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CAMPBELL, Alexander James (1815-1909)

CAMPBELL, Rev. Dr. Alexander James (1815-1909)

Alexander James Campbell (Rolland Family)

Alexander James Campbell (Rolland Family)

Rev. Dr Alexander Campbell. Portrait by Robert Hannaford.

Rev. Dr Alexander Campbell.
Portrait by Robert Hannaford.

Rev. Campbell, Presbyterian minister, was one of the founders and chairman of many of the meetings of the first Geelong College Committee between 1861 and 1864. His active involvement in the foundation of the School was of immense importance.

Memorials include a sideboard in the Alexander Campbell Room (presented by his descendants), a trophy prize and the Alexander Campbell Room itself. His portrait by Robert Hannaford is on display in the Alexander Campbell Room at the Senior School campus of Geelong College.

He was born on 3 April 1815 in Edinburgh, the son of John Campbell and his wife Frances Brown. He initially studied law at Edinburgh University, but in 1843 he became a Free Church Minister and was ordained at Melrose where he ministered until 28 January 1859. He married Mary Maitland Heriot. In 1859, he was sent to Victoria as a missionary where he eventually arrived in Geelong to become assistant to Rev Andrew Love of St Andrew’s Church, Geelong.

He convened the first meeting between the Presbyterians and Anglicans to consider a joint grammar school, presented the matter to the Synod of Victoria, and when the unified proposal failed, promptly spurred the formation of a committee to examine the feasibility of a Presbyterian Grammar School. He later chaired many of the meeting of the first Geelong College management committee.

Campbell became minister of a congregation which split from the Presbyterians based at St Andrew’s. Campbell’s new congregation initially met at the Mechanics Institute but by December 1860 had embarked on the construction of St George’s Church. He was to remain at St George’s until about 1887. During this period he lectured potential Presbyterian clergymen in systematic theology, published a monthly newsheet, Friendly Words and in 1869, an outback newspaper called the Preacher. He had also had several sermons and speeches published. After his retirement from St George’s he published a book, Fifty Years of Presbyterianism. He was moderator of the Victorian Presbytery in 1867 and 1893 and the first President of the Council of Churches. Rev Campbell died at his home in South Yarra on 20 October 1909.

The Geelong Advertiser newspaper published an obituary:
'A noted figure was removed from the ranks of Presbyterianism in Victoria by the death yesterday morning at South Yarra of the Rev. Alexander James Campbell, D.D.; at the advanced age of 94. The deceased gentleman was born in 1815—Waterloo year - at Carbrook, Stirlingshire, and joined the ministry at the time of the disruption in Scotland when the Free Church came away from the established body under the leadership of Dr. Chalmers. He went as first minister to the Free Church at Melrose on the Tweed, just after his marriage to Miss Mary Turner Harriet Maitland, of an old Fifeshire family.

For the benefit of his wife's health the Rev. Campbell migrated to Australia in 1859, and came at once to Geelong, where he was the first colleague, of the Rev. Andrew Love, of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Yarra street. A large section of the congregation desired a church in the western portion of the town, and St. George's was then built and had Mr. Campbell as its first minister. He remained pastor there from 1860 to 1886, when he retired from active work though he continued to manifest keen interest in general church work.

During his active ministry he was Moderator of the Assembly, and was one of the first professors of the Presbyterian Theological Hall. An enthusiastic educationalist, he was largely instrumental as a personal friend of the late Mr. Geo. Morrison, in the founding of the Geelong College. For some years Mr. Campbell lived at Connewarre, but latterly he has resided with his family at ‘Cargen’, Kensington Road, South Yarra.

Almost to the last he had full possession of his faculties, and only twelve months ago he sent a special sermon to the Rev. Jas. Forrest to be presented to the Geelong College boys. Mrs Campbell, who was well known in Geelong, predeceased her husband in 1882. The family consists of four sons and two daughters, viz: - Messrs. J. M. Campbell (of Davis and Campbell, solicitors). F. A. Campbell (director of the Working Men's College and ex-president of the Old Geelong Collegians), A. H. Campbell, of Goulburn Valley; W. M. Campbell, architect, of Melbourne; Mrs. W. S. Rolland, and Mrs. Balfour Melville. The interment will take place to-day at the New General Cemetery, and the cortege will move from St. Gorge's Presbyterian Church, where a service will be conducted at 2 p.m.'

His sons, Archibald Harry Campbell (1855-1939) and William Campbell (1861-1929) were educated at Geelong College.

Sources: Geelong Advertiser 21 October 1909 p3; Don Chambers, 'Campbell, Alexander James (1815 - 1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, Melbourne University Press, 1969, pp 342-343.
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