1818 – 19 May 1891
George Turner was born and raised in Irvine, Ayrshire; a Divinity graduate of the University of Glasgow, he attended seminary in Paisley. With his seminary mate James Nisbet, he joined the London Missionary Society in 1840, was ordained a Church of Scotland minister in Glasgow on July 23rd that year, and the pair (with their wives) sailed for ‘Upolu, Samoa on August 11th. The four were stationed first on Tanna, Vanuatu and arrived there in late June 1842, but the Tannese were hostile to their presence at the time, and they had returned to ‘Upolu by February 1843, where the Turners were to remain for much of their lives.
In September 1844, Turner established the first seminary in Samoa at Malua on ‘Upolu, and began training the first generation of Samoan ministers. Turner quickly became fluent in Samoan and completed the first Samoan translation of the Bible, as well as many other important texts. He was editor of the Samoan Reporter newspaper from 1848 onwards. He became a Superintendent Missionary, and periodically toured many LMS mission stations throughout the Pacific – explaining much of the diversity in his art collection. From April-June 1845, he undertook a deputation to Vanuatu and the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia. From July-September 1848, he sailed with James Nisbet, Thomas Powell and a party of Nova Scotian Presbyterian missionaries, to Vanuatu, the Loyalty Islands and Niue. From September-December 1859, he repeated the same tour as he had in 1848, and then, after Christmas that year, he set out with his family on the 16th of January 1860 bound for Britain, carrying the manuscript second edition of the Samoan Bible, and the manuscript of Nineteen Years in Polynesia (1861) for printing.
Turner and his family lived on Jackson Street in Glasgow and Turner delivered a series of lectures on the progress of the LMS in the Pacific, speaking at several venues in Edinburgh and across Strathclyde throughout November 1860. That year, he was made an honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Glasgow, and presented a large collection of 110 items of Pacific art to the Hunterian. The following year, Turner also presented a comparably-sized collection to the Andersonian Museum, and a collection of at least 10 items to Glasgow City Mission; all three collections are now reunited in the Hunterian collection today. The Turners remained in Britain until March 1863, then sailed back to Samoa and arrived at Apia in November that year. His wife Mary Anne had never enjoyed good health in the tropics, and her constitution failed towards the end of 1869; the couple sailed home and arrived there in May 1870. Mary Anne Turner died in Glasgow in February 1872.
Turner remarried in May 1873 and had returned to Samoa by May 1874 to continue the work. From May-July 1876, he and the second Mrs Turner conducted a further tour of the LMS outstations in the Pacific, before returning to Samoa for the last time. His own health began to fail in 1882, and the Turners returned to London in May 1883. The following year, Turner published Samoa, a Hundred Years Ago & Long Before, and worked for the remainder of his life on a third edition of the Bible, and various scriptural commentaries in Samoan. He died in London.
Date of Birth
Date of Death
19 May 1891
Entry created on 28 August 2020