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There Is a Green Hill Far Away
Mark 15:22
GREEN HILL  |  Hymn History  |  Bible Passage
Author: Cecil F. Alexander, 1818-1895
Musician: Joan J. Pinkston, b. 1947

There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where Christ, our Lord, was crucified,
Who died to save us all.

We may not know, we cannot tell
What pains He had to bear;
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.

He died that we might be forgiv'n
And reconciled to God,
That we might go at last to heav'n,
Redeemed by His own blood.

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heav'n and let us in.

Oh, dearly, dearly has He loved,
And we must love Him, too;
And trust His all-sufficient blood,
And try His works to do.


The Cathedral Church of St. Columb in Lononderry, N. Ireland, occupies the highest ground within the old walled city. The tall spire atop the building makes a fine outline against the blue sky on a clear day; nothing else interrupts the view.

St. Columb's has stood on its commanding site for more than 350 years and is fair steeped in history.

Within its Chapter House are a host of relics dating back to the time of the famous siege of 1688-1689. Then it was that upwards of 30,000 Protestants from the surrounding area packed into the ancient city; to seek shelter behind its stout walls from the approaching armies of King James II.

The walls of the Chapter House are lined with cupboards and cabinets, each crammed with memorabilia of the siege. The locks and keys of the sturdy wooden gates; pistols and muskets used in defence of liberty; even a piece from the tree, down which a traitor is said to have escaped. All are there to delight and amaze!

But all these took little of my attention when I visited the place some time ago. My interest, then, was taken by a picture which has pride of place on one wall. It's the picture of a woman, saintly of face, modest of dress, and by all reports, gracious of spirit.

Cecil Frances Alexander, for that's the lady in the picture, is remembered with affection in the city which was once her home.

In the baptistry of the cathedral a beautiful memorial window, fashioned in stained-glass, pays eloquent tribute to her life and witness.

Mrs Alexander lived and worked for the sake of children, and so it is fitting that she should be especially remembered there.

The scene of the window, portrayed in gorgeous colours, depicts the Saviour's love and care for little ones; and the simple inscription at the bottom reads:

In grateful memory of Cecil Frances Alexander, wife of William, Bishop Alexander. She died in this city on 12th October 1895.

Besides the window a large plaque, which has been skillfully worked to have the appearance of a tapestry, displays one of Mrs Alexander's finest pieces of poetry A Prayer for this Cathedral church. It includes this telling verse:

Be here 'O Christ of our Salvation,
As once in Israel's temple fair;
Cleanse Thou from sin our poor bolation,
And make this house a house of prayer.

It is for her poetry that Mrs Alexander will be best remembered, especially the songs written for children.

As early as 1848 she published her famous little volume: "Hymns for little children," which she dedicated thus:

'To my little Godsons, I inscribe these lines hoping that the language of the verse, which children love, may help to impress on their minds what they are, what I have promised for them, and what they must seek to be.'

She went to great pains to write some 41 hymns for the spiritual edification of her little friends and it's interesting to note the plan she adopted.

As the basis of her songbook she took the catechism and wrote verses on each section of it, thus hoping to impress its truths upon young hearts. In the book there are hymns on the Trinity, Baptism, The Creed, the Ten Commandments, and The Lord's Prayer.

Among the well known favourites are "Do Not Sinful Action;" "All Things Bright And Beautiful;" "Once "In Royal David's City" and "There Is A Green Hill Far Away."

The inspiration for this last hymn is said to have come from the neighbourhood where she lived although, it must be added, there are conflicting accounts of how the hymn was suggested to her.

The Alexanders lived in the Bishop's Palace, almost beside the cathedral. The house had a commanding view out over the city walls to the green hills beyond. No wonder then that she was inspired to write:

There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.

By 1872 "Hymns for little children" had sold 414,000 copies, clear evidence of its blessing to multitudes.

Mrs. Alexander died on October 12th, 1895 some 16 years before her husband.

He eventually became Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland and when that appointment took place moved to live in the city of Armagh, ecclesiastical seat of Ireland.

But the Primate was a Derry man at heart and longed to come home again someday. It is said that he always wished to be buried in his native city with his feet towards the river Foyle. His wish was granted.

The Alexanders lie buried on the slope of that 'green hill' which inspired the writing of the lovely hymn. A plain white marble cross marks the spot.

Beneath the name Cecil Frances Alexander is written in brackets: (C.F.A., Hymn writer)

On that great day, when we all stand before the judgment throne of heaven, surely all will rise up and call her, 'blessed'.


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