Book reveals life of family member never mentioned

Author Margaret Johnson of Locks Mill, Spalding.'Margaret Johnson with her new book in front of silk prints brought back from China by Dr JAC Smith.'Phoho (TIM WILSON): SG141211-192TW
Author Margaret Johnson of Locks Mill, Spalding.'Margaret Johnson with her new book in front of silk prints brought back from China by Dr JAC Smith.'Phoho (TIM WILSON): SG141211-192TW

WHEN Margaret Johnson says she has been keeping a diary for 60 years it comes as no surprise to hear that she enjoys putting pen to paper.

The Spalding grandmother also enjoys researching family history and has twinned these two passions with her latest book, The Life and Travels of Dr JAC Smith, which has just been published.

This is the second book that Margaret, of Cowbit Road, has written about the family and came out of her research for the first book, History & Photographs of a Spalding Family, which covers the Smith, Shepperson and Johnson branches of the family. Much of it was based on material left to her in a tin trunk containing several beautiful old photograph albums filled with family portraits.

However, Margaret was particularly intrigued and impressed by her late husband Mike’s great uncle, Dr Jack Arthur Creasey Smith, who was born on a farm at Deeping Fen in 1873.

Dr Jack, as he was known, graduated from Edinburgh University in 1898 with a degree in medicine and the following year left for Shanghai where he was to join the British Methodist Society as a doctor/missionary.

He remained in China until 1908, setting up one of the first hospitals in Xian, and subsequently became involved in a number of expeditions to collect flora and fauna in China and Tibet for the British Museum and the London Zoological Society.

Margaret says: “His understanding of local culture, expertise in the language and medical skills would have been sought after by any party undertaking a major expedition.

“On one expedition, Jack discovered two new mammals which were named after him – Smith’s shrew and Smith’s zokor.”

A second expedition in 1911-1912 took him and his party 4,000 miles on foot across China to the Russian border, accompanied by mule carts to carry their equipment.

“He acted as translator and as a hunter on Harold Frank Wallace’s big-game hunting trip across the Gobi desert to search for takin, a bull-like animal, and other specimens for the London Zoological Society,” explained Margaret.

Despite all this success, Margaret says Dr Jack was never mentioned in the family, she believes because he and his wife divorced.

However, Margaret’s interest was stirred in him because she inherited mementoes from his travels, such as Chinese coins, silk fabrics and one or two pictures.

“He seems such a remarkable man,” says Margaret. “He did marvellous things, such as starting a hospital and, later on, the expeditions across China.

“Anyone interested in China and the Chinese would find the book of interest.”

Margaret’s research into Dr Jack resulted in her visiting China in her 70th year last year, accompanied by her grandson Oliver, and a record of this trip is included in the book.

The book has been published in limited numbers and is on sale for £20 at Bookmarket in The Crescent, Spalding; Birchgrove Garden Centre at Pinchbeck; Ayscoughfee Hall Museum in Spalding; and Spalding Farm Shop near Surfleet.