Rev. Gilbert Alexander Kennedy of Cambusnethan, Lanark

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Gilbert Alexander Kennedy was born in his family’s ancestral home in Gortnaglush townland, parish of Donaghmore and county of Tyrone.1 He was the son of the Rev. Robert Kennedy (c.1822–1901), Presbyterian minister of Ballyhobridge, and Isabella McClelland (c.1832–1915). He was also the third great grandson of the Rev. Thomas Kennedy (1625–1714), the first minister at Carland Presbyterian c.1646, and Mary O’Brien (c.1651–1721), his wife.2

Entry for the Rev. Gilbert Alexander Kennedy (1861–1916) in Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae by Hew Scott.

The basic outline of Mr. Kennedy’s career as Presbyterian minister can be gleaned from this entry in Volume III of Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, shown at left.3 After completing his B.A. at Queen’s Belfast in 1885, and taking his M.A. at Edinburgh in 1886, the Rev. G.A. Kennedy was licensed to preach in 1888. His first ministerial charge was Carland Presbyterian.4 Two years later, he was transferred to the large and lively congregation at Aghadoey in county Derry. Finally, in 1900, Mr. Kennedy was called to Cambusnethan in Lanarkshire, Scotland where he served till his untimely death in 1916.

The objective of this short biographical sketch is to attempt to fill in some of the gaps.

Gilbert A. Kennedy spent his earliest years at Gortnaglush where his father engaged in business before entering the Presbyterian ministry. The family removed to Ballyhobridge in county Fermanagh when the elder Kennedy was called to that congregation in 1879.5 Somewhat later during this period, Gilbert attended Magee College in Derry. 6

In the same year as his transfer to Aghadoey, Gilbert married Mary Jane Bryars of Dungannon, daughter of James Bryars, grocer and merchant, and Margaret Kells, in the Presbyterian church of Dungannon.7

In the year after answering the call of the Scottish congregation, the 1901 census of Scotland recorded the family in the parish manse at Cambusnethan: 8

  • Gilbert A. Kennedy, age 37, head, born in Ireland, occupation: Minister of the parish
  • Mary, age 34, born do. [ditto]
  • Adelade [sic], age 9, daughter, born do.
  • Florence I., age 8, daughter, born do.
  • Gilbert M.C., age 6, son, born do.
  • Norman R., age 3, son, born do.
  • Katharin Mitchell, age 21 servant, born do.
  • Hugh Savage, age 35, servant, born do.
  • Robert Marcus Dickson, age 23, visitor; born in Lanarskshire, occupation: Licentiate of Church

The eldest four children were born in Ballybritain townland, a half-mile or so west of the Presbyterian church at Aghadowey.9 Two more children, Evelyn Moira (1902) and Eileen Maud (1905) were born at Cambusnethan.10 In 1909, grief reigned over the Kennedy household when Florence Isabella died in June, 1909, aged seventeen years,11 and again five months later, when they mourned the passing of another daughter, seven-year-old Evelyn Moira.12

A few months into the new year of 1911, Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy visited his brother, Dr. John Adolphus Kennedy in Portstewart when the census was taken: 13

  • John Adolphus Kennedy, head, religious denomination: Presbyterian, education: reads and writes, age 39, occupation: dispensary medical officer of health, B.A. & M.D., marital status: single, born in county Tyrone
  • Gilbert Alexander Kennedy, visitor, religious denomination: Church of Scotland, reads and writes, age 49, occupation: parish minister of the Church of Scotland, married, born in county Tyrone
  • Mary, visitor, religious denomination and education do. [ditto]
  • Eileen Maud, visitor, religious denomination and education do., scholar, born in Scotland
  • Martha L. Napier, housekeeper, religious denomination: Church of Ireland, reads and writes, age 35, occupation: general servant (domestic), single, born in county Down
  • census place: Railway Road, Portstewart, county Londonderry

In his rôle as parish minister, the Rev. Mr. Kennedy threw himself heart and soul into all work that lay to the hands of a parish minister. He was a member of the School Board of Wishaw, and devoted a considerable part of his time to the management of education. If the welfare of the community would be served by any proposal, he supported the endeavour wholeheartedly.14

Two of Gilbert’s sons served in the British Army during the Great War: Gilbert M’Clelland with the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), and Norman who commenced training at Sandhurst in 1915.15 The eldest, Gilbert, was killed on the first day of the Battle of Festubert.16,17 Gilbert experienced this personal loss keenly, of course, and at the same time, under the mantle of parish minister, bore the burden of providing comfort to his parishioners in their times of grief and privation.

