Posts Tagged ‘merrion hall’

Reflections on the Hymn Writer: Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) who died in the 1918 Pandemic

April 24, 2020


I had been feeling pretty wretched in the last few days and of course when we display a couple of symptoms of the current virus, we think “I hope not…!” However, thankfully, I do feel much better today. It is important to remember that all the usual flu type “bugs” and other health problems haven’t taken a holiday from potentially plaguing us just because this new nasty specimen is doing the rounds on a global scale. Having summoned a bit of energy to clear up some old books, I wearily opened one to discover these uplifting words. It can be sung to the same tune as that of “Safe in the Arms of Jesus:”

Safe in Jehovah’s keeping,
Led by His glorious arm,
God is Himself my Refuge,
A present help from harm.
Fear may at times distress me,
Griefs may my soul annoy;
God is my strength and portion,
God my exceeding joy.

Safe in Jehovah’s keeping,
Safe in temptation’s hour,
Safe in the midst of perils,
Kept by Almighty power.
Safe when the tempest rages,
Safe though the night be long;
Even when my sky is darkest
God is my strength and song.

Sure is Jehovah’s promise,
Nought can my soul assail;
Here is my soul’s sure anchor,
Entered within the veil.
Blest is His love eternal,
What can I want beside!
Safe through the Blood that cleanseth,
Safe in the Christ that died.

I decided to research the author of these words… and I found his testimony. Born in Mountjoy Square in Dublin in 1841, Robert Anderson, was quite an ambitious young man who later attended Trinity College in the city. When one of his sisters trusted the Lord to save her at a revival meeting, Robert, convicted of his own need, attended a meeting one evening but (like many young students) he had his own ideas about what a person must do to find peace with God. Interestingly, the preacher offered to walk part of the way home with him.
The year was 1860, in early October, and I can imagine the scene as he and the preacher walked together through the streets of Dublin having that discussion after the meeting. On research I read that “John Hall (the preacher) stopped at one point, and faced the young man as they stood upon the pavement, and repeated with great solemnity his message and appeal: I tell you as a minister of Christ, and in His Name that there is Life for you here and now if you accept Him. Will you accept Christ or will you reject Him? After a pause – how long I know not – I exclaimed, in God’s Name I will accept Christ. Not another word passed between us, but after another pause he wrung my hand and left me. And I turned homeward with the peace of God filling my heart.”
Between his studies at Trinity College, Robert went on preaching tours in those revival years, in counties throughout Ireland. He addressed meetings in the west of Ireland, in Mayo and Sligo, in the south in Cork and in towns of the north, including Armagh, Newry, Rostrevor and Banbridge.
On his 22nd birthday Robert Anderson was called to the Irish Bar in 1863 and in time became the Assistant Commissioner of the London Metropolitan police from 1888 to 1901. Wikipedia tells me that he was an intelligence officer with Scotland Yard, a theologian and a writer and that he presided over the investigation into the horrific crimes of “Jack the Ripper,” whose identity has never been exposed. He became “Sir Robert Anderson K.C.B., L.L.D.”
In 1918 the Spanish flu pandemic raged throughout the world, affecting 500 million people (or one third of the world’s population). The number of deaths amounted to at least 50 million worldwide, with about 675,000 of these in the U.S.A. Unlike today’s pandemic, mortality was high in those younger than 5 years old and in otherwise healthy individuals of all ages. As for Sir Robert, I read in the old book that “after an attack of influenza, he in measure recovered, sat working till 10.30 am, retired to rest, and at 11am quietly passed into the presence of his Master whom he loved on November 15th, 1918.”
At the end of the day, despite Sir Robert’s achievements in the things of this world, it is the words of this hymn written over 100 years ago that touched me as I felt weak and weary last night – and it is his own simple testimony to God’s saving grace that gladdens my heart. I pray that multitudes would not die from today’s pandemic without hearing and being deeply touched by those simple words… “Will you accept Christ or will you reject Him?”
There is indeed “Life for you here and now if you accept Him.” It is unthinkable to reach the cliff of eternity without having made Him the Lord and Saviour of our lives and in these uncertain days it is good to be certain of one thing – that we are ready to meet the Lord Jesus Christ, who has said… “him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) and whose last recorded words are… “Surely I come quickly.” (Revelation 22v20)

“I Have a Friend!” The Testimony of George Cooper

May 22, 2010

The Testimony of George Cooper, Late, of Balbriggan, County Dublin. Born Monday 23rd May, 1910 – Died Monday 9th November, 2009 in his 100th year 

On this, the eve of what would have been my old friend’s 100th birthday, I remember his testimony which he related to me some years ago. I had the privilege of giving the following out in tract form on the day of George’s funeral and later to his neighbours in Balbriggan…

One day many years ago a barefoot little boy in Dublin city was sent down Townsend Street for groceries. Turning a corner, he suddenly stopped in his tracks, terrified at the sight of a line of policemen before him.  In his own words he says: “I turned and ran as fast as I could home.” The year was 1916. Later he can recall his father pushing a mattress against a bedroom window, in case of stray bullets. Such were just some of George Cooper’s many early fascinating memories, during those turbulent and defining moments in our Irish history.

