Gren Wedderburn

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GREN WEDDERBURN (b. approx. 1916, d. 1998)

Gren Wedderburn was brought up in the Northern China of the 20s and 30s, where his father was a missionary. He took his medical degree at Edinburgh University and returned to China where he experienced the rigours of war and revolution. Later he practiced as a surgeon in Japan and then Hong Kong before retiring, after a distinguished career, to Scotland in 1986.

Gren Wedderburn

The family at Kirin  in 1917: (from left) Aunt Emma, Laurence junior, Laurence 'Dal', Gren and Susan née Crooks.

His autobiography 'No Lotus Garden' (see excerpt below) gives a vivid picture of life in the turbulent years of war and the post-war Communist revolution, through the eyes of a young surgeon, then working in Shanghai. After his escape from the new China of Mao Tse Tung he was able to give an objective view of the Japan of General McArthur and American occupation. This is a book of personal memories of an historic era where professional skills were often subordinated to political expediency and where humour amone kept people sane....

Gren Wedderburn, No Lotus Garden (1987), Pentland Press: ISBN 0 946270 37 6
".............My brother and I were bumping along in the cart one cold and frosty morning when father drew our attention to the landscape on our right, which was notable only for a singular lack of features. My brother Laurie nudged me, throwing a sidelong glance to the left. On every telegraph pole, about eighteen in all, was nailed a human head. A band of robbers had been summarily dealt with and their heads, preserved by the cold, would look down on travellers for another three months till spring came. When we reached Liaoyuan with its massive forty-foot walls and cavernous gate, we saw the head, trunk and severed limbs of the robber chief on a wall: a further deterrent.
 
In Chao Yang Chun my father had made repeated attempts to interest one of the senior wealthy and influential men of the town in Christianity. Politely received, he was equally politely rebuffed. Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, my father was arrested as a spy, condemned to death and cast into prison. His sentence was commuted and after four months he rejoined other missionaries in Mukden. He walked into the house where my mother and others were dining, emaciated, bearded, dressed only in his underclothes, and caked with filth, mud and excreta from the cell shared with a score of criminals. The people froze in horror at the sudden apparition.
 
   "Don't you know me, Sue?" he said to my mother. I'm Dal, you husband."
 
After his arrest my mother had been alone, in terrible distress. The rich man from Chao had been ushered in, with two servants to collect what goods she wished to take. He had taken her back to live in his house where he and his family had tried to comfort her and offer solace. This act was of course noted by the Japanese police; it was an act involving great risk to himself; a typically Chinese gesture of friendship. She had stayed for one week until arrangements were made for her to go to Mukden.
 
During World War II my mother and father were interned in Nagasaki, Japan. Father was on a hillside herding cows when the atomic bomb exploded three miles away; he was knocked over by the blast and lightly singed as though sunburnt. The Atomic Energy Commission contacted him when my parents returned to live with my sister in Australia, in order to take regular blood tests. This he regarded as a piece of nonsense. When the "sunburn" from the explosion had worn off, he felt as fit as ever. After my mother died he returned to Scotland. The Atomic Energy Commission was still hard on his heels; but they rewarded him for going to the hospital, took his blood sample, and gave him a cup of tea and ten shillings for his trouble, so it all made sense to a Scotsman. My father could hardly wait for the next three-monthly postcard to report to the hospital.
 
When he was in his eighties, he travelled to South Africa by ship. While descending the companionway in a rough sea, he fell and struck his head. He never regained consciousness."

