2nd December 1848

Missionary Mary Slessor is born in Aberdeen

Mary Slessor was born in Aberdeen and moved to Dundee aged 11. Her family was poor and Mary had to take a part time job while still at school, working 12-hour days in a jute mill. She was heavily influenced by her mother’s strong faith and, at the age of 28, set sail for Africa to start work as a missionary.

She was stationed in Nigeria, learned the local language, and gained the trust of the locals among whom she lived. In doing so, she was able to change some of their existing beliefs and practices, such as that of killing one twin in every pair (and sometimes both) in the belief that they were related to the devil, and sacrificing members of the community when an elder died to provide the dead elder’s spirit with servants in the afterlife.

However, she also regularly travelled back to Dundee, both for her own recouperation when suffering the effects of malaria and to look after her mother and sisters when they were ill. Her father and brothers had already died of pneumonia before she left Dundee on her first voyage to Africa.

Mary Slessor’s work in Nigeria

As she continued her work in Africa, she started to adopt abandoned children whenever she found them, and played an ever more important role in local life, eventually becoming vice president of a native court. In all, she spent a little under 40 years in Nigeria, eventually dying there in January 1915.

Her passing was marked with the lowering of flags and a public funeral, and various memorials were later raised in her honour, in both Nigeria and Dundee. The latter’s Slessor Gardens were named in her memory and she was the first female, other than a monarch, to appear on a Scottish banknote, appearing on the £10 note issued by Clydesdale Bank in 1997. A meteorite was named after her in 2015 and, 2018, she became one of the first two women whose busts were added to the Hall of Heroes at Stirling’s National Wallace Monument, alongside Maggie Keswick Jencks.



Other events that occured in December

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