McCLURE, WILLIAM, Methodist New Connexion minister; b. in Lisburn, County Antrim, Ireland, June 1803, son of John McClure, a Methodist minister, and Sarah Trelford; d. Toronto, Ont., 19 Feb. 1871.
William McClure was apprenticed to a Belfast tradesman at the age of 14. In 1828 he became a preacher and a travelling agent for the Hibernian Bible Society. During the next 20 years he preached on the Dublin, Bangor, Lisburn, and Limerick circuits, acquiring a reputation as a powerful speaker, a tireless worker, and a resolute foe of both Roman Catholicism and strong drink. In 1848 conditions in Ireland and the wishes of his church brought McClure to emigrate to Canada, to become assistant superintendent of the New Connexion mission.
From 1848 to 1851 McClure served at the Temperance Street Church in Toronto, but he travelled throughout the province, preaching and lecturing on temperance and a variety of other subjects. He was a charter member of the Anti-Slavery Society of Canada along with Michael Willis, and he was active in the movement against the clergy reserves. From June 1851 to January 1854 he was in London, Canada West, after which he was transferred to Hamilton. Here he found a debt-ridden church and a small congregation, a situation he worked hard to remedy. He was then appointed in 1857 to Montreal; there he was disgusted by the prosperity of the Roman Catholic Church, which he called “the Roman Beast.” He spent much of his time gathering funds for new churches, and saw two buildings completed. He frequently toured the Eastern Townships, and also began contributing to the struggling New Connexion paper in London, Canada West, the Evangelical Witness, of which he became an editor in 1865.
In 1860, McClure took charge of the important Toronto circuit. Despite his lack of formal education, he was appointed to a committee to train young men for the ministry. The year 1860 was also one of personal tragedy for McClure: his wife, Hannah Glynn, whom he had married in 1827, died on 19 July. He subsequently married Margaret Bussell of Oakville in December 1861; she died in 1865.
Although superannuated in 1865, McClure divided his time from 1861 until his death in 1871 between travelling, lecturing, and collecting money for the church and his interest in the education of the ministry. He worked on the Toronto, Galt, Hamilton, Aurora, and Montreal circuits during these years, and twice went on fund-raising and lecturing tours around Canada West. As a tutor with the Theological Institute, which had been established in 1861, he spent much of his time and energy training future ministers. He applied for a seat on the senate of the University of Toronto in December 1862, and was admitted to that body two months later.
William McClure was a sincere, hard-working humanitarian. His prime interests were the welfare of his church and the temperance movement, but he was possessed of sufficient breadth of spirit to endorse such projects as the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Young People’s Mutual Improvement Association, and the Canadian anti-slavery movement. He was truly an example of the spiritual philanthropist.
William McClure, The character and fatal tendency of Puseyism, defined and exposed; being a course of lectures delivered in the Temperance Street chapel (Toronto, 1850); A charge to five ministers, who were set apart to the work of the ministry; delivered at the Whitchurch conference, June 8th, 1850 (Toronto, 1850); [ ], Life and labours of the Rev. Win. McClure, for more than forty years a minister of the Methodist New Connexion, ed. David Savage (Toronto, 1872).
PAC, RG 5, Cl, 729, f.1602. Christian Guardian (Toronto), 22 Feb. 1871. Globe (Toronto), 22 Feb . 1871. London Free Press, 3 March 1951. Methodist New Connexion Church, Canada, Minutes of the annual conference (Toronto; London, Ont.), 1849–71. S. R. Ward, Autobiography of a fugitive Negro: his anti-slavery labours in the United States, Canada, & England (London, 1855).