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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McIntyre, William (1805–1870)

by Alan Dougan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

William McIntyre (1805-1870), Presbyterian minister, was born in March 1805 at Kilmonivaig, Inverness-shire, Scotland, the fifth son of Duncan McIntyre, sheep farmer, and his wife Catherine, née Kennedy. Educated at the parish school, he went to the University of Glasgow (A.M., 1829). After teaching in Glasgow, he entered the Divinity Hall to study for the ministry and was licensed as a probationer by the Presbytery of Dunoon. J. D. Lang was impressed by his preaching and enlisted him 'for New South Wales'. McIntyre probably needed little persuading as his cousin Peter McIntyre had much land in the Hunter Valley and New England and had been followed to the colony by other cousins.

In the Midlothian, with 250 devout Gaelic-speaking Highlanders, McIntyre reached Sydney on 13 December 1837. Four days later he held the first Gaelic service in the colony. He acted as assistant to Lang until 1840 as editor of the Protestant Colonist and as 'Professor' of theology in the Australian College. He regularly visited Gaelic-speaking settlers in the Hunter Valley. In 1841 he was inducted to Maitland and was moderator of the Synod of Australia and his address, The Weakness and Power of the Christian Ministry was published in Sydney in 1842. At his own instigation he was appointed chairman of a committee to investigate the possibility of training ministers in Australia. In 1844, after he had sought to dispense with banns, McIntyre married his cousin Mary, nearly twenty years his senior, sister of Peter McIntyre. She owned three large stations in the New England district as well as other property. The Colonial Observer termed the marriage a 'monstrous irregularity'.

On 10 October 1846 McIntyre and most of his congregation withdrew from the Synod of the Established Church of Scotland and with Tait, Stewart and others established the first Synod of Eastern Australia in connexion with the Free Church of Scotland. McIntyre was elected its first moderator. In 1860 he advertised a lecture on 'The Heathenism of Popery, Proved and Illustrated', which upset Irish Catholics and led to the famous Maitland riots, said to have involved over 1000 people. McIntyre was injured and seventeen prosecutions followed. In February 1862 he became minister of St George's, Sydney. The congregation was in dire financial straits with a building debt of over £10,000. He proved not only a faithful pastor but also ministered without stipend and succeeded in paying off the debt.

McIntyre allied himself with those committed to Calvinistic theology, strongly advocating Free Church principles and disclaiming indiscriminate endowment. He maintained that his fellow presbyters never understood the position in Australia, 'in reference to the disruption'. He totally rejected Lang's 'voluntaryism'. With the congregation of St George's he remained outside the Union of the Synods of Eastern Australia and of New South Wales in 1864 and its final union with the Synod of Australia and the United Presbyterians who created the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales in 1865.

Lang denounced McIntyre but admitted that he 'was one of the honestest men in New South Wales … although dogmatical and fond of power to an inordinate degree, Mr. McIntyre was nevertheless apt to become the dupe of far inferior men'. Outside his own church he supported the Benevolent Society, the Bible Society and Church Extension. He was commissioned by the Free Church to visit Scotland and recruit ministers, and returned in 1854 with his nephew, James McCulloch and his own brother Allan, who became minister of the Manning River Free Church Congregation and was succeeded there by the youngest of the family, Duncan Kennedy, who died in 1899.

While serving a further term as moderator, McIntyre died at his manse in Roslyn Terrace, Macleay Street, Sydney, on 12 July 1870. A massive monument with a Latin inscription by Professor Badham marks his grave in Rookwood cemetery. His wife died on 31 March 1872; they had no children.

Select Bibliography

  • J. D. Lang, The Dead Fly (Syd, 1861)
  • J. Cameron, Centenary History of the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales (Syd, 1905)
  • J. C. Robinson, The Free Presbyterian Church in Australia (Melb, 1947)
  • A. D. Gilchrist (ed), John Dunmore Lang, vols 1-2 (Melb, 1951)
  • C. A. White, The Challenge of the Years (Syd, 1951)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 31 Mar, 4, 10, 13, 16, 18 Apr 1860, 14 July, 10 Aug 1870
  • McIntyre papers (Presbyterian Library, Assembly Hall, Sydney)
  • private information.

Citation details

Alan Dougan, 'McIntyre, William (1805–1870)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 21 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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