The Death of Little Jack the Boy Missionary - 2 minutes read

‘What more pleasing to a Christian parent whose heart yearns over his children [than] to see them thus engaged in the best of all causes, even the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom’, wrote Joseph Blake in The Day of Small Things, his 1849 tract promoting missionary zeal in children. Few children exemplified Blake’s ideals more than John ‘Little Jack’ Hore, later called ‘the boy missionary’. Jack was just three months old when he first set sail with his mother Annie from London for Zanzibar in May 1882. 

Jack’s father, Edward, was scientific adviser to the London Missionary Society on Lake Tanganyika. It was some 830 miles from the coast to Ujiji, their destination on the eastern shores of the lake. Edward was determined that wheeled transport be involved. If all else failed, he said, ‘he would at least take his wife to Ujiji in a wheelbarrow’. 

In fact, as she explained in her memoir To Lake Tanganyika in a Bath Chair, Annie was carried all the way. Jack suffered from fevers for much of the 90-day trek.

They lived on Kavala Island, off the lake’s western edge. Jack’s ‘fearless friendship  [with the local children] and intimate knowledge of their language made him a useful medium of teaching’, his father said. He spoke ‘seriously and affectionately’ to them, a Christian newspaper later wrote, ‘of the good Father in Heaven, and the Lord Jesus who died to save them from their sins’.

Both his parents were devoutly opposed to the slave trade. Annie had been shocked to see ‘dark objects lying on, or beside the path’ on their journey, which she soon realised were the bodies of those who died on the Arab slave caravans that passed through the area. Yet they were friendly with – and sometimes dependent on – Tippu Tib, the wealthiest slave trader in East Africa.

Jack survived smallpox in 1887. The family returned home the following year, but he died on 5 April 1889, aged seven, from measles. He was interred at Highgate Cemetery, his coffin wrapped in a cloth gifted to him by an Arab slave trader.

Source: History Today Feed