Edward Irving lived from 4 August 1792 to 7 December 1834. He was a successful preacher who in 1833 was accused of heresy for announcing the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and went on to form his own sect. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Irving was born in Annan, the son of a tanner. He was educated at Annan Academy, where he was three years above Thomas Carlyle. In 1805 he went to Edinburgh University at the age of 13, graduating with an M.A. in 1809. The following year he took up a teaching post in Haddington, where amongst his pupils was Jane Welsh, who was later to marry Thomas Carlyle.
In 1812 Edward Irving moved to Kirkcaldy and became engaged to Isabella Martin. The two eventually married in 1823 though in the meantime Irving had tried to end the engagement after falling in love with Jane Welsh. He was prevented from doing so by Isabella's family and in 1821 introduced Jane Welsh to Thomas Carlyle.
Irving was licenced to preach in June 1815, but remained a teacher for three further years until he resigned to seek a position in the Church of Scotland in 1818. Irving had already gained a reputation for being a highly demonstrative preacher and not everyone in the Church of Scotland approved of him: on one occasion his preaching was described as "full of bravuras and flourishes" and "like Italian music, appreciated only by connoisseurs".
He was on the point of going abroad as a missionary when appointed to a post in St John's Parish, Glasgow in October 1819. Here his poor preaching style was more than offset by his presence and skills when visiting the homes of the many poor in the parish. Nonetheless, he was again contemplating missionary work aboard when, in late 1821, he was invited to preach at the Caledonian Church in Hatton Garden in London.
Here Irving found himself to be in his element, and crowds flocked to hear the new minister preach in a style that was totally alien at the time. His success continued into the late 1820s, but after he opened a new church in London's Regent Square in 1827, his congregations lost some of their fervour and his church became merely "busy" rather than "crowded".
Edward Irving became increasingly fascinated by the question of prophesy, and from 1828 undertook a series of lectures in England and Scotland, part of which involved a prediction of the Second Coming. One outcome was the formation in 1832 of the Irvingite or Holy Catholic Apostolic Church in London. Another was his ejection from the Church of Scotland on charges of heresy in 1833. Irving continued to preach in London until his early death at the age of 42 on 7 December 1834. He is remembered by a statue in the grounds of Annan Old Parish Church.