A purpose firm throughout life's devious ways,
One aim, unchanged, since fixed, in boyhood's days--
The Master's honour--then the Master's praise.'
To be Christ's loyal witness, known and sealed,
At home, through hospital, then in "the field
Twenty years' service this is his aim revealed.
A glad, unswerving "Lord, Thy will be done
By life or death." Christ's honour surely won
The aim accomplished; his the great "Well done."
VERNON HAROLD STARR was the eldest of three brothers, and was born at Hertford on 21 May, 1882. He spent his childhood in Oxford, to which place his parents moved in 1887, in the atmosphere of a simple, happy home, in which "God first" was the rule of life. The religion which he was taught, being "the real thing," was consequently attractive from the start.
When quite small he went to a day school, from which in 1893, at the age of 11, he gained a scholarship to the Oxford High School for a term of three years, and at the end of that time a continuation scholarship for another year. His whole heart was always in his work, whatever that work might be--Divinity, Mathematics, and Greek especially appealed to him; so it was not wonderful that he won prizes in all these subjects, and, on leaving, letters from his head master and form master speaking of him in terms of true praise. He early set his heart on being a doctor, and, although his parents at first said it would be impossible, as they could not afford it, by his grit and determination he won his way up, and by persevering and incessant work he finally gained his end, though few knew the struggle it had been.
In 1897, when 15, having been prepared by the Hon. Rev. W. Talbot Rice, he was confirmed, and he himself dated the beginning of his Christian life from that time. With already a real love for medicine and medical work, that same year, at his own desire, he left school to become apprenticed to a chemist in Oxford for four years. This was the first rung of the ladder, and thus, at the early age of 15, he began the practical training for his life work, where his full and accurate knowledge of chemistry had free scope. This not every doctor has, yet it is peculiarly valuable in the mission field, where a surgeon must be his own physician and druggist as well. But it was during these four years of apprenticeship, in 1899, that the deeper call came to him.
Through the words of a missionary doctor from Africa, who addressed some meetings in Oxford on behalf of medical missions in that year, Starr discovered that to be a medical missionary was "the finest thing in the world." [Dr. T. Jays. Strangely enough, the writer of these memoirs met him in Peshawar shortly after Vernon Starr's death, when lie himself related how he had known Starr as a boy, and that it was in part through him that he had become fired with the desire to become a medical missionary; "and," he added, speaking of his death, "I hardly know what to say to you, except it's not a sad thing that's happened--it's a glad thing."]
A terse extract from his diary, dated 11 October, 1899, says, "I have almost decided to become, if possible, a medical missionary"; and then this follows: "October 23--28. The missionary exhibition. This decides matters "On this date, October 11, in each successive year, until he actually began his career as a medical missionary in 1911, in order to keep his aim ever before him, he refers in his diary to his decision on this day. In 1903 he writes: "To become a fully qualified medical missionary has been my desire and aim since 1899"; and from that date one aim, one purpose, dominated his whole life and his every decision, and from this he never swerved.
Those who knew Starr know that it was his pride to go "the whole hog or not at all" in anything therefore, when he definitely gave himself to God for service, that too was done unreservedly, and with the thoroughness and wholeheartedness that was his chief characteristic. In 1900 he helped a lad, an intimate friend of his, to realize Christ, and this was evidently a great joy to him. A much-thumbed and faded card signed by him in full, and with the initials of his friend's name also on it, dated 8 April, 1900, bears these words:--I present myself to Thee--my will, my time, my talents, my tongue, my property, my reputation, my entire being, to be and to do anything Thou requirest of me. Now, as I have given myself away, I am no longer my own, but all the Lord's. I believe Thou dost accept the offering I bring.
I am willing to receive what Thou givest,
to surrender what Thou claimest,
to suffer what Thou ordainest,
to go where Thou sendest.
And as in earthly reckoning we count it an honour when one who is greater than we accepts our gift, so his life, and not less his death, show how God has greatly honoured him, by the acceptance of the offering in full.
At this time, 1897--1901, he was working hard not only at his job of chemist's apprentice, but further educating himself through reading and study in his spare time, and by attending classes at the City Technical School in Oxford. His letter on pp. 11,12 shows the amount he thus accomplished.
In 1901 his four years' apprenticeship was up, and he was then 19. His aim was to be a doctor, but the means were lacking, so he decided to take a post as chemist's assistant, by which he could go on with his studies, and at the same time save some thing towards the expenses of his medical course. After a short time at home, therefore, he went in that capacity to a chemist at Sidcup, later to Buxton, and in January, 1903, to another at Hammersmith. In 1901 he joined the University Correspondence College, and by this means, working several hours a day--usually till late at night--he worked himself up till he entered King's College in October, 1903.
His diary from 1901 to 1904 is largely a record of his studies, and the time he gave to them. He worked at Mathematics, Chemistry, Botany, Biology, Euclid, Algebra, Latin, Greek, History, and English, and in January, 1903, passed the London Matriculation, and became a student Associate of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. He worked hard and continuously at his medical books, which he obtained from a lending library, and always with a view to his aim. His business hours were usually from nine and even seven in the morning to nine o'clock at night, with two hours off a day. His studies had to be fitted into his off-time, before seven in the mornings and after supper in the evenings. Frequently he worked till midnight or one in the morning.
