McKinney, James Wesley
1895-1974; e.m. 1921

Born in Dromore, Co. Tyrone, on 27 December 1895, into a farming family with long-established Methodist roots, he won a scholarship to the North West Agricultural College, Strabane. Sensing a call to the ordained ministry he became a Methodist minister in 1921. During the Second World War his compassion and organisational abilities were first called on following the Belfast Blitz of 1941 when he became Northern Ireland's Welfare Officer for North Belfast. With hundreds dead and 70,000 homeless his energies were used to secure shelter and help for displaced families. He was largely instrumental in the formation in 1940 of the Irish Methodist Church's Council on Social Welfare and was its first ministerial secretary. One of its early initiatives was a model farm which came to fruition in the form of a national Agricultural College, established in Gurteen, Co. Tipperary against almost insuperable odds. In 1947, with State approval, the College was opened with Wesley McKinney as first principal. He guided the College though its first ten years of growth and consolidation. In 1955 the Methodist Missionary Society recognised his unique qualities by asking him to survey their vast acres in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), gifts of the late Cecil Rhodes. He was President of the Methodist Church in Ireland in 1957.

In 1925 he married in 1925 Alice Pierce Martin, BA, an honours graduate of Queen's University Belfast and daughter of Rev. Pierce Martin. On her mother Rose Edith Lyth's side of the family, she was the sixth generation of Methodists and a grand-niece of David Hill of China. Her services at Gurteen College, given in an honorary and voluntary capacity, were of enormous importance. She was elected Irish President of the Women's Department in 1957, coinciding with her husband's year of office as President of the Church. They had three children, one of whom is Dr Edith Loane, whose late husband, Oscar Loane, became Principal of Gurteen College in 1963 and served until 1988, having been Vice-Principal from 1947 to 1959.

  • Irish Christian Advocate, 7 June 1957 p. 6