In the late 1980’s my husband and I were living in Balbriggan, in that area of north County Dublin known as “Fingal.” Balbriggan, then a little harbour town has mushroomed in population in recent years, as people migrate further from the city for affordable housing. This is where we bought our very first home, and this is where, too, my own memories of George begin.

One fine day I went from door to door giving out free copies of a Christian magazine, “Lifeline.” As I walked pushing my first baby daughter in the pram, I felt very much a stranger, an outsider in this small town. Then something caught my eye… “Mizpah.” ‘A strange name for a house,’ I thought. ‘Could it be that a Christian lives here?’ I walked up the little garden path between well kept gardens, rang the doorbell – and an elderly man opened the door. Somehow there was a twinkle in George’s eyes that lifted my spirits on that day! His wife also came out to greet me, and I can recall her lovely kind face and hospitality, but I could see that she looked so unwell. Sadly I was never to see her again, for she died with cancer a short time later. Somehow, though, that day shall always stand out in my mind, for in this town of very few believers, I felt as though I had discovered a ‘well in a desert.’

Some time after that brief encounter and after his wife passed away, George appeared at our Christian fellowship one Sunday morning. Although devastated and lonely after the death of his wife, George maintained that ‘he had a Friend!’ Throughout all those years George’s faith never waned through personal illness and all the ups and downs of life. One dark November evening, I called to see my old friend (then in his 97th year) and George told me the story of how he found this “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18v24) 

There are not so many people living in Ireland today who can remember when it was part of the British Empire – but George could! Born in Buckingham Place, (not Palace!) in Dublin on 23rd May 1910, he had vivid memories of the G.P.O. in flames after the 1916 rising, and of the narrow escapes sustained by him and his family in those dangerous days. Prior to this George can recall singing: “We are little Britons…” in National School! It was seven years after the ‘Easter Rising,’ in the year 1923, that George at the tender age of thirteen made a decision which would ensure that his future years of life would be fruitful and healthy ones.

On the evening in question he was attending the Tuesday ‘boys and girls night’ in the Merrion Hall, Dublin. That night Hudson Pope (the renowned preacher and hymn-writer) spoke on the text:  “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) Little George, overcome with conviction, sought the Saviour and came forward in that meeting, and so began his long and faithful walk with the Lord. Although a thirteen-year old has had little opportunity to commit major sins, especially in that era, George had reached that age of understanding where he realised that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3v23) and therefore all need a Saviour. “I clearly remember after the meeting,” he said, “finding a few pence in my pocket. I bought my mother an apple with it on the way home.” George believed that this small gesture in itself spoke to his mother and showed her that some wonderful change had been wrought in her young son’s life.

At a very young age George started work, only retiring at the age of seventy-two! Spiritually, there were to be many testing times over the years. As a young apprentice in the printing trade, George was asked by a foreman to go across the road and ‘put bets on for him.’ He obeyed his boss just once, but after George’s witness to him on such matters, the foreman never ever asked George again! Clearly “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5v29) George worked his way up from being a ‘reader’s boy’ to the post of supervisor in Smurfits, a well known firm in Dublin. Throughout all the changing scenes of time, including those lean times of the Second World War, George’s Friend was always there for him, to protect, guide and comfort. He, his wife, their daughter and two sons regularly attended all the Sunday services in Dublin’s Merrion Hall. In those days Christians always carried Bibles to church, and in later years George’s Bible remained closer to his side than ever, as he sat in his little living room surrounded by family photographs and happy memories.

Until recently, although confined mostly to his own home, he was still very independent. As well as his own personal Bible study, he wrote letters of encouragement, ensured that copies of the “Daily Bread” were distributed in Mountjoy Prison, gave financial support to many worthy causes and last (but not least) he told those with whom he had daily contact, of the Source of his strength and the love of his Saviour who was his “Guide, even unto death” (Psalm 48v14)

Sometimes in my busy daily life, when I got a chance to ‘stop the world and get off for a while,’ I would call with George. As I sat in that little living room, talking to him while some quiet classical music or hymns played in the background, I felt that I had left the loud fast world of the 21st century, and gone back in time to a more elegant, relaxed era. Then, in those later days, surrounded by the memorabilia of more than a century, he sat smiling at me with the same lovely twinkle in his eyes that I remembered when I first met him nearly twenty years ago. Although frail in recent years, and suffering from diabetes, there was a joy in his face which came from walking with the Saviour for well over eighty years. “You know,” he told me, as I was about to leave one day, “I spoke to someone recently, and I believe that she has trusted the Lord.”

“How wonderful!” I exclaimed, and I thought… ‘George Cooper, still reaching souls in his little ‘vineyard’ as he approaches the century mark!’ His body, frail on that day, and his hand shaking, he smiled as he pointed upwards to where Jesus, his Friend throughout his long life’s journey, was preparing a place for him.

Dear friends and loved ones who mourn his loss, George loved these verses from the Bible…

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” (1Thess. 4v13&14)

 “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” (Luke 12v40)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3v16&17)

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2v8&9). 

George also loved (and often quoted) this verse, because it spoke to his young heart all those years ago… “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37)

To all who read:  George’s faithful Friend throughout his long life wants to be your friend today… and forever! “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10v13)

 My prayer is that you will repent and put your trust in George’s never-failing, lifelong Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered and died that each one of us might go to Heaven. May the Lord bless you and guide you, as you ponder these things.