The interest in Dr Robert Moffat arises because of his friendship with Samuel Morley and the last years of his life which were spent in Leigh. In Edwin Hodder’s “The Life of Samuel Morley” he writes about this and that Dr Moffat, a missionary in South Africa, took up his abode at Leigh in 1879, living at Park Cottage. “On his arrival a warm welcome awaited him from Mr and Mrs Samuel Morley, whose tenant he had become, and their thoughtful attention to the comfort of the grand old hero never wavered from that day until he had ‘finished his course’.” Dr Moffat attended chapel in the village and often helped in the services. His biographer – his son – (The Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat p. 400 by John S Moffat) writes “He was so pleased to show his visitors Mr Morley’s beautiful grounds, upon the charms of which he would expatiate with all the zest of a connoisseur”. See Samuel Morley.
The following is adapted from a parish magazine article of February 1982 by Geoffrey Hitchcock.
Starting life as a gardener, Robert Moffat then trained as a missionary and in 1816 went out to South Africa for the London Missionary Society. He finally settled at Kuruman in Bechuanaland from 1826-1870. A man of great courage and devotion, he was one of the most successful missionaries of the time and was looked upon as the father and pioneer of South African Mission work. He returned to England in 1870 and in due course he moved into Park House, Leigh with his daughter, Miss Moffat, in 1879. It would seem that he soon became a much loved and respected old gentleman in the village. He was a regular worshiper at our church and at the Leigh Chapel (now the Royal British Legion Hall) which at that time had only been recently built by Samuel Morley. (One of his other daughters, Mary, married Dr David Livingstone, missionary and explorer).
He died on 9 August 1883 and the long obituary published in the September edition of the Village Message by the Leigh Chapel concludes with the following words:
“There is no doubt that Dr Moffat was devotedly associated with the London Missionary Society, and therefore was a Congregationalist, but from his spirit, so far as we witnessed it here, no one could tell to what “the dear old Dr Moffat” denominationally belonged. He resided in this village for the last four years worshiping with a Church that by no means cares to claim connection with that or any other denomination. Occasionally he took a service in Leigh Chapel, and surprised us by the way in which he made himself heard by most of the congregation. He also frequently took part at the Lord’s Supper either by hymn, prayer or address.”
He was buried in Norwood Cemetery by the side of his wife, Mary, who had died eleven years before him.