

Samuel Dyer entered the London Missionary Society training center at Hoxton where his chief attention was given to the Chinese language, reading the Chinese Bible for devotions. At the age of 23 years, Samuel Dyer was ordained on 20th February 1827 as a missionary by Rev.Stratten at Paddington Chapel, London where he preached, taught. He married to Maria Tarn, eldest daughter of Joseph Tarn, one of the Directors of London Missionary Society, in London on 6th March 1827. They had five children, Maria Dyer, Samuel Dyer Jr, Burella Hunter Dyer, Maria Jane Dyer and Ebenezer Dyer. The newlywed couple, Samuel Dyer and Maria Tarn left England on 10th March 1827 and arrived at Penang, in the Straits of Malaysia (Malacca) on 8th August 1827. They were to have gone on to Anglo-Chinese College in Malacca, but a lack of workers lead them to stay in Penang and settle in Chinese sector of town. They both began studying the Min Nan Dialect (Hokkien) spoken by the local people of China. After gaining some knowledge of the language, Samuel Dyer faced the challenge of producing movable metallic types for the thousands of Chinese characters. He started with a systematic analysis of characters and strokes. His linguistic abilities, meticulous planning and painstaking attention to detail resulted in Chinese fonts of high quality. They were later passed on to the American Presbyterian Mission Press in China and played a significant part in its development.

In 1831, Samuel Dyer visited Malacca, the headquarters of the London Missionary Society’s Chinese ministries. In 1833, about this same time some in the Chinese community requested a school. During this period, Samuel Dyer was hard at work on a revision of the translation of Matthew’s Gospel in Chinese. The amount of work that still was left to be done prompted him to write to England in the following year, appealing for more workers to be sent out. He then took his family to Malacca to join the London Missionary Society China Mission headquarters. The Dyers established 2 schools with the curriculum including reading, writing, sewing and embroidery. There Samuel Dyer worked with Liang Fa, who had been baptized by William Milne in 1819. Samuel Dyer soon recognized the strategic importance of his metal-type printing and proceeded with the revision of the Chinese Bible at Malacca.

Paddington Chapel

Tombstone in Maeao
On 19th September 1839, Samuel Dyer family arrived in England. Maria, his wife was ill health with a liver problem. Dyers remained in England until 1841 when they left again for the Ultra-Ganges Mission, this time to Singapore. A single woman named Buckland accompanied them and helped Maria with the three children. They arrived in Singapore in 1842 and rented the mission-house of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Maria established a Chinese Girls’ Boarding School with 20 students in their home, the school later became called St.Margaret's Primary School. Samuel Dyer moved the LMS press from Malacca to Singapore on James Legge’s suggestion before the end of 1842. The Treaty of Nanking was signed, raising hopes that missionary work could soon begin in mainland China. Samuel Dyer preached the first sermon at the Malay Chapel in Prinsep Street opened by Benjamin Peach Keasberry in 1843. That summer he left with John Stronach for the LMS conference in Hong Kong. His family would never see him again. He began work with John Stronach of the LMS and learning (Chaozhou) Teochew dialect. He also worked on a revision of the Chinese Bible, translations, preparation of books, type-casting, printing and compiled a comparative vocabulary of Chinese language.

Epitaph at Maria Bausum's tomb in the Protestant Cemetery in Penang

Remembrance of Samuel Dyer
Samuel Dyer printed ‘’Two Friends’’ by William Milne, a ‘’Commentary on 10 Commandments’’ by Walter Henry Medhurst, and the ‘’Miracles of Christ’’. He also helped Chaozhou, a Christian teacher compile the ‘’Life of Christ’’. During this busy period, Samuel Dyer conducted religious services through the week, visited house-to-house, preached in the bazaars; and visited Chinese junk (ship)s in the harbor to reach the Chinese there with the gospel message. Samuel Dyer was able to finally reach China on 7th August 1843 at Hongkong. At the LMS general conference he was appointed as Conference Secretary. The Dyers were appointed to go to Fuzhou, Fujian to open missionary work there. Samuel Dyer visited Guangzhou, in the Southern China where he had a severe attack of fever and was cared for by Peter Parker, M.D. He was taken to Macau and died in there on 24th October 1843 before being able to live in China itself at his newly assigned designation of Fuzhou. This was the same outbreak that took the life of Robert Morrison's son, John Robert Morrison at Guangzhou. Samuel Dyer was buried next to the graves of Robert and Mary Morrison at the Old Protestant Cemetery in Macau.

Maria Dyer Taylor


  1. Excellent. Keep your service. God Bless You.


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