In the autumn of 1916, the Rev. Gilbert A. Kennedy contracted influenza. After two months’ serious illness, beset by complications, he succumbed on 8th December 1916 in his fifty-fifth year. His body was lain to rest in Cambusnethan church-yard.18,19

On 15th December, the Wishaw Press carried a series of tributes from local and district ministers. Perhaps the most poignant of these was penned by the Rev. J.P. Murdoch, minister of the United Free congregation in the parish: 20

“Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest” (Ps. lv., 6) — This text may seem strange when employed as a basis for a tribute of respect to my departed brother and fellow-worker, Gilbert Alexander Kennedy, but, truth to tell, I claim that it touches very closely the experience through which God led him—experiences which almost broke his heart and took from him the buoyancy that one associates with those who come from the sister isle. Both in public and private life he had much to endure, and latterly with the tragic issues of the war for himself and his home, he often wished to be away from it all—to fly away and be at rest. Only the sacred interests of his work, wife, and family kept him from complete breakdown. He felt the burden growing too heavy for his spirit, and at times his outlook became clouded. I believe that his premature death must be classed as another of war’s tragedies.

Postscript:—Rev. Mr. Kennedy’s widow, Mary, removed to Kenya with her daughter, Eileen Maud, and son-in-law, William Barr Clelland Danks, B.S., M.R.C.V.S.21 Mrs Kennedy died at Kabete, near Nairobi, on 26th December 1935 in her seventieth year. Her body was buried in Forest Road cemetery, Nairobi.22 The 17th January 1936 edition of the Wishaw Press (Lanarkshire) published the following death notice: 23

Wife of Ex-Moderator Passes Away at Nairobi.
   As briefly reported in a recent issue, Mrs Mary Kennedy, widow of the late Rev. Gilbert A. Kennedy, formerly minister of Cambusnethan Parish Church, Wishaw—a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland—died at Nairobi on Boxing Day after a long illness. Mrs Kennedy, who was 65 years of age, went to Kenya seven years ago. In the summer of 1930 she revisited Scotland, and on her return to East Africa, she resided with her daughter, Mrs Danks, in Nairobi.

Source citation for this page: — Kilpatrick, Alison. “Rev. Gilbert Alexander Kennedy (1861–1916).” A biographical sketch and family outline of the Presbyterian minister who had charge of Carland and Aghadowey congregations in Ireland, and Cambusnethan in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Published to Arborealis, online at, accessed [insert date of access].

See also: — The blog article entitled, “Rev. Gilbert Alexander Kennedy (1861–1916) of Cambusnethan, 3rd great grandson of the Rev. Mr. Thomas Kennedy (1625–1714) of Carland.


