Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference
JOHN BOWEY HARPER, M.A.: born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1888. He entered Hartley College as an accepted candidate for the Primitive Methodist ministry in 1911, and in 1914 went into circuit work. He was happy in his first appointment as colleague of John Day Thompson at Cambridge, where he served the Forward Movement. Alert to the opportunity presented to pursue university studies, he graduated in Arts at Cambridge, later proceeding to the Master’s degree. After two years in Hull he responded to a call to service overseas, and for the next five years found his sphere in Nigeria.
He first gave some fifteen months to a training institute in the Efik-speaking area, and after that he moved north to establish an institute in the rapidly developing Ibo field. Here the foundations were soundly laid for Uzuakoli College, the leading Methodist institution east of the Niger and one of the first four Christian institutions in the densely populated eastern region of Nigeria.
He returned to the Home ministry in 1925 and served successively at Doncaster, Matlock, Watford, Ealing, and West Bromwich.
With pulpit gifts that enabled him worthily to sustain extended periods on his circuits—he was eleven years at Ealing—he combined not only theological equipment but an appreciation of English literature that enriched all his expositions. At the same time the pastoral side of his ministry was never neglected, and he knew his people in their homes as well as in the worshipping congregation. The Nigerian years left their mark on him for life; he remained a student of African affairs, was a member of the International African Institute, and served for many years on the General Missionary Committee. Failing health compelled retirement in 1952, and he passed to the fuller life on 11th December 1953, in his sixty-sixth year and the fortieth of his ministry.
John was born on 8 August 1888 at Gosforth, Northumberland, to parents William, a stone mason, and Mary Frances.
Before entering the ministry John worked as grocer (1911).
He married Anna Elizabeth Thurston Earl (1895-1981) in the summer of 1918 at South Shields, Co. Durham. Birth records identify two children.
- Joan (b abt1920)
- Mary (b abt1926)
John died on 11 December 1953 at Ottery St Mary, Devon.
- 1914 Cambridge
- 1918 Hull V
- 1920 Nigeria
- 1925 S Yorks Mission
- 1927 Matlock
- 1931 Watford
- 1936 Ealing &c
- 1947 W Bromwich
- 1952 Devon Mission (S)
Methodist Minutes 1954/125
W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers