OBITUARY: Henry Guinness

Henry Guinness had a pioneer spirit that motivated the whole of his life as a missionary. He was one of 200 new missionaries sent to China in 1931 by the China Inland Mission, and drew crowds to his preaching by playing a cornet in the villages. The instrument went with him to a Chinese Church conference in England in 1993.

He had been born in Kaifeng, in central China, where his parents had moved just after the notorious Boxer Rebellion in which 75 missionaries and countless Chinese Christians were slaughtered. The Guinness family is noted for achievement, chiefly in the fields of banking, brewing and missionary work. Henry Guinness came from the Grattan line of the family, who tended towards mission work, and his father had moved to China in 1900 for this purpose. His mother came from a noble Swedish family. Ill- health separated him from them early. Dust and dirt and Yellow River floods combined to make life in Kaifeng "nasty, brutish and short". The death of his father when he was 17 made him look at the purpose of life, and led to his resolve to become a missionary.

Back in Kaifeng for the China Inland Mission (known today as OMF International), his work among boys received impetus from his fascination with anything that worked, from pinhole cameras to aeroplane propellers. But a cholera epidemic, an earthquake, and repeated crop failures also called for an empathy with a tortured community, whose lives were made worse by the Japanese invasion of 1933.

Conscious of his need for a co-worker, Guinness prayed for one to be sent. That night a burglar broke into the house. Guinness confronted him in his pyjamas, sat him down, and taught him from the Gospel of St John. The man professed to become a Christian, and in the morning Guinness went out, left the man to get the lunch, and trusted him with the house. This man became the co-worker.

In 1938 Guinness married Mary Taylor, a doctor, and the young couple had to cope with famine, drought, locusts, raging inflation and war. When parents abandoned their children for lack of food, the Guinnesses rescued those they could. Two of their own three sons died in Honan Province, and the couple had to flee from war the day after the second son died.

The years from 1945 to 1947 were spent in Dublin, where Guinness represented the China Inland Mission in Ireland. In 1947, the Guinnesses returned to China, playing a key role in work among students. Thousands of students were converging in Nanjing at the time, following the 1947 Intervarsity Conference, and the Guinnesses ran Bible study classes until indoctrination began. After a short three years, Communism came and missionaries had to leave. The Guinnesses moved to Scotland, where many students and prospective missionaries tasted their hospitality, until they were able to return to East Asia, to serve in Malaysia and then in Taiwan.

In the early Seventies, I had the privilege of travelling around Taiwan with Henry Guinness, who was directing the work of the OMF there. Then in his sixties, he had lost none of his get up and go. "Getting up" might be four in the morning and "going" might be travelling all day, perhaps snacking on lychees bought through the bus window as we went.

On one occasion in China, he arrived at an inn late at night. Preparing to sleep, he heard bandits in the next room discussing how to dispose of his body, and how much they could get for his boots. Opening the door of his room and moving slowly towards the toilet, Guinness scanned the high wall for a foothold, sprang up and leapt over into the fields. Despite a chase by the bandits, he made it to another village four miles away.

Henry Guinness's bravery and love of adventure was balanced by a deep faith, and a caring heart that continued until his last days. His wife died in 1993 and he is survived by his son, Oswald, a well-known author and Christian apologist, who lives in the United States.

Henry Whitfield Guinness, missionary: born Kaifeng, Honan Province, China 18 April 1908; married 1938 Dr Mary Taylor (died 1993; one son, and two sons deceased); died Pembury, Kent 17 February 1996.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little