Life of William Percival Johnson Archdeacon of Nyasa

William Percival Johnson [1854-1928] was a missionary of the Anglo-Catholic Universities’ Mission to Central Africa. He was know as the “Apostle of the Lake” [Lake Nyasa] in what is now Malawi. He opposed the unnecessary imposition of European culture in Africa. This short biography of Johnson is in the Public Domain.

Dora Yarnton Mills [1859-?], A Hero Man. The Life and Adventures of William Percival Johnson Archdeacon of Nyasa, 2nd edn. London: Universities’ Mission to Central Africa, 1933. Hbk. pp.64. [Download complete book in PDF]



  1. Early Days
  2. Africa Calls
  3. The Adventure Begins
  4. Towards the Goal
  5. Life at Masasi
  6. The Vollage of Released Slaves
  7. Privations in an African Village
  8. A Set-Back
  9. The Lake at Last
  10. The Lonely Trail
  11. “In Journeyings Often”
  12. Stricken With Bindness
  13. The “Charles Janson” Launched
  14. “In Perils From the Heathen”
  15. Building Up The Church
  16. The Care of the Villages
  17. The Steamer “Chauncy Maples”
  18. How the African Lives
  19. The Hero Honoured
  20. The End of the Adventure

Chapter 1

Early Days

When a certain boy, named William Percival Johnson, came to Bedford Grammar School, his comrades very soon found he had ideas and a will of his own. A strong will is a fine thing if it is rightly controlled. Johnson kept his in order all right. From the beginning he was a leader. He had not been in the school long before he was head of all the games in his school house. Whatever he did, whether work or play, he did it with all his might. Among his school-fellows he made friends, but expected them to come up to his idea of friendship and in those early days he was inclined to be hard on those who did not reach his standard.

He was a brilliant mathematician, keen and eager when other boys were dull or stupid. He did not waste his school-days, but got as much good out of them as he possibly could.

When his schooldays were over, he went to University College, Oxford, and there he soon made his mark, not only in the College, where he worked as before with all his might, but on the river, where he stroked his college boat to victory at the head of the river. Some of you have probably watched this race and know the great excitement and enthusiasm which thrills the onlooker.

“Johnson was determined to win; you could see that by the earnest look on his face as day by day he practised on the river.” So testified the master of his college. And that determination and pertinacity were among the most distinguished characteristics of his many-sided character. [Continue reading]

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