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The Journal of John Long
About the Early Days
Newspaper Articles
Read about the Early Days
1893 - 1965
1966 to Present

Letterhead used by workers titled Christian Conventions

Perry Oklahoma, 1942

Preserving the Truth
The Church Without a Name and its Founder, William Irvine

Chapter 1

Revised January 6, 2016

New Sect Makes Big News
Sources of Information
Impartial Reporter & Farmers Journal

1863: Wm. Irvine's Birth and the Irvine Family Tree

Wm. Irvine's Birthplace - Kilsyth, Scotland
1868-75: Wm. Irvine's Education - Kilsyth Academy
1873-93: Wm. Irvine's Employment Record
1886: Wm. Irvine was a member of the Masonic Lodge (Freemason)
1886: Birth of Wm Irvine's Son

1886-87: Death of Margaret and Elizabeth Irvine, Sisters of Wm Irvine

1889: Birth of Mary J. (Murray) Irvine, Wife of Wm. Irvine's Son
1893:  Wm Irvine's Presbyterian Background

Irvine Family Tree

Chapter 1

"A New Sect” Makes Big News

“A few years ago a religious movement was started in the North of Ireland by a few former members of the Scotch organisation—the Faith Mission. These ‘Pilgrims,’ or ‘Tramp Preachers,’ as they are commonly called, being dissatisfied with the quieter methods of Christian work advocated by the parent society, seceded from it, and developed what may best be described as a new sect, distinguished for its bitter hostility to all existing Churches, and to a regular paid ministry of any kind, reminding one not a little of the Plymouth Brethren on these and other points. It is believed that the originator of this somewhat erratic development was a Scotchman called Irwin, (Irvine) who at an early stage of this work enlisted the sympathy and help of an earnest young man, a native of Enniskillen, Mr. Edward Cooney, formerly an Episcopalian, who devoted himself to evangelistic work in various parts of Ireland, and member of a most respectable family, several of whom have long been distinguished for their zeal in many branches of religious and philanthropic work.” (The Irish Presbyterian, March, 1905; Heading ‘A New Sect’)

"The appearance of the new sect known as the Cooneyites in Ballygawley, County Tyrone, has been responsible for some remarkable scenes in that usually quiet little town." (Irish Independent May 2, 1905)

The performance of the "Cooneyites" most recently formed of sects, which mysteriously sprung into existence under the leadership of an Enniskillen man named Cooney, have caused a good deal of commotion in various parts of the North of Ireland."(Sunday Independent, Dublin, Ireland June 10, 1906)

In Ireland where the "new sect" originated, it received considerable attention at first. Their unusual method of public baptisms by immersion drew crowds, attention and criticism. In their “early days,” newspaper reporters avidly followed the progress of the "new sect" and reported about its founder, characteristics, preachers, preaching, practices, conventions, court cases, as well as the reaction of the public. Since the preachers of the "new sect" made frequent disparaging remarks ridiculing the clergy, Christians and churches of that day, they provoked protest, indignation and resentment, and the public freely expressed their feelings. John Hardie's tent was set on fire in Kilkenny in 1904. Edward Cooney's wooden hall at Makeny was burned in 1906. Riots even took place in some locations:

Newtownards-June 9, 1904
Swords, Co Dublin, Ireland-October 22, 1908
Rural Suffolk, England--Impartial Reporter June 21, 1906; July 25, 1912

The New Sect created considerable interest when it began to hold annual conventions at the home of John and Sarah West in Crocknacrieve, Ballinamallard, Fermanagh County, Northern Ireland. The first convention was held in 1904:

“It is right to mention that for the last few weeks a conference of the Tramp fraternity has been held at Crocknacrieve, which has been converted into a huge hotel by Mr. John West for his numerous guests, over 120 are said to be accommodated in the house alone. Hither flocked Tramps from Scotland, England, and Ireland, and so far as the outside world can judge, Mr. Edward Cooney (after whom they are generally called Cooneyites) seems to be the accepted high priest or leader, a post at one time held by Mr. Irwin.”(Impartial Reporter, September 29, 1904, p. 8)

"The Cooneyite "Dippers" or "Tramp Preachers" have just opened a Convention at Crocknacrieve, the residence of Mr. John West, near Enniskillen. This is a "record" assembly, as delegates come from all parts of the world, and elaborate preparations have been made for housing them and providing food supplies. The proceedings are to last six weeks, and during that time it is calculated 10,000 adherents will participate. Mr. Wm Irvin the founder of the sect, is in attendance and Mr. Edmund Cooney, his chief Lieutenant, is returning from Canada to take part in the deliberations." (Irish Independent July 5, 1910)

“The annual Convention for the ‘Pilgrim’ community was opened on Sunday at Crocknacrieve, the residence of Mr. John West, near Ballinamallard. In the absence of Mr. Wm. Irvine, founder of the Pilgrims, the Convention was opened by Mr. Edward Cooney, formerly of Enniskillen.” (Impartial Reporter, July 3, 1913)

“In the very early days it had a tremendous success and very nearly split some of the churches from top to bottom, and it is a fact that during the first twenty years or so, their camp meetings and special meetings had literally thousands of people attending them.” (Statement by Rev. Sloan, Methodist Minister, Enniskillen, N. Ireland to Doug Parker in 1954; (Secret Sect, Footnote 3, page 34)

In the British Isles, names commonly used to identify this particular movement were Cooneyites, Reidites, Irvinites and Gillites. Various other descriptive titles have been coined to refer to this group. some of which are: “Tramp Preachers,” "Go Preachers," “Pilgrims,” “Dippers,” “Two by Twos,” “The Jesus Way,” “The Truth,” “The Way,” “The Church Without a Name,” etc.  The designation “Go Preachers,” came from Matthew 10:7, “And as ye go, preach.”  While sometimes claiming to have no head, William Irvine and Edward Cooney were recognized as the two prominent leaders of the group in the Early Days.

" ‘I am a tramp preacher,’ said Mr. Edward Cooney, at Ballinamallard. Therefore, if the writer describe the latest phase of religious enthusiasm, by the name given by one of themselves, it cannot be misunderstood. The Tramps have revived the interest taken in them some two years ago, by their convention at Ballinamallard and the baptism of new members in a river of running water. They gathered from Longford and Meath, from Derrygonnelly and Brookeborough, from Enniskillen and Dublin, from Scotland and England, till they mustered about 130, and the two leaders are Mr. Wm. Irvine and Mr. Edward Cooney." (Impartial Reporter, October 13, 1904, p. 8)

"The Irvinites, or Pilgrims, or Faith Healers, or Tramps, as they are variously called, were to have left Enniskillen this week, after a stay of six weeks, but they are remaining somewhat longer. Mrs. Betty spoke of themselves as Pilgrims or Tramps on Monday night, but they are generally called Irvinites, after their leader, though, on the other hand, they say they have no leader." (Impartial Reporter, January 15, 1903, p. 8)

“And who are we? We have no name. . .but the ribald multitude give us many. Some call us Cooneyites, some call us Tramps, Faith Missionaries, No Secters, Women-Thieves, and so on. Well, we are Cooneyites. We are also McClungites, for Cooney is no greater than I. We have no established leader in this world. Our mission was started by William Irvine, a Scotchman, seven or eight years ago. Others followed him. I myself was a Civil Servant in Dublin. I resigned my post, sold all that I had and gave to the poor, and went out to preach." (Impartial Reporter, June 21, 1906, p. 3; Statement by Worker, Wilson McClung)

The fact that William Irvine was the Founder of the group is evident from the following quote:

