1825  — 1889

Frederick Foster Gough

FF Gough

Greek scholar; Close friend of Hudson Taylor, with whom he worked on the revision of the Ningbo vernacular romanized New Testament.

Reverend F. F. Gough

The second son of Ralph and Catharine Gough of Gosbrook House (later Gorsebrook House), Bushbury, Staffordshire, Frederick F. Gough was christened on 7 February 1825 at the church of Saint Peter, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. He was educated at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he obtained a BA with double honors in 1847 and his MA in 1853. While at Oxford, he established a prayer meeting at 6:00 AM for fellow students.

In 1848, he became a curate of St. Luke’s, Birmingham.

In 1849, he responded to an appeal for workers in China by George Smith, bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong. In October of that year, along with three others, he was commissioned to go to China with Bishop Smith. He was one of four men who offered themselves to the CMS for service, the others being R. H. Cobble, Fearnley, and Welston. Gough arrived in Hong Kong with Smith’s group in March of 1850 and was instructed to join CMS missionaries William A. Russell and Cobbold in Ningbo.

In 1852, he returned to England. He arrived back in China in October of 1854 with his new wife, Mary Vigars LeMare, whom he had married at Christ Church, Salford, Lancashire, on 4 April 1854.

The foreign missionary community in Ningbo was a close-knit fellowship of like-minded people. They included the W.A. Russell, R.H. Cobbold, Dr. and Mrs. William Parker, Miss Aldersey, and the two Dyer girls who lived and worked with her, as well as John and Mary Jones of the Chinese Evangelization Society (Taylor’s mission). The weekly prayer meeting brought them even closer together. Their close relationship can be seen from the loving hospitality they extended to each other. For example, when Hudson Taylor took John Jones and his son to Shanghai, Mary Jones and the smaller children moved in with the Goughs while they were gone, and when John Jones returned very sick, they took him in and nursed him to health. They welcomed Hudson Taylor on his first visit there, and Taylor and Gough became good friends. As a single missionary, Taylor felt like the odd man out. “John and Mary Jones, and the Goughs too, were couples deeply in love – the kind of relationship he could not stop pining for” (Broomhall 1.363).

W.A.P. Martin, an American missionary, had developed a romanized script for the Ningbo dialect. He introduced this to the CMS missionaries, “and with their co-operation launched a major project for printing books and publishing the New Testament in romanised Ningbo vernacular. To the amazement of the Chinese they saw their children learning to read in only a few days, and their illiterate servants and an old woman of servant ‘read in their own tongue the wonderful works of God’” (Broomhall 1.273).

The entire missionary enterprise in China felt the oppression of opium and the hated opium trade. In the spring of 1850, Gough received the first installment of a large sum of money that had been donated to the CMS for opium relief by a British official in India whose conscience had pricked him into resigning and giving all his savings to the CMS. Hudson Taylor was treating opium addicts at the hospital that William Parker had left in his charge; those who had been cured went home and told their friends, who converged on the missionaries in Ningbo. Taylor had no room for more patients, so Gough took in 130 men and cared for them for several months. Though the results were disappointing – their craving for the drug driving the men to seek more of it in any way possible – this became the forerunner of the CMS opium refuge work in China in the years that followed. He also taught in a Sunday school. When Hudson Taylor had to return to England for medical reasons in 1860, he turned the opium treatment work to Gough.

In 1856, he lived in Ningbo, sharing the work of preaching at Dr. Parker’s dispensary and in the local church with other missionaries, including John Nevius, and going to tea houses to preach with John Jones. Meanwhile, Mary Gough would take Mary Jones with her when she visited Chinese women in their homes. On her part. Mary Gough had proven herself to be an able and effective missionary to Chinese women. In December 1857, there were credible rumors of an impending attack upon all the missionaries in Ningbo. The married men sent their families on a ship to Shanghai for safety. Gough asked Hudson Taylor to accompany his wife and children.

