150 Years of George Leslie Mackay in Taiwan

150 Years of George Leslie Mackay in Taiwan


On March 9, 1872 George Leslie Mackay arrived in Tamsui as a missionary for The Presbyterian Church in Canada and began work that would be admired for a lifetime. To celebrate 150 years of Mackay in Taiwan, the Presbyterian Church Archives presents, “The Faces of George Leslie Mackay.”

The Rev. Dr. George Leslie Mackay was a missionary of The Presbyterian Church in Canada to Taiwan, and Moderator of the 20th General Assembly. He was born to George Mackay and Helen Sutherland in the Township of Zorra in Oxford County, Ontario on March 21, 1844. He had three brothers, John, James/Jim, and Alexander, and two sisters, Mary and Isabella. He attended Woodstock Public school from 1850 to 1855. He graduated from the Toronto Teacher’s College and taught at Maitland Public school. In 1866, Mackay entered Knox College, Toronto but transferred to Princeton College of Theology in New Jersey in 1867. He graduated from Princeton in 1870, and then studied at the Scottish Edinburgh University Seminary under Dr. Alexander Duff. George Leslie Mackay was ordained by the Presbytery of Toronto within The Presbyterian Church in Canada on September 19, 1871, and a month later sailed for China. From China he made his way to Taiwan, and in 1872, he founded the first Canadian overseas mission in Tamsui, Taiwan. His ministry involved preaching, training of new ministers, dentistry, and medicine. He also established sixty chapels, several schools, and a hospital. He returned to Canada on furlough on two occasions where he undertook many speaking engagements across the country. During his first furlough, in 1880, an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity was bestowed upon him by Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. During his second furlough, in 1894, he was elected the Moderator of the 20th General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. George Leslie Mackay married Tiu Chhang-mia (“Minnie”) on May 27, 1878. They had two daughters, Mary and Bella, and a son, George William. Rev. George Leslie Mackay died in Tamsui on June 2, 1901.

Mackay Learning and Understanding Culture

Mackay believed it was important to learn the language and immerse himself in the culture of Taiwan. He befriended the locals and formed respect for the civilization, collecting artifacts along his journeys.

Mackay as a Teacher

Mackay helped in establishing schools for community members, including women. Most notable was the opening of Oxford College, introducing the structure of Western education to Taiwan.

Mackay as a Healer

Mackay helped in establishing medical clinics and hospitals to treat the people of Taiwan. He also stepped in as a dentist for those in need.

Mackay as a Husband and Father

Mackay went on to breaking the societal norms of his day and marrying a Taiwanese woman, Tiu Chheng-mia (“Minnie”). Together they continued the missionary work of the Church and went on to have three children.

Mackay as a Legacy

Mackay established sixty chapels during his time in Taiwan. He is recognized as a great missionary within the Presbyterian Church and admired with statues and memorial plaques. He captures the historical interest of researchers and visitors of the land.

“The herdboys and I became friends that day…
I was out there on the plateau with them every day
for four or five hours, talking to them, hearing them talk,
noting down new words and phrases…years after,
when they grew to manhood, they continued friendly
and were always delighted to recall the first days on
the buffalo pasture.” (p.136-137)
From Far Formosa (1896) by G.L. Mackay
“The women are taught reading, writing, and singing,
Bible history and geography, the Scripture catechisms,
and also attend addresses in the college during the day
and take part in recitations and other exercises in the evening.
They are trained in methods of teaching, and in every way
equipped for their work….[they] are brought into touch with
the stronger and healthier life at the center.” (p.306)
From Far Formosa (1896) by G.L. Mackay
“Patients are treated in all the cities and villages
where we may happen to be. Medicines are given,
and treatment prescribed for them in their homes.
The headquarters of this department…are at Tamsui.
There is the hospital building, with its wards and
necessary equipment…this has been a great blessing
to thousands of people.” (p.316)
From Far Formosa (1896) by G.L. Mackay
“…early in 1872, lifting my eyes to the green-clad
mountains that stand round about Tamsui, clearer than
human voice every spoke to the outward ear,
I heard the voice of God whisper to my listening
spirit, “This is the land.”…for Formosa, the land of
my labors, the native home of my wife,
had been written upon my heart.” (p.330)
From Far Formosa (1896) by G.L. Mackay


Forsberg, Clyde R. 2012. The life and legacy of George Leslie Mackay: an interdisciplinary study of Canada’s first Presbyterian missionary to Northern Taiwan (1872-1901). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.

Mackay, George Leslie, and J. A. Macdonald. 1896. From far Formosa. The island, its people and missions. New York: F.H. Revell Co.

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