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Ralph Drummond (1792–1872)

by J. McLellan

This article was published:

Ralph Drummond (1792-1872), by unknown photographer, c1860

Ralph Drummond (1792-1872), by unknown photographer, c1860

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B61865

Ralph Drummond (1792-1872), Presbyterian clergyman, was born on 4 June 1792, at Stirling, Scotland, the fourth son of Duncan Drummond. He studied literature at Glasgow University, and theology under Dr George Lawson, the Scottish Associate clergyman, at the Divinity Hall, Glasgow. He was ordained, and inducted as a minister of the Secession Church, Crail, Fife, on 8 August 1821. Drummond continued his ministry at Crail until 2 October 1838 when he resigned because of the inadequacy of his stipend. Influenced by the principles of religious equality offered in South Australia, Drummond embarked with his wife and eight children in the Sir Charles Forbes and arrived at Port Adelaide on 7 June 1839. Although a presbyterial certificate was issued to Drummond upon leaving Crail, there is no local evidence that he was commissioned by his denomination to found a cause in South Australia.

After having announced his intention to remain at Adelaide provided he could establish a church, Drummond commenced services in the South Australian School Society's premises, North Terrace, on 14 July 1839, and formally erected a Presbyterian congregation on 18 October. On 24 November the congregation's meeting place was transferred to the classical school, which Drummond had established at Angas Street two weeks earlier; here the congregation met regularly until a church in Gouger Street, Adelaide, was opened on 27 February 1842. In addition to his ministerial duties at Adelaide, Drummond's work extended to the small, scattered Presbyterian population in country districts. For various reasons, the history of Drummond's congregation at Adelaide, which originally adhered to the Secession Church of Scotland but later incorporated with the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland, was unsettled. Drummond resigned on 26 November 1855 and subsequently held no other ministerial appointment. As a fervent supporter of religious liberty, he opposed the state aid which was granted to churches in South Australia in 1846-51. For many years he refrained from officiating at any marriage because of provisions of the local Marriage Act which, until 1867, imposed irritating conditions upon clergymen other than those of the Churches of England and Scotland. Soon after the commencement of his work in South Australia, it was said that his preaching lacked the polish of the more modern style, but that this was compensated by the variety of his subjects and the uniform solidarity of his matter; expository preaching was a regular feature of his ministrations. He was also a keen advocate of the union of the various Presbyterian denominations that came into existence in South Australia, and he took a prominent part in its consummation on 10 May 1865. He is mainly remembered, however, as the founder of Presbyterianism in South Australia. On 14 February 1826 he married Elizabeth Murray of the parish of Elie, by whom he had ten children. He died at Mitcham, South Australia, on 26 April 1872.

A portrait of Drummond is in the Scots Church, North Terrace, Adelaide.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Small, History of the Congregations of the United Presbyterian Church from 1793 to 1900 (Edinburgh, 1904)
  • Petition of the Rev. R. Drummond, Parliamentary Papers (Legislative Council, South Australia), 1854 (66)
  • ‘The South Australian Pulpit’, South Australian Magazine, vol 1, no 8, Mar 1842, pp 299-304
  • W. Gray, ‘Our Centenary History, 1839-1939’, Presbyterian Banner (Adelaide), Feb 1932, pp 1-2, Mar 1932, pp 1-2, and Apr 1932, pp 1-3
  • J. McLellan, ‘The Birth of Presbyterianism in South Australia’, Presbyterian Banner (Adelaide), July 1946, pp 6-7
  • Presbyterian Church of South Australia Archives (Adelaide).

Citation details

J. McLellan, 'Drummond, Ralph (1792–1872)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 19 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Ralph Drummond (1792-1872), by unknown photographer, c1860

Ralph Drummond (1792-1872), by unknown photographer, c1860

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B61865

Life Summary [details]


4 June, 1792
Stirling, Stirlingshire, Scotland


26 April, 1872 (aged 79)
Mitcham, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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