Macpherson, James
1814-1901; e.m. 1833

PM itinerant and scholar, described as 'devoted but humourless'. Born in Edinburgh, he entered the ministry at 19. He made up for educational deficiencies by a gruelling course of self-education, mastering Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German and French and becoming a formidable expositor of Scripture. He was President of the PM Conference in 1872. Having worked with John Petty in Sunderland and the Channel Islands, he later edited Petty's Memoirs (1870) and the revised edition of his PM History (1880). His ministry was largely spent in the Manchester District, where he acted as theological tutor to probationers. As Principal-elect of the Manchester theological college he had helped to promote he was responsible for fund-raising and his full duties did not begin until 1881 in difficult circumstances. Along with Joseph Wood he attacked John Day Thompson's views on the 'Simple Gospel' as heretical and on hearing the result of the Conference debate withdrew in protest.. It was he who sought the support of W.P. Hartley for the theological college, but his approach did not have full effect until after his retirement in 1889. He was awarded, but never publicly acknowledged, an American DD. He died on 18 April 1901.


'He was a modern Titan, a man of large proportions of stature and mind. He was scholarly, industrious, with a genius for taking pains. He lacked the softer and more human side of an ideal tutor, but one could not but admire his even habits, as of a machine, the mark of thoroughness in all he did, the freedom from the smaller caprices and feelings of human nature, and his quick sympathy with anyone who showed intellectual fitness or desire.'

W. Bardsley Brash, The Story of our Colleges (1935), p.136

  • F.H. Hurd, Earnest Men: Sketches of eminent Primitive Methodists, minister and laymen (1872) pp.142-48
  • G.J. Stevenson, Methodist Worthies (1884-1886), 5 pp.759-71
  • Joseph Ritson, The Romance of Primitive Methodism (1909) pp.196-97
  • G.E. Milburn, A School for the Prophets (Manchester, 1981)