“Wm. Irvine, the founder and supreme authority of what is known as Cooneyism, is a Scotchman. His native place is Kilsyth, a small town near Glasgow. Before he became a Tramp he had attached himself to the sect know an the Faith Mission or Pilgrims, and was the manager of a coal mine under Baird & Co., Glasgow, and enjoyed a salary of £300 a year. William Irvine left this employment and joined the Faith Mission, under the control then of J. G. Govan, of Rothsay, who still holds conventions after the manner followed at Crocknacrieve, but on a much smaller scale. It is often addressed by evangelical Clergy. Wm. Irvine gave up his connection with that sect for two reasons, according to my information—1st, because the leader was alleged to have been a ‘hypocrite,’ in that while teaching Pilgrims to live by faith he himself had over hundreds of pounds. 2nd, because Mr. Irvine’s converts always lapsed and were lost among the clergy by going back to their own congregation or what is known as the churches. Consequently a small number of preachers and some from the Faith Mission, along with one named John Long (who was rejected three years ago, because he would not maintain that John Wesley had gone to hell) and about a dozen stood by Wm. Irvine. . .” (Impartial Reporter, August 25, 1910, p. 8)

The fact that Edward Cooney was his right-hand man and a prominent, well respected leader in the group in the Early Days, is evidenced by the following quote:

“However, the chief motive power was latent until Edward Cooney heard Wm. Irvine, and offered him money and even a salary yearly, which was refused by Irvine. At all events, £1,300 from Mr. Cooney alone was applied to the cause, and has been preached as having been ‘given to the poor,’ on the authority of, ‘Sell all that ye have, &c.’ Yet as a matter of fact, this sum was mostly paid to transport preachers to places abroad, and not to the poor, as is sometimes understood, the fruit of which even yet in some measure returns annually to Crocknacrieve Convention. Edward Cooney soon made converts, and spoke of his relatives in a manner not after the style of the Gospel. But because of his sincerity and earnestness, many were influenced. . .” (Impartial Reporter, August 25, 1910, p. 8)

“At last Sunday evening’s service there were five men and two women on the platform, and of the former were two of the chief pioneers of the movement—Mr. Wm. Irwin and Mr. Edward Cooney. The meeting opened with the singing of hymns and prayer. . .Mr. Irwin is a forcible speaker, and has a very convincing manner.” (Impartial Reporter July 18, 1907, p. 8)

“For some weeks past a large party have been making preparations for the reception of their brethren, this year’s convention eclipsing in anticipation all former conventions. Delegates will attend from all parts of the world, and before the convention close over 10,000 pilgrims, it is estimated, will visit Crocknacrieve. Mr. Wm. Irwin, the leader and originator of ‘the work’ is there at present, also Mr. Geo. Walker, but Mr. Edward Cooney is, we are told, on his way, having left Canada last week.” (Impartial Reporter, July 7, 1910)

The Impartial Reporter described an action for libel and white slave traffic, in which Edward Cooney stated while under oath that Wm Irvine was the founder of the sect:

“In the King’s Bench Division, London, on Thursday, before Mr. Justice Darling, a number of extraordinary statements were made in the course of the settlement in an action brought by Earnest Walter List, of Debenham, near Stowmarket, and Edward Cooney, formerly of Enniskillen, Ireland, against The People, Ltd., for alleged libel. Mr. Eames for the plaintiffs, said the action was brought for libel, and the charge made against the plaintiffs was a very serious one. It charged them with carrying on White Slave traffic under the guise of a religious movement. They were both members of a community known as the ‘Go-preachers,’ who took this name from Scripture, in which the apostles were exhorted to go forth and preach to all the world. Mr. Cooney was one of the pioneers or founders of the community. . .

“Mr. Justice Darling—Were you the founder of this sect?

“E. Cooney (under oath)—No, William Irvine was the first, about sixteen years ago. I cast in my lot with him as a fellow-preacher, and preached a good deal in the north of Ireland. I recognise the name, but others have nicknamed us ‘The Cooneyites.’ I do not like it myself.” (Impartial Reporter, December 18, 1913, p.3)

In their early formation days, there were no attempts made to conceal the founder or their recent start-up. The New Sect was a NEW DEVELOPMENT which MADE BIG NEWS. It was truly “A NEW THING.”

A recognized historian of the group was Goodhand Pattison. At the request of his son, John, Goodhand Pattison wrote his memories of various events in chronological order which took place in the beginning of the movement. These are titled: Accounts of the Early Days. Under the heading “Holy Place,” he wrote: “I use the words ‘New Movement’ in no bad sense, only to express what most people would have called it at that time. . .” John Long's Journal is another source of recorded history about the formation of the group.

Probably no one even dreamed that some day great pains would be taken to eradicate from history the information concerning their start-up. No one had an inkling the founders, William Irvine and Edward Cooney, would one day be ex-communicated by some of their loyal followers and best friends.

“Their founder was really a Mr. William Irvine. . .and his doctrines, of course, do not differ essentially from those of the various heretical millenarian sects which have arisen in the history of Christianity.” (Impartial Reporter, July 19, 1917)

“William Irvine, one of the founders of the Go-Preachers’ Society, said it was Protestant evangelical. Its tenets containing nothing relating to the sexes that was different from the teaching of other denominations.” (Impartial Reporter, July 17, 1913)

“The closing scene at the meeting in the gloaming was impressive. All the arrangements had been made for the departure of the ‘preachers’ to different parts of the world, and it only remained for the Go-Preachers’ founder to give to all the last words of counsel and farewell. Mr. Irvine dealt mainly with the duty of those in fellowship towards one another and towards the outside world.” (Impartial Reporter, July 31, 1913)

“The speakers at this service were the two leaders of the movement, Mr. Wm. Irwin and Mr. Edward Cooney. Both speakers denounced the various churches and the clergy in no unmeasured words.” (Impartial Reporter, July 23, 1908 p8)

“THE TWO TRAMP LEADERS, MESSRS WM. IRWIN & ED. COONEY: A large meeting was held in the tent from 3 to 5:30 o’clock. . .The principal speakers during the day were Mr. Edward Cooney and Mr. Wm. Irwin, the leaders of the movement” (Impartial Reporter, August 6, 1908)

“Mr. Wm. Irwin, the leader of the movement, has set sail for America, and is to open a convention in Halifax, on Sunday, 16th last. Altogether he has to attend nine conventions until he returns to Crocknacrieve again next year.” (Impartial Reporter, August 13, 1908)

“An address was delivered by Mr. Wm. Irwin, the recognised leader of the sect, who in his remarks criticised very strongly the work carried on by the workers, during the holding of mission services over all parts of the country and United Kingdom.” (Impartial Reporter, August 12, 1909)

THE IMPARTIAL REPORTER & FARMERS JOURNAL: You may be wondering, "What on earth is the Impartial Reporter?" It was the local newspaper, located in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Quotes from this newspaper will outnumber quotes from any other source in this book. Their earliest newspaper article about The Testimony to be found at this time (year 2000) is dated January 15, 1903. These articles have been retyped for your convenience on the Telling The Truth Website. The Impartial Reporter published its first newspaper on May 19, 1825. In 1900, it published one newspaper per week on Thursday, and has continued to do so (in 2014). Some issues contain the following heading:

"The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The ‘Impartial Reporter’ is the only paper which circulates throughout the Diocese of Clogher, in counties of Fermanagh, Donegal, Tyrone, and Monaghan. It is the only paper which circulates throughout the Diocese of Kilmore in Cavan and Leitrim; and it issues five copies for two copies of the local paper nearest in position." (taken from July 23, 1908 p5 issue)

William Trimble (1802-1886), a native of Pomeroy, County Tyrone, Ireland, was the first editor-proprietor of The Impartial Reporter and Farmers' Journal. It is based in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Norther Ireland. He was succeeded by his second son, William Copeland Trimble (1851-1941), who wrote a pamphlet titled The Tramps or Go-Preachers, (Sometimes called Pilgrims), 1910 under the initials W.C.T.

