Parsons, Harry and family
1878-1952; e.m. 1899

BC missionary in China, born in Barnstaple. He arrived in Yunnan in south-west China in 1901 to work with Samuel Pollard and shared in the first Miao baptisms in 1905. Fluent in their language, with his wife Annie Parsons (née Edith Annie Kate Bryant, 1875-1965), and called by W.H. Hudspeth 'the 'Apostle to the Miao', he served the Miao people until invalided home in 1926. He was responsible for many building schemes and famine relief projects, and, by introducing improved varieties of produce and through a mutual aid insurance scheme, sought to improve the living standards for the Miao. He concentrated on leadership training, supervised the publication of the Gospels in River Miao, and strongly advocated self-support. From 1928 until retiring in 1940 he served in English circuits. He died at Torquay on 8 July 1952.

The Parsons had twin sons, born at Zhaotung (Chaotung) on 17 September 1916. They also served in China. Richard Keith Parsons (1916-2015 ; e.m. 1938) graduated in Mathematics and Chemistry at University College, Exeter and trained for the ministry at Hartley Victoria College and Manchester University 1937-1940 and at Kingsmead College 1940-1942. He arrived in China at Easter 1942. After twelve months he was appointed to Weining in Yunnan Province with responsibility for the work of the Church and Middle School and supervision of an extensive building programme. Here it was possible to renew early memories of the Miao, their language and culture. The Communist take-over prevented him from returning to China after furlough and he served in Bristol and Birmingham until sent to Sierra Leone in 1953 as Education Secretary to the United Christian Council. From 1958 until retirement in 1980 he was stationed in English circuits.

His brother Philip Kenneth Parsons (1916-2005; e.m. 1940), born on 17 September 1916, trained for the ministry at Didsbury College and was then stationed in Hankow, China. In 1941 the declaration of war with Japan meant immediate house arrest and later internment in Pootung POW camp in Shanghai, where he became camp dentist and also taught in the camp school. Following peace and repatriation in 1945 and furlough in 1946, he returned to the SW China District. Being Superintendent of the River Miao Circuits entailed travelling for months on horseback over a wild mountainous area. He also supervised building projects at Stone Gateway. In 1950 missionaries were expelled from China by the Communist government. Back in England he served in the Bideford Circuit until appointed superintendent of the Coast and Tana River Circuits in Kenya in 1953, where he was responsibility for building schools and churches (including 'Wesley', Mombasa) and for training and preaching in the rapidly growing Kenya Methodist Church. From 1965 until retirement in 1980 he served in English circuits. He died on 1 October 2005.

  • Methodist Recorder, 3 November 2005