by Very Rev. Dr. Austin Fulton
Mamie Johnston went to China in 1923. Amongst the missionaries of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, sponsored by the Women's Missionary Association, there were, around that time, a group of very able, very effective, very well qualified and very devoted women. Even amongst this group Mamie Johnston was soon seen to be outstanding. The arrival of this attractive, highly intelligent and very able young woman, marked the beginning of a missionary life characterized by
courage, devotion to Christ and loyalty to His Church, enterprise, resourcefulness and imagination. She was careless
of her personal safety, and took risks, of which she must have been aware but which did not deter her, when action was required to help someone in danger or in need. What others would have felt as hardship seemed only to amuse
Mamie. I could imagine
her falling down the stairs, (which God forbid), and saying to the ambulance men with a chortle, `I tripped on the very top step and did not even break my neck'. I do not believe Mamie knows how to grumble or that anyone has ever heard
her complain. As I write she lives alone, is sorely crippled and has difficulty in getting about, and looking after
her home. When you visit 43 Graymount Park, Newtownabbey, you are not aware of any of this, though you may notice gadgets for the use of the disabled lying about; you are completely taken up with the outgoing friendliness of this happy warrior who is so continuously surprised by joy.
Language, even the Chinese language, presented little difficulty to Mamie Johnston. She learned to speak beautifully the Mandarin of Peking, achieved an easy mastery of the colloquial and picked up a disconcerting fluency in the `earth talk'-and very earthy it is-of the articulate and the voluble peasant. So did she, effortlessly, merge into the environment and become one with the people; and they loved her.
Mamie lives always aware, so her friends feel, of being in the presence of God. But what, for want of a better term I must call sentimental religiosity is no part of her make up. She has a deep sense
of liturgical fitness, and a sensitive appreciation of the devotional writings of the great Christian mystics. She reverences the reality
of Word and Sacrament, and prayer is the breath of life.
I venture to write in this way with some hesitation; I would not intrude on the area of another's devotional life; but am impelled to mention these things because here is a quality of spirituality seldom met, and which impresses so much. Mamie enjoys good books, good paintings, good music and other good things. She has strong conviction, is a shrewd judge of character with few illusions, and exercises a generous appreciation both of those with whom she agrees, and those who might disagree with her. Once a year we missionaries met in Council and Conference and read Reports to each other on the work of the previous twelve months. These were interesting or dull or a mixture of both. Mamie's were always exciting, so much so that we used to say to each other: `Where Mamie is, there things happen.' The pages of this memoir strikingly illustrate this. I hope it will be widely read.
Mamie is still with us, as full of fun and delightful anecdote as ever, a keen and kindly observer of our life and times. She still gives herself to the work of the Church, and to her friends in joy and inspiration and introduction. My words are a very inadequate tribute to a good and gracious woman to whom the Church owes so much. They are written with respect and affection for Mamie whom we all love.
St. Patrick's Day 1981.
Published by Presbyterian Church In Ireland (Overseas Board), Fisherwick Place,
Belfast BT1 6DW.
Printed in Ireland by W. & G. Baird Ltd., Antrim.