Workers, Friends, Home Church, The Truth, The Way, Meetings, Gospel, Cooneyites, Christian Conventions, Hymns Old & New
Preserving the Truth
The Church without a Name and its Founder, William Irvine

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O Bio Truth?

Chapter 2
Revised February 20, 2018

About William Irvine

1863: Wm. Irvine's Birth
1863:  Wm. Irvine's Presbyterian Background
1868-75: Wm. Irvine's Education
1873-93: Wm. Irvine's Employment Record
1886: Wm. Irvine was a Freemason (member of the Masonic Lodge)
1886: Birth of Wm. Irvine's Son

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

Irvine Family Tree


1863: WILLIAM IRVINE 'S BIRTH. He was born in Newtown, Kilsyth, Lanarkshire, Scotland, on January 7, 1863, the third of eleven children born to John and Elizabeth G rassam (aka Gressam) , who were married on Dec. 9, 1858, at Larbert, Stirlingshire , Scotland . The Birth Registry gave no middle name for Wm. Irvine. However, the cover of his Bible had the initials W.E.I. engraved in gold.

Between 1859 and 1876, the eleven Irvine children born were, in birth order, John, Margaret, William, James, Agnes, Henry #1, Henry #2, Elizabeth, Jane (also known as Jeanie), Helen (also known as Nellie) and Janet (also known as Jennie). See Appendix I for Irvine Family Tree.

When Wm. was born in 1863, his mother, Elizabeth, was 30 years old. She was born in 1833 in Larbert , Scotland , and died Nov. 25, 1897, aged 64. His father, John, was 30 years old and his occupation was a miner. John was born in 1833 in Falkirk , Scotland , and died Aug. 12, 1913, aged 80. He was a veteran of the 1853-56 war in Crimea , and witnessed the famous Charge of the Light Brigade (James Hutchison, Weaver, Miners and the Open Book: A History of Kilsyth, Cumbernauld, Scotland: Kelvinprint, 1986, pp. 124-128.

1863-1893: WM IRVINE'S PRESBYTERIAN BACKGROUND. William Irvine's father, John, “was a stalwart member of the Free Church and also one of its managers." Wm. was raised in the Burns Free Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), which was built in 1816 and after 186 years, was demolished in 2002. 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 stained glass windows from the Burns Church are presently installed (Rev. Peter Anton, Kilsyth, a Parish History (Glasgow, John Smith & Son, 1893).

As further confirmation that Wm. Irvine was raised Presbyterian, his sister Agnes was married according to the Church of Scotland by Rev. Peter Anton. Three other sisters, Jane (Jeanie), Helen (Nellie) and Janet were each married in the Free Church of Scotland by Rev. Wm. Jeffrey. 

ABOUT KILSYTH, SCOTLAND. Formerly a coal mining town in North Lanarkshire, Kilsyth is located 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Glasgow. It is pronounced Kil-sithe,' with a long "I" and accented on the second syllable, "sithe."

"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 coal mining village by opening the Dumbreck pit…They also built several 'miner's rows' to house their workers in Queenzieburn and in 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…" (James Hutchison, Weaver, Miners and the Open Book: A History of Kilsyth, Cumbernauld, Scotland: Kelvinprint, 1986. pp. 124-128.

The Kilsyth Chronicle newspaper office is located in the Kilsyth Market Square , and in a visit made by the Author on July 26, 2004, their employees were extremely cordial and eager to supply information. Nearby are the remains of Colzium Castle and the Colzium House, a mansion which dates from the 18th and 19th centuries and are 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, which closed and is now a park where climbing the rock faces is popular. 

A "collier" is a coal miner; a "colliery" is a coal mine with its connected buildings. To go "underground" was to work in the mines. William and his two brothers, John and James, his father and grandfather and numerous brothers-in-law all worked in the coal mines. His brothers and father managed Dumbreck Colliery for 30 years, which was owned by Baird & Co. and situated near Kilsyth. The following gives a glimpse into the daily lives and conditions during the time the Irvine men worked in the mines.

"As mines became deeper, the danger to health and safety increased...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...

"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.

"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...called the black-spit and...melanosis. It is a wasting of the the inhaling of the coal dust while working...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" (Weavers, Miners and the Open Book – A History of Kilsyth  by James Hutchison, pp. 124-128).