His aim was, however, not to be a medical alone, but to be a medical missionary; and so preparation for both sides of the work went on simultaneously. In 1901 he joined the Home Preparation Union of the Church Missionary Society, with the object of getting what help he could in the way of religious and missionary study; and the practical side of the preparation was not neglected, for he taught regularly in Sunday school in each place where he lived; he frequently helped at open-air services in both Oxford and Sidcup, and regularly attended and often addressed the meetings of the Christian Endeavour Society, of which he was a prominent member, in both these places.
A few quotations from his diary, begun in Oxford, during his apprenticeship, at the age of 19, will illustrate these points:--
1 January 1901. A splendid midnight service.
28 January, 1901. Got on very well at Chemistry class, on Volumetrics.
25 February, 1901. Made C.E. [Christian Endeavour] Secretary. Received the two prizes for Mr. S. 's lectures.
28 March, 1901. Helped at Ragged School in evening.
5 May, 1901. A splendid open meeting. I led for the first time. Had spent much time in preparation. Am to be leader till August.
18 May, 1901. Went to watch the Varsity Eights.
27 July, 1901. Decided to try London Matric. Wrote to University Correspondence College.
10 September, 1901. Heard I was top in theoretical Chemistry.
23 September, 1901. Wrote and accepted Sidcup.
30 September 1901. Met Mr. Jays again. Went up to town with him. Visited St. Paul's. I note the inscription on the memorial to General Gordon is: "At all times and everywhere he gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, and his heart to God."
Went down to Dr. Stansfield's at the OMM [Oxford Medical Mission.] in Abbey Street for the night. The Dr. came in at 10.15 p.m., having had a fight with a mad man, a D.T. case. Had a short five minutes with the doctor, then supper and bed. Abbey Street seems to be an awful place.
1 October, 1901. Left the mission with Dr. and went on to Sidcup. Mr. F. 's seems a nice little place. Began work at once, arriving at 11.20 am.; did about twelve prescriptions the first day. Had two hours off, sewed up my braces, and wrote home. Have a nice little bedroom.
2 October, 1901. Work till 9 or 9.30 p.m., but two hours off daily. Can get church time on Sundays, and bed 10 or 10.30.
1 October, 1901, to 31 July, 1902, he spent at Sidcup. His time there was a happy one, for he made several friendships which lasted to the end of his life; but it was full of work, for he was putting in all the time he could into study, sending his test papers to the U.C.C., and working up for the London Matriculation. His favourite recreation was cycling, and the distances he accomplished in his two hours off, on the days when he allowed himself to get out instead of study, were tremendous. He cycled all over London, and more than once down to his home in Oxford.
Those who know what it is to "fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run," and keep that up throughout the six days of the week, whatever be the kind of work in which they are engaged, will know too the desire to "slack it when the first day comes round, and what a real effort it is to undertake the regular teaching of an often unruly Sunday-school class. This, however, Starr did, following it up by visiting the boys in their homes, for he was not only fond of children, but they grew to be fond of him, and he had a strong influence over them. This is evidenced by the many quaint and affectionate little letters received from the children of his different Sunday-school classes and children's services, years after, when he had gone to India, all of which he treasured and kept.
On his Sundays he would often attend Holy Communion service at eight o'clock, morning service when possible, take his Sunday class of boys in the afternoon, and more often than not help at or address the open-air service in the evening. A few more quotations from his diary give this in his own words:--
12 October, 1901. The C.E. gift came, a presentation hand bag, writing-case, etc. Very pleased with it. Wrote letter of thanks. Put thirty shillings in Savings Bank.
10 November, 1901. Sunday. Quite a novel experience. Took a big class of girls, age about 14. Most very attentive.
12 November, 1901. Wrote to Charing Cross Hospital for prospectus. Wanted to go to Gleaners' meeting. Too busy. Could not go. Did Cicero 10 to 11 p.m.
22 November, 1901. Am to help in West Africa Court in Reading Exhibition. Studied West Africa in off-time. Mr. R. very nice about my going.
26 November, 1901. To Reading for the day. Met lots of missionaries; gloriously happy.
3 December, 1901. Mr. R. rather annoyed at the messy way I put up new drug. Quite my fault, though unintentional. Prayed about it.
9 December, 1901. Felt very down. How very much I have to prepare for my work!
23 December, 1901. Very cold. Busy day with work. Not done till 9 p.m., but got leave to go home for Christmas, and just got to station for 9.25 train. Home by midnight. Bed at 2 am.
27 December, 1901. Have had a very happy Christmas. Never had such a grand time before. We had prayer all together. I spoke for ten minutes on the 26th at meeting at Hannington Hall. T. spoke too. Long talk that night. Caught train at 2 a.m. Arrived back at Sidcup 6.10 am, to-day, and got to work as usual. Work went fairly well all day. Did not feel the least bit tired. Thought much of home and prayed for guidance about future.
31 December, 1901. Saw the Old Year out and the New Year in. Felt it a very special time.
1 January, 1902. Round to the Sunday-school boys in my off-time. No time for study. Cake and mincepies arrived from Mater. M.P.'s are ripping.
