Welcome to Agincourt, Iowa

Home » Uncategorized » “Uncle Malcolm”

“Uncle Malcolm”


Howard’s great aunt Phyllis Tabor died not long ago, upwards of ninety-six years old. Alert and sassy as ever during her last months, Phyl provided some family history for the book Howard has been writing. Though technically she’s a Tabor and not a Tennant, Howie is being fairly catholic about this because, frankly, the in-laws are often more fun that the others.

I was glancing through some old blog entries and found Phyllis’s story about her twin sister Ella Rose, who disappeared in China during the revolution and Chairman Mao’s “Long March”. And though that story needed a bit more fleshing out.

Phyllis made a fleeting reference to her brother-in-law Malcolm and his wife Kate, presumably Ben Tabor’s sister. [That part of the genealogical chart has never been extended.] Malcolm was a Methodist missionary in China. I was confused for a while, until I realized that it was his surname that was “Malcolm”, not his given. Apparently there were three family members about the same age names “William”, so he was habitually referenced as Uncle Malcolm.

William R. MALCOLM [1861–1942]

Uncle Malcolm was a Methodist missionary stationed in Chefoo [now Zhifoo], a coastal town in Shantung Province, though I believe that travels took him periodically to the interior. It was Rev Malcolm who recruited Ella Rose Tabor, one of Agincourt’s twin aviatixes — is that the plural of “aviatrix”? Spellcheck doesn’t like it — into service as a pilot, delivering medical supplies to those mission hospitals. She was lost in the winter of 1935-1936, however, and never found. It was suspected that she also served as a messenger during those perilous years, which may have got her into deeper trouble than vaccines might have.

Though she was just sixteen years old at the time, Ella Rose accompanied her uncle to China in the fall of 1928, with a strategic stopover in Japan. It was on November 10th that year that Hirohito was enthroned as Japan’s one hundred and twenty-fourth emperor. How close to the ceremony Rev Malcolm and his niece were able to get ins’t known but she did return with the English-language program, that has remained in the family until recently, when it was given to the Community Collection as a memorial to Ms Tabor by her own nieces and nephews.

This would otherwise be a matter of simple curiosity, were it not for the inclusion of a woodcut print of Himeji Castle by ukiyo-e artist Hiroshi Yoshida. Not the only Japanese print in the collection, it is significant additionally for the association with an important cultural event witnessed by several Westerners, but also because Hirohito would take on special significance for Americans thirteen years later on December 7th, 1941.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: