ABIDE WITH ME

20 Jun

The Hymn Abide with Me was written by a Scot named Henry Francis Lyte, in 1874. He wrote it as a poem and set it later to music. Unfortunately he died soon after its completion of tuberculosis. It was later sung to William Henry Monk’s tune “Eventide” Which is how we sing it now. No doubt, very beautiful words and music.
I am not a religious man, but I respect other people’s religions and if they get comfort from their respective religions, so be it. I mention this hymn, because many years ago in the fifties I was present at a Rugby League Cup Final at Wembley stadium. On arrival at the stadium everyone was given a Union Jack covered hymn sheet. During the course of the afternoon prior to the game there was community singing led by a man dressed in white named Arthur Caiger. When it came to the last of hymns to be sung, the stadium went into a silence. All the chattering and shouting stopped as the band and Arthur broke into Abide with me.
I was only 17 years old at the time and I had travelled down with tough shipbuilders and steelworkers from my home town. Also, in our company were men who had just retired from work who had fought, served and survived the First World War. During the course of singing this hymn, I was certainly moved and glancing round at the men I knew, tears were running down their faces. It wasn’t because they were soft, it was because the Abide with Me hymn had got to their hearts and minds. One has to understand every family throughout our country suffered during both World Wars. Nearly every street had someone who had lost their life in the service of their country. Many families lost sons, brothers, uncles not forgetting also many women died in the World Wars. When the singing was over and Arthur Caiger stepped down from the rostrum, tears were wiped away and everyone went back to their noisy selves.
In this present age the hymn Abide with Me does not have the same impact on people as it did in those post war days, but it certainly does with me. I am sure many of our older readers will have had similar experiences over the years. In fact everyone has lost someone close to them and Abide with Me certainly pulls at one’s heart strings
Alan

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