For additional information on Kilsyth Scotland:
View Photos of Kilsyth

Gazetter for Scotland
Kilsyth official website 

Kilsyth as it is today

1868-1871: WM IRVINE'S EDUCATION.  At that time, children normally began school at age five, and Wm. Irvine most likely attended Kilsyth Academy . However, he stopped attending school in 1871 when he was eight years old, and started his first job. The 1880 Education Act had not yet made it compulsory for children between the ages of five and ten years to attend school; which was extended to twelve years in 1899. From age 20 to 30, Irvine resumed his education at night school.

1871-1893: WM. IRVINE'S EMPLOYMENT RECORD.  His first job was as a message boy in a Glasgow grocery where he worked 72 hours per week for 75 cents. His second job was at Gray Dunn's biscuit factory, working from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and a half day on Saturday for one dollar. His third job was making cores and little kettles in the foundry for five pounds per week. In 1873 when he was ten years old, he went underground working for Baird & Co. in the coal mines, where the Author was unable to verify his employment and position. Seven Baird brothers established the firm of William Baird & Co. in Lanarkshire, one of the major industrial companies of the nineteenth century.

At age 16, he was a strong, husky boy who earned more than his father did. From age 20 to 30, Irvine made about 300 pounds per year and had reached the top by very hard, dirty and dangerous work. He held the position of General Manager of Baird's Collieries in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, and had the best of prospects ahead. He resigned from Baird & Co. on Nov. 1, 1893, when he was 30 years old. Irvine stated, " 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..." ( Wm. Irvine to Wm. Edwards, Feb. 18, 1938*).

1884, JANUARY 23: WM IRVINE BECAME A FREEMASON. When he was 21, he became a lifetime member of the Masonic Lodge Stewart (aka Steuart) No. 547 in Kilsyth. Wm. Irvine mentioned he was a Freemason in three letters:

"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" (Wm. Irvine to Berglinds, Sept. 10, 1937).

"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" (Wm. Irvine to Fay Sheeley, Jan. 30, 1929).

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

Wm. Irvine's membership was confirmed by the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland:

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 (James L. Noble, Grand Secretary, to Cherie Kropp, Nov. 19, 2010). View letter in TTT Photo Gallery.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  There is a disparity in Wm. Irvine's age in the above statement. 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 Wm. Irvine's birth year in 1863 would put his age at 21 or 22 years. It is possible there is a transcription error, or that Mr. Noble was confirming another mason named Wm Irvine.

Very little is known about Wm. Irvine's connection to Freemasonry. It is sometimes said that "Masonry is Generational," which is to say being a mason runs in families, generation after generation. It has been confirmed that Wm. Irvine's Grandfather John A. Irvine was the Grandmaster of the Kilsyth Lodge from 1866-67; that his father John, and his father's brother Walter, were both masons; and that some of Walter's sons and grandsons were also; as well as his brother in law, John Freebairn. Read more: Significance of Wm. Irvine being a Freemason

1886-87: DEATHS OF TWO OF WM. IRVINE'S SISTERS:  Wm. Irvine's sister, Margaret, was two years older than him, born on Feb. 24, 1861, and died unmarried on July 18, 1886, aged 25; cause of death was Phthisis. Wm. 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 be... (Wm. Irvine to Pincetl and Sutter, Feb. 21, 1946) He also wrote, "I owe more to the loss of my sister when she was 25 and I 23, than to all other circumstances and events, and she of all my sisters has been a living fellowship even to this day…" (Wm. Irvine to Duncan, Dunbars and Reeds, May 12, 1934). Less than a year later, Wm's sister, Elizabeth, died on June 15, 1887, aged 15, cause of death was Periostitis. She was born on Dec. 12, 1871 and never married.

1881 SCOTLAND CENSUS. For No. 16 Auchinstarry Row in Cumbernauld, Dumbartonshire in the household of John (occupation Ironstone Manager) and Elizabeth Irvine included sons William, age 18 and James, age 16, both working as Ironstone Miners; and daughters Agnes, Elizabeth, Jane, Helen and Janet.

