Kelly, John (1833–1890), born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northern England on October 5, 1833, was educated at Glasgow University (1849–1850) and in Bonn, Germany, where he studied theology from 1852 until 1854. He was a private tutor for two years before continuing his studies at New College in Edinburgh (1856–1857) and at the Theological College of the English Presbyterian Church in London, where he completed his theological program in 1860. Because he could not pass the medical examination, he was not able to accept assignment to the Presbyterian mission in India. Instead, he agreed to do pioneer work at Tiverton. He succeeded in getting a congregation established there and served as its first pastor from 1864 to 1868. He then ministered to congregations at Hebburn-on-Tyne (1868–1876) and Streatham (1876–1880) before retiring from the active ministry in 1881 to become an editor for the Religious Tract Society. In 1887 he moved to Croydon and became an elder of the church there. He suffered from cancer and died on July 19, 1890, at Braemar, Scotland, where he had moved for health reasons.

He is remembered primarily for his translations of German chorales, particularly those of Paul Gerhardt. These translations appeared in Paul Gerhardt’s Spiritual Songs (1867), and Hymns of the Present Century from the German (1886).

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