Wm C. Trimble was married twice. First, on October 3, 1881, to Letitia Jane Weir, born May 18, 1854. Their marriage was registered in South Dublin. They had 5 children and she died eleven years later on January 8, 1892, being 38 years old. Letitia Jane Weir was the daughter of John Weir, and was related to the William Weir family who owned a store on Baggot Street in Dublin, where the first Sunday morning meeting was held. Perhaps this is why W.C. Trimble took a keen interest in the activities and beliefs of the Tramp Preachers. His second marriage was to Lily Reilly on May 8, 1893. They had 3 children.

The weekly newspaper was owned and run by the William Trimble family since it was founded in 1825.William Copeland Trimble was succeeded as editor-proprietor of the Impartial Reporter by his son William Egbert Trimble (1882-1967). On his death, his daughter, Joan (born 1915) took over the reins. In turn, they were passed on to her daughter, Joanna McVey. In June, 2006, the 181 year-old Northern Ireland weekly, The Impartial Reporter, was bought by Ulster News Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dunfermine Press Ltd.

In the past twenty years, friends, workers, and ex-friends have continued to make pilgrimage visits back to the “Old Country” and visit the office of The Impartial Reporter, located in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland investigating the group’s beginning. At this newspaper publishing office, there are at least 100 old newspaper columns on file written by reporters who visited conventions, missions, workers and friends and trace the development of the 2x2 fellowship at the turn of the 20th century. Visit their website. See PHOTO.

Although the fellowship in no small way owes its existence and origin to the experiment William Irvine began to conduct in Ireland in 1897-99, today there are very few adherents, followers or friends who even recognize the name of the man who founded their sect. However, the history is somewhat better known to the workers and followers living in the British Isles, where it initially started and first took hold.


By John Long - A Journal
A detailed Journal by John Long, who was Wm Irvine's companion at his very FIRST independent mission.

By Goodhand Pattison
Accounts of the Early Days
Princess Victoria's Contact with the Workers.

Impartial Reporter Newspaper of Enniskillen, N. Ireland Over 100 articles bound into booklet; available from RIS

By W.C.T. (William C. Trimble)
The Tramps or Go-Preachers, (Sometimes called Pilgrims), 1910
Impartial Reporter Printing Works, Enniskillen, No. Ireland 

From The Faith Mission
Bright Words  
The Faith Mission published a monthly magazine titled Bright Words, which was formerly published under the title of Life Indeed.  and is now published under the title:  First Magazine. This publication gave news concerning their workers, worker locations, converts and missions. 

By Alfred Magowan
Outline of the History of a Peculiar People from 1900-1931 (a play)
Testimony of a Witness for the Defence, 1956 

Early Memories by Fred Wood

Collection of Letters Written by William Irvine

By Doug & Helen Parker
The Secret Sect, 1982 (ISBN 0-9593398-0-9); MacArthur Press Pty. Ltd, Sydney, Australia
Doug & Helen Parker, P.O. Box 92, Vincentia, NSW Australia 2540
Order in USA from RIS
By Douglas Parker
A Spiritual Fraud Exposed, 1954; Utility Press, Padstow, NSW, Australia 

By Patricia Roberts
1. The Life and Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960, 1990 (ISBN 0 9510109 4 8)
2.Selected Letters, Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960, 1991
3. Selected Letters of Fred Wood 1890-1986, 1997
William Trimble, Ltd., Enniskillen, N. Ireland
Available from Ms. Patricia Roberts, Bridgemont, Drumcullion, Ballinamallard, Enniskillen,
N Ireland BT942AE Tel: +44 1365 388487
Books on E.Cooney available from TFM

By W. M. Rule
The Cooneyites or Go-Preachers - A Warning, January, 1924, Loizeaux Bros., NJ
Bible Truth Depot; Reprinted in Our Hope (Magazine) January, 1924
The Cooneyites or "Go-Preachers" and their Doctrines
Central Bible Truth Depot, London, England, U.K.; Reprinted by Loizeaux Bros., NJ
Bible Truth Depot, NY Reprinted in Heresies Exposed
Edited by W.C. Irvine, Loizeaux Bros., NJ 

By W.C.T. (William C. Trimble)
The Tramps or Go-Preachers, (Sometimes called Pilgrims), 1910
Impartial Reporter Printing Works, Enniskillen, No. Ireland 

TFM = Threshing Floor Ministries, PO Box 9899, Spokane, WA 99209 (no email or website available)
TTT = Telling The Truth
RIS = Research & Information Services 
RAS = Religion Analysis Service 


1863, JANUARY 7: BIRTH OF WILLIAM IRVINE. William Irvine was born in Newtown, Kilsyth, Scotland, on January 7, 1863, the third child of eleven to be born to John and Elizabeth Irvine. According Page 7 of the Registrar General of Scotland, 1863 Births in the Parish of Kilsyth, County of Stirling, William Irvine had no middle name. It would appear that he assumed a middle name or initial, or was given one later, as the initials engraved in gold on the bible in his posession at his death were W.E.I. Also, Irvine's letter to Fred Hanowell dated August 17, 1921 is signed W. E. Irvine.  

Speaking of his birth, Irvine wrote “. .it was reported that a baby boy had been born in a humble home in a humble town to humble parents. . .” (Letter to Caseys of NZ dated April 7, 1934) It is not the custom of the Scots to browse through a book to find a name for a new baby. They have a tradition or ritual in naming their children. At the time William Irvine was born, babies were customarily named after relatives, in the following order: 

Son #1 was given the name of the Father’s Father
Son #2 was named after the Mother’s Father
Son #3 was named after the Father 

Daughter #1 was given the name of the Mother’s Mother
Daughter #2 was named after the Father’s Mother
Daughter #3 was named after the Mother 

John and Elizabeth Irvine did not deviate far from this tradition with their first six children any more than necessary. In birth order, their first three sons were John, William, and James. True to Scottish tradition, the first three daughters in birth order were named Margaret, Agnes and Elizabeth.  In both Ireland and North America the name "Irvine" tends to be pronounced "Er vine'," while the common pronunciation in Scotland is "Er' vin."

Click Here for Complete IRVINE FAMILY TREE

It is interesting to note that in both Ireland and North merica, "Irvine" tends to be pronounced "Ir-ine' " (with a long "I") while the common pronunciation in Scotland is "Ir'-ven."

WILLIAM IRVINE'S PARENTS: "John Irvine was a stalwart member of the Free Church and also one of its managers. He was involved in the mining industry like his father before him, at first connected with small enterprises that worked minerals, then later as a colliery manager at Dumbreck and the Haughs Pits.  At his death in August 1913, he was described as, 'one of the diminishing army of veterans who took part in the historic war in the Crimea (1853-56)...John had volunteered for service with the 79th Cameron Highlanders, was present at the Battles of Alma and Inkerman and also took part in the Battle of Balaclava, where he witnessed the famous 'Charge of the Light Brigade. (Source: Weaver, Miners and the Open Book by James Hutchison)

Parents of John Irvine and Elizabeth Gressom Irvine
( Wm Irvine's Parents)

Paternal Grandparents

His Father   
John Irvine
His Mother Agnes Scott Irvine
Married July, 1825

Maternal Grandparents:

Her Father
William Grassam
Her Mother Margaret Ritchie/Richardson? Grassam
Married October 21, 1831

Children of John Irvine and Agnes (Scott) Irvine:

Jean Irvine
December 25, 1825
2. James Irvine November 25, 1827
3. William Irvine September 13, 1829
4. Agnes Bell Irvine November 1, 1831
5. John Irvine born ca 1833
6. Janet Irvine November 1, 1835
7. Henry Irvine October 22, 1837
8. Robert Irvine June 30, 1844
9. Catherine Irvine August 2, 1846

Marriage of John Irvine and Elizabeth Grassam
1858 Register 485 Larbert Stirlingshire Entry 25
On December 9, 1858 at Larbert Marriage

after Banns was solemnised according to the Forms of the Established Church

John Irvine aged 25 bachelor Miner - Kilsyth
Born Falkirk, 1833 - Died 8/12/1913 Age 80
His father: John Irvine Miner
His mother: Agnes Irvine M.S. Scott

Elizabeth Grassam aged 25 spinster, Bogside Kilsyth
Born Larbert 1833 - Died 11/25/1897 Age 64
Her father: William Grassam Loam Moulder
Her mother: Margaret Grassam M.S. Ritchie

Signed: John McLaren, Minister - Larbert
Witnesses: James Irvine, Eliza Leighton

Children Born to John & Elizabeth Irvine

1859 Register 483 Kilsyth Entry 47
On March 14th at Newtown Kilsyth

1861 Register 483 Kilsyth Entry 47
On February 24th at Newtown Kilsyth

1863 Register 483 Kilsyth Entry 20
On January 7th at Newtown Kilsyth

1864 Register 498 Kirkintilloch, Dumbartonshire Entry 280
On October 5th at Strone Kirkintilloch

Agnes  See Agnes  Photo in the TTT Photo Gallery
1866 Register 498 Kirkintilloch, Entry 173
On June 23rd at Strone Kirkintilloch

Henry #1
Born at Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire
Born March 15, 1868
Died in infancy.

