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Six Degrees of Separation

ChristianLove 1

 Six degrees of separation between Otago Museum and the Rolling Stones?  Maybe...  


If one starts with delivery of the poster for the most recent exhibition from Special Collections, at the University of Otago’s Central Library, there is.

This Book Belongs To promises “numerous bookplates, book labels, and inscriptions evident in the thousands of books held… including a wide variety of armorial, pictorial, and modern designs representing a wide range of book collectors.” [1] 

Otago Museum’s collection includes few books, but one of those is a copy of the 14th edition of The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, given to Margaret Elizabeth Field in 1908.  It is inscribed:


“To Miss Field

A token of Christian Love from her Pastor & Mrs Wright Hay on her going to the Congo “for the sake of The Name”.

Talbot Tabernacle

London W.” 

The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge is a Bible reference work; an extensive set of cross-references published by Samuel Bagster and Sons Limited of Paternoster Row, London. The first edition appeared in 1830. The title page of Miss Field’s copy claims it contains ‘five hundred thousand scripture references and parallel passages’.  It was a thoughtful gift for a young woman travelling roughly 6600 km to the Democratic Republic of Congo to engage in mission work.  

The broach spired, red brick, arch-windowed Talbot Tabernacle at which Margaret Field worshipped in Notting Hill, London was completed in 1888. It replaced an earlier tin structure. Her pastor, Robert Wright Hay, had formerly served with the Baptist Missionary Society, and became a secretary of the Bible League in the 1910s.  

Margaret met the man who was to become her husband “on the mission field”. Henry MacReady Whiteside (1872 – 1924) was working in the building trade in Belfast, Northern Ireland when he felt called to evangelical work in the then Congo Free State, in 1897. He served with the Congo Balolo section of the Regions Beyond Mission, and played a role in making the atrocities associated with the rubber trade known to the wider world. A letter he wrote was quoted in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Crime of the Congo, and some of his photographs appeared in Mark Twain’s 1905 satirical pamphlet, King Leopold’s Soliloquy.

Whiteside was also said to be an able astronomer, a good shot, and to practise taxidermy. Cercopithecus ascanius subsp. whitesidei, the yellow-nosed red-tailed monkey, was named for him, and the American naturalist, James Chapin, recorded that Whiteside provided him with ornithological specimens, and sent others to the British Museum. [2]

The Whitesides returned to England with their young family, then immigrated to New Zealand in 1923. Sadly, Henry became ill soon after arrival and died in early 1924. 

The Tabernacle continued to operate as a church in Powis Square, Notting Hill, until 1975, when the building was taken over by the local council.  New Order played there in 1981 and it became a well-known rap venue in the late 1980s.  ‘The Tab’ also hosted the launch of the Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge album in 1994.  It still operates as an art and performance space: 

There is one further connection. Scottish-born Gordon Forlong, who was involved in the establishment of the first Talbot Tabernacle in 1868 and preached there until 1876, also moved to New Zealand. [3] He died here, aged 90, in 1908, the year in which Pastor and Mrs Wright Hay give Margaret Field her copy of The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, which she kept for the rest of her life. Her daughter, Eileen, donated it to Otago Museum in 2008. 



Top Image:  Inscribed14th edition of The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, given to Margaret Elizabeth Field in 1908. Otago Museum Collection


[2] Bo Beolens, Michael Watkins and Michael Grayson. 2009. The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals. Johns Hopkins University Press