Sunday, 15 November 2009

Ulster hymnwriters (4)

This morning at church we sang a lovely hymn by the Scotch-Irish American hymnwriter Baylus Benjamin McKinney.

Take up thy cross and follow me,’ I heard my Master say;
‘I gave My life to ransom thee, surrender your all today.’

Wherever He leads I’ll go, Wherever He leads I’ll go,
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, Wherever He leads I’ll go.

He drew me closer to His side, I sought His will to know,
And in that will I now abide, Wherever He leads I’ll go.

It may be thro’ the shadows dim, Or o’er the stormy sea,
I take my cross and follow Him, Wherever He leadeth me.

My heart, my life, my all I bring, To Christ who loves me so;
He is my Master, Lord and King, Wherever He leads I’ll go.

McKinney was the man who brought gospel music to the fore amongst Southern Baptists in America and he was the son of an Ulster-Scot from the townland of Carnaff, in the parish of Derrykeighan in North Antrim.

James Alexander Calvin McKinney (1853-1914) was born at Carnaff and emigrated with his family from Ulster to America, where they settled in Louisiana.  His son B B McKinney was educated at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and then received further musical training in Chicago.  Afterwards he devoted his life to gospel music as a song leader, hymn writer and editor of hymnals.  He died in a road accident in 1952 and was buried in Nashville, Tennessee.  His songs appear in many gospel hymnbooks and he is included in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

McKinney wrote this hymn after a conversation with a missionary who was unable to go back to the mission field because of ill health. When asked about his future plans, the missionary replied, ‘I don’t know, but wherever He leads I’ll go.’

McKinney is one of a number of important Christian hymnwriters with Ulster roots and yet most folk in Ulster are unaware of this aspect of our cultural heritage.

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