From being a very small child, living in Calcutta, where my father and uncle continued the work of William Ward (started in 1800), and Rev. William Hopkins Pearce (started in 1818), I have understood the importance of the work they were doing, and have grown up with the name of ‘Lushai’ on the lips of those around me.

The Bible Society of India, then based in Calcutta, was my father’s biggest customer, and all their work was charged at cost price.

The Press was owned and run by the B.M.S., and the valuable commercial printing work my uncle was so successful in attracting to the Press, made a good profit, and the profits went towards paying the salaries of B.M.S. evangelists, missionaries and ministers in India, who had to be supported. This led to missionaries, even from other missionary societies, treating each other with great respect and equality. The title ‘Reverend’ was dispensed with among colleagues in India.

My father and uncle were B.M.S. missionaries, and were paid the same as all other B.M.S. missionaries, including college Principals, Professors and Lecturers. These included the academic staff of Serampore College. They all had to do the same ‘deputation’ for 6 months, when furlough came around every four years. Preaching in Baptist churches all over England every weekend. Even their wives had to do it.  They were all treated the same by the B.M.S., and their children went to the same schools.

Because the pay was so basic, just enough to live on, due to their ‘calling’ just as in Carey’s day, neither my father or uncle were ever in a position to even think about owning their own home back in England.

The Press workers however were paid above the going rate for similar positions in the presses of Calcutta. The Press pension scheme for them was conceived and created by my Uncle's predecessor, Rev. Percy Knight. The Government of the State of West Bengal thought it so fair and equitable that they used it as a basis for their own Pension Scheme.

All the B.M.S. missionaries in Lushai had to visit the B.M.S. India Field Headquarters in Calcutta (the location of the Press) at some time or another, and the income from the Press would have helped to pay their salaries. Even Rev. J. Meirion Lloyd and his family, got to know my parents through staying at ‘44’ at the Calcutta Mission… before Mizoram House ever existed.

In 1960 a peon at the Press (a uniformed messenger) was found in a tea shop on Eliot Road when he should have been at work. Norman sacked him. The Worker’s Union called a strike. This led to a lockout and graffiti on walls all the way to Serampore saying “Go Home Norman Ellis”. It ended with Norman and his family returning to England. He never spoke again about the Press, not even to his brother or nephews. Fortunately my father did and was very lucid. I recorded and preserved everything I could before he died. Bernard picked up the pieces and continued in Norman’s footsteps. The peon retired and received a BMP pension for the rest of his life.

The incident that has reverberated in our family ever since was the comment the General Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society (Rev. Earnest Madge) made to my father on the steps of the Press: “Mission Presses should not make a profit.”

Tell that to Carey, Marshman or Ward. They would be spinning in their graves in Serampore if they knew. Their lives were a testament to the fact that profits make mission work possible. They each lived off around 10% of their income and the remaining 90% went to the Mission. Even Carey had to have an allowance for clothes so he could look reasonably presentable in front of the Governor-General at Government House.

Taken from recordings I made of my father reminiscing in the early 1980s at a B.M.S house in Odd Down, Bath, Avon, kept solely for the use of retired Baptist missionaries. Also a notebook my father wrote afterwards in my possession.

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This is silent colour film made by a Baptist missionary to Lushai in 1945 (just two years before I and my family arrived at Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta). It has been divided into two parts and a Mizo commentary (with music) has been added by the Baptists of Serkawn (the B.M.S. archives no longer contain a copy of the original).

Film 1.

Film 2.

Film 3.

Click on the images to watch the movies.

A movie made by the Mizo Baptists themselves (with a memorial to the B.M.S. Missionaries in the background) and uploaded to YouTube in 2012.

I defy anyone to be anything other than blown away by the complete and utter transformation and the sheer professionalism of today’s Mizo Baptists as demonstrated by this movie. They have already massively put to shame and left far behind every single church in Derby by a long, long way.

It is an incredible privilege for me to be able to witness such a profound transformation.

Ronald Ellis, 31st December 2017.


A Hindi New Testament printed by Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta, in the 1950s (in my possession).