Henry #2
Born at Govan, Lanarkshire
Born January 26, 1870
Nothing further known

1871 Register 646/1 Govan, Lakarkshire, Glasgow Entry 158 Vol II
On December 12th at 113 Henderson Street Kinning Park

Jane (also known as Jeanie)

1874 Register 483 Kilsyth Entry 40
On February 1st at Newtown Kilsyth, Stirlingshire

Helen (also known as Nellie)
 See Helen's Photo in the TTT Photo Gallery
1876 Register 483 Kilsyth, Entry 28
On January 25th at Backrow Kilsyth, Stirlingshire

Janet (also known as Jennie)

1880 Register 495 Cumbernauld Dumbartonshire Entry 31
On February 9th at 73 Auchinstarry Row Cumbernauld

Order of Irvine Family Deaths

Died :
1868 Henry Irvine #1
1870 Henry Irvine #2
1886 Margaret Irvine
1887 Elizabeth Irvine
1897 Elizabeth Irvine, Mother
1913 John Irvine, Father
1918 John Irvine
1928 James Irvine
1938 Agnes I. Irvine Freebairn
1937 Jane (Jeanie) Irvine Comrie
1947 William Irvine
After 1947 Janet (Jennie) Irvine Clelland (Living at time of Wm. Irvine's Death)
1952 Helen (Nellie) Irvine Clelland (Living at time of Wm. Irvine's Death)


SOURCES OF FAMILY TREE INFORMATION: The Family History of John & Elizabeth Irvine were researched and confirmed by Genealogist:

Dr. Betty J. Iggo Ph.D. A.S.G.R.A. (Association of Scottish Genealogists and Record Agents)
5 Relugas Rd, Edinburgh, EH9 2NE Scotland U.K.

You may research John and Elizabeth Irvine's descendants personally by consulting the nearest LDS Family History Center. Non-Mormons are welcome to use their vast genealogy records for no charge. We found Volunteers at the Centers to be most helpful. Check your local phone directory for the location of the genealogy library of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints nearest you.

You can also locate the nearest Family History Center by going to their internet website.

Family History Centers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)
Recorded in: International Genealogical Index, 1994 Edition, Version 3.04 (IGI)
Search by Marriage: John & Elizabeth Grassam, Dec. 9, 1858.

The LDS Family History Center has the vital records for most of the immediate family of William Irvine's on microfilm. See their International Genealogical Index - Version 2.16 - British Isles for John and Elisabeth/Elizabeth (Grassam/Grassom; Gressam/Gressom) Irvine.

William Irvine's Individual Record shows the following LDS Ordinances:
Baptized 4/23/80, AZ; Endowed on 7/3/80, AZ; Sealed to Parents on 8/13/80, AZ;
Batch C114831; Date 1855-1867; Source Call Number: See REG 941 V2 (Book)

EDITOR'S NOTE: John and Elizabeth Irvine, husband and wife, have been sealed to each other in LDS records; and all their children have been Baptized, Endowed and Sealed to the parents, except for the youngest two, Helen and Janet, who are completely missing from the LDS records. LDS had no record of William Irvine's son, Archibald Irvine or his wife Mary Jamieson at the time of our search.

Quote from "Going to Salt Lake City to do Family History Research" by J. Carlyle Parker, Marietta Publishing Company, Turlock, CA 1993, Page 19:

"When using the IGI, record all of the information except for post-1970 dates in the columns labeled "B", "E" and "S". [Note: B = Baptized; E = Endowed; S = Sealed] Those columns relate to the temple work done by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and should be noted by LDS members. The reason that LDS members submit names of deceased relatives for temple work is because they believe that all persons should be provided opportunity to be baptized by immersion, married for eternity, and to receive additional religious ordinances that have to be done on earth. Latter-Day Saints believe that these ordinances can be done by proxy in the Church's temples by living persons, for the deceased, who then have the choice and freedom to accept or reject these ordinances in the spirit life beyond the grave."


Association of Scottish Genealogists and Record Agents (A.S.G.R.A.)
The Scottish Genealogy Society, 51/3 Mortonhall Road, Edinburgh EH9 2HN Scotland
The Scottish Genealogy Society, 15 Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh EH1 2JL Scotland


For Birth, Marriage or Death Certificates:
General Register Office for Scotland, New Register House, Edinburgh EH1 3YT, Scotland
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KILSYTH, SCOTLAND: (Pronounced Kil-sithe' - with a long "i" and the accent on the second sylable "sythe") . Kilsyth was the birthplace of William Irvine on January 7, 1863, the third child of John and Elizabeth Irvine, who married in 1858. Kilsyth is a former coal mining town in North Lanarkshire. Lanarkshire, also known as Lanark, was a county in Scotland. It was abolished in 1975. (Scotland is divided into shires, similar to counties.) Kilsyth is located 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Glasgow. The town was laid out in the 1670's on the route connecting Glasgow with Stirling. It is a traditional market town. The town was developed further in the 19th century, thanks to coal mining, ironworks and quarrying. The Kilsyth Chronicle, the newspaper office, is located in the Kilsyth Market Square. The Chronicle employees were extremely cordial to the Author on her visit on July 26, 2004, and were eager to supply all information that would possibly be helpful. 

Nearby are the Townhead Reservoir and the remains of Colzium Castle and Colzium House, a mansion which dates from the 18th and 19th centuries which is open to public. The Forth and Clyde Canal was once a thriving waterway carrying passengers, fish, coal, ironstone and whinstone from the nearby Auchinstarry Quarry. The Auchinstarry Quarry is closed, and is now a park where climbing the rock faces of the former quarry is popular.

"In 1860 the famous business family, the Bairds of Gartsherrie began operations in Kilsyth when they leased the Curriemire pit and then began mining for ironstone above Neilston…In addition Bairds developed Queenzieburn into a coalmining village by opening the Dumbreck pit…They also built several 'miner's rows' to house their workers in Queenzieburn and in Kilsyth in the area which lies between Parkburn Road and Edward Street. The company railways converged at Twechar which the Bairds built into an extensive mining town with a school, a church and a Company the end of the 19th century, Kilsyth was almost entirely a coal mining town with seven local collieries employing between 4,000-5,000 men…" (Weavers, Miners and the Open Book – A History of Kilsyth - by James Hutchison; published by Kelvinprint in Cumbernauld, Scotland 1986 ISBN 0-9511362-0-8, pp. 124-128)

Click Here to read more about Kilsyth Today.

Click Here to read about the Bairds of Gartsherrie, Baird & Co.