4 January, 1902. Finished mincepies. Sewed buttons on shirts. Cleaned boots and bike.
12 January, 1902. Asked to take class of noisy boys; were very unruly, but all right.
24 January, 1902. Test papers on Cicero from U.C.C. Studied till 11.30 p.m.
29 January, 1902. Did Light and Heat. Bed 12 a.m.
31 January, 1902. Day off. To London with B. A splendid walk round Greenwich, then to his rooms. Had prayer for guidance for us both. What a privilege to have common prayer! A bitter wind all day.
6 February, 1902. To have no time off to-day, so rose at 6 and did Maths.
22 February, 1902. Had chat with one of my boys on confirmation, at Scripture Union meeting. About fifty there. Was asked to take charge of tent at Hounslow Camp at Whitsun.
15 March, 1902. Found I had done Cicero test paper all wrong. Had to start again. Bed about 1 am.
18 March, 1902. Went in off-time to find out why some Sunday-school boys were absent on Sunday. Met Mr.--in his chair, so wheeled him to his house. Asked me in to tea, but of course I had to get back by then.
2 April, 1902. Got home for Easter. Had a grand time, just like old times.
12 April, 1902. Got up to the big Exeter Hall men's meeting. About 700 present, but 4000 at the evening meeting.
5 May, 1902. Ovid test papers. Did 100 lines till 11.30 a.m.
21 May, 1902. My birthday. Parcel from home. Read Materia Medica till I am.
1 June, 1902. Peace signed (South African War). My Sunday-school boys very troublesome.
24 June, 1902. The King ill. Coronation postponed.
30 June, 1902. Went for cycle ride to Bexley. Sat down by stream and did Ovid.
20 July, 1902. Went with Mr. C. to the fruit-pickers. A very nice time indeed. There were five meetings. I spoke twice.
25 July, 1902. Gave address on Medical Missions at C.E. My last time. Am leaving on 31st.
29 July, 1902. Presented with book by Sunday-school head. What wonderful kindness!
31 July, 1902. Left Sidcup for home. Cycled to town. Stayed the night at the Medical Mission, Bermondsey. Four Oxford men there for camp.
1 August, 1902. Left at 9 to ride to Oxford. Home by 4.30; good going.
4 August, 1902. Cycled to Rugby, and on to Buxton to my new work.
15 August, 1902. Joined library. Took out books on Biology.
15 September, 1902. Went to C.E. here. Asked to take it next week.
22 September, 1902. Gave address at C.E. on "Unto all the fulness of God." A very good time.
18 October, 1902. Home.
1 November, 1902. Saturday, played football against the Modern School. Good game, only beaten one--nil through fumbling of goalkeeper.
2 November, 1902. Sunday. Went to hear F. B. Meyer. He was magnificent, on "The Government shall be upon His shoulder."
22 November, 1902. Played for B. against Hinksey. Good game.
2 December, 1902. C.E. very nice meeting. I gave a missionary address on "The World for Christ."
1 January, 1903. Midnight service.
4 January, 1903. Sunday. Went to lodging-houses with B. A very nice time. Talked coming home over state of affairs there, and felt very sad over it.
10 January, 1903. Up to town.
19 January, 1903. To new business in Hammersmith.
On September 3 he wrote from there the following letter:--
3 September, 1903.
Having been informed of the conditions of the Worsley Scholar ships for the education of missionaries to British India, and feeling that I can conform to those conditions, I beg to apply for ejection.
To become a fully qualified medical missionary has been my desire and aim since 1899. My age is now 21, and below is a brief account of what I have done up till now.
At the age of 11, I gained a scholarship from a public elementary school to the Oxford High School for three years. At the end of that time I obtained a continuation scholarship, being in all nearly four years at the school. During the third year I obtained a pass, first division, at Oxford junior Local; also the class prize for Mathematics. During the fourth year I again passed Junior Local eleventh in second-class honours, and obtained the form prizes for Divinity and Greek. Enclosed are testimonials from the Head Master, A. W. C., Esq., and my form master for two years, the Rev. H. R. H.
In August, 1897, I was apprenticed to J. A. H. B., Chemist and Druggist, Oxford, for four years. During the four winters there I attended evening classes under South Kensington at the City Technical School.
I passed Elementary Botany, first class; Advanced Botany, second class; Elementary Chemistry, Inorganic, first class; Advanced Chemistry, Inorganic, second class.
I also obtained the class prize during each of the first three sessions. Since my apprenticeship I have been engaged as Chemist's Assistant to J. R. R., of Sidcup; for the slimmer season of 1902 to W. P., of Buxton; and since January, 1903, to H. R. P., of Hammersmith, where I am still. Enclosed are testimonials from each of my employers. I have continued my studies since leaving home, and by the help of the University Correspondence College passed the London Matriculation, second division, in January last. I am a student Associate of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.
I am a member of the Church of England, and was confirmed in April, 1897, from which time I date the beginning of my Christian life. I have been engaged now for several years in various kinds of Christian work. I have been almost continuously a Sunday-school teacher; I have also done a good deal of open-air preaching. I have always taken a great interest in missionary work, especially of medical missions. I have been a member of the Home Preparation Union of the Church Missionary Society since 1901. Enclosed is a testimonial from the Hon. Rev. W. T. R., former Vicar of our parish, etc.
I have always had excellent health. If there are any other particulars you wish I will gladly forward them.
