Robert Rainy

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Robert Rainy

Robert Rainy (1 January 1826 – 22 December 1906), was a Scottish Presbyterian divine. Rainy Hall in New College, Edinburgh (the Divinity faculty in Edinburgh University) is named after him.


The huge monument at Robert Rainy's grave, Dean Cemetery

He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of Dr Harry Rainy (1792-1876) Professor of Forensic Medicine in the University of Glasgow, and his wife Barbara Gordon (1793-1854).[1] Young Rainy was intended for his father's profession, but instead returned to the path of his grandfather, Rev George Rainy (1734-1810) of Sutherland in northern Scotland. He was caught by the evangelical fervour of the Disruption movement, and after studying for the Free Church he became a minister, first in Aberdeenshire and then in Edinburgh, till in 1862 he was elected professor of Church history in the theological seminary, New College, a post he only resigned in 1900. In 1874 he was made principal of the college and was subsequently known as Principal Rainy. To this day, the dining Hall in New College is called the Rainy Hall.

He had come to the front as a champion of the liberal party in the Union controversy within the Free Church, and in combating Dean Stanley's Broad Church views in the interests of Scotch evangelicism; and about 1875 he became the undisputed leader of the Free Church. He guided it through the controversies as to Robertson Smith's heresies, as to the use of hymns and instrumental music, and as to the Declaratory Act, brought to a successful issue the union of the Free and United Presbyterian Churches, and threw the weight of the united church on the side of freedom of Biblical criticism.

He was the first moderator of the General Assembly of the United Free Church of Scotland, having previously been moderator of the Free General Assembly. Though not a great scholar he was eminent as an ecclesiastical statesman, and his influence was far-reaching. After the strain of the fight with the so-called Wee Frees in 1904-5 his health broke down.

In his final years he was living at 8 Rosebery Crescent in Edinburgh's West End.[2] However, and he went on a trip to Australia to recover his health, and sadly died in Melbourne on 22 December 1906.

His body was returned to Scotland and he is buried against the southern wall of Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh. His wife, Susan Rolland (1835-1905) and most of his children (including Adam Rainy MP and Rev Henry Craigie Rainy DD) lie with him. His monument is nearly identical to that of the brewer John McEwan, slightly to the east of Rainy.

See Lives by Patrick Carnegie Simpson (1909) and R Mackintosh (1907).


The main secular assembly space within New College is now called Rainy Hall. It is used as dining halls for the University of Edinburgh's student halls of residence at Mylne's Court and Patrick Geddes Hall.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1905-6

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