There were three sons in Wm. Irvine's family; John, born in 1859, William, born in 1863, and James, born in 1864. Wm's father John Irvine, and his father worked in the mines, as did the three sons of John Irvine. Occupations are listed on the birth, marriage and death records. A "collier" is a coal miner; a "colliery" is a coal mine and its connected buildings. Going "underground" was to go to work in the mines. Wm. wrote that he began working in the mines at ten years old. "At 10, I went underground, and at 20 I had reached the top as boss at a caldery by very hard, going in danger, dirty and death to face. So I had to get some education at nights after long hard day, 12 miles from home. At 30, I had a big hard job with the best of prospects." 

Reading about the conditions of the mines at that time, it is very easy to see why Wm Irvine and his brothers would have longed to get out of the mining industry. Two did. William became a preacher and founder of a new sect; James and his wife emigrated to New Zealand; but John's death record states he was 59, cause of death was Paroxymal Bradycardia, and his occupation had been a Colliery Manager. A glimpse into the daily lives and conditions for a miner's family during this time period are vividly portrayed in the book: Weavers, Miners and the Open Book – A History of Kilsyth. The following are some quotes from this book showing how hard the living conditions were for the Irvine family. It's not a pretty picture.

"As mines became deeper, the danger to health and safety increased. Often whole families would work as a team, cutting the coal and bringing it to the surface. Men and boys referred to as 'hewers' would cut coal from seams which would be as low as 18 inches, supported only by uncut pillars of coal or wooden pit-props. Young boys of 8 or 9 called 'drawers' would be harnessed up to heavy coal tubs or 'corves' which they would be expected to pull from the bottom of the pit shaft to the surface. Other young boys called 'trappers' would be expected to sit in the darkness all day, opening and closing wooden ventilation doors to let the 'drawers' past. Women and older boys were often employed as 'bearers' carrying coal up ladders with baskets harnessed to their backs, although by the second half of the nineteenth century this was being replaced by the use of horse-gins and steam engines.

"Flooding was always a problem in mines but it took some time before local mine-owners were prepared to make the investment necessary to install steam pumping engines on the grounds that the level of coal output in the mines did not justify this. By the 1860's these were being installed in Kilsyth mines which enabled them to be dug deeper, but this in turn increased the danger from poisonous and explosive gases such as fire-damp or methane gas which produced disasters such as that at the Craigends Pit, in 1878, when a dozen men were killed and many others burned…

"Mining was a dangerous industry which produced countless accidents. Part of the problem was that mines were ventilated by air shafts and sometimes a fire would be lit at the bottom of these to cause hot air to rise and to draw in cold fresh air to replace it. Unfortunately if gases came in contact with these fires it could cause an explosion. The Davy Lamp, invented in 1815, helped to reduce these risks by protecting the naked flame with a wire gauge. In addition a warning was given of danger when the flame turned from yellow to blue when the gas was present.

"As well as the physical dangers, working conditions affected the miner's health and shortened their life expectancy as the following extract from the New Statistical Account of 1840 shows: 'The collier population is subject to a peculiar disease which is vulgarly called the black-spit, and by the facility is dignified by the Greek term melanosis. It is a wasting of the lungs, occasioned, as is supposed, by the inhaling of the coal dust while working, and the expectoration is as black as the coal dust itself. Many strong men are cut off by it before they reach the age of forty.... Almost all the men are affected by it sooner or later, so as to be rendered unfit for any active exertion for years before they drop prematurely into the grave, between the ages of forty and sixty or sixty five.'

"In January 1861, an Act for Regulation and Inspection of Miners came into force. Boys between 10 and 12 years of age could only be employed if in possession of education certificates; notice of accidents to be sent to the authorities within 24 hours; wages were not to be paid in a public house and coals in future were to be accurately weighed. Unfortunately local sheriffs' actions often rendered the act useless and void.

"By 1870 many miners were being compelled to purchase their goods from the coalminer's shop or store - and any thrifty housewife who sought to buy goods in a neighbouring town could precipitate the dismissal of her husband or son. Under this 'truck system' wages frequently passed from the pay office to the truck store and then back to the pay office within a few hours. An investigation carried out by the Daily Mail in June 1869 showed that payment of wages was sometimes suspended until the first men who had been paid had purchased goods at the store and this enabled the store manager to send up the cash to the wages office again.

"Housing and health conditions for miners were deplorable as revealed by the following selection of comments from a survey carried out by the Glasgow Herald in 1875. 'Whooping cough and eye disease is prevalent', 'cooking water comes from one of Dixon's pits and is imperfectly filtered'; 'houses are most wretched, stone floors, mouldy and damp walls, set-in beds'; 'last summer smallpox and scarlet fever were prevalent'; 'houses are so damp that passing the hand across the wall brings off water and paint and lime'; 'at the Haggs, a moisture from the roof is caught in bowls'; 'houses have almost no furniture, and ragged children run about with uncombed hair.'

"By the 1880's therefore living and working conditions for miners had reached a deplorable level as can be seen from the following statement made by Thomas Aspinwall, a spokesman for the Lancashire miners in 1887. Addressing Lancashire coal owners, he said, 'The net weekly earnings of your colliers is now less than they have been at any period during the last twenty years.... Poverty, gentlemen, is rampant in the families of your workmen.... wages vary from ten shillings to eighteen shillings per week and when you deduct from these sums house rent and fire and school fees, what a miserable pittance remains upon which an average family of four can exist where is barely enough to keep body and soul together'.

"In an attempt to combat such conditions the Miner's Federation of treat Britain was formed in November 1889 to represent miners throughout the country. Previously small local unions had been able to bargain with the coal owners from a position of strength. The employer's responded to this threat by setting up a nationwide Coal-Owners Association. This new union soon had success. In the spring of 1890 for example, almost every coalfield was forced to grant the miners a wage rise of forty per cent over a period of less than two years. Again in 1908 a Miner's Eight Hours Act was passed which restricted the hours of work underground to eight hours per day. Despite these achievements, however, coal mining remained a hard and dangerous occupation with between 1,000 and 1,500 miners being killed in pits each year." (Weavers, Miners and the Open Book – A History of Kilsyth  by James Hutchison; published by Kelvinprint in Cumbernauld, Scotland 1986 ISBN 0-9511362-0-8; pp. 124-128)

For additional information on Kilsyth Scotland:
See Gazetter for Scotland
See Kilsyth official website 

1881-1891: LIVING QUARTERS for the Irvine Family - AUCHINSTARRY ROWS in Cumbernauld:
The 1881 Census for Row No. 16 Auchinstarry Rows shows William, age 18, a son living with John Irvine in Cumbernauld, working as an Ironstone Miner.
The 1891 Census for Row No. 21 shows John & Elizabeth Irvine with daughters: Jane, Helen, Janet and Grandson Archie.

The 1891 Census shows William Irvine, age 28, as a lodger in the home of Robert Condel in Bothwell, NE Lanarshire, Scotland working as a colliery manager.

CLICK to VIEW: Picture of Auchinstarry Rows, where the miners and their families lived.

1868-1875: WM IRVINE'S EDUCATION - KILSYTH ACADEMY (Possibly beyond this date). 
The 1872 Education Act made it compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 13 years to attend school. (A History of Kilsyth by James Hutchison, p. 90) William Irvine reportedly attended school at Kilsyth Academy. This building is now used for a grade school. Mr. John Mitchell, Head Teacher of Kilsyth Academy directed by The Strathclyde Regional Council Department of Education, stated in a letter dated May 11, 1994:

"At the time you specify, there was no other secondary school in Kilsyth and William Irvine would certainly have attended. At that time it was possible for children to leave school at the age of 12. There are no mandatory grades in the Scottish school system nor is there any graduation as such. Children normally started school at the age of 5 and this starting age has continued until the present day.”

Wm Irvine wrote: “I would never wear a cap because I had always been in the country and had plenty of rough curly hair. Our first home in Glasgow was in Anderson St., S.S. Then in Henderson St. I went to school in Stanley Street and worked later in W. Scotland Street in grocery and then in Stanley Street in Gray Dunn and Co. biscuit factory, and then core maker in Nelson’s foundry, Plantation St., and every little detail is vivid today, showing how much depends on early impressions and surroundings.

