1937-1938 / Queen Street Campus
May Roy grew up on a sheep farm in Moonlight, Otago, walking or riding by horse the six miles to her one-teacher school. Her formal education finished at the end of primary school - little was May to know that she would go on to learn four foreign languages in her lifetime and serve God in the Himalayas, China, and the Philippines. At an Easter Convention at Pounawea, she made a commitment to serve God as a missionary overseas.
During her two-year course at the NZ Bible Training Institute (1937-1938), a growing concern for the Tibetan people led her to the Central Asian Mission, who worked in Kashmir and beyond. May trained as a midwife before leaving for India in 1941. Her first ten months were spent in Bandipur, learning Urdu and helping out at the mission dispensary. Then she took a seven day journey by horse and foot to Kargil, Kashmir, in the foot of the Himalayas. Living among an impoverished Muslim community, May learned the local dialect, Purig, and helped a Swiss couple run a small boarding school orphanage. She taught maths, English and practical skills, was a foster mum to the orphans, and did midwifery work. The partition of India in 1947 saw Kashmir become a battleground between Hindus and Muslims and, to her grief, May was forced to evacuate with other missionaries through snow and blizzards over the Zoji-La Pas to Srinagar and then to NZ.
May had been at home for six months when she heard of the need for medical workers among Tibetans in China. She joined the China Inland Mission (CIM) and left for China, via Candidates School in Melbourne. She started learning Chinese, her third language, at a Language School in Chungking in mid-1949. However, once again bitter conflict was to disrupt the course of May’s life. Machine-gun fire in the hillside announced the arrival of the Communist soldiers, and by the end of 1949 CIM had decided to withdraw all personnel from China.
May’s third missionary journey started in November 1953, this time to the jungles of Mindoro Island and a new language, Tagalog. May travelled by foot and bicycle to villages to give medical help, play Gospel recordings, give out Christian literature, and later to disciple and teach new believers as churches began. She was also given the role of mentor, and during her 10 years in the Philippines May mentored around 20 younger missionaries who stayed with her for varying periods.
The purchase of a jeep in 1960 cut down the hours of walking, and allowed easier visitation of the burgeoning groups of believers. However, one such journey was to end in tragedy – on 9 May 1963 the jeep rolled and hours later May (aged 49), and Nessie Bell, a colleague from Northern Ireland, were fatally injured, passing away a few hours later in hospital.(1)
(1) This account of May’s life and service has been drawn from the book, May Roy: Missionary to Kashmir and the Philippines, Amy B. McIntosh (Oliphants: London), 1966