William Henry Rankine was born at Falkirk on March 27, 1862. The eldest son of a school-master, he received his education under his father's supervision and was a pupil-teacher at Auchterderran for five years before entering the University of Edinburgh as a bursar. He featured regularly on the prize-lists and after graduating M.A. in 1883 he entered Divinity Hall as first bursar of his year, graduating B.D. in 1886.
Licensed by the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy in 1886 he became Assistant at St. Andrew's Parish Church, Dunfermline. The following year he was ordained minister of Slamannan Parish; in 1891 he was translated to St. Boswell's Parish; from there he went to Titwood Chapel of Ease in 1897, being admitted first minister of Titwood Parish Church in 1901 when Titwood was disjoined from Govan. He became Chaplain to the Forces (Mediterranean) in 1915-1916 and was translated to Kirkmichael on January 9, 1918.
Dedicated to the cause of missions his activities in that sphere dated back to his undergraduate days. His evangelistic style of preaching inspired many members of his congregation to take up mission work. In 1903 he wrote from Titwood to the Rev. Adam W. Fergusson of Maxwell Parish begging to be allowed to share in the mission work in that parish as “ … the absence of a poor district in which we can come into contact with the great needs of the ‘submerged tenth’ is an obstacle to the prosperity of my congregation. …” After duly deliberating on the subject for a week, Mr. Fergusson and his session decided they could not meet Mr. Rankine's request.
Apart from conducting Mission Weeks in this country Mr. Rankine had a very personal interest in Foreign Missions. His younger brother, Dr. David Rankine, served in China as a medical missionary of the Church of Scotland in I-Ch'ang while his former colleague and friend, the Rev. William Affleck Scott, M.A., M.B., C.M., worked in Africa at the Blantyre Mission. Both these young doctors died in the mission fields at 33 years of age and the best known of the numerous works written by Mr. Rankine was the biography of Dr. Scott entitled "A Hero of the Dark Continent".
Mr. Rankine died on July 11, 1921 aged 59 years.