The PHSI Library recently acquired a very large family Bible from Galway Presbyterian Church. It is the Illustrated Family Bible with original notes by John Kitto and introductions to various Old and New Testament books by the Rev Canon Birks, published c. 1860. While it is interesting in its own right because of the 1200 wood engravings and colour photographs it is the history behind this particular copy that is fascinating.
It was presented in 1875 to the Rev Dr James Gardner Robb who at the time was minister of Cooke’s Presbyterian Church in Toronto, Canada, by many friends unconnected with the with his congregation in recognition of his able vindication of Scriptural truth and bold defence of Protestant principles. It was then given by his family to Galway Presbyterian Church in January 1929 in memory their father’s ministry in Galway.
The James Gardner Robb was born in 1833 the son of Alexander Robb, a farmer in Scrabo, Newtownards. Educated at Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Queen’s College, Belfast, and Assembly’s College, Belfast, he was licensed by Belfast Presbytery in 1857 and in the following year was ordained in Clogher Presbyterian Church. In 1863 he married Martha Hanna, the daughter of his predecessor in Clogher, the Rev John Hanna.
He then emigrated to Canada in 1874 where he became minister of Cooke's Presbyterian Church, Toronto. During his ministry there he was awarded a DD from Hanover College, Indiana in 1877, and became known as the ‘Champion of Evangelical Protestantism’.
However, he returned to Ireland in 1879 and became minister of Galway Presbyterian Church and shortly after was awarded an LLD by the Royal University of Ireland (1881). His ministry in Galway was very short as he died in 1881.
Two of the Rev Robb’s sons held important positions in Northern Ireland society:
Dr Alexander Gardner Robb, 1866-1940, the eldest son,was resident physician at the Union Fever Hospital, Belfast, and became the first Medical Superintendent of Belfast City Fever Hospital at Purdysburn when it opened in 1906. He devoted his entire life to the treatment and study of infectious diseases.
John Hanna Robb, 1873-1956, was a barrister, Ulster Unionist politician and Stormont MP for Queen’s University from 1921-1937. He then became leader of the Northern Ireland Senate and Minister of Education (1937-43) and from 1943 sat as a county court judge.
Also, these may be of interest...
Toronto Public Library - Cooke's Presbyterian Church, Toronto
Archeion - Cooke's Presbyterian Church, Toronto