1891 SCOTLAND CENSUS. For Nos. 7 and 8 Auchinstarry Row in Cumbernauld, Dumbartonshire in the household of John (occupation Colliery Oversman) and Elizabeth Irvine included daughters: Jane, Helen, Janet and grandson, Archibald Irvine. Their son, James Irvine, age 26 and wife Catherine lived next door in No. 6 with no children.

Click Here to view photo of Auchinstarry Rows, where the miners and their families lived.

1886, APRIL 23 - BIRTH OF WM. IRVINE'S SON.  According to an Irvine family descendent, Lizbeth Freebairn,* it was widely known in the family that when William was in his early twenties, he fathered an illegitimate son named Archibald Grassam Irvine. In her research of Scottish records, she located birth records for an illegitimate son named William Grassam, born on April 23, 1886, in Maryhill, Lanarkshire, Scotland, to Margaret Helen Grassam, a first cousin of Wm. Irvine. For the father's name, there was the notation illegitimate.

Margaret Helen Grassam was born April 16, 1859, in Larbert, Stirlingshire , Scotland , to Archibald and Marion Grassam. Archibald was a brother to Wm. Irvine's mother, Elizabeth. When baby William Grassam was born, Margaret was 27 years old, working as a domestic servant, and William was 23, working in a colliery. Family rumor has it that William made himself scarce for awhile. This Census shows William Irvine, age 28 as a lodger of Robert Condel in Bothwell, Lanarkshire (occupation Colliery Manager).

On January 3, 1888, Margaret Grassam married John Hastings, a coal miner, in Falkirk, Scotland. At the time, Margaret was 28 and John was 36 years old and had three sons from a prior marriage who lived with them. John and Margaret Hastings had two more children. Sometime between the 1891 and 1901 Censuses, John Hastings passed away. Margaret died on October 5, 1915, aged 56.

The first Scottish census to be taken after William Grassam was born in 1886 was in 1891, when he was 4-5 years old. He was not listed in the Hasting household. However, the household of John and Elizabeth Irvine (Wm. Irvine's parents) in Kilsyth , Scotland , shows a four year old grandson named Archibald Irvine, born in Maryhill, Lanarkshire, Scotland. The birthplace (Maryhill) and birthdate (1886) given for Archibald is the same as that for Margaret's son, William Grassam. It is not known where Archibald lived the first four years of his life or when he came to live with his grandparents.

In 1897, when he was 11 years old, Archie's grandmother, Elizabeth Irvine, passed away. His grandfather John lived until 1913. His father, William, was preaching with Faith Mission at this time. The 1891 Census shows that after their marriage in 1888, William's brother James and wife Catherine/Kate lived next door at to John Irvine and were childless. Possibly, they helped care for Archie.

The Scottish Census in 1901 shows Maggie Hastings as a widow, head of house, and in her household were children Francis, James and Margaret Hastings and her brother, Francis Grassam. There was no 14-15 year old son named William Grassam or Archibald Irvine listed. There was no 1901 census record for John Irvine's household, as he and Archibald were in New Zealand at the time, and his wife had passed away in 1897.

It appears there were two male children in the same family with identical birth dates and birth places with two different names. William Grassam and Archibald Grassam Irvine. This raises a few questions. Who were Archibald Irvine's parents? A grandson with the surname of Irvine could have been fathered by any of the three sons of John and Elizabeth Irvine. However, it was fairly common knowledge in the Irvine family that William had fathered an illegitimate son. Is Archibald the son of William Irvine? Are Archibald Irvine and William Grassam the same person?

It is quite possible that William Grassam was adopted by Wm. Irvine's parents and they changed his name to Archibald Grassam Irvine. Unfortunately, an adoption cannot be proven because according to the National Records of Scotland, there are no national records for adoptions in Scotland prior to 1930. Before then, adoptions were arranged on a private basis, either by individuals or by one of a number of charitable adoption agencies.

The following reasons provide evidence that William Grassam and Archibald Grassam Irvine could very well be one and the same person. The birth certificate of William Grassam shows he was born on April 23, 1886 in Maryhill. The 1891 Irish Census records show Archibald Irvine's age as being four years (born in 1886), in Maryhill, and residing with his grandparents.

Archibald Irvine is listed in the New Zealand Presbyterian Church Registry of Ministers, Deaconesses & Missionaries from 1840 with a birth date of April 23, 1886, and as being from Glasgow. Maryhill is a suburb three miles from Glasgow . New Zealand World War I military records confirm Archibald's birth date as April 23, 1886. His age on his tombstone (aged 66) is consistent with his being born in 1886, as is his age (30) provided on his marriage certificate in 1916, where he lists his grandparents' names for his parents' names, and his birthplace as Glasgow.

The birth date of Archibald Grassam Irvine has been verified with his death certificate, tombstone, marriage, military, university, employer, church records and Irvine ancestors. The Author agrees with Irvine family member, Ms. Lizbeth Freebairn* that there is sufficient information to reasonably conclude that William Grassam is one and the same person as Archibald Grassam Irvine aka Archie, and in this book, it will be presumed that Archie is Wm. Irvine's son.

Earlier, in 1863, James Irvine (born in 1927, brother of John Irvine, father of Wm) and wife Jane, immigrated to Dunedin , New Zealand.  Archie was 14 years old in 1900 when he departed from Scotland for New Zealand aboard SS Whakatane with his widowed grandfather, John Irvine to visit his brother James. Also travelling with them were John's son James (Archie's uncle), his wife Catherine and a cousin, Wm. McCallum. In 1902, one of the five, J ohn Irvine returned to Scotland . James and Catherine made their home in NZ, Wm. McCallum married a NZ bride in 1905, and Archie continued his education and became a permanent resident there.

Archibald's grandparents raised their children in the Presbyterian denomination and the Irvine family members who immigrated to New Zealand continued with their church affiliation of Presbyterian. It is not surprising that Archibald became a minister of the Presbyterian Church. He graduated with a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in 1916 from the University of New Zealand at Otago.

Archie was ordained a Presbyterian minister at Waiareka in 1916. During World War I, from 1917-19 he was a Chaplain with the New Zealand Expeditionay Force. He was minister of the Presbyterian Church at Ashburton, NZ in 1924 and at Hawera, NZ in 1933. He married Mary Jamieson ( Murray ) Irvine on October 24, 1916, when he was 30, and retired to Christchurch in 1950. Archie died June 14, 1952, and Mary died Dec. 19, 1982. They had no children. They are buried in Bromley Cemetery , Keighleys Rd , Christchurch, NZ. When Wm. Irvine died in 1947, he did not bequeath anything to his son in his will. For more information about Archie Irvine, see Chapter 4.

*Ms. Lizbeth Freebairn, granddaughter of Wm Irvine's sister Agnes who married John Freebairn.  An avid genealogy researcher of the Irvine family lines has kindly provided family details. She has lived in both Kilsyth, Scotland, and New Zealand. Her voluntary contributions of time, information and photographs are very much appreciated.

James Hutchison, Miners and the Open Book--A History of Kilsyth (Cumbernauld, Scotland: Kelvinprint, 1986) pp. 124-128
Rev. Peter Anton, Kilsyth: a Parish History (Glasgow, John Smith & Son, 1893)
Wm. Irvine to Wm. Edwards, Feb. 18, 1938*
Wm. Irvine to Berglinds, Sept. 10, 1937
Wm. Irvine to Fay Sheeley, Jan. 30, 1929
Wm. Irvine to Dilla Sheeley, Jan. 31, 1929
James L. Noble, Grand Secretary, to Cherie Kropp, Nov. 19, 2010
Wm. Irvine to Pincetl and Sutter, Feb. 21, 1946
Wm. Irvine to Duncan, Dunbars and Reeds, May 12, 1934
"New Zealand Presbyterian Church Register of Ministers, Deaconesses & Missionaries from 1840." (retrieved Feb. 20, 2018).
John Rawson Elder, The History of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand 1840-1940, (Christchurch, New Zealand: Presbyterian Bookroom, 1940) p. 435
*Ms. Lizbeth Freebairn, granddaughter of Wm Irvine's sister Agnes who married John Freebairn.  An avid genealogy researcher of the Irvine family lines has kindly provided family details. She has lived in both Kilsyth, Scotland, and New Zealand. Her voluntary contributions of time, information and photographs are very much appreciated.

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