" I got 3 pounds per week in grocery when I was about 9, then for 72 hours work per week and never home til after 12 on Saturday. Then I got 4 pounds per week in Gray Dunn’s and overtime 5 nights per week till 9 P.M. and finish at 4 on Saturday. Then 5 pounds per week making cores and little kettles in the foundry. But I look on it all as good for me and probably better than many got at school, which I had to make up for till I was 30. And when I was 20 was able to make about 300 pounds per year contracting and then manager til I was 30, when I heard His Voice and bowed my knees to my present Master.”
 (April 13, 1927 Letter to William Pollock)

"I began to work when I was 8 years of age, as a grocer's boy…When I was 16 I was able to earn more than my father and a strong husky boy fit to face anything or person. If I had been at school those 8 years it would have been harder for me to face the music of hard work and so would have been handicapped all my life.” (Dec 4, 1925 Letter to Loves)

He also wrote:  "I remember taking home my first earnings - 75 cents for 72 hours.  But memory is still sweet..." (April 7, 1936 Letter to Mary Westlund)

Goodhand Pattison said about his first sight of Wm Irvine: “I shall never forget my first impressions as I saw the broad shouldered, square-built, well set-up man, with curled hair and beaming face trotting up the side aisle. . .taking his stand on the platform.”

1873-93: WM. IRVINE'S EMPLOYMENT RECORD. Irvine was in coal mining from age 10 to 30 years.  He began working in the coal mines for Baird & Co. in 1873 and resigned on November 1, 1893.  At that time he held the position of general manager of Baird's Bowell Colleries in Lanarkshire, Scotland and earned £300 per year.  His prospects for promotion were looking good.  It appears that all of Irvine's brothers (except for James who moved to New Zealand circa 1890) AND most, if not all, of his brothers-in-law worked in the coal mines, as well as his father and grandfather.

Seven Baird brothers established the firm of William Baird & Co. in Lanarkshire, one of the major industrial companies of the nineteenth century. Information about William and James Baird is given in their entry in the Memoirs and portraits of one hundred Glasgow men.

The following statements give miscellaneous details regarding William Irvine’s employment:

"Fifty years ago three pits were sunk at Kilsyth, Scotland.  There were many others around belonging to the same company.  They being new, the deepest and best equipped, I thougth it should be my job, but it went to my eldest brother and I to take his place, which I knew was no value to me, so I quit and went west 5 miles to two new pits belonging to another stay on contrct for one year, which I did.  Then went 5 miles east to another company, and stayed with them till I got them sold and find a bigger and better job with the company I had been with before.  My two brothers and Father managed Dumbreck for 30 years...I got saved and left the company 45 years ago to follow and serve Jesus in the Gospel, which created much talk and stirred people up to oppose doing such a foolish thing.  Both mining, business and religious people were greatly interested, but in spite of opposition in home, friends, and enemies I went..." (February 18, 1938* Letter to Wm, Rose Edwards and Co.) Note: The Dumnbreck Colliery was owned by Messrs. William Baird and was situated about a mile and a half from Kilsyth.

"How vividly it brought back what was taking place twenty-seven years ago when I was leaving on a wild goose chase, as he thought. He knew I was made of the stuff he needed so badly then, and he did his very best for months to keep me from doing it. . . five days after
(his conversion) I gave public testimony to the men over whom I was taskmaster. . . In September, 1893, I sent in my resignation for the colliery and got free 1st of November. (October 13, 1920 Letter to Dunbars)

“Mr. Irwin (sic) himself, gave up a comfortable business. He had £300 a year when 20 years of age.” (The Impartial Reporter, January 29, 1903)

"Before he (Wm. Irvine). . .attached himself to the sect known as The Pilgrims, he was the manager of a coal mine under Baird & Co. and enjoyed a salary of £300 a year.” (The Impartial Reporter, August 25, 1910)

Sixty years ago, at 35 years of age, he was general manager of William Baird and Company’s Boswell Collieries in Lanarkshire.  He was only in his twenties then, and on the way to the top of his profession—a directorship. (The Sunday Post, March 16, 1947) [NOTE: "60 years ago at 35 yrs" = 1887]

William Baird’s Office Manager, M. J. Harlow, 79 Mount Street, London, W1Y 5HJ, stated in a letter dated June 17, 1994:

“I can confirm that Baird’s were coal owners and operated mines in Scotland during the period concerned. However we do not have the detailed records giving the information you require. If any such records do exist, I believe that they may well be held at the Glasgow University archives in Scotland.”

The author was unable to verify Irvine's employment and position. The archives of the Glasgow University Archives and Business Record Centre are available by appointment only to individual researchers. A brochure about The Glasgow University Archives and Business Record Centre, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ states that it "contains the largest dedicated collection of business records in Europe. The Centre holds records of almost every commercial and industrial activity that has been pursued in the west of Scotland in the last two hundred years.”

Excerpts from William Irvine's letters regarding his working years:

“My grandfather was born in 1803, my father in 1833, I in 1863 and born again in 1893 on 8th January. . .I began to work when just over 8 yrs, grocery boy; then at biscuit factory. At 10, I went underground, and at 20 I had reached the top as boss at a caldery by very hard, going in danger, dirty and death to face. So I had to get some education at nights after long hard day, 12 miles from home. At 30, I had a big hard job with the best of prospects. When I saw the only hope for any person was to have the Lord as my Master, Jesus as my Pattern, and Christ as my life, I said would serve Him at any cost.” (April 11, 1946 Letter to Ida Newby)

“I worked in a grocery—as message boy in Glasgow City S.S.” (April 24, 1946 Letter to Francis Reniari)

“I had to work from 6 A.M. To 9 P.M. 5 days in the week, half day Saturdays for the magnificent sum of one dollar. This was my second Job. My first was 72 hours per week for 75 cents. I was under 9 years of age..." (June 4, 1924 Letter to John A. Fladung)

“I don’t write many personal letters, but your Scotch name and being a coal miner appealed to me. I have been Scotch for nearly 82 years and was coal mining from 10 to 30 years of age, when the Lord opened my ears to hear and see what His purpose was in my life.” (October 23, 1944 Letter to Thomas McDonald & Gruber)

“The mention of Bella Jarvis who became Mrs. Shaw. She was a very nice sweet girl. When I gave her up, I went to Calderbank two pits—there for nearly a year. Then from there to Haugh I at Kilsyth for 4 years. From there I went to Kirkintillock Meiklehill No. 4 and 5 for a year. Then to Bothwell Park for 4 years and sold out to become the sower.” (January 1, 1944 Letter to John McLaughlin) Note:  This covers a ten year span.

The 1891 Census shows William as a lodger in Bothwell Lanarkshire, working as a colliery manager, age 28.

1884, January 23: WM IRVINE BECOMES A FREEMASON, or a member of the Masonic Lodge Stewart (aka Steuart) No. 547 in his home town of Kilsyth, Scotland at the age of 21, while he was working in the coal mines.  His membership continued for the rest of his life. This means that he was a Mason all the time he was associated with the Faith Mission, the Go-Preacher fellowship and the Omega Message. Wm Irvine wrote in three letters that he was a Free Mason.

