Born in Port Bannantyne, Bute, Scotland. The son of Alexander Lamont and Sarah Graham, Lamont obtained a master’s degree from the University of Glasgow in 1888. On 15 Dec 1889, he was ordained by the presbytery of Glasgow and inducted as a missionary of the Presbyterian Church of England at Singapore. After he had studied Chinese for a few months in Amoy, he began to conduct Hokkien services in Neil Road and various preaching halls in Singapore and Malaya. As he became more interested in education, he gave up the preaching halls and transferred his Hokkien-speaking congregation to Un Sam Guan, his former tutor in Amoy.
In 1891, Lamont began the Singapore Chinese Educational Institute in his own home to fit young Chinese men for the responsibilities of leadership. On 25 Apr 1892, the institute was reconstituted under Tan Teck Soon (chairman), Lim Koon Tye (honorary secretary), and Tan Guan Hon (treasurer). Evening classes in English and Chinese history and literature, mathematics, and shorthand were started in a classroom of the Raffles Institution.
In 1893, Lamont bought the Eastern School, River Valley Road, which had been founded in 1890 as an Anglo-Chinese government grant-in-aid school but was threatened with closure due to mismanagement. He merged it with his own evening classes under the English Presbyterian Mission. The enrollment soon rose to 400 students; later, the school moved to more commodious premises on Club Street.
In 1894, Lamont coauthored, with Tan Teck Soon, an English novel, Bright Celestials. His other publications include Heights of Hell, South Africa in Mars, and articles in various periodicals, including “The Social Cancer,” which was the subject of a libel action.
In 1893, Lamont married Henrietta Williams Bell, and they had a son on 21 Feb 1900.
In 1896, the English Presbyterian Mission withdrew its support for the Eastern School to concentrate on work in China. Lamont resigned on 16 Nov 1897 and, in 1898, was called to the pastoral charge of the Free Church congregation at Dailly, Ayrshire, Scotland. H. Rankin succeeded him as principal of the Eastern School, which closed permanently on 31 Oct 1902.
During his period in the United Kingdom, Lamont served in various other churches: St. Paul’s North Shields, presbytery of Newcastle (27 Feb 1902 to 4 Dec 1906); the congregation at Wembley, presbytery of London North (18 Jan 1907 to 30 Mar 1908); and Wardie United Free Church (1908-11).
In 1910, Lamont visited his sister in Adelaide, South Africa, and became a permanent resident in that country in 1912. His first ministry was in Tarkastad where he met and married his second wife, Beatrice McEwan, the daughter of a Scottish immigrant, who bore him three sons. Lamont was installed as minister of St. Ninians, Greyville, Durban, in 1916. He became a city councilor but, because of his stand against racial discrimination, most white Durban residents found him too liberal in his views. He was defeated in both provincial and parliamentary elections in 1927 and 1929. His election as Durban’s mayor in 1929 came as a surprise. He was defeated in his bid for a fourth term as mayor, but the white workers of Durban elected him a member of the provincial council for Greyville in 1932. In recognition of his efforts to improve the conditions of the black people, a new Umlazi black township was named Lamontville in his honor. Lamont was buried in Durban in 1933.
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.
- Greer, Robert M., A History of the Presbyterian Church in Singapore (1959).
- Moore, Donald and Joanna, The First 150 years of Singapore (1969).
- Mouton, F. A., “Eerwaarde Archibald Lamont—-Kampvegter Vir die Minderbevoorregte,” Historia 34.1 (May 1989).
- Song Ong Siong, One Hundred Years History of the Chinese in Singapore (1902).