The Goughs’ home had a” superior” piano-forte, according to Hudson Taylor, who delighted in hearing Maria Dyer and her sister play duets on it during a Christmas party for all the missionaries that included “a famous dinner – beef and plum pudding” (Broomhall 3.31). In 1857, Hudson Taylor had fallen in love with Maria Dyer and had confided this in a letter to Gough and his wife Mary. They were sympathetic to him, but felt that they had to honor the objections of Miss Aldersey, who despised Taylor as an eccentric in a pigtail with no professional or clerical credentials.

During several months of intense communication among Taylor, Maria, and others, the Goughs were supportive but cautious. Already Frederick Gough had assured Hudson Taylor, “Your matter will be breathed to no one here. You have our sympathy, and our frequent prayers,” (for he himself had had a similar experience. F.F. Gough was “an exemplary Christian, and one of those whom to know is to love and to be loved,” wrote Taylor afterward (Broomhall 3.84). On her part, Maria wrote that Gough was “a Church” – that is, Anglican Church – “missionary beloved and respected by all who know him, and most beloved and most respected by those who know him most intimately” (Broomhall 3.91). Having stayed with the Goughs many nights during times of transition, she certainly knew him well.

Hudson Taylor’s opinion of Frederick Gough was equally high. “Gough and Jones were, as Hudson Taylor put it in his voluble home-letter in August, the ‘only two Englishmen here who are Gentlemen … by birth and manners’. Gough, the double honours graduate of Cambridge and scholar of St. John’s, was a saint with a pastoral gift.” Maria wrote, “‘I feel he has been like a brother to me.’ Twice he had knelt with her and Mrs. Bausum to pray over these problems they brought to him” (Broomhall 3.97). Still, Gough continued to counsel Hudson Taylor and Maria that they should do nothing to bring reproach and that they should submit to Miss Aldersey’s unreasonable opposition until Maria had come of age or had heard from her legal guardians, the Tarns, in London. Gough was always a peacemaker.

Hudson Taylor asked Gough to perform the wedding ceremony. Before the wedding, however, Gough and two other senior missionaries were requested by W.A. Russell, Miss Aldersey’s friend and supporter, to arbitrate between himself and Taylor. The conclusion of these arbitrators was that, in some respects, Taylor had acted “injudiciously,” but his engagement with Maria was nevertheless valid. Furthermore, they said, Mr. Russell had used language towards Taylor that was very hurtful. We see here Gough’s wisdom, balance, maturity, and kindness toward people who were highly wrought up and in conflict with each other.

Early in 1861, Gough returned to England with his wife, who was seriously ill. She died only four days after they landed. Gough wrote to Hudson Taylor and Maria:

And now let me assure you my dear brother and sister, that He who has smitten me, (you know how sorely) has shown his tender mercy, first in the bright end of her conversation … and again in not suffering me to sorrow as others who have no hope, but drawing nearer to me at times than I ever felt before. But oh pray for me, I need it so much” (Broomhall 3.250).

Ningbo Romanized New Testament

Gough spent several years in England, much of the time assisting J. Hudson Taylor, who had returned to England for medical reasons, on the revision of the romanized Ningbo dialect New Testament. Various part of the New Testament had been translated into the Ningbo dialect by “Cobbold, Russell, Gough, Rankin, Way, and W.A.P. Martin.” Such a version was necessary because the current translation – the Delegates’ Version – “was unintelligible to the man in the street” (Broomhall 3.252). Filled with errors, the Ningbo translation needed extensive revision. Gough, as an ordained missionary with the CMS, was instrumental in getting the Bible Society to endorse and fund this project. Gough and Taylor were greatly assisted by Wang Lae-djun, a native of Ningbo whom Taylor had brought home with them, and by Maria, who was fluent in the Ningbo dialect. Taylor was the editor, but he and Gough were in daily communication and mutual prayer for this strategic project.

When it was completed and published, the revised romanized Ningbo New Testament had a great impact on the church in Zhejiang.

In addition to his work on the revision of the New Testament, Gough joined Hudson Taylor in visits to the leaders of mission societies in England, pleading for them to send more workers to China. They received a cool response, with most saying that they didn’t have funds to support more missionaries in China, and some saying that the China had proved to be a receptive field for the gospel. Gough also accompanied Taylor as he spoke in churches and other meetings. He fully shared Taylor’s agony over the millions in China who had not heard of Christ. When Lae-djun sailed home to China, Gough joined Taylor and others to say farewell at the wharf. Gough stepped in to pay the difference in rent when the Taylors decided that they must move to a larger place.