  1. Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Carland Congregation, Parish of Donaghmore, County Tyrone. Record of Baptism. Extract: Gilbert Alexander Kennedy born 3rd August 1861, son of Robert. Microfilm copy held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Belfast). Archival ref. MIC/1P/28 (accessed October, 2003).
  2. Carmichael-Ferrall, J. “Note on the Kennedy and Bailie Pedigrees,” based on the research of the Rev. Dr. James Kennedy-Bailie (1793-1864). The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archæological Association of Ireland. Vol. VII, fourth series, 1885-86. Dublin: printed at the University Press, by Ponsonby and Weldrick, 1887 (pp. 31-36).
  3. Scott, Hew. Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae. Vol. III. Synod Glasgow and Ayr. “Gilbert Alexander Kennedy.” (pg 207.) Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1920.
  4. The meeting house for Carland Presbyterian was sited originally in Lisnagowan townland. Today, the church lies in Creevagh Lower townland, which townland abuts the western boundary of Gortnaglush.
  5. McConnell, Rev. James, and Rev. Samuel G. McConnell, B.A., compilers. Fasti of the Irish Presbyterian Church, 1613–1840. Belfast: The Presbyterian Historical Society, 1951.
  6. The Hamilton Advertiser (Lanarkshire, Scotland), 9 December 1916 (pg. 6). “Death of Cambusnethan Minister.” Citing the death of the Rev. Gilbert A. Kennedy, M.A., aged about fifty years. Digital image online at, per the British Library Board (transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2020-12-07).
  7. General Register Office, Ireland. Civil Registration of a Marriage. Extract: Rev. Gilbert A. Kennedy, of full age, bachelor, occupation: clergyman, resident of Dungannon, father: Robert Kennedy, clergyman. Mary Bryars, of full age, spinster, resident of Dungannon, father: James Bryars, merchant. Marriage solemnized on 29th July 1890 under the authority of a special licence granted by the Rev. Wm. Park, Moderator of the General Assembly of [the] Irish Presbyterian Church, at 49 Scotch St. Dungannon in the Registrar’s District of Dungannon in the county of Tyrone, by the Rev. David Wilson according to the rites and ceremonies of the Presbyterian Church; witnesses: David Cummins, Sara W. MacCulloch. Archival ref. no. 192/05902780/703. Digital image online at Irish Genealogy, hosted by the Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, (accessed and transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2020-12-08).
  8. Scotland 1901 Census. Household of Gilbert A. Kennedy and Mary, his wife, and children, in Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire. Original record: General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh, microfilm ref. CSSCT1901-253. Archival ref. Registration district: Cambusnethan, Registration district no. 628, Enumeration district no. 4, Household schedule no. 234. Transcript online at (accessed 2011-11-03).
  9. For example:—General Register Office, Ireland. Civil Registration of a Birth. Extract: Margaret Adelaide Kennedy, female, born 6th June 1891 at Ballybrittan; daughter of Gilbert Alexander Kennedy of Ballybrittan, Presbyterian clergyman, and Mary Jane Kennedy formerly Bryars; informant: [father], registered 7th August 1891, H.S. Morrison, registrar. Archival ref. Coleraine Union, registrar’s district: Aghadowey, pg. 2, nos. 334/01888682. Digital image online at Irish Genealogy, hosted by the Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, (accessed and transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2020-12-07).
  10. National Records of Scotland. Statutory Registers. Index entries for the births of (ii) Evelyn Moira Kennedy, female, year: 1902; Cambusnethan Registration District; ref. 628/773; and (ii) Eileen Maud Kennedy, female, year: 1905; Cambusnethan Registration District; ref. 628/611. Index entries online at ScotlandsPeople, hosted by National Records of Scotland, (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2020-12-07).
  11. National Records of Scotland. Statutory Registers. Death of Florence Isabel Kennedy, age 17, year: 1909; Cambusnethan Registration District; ref. 628/196. Index online at ScotlandsPeople, hosted by National Records of Scotland, (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2020-12-07).
  12. National Records of Scotland. Statutory Registers. Death of Evelyn Moira [sic] Kennedy, age 7, year: 1909; Cambusnethan Registration District; ref. 628/344. Index online at ScotlandsPeople, hosted by National Records of Scotland, (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2020-12-07).
  13. Ireland 1911 Census. Household of John Adolphus Kennedy, B.A, M.D., with Gilbert Alexander Kennedy, Mary (wife to Gilbert), and their daughter, Eileen Maud, in Portstewart, county Londonderry. Index and digital images hosted online by The National Archives of Ireland (Dublin), in a joint venture with Library and Archives, Canada; (accessed 2011-11-03).
  14. The Hamilton Advertiser, 9 December 1916, op. cit.
  15. Wishaw Press, 23 November 1917 (pg. 2). “Military Cross for Lieutenant Norman Kennedy.” Digital image online at, per the British Library Board (transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2020-12-08).
  16. University of Glasgow. “2nd Lieutenant Gilbert McClelland Kennedy.” First World War of Honour. Online at (accessed 2020-12-08).
  17. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Commemorative certificate for Gilbert McClelland Kennedy, Second Lieutenant, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), 6th Bn., son of the Rev. Gilbert A. Kennedy, M.A., and Mrs. Kennedy, of Manse of Cambusnethan. Online at (accessed 2011-11-03).
  18. National Records of Scotland. Statutory Registers. Deaths in the District of Cambusnethan in the County of Lanark. Extract: No. 312. Gilbert Alexander Kennedy, Minister, Established Church, married to Mary Bryars; died 8th December 1916 at Cambusnethan Manse; male, aged 54 years; father: Robert Kennedy, Minister, Presbyterian Church (deceased); mother: Isabella Kennedy M.S. [maiden surname] McLelland (deceased); cause of death: influenza 2 months, gastro enteritis & haemhorrhoids 2 months, catarrhal jaundice 1-1/2 months, cerebral toxaemia 5 days, as certified by W. Duff, M.B.; informant: Thos Cochrane, elder, Road End Cottage, Wishaw; registered 8th December 1916 at Wishaw, Tho’s Steece, registrar. Archival ref. 628/312. Index online at ScotlandsPeople, hosted by National Records of Scotland, (register entry purchased by Alison Kilpatrick, 2020-12-07).
  19. Daily Record (Glasgow), 13 December 1916 (pg. 4). Funeral of the Rev. Gilbert A. Kennedy, minister of Cambusnethan; buried in Cambusnethan cemetery. Digital image online at, per the British Library Board (transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2020-12-07).
  20. Wishaw Press, 15 December 1916 (pg. 4):. “The Late Rev. G.A. Kennedy, M.A. / Pulpit and Other Tributes.” Digital image online at, per the British Library Board (extract transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2020-12-07).
  21. The Official Gazette of the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya. (Special Issue.) Vol. XXXVIII, No. 56 (November 16, 1936). Extract: “Electoral Area (No 1), Nairobi North. … Danks, Eileen Maud; Danks, William Barr Clelland; …” (pg. 4).
  22. East African Cemeteries and Memorials. Photograph of gravestone for Mary Kennedy, buried in Forest Road Cemetery, Nairobi, Kenya (section 14, lot 3). Inscription: “In / affectionate remembrance / of / MARY KENNEDY / wife of the late Rev. G.A. Kennedy / of Cambusnethan, Scotland / who died at Kabete / 26th Dec. 1935 / In [illegible] keeping we are safe, and the[-].” Photographs and notes by Bob Barnes, 2004–2015; online at (accessed 2020-12-08).
  23. Wishaw Press (Lanarkshire, Scotland), 17 January 1936 (pg. 4). Death notice: “Wife of Ex-Moderator Passes Away at Nairobi.” Citing the death of Mrs Mary Kennedy, widow of the late Rev. Gilbert A. Kennedy, at Kabete, Kenya. Digital image online at, per the British Library Board (transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2020-12-07).