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William Irvine


1863 - 1947

Presbyterian evangelist. Born in Kilsyth (North Lanarkshire), the third of eleven children of a miner, Irvine was educated at Kilsyth Academy. He worked as a miner but gave up employment to spend two years at John Anderson's Bible Training College in Glasgow (1893-5).

In 1897, while travelling in Ireland, Irvine founded the mysterious two-by-two itinerant ministry. This evangelical organisation, also known as the 'tramp mission' or 'the church without a name', attracted crowds to open-air missions held across the country. Workers were sent to America and Irvine himself travelled regularly around the globe in the early years of the 20th Century. Irvine was convinced that the Book of Revelations should be taken literally and that the world was about to come to an end. In 1914, this brought about a schism in the church and Irvine left, along with a few hundred loyal supporters. They became known as the Message People, the Witnesses, or Irvinites. Irvine went on to declare himself a prophet and continued to urge his followers to prepare for the end of the world.

Having suffered from throat cancer, Irvine died in Jerusalem. The church he founded continues today, with up to 500,000 members world-wide.


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