VERNON HAROLD STARR
On 30 October, 1903, he heard the news that he had gained the Worsley Scholarship, and he at once entered college. The next five years or rather less were spent at King's College and Hospital, London University, where Starr graduated in Medicine and Surgery in as short a time as is possible. Perhaps it would be well here to give a character sketch of Vernon Starr in his student days, gathered in the main from what men of his time found him.
A mission doctor, now in government service in India, writes :--
I first became acquainted with Vernon Starr in October, 1905. He was then in his second year as a medical student at Ring's, and I was just commencing at "the London." Both he and I were residents at 49, Highbury Park, London, the house in which the students of the London Medical Missionary Association were accommodated. My first recollection of him is that of a figure irresistibly reminding one of the immortal Traddles in "David Copperfield," dashing downstairs dressed in a blue serge coat and a pair of shorts, "Excuse my appearance," he said with a beaming smile, "I've just upset the jam-pot over my breeks; hence this rig!"
The thing that sticks in one's memory most of all about Starr is his smile. His dancing blue eyes were full of fun. That no doubt explains why the children loved him. Work among children fascinated him, and he was never happier than when he was among them. When I knew him first he was the superintendent of a Sunday school drawn from the poverty-stricken district of Islington. This Sunday school was run by the students at Highbury Park as a training ground for their future work on the mission field, and if tact, patience, and perseverance are essential to a missionary's successful career, there could he no better opportunity than a ragged Sunday school for exercising them. When in the midst of an address a big boy at the end of a form with a sudden and vigorous shove precipitates the rest of the audience on that particular form on to the floor, it takes a certain amount of force of character to restore order. Or when into the verse of a hymn a lusty voice introduces a ridiculous parody, it requires a certain amount of patience and self-control, and occasionally an exhibition of muscular Christianity, to introduce a becoming reverence for sacred things. Starr was very successful with the school. When I took it over I found a fairly orderly and obedient, if somewhat boisterous assembly. Starr had the knack of talking to children, an asset not easily acquired. His addresses were interesting and full of anecdote, and the one theme upon which his addresses were based was the love of God for children and the wonder of the Cross.
Not content with working among children during the days of term, Starr frequently spent his holidays working with the Children's Special Service Mission at various seaside resorts. I never happened to work with him, but he used to give us glowing accounts full of enthusiasm of the successful meetings held, of new choruses learnt, or of various ingenious ways by which the interest of the children was secured and held. He had a way of thrusting his hands in his pockets, and shifting from one leg to the other while he talked; and his face would light up with pleasure as he described the romps and picnics in which he had been the leading spirit. I believe he had in his possession a collection of letters from children which he had received, and which caused him an immense amount of pleasure. Besides this work he had a Bible class of better-class boys on Sunday afternoons, so altogether he spent a very large proportion of his spare time as a medical student in children's work. I do not remember if he took much part in preaching to adults. The same was true of his work on the Student Caravans. Although a fairly fluent speaker, his chief joy was to gather the children for a tea-party and games around the caravan, and to tell them stories of missionary heroes and of the great need for work among the heathen.
As a medical student Starr was very keen, not only on missionary work, but on Christian work among students. He was a member of the Student Volunteer Missionary Union, and worked hard to create a nucleus at King's. The Christian Union at King's College at that time was not in a very flourishing condition, and Starr threw all his energy into reviving its flagging spirits. He arranged for excellent speakers at the meetings, and generally by personal invitation and by advertising the meetings, he succeeded in arousing a good deal of interest among the students of his college. I attended one meeting at which about forty men were present.
As a student Starr was no slacker. Like the rest of us at Highbury he had no surplus money to waste on a lengthy medical course. I have a vague recollection that Starr had overcome more difficulties in that direction than most of us in his determination to serve Christ as a medical missionary. There was a vein of sanctified obstinacy in his character in the face of difficulties, and I believe he was a man of much prayer. But he was very reserved about such matters, and in fact seldom spoke of himself. He studied hard, conscientiously and successfully, and I have a vision of him now brandishing a thigh-bone and demanding front us the attachments of various muscles.
He had a considerable sense of humour. There used to be a small marble bust of some celebrity on the mantel-board of our common-room in Highbury, and I remember the glee with which one or two of us, himself included, altered the features beyond recognition with sealing-wax and lamp-black. After three years with me at Highbury he qualified, and I more or less lost touch with him. After my arrival in India I corresponded with him once or twice, and his letters were full of enthusiasm for his work in Peshawar. He did not complain of overwork; but the amount accomplished speaks for itself. I do not wonder that he gained the love of the Indian. They are often very like children at heart, and quickly respond to sympathy and love; and Starr, above all men, was qualified to win their regard. From his photographs he has grown much older than when I knew him--older than the years warrant. It is difficult to understand why, in the providence of God, Starr, with all his winsome qualities, his earnest enthusiasm, and his brilliant capabilities, is taken, when the need is so great and the workers so few; but God knows best. Up there--
We'll know why clouds instead of sun
Were over many a cherished plan
Why songs have ceased when scarce begun:
Up there, some time, we'll understand."
