It may have been more than a century ago Warrnambool missionary James Robertson Bruce was beaten to death in China, but his sacrifice has not been forgotten.
Sunday was the 120th anniversary of his death, and Warrnambool's Presbyterian Church paid tribute to the Warrnambool man who set out for China in 1896.
The events surrounding the horrific death of the respected missionary on August 15, 1902 may have been forgotten by time, but when it happened it made international headlines.
A "mob" of hundreds in China had blamed missionaries for an outbreak of cholera which was causing a large number of deaths in the Hunan province where Bruce and fellow missionary Richard Henry Lowis were living.
The New York Times reported the pair had been "mutilated beyond recognition".
"The murders made use of all kinds of weapons to kill Bruce, while Lowis was speared and stoned to death," it reported.
After six years of devoting his live to mission work in China, Bruce died at age 31.
A number of news articles written about Bruce reveal just how much a shock his death was to people across the world and in China. When news of the tragedy reached British authorities, war vessels were sent in to investigate and bring the guilty parties to justice. In all, 10 men were executed or beheaded for the crime.
Bruce and his fellow missionary were buried in China and a marble memorial tablet erected in Chenzhou under a Chinese-style pavilion. The Presbyterian Church in Warrnambool honoured Bruce with a fountain that still stands in the yard of the St John's church and a stained-glass window installed in the old Sunday School building.
At the official unveiling in December 1905, The Standard reported a tribute from the Wu Chi-sun, the Chinese prefect of Chen Cheo was read to the crowd.
"Why did such a good man meet with such a dire end? We the officials....are so filled with grief that we become ill. We shall never forget it," the prefect wrote.
Associate pastor Shady Mehanni lead the tributes to Bruce on Sunday.
"He was this guy who was doing law, had his whole life ahead of him but saw this call to go to China ... and off he went," he said. "One of the things that some of the Chinese folk were saying was he had a 'heart of pure gold'."
Bruce was born in Illowa and attended the Yangery State School, and later the Koroit State School. He had been working in the law offices of William Ardlie in Warrnambool when he noticed an ad in the paper calling for 100 young men to go to China.
Bruce's decision to go was a surprise to his friends. In his letters, Bruce revealed he was the first foreigner to visit many towns in China - places he would often get to by boat.
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