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William Kelynack (1831–1891)

by S. G. Claughton

This article was published:

William Kelynack (1831-1891), Wesleyan minister, was born on 22 May 1831 at Newlyn, Cornwall, England, son of Nicholas Kelynack, sea captain, and his wife Jane Payne, née James. Educated at Penzance, he taught in a private school and then followed mercantile pursuits. Influenced by his uncle, Rev. John P. James, in 1849 he became a local preacher and in 1853 was recommended as a candidate for the Wesleyan ministry. He was sent by the Foreign Missionary Committee to Sydney and arrived on 23 May 1854.

Until 1856 Kelynack served in the Bathurst circuit but his health suffered. He was transferred to the Braidwood circuit in 1857-59 and in 1860 to Yass. At first he was content to work in sparsely populated areas and in churches with small congregations, but in 1861-64 was appointed in turn to the circuits of Chippendale, Parramatta and Wollongong. His years at York Street in 1865-67 and Surry Hills in 1868-70 were among his most active. He was coeditor of the Christian Advocate and Wesleyan Record in 1865-67 with Rev. William Curnow and in 1868-70 with Rev. Joseph Fletcher; in 1865-70 he had served on the Missionary and Connexional Committees, the council of Newington College and the executive committee of the New South Wales Church Sustentation and Extension Society. He was also a member of the committees of Sydney City Mission and the New South Wales Political Association for the Suppression of Intemperance. He was transferred in 1871-73 to Goulburn where he was district chairman and in 1874-76 to Bathurst.

In 1877 Kelynack visited England to see his aged mother. He addressed the open session of the British Methodist Conference and succeeded in getting £3000 for Newington College, Sydney. Returning through the United States, he addressed the New York Preachers' Meeting and the Drew (Methodist) Theological Seminary, and preached to crowded congregations in New York, Baltimore and Chicago. He was awarded a doctorate in divinity by the University of New Orleans but refused the pastorate of a leading Methodist Church in America. He returned to Sydney in 1878 to serve the Bourke Street Church and in 1880 was elected president of the New South Wales and Queensland Annual Conference. In 1882-86 he was general secretary of Foreign Missions and visited most of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, raising £6000 for the special fund. In 1887 he succeeded Fletcher as president of Newington College and in May 1890 was elected president of the Sixth General Conference of the Australasian Wesleyan Methodist Church. His eloquence in pulpit and on public platform and his ability in debate and administration were clearly recognized. 'His Christian catholicity combined with his rare public gifts caused him to be honourably known beyond the boundaries of his own church'.

Kelynack died from Bright's disease at Newington College on 1 November 1891 and was buried in Rookwood cemetery. He was survived by his wife Lucy Hannah (d.1932), daughter of John Houlding, whom he had married on 9 April 1862, and by seven sons and four daughters. His estate was valued at £5600.

A portrait is in Newington College where Johnstone-Kelynack House commemorates his name.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Dyson (ed), Australasian Methodist Ministerial General Index, 1st ed (Melb, 1889)
  • J. Colwell, The Illustrated History of Methodism (Syd, 1904)
  • J. E. Carruthers, Lights in the Southern Sky (Syd, 1924)
  • D. S. Macmillan, Newington College 1863-1963 (Syd, 1963)
  • London Methodist Conference, Minutes (1853-54)
  • Australasian Wesleyan Methodist Church, Minutes (1855-75)
  • Australasian Wesleyan Methodist Church, Minutes of the NSW and Qld Conference (1874-89)
  • Newingtonian, June 1888
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2 Feb, 2 May 1886, 4 Nov 1891
  • Council minutes, 1887-91 (Newington College, Stanmore)
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • newspaper cuttings, 1874-91 (privately held).

Citation details

S. G. Claughton, 'Kelynack, William (1831–1891)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 25 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 May, 1831
Newlyn, Cornwall, England


1 November, 1891 (aged 60)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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