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St Oswald's

The parish church of Bollington

Bollington Road, Bollington Cross, SK10 5EG
07895 363 038

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Sing-Along Hymns

Patron Saints of England and Wales

The Patrons of Scotland and Ireland have well-known hymns associated with them; Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult (Saint Andrew) and I bind unto myself today (Saint Patrick), both hymns having been written by Mrs C F Alexander.

But it's difficult to find any familiar hymns commemorating Saint David and Saint George.

Saint George
Arm! arm! for the struggle approaches

Saint George of England (and of several other places!) is commemorated on 23 April (but not if this date falls in Holy Week).

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Saint George was a Christian who is accepted as a saint in Christianity and Islam. Although few details about him are known with certainty, he is associated with Cappodicia (now part of Turkey). According to one version of his story, his parents were Christians of Greek origin: his father, Gerontius, being a Cappadocian serving in the Roman army and his mother Polychronia being a Christian from the city of Lod in Palestine, while Saint George was a member of the Praetorian Guard for Roman emperor Diocletian, who was sentenced to death in the year 303 for refusing to recant his Christian faith.

He has been especially venerated as a military saint since the Crusades and is immortalised in the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. Not surprisingly, most hymns to Saint George are rather militaristic and have stirring tunes. The example provided here appeared in the Westminster Hymnal of 1912 (at that time, the only hymnbook authorised for use in the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales). The hymnal does not mention the name of the author or composer, and does not even name the tune!

Given the date of the publication, the words seem to presage the horrors of WW1.

Arm! arm! for the struggle approaches,
prepare for the combat of life;
Saint George! be our watchword in battle.
Saint George! be our strength in the strife.

Great Saint, from the throne of thy splendour,
look down on thy own chosen isle,
soon, soon may they share in thy glory,
who faithfully strive here awhile.

The land of thy love is a desert.
Its temples and altars are bare,
the finger of death is upon it.
The footprints of Satan are there.

Arise in the might of thy power
and scatter the foes of the Lord;
as the idols of Rome in their temple
were crushed at the sound of thy word.

Oh, bring back the faith that we cherish,
for which thou hast nobly withstood
the tortures and rack of the tyrant;
that faith which thou sealed with thy blood.

unnamed tune

Saint David
We praise thy name, all-holy Lord

Saint David of Wales is commemorated on 1 March, the day on which he died in 589 at Menevia, near the present day Cathedral town of Saint David’s. It can be difficult to separate fact from legend in stories of his life. He is said to have been the son of Sandde, Prince of Powys. He was educated in a monastery and became a priest and later a missionary and archbishop in the Welsh Church. A white dove is said to have settled on his shoulder while he was preaching. He was a vegetarian and is said to have advised Welsh soldiers fighting the Saxons to wear leeks in their caps so as to distinguish them from the enemy.

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The words were written in 1896 by Revd Ebenezer Josiah Newell (1853-1916), who was the Vicar of Neen Sollars in south east Shropshire, not far from Ludlow, from 1900 until his death. Originally the hymn was about a number of Welsh saints and had seven verses, but I haven’t been able to find the full version. In his 1887 book A Popular History of the Ancient British Church Newell writes that the monastery at “Menevia, or St. David’s, is chiefly notable for its founder, the patron saint of Wales, and for its fosterage of Irish Christianity.” He mentions Irish disciples of St David; Saint Aedh of Ferns and Saint Finnian of Clonard.

As a member of the Council of the Cambrian Society of South Wales, Newell may have been keen to emphasise the importance of Saint David in Ireland.

The tune Llangloffan appeared in the Welsh hymnal Hymnau a Thonau (Hymns and Tones/Tunes). This was published in 1865, so the tune is rather older than the words. The composer is not identified.

Llangloffan is a village near Fishguard. Llangloffan Fen is a nature reserve, the largest floodplain river-valley mire surviving in Pembrokeshire.

We praise thy name, all-holy Lord,
for him, the beacon-light
that shone beside our western sea
through mists of ancient night;
who sent to Ireland’s fainting Church
new tidings of thy word:
for David, prince of Cambrian saints,
we praise thee, holy Lord.

For all the saintly band whose prayers
still gird our land about,
of whom, lest men disdain their praise,
the voiceless stones cry out;
our hills and vales on every hand
their names and deeds record:
for these, thy ancient hero host,
we praise thee, holy Lord.

Grant us but half their burning zeal,
but half their iron faith,
but half their charity of heart,
and fortitude to death;
that we with them and all thy saints
may in thy truth accord,
and ever in thy holy Church
may praise thee, holy Lord.

Llangloffan

For each hymn we have provided a set of verses together with an electronically generated sound-track. The sound track does not provide any words - just the tune.

The selection of hymns to be included was subject to certain limitations, notably the restrictions of copyright. This meant that many modern hymns were excluded, and the exclusion even applied to some updated versions of traditional hymns. Some publishers have made a few minor changes to make hymns more "inclusive" and have then claimed copyright over the revised text. So in most cases the ORIGINAL texts have been used, even though these may not be the versions that appear in modern hymnals.

In deciding what tunes to be used, this has largely been the Webmaster's personal choice. It is a mixture of familiar tunes and tunes that are not well-known, but deserve to be better known. The webmaster has included some personal favourites (and excluded some pet hates!). The soundtracks provided go with the words provided - if there are four verses, the tune is repeated four times. Where possible tunes have been provided with descants or alternative arrangements.

Wherever possible, there is an explanation of who wrote the words or tunes, the circumstances under which they were written, when (and sometimes why). Many hymns include references to verses appearing in the King James Version of the Bible; more modern translations were not then available! In some cases we have tried to explain these scriptural references or other instances where words have changed their meaning over time.

This selection of "Sing-along Songs of Praise" was originally a series of blog posts written during the COVID Lockdowns of 2020. It was intended to allow people to sing hymns in the safety and privacy of their own homes at a time when hymn-singing in church was not allowed (even if the church building was open!).

When hymns are sung as part of a church service, it is normally the case that the hymn books are set aside at the end of the hymn and the next part of the service continues. There is no time to sit and reflect on the meaning or the beauty of words and/or music. This collection allows you to take your time, to read, listen sing along, reflect, and to repeat a hymn again if you wish.

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Last modified: 01 March 2021