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John Kinross (1833–1908)

by Alan Dougan

This article was published:

John Kinross (1833-1908), Presbyterian minister, was born on 11 September 1833 at Ardoch, Perthshire, Scotland, son of James Kinross, farmer, and his wife Jessie, née Comrie. He was educated at the Free Church School of Muthill and Ardoch. At 15 he matriculated at the University of Edinburgh and, without completing a degree, entered New College, Edinburgh, for divinity studies. After further study in Berlin he was licensed as a probationer by the Free Church Presbytery of Auchterarder. He arrived in Sydney on 6 June 1858 and in December was ordained and inducted to Scots Church, Kiama, under the jurisdiction of the Synod of Eastern Australia which supported the Free Church of Scotland. On 9 December 1859 he married Elizabeth Johanna (d.1895), daughter of Robert Menzies of Jamberoo, a retired naval surgeon.

Kinross spent seventeen years in Kiama, and pioneered church development in Wingecarribee, Sutton Forest, Moss Vale and Kangaroo Valley. He was moderator in 1863. He believed in the Free Church principle that church and state must be separate and was prominent in negotiations for the union of the Synods of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales on 8 September 1865. He was admitted to the University of Sydney (B.A. ad eund., 1869). In 1864 he had published a sermon, The Church's Warfare, and in 1870 a Lecture on the Oecumenical Council.

Kinross was elected first principal of St Andrew's College, University of Sydney, in February 1872, but withdrew when the legality of the election was challenged by Rev. John Dunmore Lang. Next year Kinross became moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales. In April 1875, after Rev. Adam Thomson died, he was again elected principal of St Andrew's. He lectured in the Theological Hall within the college and after his retirement on 24 October 1901 he was appointed first Hunter Baillie professor of apologetics and Christian ethics. He lived in Stanmore for the short theological academic year and for the rest of the year on his estate at Jamberoo. He was a trusted leader in the General Assembly and in 1880 represented the Church at the Pan Presbyterian council meetings in Philadelphia. He was chairman of the council of the Presbyterian Ladies College, Croydon, in 1885-1906. In 1885 the University of Edinburgh awarded him an honorary doctorate. In 1897 he visited Edinburgh where he published Dogma in Religion and Creeds in the Church.

Kinross died on 16 October 1908 at Jamberoo where he was buried in a private cemetery, survived by two sons and three daughters. In a memorial address G. A. Wood, professor of history in the University of Sydney, said: 'I have lived in Balliol under Jowett and I have lived in Andrew's under the Doctor. Balliol was undoubtedly the most respectable as well as the most distinguished of the Oxford Colleges. But of the two Colleges, it was Andrew's that had the greater measure of kindliness, good humour, harmony and charity. There was triviality, and foolishness, and sometimes (though seldom) the bad manners of high-spirited thoughtlessness: but no unkindness, no vice; nothing that disturbed the Doctor in the serene possession of his own Soul'.

Slight and spare with a trimmed beard, Kinross's portrait by Ethel Stephens is in St Andrew's College and a memorial window in its chapel.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Cameron, Centenary History of the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales (Syd, 1905)
  • C. A. White, The Challenge of the Years (Syd, 1951)
  • A. A. Dougan (ed), The Andrew's Book (Syd, 1964)
  • Australian Witness, 31 Jan 1874, 1, 22 May, 12, 19 June 1875, 2 Dec 1876
  • Presbyterian (NSW), 13 Jan, 20 Mar, 2 Aug, 25 Sept 1880, 24 Dec 1881, 25 Apr 1885
  • General Assembly minutes 1865-1908 (New South Wales Presbyterian Library, Assembly Hall, Sydney)
  • Scots Church, Kiama, Kirk session minutes, 1858-74 (New South Wales Presbyterian Library, Assembly Hall, Sydney)
  • private papers.

Citation details

Alan Dougan, 'Kinross, John (1833–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 15 April 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]


11 September, 1833
Ardoch, Perthshire, Scotland


16 October, 1908 (aged 75)
Jamberoo, New South Wales, Australia

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