REV. WILLIAM AULT
William Ault, the son of Jabez Ault, shoemaker, was born in West Bromwich, Warwickshire, in 1778. By the age of seven he had read the bible and a decade later he was jointly running a Sunday school in his home town. He entered the ministry in 1808 and not long after expressed an interest in assisting Thomas Coke with any overseas missionary work. When Coke was selecting ministers to accompany him as missionaries to Ceylon he included Ault and Ault, along with his wife Sarah (nee Bretnall, born c1889), accepted. They set sail aboard the ‘Lady Melville’ on 31 December 1813. Ault’s wife Sarah took ill during the journey and died on 9 February 1814 leaving him bereft. Unfortunately Coke also died on route to Ceylon leaving Ault and his colleagues to implement Coke’s mission plan.
When the missionaries drew lots to select their stations Ault drew the most isolated of the missions at Batticaloa. Ault, who when he arrived had contracted fever, made the arduous journey by boat to Batticaloa only to discover a climate and circumstances unlikely to improve his health. None-the-less Ault threw himself into his work – frequently working 20 hour days – establishing schools (eight in total), learning Tamil, founding a society class of 20 members and building up a congregation of 150 members. Such labours contributed to him being taken seriously ill in January 1815 with a proposed relocation to Jaffna never taking place as he died on 1 April 1815. He was buried in the Dutch church with the local population erecting a monument to his memory. In 1897 the newly built mission hall at Batticaloa was named the William Ault Memorial Hall.