Douglas Higgins: Autobiography of a Yorkshire Christian (Higgins)

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Not every day does an autobiography appear from a man in his 100th year, but all who know Douglas Higgins never saw him as belonging to the ordinary. From astronomy to Christ at the age of twenty-two, then Art College at Sheffield, war service in the RAF, and a career in school teaching—these were but parts of a life of progressive enthusiasm. As an impromptu speaker he had a charm which often turned unwilling hearers into friends.

Questions of age and race never hindered his appeal. Young people, in particular, felt that he belonged to them, and for many Chinese students he became a friend and counsellor when in his nineties.

By the truth of Scripture, he says, we are ‘led into true happiness here and glory to come’. Such happiness he lived to spread, and it gives these pages an attraction which can be felt.


Table of Contents:

Foreword by Iain H. Murray

1. Light in a South Yorkshire Village

2. Early Christian Experiences

3. Five Years with 23rd Squadron, Royal Air Force

4. Wycliffe Chapel

5. Teaching and Speaking

6. The ‘China’ House in Gleadless 



Douglas Higgins was born on the 16th of August, 1914, a few days after the outbreak of World War I, in Gleadless, a small village in Yorkshire, at that time just outside Sheffield. He left school at the age of sixteen, having won a scholarship to attend evening classes at Sheffield School of Art. His first jobs were in commercial art. Having discovered ‘a latent desire for knowledge,’ he enrolled in physics, and later biology, and astronomy classes at Sheffield University.

His upbringing in the local Congregational Church had given Douglas a familiarity with the Bible, but by the time he was eighteen, his studies were raising many questions in his mind. He was longing for a real knowledge of God, and began reading the work of scientists who were also Christians. It was by this means that he was converted in 1936, realizing ‘what was the obvious truth: to know Jesus Christ is to have eternal life!’ His wife-to-be, Eileen Rushby, was converted shortly afterwards. Removed from the Church’s membership for teaching the ‘doctrines of grace,’ Douglas began attending the Sovereign Grace Mission in Gleadless, along with Eileen.

During World War II, Douglas spent five years with 23rd Squadron, RAF, which included service in Malta and Sardinia. While in England in 1944, he and Eileen were married (on 16th August, his 30th birthday). At the end of the War, the Mission had become ‘Wycliffe Chapel’ after a change of premises, and this was to be their spiritual home, the base for their Christian service, and the environment in which they brought up their two children, Andrew and Dorothy.

After demobilisation in 1946, Douglas trained as a teacher, and obtained a post as an art specialist in Wisewood Secondary Modern School, where he taught for ten years before moving on to other appointments in Derbyshire and Sheffield. He returned to Primary Education for his last two appointments before retiring from teaching in 1978.

Following Eileen’s death, aged 77, in 1998, Douglas found himself with a ministry providing accommodation for Chinese students, and made many lasting friendships.



"Douglas Higgins is a man of many gifts and many interests: a sculptor and potter, as well as a painter in oil and water-colour; an engineer; a gardener and a lover of nature in all its forms; a cyclist who covered much of England by that means. In his own church, and in numbers of others, he is known as an ever-cheerful encourager and a lover of the word of God. That he should take up a ministry of care for students from mainland China when in his nineties is typical of the life God has given him . . . he has been a teacher by example as well as by word. What a privilege it is to have reached the centenary year of one’s birth and not to have outlived one’s usefulness! We thank God for a life which has been of blessing to so many." – Iain H. Murray