Matthews, Thomas Trotter

London Missionary Society

Thomas Trotter Matthews was a missionary in Madagascar. Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Matthews was influenced by the 1859 revival movement and volunteered to the London Missionary Society. He studied theology at the Congregational colleges in Manchester and Highgate and took some medical studies. He was appointed to Madagascar in 1870 as part of the reinforcement and development of the mission there that followed the accession of Ranavalona II, the first Christian monarch, in 1868. His departure for the field was delayed by typhoid, and his later service was several times interrupted by ill health. He spent the period to 1880 as a district missionary in the Vònizòngo area, which had experienced rapid church growth. He concentrated on developing Christian understanding and quality of church life. After return from leave in 1882, he was appointed to the church at Ambatonakanga, in the capital, Tananarive, where he went through a turbulent period during the French annexation. In Tananarive his literary work in Malagasy developed; he assisted in the revision of the Malagasy Bible and translated many other works. In addition he composed original works in Malagasy, including sermons, Bible study aids (including a substantial book on biblical archaeology), a biography of a noted Malagasy pastor, and accounts of the Scottish Covenanters and French Camisards, the latter no doubt arising from the French Catholic presence in Madagascar. Ill health forced him to leave Madagascar in 1899. He undertook deputation speaking in Scotland for the next five years, retiring in 1904 to Aberdeen, where he became a well-known figure.

Andrew F. Walls


T. T. Matthews, Notes on Nine Years’ Mission Work in the Province of Vonizongo, North West, Madagascar… (1881), Thirty Years in Madagascar (1904), and ed., Reminiscences of the Revival of 1859, and the Sixties (1910). Aberdeen University Review 15 (1927-1928): 286-287; B. A. Gow, Madagascar and the Protestant Impact: The Work of the British Missions, 1818-1895 (1979); J. Sibree, Fifty Years in Madagascar (1924) and London Missionary Society, A Register of Missionaries, Deputations, etc…. (4th ed., 1923), no. 676.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.