Ancestor’s missionary work revealed in book

Mission To China by John Holliday
Mission To China by John Holliday

An author who grew up in Adeyfield has spent years uncovering the moving story of one of his ancestors.

John Holliday, who was born in Berkhamsted and educated at Adeyfield School, is to publish his work, Mission To China: How an Englishman Brought the West to the Orient, on September 15.

Now living in Australia, John has travelled the world to discover the ancestor who influenced the course of history, became a household name and still leaves a legacy today.

Growing up with his grandfather in Adeyfield in the 1950s, as a schoolboy John had no idea about his great, great grandfather Walter Henry Medhurst, whose story starts in the early 19th century.

John said: “I was aware that his grandfather had been a missionary in China, but being a young and unruly lad, I paid too little attention to the stories which he told me, much to my current regret.”

His research started in 2008 when planning a business trip to Indonesia and being aware that his great grandmother was born in Batavia (now Jakarta), decided to investigate whether any trace of Medhurst’s influence remained today.

He said: “To my surprise, the Parapattan Orphanage which Walter Medhurst started, was still operating and had recently celebrated it’s 175th birthday. The directors invited my wife and I to visit with them for lunch followed by a tour of the orphanage and a concert performed by the children. The welcome we received and the hospitality shown by the directors was astonishing and they were so pleased to meet someone descended from their founder.”

John’s enquiries showed that the original Batavia Mission Chapel was also still in operation, now as All Saints Jakarta, the oldest English language institution in Indonesia and again the legacy of Walter Medhurst was remembered fondly.

John added: “It was on that visit to Jakarta that I decided that I must write his biography. My research has taken me on several visits to England plus to India, Malaysia and to China and I have uncovered a story of love, adventure, dedication and tragedy, set during a time of great turmoil and one which influenced the course of history between China and the West.”

Read more about this story in John’s book which will be released by Amberley Publishing.