Autobiography describing years of missionary
work in sub-continent to be launched in Lisburn
by NEIL GREENLEES
House in the grounds of Friends School will be the venue
tomorrow morning (Saturday) for the launch of an autobiography
by a Lancashire missionary who married her Lisburn born husband
in India during the country's final years of British rule.
The Testimony of a Whatnot' is the work of
the late Elizabeth Pritchard who was born in Preston in 1906 but
spent most of her working life from 1930 onwards in the
Betty, as she was known by her countless
friends, met her husband Herbert in the hills of Bihar, close to
the India Nepal Border after he also travelled to the country on
The couple married amid the area's
magnificent scenery which sadly hid the reality of acute
suffering among local people. In the late 1930's this included
the terrible disease leprosy which was then one of India's main
crippling agents. The newly-weds witnessed the turmoil of the
change from Raj to independence while based at a remote
dispensary in poverty stricken Bihar.
The autobiography allowed Betty, who became a
member of the Religious Society of Friends after her marriage,
to use her gift for writing to convey the nature of these times,
her love of India, her selfless dedication to service and her
deep religious faith.
'Whatnot' was a term of affection used to
describe Betty because of her lack of professional skills or
qualifications. She decided to use it in the book's title in
what has been described as 'a typically self deprecating manner.
However, the book and its fascinating story could so easily have
never come to light as the manuscript turned up only by chance
following Betty's death in 2002.
Its publication has been dedicated to the
memory of a lady who overcome personal suffering to ensure as
many people as possible have a chance to read it.
Ulster Friends Home Mission Committee
Chairman Martin Mail said the organisation's members spent many
months transcribing the text from 'thin,
faintly typed and often roughly annotated
sheets' on to computer.
"The resulting file had gaps, errors, and
inconsistencies that required painstaking proofing. A major part
of this task was undertaken by Helen Kinkead (who passed away in
2007) at a time when she was enduring the unpleasant side
effects of cancer treatment," he added.
The book's launch will begin at 10.00am with
three short formal presentations at 11.00am. One of these will
look at what's going on in India today.
The Committee hope a number of other
organisations will attend as well as people from the Indian
They also hope the launch will provide an
opportunity to raise money for flood relief in Bihar where Betty
and Herbert spent so much of their lives together. Betty wrote
three works of fiction during her life (now all out of print),
many articles, and a series of Sunday School lessons.
These were distributed in a number of
countries including the UK and India and were translated into
several other languages.
She also wrote 'For. such a time' (Victory Press 1973), a
history of the 75 years of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union (RBMU)
from its establishment in 1898 by Henry Grattan Guinness and his