"Masonry was introduced by the Jews as a Trade protection society at the building of Solomon's Temple, and prospered in Jerusalem, and spread over the Earth in the scattering of the Jews. I am a Mason for over 50 years, though don't take any stock in it any more than anything else which marks the old earth conditions." (September 10, 1937 Letter to Berglinds)

"You may tell your brother that I also am a Free and accepted master mason. My Mother Lodge being 547 - Stewart Scotch for past 45 years. So I know all that it means. But if I were the Grand Master or the Pres. of U.S.A. it could not avail me any thing..." (January 30, 1929 Letter to Fay Sheeley)

"I am a Free Mason and know all there is in it." (January 31, 1929 Letter to Mrs. Dilla Sheeley)

Confirming Wm Irvine's membership is this Statement by James L. Noble for the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland of Edinburgh, dated November 19, 2010: "I...can confirm that the records held within my office do show that Brother William Irvine was Initiated within Lodge Steuart No. 547, Kilsyth, Stirlingshire on 23 January 1884; Passed to the Fellowcraft Degree on 07 January 1885; and Raised to the Master Mason Degree on 17 January 1885. His occupation is shown as a Miner, aged 25 years. Unfortunately the Lodge was declared dormant in 1898." Copy of letter in TTT Photo Gallery)

NOTE:  There is a disparity in Wm Irvine's age.  Mr. Noble's records show Irvine was 25 years old in 1884 or 1885 ; whereas, the difference between 1884 (initiation date) or 1885 (date he became a Master Mason) and 1863 (WmI's birth year) is 21 or 22 years.

There is very little known about Wm Irvine's connection to freemasonry. It is sometimes said that "Masonry is Generational." This is to say that being a mason runs in families, and is a tradition for generation after generation of males in the family to become freemasons. It has been confirmed that Wm Irvine's father John and his father's brother Walter were both masons. Some of Walter's sons and grandsons (Wm Irvine's cousins) were also.  The husband of Irvine's sister Agnes Freebairn was a freemason. It is not known if Wm Irvine's grandfather or either of his two brothers (John and James) were masons.  Possibly it was common practice at that time for coal miners to become masons. 

Some have observed that there are some elements in freemasonry that appear to be similar to the structural makeup of the Go-Preacher system Irvine founded. Having only these 3 brief statements by Wm Irvine, it's not possible to ascertain the depth of his involvement with the masons or how far reaching its teachings or influence had on his life and ministry. 

You may have heard the phrase, "Once a Mason, always a Mason." However, men have been known to renounce their involvement with the Masons. It would appear from his statement made in 1937, just ten years before his death that Wm. Irvine retained his membership for his lifetime, for he wrote: “I AM a Mason for over 50 years.”

Read Significance of Wm Irvine being a Freemason

1886-87: DEATH OF WM IRVINE'S SISTER, MARGARET: Margaret was born on February 24, 1861, and died on July 18, 1886, at 25 years of age. She was unmarried. Margaret Irvine probably died of a chronic lung infection, most likely tuberculosis. The Cause of Death given for Margaret Irvine in the public records was: "Phthisis, 3 months, cert. by John Lind Surgeon, Kilsyth " William wrote:

“I lost my sister when she was 25 and I, 23. She was like a second mother to me, and we were more to each other than any of the others younger could I'm into my 84th year with only 2 sisters left out of 11 in the family.” See Family Tree for names of the 11 Irvine siblings mentioned. (February 21, 1946 letter to Ellen Pincetl & Hans Sutter)

"I owe more to the loss of my sister when she was 25 and I 23, than to all other circumstances and events, for it cured me of my attempt at following Ingersoll & Co., as I had been doing for years, and she of all my sisters has been a living fellowship even to this day, and I'm no spiritualist, but strong in the hope of seeing her, with little home for most of my friends and relatives." (May 12, 1934 Letter to Mr. Duncan, Dunbars & Reeds)

1887: DEATH OF WM IRVINE’S SISTER, ELIZABETH. Elizabeth was born on December 12, 1871, and died on June 15, 1887, age 15. She was single. The Cause of Death was listed as Periostitis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the bone.

APRIL 23, 1886: BIRTH OF WM. IRVINE'S SON.  It has been fairly common knowledge that William Irvine fathered an illegitimate son named Archibald Irvine when he was in his early twenties. There has been much speculation through the years surrounding the identity of the mother. Until 2010, mother’s name was not public knowledge.  Then one day, the Author received a surprising email from a grandaughter of William Irvine’s sister Agnes who married John Freebairn. She kindly provided the son's birth record as well as additional family details. Her patience and voluntary contributions of time, information and photographs are very much appreciated.

According to birth records, an illegitimate son was born on April 23, 1886 in Maryhill, Lanark, Scotland to Margaret Helen Grassam. He was given the name of William Grassam. The father’s name is not given, and there is a notation “illegitimate.” However, according to the naming customs of that time, a son would have been named after his father, who reportedly was William Irvine. The birth record contains the following information:

Birth of William Grassam
1886 Register 622 District of Maryhill, County of Lanark, Entry 354
On January 23rd at 100 Hawthorn Street, Possilpark
Father: Illegitimate
Mother: Margaret Helen Grassam, Domestic Servant
Informant: Margaret Helen Grassam, Mother
Click Here to View Birth Record

The mother, Margaret Helen Ritchie Grassam was born April 16, 1859, in Larbert, Stirling, Scotland. She was a first cousin of William Irvine. Margaret's father Archibald Grassam and William's mother Elizabeth (Grassam) Irvine were siblings. Margaret and William shared the same Grandfather. Margaret’s father was Wiliam’s Uncle; and William’s mother was Margaret’s Aunt. When their son was born on April 23, 1886, Margaret was 27 years old and William was 23. Family rumor has it that Wm. made himself scarce for awhile; perhaps he took a job in another location, for he worked in several different mines over the years.

What was Margaret's background? Her parents were Archibald and Marion Grassam. They were married on December 16, 1853 in Larbert, Stirling, Scotland. Margaret had at least 7 siblings: Christina, William, Francis, Elizabeth, Marion, Robina, Archibald. Margaret died on October 5, 1915, age 58 of stomach cancer. Margaret’s father Archibald Grassam died at age 43 in 1874; and her mother Marion Grassam died on 1891 in Falkirk.

About two years after Archie was born, Margaret married a coal miner named John Hastings in Falkirk, Scotland on January 3, 1888. At the time, Margaret was 28 and John was 36 years old, with 3 sons from a prior marriage who lived with them. John and Margaret Hastings had a son James and daughter Margaret. Margaret was destined to become a widow before she was 42 years old. Sometime between the 1891 and 1901 censuses, John Hastings passed away.

1891 was the first Scotland census taken after William Grassom was born to Margaret Grassam in 1886. Her son’s name, relationship and age should be listed in a household in Scotland; however, his name wasn’t listed in the Hastings household where his mother lived with 2 other children she had given birth to since 1886.

The Census Record for the Hastings household in Falkirk, Scotland, showed that the John Hastings household (age 39) contained 3 sons from a prior marriage who lived with him and Margaret (age 31): Francis (age 15), Alexander (age 13), and John (age 11). In addition, John and Margaret had two children: James Hastings (age 2) and Margaret Hastings (age 4 months). Margaret’s mother Marion Grassam also lived with them. But there is no mention of Margaret’s illegitimate son William Grassam, who was born in Maryhill, Lanark, and would have been 4-5 years old in 1891.

However, the 1891 Census Record for the household of John and Elizabeth Irvine (Wm Irvine’s parents) in Kilsyth, Scotland lists the name of a 4-year old GRANDSON named Archibald Irvine, born in Maryhill, Lanark, which is the same location where Margaret's son named William Grassam was born in 1886.

This means there were two male children with the same birth date and birth place, born in the same family, with two different names. William Grassam and Archibald Grassam Irvine. This raises these questions: Who was Archibald Irvine? Are Archibald Irvine and William Grassam the same person? Was William Grassam's name changed to Archibald Grassam Irvine?

Archibald was listed on the 1891 Census as a GRANDSON with the surname of Irvine. This means one of the three sons of John and Elizabeth Irvine could have been Archibald's father. Was Archibald the son of either of Wm Irvine’s two brothers, James or John? James married Catherine/Kate Halkett in 1888 and athough they had no children, it is possible for James to have fathered an ilegitimate son in 1886. John married Mary Stewart in 1879 and their daughter Elizabeth was born Sept. 13, 1886. So IF John fathered a son named Archibald who was born April, 1886 (5 months before his daughter Elizabeth was born), then his wife wasn’t the mother, and the child would have been illegitimate. However, it was common knowledge in the Irvine family that William fathered an illegitimate son. If his son wasn't Archie, then who was his illegitimate son?

