Pollard (20 April 1864 in Camelford, Cornwall ¨C 16 September 1915 in
China) was a British Methodist missionary to China with the China
Inland Mission who converted many of the Big Flowery Miao (now
called the Hmong) in Guizhou to Christianity, and who created a
writing system that is still in use today.
Born the son of a Bible Christian Church preacher, Samuel Pollard initially aimed for a career in the civil service. However, a conference in London in 1885 encouraged him to instead become a missionary. He was appointed a missionary in 1886, left the United Kingdom for China in 1887, and was posted to Yunnan province in 1888. He remained in China Shimenkan, as a missionary, until his death from typhoid.
In 1891 he was posted to a newly opened Bible Christian mission station in Chaotung, where he married Emmie Hainge. He began a Christian movement with the Big Flowery Miao in 1905 that spread to Chaotung. Pollard also invented a script for the Miao language called the Pollard Script (also sometimes called the "Ahmao script"). Pollard never claimed any divine inspiration or vision in creating the script. Rather, he left a record of hard work, advice from others, and ideas from other scripts. At the beginning, he wrote, he ¡°made an experiment in getting out a written language for the Miao¡±, even writing out some symbols in his diary (Enwall 1994:1.104). He credited the basic idea of the script to the Cree syllabary (discussed above), ¡°While working out the problem, we remembered the case of the syllabics used by a Methodist missionary among the Indians of North America, and resolved to do as he had done¡± (1919:174). He also gave credit to a Chinese pastor, ¡°Stephen Lee assisted me very ably in this matter, and at last we arrived at a system¡± (1919:174). In another document he wrote ¡°Mr. Stephen Lee and I are attempting to reduce the Miao language to a simply system of writing. The attempt may succeed or it may end... stillborn¡± (Enwall 1994:1.105). He asked himself in his diary ¡°How shall I manage to distinguish tones?¡± then later wrote how he had found the solution in adopting an idea from Pitman¡¯s shorthand (Enwall 1994:1.170, 171). In listing the phrases he used to describe the process of creating the script, there is clear indication of work, not revelation: ¡°we looked about¡±, ¡°working out the problem¡±, ¡°resolved to attempt¡±, ¡°assisted¡±, ¡°at last we arrived at a system¡±, ¡°adapting the system¡±, ¡°we found¡±, ¡°solved our problem¡± (1919:174,175). In all of this, we see no hint of specific revelation or any vision, only intellectual labor.
Pollard and Miao teachers
He used it to translate the New Testament. The script was unique in the fact that it used the initial consonant of a syllable, with the vowel placed above or below it, in order to indicate which tone the vowel was.
Pollard received pressure from some British sources that if the Roman alphabet was not suitable, he should consider using the Burmese alphabet (Enwall 1994:1.108). He did not accept this suggestions, but Pollard did leave the door open for switching over to Roman letters, writing in 1906, "It is quite possible later on to turn our system into Romanised, where there is a successful Romanised system in use which will solve the tone difficulty" (quoted in Enwall 1994:1.108). A large part of Pollard¡¯s motivation for creating his script was to have a way to adequately mark the sounds of the language, especially the tones. It has remained in use for 90 years, despite efforts to supersede it.
During his mission he travelled extensively, founding churches, training other missionaries, performing the role of language examiner, and arguing the causes of Miao Christians.
Samuel Pollard Family Tree
Birth: April 20, 1864 in Cameiford, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Death: September 16, 1915 in China Shimenkan
Gender (at birth): male
Ernest C. Pollard
Ellen de Boyne
Samuel Pollard (1826-1902)
Tree stemming from the oldest known paternal father