Advance Information

‘Days of Sorrow, Times of Joy’ by Frances Clemmow



The discovery of a cache of family letters written between 1859 and 1937 has led to a truly remarkable and evocative history.  Fran Clemmow tells the story of her Scottish grandfather, Dr Thomas Gillison, who went out to China in 1882 under the auspices of the London Missionary Society.  His close-knit family, originating in Edinburgh, Scotland, settled in places as far away as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  The letters give a fascinating reflection of the social history of the time and provide first-hand accounts of key events, such as a major battle of the Boer War in South Africa, and the commencement of the 1911 Chinese Revolution when the last Emperor was overthrown.  Thomas Gillison married Dr Bessie Harris, one of the first generation of women doctors.  They brought up their family of six children (two of whom died young) while working in the Mission Hospital in Wuhan and such was their commitment to China and the Chinese that, between them, they devoted ninety-eight years of service to the Chinese people whom they so loved.

“Based on a remarkable collection of family letters, which have been carefully transcribed and brilliantly edited, this moving book brings to life both the joys and sorrows of a British family’s commitment over three generations to the people of China, when family-members (notably Dr Thomas Gillison from Edinburgh and his wife Bessie) played a key role in introducing western medical practices to China; while doing so they witnessed such dramatic events as the Boxer uprising against foreigners in 1900 and the overthrow of the imperial dynasty in 1911.” Professor Anthony Bradley

About the author:

Fran Clemmow was born in China and lived there until the age of six when she and her elder sister went to boarding school in England – a completely different culture from that she had known. Shortly after, the worldwide disruption of WWII – including three years internment of her parents and young brother by the Japanese invaders – meant she was not to see the rest of the family again for over six years, making a lasting impact on her young life. Fran brings insight and integrity to this amazing tale of a most unusual family.

Readership: readers interested in: 19C and early 20C Chinese and South African history; the history of medicine; the history of Christian missionary societies: Victorian and Edwardian family history; social historians

Book specification (print)

ISBN 978-0-9933781-4-0

Format 152 x 229mm: 336pp

Weight 535g


Cover price

Print on Demand £13.99

eBook £6.45


Publisher: Gottahavebooks, 16 Middle Street, Great Gransden, Sandy, Beds UK SG19 3AD

 Orders, distribution and other enquiries to Julie Bounford