A granddaughter of William's sister Agnes who married John Freebairn is an avid genealogy researcher for the Irvine family lines. She has the advantage of having lived in both Kilsyth, Scotland and New Zealand. She has posted her research and family tree on She wrote:

"Here are some reasons I believe that William Grassam is one and the same person as Archibald Grassam Irvine:

a)The birth certificate of William Grassam is 23 April 1886 in Maryhill.

b) Official records give Archibald’s date of birth as being in 1886 and place of birth as being Maryhill. eg. the 1891 Census where he is living with his grandparents

c)His marriage certificate from 1916 gives his age as 30. (Note that he gives his grandparents names as his parents.) 

d) His age on his tombstone is consistent with him being born in 1886.

e) He is listed in the registry of “New Zealand Presbyterian Church Ministers, Deaconesses & Missionaries from 1840” with a birth date of 23 April, 1886 and as being from Glasgow. 

f) New Zealand World War I Military Records confirm his date of birth as 23 April 1886.

"Possibly when Margaret married John Hastings in 1888, he didn't want the child, so his grandfather John Irvine adopted him. It was widely known in the family that William Irvine had an illegitimate son called Archibald Grassam Irvine. My dad talked about it to me, and one of my cousins was named Archibald Grassam Freebairn after him. The story goes that William left the area for a while after it happened, but who knows! The 1891 Census shows him as a lodger in Bothwell working as a colliery manager, age 28.

"There are no family records to back up my theory. One of my dad's elder sisters (Lizzie, I think) is said to have torn the front page out of the family bible to hide the proof of family indiscretions!! So it's proof enough for me, but not conclusive. I think the date of birth is most significant, as well as the place of birth on the 1891 census tying in with the birth record."

The 1901 Census shows Maggie Hastings as a widow, with Francis, James and Margaret living in her household, as well as her brother, Francis Grassam. Apparently, John Hastings died some time between 1888 (date of marriage) and 1901. There is no mention of a 14-15 year old son named William Grassam or Archibald Irvine living in the household. Nor is he listed in the 1901 Census Record for the household of John and Elizabeth Irvine. This jibes with information that Archie left for New Zealand when he was 14, which would have been around 1900. (See NZ Presbyterian Church Archive) View article in the May 1934 Diamond Jubilee Messenger about Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Irvine with photos. View Another photo of Archie.

It is highly possible that William Grassam was adopted by Wm Irvine’s parents and they changed his name to Archibald Grassam Irvine. Archibald Grassam was the name of the child’s mother’s father (his grandfather.) Unfortunately, an adoption cannot be proven because there are no national records to substantiate adoptions prior to 1930. The National Archives Scotland website states: “Before 1930, adoptions were arranged on a private basis, either by individuals or by one of a number of charitable adoption agencies. NAS currently holds no records for adoptions before 1930.”

According to their tombstone (see photo) located in Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch, New Zealand, Archibald Irvine was born in the year 1886, and his wife Mary Jamieson Irvine (nee Murray), was born in 1889. Archie’s Death Certificate No. 023495 gives his date of death as June 14, 1952; his date of birth as “not Recorded,” and gives his age as 66 at death, the same as is engraved on his tombstone. The New Zealand Presbyterian Church Ministers, Deaconesses & Missionaries from 1840 shows he was born on April 23, 1886 and died on June 14, 1952, at Christchurch and was interred at Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch, Block 12 Plot 133. A resume of Archie’s work with the Presbyterian church is given on this website.

Click Here to read all known information about Archie Irvine.

1889: BIRTH OF MARY JAMIESON. (MURRAY) IRVINE. The year 1889 is engraved on her tombstone as her birth year. When she was 27, she became the wife of Archibald G. Irvine, William Irvine’s son. She died December 19, 1982 and is buried in Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch, New Zealand, and shares a tombstone with her husband. There were no known children born to Archibald and Mry Irvine.

1893: WM IRVINE'S PRESBYTERIAN UPBRINGING.  William Irvine was raised in the Burns Free Church of Scotland.  "John Irvine was a stalwart member of the Free Church and also one of its managers."  Four of Irvine's sisters were married according to the bans/forms of the Free Church.  Agnes (Irvine) Freebairn was amrried in 1888 by Rev. Peter Anton; and Jeanie (Irvine) Comrie in 1893, Nellie (Irvine) Clelland in 1896 and Janet (Irvine) Clelland in 1899 by Rev. Wm Jeffrey.  In Scotland, this would be interpreted as a marriage in the Free Presbyterian Church.  Information confirming this is contained in the book "Kilsyth, A Parish History by Rev. Peter Anton in which Rev. Wm Jeffrey is listed a a minister during this time period.  Marriage usually took place at the bride's home.   The Burns Free Church was built in 1816 and demolished in 2002, after 186 years.  The congregations of Kilsyth Burns Free Church and the Old Parish Church united in 1975 and the church is located at 11 Church Street in Kilsyth, where a plaque commemorating Rev. Jeffrey, a large bell and the stain glass windows from the Burns church are presently installed. View Photos in TTT Photo Gallery.

Up until until January 8, 1893, when he was about 30 years of age, Wm Irvine 's religious background was Presbyterian .Wm wrote the following in letters:

“I was also a Presbyterian till I began to seek the Lord 35 years ago. . .” (September 1, 1927 Letter to Mary O'Mullen, Belfast, Ireland) (Note: this would be in 1892 when he was 30 yrs old)

“He (Irvine) was not sure yet. . . whether God would ask him to forgive Scottish Presbyterian clergymen for the teaching they had given him until he was 30.” (Impartial Reporter, July 3, 1913)

“Mr. Wm Irwin (sic) next spoke. This gentleman had originally belonged to the Presbyterian Church, and in the early passages of his address he stated that Presbyterianism was not Roman Catholicism—it was white-washed Popery.” (Impartial Reporter, July 23, 1908)

Wm Irvine wrote: "Every step I have taken has been in opposition to those I loved most dearly. But Father and Mother on their deathbeds left clear witness that they could see that I had done the best thing for all; so that was great comfort and cheer to me after many lonely years when I knew that they were not in sympathy with my work. If I had gone into the Presbyterian church missionary or other recognized work, they would have been delighted, but to take the lowly, lonely path with so much opposition of all kinds, I hurt them badly. Most of my relatives were interested till 1914, when I began to see what’s my work today, and during these 7 years they have all become victims to the worldly religious systems which feeds their pride, vanity and iniquity; and what ever hope there is for them in future, I know depends on my loyalty to Him in spite of their indifference and opposition which is harder to bear from those we love than any others."(Letter to William Pollock, April 13, 1927)

Wm Irvine wrote:  " I am alone in my family of many very nice prosperous and Religious people who have for nearly 50 years tried every way to hinder me." (Letter to Dr. Cary Clem April 26, 1940)

One of Irvine’s sisters (Agnes) was married according to the Church of Scotland. Three other sisters, Jane (Jeanie), Helen (Nellie) and Janet were each married in the Free Church of Scotland. The Free Church of Scotland was established in 1843, during the period of Presbyterian history known as the Disruption. According to Wikipedia, the contemporary Free Church of Scotland remains a distinct Presbyterian denomination in Scotland to this day, and is commonly referred to as The Wee Frees, though this nickname is sometimes used for the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland who are also occasionally known as The Wee Wee Frees.

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Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the Truth?
Galatians 4:16

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Preserving the Truth
The Church Without a Name
and its Founder, William Irvine

William Irvine

Founder of the
Church with No Name
aka 2x2 Church,
Friends & Workers Fellowship,
Cooneyites and "the truth"