Fred Jeffery was described by Eric Gallagher as ‘one of British Methodism’s great gifts to Ireland’. Born in Sunderland in 1914, he was educated at Bede School and Westminster College, London, where he gained first class honours in Geography and History and diplomas in Theology and Teacher Training. He was on the staff of Methodist College, Belfast from 1937 until his retirement 1977, including Master in Charge of Downey House 1945-1966 and Senior Vice-Principal from 1966. An active member of the Assistant Masters Association, of which he was Chairman in 1964, he received an OBE in that year ‘for services to education and youth welfare’.
He and his wife Gladys, daughter of the Rev. John England (President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, 1947), were members of Donegall Square and then of University Road Churches. He was a local preacher for 65 years and also served as circuit steward, letter-writer of the Irish Conference for 25 years, and for 50 years he was on its Council on Social Welfare (later Social Responsibility), serving as its first lay secretary and then as its treasurer. He was three times a Representative to the British Conference.
In 1973 he gave the Wesley Historical Society’s annual lecture on ‘Methodism and the Irish Problem’ and addressed the World Methodist Historical Society in 1976 on ‘The Irish Contribution to Methodism’. Among his publications was a ‘succinct and authoritative’ Irish Methodism (1954) and histories of Belfast Methodism and Methodist College. But his loyalty to Methodism was matched by his dedication to the cause of ecumenism.
Taken ill in the pulpit at the end of a morning service at University Road church, he died in hospital two weeks later on 21 June 1997.
In 2014 his younger son Keith, Professor of British History at Queen's University Belfast, gave the annual lecture of the Methodist Historical Society of Ireland on ‘Irish Methodism and the First World War’.