When James Meadows, a potential candidate for service in China, came to visit the Taylors in London, he found that Taylor and Gough were “intensely absorbed” in the revision work “all day long” (Broomhall 3.270).

“They had been intimate friends when Mary Gough was still living – a strength to Maria in her months of distress,” and Taylor had cared for their infant child when it died. “Now conversation must have been about those days and Gough’s dead loved ones. Only one daughter, little Ellen, remained to him, and she was with relatives. On October 24, … in writing about the translation work and James Meadows’ coming, he ended with words which account for their ability to work together through the next three years. ‘Much love to you both… From your much indebted and affection Fredk. F. Gough.’ His loneliness and the difficulties of those three years were to try that friendship severely, yet without spoiling it” (Broomhall 3.271).

The two men continued laboring over the revision of the New Testament, but, since Taylor was enrolled full time as a medical student, Gough decided to take an anatomy course at the hospital also. Later, Taylor taught him and several new candidates medicine. When a son was born to the Taylors, they named him Frederick, after Gough. He was living in the Taylors’ “spartan” home.

Taylor could toil away at an amazing pace, including at night, but Gough could not “work under the same kind of pressure” (Broomhall 3.290). Still, they kept at it six to eight hours a day. For some reason that Taylor did not specify, he “and Gough found it difficult to work together and then to pray together” (Broomhall 3:322). Perhaps the tenacity over matters of detail that made his repeated suggestions for revision of the Delegates’ Version a trial to the Bible Societies contributed to the friction between himself and Taylor. After all, Gough had been a tutor in Greek as a Cambridge don. “Gough’s advanced training made him want to delve more deeply than Taylor thought the Bible Society intended. But the depression of inconsolable grief may have been at the heart of his difficulty. Helen Nevius’ retrospective remark about Hudson Taylor being dogmatic in his youth is the nearest hint of a possible explanation on his side” (Broomhall 3.326). In his journal he wrote, “Ah, to be more like the meek, forbearing, loving Jesus. Lord! Make me more like Thee?” Broomhall adds, “He might well have been thinking of Frederick Gough, for Gough was Christlike in so many ways, if otherworldly” (Broomhall 3.328).

Another source of tension for Gough came from seeing Hudson Taylor and Maria’s happiness with each other. “After being so deeply in love himself, living with lovers like Maria and Hudson Taylor could not have been easy” (Broomhall 3.326).

From time to time, Gough would say that he didn’t want to work with Taylor, and this slowed their progress. Gough was “a thorough scholar, and became a perfect master of Chinese, exasperating … the Bible Society by his minute and elaborate corrections to ‘the Delegates’ Version’” (Stock 2.61). It may be that his care for precision and detail collided with Taylor’s desire to move as quickly as possible and also to make the revision truly colloquial.

The process was complex: they had to make their revisions, send them to the printer, proofread and correct the galley proofs, and wait for the printer to return the final pages to them. “Maria and Lae-djun worked with them whenever required. But if this pressure was more than Gough could take, Hudson Taylor himself began suffering from headaches and ‘tic’, the term then used for neuralgia” (Broomhall 3.326). The pace was unrelenting; sometimes they worked ten, eleven, or even twelve hours a day on the project. Gough often showed up late for work. He was “unpunctual and unpredictable” (Broomhall 4.62), which sorely tried Taylor’s patience, though their friendship remained warm.

When W.A. Russell arrived from Ningbo, Taylor’s troubles increased. Like Gough, he was a well-trained Greek scholar and a perfectionist, and he thought that the translation should be in a more literary style. Taylor, however, insisted that they stick to the colloquial style of the revision so far, knowing that this would be more comprehensible to ordinary people. Making matters worse, Russell had been a strong and vocal opponent of the relationship between Hudson Taylor and Maria. These differences tested the love and patience of all three men to the full. In time, however, Gough came fully around to the view that the revision should be done in a style that common people could understand.

