Open main menu

COLVILL or COLVILLE, ALEXANDER, M.D. (1700–1777), Irish presbyterian minister, was son of Alexander Colville. He originally wrote his name Colville, but adopted the spelling Colvill from about 1724. He was probably born at Newtownards, where his father was ordained on 26 July 1696. The elder Colville became in 1700 minister of the congregation at Dromore, county Down, and died in his pulpit in November 1719. At the date of his father's death, Colvill, who had graduated M.A. at Edinburgh on 2 March 1715, was studying medicine, but where is unknown. The Dromore congregation at once sought him as their minister. He went through a theological course at Edinburgh under William Dunlop [q. v.] After acting as tutor in the family of Major Hay of Parbroath, he was licensed by the Cupar-Fife presbytery, on 19 June 1722. Being called to Dromore, he was refused ordination in 1724 by Armagh presbytery, as he declined to renew his subscription. His father had been a member of the Belfast Society, a clerical club which fostered the anti-subscription movement of 1720–6. Colvill appealed to the sub-synod and thence to the general synod, but evaded an adverse decision by repairing to London in December 1724, and getting himself ordained in Calamy's vestry, Joshua Oldfield, the leader of the London non-subscribers, presiding. The Armagh presbytery would not receive him. On appeal, the general synod (June 1725), though threatened by Calamy with a withdrawal of the regium donum, suspended him from ministerial functions for three months. Disregarding this sentence, Colvill, who had already (29 March 1725) applied for admission to the non-subscribing presbytery of Dublin, was by three of its members, Choppin, McGachy, and Woods, with Smyth from the Munster presbytery, installed at Dromore on 27 Oct. 1725 [see Boyse, Joseph]. These proceedings were followed by a schism in the Dromore congregation; but the majority (above four hundred heads of families) adhered to Colvill, whose orthodoxy, except on the points of predestination and the powers of the civil magistrate, there seems no good reason for questioning. After his settlement at Dromore he apparently obtained his degree in medicine. In 1730 he and his congregation transferred themselves to the non-subscribing presbytery of Antrim (expelled from the synod in 1726). His original meeting-house being out of the town, a new one was built for him on Pound Hill, Dromore. On the outbreak of the rebellion of 1745 Colvill obtained from Lord Chesterfield a commission for raising a volunteer corps, which he commanded in person. He died of apoplexy at Dromore on 23 April 1777, in his seventy-eighth year. His funeral sermon was preached on 4 May by James Bryson [q. v.], who eulogises his 'rich, clear, and comprehensive understanding.' From his will (dated 3 Oct. 1772) it appears that he had a son, Maturine, and five daughters, two of them married. His congregation returned to the general synod after his death, but left it again with the remonstrants of 1829.

Colvill published: 1. 'Funeral Sermon for Rev. T. Nevinof Downpatrick,' Belfast, 1745, 8vo. 2. 'The Persecuting, Disloyal, and Absurd Tenets of those who afiect to call themselves Seceders, &c.,' Belfast, 1749, 8vo. 3. 'Some important Queries,' &c., Belfast, 1773, 8vo (defends the 'Catholic Christian,' by John Cameron (1724–1799) [q. v.], against the attack of Benjamin McDowell).

[Belfast News-Letter, 29 April 1777; Bryson's Sermons, 1778; Christian Moderator, September 1827, p. 197; Armstrong's Appendix to Martineau's Ordination Service, 1829, p. 89; Reid's Hist. Presb. Ch. in Ireland (Killen), 1867, iii. 191 sq., 281; Dromore Household Almanac, 1879; Witherow's Hist. and Lit. Mem. of Presb. in Ireland, 2nd ser. 1880, p. 71 sq.; Killen's Hist, of Congregations Presb. Ch. in Ireland, 1886, p. 122; Records of Presbytery of Cupar, per Rev. D. Brewster; Registers of Edinburgh University, negative results from Glasgow and St. Andrews universities, per custodians; Belfast Funeral Register (Presbyterian); attested copy of Colvill's will.]

A. G.