C. T. Studd: A Cricketer Who Became a Missionary
C. T. Studd: English Cricketer
There are many examples of famous sportsmen and women who have “given it all up” for the sake of a cause, abandoning fame and fortune in order to devote their lives to doing good deeds. Perhaps such examples are rarer today than they once were, but names such as Eric Liddell (featured in the film Chariots of Fire) come to mind. Another such was the cricketer C. T. Studd.
Charles Thomas Studd was born on 2nd December 1860 at Spratton, a small village in Northamptonshire. He was the third son of the second marriage of Edward Studd, an indigo planter who had made his fortune in India. C. T. was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a pass degree in 1883. Cricket was clearly of much greater interest to him than academic study and, like two of his brothers, he played cricket for both Eton and Cambridge University. The three brothers captained the University team in successive years from 1882 to 1884.
C. T. was an all-rounder who excelled with both bat and ball. In 1882 he became only the second Englishman to achieve the “double” of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in a season. He scored quickly when at the crease and was a right-arm fast-medium bowler with a round-arm action.
When aged only 21, he scored a century for the University in a victory over the touring Australian side and was picked to play for England, helping them to win the Ashes in Australia in 1882-3.
On leaving Cambridge, C. T. joined Middlesex where he averaged 30.49 with the bat and 17.36 with the ball. A great career looked to be stretching ahead of him, and he was a household name with the sporting public.
Cricketer to Missionary
However, in 1884 he created a sensation by abandoning cricket and announcing his intention to go to China as a Christian missionary. C. T. had had a strong religious faith since his time at Eton, as had his brothers, but this had taken a back seat while his cricket career had developed. However, in January 1884 he became concerned for the health of his brother G. B. and began thinking again about his faith. He joined the “China Inland Mission” and became one of the “Cambridge Seven” who set off for China in 1885.
C. T. Studd spent nine years in northern China, where he met and married Priscilla Livingstone, a missionary from Northern Ireland. They had four daughters.
He was invalided back to Britain in 1894 and suffered from poor health for the rest of his life. In 1896-8 he made a speaking tour of North American universities in a bid to interest students in becoming missionaries.
The Studds went to India from 1900 to 1906 before returning to Britain. In 1908, C. T. saw a poster with the intriguing wording of “Cannibals Want Missionaries.” Despite family pressure not to go, given his health problems, he set off for the Congo on yet another new mission, entitled “Heart of Africa.” He undertook this mission alone, with Priscilla staying behind in England from where she supported his activities.
The African adventure included a journey on a bicycle to East Africa in 1913, accompanied by his daughter’s fiancé. In 1919 he started a new pioneer mission, the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, which Priscilla managed from England.
His Final Years
C. T. Studd spent the rest of his life in Africa and was very successful in his work. There were, however, criticisms of his methods, his autocratic style leading some of his fellow missionaries to resign. As his health got worse he became increasingly dependent on morphine. Despite these fears he lived to the age of 70, dying on 16th July 1931. His funeral was held in torrential rain, but more than 2,000 Africans turned up to mourn his passing. His wife Priscilla had died in 1929; they had spent the last 16 years of their marriage living apart, during which they only met once.
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© 2019 John Welford