For this, he came under fierce attack from Russell, a man given to slander and not above seeking to persuade the CMS and the Bible Society to cease their support of the revision. Because Gough was of such an irenic and peaceable disposition, Taylor feared that he would buckle under the strain. He did not, however. His strong stand on the necessity of a colloquial version helped to convince the CMS and Bible Society to continue funding the revision project.

As they labored to revise the New Testament, they had a large map of China on the wall before them. The claims of millions of Chinese who had never heard about Jesus Christ weighed heavily upon them all. In his old age, Taylor wrote: “Mr. Gough, - a holy man – went through much of the same spiritual exercise. Often we could not go on working. We would stop, and call Maria and Wang Lae-djun into the room and together unite in prayer that God would send the Gospel all over China – before we could go on” (Broomhall 3.336). The Scriptures over which they pored together day after day, coupled with the map of all of China, gradually worked in them both a profound sense of the spiritual needs of all of China, not just Ningbo or Zhejiang Province. What began as a revision of the New Testament developed into a “revision” of their souls and their vision for the evangelization of that great nation.

Mary Jones returned to England in November of 1863. She had lost four children to illness, and then her beloved husband John. After her arrival in London, she stayed with the Taylors for a while and then “rented a house of her own and in November took Frederick Gough’s daughter Ellen in as one of her own family. Gough later became her lodger” (Broomhall 3.338).

In the spring of 1865, God was moving in Taylor’s mind and heart, inexorably drawing him to the conclusion that he must form a new mission society to send workers into the interior provinces of China. Of necessity, he kept this revolutionary idea to himself, sharing it only with Maria, Gough, and a very few others.

In March, 1866, Taylor resigned from the revision project; preparations for the upcoming departure for China with new missionaries was taking all his available time. They had carefully revised most of the New Testament together. For the book of Titus, Gough worked alone while Taylor and Maria added the marginal reference notes.

Just before Taylor and the others left on the Lammermuir, “Gough presented Hudson Taylor with a slim New Testament in the best calf-skin binding by Baxter, with an affectionate inscription, a symbol of their five years of taxing work together on the Ningbo vernacular version and of their unimpaired friendship” (Broomhall 4.159).

Mary Jones and Gough were married at Trinity Church, Bow, London on 15 November 1866. Since the two couples had been very close friends and co-workers, and had lived in the same house with his daughter for three years, this match seemed very natural and mutually beneficial. After they were married, “and before they returned to China they consulted Hudson Taylor about joining the CIM, but in the end returned as missionaries of the CMS. Meanwhile they continued the weekly meeting to pray for China in their home at Montague Terrace, Bow” (Broomhall 4. 159). Gough “had come to feel more at home with the CIM, of which his wife (as Mary Jones) had in a sense been a founding member at Ningbo” (Broomhall 5.138-139).

In January, 1867, Taylor was in China with the CIM missionaries who had sailed with him. He learned that some of the missionaries and members of the Bible Society in Ningbo were upset that he had, so they thought, undertaken the revision of the Ningbo New Testament without consulting them. Taylor appeared before them in a

… modest and gentle, yet withal so convincing manner, as to disarm all criticism of the brethren present, and which really called forth admiration of the good man, who, they perceived, knew as much about Greek exegesis and the principles and laws of translation as they themselves did. And they were surprised at his grasp of the subject … Mr Taylor being careful at the same time to let them know that the colleague he had with him in London was a Ningbo missionary of the CMS, who was once (George Moule’s) Greek tutor at Cambridge University (FF Gough). So instead of a vote of censure, admiration … and they thanked him for his work. (Broomhall 4.274)

Clearly, Gough’s reputation as a missionary and a scholar helped to turn the tide of opinion.

Lewis Nicol, one of the CIM team, brought serious allegations against Hudson Taylor in letters to missionaries in London and important people in England. Taylor’s friends, including Gough, did not believe these rumors, though others did.