Another doctor on the frontier, who had known him at King's, and who for the last three months of Starr's life worked with him in Peshawar, says:--
He was a junior dresser for Mr. Carless for six months in 1907--May to October inclusive--and at the college for about three years before that doing the preliminary subjects. Of course I knew that he was a keen student and a keen Christian. I think every one of his contemporaries would have known that, and many would certainly have known that he was training for a missionary. I remember him as a careful and a good dresser, and a quiet, unassuming man. Such a character as his cannot have failed to have made its impression there, and to have had an influence for good on his fellow-students, and on his seniors too; but still I do not think that most of us suspected in his student days that Starr was ever going to do the things that he has done. I think his was a character which developed much after his coming to the mission field. He was never a showy man--never kept all his goods in the shop-window, so to speak. One thing I can say is that I found it a real pleasure to work under him for those few months in Peshawar; his daily life and work were an inspiration to me, and I should like to have worked under him always.
Throughout his early years, as later, he was no dreamer, but a practical hard worker, as enthusiastic in the interests of medicine and science as anything else, and his powers promised much for the future. He had the power of studying hard without the work becoming a burden; he worked well and with all his might, and he worked for God. The enormous amount of notes, whether on medical subjects or of his Bible study and addresses, show the trouble he took and the time he put into it.
His was always a simple, fearless witness, for he had found the secret of never being ashamed of Christ. So he was ever "on active service" for the Master as a true Christian should be, and because his life was consistent, deep, and pure, and at the same time wholly free from affectation, it spoke louder than his deeds. The distinguishing feature of the life was its single purpose, and its most marked characteristic that thoroughness which developed into "a genius for method," as it was described in later years by one who had watched his work. Whatever he went in for--whether a football match or a ragged-school treat, a boys' camp or a chemistry examination--he put his whole heart into it, and his enthusiasm was boundless. But though quick and keen, he was quiet, reticent, reserved in his manner, and very sensitive--a man to whom it was not easy to appear peculiar among his fellow students; but the Master had won in when he was yet a boy, and the great question of "Whose I am and Whom I serve" was settled for life. If his initials V. H. S. were known to stand for "Very Hot Stuff," the nickname was not given in ridicule there are few men who do not honour a man the more for going all lengths, because it is not Christ men hate, but cant. His other nickname, "Twinkle Twinkle," was due to his beaming smile as well as to his name! His was a very happy nature, always cheery and delighting in a clean joke with the rest. He had no great desire for social life, but a deep love of companionship, and when he made friends he kept them. Not a few men of his year who were friends of his are out in China or India to and with these he has since regularly corresponded. His influence came from the manifest sincerity of his nature, and there was a complete absence of ostentation about anything he did. He had a deep sympathy for others' needs, but he was a disciplinarian. He never allowed himself to smoke; his daily lunches, while in town each day to attend college, usually amounted to the modest sum of fourpence, very rarely exceeding sixpence; while a tenth of his money was regularly put by for God. He was most determined in will, and with an almost obstinate perseverance. In appearance he was short in stature, but sturdy and strong in build, and with great staying power. His broad, high forehead, firm mouth and chin, and his smile, gave character to his face. Sickness was almost unknown to him. "My first day off work due to illness, as far as I can remember, for eighteen years "is an entry in his diary. Practically his only illnesses were scarlet fever not long after he came to India, and an attack of jaundice in 1914; this last, however, only kept him in bed a day, after which he went his ward rounds as usual, looking the colour of a guinea and persisting he was "really quite fit."
When he entered King's he at once joined the Christian Union, and even when still a fresher did his best to work it up. Later he was made secretary for the medicals, and, as has already been told by a fellow-student, he took an immense amount of time and trouble to get good speakers, and to get individual invitations out to every likely man. He later fixed up special meetings for freshers. So keen was he on this that another man of his year afterwards said, "Things were very different by the time Starr left." The K.C.C.U. [King's College Christian Union.] in college was not the only thing Starr ran. From 1905 to 1907 he superintended the children's services held in the Camden Athenaeum Sunday by Sunday. As many as a hundred children or more attended the service, and they undertook the support of a cot in a mission hospital in Persia, for which they collected annually. He and several other students worked during August, 1907, at the Children's Special Service Mission at Criccieth in Wales, where attractive holiday services were arranged on the beach, and picnics for the children. On two or three occasions he, with other men of the London University, worked a caravan tour in connexion with the Student Volunteer Missionary Union, which will be described elsewhere; while another vacation was spent with the C.S.S.M. at Colwyn Bay, where he assisted the three brothers Wood in their work. More than one delightful summer holiday was spent with his family among the beautiful Welsh hills, but Starr was ever on the look-out to help somehow, and always worked among children for choice.
From this it will be seen how full even his student days were of service for his Master. Some who read this will know how often and how easily student life and a medical course imperceptibly but unmistakably change the aims and ideals of the average student. With Starr his medical degree was not an end in itself, but a means to an end--the end was to become a medical missionary. Even when he won five most coveted prizes--it was to him nothing to be proud of--he took them also as a means to his end.
In 1904 he gained the Leathes' Prize. It was a large and handsomely bound Bible, bearing the King's College coat-of-arms on the cover. On the fly-leaf he wrote the following verses: each verse, and not least the last, was fulfilled in his life; and they best show the aim and purpose of it:--
Just as I am, Thine own to be,
Friend of the young, who lovest me,
To consecrate myself to Thee,
O Jesus Christ--I come.
