Posted by: rcottrill | March 3, 2010

Today in 1841 – Ella Armitage Born

Ella Sophia Bulley Armitage, the daughter of S. M. Bulley, of Liverpool, England, is a reminder to us that hymn writers can come from a wide variety of walks of life. She lived at a time when many of the pursuits she aspired to were closed to women, and she wrote in her diary that she was determined to overcome what she called “the accursed thraldom of womanhood”!

One of 14 children, Ella Bulley began the life of an educator by teaching her 13 brothers and sisters at home. She went on to become a lecturer in history at Owens College, Manchester. Armitage was a competent linguist, but her main interest was archeology–specifically relating to the history of ancient Britain. She was also a woman of faith. In 1874, she married a Congregational clergyman named Rev. E. Armitage who taught theology at a Congregational college. Ella was the founder and president of a women’s organization called the Yorkshire Congregational Women’s Guild of Christian Service.

Mrs. Armitage produced quite a number of hymns, but they are not in common use today. For the opening of a new Sunday School in 1875, she wrote an excellent hymn about Christian service, O Lord of Life, and Love and Power.

O Lord of life, and love, and power,
How joyful life might be,
If in Thy service every hour
We lived and moved with Thee;
If youth in all its bloom and might
By Thee were sanctified,
And manhood found its chief delight
In working at Thy side!

’Tis ne’er too late, while life shall last,
A new life to begin;
’Tis ne’er too late to leave the past,
And break with self and sin;
And we this day, both old and young,
Would earnestly aspire
For hearts to nobler purpose strung,
And purified desire.

Nor for ourselves alone we plead,
But for all faithful souls
Who serve Thy cause by word or deed,
Whose names Thy book enrolls:
O speed Thy work, victorious King,
And give Thy workers might,
That through the world Thy truth may ring,
And all men see Thy light.

(2) Today in 1921 – Jesse Pounds Died
Jesse Brown suffered from ill health as a child, and received her early education at home. She soon showed ability as a writer of devotional verse, and by the age of 15 was submitting articles to newspapers in Cleveland, Ohio, and to various religious publications. Jesse married John Pounds, in 1896, who was then pastor of the Central Christian Church in Indianapolis.

During her lifetime, Jesse Pounds wrote 9 books, the text for 50 cantatas, and more than 400 hymns. Among the latter are:

Anywhere with Jesus
Beautiful Isle of Somewhere
I Know That My Redeemer Liveth
The Touch of His Hand on Mine
The Way of the Cross Leads Home

Jesse Pounds song about heaven, Beautiful Isle of Somewhere, has been somewhat misunderstood. It is not that she was vague about the reality of heaven. She certainly believed it to be the destiny of the saints. But she felt that the tendency to emphasize its material luxuries was unworthy of what heaven is about.  One Sunday morning, shortly after her marriage, when illness kept her home from church, she meditated on the subject. She thought of heaven as a place where we will enjoy the blessings of God’s love and care. Exactly where it is, or what it will be like, beyond that, did not concern her as much. (Note: the word “guerdon,” below, means reward.)

Somewhere the sun is shining,
Somewhere the songbirds dwell;
Hush, then, thy sad repining,
God lives, and all is well.

Somewhere, somewhere,
Beautiful Isle of Somewhere!
Land of the true, where we live anew,
Beautiful Isle of Somewhere!

Somewhere the day is longer,
Somewhere the task is done;
Somewhere the heart is stronger,
Somewhere the guerdon won.

Here is the celebrated Irish tenor John McCormick (1884-1945) singing this song. Mr. McCormick first recorded it in 1901, when it was new.

Another fine gospel song Jesse Pounds has given us is The Touch of His Hand on Mine. In times of darkness and difficulty, she pictures the gentle, loving touch of the Lord Jesus ministering “grace and power” to her in her need. And it’s interesting to note the number of times we see the hands of the Lord spoken of in the Gospels. We could make a little outline as follows:

His Curing Hands (Lk. 4:40)
His Caring Hands (Mk. 10:13-16)
His Crucified Hands (Lk. 24:36-39)

Though we don’t have Christ’s physical presence with us now, Jesse Pounds’ poetic imagery serves as a reminder of the transforming and energizing power of God in our lives.

There are days so dark that I seek in vain
For the face of my Friend divine;
But though darkness hide, He is there to guide
By the touch of His hand on mine.

Oh, the touch of His hand on mine,
Oh, the touch of His hand on mine,
There is grace and power, in the trying hour,
In the touch of His hand on mine.

There are times, when tired of the toilsome road,
That for ways of the world I pine;
But He draws me back to the upward track
By the touch of His hand on mine.

When the way is dim, and I cannot see
Through the mist of His wise design,
How my glad heart yearns and my faith returns
By the touch of His hand on mine.

(For some creative ways to encourage more hymn singing in your church, check out 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing.)


  1. […] I Know That My Redeemer Liveth is from an Easter cantata the author published in 1893. It is based on the words of Job in Job 19:25-26, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (KJV). (For another of Mrs. Pounds’s hymns, see the second item under Today in 1841.) […]

  2. […] Wordwise Hymns (Jessie Pounds and John Fearis) The Cyber […]


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