Bryce, James (1767–1857), anti-burgher minister, was born 5 December 1767 in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland, son of John Bryce, tradesman, and Robina Bryce (née Allan), whose families had been landowners in the area until impoverished by adherence to covenanting principles. He attended Glasgow University from 1782, and was ordained (1795) as minister of the anti-burgher secession church in Wick, Caithness. He was suspended for two years from his ministry by the governing synod of the anti-burgher church, because of his views on man-made creeds and on clerical authority, and was loosed from his charge in 1800. He resented the lack of tolerance shown towards him, and moved (1805) to the small anti-burgher seceder congregation of Killaig, Co. Londonderry. He was soon involved in further controversy: the government had (1803) extended regium donum payments to seceders, and now proposed to increase the amounts. The offer was, however, attended with qualifications and stipulations that were deeply unpopular: larger congregations were to receive larger payments, and the lord lieutenant was to be given power to refuse payment to any individual. After much heart-searching and controversy, the other seceder ministers had to suspend protest in order to obtain the payments; Bryce alone refused to accept further regium donum under these conditions, and in 1811 he and his congregation separated from the synod, which had enjoined acceptance. He was considerably impoverished by this decision, having a stipend of only £27 a year; he rented a farm of nineteen acres in Ballyclough townland, and ran two classical schools, at first in his own house and from 1824 in Coleraine. His principled stand gradually attracted support: several local seceder congregations split, with those members who opposed the acceptance of regium donum joining with like-minded former Synod of Ulster adherents to form congregations that looked to Bryce for leadership. He undertook responsibility for seven small churches, which formed the Associate Presbytery of Ireland and eventually joined the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland; Bryce continued to teach and minister till the Sunday before his death, which occurred at the age of 89, at Killaig (24 April 1857). His wife Catherine (née Annan) had been his pupil in Auchtermuchty, Fife; the importance of her lifelong support of Bryce's stand was noted by William Alexander (qv) (d. 1911), who thought very highly of both. They had four daughters and seven sons: the eldest son, Reuben John Bryce, was headmaster of the Belfast Academy; James Bryce (qv), a geologist, third son, became a teacher in Glasgow High School and was father of James, Viscount Bryce (qv) (1838–1922) and of John Annan Bryce (qv). James Bryce sen.'s youngest son, Archibald Bryce (fl. 1851–94), was rector of Edinburgh Collegiate Institution; two other sons were doctors in Belfast and Edinburgh. The eldest daughter married a licentiate of the associate presbytery who, along with other prominent men, had been educated by Bryce.
DNB; W. I. Addison, The matriculation albums of the University of Glasgow 1728–1858 (1913), 134; Eleanor Alexander, Primate Alexander, archbishop of Armagh: a memoir (1914), 36–7; T. H. Mullin, Aghadowey: a parish and its linen industry (1972), 205; George Gilmore, ‘Reverend James Bryce, minister of Killaig 1805–1857’, The Bann Disc: the journal of Coleraine Historical Society, iv (1998), 51–3; J. K. McCollum and James Anderson, ‘The Bryces of Killaig–a distinguished family’, The Bann Disc, x (2004), 84–8