In the glad morning of my day,
My life to give, my vows to pay,
With no reserve, and no delay--
With all my heart--I come.
Just as I am, young, strong, and free,
To be the best that I can be,
For truth and righteousness and Thee,
Lord of my life--I come.
And for Thy sake to win renown,
And then to take the victor's crown,
And at Thy feet to lay it down
O Master, Lord--I come.
But jottings from his diary through his college years speak best:--
30 October, 1903. Heard I had the Worsley Scholarship. Went to town at once, to see the Dean of King's. Went to Zoology lecture and practical work. Bought books and wired home.
2 November, 1903. To King's. Got bones and instruments.
4 November, 1903. Tried to get up to town in rime for Chapel. Missed. Practical Chemistry nearly all day. First divinity lecture by principal. Still living at Sidcup, up to college lectures daily.
14 November, 1903. Asked to act as referee. Did so. Played Wormwood Scrubbs. King's lost. Ground very vet and muddy.
15 November, 1903. Chemistry in morning. Very easy paper.
1 January, 1904. At home, and at St. Peter's Church with the others at the watch-night service. Consecration was renewed--the main thought of my mind being ' All power is given unto Me both in heaven and in earth." Communion service followed. Out at 12.40, and in the quiet of home spent some time in prayer. Bed about 1.30. New Year's Day, a very enjoyable evening with singing and games.
5 January, 1904. Back to town to Kings.
S January, 1904. Usual at college. Began Botany and Zoology again. Looked op address for CE., and gave it in evening on "Ye are not your own," because "ye belong to Christ." Best meeting so far.
12 January, 1904. Usual work at college. Went to Christian Union meeting. Only four present, three of us being Worsley Scholars. Met again Mr. T. Jays, who remembered me. A splendid address from Dr. Horder, C.M.S., of Pakhoi, and also from Mr. Jays.
29 January, 1904. Zoology. Skinned rabbit. Worked till five, then tea in refreshment bar, and meeting of Medical Prayer Union at 5.40 in large theatre. Address on "What faith is," very helpful. Got up to CM. House, another tea, good gathering of H.P.U. members.
4 February, 1904. Mechanics in a.m. Paper on Light in afternoon. Did Physics in evening.
9 February, 1904. Came to live at Highbury--introduced to residents. Have to rise early to get off to college.
12 February, 1904. Went down after college to the London Hospital to their CU. meeting. Mr. McAdam Eccles gave a very good address. Very well-attended meeting. After meeting, Mr. B. showed me several of the operating theatres.
13 February, 1904. Saturday. Went to O.M.M.L to look up Dr. S and on to St. John's, Highbury. I played for King's against them. Dirty ground. Lost five--nil.
14 February, 1904. Sunday. Went to Mildmay Mission Hospital to give the address in the men's ward. Had our prayer meeting all together in Highbury. Felt too tired to go to Harley Street for the "World's Student Day of Prayer meeting. Went with Richardson to Islington Medical Mission to give the address. Had a good children's service in the evening, spoke for a short time.
19 February, 1904. Was duly registered as a medical student,.
[Oxford Medical Mission.]
16 March, 1904. Exam, on Mechanics 10--1. Became enrolled as a student volunteer.
23 March, 1904. Bank Holiday. A lovely walk through the fields. Had never looked so beautiful before!
24 May, 1904. To evening Exeter Hall meeting. Splendid gathering. Very solemn. Deeper consecration for me.
3 June, 1904. College closed 1 p.m. Rode down to sports at Chelsea. Great time there. Medicals very successful.
7 June, 1904. College as usual, Botany, Chemistry, and CU. meeting. A talk with G. after. Was elected secretary at C.U. meeting for next year, for the Medicals.
28 June, 1904. Exam, on Botany to-day. Easy paper in am. Afternoon more difficult. Afraid I have not done well enough for Carter.
5 July, 1904. College in morning. Heard I had the Carter Prize, £5, also the only first in Zoology, a first class in Chemistry, fourth on list, first of third class in Physics. Chose one of my books, got my prize-money from college, £6 15s. 4d. Came home with West, and decided to go if possible to Connishead S.V. camp.
6 July, 1904. Prize-giving at 3 p.m. I got Practical Anatomy. Left as soon as over.
1 August, 1904. Left London with S. for Connishead. A grand place, but a far grander time.
29 September, 1904. C.M.S. Farewell in Exeter Hall. Said good-bye to T. Jays.
4 October, 1904. Prepared CU. cards and wrote to speakers for their subjects.
10 October, 1904. Gave out to porter invitations to all the new men.
12 October, 1904. Carless Conversazione for V.I.C.C.A. About twenty gave their names as members. Warneford Prize exam. on all day. Easy papers.
13 October, 1904. Leathes' Prize Exam. Came out 3.30, went to King's Hall, Holborn, for C.S.S.M. Report meetings. Saw many friends. Good time.
24 October, 1904. Prepared for Archdeacon Sinclair, who was to speak. About forty men turned up, rather a poor show. Had a talk with R. after.
1 November, 1904. Medical Prayer Union Committee at Mr. McAdam Eccles' house.
6 November, 1904. Sunday. Spoke at Mildmay Hospital in the morning, on to church in afternoon. Had my Bible class, five turned up. Good time. Took children's service in the evening.
