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Sunday, 31 July 2011

Cecil Frances Alexander

The Irish daughter of a Major, Miss Cecil Frances Humphreys (1818-1895), began writing verse in her childhood and by the 1840s she was already known as a hymn writer.

Her book, Hymns for Little Children , which was published in 1848 was intended to make the articles of the Apostles’ Creed more understandable to children by using poetry and picture language. Among the hymns included were There is a Green Hill Far Away, which was written for a sick child, Once in Royal David’s City about Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus and All Things Bright and Beautiful, which was based on the phrase “maker of Heaven and Earth” in the Apostle’s Creed. Her collection was a major success reaching its 69th edition before the close of the nineteenth century.

In 1850 Cecil Frances married William Alexander, an Anglican clergyman. They newlyweds began their married life serving together in a church in an impoverished rural area of Ireland. William Alexander went on to become a Bishop and then Archbishop of Ireland.

After her marriage, Mrs Alexander continued her poetry and hymn writing but also devoted much of her time to visiting the poor and the sick in their parish. She gave the profits of her successful hymnbook to support handicapped children in the north of Ireland.

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