Zara Blackmore retraces third great-grandaunt Sophia’s footsteps

The Aussie undergrad is an advocate for mental health and the less fortunate

Zara Blackmore
(left) Sophia Blackmore served as a missionary in Singapore from 1887 to 1928 (photo courtesy of MCS Archives) (right) Zara at the MGS campus on Blackmore Drive

Last month, Methodist Girls’ School (MGS), Fairfield Methodist School (Primary & Secondary) and Kampong Kapor Methodist Church (KKMC) received a special guest from Australia—Zara Blackmore, the great-great-great grandniece of Sophia Blackmore, the Australian missionary who served in Singapore from 1887 to 1928 and founded the two schools and church. Sophia Blackmore was the first woman missionary to be sent by the Methodist Women’s Foreign Missionary Society to work in Singapore.

Zara’s visit to Singapore was a planned holiday with a purpose, to find out more of her third great grandaunt’s legacy. Her granduncle, Rodney Blackmore (who visited in the 1990s), is the family’s historian who had documented some of Sophia Blackmore’s legacy in a book for the family and encouraged family members to contact MGS and The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) on their visits to Singapore. The Blackmore clan is spread out on the East coast of Australia, with several attending various Uniting churches.

“[Sophia Blackmore] has always been spoken of in our family as this remarkable woman. I don’t think I quite realised the magnitude of the impact of Sophia Blackmore’s legacy. And now I’m here, and people from both schools have shared about their experiences—it’s just amazing! So many lives have been impacted by what she did. I was almost in tears at MGS when they sang the school anthem,” said Zara, who did not realise before her visit that her ancestor was also the founder of Fairfield Methodist Schools (FMS) and KKMC.

Zara Blackmore2
(clockwise from left) Zara at KKMC, beneath the plaque honouring Sophia Blackmore; Zara with Principal and Vice-Principals of Fairfield Methodist School (Primary) as well as resident of the Fairfield Methodist Schools Alumni Association; A diorama put together by a FMS(P) class where Zara drew Sophia Blackmore; Zara with MS(P) students; Zara with MGS Principal and members of the board of management

Just like Sophia Blackmore (or “Sophie” as she is referred to by the Blackmore family), Zara is no stranger to community service. In 2019, when she was in high school, she was awarded the National Council of Women NSW Dame Marie Bashir Peace Award, an award given to students who are exceptional in their activities to lead others in harmonious relationships and pursue social justice. In the same year, the Order of Australia Association (NSW) presented her with the Youth Community Service Award. These awards were given in recognition of her service to the Ezidi refugee community, as Chair of the Armidale Regional Youth Advisory Community and in a women’s community group that conducted fundraising activities for UN Women Australia. More recently, she has served in Headspace, a youth mental health organisation, and Lifeline, a non-profit organisation that deals with suicide prevention and mental health issues.

Originally from Armidale, a small town in New South Wales, Zara is 22 years old and currently pursuing a double degree in Cognitive and Brain Sciences with Psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney. She plans to work in the field of mental health in the not-for-profit arena after obtaining her degree.

A season of health problems during her high school years caused her to re-think how she was contributing to society and inspired her to volunteer. “I think that if one has the time, energy and resources, why wouldn’t you help other people? We should all make that difference where we are.” Aside from this, her family have always been plugged into the community, often because of their careers—Sophia Blackmore’s father and brother were mayors, and Zara’s grandfather was a lay preacher, just to name a few.

Zara, who also visited MCS Archives during her stay, recalled a humorous account in The Malaysia Message (the precursor of Methodist Message) about how Miss Blackmore had visited so many homes to ask parents to send their children to school, writing down names in her notebook, that families became suspicious that she was actually a spy who was going to report them for illegal gambling and refused her entry!

When asked if she thought she and Sophia Blackmore had similar traits, she said, “I think we are both persistent in trying to do good. And we both see the potential in women and the importance of equipping women. I’m so glad that these values have been passed down in my family.”

Lianne Ong is the Editor of Methodist Message. She is an alumnus of Methodist Girls’ School and Anglo-Chinese Junior College, and worships at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church. / Photos courtesy of Methodist Girls’ School, Lightedpixels Photography and Kampong Kapor Methodist Church