Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Magee, Martha Maria

MAGEE, MARTHA MARIA (d. 1846), foundress of the Magee College, was born, of parents named Stewart, at Lurgan, co. Armagh, where her family had been long settled. She married William Magee, who on 12 Sept. 1780 had been ordained presbyterian minister of First Lurgan. By his death on 9 July 1800 she was left with her two sons in narrow circumstances. Both her sons entered the army, one as an ensign, the other as army surgeon; they died in early manhood, one from the result of an accident, the other, in India, of hydrophobia. Subsequently Mrs. Magee, who had been dependent on the presbyterian widows' fund and her own otherwise unaided exertions, was enriched by inheriting a fortune accumulated by her two brothers, both military men—one of them a colonel in the Indian army. She removed from Lurgan to Dublin, where she lived very quietly, but contributed to charitable and religious objects on a munificent scale. At first connected with a presbyterian church in Dublin, she attended for a time the services of the (then) established church, but ultimately became a member of Usher's Quay presbyterian congregation. She died in Dublin on 22 June 1846, leaving no near relative.

By her will Mrs. Magee left 25,000l. to the Irish presbyterian mission in India, 5,000l. to the foreign mission, 5,000l. to the home mission, the reversion of 5,000l. to the Usher's Quay female orphan school, 1,350l. to a new presbyterian church on Ormond Quay, to the erection of which she had largely contributed, and 20,000l. in trust for the erection and endowment of a college for the education of the Irish presbyterian ministry. This last bequest led to a protracted and stormy controversy, which was only settled by a chancery suit. The general assembly, led byHenry Cooke, D.D. [q. v.], wished to apply the funds to an exclusively theological college in Belfast; the trustees favoured the establishment of a college in Londonderry, with full curriculum in arts and theology. In April 1851 Master Brooke gave a judgment upholding the position of the trustees. The Rev. Richard Dill, one of the three original trustees, who died on 8 Dec. 1858, left some 15,000l. for the endowment of two chairs and two bursaries; another trustee, John Brown, D.D., of Aghadowey (d. 27 March 1873), gave 2,000l.; and a benefaction was received from the Irish Society. In October 1865 the Magee College, Londonderry, was opened, having seven endowed chairs. In 1881 its three theological professors were incorporated by royal charter with the seven professors in the assembly's college, Belfast, as ‘The Presbyterian Theological Faculty, Ireland,’ with power to grant degrees in divinity.

[Reid's Hist. Presb. Church in Ireland (Killen), 1867, iii. 493 sq.; Porter's Life of Henry Cooke, 1875, pp. 400 sq.; Killen's Hist. Congr. Presb. Church in Ireland, 1886, pp. 12, 131, 187; Hamilton's Hist. Irish Presb. Church [1886], pp. 171 sq.; Irwin's Hist. Presbyterianism in Dublin, 1890, pp. 141 sq.; Presbyterian Churchman, June 1887, p. 148.]

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