Gough continued his work on the revision of the Ningbo New Testament, but progress was slow. Finally in January 1868, the Bible Society gave him permission to turn over the rest of the revision to George Moule, whom Gough had tutored in Greek at Cambridge. Gough and Taylor had completely and carefully revised all the books through the epistle to the Hebrews. A year later, Moule finished the revision, making only necessary corrections of obvious mistakes.

This revision was later described as “‘a work which has been of the greatest value to Christians throughout the province (Zhejiang). In the end the millions of Ningbo-speaking people had the Scriptures in the language they used among themselves, [and] the Christians could understand and expound it’” (Broomhall, 4.407-408).

Gough and his new wife Mary returned to China in 1869. Not long after Maria’s death, they took in the Taylors’ son Charles Edward, who was very ill, for nine months, even though Mary was also “ill with liver abscess” (Broomhall 5.290). They left their younger children in England in the care of a governess, Miss Emily Bear, who later went to China as a single missionary with the CMS. Mary’s son Tom was already grown.

He took an active part in the May 1877 Missionary Conference in Shanghai. During a heated discussion on the nature of Confucianism, Gough drew attention to the effect of untruthfulness in Confucius’ own teaching and practice on his followers (Broomhall 6.110). In the discussion about the need for church unity among Chinese Christians, when Calvin W. Mateer said, “‘Denominational feeling at home (in Europe and America) ought to be sacrificed for the sake of the unity of the Church (in China),’ Gough, quoting Henry Venn, added, ‘the native churches will ultimately choose for themselves’, for he could not see the denominations at home being willing to yield.” (Broomhall 6.113). His prophetic comment came true when the Communists abolished all denominations in the early 1950s.

To Gough’s great sorrow, Mary died in November, 1877. His step-daughter, Mary Jones Lansdale, had died only a few months earlier, in March.

Gough retired in 1881 after thirty years’ service and returned to England. In 1882, he married yet again in Islington, London; the bride was Emily Bear, the former governess of his children.

He died on 1 June 1889 in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England.

His children served as missionaries as well. One of his daughters was trained as a nanny and teacher for missionary children and served in Ningbo after she married Mr. Hoare.

A son, the Rev. C.M. Gough, served with the CMS in India.

His legacy included several publications in the romanized Ningbo dialect:

A Cup of Wine, 1852, 12 pages. “A didactic narrative.”

The Mother at Home, 1858, 103 pages. “A tract for the guidance of mothers, translated into the Ningbo dialect by Mr. Gough, with the assistance of Mr. Nevius.”

Catechism. “This is a translation … of a short catechism by the Rev. J. Brown of Haddington.” (All quotations are from Wylie, 198-199).

The revised Ningbo New Testament, which Gough worked on with J. Hudson Taylor.


Frederick F. Gough, though not without flaws, was acknowledged by all who knew him as a holy man, one who sought above all to please his Lord. He disliked conflict intensely, but he would stand up for principle when necessary. He was a most loyal friend and co-worker, as his relationship with Hudson Taylor demonstrates. A trained scholar, he possessed great evangelistic zeal. The millions of Christless souls in China bore heavily upon his mind and heart.

The deaths of beloved family members, especially his two wives, made him a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” but he did not abandon his post in China or at the translating table. Aside from the romanized Ningbo New Testament, his other works in Chinese, along with his faithful labors as a missionary in Ningbo, left a legacy of intrepid and dedicated service.


Broomhall, A.J. Hudson Taylor and Chinas Open Century. Book Two: Over the Treaty Wall. Sevenoaks: Hodder & Stoughton, 1982; Book Three: ”If I Had a Thousand Lives,” 1982 ; Book Four: Survivors’ Pact, 1984; Book Five: Refiner’s Fire, 1985; Book Six: Assault on the Nine, 1988; Book Seven, “It Is Not Death To Die!”

Stock, Eugene. The History of the Church Missionary Society in Three Volumes. London: Church Missionary Society, 1899.

Wikipedia, “Frederick F. Gough.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…

Wylie, Alexander. Memorials of Protestant Missionaries to the Chinese. Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1867.

About the Author

G. Wright Doyle

Director, Global China Center; English Editor, Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.