REV. BENJAMIN CLOUGH
Benjamin Clough was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, in 1791. He became a Methodist when seventeen and soon after became a local preacher. In 1813 he entered the ministry and made a sufficient impression on his peers to be recommended to Thomas Coke as one of the missionaries to accompany him to Ceylon. Coke interviewed him and offered him a place with the mission and they subsequently sailed aboard the ‘Cabalva’ on 31 December 1813.
When Dr. Coke embarked on his mission to reach the Indian sub continent and Ceylon Benjamin Clough had been specially recommended to Dr. Coke as his travelling companion, and has been characterized as a man of warm heart, open mind, great energy, sound judgement, and entire fidelity.
On Monday, 11 July, the first District Meeting was held at Galle, called by its members ‘a conference’. They deliberated as to whether it was advisable to separate so widely from each other as would be required if the Governor’s recommendation was acceded to. But after consideration due to so important a matter, they agreed that Mr. Lynch and Mr. Squance should go to Jaffna; Mr. Ault to Batticaloa; Mr. Erskine to Matara and that Mr. Clough should remain at Galle..
Rev. Benjamin Clough is credited with starting the first Wesleyan School in all Asia in the upstair house of Maha Mudliyer or Great Mudliyer Don Abraham Dias Abeysinghe Amarasekera formerly owned by Mudliyer. E. R. Gunaratne in Dickson Road, Galle this school that many years later evolved and became Richmond College. The credit of starting missionary and general modern education falls squarely on Rev. Clough’s shoulders. He became Chairman of the Sinhalese District in 1826, but found financial administration, which at that time was most complicated and exacting, a burden hard to carry. He speaks of it as a horrible job, which made his life miserable, and his sensitive nature felt acutely the censure of the Secretaries in London. In 1821 he says, in a letter to Mr. Lynch : “I intend, by God’s help, to have no more to do with drawing bills”, but the exigencies of service compelled him to shoulder the unwelcome burden until 1838, when the state of his health made it impossible for him to continue the service which he loved. His gifts were many and of high quality, but they did not include that of financial acumen, and it would have been better for himself and for the work if he had never been called upon to administer the affairs of the business department of the District. He held his brethren in honour, and was greatly beloved by them.
Rev. Clough excelled in literary work, and, while he took his share in the ministry of preaching, gave himself up to this department with such ardour that on more than one occasion he came near to a complete breakdown in health. He compiled in 1821 and published in 1830 the dictionary “Clough’s Sinhalese English Dictionary” which for many years was a boon to those who were learning Sinhalese. The second edition was enlarged by Rev. Robert Tebb who was at one time the acting Principal of Galle High School before the name was changed to Richmond.
Reading through Methodist Mission archives one find his name being mentioned prominently. His services were not confined to Galle only. He converted a young Daniel Perera a teacher in Negombo who is credited with starting Wesley College as well as Newstead Girls School in Negombo. It was due to Rev. Clough’s foresight that today there is a Richmond, Rippon and a Newstead and many others.
In 1823 Clough took a furlough to England. Whilst there he met Margaret Morley (born 3 November 1804 in Doncaster, Yorkshire) and married her on the 31 March 1825 at St George’s Church, Doncaster. They returned to Colombo later that year whereupon Clough assumed chairmanship of the ‘Singhalese District’. Rev. Clough had a son and his wife Margaret Clough died at child birth but the daughter survived. This is what is found on her tomb stone in the Wesleyan Chapel, Dam Street, Pettah, Colombo.
“June 30, 1827 Margaret Clough … Margaret, Wife of Benjamin Clough, Wesleyan Missionary, and only daughter of William Morley of Doncaster in the County of York. This monument is erected by her sorrowing friends desirous of paying a tribute of respect to the character of a truly pious and consistent Christian who died at Colombo, the 30th day of June, in the year 1827. Aged 24 years.”.
(The above is an excerpt from the work List of Inscriptions on Tombstones and Monuments in Ceylon, of Histoeical of Local Interest, with an Obituary of persons uncommemorated, by J. Penry Lewis, C.M.G. Ceylon Civil Service, retired. The original is available at the Cornell University Library, Ithaca, New York, USA. The original book was Printed by H. C. Cottle, Government Printer, Ceylon in 1913)
In 1829 he relocated to Negombo (his wife having died in childbirth on 30 June 1827) and a year later published his Singhalese-English dictionary (having already published a Pali grammar and vocabulary in 1824). He published “A Dictionary, English and Singhalese,” in 1830, and “A Pali Grammar and Vocabulary” in 1824; also translated the Pali work “Kamawachan,” under the name of “The Ritual of the Buddhist Priesthood,” which was printed by the Royal Asiatic Society. “In 1821 an English and Sinhalese Dictionary was published by Mr. Clough, extending to 628 pages 8 volumes, and containing about 25,000 words. Nine years afterwards the same indefatigable student published a Sinhalese and English Dictionary, extending to 852 pages and containing about 40,000 words. Both volumes were dedicated to Sir Edward Barnes. The Government paid for the expense of printing and binding and received without payment 100 copies of the work.” (Hardy, p. 227.)
The history of the compilation of this Sinhalese Dictionary is as follows, according to Spence Hardy. “A collection of Singhalese works had been made by Mr. Samuel Tolfrey of the Civil Service, which, on his return to England, he presented to the Government and received in return a handsome remuneration. On his death soon afterwards Sir John D’Oyly was requested to prepare the work for the press, but this he declined, as it contained only a small portion of the words in the Singhalese language and scarcely any of the high words; it having been compiled for the purpose of assisting the servants of Government in the daily routine of office, without any reference to the literature of the country. The undertaking was declined by the compiler’s brother on the same ground. The arrangement was defective; the words were multiplied to an unnecessary extent by appearing many times over, with only different terminations; and no attempt was made to discover the root of the word. The assistance received from this source was therefore small, and whatever credit the work is entitled to must be given to Mr. Clough.” (Hardy, pp. 277-8.)
For the remainder of his tenure Clough worked alternatively in Negombo and Colombo and during 1835 & 1836 he was also Chairman of the Tamil District. Under his stewardship further schools and places of worship were planned or even opened including a mission station at Kandy in 1835, a new chapel in Colombo in 1836 and a school at Bambalapitiya in 1837. A bout of fever forced him to convalesce in South Africa in early 1837 but his health did not recover sufficiently and he was eventually forced to return to England.
Clough spent the remainder of his career working in home circuits (including Sheffield in Yorkshire as well as Deptford and Maidstone in Kent). In 1852 he became a supernumerary in Southwark, Kent, and he died there on 13 April 1853.