FAMILY HISTORY

 

Laurence Craigie Maclagan [afterwards Maclagan-Wedderburn], 5th s. of Katharine Stormonth [b. 1814] & the Rev. James Maclagan, D.D. [m. 1834], b. 6/9/1846 at Aberdeen. (Laurence’s mother Katharine & her surviving children added ‘Wedderburn’ to their surname when Katharine inherited ‘Pearsie’ in 1870.) - Laurence became the Minister at Madderty, by Crieff, Perthshire. - He m. his cousin Gertrude Elizabeth Maxwell in 1880 (q.v.). (They had 4 sons & a daughter.) - W.B. p. 328

 

Rev. Laurence Craigie Maclagan-Wedderburn [Minister at Madderty by Crieff, Perthshire, b. 1846] m. his cousin Gertrude Elizabeth Maxwell [d. of Lt.-Col. James Maxwell], at St. Andrew’s, Broughty Ferry, in 1880.  - They had 4 sons & a daughter. - W.B. p. 328 - [In the 1881 Census, Laurence, Minister of Madderty Free Church, aged 34 (‘b. Aberdeen’), was living at the Manse at Madderty, with Gertrude, ‘aged 25’ (‘b. Ireland’), & a Domestic Servant. - In 1891 Laurence C., aged 44, was living at Madderty with Gertrude, aged 35; James, aged 9; Maxwell, aged 8; Laurence D., aged 5, & Margaret, aged 2. - Gertrude died at Madderty in 1903, aged 48. (‘Scots Origins’)

 

James Maclagan-Wedderburn, e.s. of the Rev. Laurence Craigie Maclagan-W. [b. 1846] & Gertrude Maxwell [m. 1881], b. 1881 at Madderty, Perth. - W.B. p. 328

 

Maxwell Maclagan-Wedderburn [Knighted 1941], 2nd s. of the Rev. Laurence Craigie Maclagan-W. [b. 1846] & Gertrude Maxwell [m. 1881], b. 25/3/1883 at Madderty, Perth. - W.B. p. 328 -  “Maxwell passed into the Ceylon Civil Service in 1906; was Chief Sec., Ceylon, 1937-40; awarded the C.B.E. in 1935 & knighted in 1941. - He m. Dorothy Ellen Mary Viner in 1909. (They had 3 daughters.) - Sir Maxwell Maclagan-W. died on 30/6/1953. (‘Who Was Who’, 1951-1960)

 

Laurence Dalrymple Maclagan-Wedderburn, 3rd s. of the Rev. Laurence Craigie Maclagan-W. [b. 1846] & Gertrude Maxwell [m. 1881], b. 1885 at Madderty, Perth. - W.B. p. 328. He married Susan Crooks (a nurse with the Church of Ireland Mission in China). They had 3 children, 2 boys (Laurence and Gren) and a girl (Diana). He died in his eighties ("When he was in his eighties, he travelled to South Africa by ship. While descending the companionway in a rough sea, he fell and struck his head. He never regained consciousness" [Autobiography of Gren Wedderburn, "No Lotus Garden"]

 

Margaret Maclagan-Wedderburn, only d. of the Rev. Laurence Craigie Maclagan-W. [b. 1846] & Gertrude Maxwell [m. 1881], b. 1888 at Madderty, Perth. - W.B. p. 328

 

Robert Shier Maclagan-Wedderburn, 4th & ygst. s. of the Rev. Laurence Craigie Maclagan-W. [b. 1846] & Gertrude Elizabeth Maxwell [m. 1881], b. 1893 at Madderty, Perth. - W.B. p. 328 - [Robert’s middle name is shown as Hamilton (not ‘Shier’) in ‘Scots Origins’ (details are taken from the Statutory Register Index.)] Robert, an officer in the Cameronians, a Scottish regiment, was killed in World War I and buried at Bois Grenier. [Autobiography of Gren Wedderburn, "No Lotus Garden"]

 

Laurence Wedderburn, 1st son of Laurence Dalrymple Maclagan-Wedderburn (b. 1885) born approx 1911 [Autobiography of Gren Wedderburn, "No Lotus Garden"]

 

Gren Wedderburn, 2nd son of Laurence Dalrymple Maclagan-Wedderburn (b. 1885) b. approx. 1916, d.1998 [Autobiography of Gren Wedderburn, "No Lotus Garden"]


 

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