William and Mary Taylor were pioneering missionaries on the island of Ambrym, New Hebrides. Their service was interrupted by a serious volcanic eruption on the island in 1929.
William Albert Taylor was born in New Zealand in 1894 to George and Annie Taylor.1 He became a Seventh-day Adventist as a result of reading The Great Controversy.2 In 1922 he entered the nursing class at the Sydney Sanitarium. During his training he met Mary Kent, who had graduated in 1920 at the same institution.3 Mary was born in Eugowra, NSW, in 1896, the third child of a large Seventh-day Adventist clan headed by patriarch Herbert Kent.4 It was in his country homestead that William and Mary were married by A. W. Kent on January 2, 1924.5
In 1925 William and Mary were pleased to accept an appointment to mission service in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu). They sailed from Sydney on November 18, 1925, stopping at Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island en route. By December they were established at their assignment on the volcanic island of Ambrym, caring for the relatively new mission interests among several villages.6 Headquarters had been built, but on Taylor’s arrival the center was removed to 36 acres (14.6 hectares) at Baiap on the western side of the island. They were happy in their work and rendered medical assistance whenever needed.7
On the Friday night of June 28, 1929, the volcano at the center of the island erupted, spewing molten lava and ash in the general direction of Baiap. Eventually the headquarters station was completely covered, and nearby Craig Cove was in danger. William helped to rescue his family and residents from the immediate danger area, taking them in small boats to Port Sandwich on nearby Malekula Island. Hearing of their plight, Jack Radley came to their assistance, and he and William rescued another eighty people from Craig Cove and found safety for them at Aore.8
After the volcanic eruption William and Mary took leave to New Zealand and, because of poor health, did not return. More than three years of mission service had made a positive contribution to mission progress on Ambrym. They engaged in farming on the outskirts of Christchurch, at the same time raising their three children, Olive, George, and Lily. William died at the age of 90 years on October 7, 1985, and was buried in the Waimairi Cemetery, suburban Christchurch.9 Two months later, on December 6, 1985, Mary died and was buried in the same cemetery.10
District of Canterbury. Birth Certificates. Government of New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, New Zealand.
Kent, A. W. “Taylor–Kent.” Australasian Record, June 2, 1924.
Kingston, Andrew [J]. “Mary Eliza (Kent) Taylor.” South Pacific Record, February 15, 1986.
Kingston, A[ndrew] J., and D. McDonald. “William Albert Taylor.” South Pacific Record, January 18, 1986.
Nicholson, D[onald]. “Ambrym, New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, February 8, 1926.
Osmond, Hilda. “Graduating Exercises of the Sydney Sanitarium, Australasian Record, November 15, 1920.
Taylor, W[illiam] A. “Volcanic Eruption on Ambrym, New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, July 29, 1929.
Weil, A[nton] H. “New Missionaries Write of Their Arrival in the New Hebrides.” Australasian Record, March 8, 1926.
District of Canterbury, Certificate of Birth 14480 (1894), Government of New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, New Zealand.↩
A[ndrew] J. Kingston and D. McDonald, “William Albert Taylor,” South Pacific Record, January 18, 1986, 15.↩
Hilda Osmond, “Graduating Exercises of the Sydney Sanitarium,” Australasian Record, November 15, 1920, 6.↩
Andrew [J.] Kingston, “Mary Eliza (Kent) Taylor,” South Pacific Record, February 15, 1986, 14.↩
A. W. Kent, “Taylor–Kent,” Australasian Record, June 2, 1920, 5.↩
A[nton] H. Weil, “New Missionaries Write of Their Arrival in the New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, March 8, 1926, 5, 6.↩
D[onald] Nicholson, “Ambrym, New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, February 8, 1926, 3.↩
W[illiam] A. Taylor, “Volcanic Eruption on Ambrym, New Hebrides,” Australasian Record, July 29, 1929, 4.↩
Kingston and McDonald, 15.↩