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Rev James Sibree


James Sibree was born in Hull, 1836, the son of the Rev James Sibree, Congregational minister, and Martha Goode Aston.

Educated at Hull Collegiate School he was articled to civil engineer; Assistant Surveyor, Local Board of Health, Hull, 1859-1863.

Appointed London Missionary Society (LMS) architect of four large stone churches in Madagascar, each a memorial to a martyr of persection, and was sent to Antananarivo, 1863-1867. He worked on the churches at Ambatonakanga, Ambohipotsy, Andohalo and Manjakaray, and other mission buildings.

He trained for the Congregational ministry at Spring Hill College, Moseley, Birmingham, 1868-1870; also carried out deputation work for the LMS. Ordained in Hull, 1870, he married Deborah Hannah (d 1920), daughter of the Rev J Wilberforce Richardson, Congregational minister, in London, 1870. He had two sons and three daughters.

LMS missionary in Madagascar, 1870-1877; led the extension of mission work outside the capital, founding the first country station, at Ambohimanga, and settling there, 1870; chosen one of the LMS delegates to revise the Malagasy Bible and began work on it, 1873; accompanied the LMS deputation to Antsihanaka province, 1874; took an explorative and evangelistic journey to south-eastern Madagascar, 1876. Moved to Antananarivo to work at the theological college, 1876; difficulties with the government in Madagascar forced him to withdraw, 1877-1883; undertook LMS deputation work in England, 1877-1879; appointed missionary to South India, superintending the LMS high school as Vizagapatam, 1879; returned to England owing to his wife's ill health, 1880; LMS deputation work in England, 1880-1883; returned to Madagascar as principal of the LMS theological college and with his wife engaged in other missionary activities, 1883-1915; architect of almost 100 mission buildings, including c50 churches; in the years leading up to the French invasion (1895) an outspoken supporter of Malagasy independence; chief English authority on Madagascar; received Sir G Back's Grant for his work on the geography and bibliography of Madagascar, 1892; Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society; Fellow of the International Society of Philology; Membre de l'Académie Malgache from 1902; honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity, University of St Andrews, 1913; returned to England owing to his wife's ill health, 1915; resigned as a missionary, 1916; continued deputation work for the LMS and Bible Society, 1920s; died following an accident, 1929. Publications include: Madagascar and its People (1870); South-east Madagascar (1876); The Great African Island (1880); A Madagascar Bibliography (1885); Madagascar before the Conquest (1896); The Madagascar Mission (1907); Our English Cathedrals (2 volumes, 1911); A Naturalist in Madagascar (1915); Things Seen in Madagascar (1921); edited Register of Missionaries and Deputations of the LMS (1923); Fifty Years in Madagascar (1923), his autobiography; works in the Malagasy language; articles on Madagascar for several editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Chambers's Encyclopaedia.

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