Wright, William (1837–99), presbyterian missionary and author, was born 15 January 1837 at Finnards, near Rathfriland, Co. Down, youngest among three sons and two daughters of William Wright, farmer, and Jayne Wright (née Niblock). Educated at the local school in Ballykeel, he supplemented his education by extensive reading and spent a few months at the RBAI. He then attended QCB in 1858 to study Latin and Greek literature. While at QCB, he was inspired to become a missionary after a visit by the popular baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. On leaving Queen's with a BA (1864), he studied theology at the Presbyterian College and at Geneva. After ordination as a presbyterian minister in 1865, he went to Damascus as a missionary to the Jews. In his ten years there, he learned Arabic and much about eastern culture. His book Account of Palmyra and Zenobia, although published in 1895, was mostly written while in Damascus and was based on travels he undertook which were inspired by his acquaintance with the explorer Sir Richard Burton, then British consul in Damascus. Wright also was a special correspondent to the Pall Mall Gazette. However, due to his wife's deteriorating health, they left Damascus in December 1874. They first attempted to relocate to Beirut, but eventually returned to England in 1875.
They settled in London, where he became editorial superintendent of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1876, a position he held until his death. In his years at the society, he oversaw 150 new versions of all or parts of the Bible, and also revised the vernacular versions of the Bible for such countries as China and India. In 1890 he represented the Bible Society in Shanghai at a conference of protestant missionaries in China. He published both archaeological and literary works, including an article on the Hamath stones in the British and Foreign Evangelical Review (1877) and a book, The empire of the Hittites (1884). His controversial foray into a more literary field, The Brontës in Ireland (1893), reflects a long-held interest in the Brontë family. This interest was initially sparked by the acquaintance of his father-in-law, the Rev. David McKee, with the family and indicates first-hand knowledge. Indeed, his biographer, U. S. D. Wright, discusses a trip he made around Ireland while a student, dressed as a peasant, trying to trace Brontë traditions. He received an honorary DD degree from Glasgow University in 1882, and was made a member of the Council for the Society for Biblical Archaeology (1882) and a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society (1886). He died suddenly at his London home, Woolsthorpe, 10 The Avenue, Upper Norwood, on 31 July 1899, aged 62.
He married first (9 March 1865) Annie McKee of Ballynaskeagh, Co Down. They had four sons and one daughter; Annie died after the birth of their fifth child in October 1877. He married secondly Sophia Davison, with whom he had three daughters.