William Percival Johnson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Archdeacon Chauncy Maples (left), and William Percival Johnson (right), 1895

William Percival Johnson (12 March 1854 in St Helens, Isle of Wight – October 1928 in Liuli, Tanganyika) was an Anglican missionary to Nyasaland.[1] After education at Bedford School (1863–1873) and graduation from University College, Oxford he went to Africa with the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, under the Bishop Edward Steere.[2]

He translated the Bible into the Likoma Island dialect of Chinyanja, under the title Chikalakala choyera : ndicho Malangano ya Kale ndi Malangano ya Chapano[3] which was published in 1912.[4] Together with another Universities' Mission missionary, Arthur Glossop (1867-1949), he also translated the Book of Common Prayer into Chinyanja (1897, revised 1909).[5]

Johnson also published two other books: Nyasa, the Great Water, being a Description of the Lake and the Life of the People (Oxford University Press, 1922)[6] and My African Reminiscences, 1875-1895 (London: Universities Mission to Central Africa, 1925).[7]

He died at Liuli, Mbinga District, on the shores of what is today the Tanzanian side of Lake Malawi in 1928,[8] the site of the largest mission in the Ruvuma region of Tanzania.[9] He is regarded locally as a saint and there is a "St Johnson's Day" celebrated. Local demands for his canonization were referred by letter to the Lambeth Conference in 1958, where a compromise that he was regarded as "Blessed" was offered. The Anglican Diocese of South West Tanganyika continues to regard Johnson as a saint.[10]


  1. ^ Johnson of Nyasaland: a study of the life and work of William Percival Johnson Bertram Herbert Barnes – 1933 "CHAPTER I The Call to Africa WILLIAM PERCIVAL JOHNSON was born at Vernon 1854 Villa, St. Helens, in the Isle of Wight, on March 12, 1854. He was the third son of John Johnson, a lawyer of Ryde, and Mary Percival, his second wife, ..."
  2. ^ Tanzania notes and records Issues 31–35; Issues 31–35 Tanzania Society – 1951 "The second Englishman was William Johnson, a Cambridge rowing "blue" who had come out to the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, of which Bishop Steere was the head. He was later to make himself a name as a great pioneer missionary "
  3. ^ The Society of Malawi journal 52–55 Society of Malawi – 1999 "In particular, William Percival Johnson performed outstanding feats in this respect. Although since 1884 he had been totally blind in one eye, and had only very limited sight in the other, he translated the whole of the Bible, ..."
  4. ^ The History of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, A. E. M. Anderson-Morshead, Arthur Gordon Blood – 1957 "In 1912, for instance, the Bible Society published the complete Chinyanja Bible in one volume, almost the whole of the translation having been made by Archdeacon Johnson and the proofs passed through the press by Miss Nixon Smith during her furlough in England."
  5. ^ William Muss-Arnolt The Book of Common Prayer among the Nations of the World (1914), chapter 54: "In 1897 the Rev. Arthur George Barnard Glossop, of the Universities’ Mission at Likoma, Lake Nyasa, now archdeacon of Likoma, published through the S.P.C.K. Chinyanja Portions of the Book of Common Prayer. The same year he also published a Chinyanja Church History. The title of the Liturgy reads: Chikala-kala cha kuseli | ndi | Kutumikila Sacraments. | Chinyanja Lake Nyasa. | . . . (3), 289, (1) pages, fcap. 8vo. Contents (page 3): Morning and Evening Prayer, Litany, Prayers and Thanksgivings, Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Holy Communion, Baptismal Service, Confirmation Service, Marriage Service. According to Darlow and Maule, Vol. II, part 3, p. 1159 (No. 7060), the translation was made by the Rev. William Percival Johnson (archdeacon of Nyasa, 1896-), of the Universities’ Mission. See, however, Allen and McClure, p. 222. Griffiths 127:1; Griffiths calls this language Nyanja; it is also known as Chinyanja. A revised edition, containing the whole Liturgy, was prepared by a Committee including three missionaries of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa and two native assistants. It was published in 1909; (12), 561, (2) pages, fcap. 8vo."
  6. ^ Google books, title page
  7. ^ Google books, title page
  8. ^ The story of Nyasaland: told in a series of historical pictures to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Nyasaland, 1891–1951. National Archives of Rhodesia and Nyasaland – 1951 "It was due to his efforts that the Universities' Mission to Central Africa was reestablished in Nyasaland. He died at Liuli on the shores of Lake Nyasa in October 1928 "
  9. ^ Philip Briggs Bradt Tanzania: With Zanzibar, Pemba & Mafia 2006 "Liuli is the site of the largest mission in this part of Tanzania, and the burial place of William Johnson, the Anglican missionary who co-founded the Likoma mission on an island in the Malawian part of the lake."
  10. ^ Colin Baker Chipembere: the missing years 2006 "He died on the Tanzanian part of the lake shore and lies buried in the Church of the Holy Cross at Liuli in the Mbinga ... His successors have tried to persuade the African people that William Johnson was not a saint, but they have ..."

External links[edit]