Drummond, James (1835–1918), unitarian minister and theologian, was born 14 May 1835 in Dublin, the youngest of three sons of William Hamilton Drummond (qv) (1778–1865), unitarian minister of the Strand Street chapel, Dublin, and his second wife, Catherine (d. 1879), daughter of Robert Blackley of Dublin. His uncle was the naturalist James Lawson Drummond (qv), and his elder brother Robert Blackley Drummond became a distinguished unitarian minister and author. A private tutor, Dr Flynn of Dublin, prepared the young man for the undergraduate course at TCD, where he enrolled as a pensioner on 14 October 1851. He graduated BA with the gold medal in classics in 1855, and decided to follow his father and brother into the ministry. In 1856 he began theological studies at Manchester New College, London, under John James Tayler, the principal, and James Martineau, then professor of theology. Shortly after completing this training, in 1860 he became minister at Cross Street Chapel, Manchester, where he was assistant to William Gaskell, husband of the novelist, Elizabeth Gaskell. Drummond left Manchester and pastoral work in 1869 to take up a teaching position in biblical and historical theology at Manchester New College, succeeding his former professor, John James Tayler. When James Martineau died in 1885, Drummond became college principal. Four years later it was decided to move the college, by then known as Manchester College, to Oxford.
In the course of his long career, Drummond came to be regarded as one of the foremost theologians and biblical scholars of his denomination, and was also noted for the power of his preaching. Theologians from other religious traditions acknowledged the breadth of his scholarship and the depth of his spiritual insights, as demonstrated, in particular, in his work on the authorship of the fourth gospel. His views on this and other aspects of the interpretation of the Bible differed on occasion from those of his unitarian colleagues and predecessors. He wrote numerous articles, sermons, and books, but was best known for Spiritual religion (1870), The Jewish Messiah (1871), The Pauline benediction (1897), and Some thoughts on Christology (1902). With a colleague he published The life and letters of James Martineau (1902). TCD awarded him the degrees of LLB and LLD in 1882 and an honorary D.Litt. in 1892. He was incorporated MA at Oxford in 1889, and an American university, Tufts University, made him honorary DD in 1905. Like others in the non-subscribing and unitarian denominations, Drummond held markedly liberal political views, supporting Gladstone's home rule policy and also women's suffrage.
Drummond retired as principal of Manchester College in 1906 and died 13 June 1918 in Oxford. He married, on 5 March 1861, Frances, the youngest daughter of John Classon, of Dublin; they had a family of two sons and six daughters. One son, William Hamilton Drummond (1863–1945), became a unitarian minister in England and Belfast, and campaigned for his pacifist principles during the first world war.