Elmslie, William J. (1832-1872) and Margaret [Duncan] (1852-1882)

Early Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionaries in Kashmir

From the 1850s CMS sought to establish work in the Himalayan foothills and into Kashmir. This was much encouraged by British Christian administrators and army officers, some of whom recruited William Elmslie and paid his expenses. A Scottish Presbyterian doctor from Aberdeen, Elmslie joined CMS in 1864 and began work in Srinagar in 1865. His service was limited to summers only, as Maharajah Rambhir Singh, the Muslim ruler of Kashmir, would not allow any foreigners to remain through the winter. Early in 1872, while on leave in Scotland, Elmslie married Margaret Duncan and returned to Kashmir with her. Later that year, leaving Srinagar too late in the season, they became trapped in snow. William, who had been ill before leaving, was confined to a litter. Margaret Elmslie struggled on with her husband, but he died in Gujrat. After his death, permission to remain in Kashmir year round was received. Elmslie’s medical successors, Theodore Maxwell and the brothers Arthur and Ernest Neve, built up a successful hospital. Margaret Elmslie, who was greatly loved by her colleagues, continued to work in orphanages in Amritsar until 1878. In 1881, after her return to Britain, she married Francis Baring, a former CMS missionary, but she died in Kulu, North India, only a year later.

Jocelyn Murray, “Elmslie, William J. and Margaret (Duncan),” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 198-9.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Digital Texts

Elmslie, Margaret Duncan and W. Burns Thomason. Seedtime in Kashmir: A Memoir of William Jackson Elmslie…Late Medical Missionary, CMS, Kashmir. London: James Nisbet & Co., 1875.

Elmslie, William Jackson. A Vocabulary of the Kashmiri Language. London: Church Missionary House, 1872.

Stock, Eugene. History of the Church Missionary Society. 3 volumes. London: Church Missionary Society, 1899.  Volume 1; Volume 2; Volume 3.


Gibbs, M. E. The Anglican Church in India, 1600-1970. 1972.

Kammoror, J. Dr. William Elmslie: Missionsarzt in Kaschmir. Basel: n.p., 1903. [in German]

Santer, A. J. Heroes of the Holy War. London: Church Missionary Society, 1909. [Contains chapter titled, “The boy bootmaker who became a doctor: William Jackson Elmslie.”]

Stock, Eugene. History of the Church Missionary Society. 3 volumes. London: Church Missionary Society, 1899.

Thomson, W. Burns. A Memoir of William Jackson Elmslie. London: J. Nisbet, 1891.