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Henry Skinner, back row, far right, among missionaries in India, c.1915.

Photo courtesy of Adventist Heritage Centre, Australia.

Skinner, Henry Alfred (1896–1982)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

Henry Alfred Skinner was a missionary to Burma.

Early Life

Henry Alfred Skinner, commonly known as Harry, was born in the farming district of Bingara, New South Wales, to Walter and Lillian Skinner on November 10, 1896.1 His grandfather purchased a copy of Desire of Ages from a canvasser but simply left it on the shelf. Harry eventually took the book down and read it after it had gathered dust for years. He was so impressed he contacted Ellen White in California who told him where to contact the Seventh-day Adventists in Australia. It was the beginning of his preparation for service with the church.2

Ministry

Harry first appears in denominational records as a canvasser himself, selling Great Controversy in New South Wales, February 1915.3 Later that same year he removed to Victoria to canvass Heralds of the Morning.”4 Throughout the months he experienced remarkable success and was appointed to canvass in the India Union Mission. In October 1915 he sailed on the “Moldavia” bound for India.5 By early 1916 he was selling Heralds of the Morning in Calcutta (now Kolcuta)6 and later Lucknow.7 He transferred to Cawnpore (now Kanpur), selling the same book.8

Eric and Agnes (Fulton) Hare were missionaries in nearby Burma (now Myanmar), at that time a part of the India Union Mission. Harry was visiting them when Jessie Fulton, younger sister of Agnes, was also visiting and the two became friends and married in the mission home at Rangoon (now Yangon) on December 10, 1917.9

Harry and Jessie were appointed to a new mission station in northern Myanmar among the Taungthoo people. Harry applied himself to learning the local language and became very proficient in it. He prepared a dictionary and a grammar in the language and eventually a translation of the Gospel of Matthew. The latter was accepted for publication by the British and Foreign Bible Society.10 Harry also provided some simple medical treatments for the local people and began an elementary school.11 In 1920 he took a brief furlough back in Australia to recuperate his health at his mother’s home in Wellingrove near Glen Innes, New South Wales.12

In 1922 the Skinner family removed south to Taungghi, Shan State, and Harry began evangelistic work among the locals.13 Jessie’s health was not robust. In 1924 she sailed to Australia with her three youngsters and found treatment at the Sydney Sanitarium. Harry remained in Burma to continue his work. While Jessie was undergoing medical care their three-year-old son, Robert, suffered food poisoning and quickly passed away in August 1925.14 Harry immediately made plans to take leave, eventually arriving in Sydney in January 1926.15 When the re-united family returned to Burma Harry expanded his mission efforts to Mandalay where he initiated a health campaign, an important part of it involving his canvassing of the schools and hospitals with the book Health and Longevity. Ironically, Harry’s own health was sometimes compromised with bouts of debilitating dengue fever.16

Return from the Mission Field

In 1929, fourteen years after Harry first arrived in Myanmar, his poor health forced his permanent return to Australia. At the same time he and Jessie decided to separate for reasons known only to themselves. Jessie took with her their sons, Edwin (b.1918), Wilfred (b.1920) and Winston (b.1927), to California and settled near her parents, John and Susie Fulton. She worked as a nurse to support her family. As adults the three sons found careers in the United States Armed Forces. Jessie passed away on July 11, 1972.17 She was laid to rest in Grand View Memorial Cemetery at Glendale, California.18

Back in his homeland Harry became a well-known bounty hunter of dingoes across north Queensland and the Northern Territory. When he was not trapping he found fellowship with the small community of Seventh-day Adventists in Bowen, Queensland. He passed away on August 31, 1982,19 and was laid to rest in the Bowen General Cemetery.20

Sources

“Brother H.A. Skinner from Burma…” Australasian Record, February 1, 1926.

“Brother Skinner and family…” Australasian Record, May 1, 1922.

“Brother Skinner, one of our brethren…” Eastern Tidings, March 1916.

“Canvassing Report.” Eastern Tidings, March 1916.

“Canvassing Report.” Eastern Tidings, December 1916.

District of Bingara. Birth Certificates. Government of New South Wales Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Sydney, New South Wales.

Francis, M[ike] B. “Henry Alfred Skinner.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, November 27, 1982.

Hare, Eric B. “Jessie Edwina (Fulton) Skinner.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, August 28, 1972.

Hare, E[ric] B. “Report of Ocean Sabbath School.” Australasian Record, February 7, 1916.

“Henry Alfred Skinner.” Find A Grave Memorial, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/180008629/henry-alfred-skinner.

“Here and There.” India Union Tidings, January 1, 1918.

“In a letter from Sister H.A. Skinner…” Eastern Tidings, November 1, 1925.

“Jessie Edwina Skinner.” Find A Grave Memorial, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47548844/jessie-edwina-skinner.

“Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work.” Australasian Record, April 5, 1915.

“Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work.” Australasian Record, November 8, 1915.

Skinner, Harry. “Pioneer Work in Southern India.” Australasian Record, January 22, 1923.

Wilson, J[ames] O. “Health Campaign in Burma.” Eastern Tidings, October 1, 1928.

“Writing from his mother’s home…” Australasian Record, November 15, 1920.

Notes

  1. District of Bingara, Certificate of birth no. 1750 (1896), Government of New South Wales Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Sydney, New South Wales.

  2. E[ric] B. Hare, “Report of Ocean Sabbath School,” Australasian Record, February 7, 1916, 3-4.

  3. “Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work,” Australasian Record, April 5, 1915, 6.

  4. “Monthly Summary of Australasian Canvassing Work,” Australasian Record, November 8, 1915, 5.

  5. E[ric] B. Hare, “Report of Ocean Sabbath School,” Australasian Record, February 7, 1916, 3-4.

  6. “Canvassing Report,” Eastern Tidings, March 1916, 9.

  7. “Brother Skinner, one of our brethren…” Eastern Tidings, March 1916, 12.

  8. “Canvassing Report,” Eastern Tidings, December 1916, 10.

  9. “Here and There,” India Union Tidings, January 1, 1918, [8].

  10. Eric B. Hare, “Jessie Edwina (Fulton) Skinner,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, August 28, 1972, 15.

  11. Harry Skinner, “Pioneer Work in Southern India,” Australasian Record, January 22, 1923, 3.

  12. “Writing from his mother’s home…” Australasian Record, November 1920, 8.

  13. “Brother Skinner and family…” Australasian Record, May 1, 1922, 8.

  14. “In a letter from Sister H.A. Skinner…” Eastern Tidings, November 1, 1925, 5.

  15. “Brother H.A. Skinner from Burma…” Australasian Record, February 1, 1926, 8.

  16. J[ames] O. Wilson, “Health Campaign in Burma,” Eastern Tidings, October 1, 1928, 5-6.

  17. Eric B. Hare, “Jessie Edwina (Fulton) Skinner,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, August 28, 1972, 15.

  18. “Jessie Edwina Skinner,” Find A Grave Memorial, 2020, accessed August 7, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47548844/jessie-edwina-skinner.

  19. M[ike] B. Francis, “Henry Alfred Skinner,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, November 27, 1982, 15.

  20. “Henry Alfred Skinner,” Find A Grave Memorial, 2020, accessed August 7, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/180008629/henry-alfred-skinner.

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Hook, Milton. "Skinner, Henry Alfred (1896–1982)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed January 27, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5IK0.

Hook, Milton. "Skinner, Henry Alfred (1896–1982)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access January 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5IK0.

Hook, Milton (2021, April 28). Skinner, Henry Alfred (1896–1982). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5IK0.