THANK you so much for Hamish MacPherson’s article on Mary Slessor (Scots missionary they called The Great Mother, January 15). The Kirk does not canonise its saints, but if it did, she would surely be one for her heroic faith, hope and courage.

A mill worker from Dundee, after a course in bible study she applied to the United Presbyterian Missionary Society and was sent to Calabar, in what is now southern Nigeria. In Calabar, there were missionaries, a governor, and the support of the local king. But things were very different up-country among the tribes in the district of Ekoi, whose chief imports were gin, guns, chains and padlocks.

READ MORE: How Scottish missionary Mary Slessor earned the title of the 'Great Mother' in Nigeria

Witchcraft and slavery were endemic: gin was given to babies and children, people were paid in it and it was the drink at every occasion. All who could carried guns perpetually cocked. If a person from a chief’s family died, then slaves, wives, children and servants were executed to “accompany” them, not to mention dozens of people decapitated or poisoned because suspected of witchcraft and causing the death in the first place.

Mary Slessor called it “a veritable culture of death”. Infanticide was common, especially the slaughter of all twin babies, twins being considered a mark of particular evil.

But Christ had said: “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.”

For 30 years Mary Slessor lived amongst the Ekoi people in the rain forests, always walking, usually barefoot. She built houses, she taught men, women and children, insisting always on Christ’s teaching, and morning and evening prayers and Sunday services.

But hers was no story of women’s lib: at all times she would be accompanied by her bairns, many of whom she had rescued as babies. They were at every age and stage, often a little one being carried on her shoulders. Bairns that had to be fed, clothed, washed and minded, corrected or consoled, and put to bed, like all bairns. Yet she never ceased her diplomatic and Christian work among their elders.

There is a story of her barricading herself in with a group of women due to be executed, in order to protect them, but having run of the tins of milk for her babies, she slipped out under cover of darkness, made her way through the many miles of forest to Calabar, and returned with the tins before morning and the captors had realised. In the end she secured those women’s release and  saved their lives.

So significant was her place among the tribespeople that both slavery and slaughter of the innocents were brought to an end among them. The local Governor General even made her a magistrate, and therefore a judge of all their disputes, but this she had already become and the people had listened and become Christians. The word of God is indeed something alive and active.

One wonders what Mary Slessor would think of today’s infanticide. Professor Leslie Regan, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, was recently sent north to stalk our land and persuade the Scottish Government to endorse prescription of abortion pills to young women to take at home. Holyrood has been given power to change abortion laws. I hope they use these powers to protect the lives of our infants, rather than further endanger them.

Lesley J Findlay
Fort Augustus

IN the Ferret article in the Sunday National on the “Sky high cost of our (Scottish) Lords” (January 20) I notice in the photographs of the most expensive peers that they all have big grins on their faces. Wonder who they are laughing at – could it be us?

Lorne Anton
Ayton, Berwickshire