7 November, 1904. Notices of prizes put up in college. Leathes' Prize for me, thank God! C.U. meeting, very fair attendance, Professor Carless in the chair.
17 November, 1904. Had no bed at night owing to larks of some of the men!
18 November, 1904. Started our Bible circle with four men, very nice time. Decided to have it every week.
28 November, 1904. Saw Dr. B., Gold Medallist of London University. Visited the clubs with him. A very nice set of fellows and well officered.
7 December, 1904. Had a talk with B., wants to be a student volunteer.
29 December, 1904. Went to lodging-house tea in mission rooms, nearly a hundred present. They had a little meeting and I gave a short address. It was a picture to see them feed, and also pocket it!
30 December, 1904. Long talk with P., as awkward as ever and does not seem happy. Mr. R. took our evening prayer meeting, read prayer-book prayers, and gave us a sermon out of a penny exercise book! One of the worst P.M.'s I've ever been at.
1 January, 1905. As the New Year began I made as my consecration for the year the verse of that hymn
"O Love, that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul on Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be."
9 January, 1905. Dr. Mott's special lecture at college. Very good.
12 January, 1905. Joined Polytechnic Gymnasium for the term. Arranged for college prayer meetings most days of the week.
16 January, 1905. CA. meeting, started new roll of members with nine.
28 January, 1905. Prepared black-board address for the Camden children.
7 February, 1905. Letter asking me to be secretary of the London University Caravan.
8 February, 1905. Wrote out 100 of the invitations for Mott's meeting, got men's names from the secretary.
13 February 1905. College. Got off last batch of invitations. CU. meeting. G. T. gave us a splendid address to buck us all up, on the objects of a Christian union.
Having been invited to the Summer School at Keswick, he started on July 6, and reached Keswick the next morning, travelling up with several other men who were also going there. "We felt we were in for a good time," he says. The eight days there he enjoyed immensely; bathing, rowing, and sculling over Derwent-water, and Ulles-water, "The English Lucerne"; climbs up Helvellyn and Catsbells; and cycling picnics to places of interest in the Lake District. He found the sessions gatherings a great help, and got tips for his freshers meetings in college and for work amongst the young. He writes: "On Saturday night I went for a walk alone along Friar's Crag, in order to think over some of the great responsibilities involved in being present at the school. It has been a new experience and given me new inspiration for my work."
During the summer holidays in 1904, 1905, and 1906, several University men, including Starr, worked a caravan tour in connexion with the S.V.M.U., [Student Volunteer Missionary Union.] the account of which was printed, and may be in part repeated here. For several years students of the Edinburgh University have spent some of their long vacation touring round certain districts in Scotland, arousing enthusiasm among Christians with regard to foreign missions. In 1904 a group of London University men, with the motto, "The Evangelization of the World in this Generation," as their watchword, began a similar work in the home counties. Many districts of Surrey, Sussex, West Kent, and Herts have thus already been visited by their caravan. The students who thus give up their holidays to this arduous work, and pay their domestic expenses, pitch their camp on the outskirts of a town, and making it a centre for about four or five days, cycle to and hold meetings in the neighbouring towns and villages. Their camp, consisting of two tents and a well-arranged caravan, is then moved about ten or twelve miles to another centre. The strenuousness and simplicity of their life and enthusiasm for the subject expressed by their motto are infectious; they have been well received in most places and have succeeded in arousing much fresh interest and sympathy for foreign missions. They do not try to attract attention to their own movement (that of the Student Volunteers), but ask for heartier support and sympathy for the societies already at work.
Their campaign lasts some five weeks, and their staff is continually changing, as some of the workers hold vacation appointments at their hospitals, and have to return to them. These men are no boasters, and they are not quick to talk about the strenuous duties connected with their wanderings, but when we get to their central subject--the need for an immediate advance in foreign missionary work--their tongues are set free, we might even say set on fire.
Their methods are varied. Sometimes they use a set of lantern slides, sometimes a collection of curios; often they dress in foreign costumes. Their meetings are generally held in schools, church halls, or chapels, sometimes in the open air around the camp, or in a garden or drawing-room.
Starr's own report, written in 1907, runs:--
Our tour in 1904 was made through parts of Surrey, Sussex, and West Kent, while last year--9 August to 6 September, 1905--we visited Hertfordshire. We began the tour itself by pitching our first camp at Hatfield, on August 8. For some of the men camp life was a new experience, with attractions as well as discomforts. It took some time for most of us to become domesticated. My first evening J. and I slept in the van and I took over all the things--moneys, stock, and control of affairs. This occupied till 1.30 a.m., and then I slept, notwithstanding the hard boards of the van.
