George Scott Railton was one of the unique personalities who helped form the character of The Salvation Army.
The son of a Methodist minister, he lost both parents from fever when he was 15. The boy worked on his own in London, seeking something that was more like the old Methodism of John Wesley. Eventually, he found the Christian Mission work of William Booth.
At the Booths' invitation, he moved into their home to become Booth's secretary. In this position, he consolidated his beliefs of theology and contributed many of his own views to the fledgling Salvation Army, particularly concerning the Sacraments.
By 1880, William Booth's son Bramwell matured and became capable to serve as secretary. Railton, who always had a desire for mission work, persuaded Booth he should begin the Army's work in New York. With male officers being in short supply, he selected Captain Emma Westbrook and recruited six more young women with the thought of training them on the voyage to America.
Railton and the "lassies" made swift progress, joining with the unofficial work already begun by the Shirley family in Philadelphia. He also began the work in Newark, New Jersey, leaving two young women in charge. With typical zeal, he soon departed for St. Louis, Missouri, in an effort to begin work there, but was unsuccessful. By 1881, he was needed by Booth and was on his way to begin missionary work in other lands.
A talent for languages enabled him to create confidence in educated people. Visits to France, Switzerland, and Sweden took up much of his time. Somehow, he found time for courtship and marriage to Marianne Parkyn. She was a soul mate who proved adaptable to his frantic schedule and incessant traveling away from England. Eventually, she and their children made a permanent home in Margate, where he stayed whenever possible.
In the course of his voyages, he made many contributions to the Army's work. They include song books in Zulu and Dutch, the beginnings of the Army and Navy League for Salvationist servicemen away from home, and the Prison Gate work for recently-released prisoners. He had a particular interest in Germany, studying the language and being instrumental in sending officers to work there. His stays were so short in various countries, his wife did not have time to embroider his work shirt in the proper language for each one. Rather, Railton obtained permission to wear one embroidered only with a cross, the universal language of Christ.
In 1906, in accordance with the founder's wishes, he scouted China to look for possibilities for the Army's work--which began in 1915. He also gloried in reaching the Japanese people, where he found the work already in progress.
Railton was inspired by the missionary spirit in a far wider sense than is generally understood. He was a missionary not for a province, land, or people, but for the world.
Railton's health, always precarious, began to fail noticeably in 1913, the year after Booth's death. He kept up his frantic schedule with a trip to France and Holland and an impulsive stop in Cologne, Germany. After running for a train with heavy baggage, he collapsed and died at the age of 64. His first lying in state was at the men's shelter in that city.
People from all walks of life, from all over the world, mourned his promotion to glory. World Commissioners followed the car bearing his casket. As the procession passed Parliament, a band was permitted to play for the first time in 100 years. George Scott Railton was truly William Booth's spiritual son and was laid to rest beside The Salvation Army's founder.