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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Paton, Rev. John Gibson

Paton, Rev. John Gibson, D.D., the well-known missionary, was the son of James Paton, a stocking manufacturer at Kirkmahoe, Dumfries, Scotland, and Janet Jardine (Rogerson) his wife. He was born at Braehead, Kirkmahoe, on May 24th, 1824, and as a boy worked at his father's trade and as a field labourer. Subsequently he obtained an appointment in connection with the West Campbell Street Reformed Presbyterian Congregation in Glasgow as district visitor and tract distributer at £25 per annum, with the right of receiving a year's training at the Free Church Normal Seminary. At the latter he studied so hard that his health broke down, and he had to return home. Later on he entered as a student at Glasgow College, but had to leave after one session through lack of funds, and was then for some time a school-teacher at Maryhill. For ten years he worked in connection with the Glasgow City Mission, studying meantime at the university of Glasgow and the Reformed Presbyterian Divinity Hall and attending medical classes at the Andersonian College. In Dec. 1857 Mr. Paton was licensed as a preacher with the view of taking up missionary work in the New Hebrides, and in March 1858 was ordained a minister in Dr. Symington's church, Glasgow. On April 16th of the same year Mr. Paton sailed from Greenock for Melbourne in the Clutha, and proceeded thence in an American ship, landing at Aneityum, New Hebrides, on August 30th. In Nov. Mr. Paton settled on the island of Tanna, one of the group, and in the following March his wife, Mary Anne, daughter of Peter Robert Robson, died. He struggled on under great difficulties until Jan. 1862, when, owing to the murderous attitude of the hostile natives, he had to abandon the mission, quit Tanna, and return to Aneityum, without any of his possessions save the clothes on his back and a single Bible. Mr. Paton now proceeded to Australia to raise funds for the purchase of a mission ship, and was so successful that he obtained enough to build the Dayspring and also to justify a journey to Scotland to bring out more missionaries. Leaving Australia in May 1863, he reached London in August, and proceeded to Scotland, where success again crowned his efforts. In 1864 he was married in Edinburgh to Miss Margaret Whitecross. The same year Mr. Paton returned to Australia, landing in Sydney in Jan. 1865. In the following year the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria accepted his transference from the Church of Scotland and adopted him as the first missionary from the Presbyterian Churches of Australia to the New Hebrides. Mr. Paton now (Nov. 1866) took up his location on the island of Aniwa, not far distant from Tanna, and here for many years conducted a most successful mission. In 1884 he was commissioned to proceed to the United Kingdom to raise further funds for the New Hebrides mission with special reference to the purchase of a second mission ship, and was again successful. Mr. Paton returned to Australia at the end of 1885. This account of his career would be incomplete without some reference to his action in regard to the Polynesian labour traffic, which he has always strenuously opposed. In 1892, when Sir Samuel Griffith proposed to renew the importation of Kanakas into Queensland, he led the opposition to the project, and though unsuccessful in preventing its adoption, probably his action had much to do in procuring the adoption of stringent regulations to prevent abuses. In 1890 his autobiography, edited by his brother, was published in two parts by Messrs. Hodder & Stoughton.