Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/McAll, Robert Stephens

McALL, ROBERT STEPHENS (1792–1838), congregational minister, eldest son of the Rev. Robert McAll and Jane Lea, was born at Plymouth on 4 Aug. 1792, and received his early education at Gloucester and in Cornwall. In order to prepare him for the congregational ministry he was sent when thirteen to the congregational academy at Axminster, Devonshire, thence to Harwich under Mr. Hordle, and to Hoxton Academy, 1809. His brilliant vivacity and ‘over-due propensity to disputation’ startled the managers of that institution, and he was soon ejected. Some years later he was invited to undertake the presidency of the same seminary. After living for eighteen months with Dr. W. B. Collyer he studied medicine at the Edinburgh University, and in his second year declined the office of president of the Royal Medical Society. Leaving Edinburgh at the completion of his twenty-first year he resolved to enter the ministry, and was ordained at Macclesfield, Cheshire, on his appointment to the chaplaincy of a Sunday school there. In 1823 St. George's Chapel, Sutton, Macclesfield, was built for him, and there he remained until January 1827, when he accepted the pastorate of Mosley Street Independent Chapel, Manchester. His brilliant preaching and varied accomplishments gained him a high place in public estimation; and he seems to have exercised a most fascinating influence over minds of every order. Dr. Collyer was enchanted by his ‘seraphic spirit,’ Dr. Raffles thought him ‘wonderful,’ and Robert Hall spoke of him as ‘miraculous.’ The degree of LL.D. was conferred on him by Marischal College, Aberdeen. His sermons were always of great length, sometimes exceeding two hours, and various expedients were resorted to, but often in vain, to attract his attention when his exhortations had gone beyond reasonable limits.

Early in 1838 he showed signs of failing health, and on 27 July he died at Swinton, near Manchester, aged 45. He was buried at Rusholme Road cemetery, Manchester, where a monument to his memory was raised in 1854. A memorial tablet is also placed in Cavendish Chapel, Manchester. He left a wife and an only son, Dr. R. W. McAll of Paris; his only daughter died shortly before him.

His published works consist of several occasional sermons and poems (some in Wheeler's ‘Manchester Poetry,’ 1838) and a collection of ‘Discourses on Special Occasions,’ with a memoir by Dr. Ralph Wardlaw, 2 vols. 1840. Another collection of sermons, with a preface by T. H., is dated 1843. There is a large engraved portrait of him by J. Bostock, after Ward.

[Wardlaw's Memoir as above; J. Griffin's Autobiog. 1883; Slugg's Manchester Fifty Years Ago, 1881; Procter's Literary Reminiscences, 1864, p. 114; Evangelical Mag. 1838, p. 435; funeral sermons by Raffles and others.]

C. W. S.