1890  — 1945

Margaret Dryburgh

English Presbyterian missionary teacher in Swatow and Singapore.

Born in Sunderland, England. Sent to China by the Women’s Missionary Association of the English Presbyterian Church, Dryburgh joined the Swatow mission in 1919. She was involved in teacher training and, after furlough in 1927, was appointed to Singapore to work among Teochow-speaking Chinese. With Alan Anderson, she recognized the need for the Chinese Presbyterian Church in Singapore to be involved in education. In 1937, she became principal of the Kuo Chuan Girls’ School. After the Japanese invasion of Malaya, she remained in Singapore until evacuated on 11 Feb 1942. The ship on which she sailed was captured, and she was interned in Banka Island and later moved to Lakat, Sumatra, where she died.

Music was an important part of Dryburgh’s life and ministry in schools and churches and as a prisoner. Fellow internees and former pupils remembered her faith, strength of character, astonishing memory for classical music scores, and gifts of leadership and organization. Her music for the women’s vocal orchestra she organized with Norah Chambers, including her “Captives’ Hymn,” was recorded in 1995 from a handwritten score which survived the camps. Her experiences, and those of other Dutch and British women prisoners, are also recalled by the books Women Beyond the Wire and Song of Survival, as well as by the television series Tenko and the feature film Paradise Road.


This article is reproduced, with permission, from A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, copyright © 2001 by Scott W. Sunquist, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


  • Band, Edward, Working His Purpose Out: The History of the English Presbyterian Mission, 1847-1947 (1948). Colijn, Helen, Song of Survival (1995). Warner, Lavinia, and John Sandilands, Women Beyond the Wire (1982). Women’s Choir of Haarlem, Holland, “Song of Survival,” Mirasound CD 399216 (1995).

About the Author

John Roxborogh

Head, Department of Mission Studies, Bible College of New Zealand, Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand