Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kennedy, John (1819-1884)

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KENNEDY, JOHN (1819–1884), highland divine, fourth son of John Kennedy, minister of Killearnan, Ross-shire, was born at the manse on 15 Aug. 1819. His mother was Jessie, daughter of Kenneth Mackenzie of Assynt, Sutherlandshire. He was educated in the parish school of Killearnan, and about 1836 went to Aberdeen University. He graduated M.A. at King's College in 1840, and in the same year entered the theological hall of the established church. After the death of his father (10 Jan. 1841) he became, while still continuing his studies, tutor in the family of Dr. Henderson of Caskieben, Aberdeenshire. His brother Donald succeeded his father at Killearnan, but joined the free church after the disruption of 1843. Kennedy, who had been licensed by the established church in September 1843, followed this example, and in February 1844 was inducted into a free church newly formed at Dingwall, Ross-shire. He had perfect command of the Gaelic language, and preached in both Gaelic and English to many congregations besides his own. He often delivered, it is said, as many as ten discourses in one week.

Dingwall was his only charge. He declined calls from Dunoon (1853), from Australia (1854), from Greenock and from Tain (1857), from Renfield Church, Glasgow (1863), and from Greenock again in 1872. In 1873 the university of Aberdeen conferred upon him the honorary degree of D.D.

During the winter of 1869–70 Kennedy's health broke down, and he was forced to take rests in 1872, 1873 (when he visited America), and 1881. In the summer of 1883 he took an active interest in the Strome Ferry case, caused by an attempt, with which he sympathised, to forcibly resist the Sunday traffic on the Highland Railway. He died at Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire, on 28 April 1884, and was buried within the grounds of the free church at Dingwall on 1 May. He married at Fodderty, on 25 April 1848, Mary, daughter of Major Forbes Mackenzie, by whom he had several children.

Kennedy was the leader in the highlands of the opposition to the projected union of the free and united presbyterian churches, and supported his friend Dr. James Begg [q. v.], with whose views on church government he completely sympathised, in defeating the movement. He had been one of those appointed to confer on points of agreement in 1865, but retired in 1868, when his church seemed in danger of lapsing into voluntaryism. He was equally firm in opposing the disestablishment of Scottish presbyterianism, and greatly objected to the secularisation of the endowments. His pamphlet, ‘Disestablishment Movement in the Free Church,’ Edinburgh, 1882, had a wide circulation both in Gaelic and English. In 1865 and 1872 he stoutly opposed the introduction of uninspired hymns into public worship. He viewed the hymns as the forerunner of an organ. In 1882 he denounced the use of instrumental music as ‘unscriptural, unconstitutional, and inexpedient’ in his ‘Introduction of Instrumental Music into the Worship of the Free Church,’ Edinburgh, 1883. In 1877 the prosecution of Professor W. Robertson Smith for an article upon the Bible in the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica’ had his warm sympathy; and in 1881 he published in connection with the case ‘A Purtecklur Acoont o' the Last Assembly, by wan o' the Hielan' Host.’ Kennedy was the acknowledged successor of Dr. John Macdonald [q. v.] of Ferintosh, and is sometimes designated the second ‘Apostle of the North.’ But he was at the same time a man of great literary culture, and a constant reader and lover of poetry. He was passionately fond of pictures.

His works, which are said to have been much surpassed by his spoken sermons, are: 1. ‘Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire,’ Edinburgh, 1861, 1867 (criticised by some as superstitious and ascetical). 2. ‘The Apostle of the North’ (i.e. Dr. Macdonald of Ferintosh), London, 1866. 3. ‘Man's Relation to God, traced in the Light of the Present Truth,’ Edinburgh, 1869. He supplied memorial notices of the Rev. Dr. Mackintosh McKay of Dunoon and of the Rev. Donald Sage of Resolis for Wylie's ‘Disruption Worthies,’ Edinburgh, 1881.

Photographs are prefixed to Auld's ‘Life of Kennedy’ and to ‘In Memoriam Rev. John Kennedy’ (1884).

[Private information; Auld's Life of Dr. Kennedy, passim; this gives a very full and detailed account of his labours, with extracts from his diary descriptive of his mental history (pp. 10–42, 97–103), and letters to his friends, also, in an Appendix, notes of some sermons and portions of public lectures. In Memoriam Rev. John Kennedy, D.D., Dingwall (Inverness, 1884, pp. 4–5), gives a list of published pamphlets. Scotsman and Edinburgh Courant for 29 April 1884. Cf. Religion in the Highlands, by A. Taylor Innes, in Brit. and For. Evangelical Review, June 1872.]

B. P.