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Archive of the Smyly family


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The papers comprise:

  1. Personal and family correspondence
  2. Photographs
  3. Family history
  4. Jocelyn and Eileen Smyly papers
  5. William Smyly papers
  6. David Smyly papers


  • Creation: c. 1856-2015


8.68 Linear metres (59 shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • Chinese

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 6458/1, folder 1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 6458/1-53; MSS. 6458 Photogr. 1-6

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6458, 6667, 6798, 11458, 11570


Papers of the Smyly family, particularly H. Jocelyn Smyly (1882-1970), doctor and missionary, his wife Eileen Smyly, née Bell (1894-1987), doctor and missionary, and their sons William Smyly (1922-2018), journalist and teacher, and David Smyly (1923-1990), doctor and missionary.

Biographical / Historical

The Smyly family came to Ireland from Scotland in the 17th century, settling in Carrygullion, near Camus in County Tyrone. Members of the family include surgeon Josiah Smyly FRCSI (1803-1864), philanthropist Ellen Smyly, née Franks (1815-1901), surgeon-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria Sir Philip Crampton Smyly (1838-1904), and judge and colonial administrator Sir Philip Crampton Smyly (1866-1947).

Henry Jocelyn Smyly (known as Jocelyn) was born in 1882 in Dublin, the son of surgeon Sir William Josiah Smyly and his wife Eleanor Tweedy. He graduated in Medicine from Trinity College Dublin in 1911, and in 1912 he became an MD and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He went to China as a medical missionary, first with the London Missionary Society, becoming an Associate in Medicine at the Peking Union Medical College, and after the First World War with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. In 1928 he was appointed Chair of Clinical Medicine at Shantung Christian University’s Cheeloo Hospital. He remained in China until 1941 when he was repatriated to England, and for the duration of the Second World War he acted as a GP locum and was involved in geriatric research at Guy's and Tooting Bec Hospitals. After the end of the War he returned to Cheeloo and was there until his retirement in 1951. Smyly developed an interest in leprosy when he took charge of a nearby hospital specialising in the disease, and after leaving China he returned to England via various leprosy centres in India. In 1954 he acted as furlough-relief for Dr. Neil Fraser at the Leprosy Mission on Hei Ling Chau, and in 1958 he was appointed Government Leprologist in Rhodesia, where his son David was also working as a doctor. In 1960 he returned to England and worked with the Leprosy Study Centre in London. He died in June 1970.

Eileen Smyly was born Eileen Bell in Belfast in 1894. She studied medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, where she was the first woman to win the gold medal prize for best medical student. She went to China as a medical missionary with the Irish Presbyterian Mission to Manchuria, where she met Jocelyn Smyly, whom she married in 1921. She worked alongside her husband at the Peking Union Medical College, Cheeloo Hospital, Hei Ling Chau and in Rhodesia, and also as a doctor in Belfast. Eileen Smyly died in January 1987.

Jocelyn and Eileen Smyly had three sons – William (1922-2018), David (1923-1990) and Christopher (1928-1948).

William Smyly was born in 1922 in Peking and was educated at Cheefoo Boys' School and Wrekin College. In 1941 he was commissioned into the 2nd Gurkha Rifles and served in campaigns in Burma, including the Chindit operations. After the Second World War he graduated from Clare College, Cambridge with a degree in English Literature. He worked as a journalist for publications including The Daily Mail and The South China Morning Post. From 1960 until 1964 he taught English at the Diocesan Boys' School in Hong Kong and tutored actress Siu Fong Fong (Josephine Siao), and from around 1964 was an English teacher at Chung Chi College. In 1967 he married Diana Chan, a teacher at the Diocesan Girls' School. He later went to Leeds University to study for an MA in Linguistics and Language Teaching, and was appointed to several British Council teaching postings, including in Thailand, Saudi Arabia, China and Hong Kong. He also acted as Warden of St Christopher’s Orphanage in Hong Kong from 1995-1997.

David Smyly, born 1923 in Peking, was educated at Cheefoo Boys' School and Abbotsholme School. He started his medical training at Trinity College, Dublin and completed it at St Bartholomew's Hospital London. He worked as a medical missionary in Southern Rhodesia and Zambia, and as a general practitioner in Bedford.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated to the Bodleian Library by William Smyly and arrived in 6 accessions from February 2010 to July 2017.

Catalogue of the archive of the Smyly family
Finding aid prepared by Francesca Alves
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of William Smyly.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom