Sunday, 22 November 2009

Ulster hymnwriters (5)

Tonight I was preaching in Jersey Street Mission Hall and we sang as our closing hymn Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, which is one of the most popular hynms of all time.  Indeed it is thought to have been translated into more languages than any other hymn.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals he’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Come home, Come home,
Ye who are weary come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home.

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.

Oh! for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me;
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

Both the words and the music were written by Will Lamartine Thompson, who was known as the ‘Bard of Ohio’ and was one of America’s most popular song writers. He wrote ballads and love songs as well as marches and comedy songs but his greatest joy was to write and perform simple gospel songs. 
He was born on 7 November 1847 in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, and he was the grandson of an Ulster-Scots emigrant.  His paternal grandfather William Thompson was born in Ulster ‘of Scotch parentage’ and was brought to America in 1790 by his father Matthew Thompson, who was born in the town of Ballymena in 1763.  William Thompson married Eleanor McDowell and they were the parents of Josiah Thompson, a banker and politician, who was the father of the hymnwriter.

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