We moved to Ware, pitching our tents by midday Saturday, August 12. We were busily engaged on the Sunday, having arranged seven services. Each Sunday during the tour was a very full day, and we had on these occasions some of our best gatherings. We were able in many instances to use the pulpits kindly lent us by the ministers. It was at Ware we held our first children's meeting. About sixty youngsters came and were kept interested by several of the men. On these occasions all the curios were displayed on boxes, while one or two of the men wore eastern costumes. In these ways we sought to show as forcibly as possible the conditions and also the needs of children in other lands. The meeting was so successful that it was decided to make it a feature of the meetings in each centre, and five such gatherings were held. While at Harpenden we had ten services on the Sunday some of the students taking part in the open-air meetings. Harpenden was one of the centres in which we stayed the shortest rime, and yet it was one in which we were very busy. We were here able to hold lantern lectures; that held in the Public Hall was very successful from the point of view of numbers: the hall, holding over 300, being packed full and many people left outside--the largest meeting we have ever had. W. operated the lantern and I gave the lecture. By this means--actual pictures taken on the foreign field--we show what is being done; and this we feel does far more to impress people than many addresses. At Harpenden we suffered from some rather trying personal experiences, as it rained almost the whole time; the van leaked and we often got soaked. (This was too much for R., who went home again!) Again, some of us cannot forget our cooking experiences, an attempt to make into a custard a ground-rice pudding was a failure, of course, and one jelly did not "jell," though kept for a week.
Of the 1905 tour he says:--Our special motto was John Ruskin's well-known remark: "If you do not wish for His Kingdom, do not pray for it; but if you do, you must do more than pray for it, you must work for it."
Our last camp was at Boxmoor, and it was certainly the best spot, being situated in Lady A. B's Park, and we are very grateful to her for the interest and sympathy she showed in the work.
He sums it up as "a time of pleasant surprises and much enjoyment and blessing too."
Starr and the special friend of his student days made up two books of choruses with music, for the children's services, working at them in their spare evenings when back at Highbury. Eventually these were printed as "The Caravan Choruses."
Starr's 1906 diary has some interesting entries:--
31 January, 1906. Gave out C.U. notices to men coming into college.
10 February, 1906. To Guy's for lecture. Went to conference at Morley Hall. Splendid addresses, but few men. Had some good opportunities of speaking about the caravan to men.
3 March, 1906. Physiology from 2 to 10 straight off
5 March, 1906. Physiology prize exam. Very unexpected paper. Did fairly.
16 March, 1906. Dissecting Exam. Made a poor show. Felt very disgusted with myself.
30 March, 1906. Last day of term. Results of exams. posted. Found I had 75 per cent.
3 April, 1906. Conference of C.S.S.M. workers. Felt I must try and do C.S.S.M. work. Cycled thirty-five miles yesterday with R.
15 October, 1906. Received Physiology prize.
1 January, 1907. Midnight service at St. James's, Holloway.
15 January, 1907. Plenty to do in hospital. Got to St. James's Gleaners. Prof. Carless spoke on Medical Missions.
19 January, 1907. Saturday. Footer. Splendid game. Won 2--0.
27 January, 1907. Prayed that I might realize reason for speaking to children, and that I might every day do something definite for God. Ninety-six children at service.
16 February, 1907. Hospital all day. Blood cults; am on Medical Casualties.
3 March, 1907. Spoke at Balham Assembly Rooms to 250 young people. Subject Joy.
10 March, 1907. Post mortem on suicide case.
15 March, 1907. Went to C.J.M. exhibition and meeting. [China Inland Mission.] Holborn Town Hall packed. Ten of my kids there. Very pleased.
30 April, 1907. My last day as medical clerk; three post mortems to wind up with! C.M.S. meeting in Albert Hall. Very great crowd, and inspiring.
On 27 July, 1907, he left for Connishead. It was the second time he had attended the Student Volunteer Camp there, and he always looked back on this as one of his happiest times.
Before September 25 he was back in hospital, and on that day records twenty-two accidents.
On October 7 he got up a special CU. meeting for freshers.
On 14 October, 1907, he wrote his paper for the Medical Society; and in June of the next year came his final examinations, after which he qualified. He always hoped to take his M.S. degree in later years. Starr had gained two scholarships, two medals, and a number of prizes while at King's, and the recommendatory letters written for him by the physicians and surgeons under whom he had studied speak in exceptional terms, not only of his capabilities but of the great conscientiousness which stamped all his work.
In his pocket book is a list of twenty-two students of King's who in that last year were members of a missionary study band, a number of whom are now themselves in mission service overseas. Of the many men who have passed through King's, not one was keener than Starr or more loyal throughout his career to the single aim of his life.
Lines which comprised his aim, and of which he had made a note, were these
May here His servants serve Him,
May the cost not come between
The service that they render--
And the service that they mean.
At the end of 1908 he went first as assistant house surgeon, and then as house surgeon, to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, in which post he remained till the autumn of 1910. Here as ever he showed his colours, and all must have known that he took this post to fit him more fully for his future work. He loved the children's wards, and to the small inmates he was known as "the little doctor with the curly hair." While in Exeter he made time to take up work in a railway mission there.
On New Year's Day of 1910 his father died suddenly, mourned by many who had known him in Oxford. After his father's death, when he reached home, Vernon Starr said to his mother: "I don't think I ought to go abroad now, mother, but stay at home to look after you and help you." But her brave reply was: "You've been training and preparing to go all these years, and go you shall; I shall be all right."
So she gave him up and gladly sent him out to the work, when she might quite reasonably have done otherwise, and a word from her would have altered his whole life.
After his time at Exeter, Starr might easily have obtained other posts, leading up to a practice at home, but this had no attraction for him. Having already been accepted by the Church Missionary Society, after a short last visit home, he sailed for India in the P. and O. "Malwa" on December 16 of that same year.