Kathleen Arnott (nee Coulson)

West Wickham Methodist Church's first missionary

Early years

Ivy Kathleen Coulson was born in 19th November 1914, second child (of four) of William Thomas Coulson and Mabel Blanche (nee Horlock). As a child she lived with her family in Anerley and Penge. Her father was a prominent figure at Penge Tabernacle and  Mabel was a Methodist. In 1934 the family moved to Oak Gate, Hawes Lane, West Wickham where the local Methodists used to hire Justin Hall for their Sunday Services. The weekly Thursday Class Meetings and various committees were held in Oak Gate and in 1935 it was decided to build a church on the field opposite.

Kathleen’s calling

Kathleen, as she preferred to be called, trained as a teacher at Saffron Walden Teacher Training College and then taught a Balgowan School in Beckenham. She was also very involved at the church, particularly with Overseas Mission, and met many visiting missionaries who influenced her greatly. After teaching in Beckenham for four years Kathleen decided early in 1939 to become a missionary. There were nearly three hundred people present at a service of dedication held at West Wickham Methodist Church on Sunday evening, 16th April, where Ivy testified as to her Christian experience and her call to work as a missionary. She was presented with a copy of the New Testament.

12 years in Nigeria

Kathleen set sail for Western Nigeria on 3rd May on the M. V. Apapa, disembarking at Lagos and travelling on to Ibadan where she joined the staff of the United Missionary College. Here she was responsible for training local people to become teachers.

In 1941 on board ship in a wartime convoy to Cape Town (it being too dangerous to take leave in the UK) Kathleen met a young administrative officer of the British Government by the name of David Arnott. They fell in love and married on 1st September 1942, the wedding taking place in the college chapel. They honeymooned at Iseyin and Gboko. Having married this meant that when her contract finished Kathleen would have to give up work, which she did the following May.

Kathleen and David continued to live in Nigeria until 1951 when David took up a post as Lecturer, then Reader, in the Africa Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, being appointed Professor of West African Languages in 1966.

While bringing up her two daughters Kathleen found the time to write and has published many books of African Myths and Legends.

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