Macdonald family

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The Macdonalds were a remarkable WM dynasty with connections in the world of politics, art and literature. James Macdonald (1761-1835) was born at Ballinamallard, near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. He was one of John Wesley's itinerants from 1784 and died in Gosport on 18 October 1833. He wrote the life of Joseph Benson (1822).

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His son was George Browne Macdonald (1805-1868; e.m. 1825), born at Stockport on 2 October 1805. Among his pastorates were Hinde Street, London and Trinity, Wolverhampton (the home church of H.H. Fowler). He died at Bewdley, Worcs. on 13 November 1868. A stained glass window in memory of his wife Hannah in Ribbesford church was designed by their son-in-law Burne-Jones. He and his wife had a remarkable brood of daughters.

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Alice (1837-1910) married John Lockwood Kipling and their son was the writer and poet Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). Georgiana (1840-1920) married (Sir) Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), the pre-Raphaelite painter, and, despite their increasingly strained relationship, wrote his biography. Her circle of close friends included George Eliot and William Morris. The novelist Angela Thirkell (1890-1961) was a grand-daughter. Agnes (1846-1906) married the painter (Sir) Edward J. Poynter (1836-1919), who became President of the Royal Academy. Their architect son Ambrose was employed by Rudyard Kipling to make alterations to Bateman's, his Sussex home, in 1902. Louisa (1845-1925) was the wife of Alfred Baldwin (1840-1908), the Bewdley iron-master. She wrote a number of books, including novels and poetry, though nothing of lasting value. Their son, Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947) was later Prime Minister during the General Strike of 1926 and the Abdication crisis of 1936 and became the first Earl Baldwin of Bewdley. The youngest sister Edith (1848-1947) remained single and wrote the family Annals (1927).

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Their brother, Frederic William Macdonald (1842-1928; e.m. 1862) was a third-generation WM minister, born at Leeds on 25 February 1842. He had a distinguished circuit ministry, following student days at Owens College, Manchester. He was a tutor at Handsworth College from 1881 to 1891 and then Secretary of the WMMS. He was President of the Conference in 1899. He was a littérateur at a time when Handsworth was a centre of West Midlands Methodism and wrote two autobiographical volumes (1913 and 1919), lives of John Fletcher (1885) and W. Morley Punshon (1887) and Recreations of a Book-lover (1911). He gave theFernley Lecture in 1881 on 'The Dogmatic Principle in Relation to Christian Belief'. He died at Bournemouth on 16 October 1928.


George Browne Macdonald:

'I recollect him only in the social circle as a teller of humorous stories, and once heard him amuse a party, many of his brethren among them, by a burlesque argument to prove that the human race once had tails. There were several garbled extracts from the poets , and the following was one of his convincing proofs:

                      Man wants but a little below,
                      Nor wants that little long.'

R. Denny Urlin, Father Reece, the Old Methodist Minister (1901), p.93

  • Birmingham Faces and Places, April 1889, pp.186-8
  • Methodist Recorder, 25 October 1928; Winter Number,1904 p.74, 1905 pp.60-62
  • F.W. Macdonald, Reminiscences of my Early Ministry (1913)
  • F.W. Macdonald, As a Tale that is Told: recollections of many years (1919)
  • Edith Macdonald, Annals of the Macdonald Family (1927)
  • E.E. Kellett, 'Frederick W. Macdonald', in London Quarterly and Holborn Review, 1941, pp.61-64
  • A.W. Baldwin, The Macdonald Sisters (1960)
  • Ina Taylor, Victorian Sisters (1987)
  • Judith Flanders, A Circle of Sisters... (2001)
  • Fiona MacCarthy, The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination (2011)
  • Oxford DNB