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Biographical entry McDougall, The Rev Francis Thomas (1817 - 1886)

MRCS June 3rd 1839; FRCS July 25th 1854; BA Oxon 1844; MA 1845; DCL 1854; Bishop of Labuan and Sarawak.

Sydenham, Kent
16 November 1886
General surgeon and Priest


Born at Sydenham, Kent, the only son of William Adair McDougall, Captain in the 88th Regiment. His mother, whose maiden name was Gell, had strong evangelical principles. McDougall was educated at Malta, where his father's regiment was quartered, and attended the hospitals at Valetta. He entered as a medical student at King's College, London, in 1835, and matriculated in the University of Oxford from Magdalen Hall on Feb 28th, 1839, graduating BA in 1844, MA in 1845, and being created DCL on June 28th, 1854. Whilst he was at Oxford McDougall, weighing 9 stone 8 lb, rowed bow in the Oxford and Cambridge boat-race on July 11th, 1842, F N Menzies being stroke and the course from Westminster to Putney. The Oxford crew won, and the race is memorable as being the first in which the short digging 'Waterman's stroke' was abandoned for what afterwards became known as the 'Oxford stroke'.

On leaving Oxford he became Medical Officer to some ironworks in South Wales, and married Marriette, daughter of Robert John Bunyon, whose elder sister was married to Bishop Colenso. The ironworks failed and McDougall was ordained in 1845 by Dr Stanley, Bishop of Norwich. He became Curate of Farnlingham Pigot, and in 1846 of St Mark's, Lakenham, a populous suburb of Norwich, and afterwards of Christ Church, Woburn Square, London. He was offered a permanent position at the British Museum in 1847, and almost at the same time came the offer of a curacy and of mission work in Borneo. He chose the first, repented, and set out for Borneo in December, 1847. There with the help of Mrs McDougall he did much good work amongst the Chinese and Dyaks, establishing a 'Home School' in which the children were taught from infancy the principles of Christianity.

He returned to England in 1853 and arranged for the transfer of the mission to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, as the funds of the Borneo Mission were exhausted. He was in Sarawak again in 1854, and was consecrated at Calcutta on St Luke's Day, 1855, Bishop of Labuan, as this small island was alone under the direct control of the Colonial Office and no precedent existed for a bishopric beyond the dominions of the Crown. He sent a three-column letter to The Times, dated from Sarawak, May 27th, 1862. It is a fine pirate story, telling of an encounter with Malay pirates at sea in which quite unostentatiously he shows himself a first-class fighter, a surgeon, and a priest. Some exception was taken to the letter, in which the Bishop says: "My double-barrelled Terry's breech loader, made by Reilly, New Oxford Street, proved itself a most deadly weapon from its true shooting, and certainty and rapidity of fire. It never missed fire once in 80 rounds, and was then so little fouled that I believe it would have fired 80 more with like effect without wanting to be cleaned." Dr Tait, then Bishop of London, told him dryly that when next there was occasion for such a letter he had best let his wife write it for him. In 1857 he wrote a Malay Prayer Book, and in 1868 published a Catechism for the Use of the Missions of the Church in Borneo.

Bishop McDougall's health failed in 1867; he returned to England, resigned his Bishopric in the spring of 1868, and was presented by Dean Stanley to the vicarage of Godmanchester, Huntingdonshire, which he held until 1874. Here he formed a close friendship with Harold Browne, Bishop of Ely, who appointed him Archdeacon of the Diocese in 1870 and Canon of Ely in the following year. When Dr Browne was translated from Ely to Winchester he made McDougall a Canon of Winchester in 1873 and Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight in 1874, adding the small Vicarage of Milford-on-Sea, Hants, in 1881. This cure he held until 1885, when he became Rector of Mottistone with Shorwell, Isle of Wight. He died on Nov 16th, 1886, his wife having died on May 7th preceding. One of his daughters married F Charlewood Turner, MD, Physician to St Thomas's Hospital, the second married Charles Henry Turner, DD, Bishop of Islington, whose fourth son, George Charlewood Turner, MC, was Master of Marlborough College.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Dict Nat Biog, sub nomine et auct. ibi cit. Drinkwater and Sanders, The University Boat-race, 4to, London, 1929. The Bishop's letter to The Times is printed in the issue of July 16th, 1862, p5, cols d-f. Additional information kindly given by Arthur Grayling, MB Lond, and Sir Archibald Garrod, KCMG, FRS].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England