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McGILLIVRAY, ALEXANDER, Presbyterian minister; b. 1801 at Croy, Inverness-shire, Scotland; m. in 1837 Elizabeth McCormick Skinner, and they had 13 children; d. 16 Feb. 1862 at McLellan Brook, Pictou County, N.S.

Alexander McGillivray was, educated at the parish school and at King’s College, Aberdeen, and was ordained to the ministry of the Church of Scotland at Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, on 25 April 1832. That same year he heeded the call to preach to his fellow Scots in Nova Scotia and immigrated to the colony. After a short stay in Lochaber as the first resident pastor, he was inducted in 1833 as minister at Barney’s River and Merigomish. Five years later he became pastor at McLellan Mountain, and ministered there until his death.

McGillivray was a mild, benevolent man, and little inclined to religious controversy. Partly for this reason, he stayed in Nova Scotia after the disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843, when nearly all other Kirk ministers went home to Scotland to replace those who had joined the new Free Church of Scotland. Resisting entreaties from his family and departing colleagues to join the exodus, McGillivray preached and administered the sacraments to pastorless Church of Scotland people. For almost ten years this lone “shepherd of the Kirk” journeyed through the rugged terrain of eastern Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island where thousands of Highlanders came to hear him preach in English and Gaelic. It is believed that he was the only Kirk minister on the eastern mainland of Nova Scotia for eight years. His work was easier after 1853, when three new Kirk ministers, G. W. Sprott, Alexander McLean, and Allan Pollok, came out from Scotland in answer to his pleas for support. Realizing the need for a native clergy, McGillivray raised money to send George Monro Grant* and three other young men to study for the ministry at the University of Glasgow in 1853.

McGillivray’s self-sacrificing and resolute character won him the love of his people. Queen’s College at Kingston, Canada West, rewarded his efforts with an honorary degree in 1858. His own farm, as well as the support of his large following in the province, also brought a considerable measure of worldly prosperity, and several of his children received a professional education. Above all, by avoiding religious wrangles and maintaining cordial relations with clergy and laity of the Free Church, he aided in the development of a conciliatory spirit among Presbyterians, which helped to make possible the reunion of Presbyterians in British North America in 1875.

A. A. MacKenzie

McLellan Mountain Presbyterian Church (McLellan Brook, N.S.), records. James Robertson, History of the mission of the Secession Church to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island from its commencement in 1765 (Edinburgh, 1847). Eastern Chronicle (Pictou, N.S.), 20 Feb. 1862. Novascotian, 24 Feb. 1862. John Doull, Reverend Alexander McGillivray, D.D. (Halifax, 1938). W. L. Grant and Frederick Hamilton, Principal Grant (Toronto, 1904). J. P. MacPhie, Pictonians at home and abroad (Boston, 1914).

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Cite This Article

A. A. MacKenzie, “McGILLIVRAY, ALEXANDER,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 29, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcgillivray_alexander_9E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcgillivray_alexander_9E.html
Author of Article:   A. A. MacKenzie
Title of Article:   McGILLIVRAY, ALEXANDER
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1976
Year of revision:   1976
Access Date:   September 29, 2023