THE missionary work of a Whitchurch woman in West Africa has been turned into a book written by her great niece.

Katie Clifford (nee Vernon) was born at Hinton, Whitchurch, in 1898, christened Mary Catherine Vernon before the family moved to a farm at Barhill, Tushingham when she was 12.

Her great-niece, Mary Watkin Jones has put together a book on her legacy with husband Jesse Clifford on missionary work carried out in Africa which has led to a university in Nigeria being named in their honour.


Mary said she was honoured to tell their story.

She said: “In 2008 discussions started about building a university in Nigeria.

“The plans were eventually accepted in 2013 and the university was opened January 8, 2017.

The Clifford name was chosen because of the good work they had done. Katie and Jesse never knew about this achievement.

“I never met my Aunty Katie, but I did hear a little about her.

“I heard odd snippets of adult conversation relating to her and Jesse.

Whitchurch Herald: Jesse and Katie Clifford (front and back right) with family members. Jesse and Katie Clifford (front and back right) with family members. (Image: Marry Watkin Jones.)

“It wasn’t until my retirement when I took an interest in my family history that I discovered Katie’s story and felt it must not be forgotten.”

Katie married Jesse in Somerset on February 15, 1923, aged 24.

Jesse was the son of a carpenter from South Stoke near Bath. Jesse had already had some experience of life as he had been classed as a ‘Refusenik in the First World War because of his religion.

Mary added: “His membership of the Seventh Day Adventist religion meant that he could not kill. He had been a prisoner and had suffered some harsh treatment. The year before their wedding he had already spent a year in West Africa.

“After their marriage, they spent a year in Hereford where Jesse was a preacher, before travelling out to West Africa again.

“While Jesse preached Katie taught as she had been a teacher before she married. She also nursed sick patients. This was a big part of the church's work as there were few doctors for the local people at that time.

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“Jesse’s brother was also a missionary based in South Africa. Jesse and Katie remained in Nigeria during the Second World War.

“Jesse’s health suffered due to the climate, and they would often come back to Britain and stay with Katie’s mother who had retired to Rhyl.

She died at the ripe old age of 86 in 1985.”

The book is available on Amazon.