Record Rewind: Our first missionary

On September 8, 1894, 22-year-old Fairley Masters sailed from Australia to become Australasia’s first overseas missionary.

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Fairley Masters.

Fairley Masters was born in Campbellpore, India, on November 23, 1869, the son of Captain George Masters, a British army officer. After his father retired from the army, the family emigrated to New Zealand, where the father became a government school teacher.

Fairley Masters trained as a blacksmith and, along with his parents, joined the Adventist Church after attending an evangelistic campaign held by AG Daniells in Ponsonby in 1888.

Encouraged by Pastor Daniells, Fairley entered literature evangelistic work in New Zealand in 1890, and did well, but found it very hard dealing with strong prejudice against book-sellers due to the dishonest activities of a secular book-seller at that time.

Called by Pastor Daniells, Fairley soon moved to Sydney, Australia, and successfully canvassed there too. From 1892 he attended the Bible School in Melbourne as a charter student for three years and graduated from the missionary course.

On September 8, 1894, the 22-year-old sailed from Australia to become Australasia’s first overseas missionary.

Fairley engaged in literature evangelism and departmental work in India from 1894–1896. On his return from India and working in literature evangelism in Western Australia, Fairley met and married Esther Beatrice York. They had four children: George Maitland (1899), Percy Franklin (1901), Olive Dorothy (1905) and Gordon Fairley (1912).

Fairley Masters’ Biographical Information Blank has no entries after August 1914, but other sources indicate that he spent more than 60 years in literature ministry and as a leader and trainer of literature evangelists. His son, Pastor George Masters, also became a missionary to the Indian people and, fluent in Hindi, served in that capacity in both India and Fiji.

Fairley Masters died on December 19, 1954. As Pastor Reuben Hare subsequently wrote, “During the course of his ministry, our late brother served in every state (of Australia) and also in New Zealand; and of him it can truly be said, ‘Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord . . . that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.’”


Dr Lester Devine is director emeritus of the Ellen G White/Adventist Research Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education.

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