Henry Francis Lyte

1793-1847; son of Captain Thomas Lyte, an army officer settled at Dunmore, Co. Galway, and later at Ballyshannon with Anna Marie Oliver, mother of his three sons; abandoned by his father aged nine, Capt. Lyte marrying Eliza Naghten in Roscommon, and leaving his supposed first wife to cater to his debts before removing to Jersey, where he had eight more children; next abandoned by his mother Anna Marie, who returned to England; became object of charitable interest of Rev. Robert Burrowes, head of Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, formerly archdeacon of Ferns and rector of Adamstown, Co. Wexford (to 1798), who paid for his education; elected scholar; studied medicine but turned to divinity; ord. deacon 1814 and priest 1815; curate to Rev. Simon Little at St. Munn’s Church, Tagmon, Co. Wexford, 1815-16; deeply distressed by death of Rev. Abraham Swanne, the pious rector of Killurin parish, whose ministry he assumed, 1816; left Irland for convalesence on the continent; visited Jersey and acted as god-f. to his half-brother Thomas Henry Lyte; settled in south of England, m. Anne Maxwell, dg. a Monaghan clergyman and kinswoman of the Maxwell-Barry famly of Newtownbarry (now Bunclody), Co. Wexford; received thereby a legacy enabling him to settle his debt to Burrowes and live in comfort thereafter; held parish of All Saints’, Brixham, 1824-47; wrote ‘Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven’, ‘God of Mercy, God of Grace’, and ‘Pleasant are Thy Courts Alone’; spent winters in Naples, the Tyrol, and Switzerland, away from family and parish; for reasons of health, wrote the celebrated him ‘Abide with Me’ (written in his ;ast illness); descendent of Henry Lyte (1529?-1907), the botanist; Poems, Chiefly Religious (1833); his hymns in most hymnals. d. of TB, 20 Nov., at Nice; plaques in St. Munn’s, Westminster Abbey, Portora, and Kelso, Scotland, nr. his birthplace; Cited in OG as Irish; also ODNB, but no entries in DIB, DIW; comm, biographical account in Patrick Comerford, ‘Irishman’s Diary’, Irish Times [?]August 1997. ODNB OG.

[ top ]

John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1892), gives details: b. son of army Capt., at Ednam near Kelso, ed. Portora, Enniskillen, and TCD; 3 times English prize poem and schol.; ord. 1815; 1st curacy at Wexford; to Marazion, Cornwall, 1817 ; great spiritual change caused by illness and death of his brother, a clergyman, 1818; Lymington, 1819; Tales of the Lord’s Prayer, verse (published 1829); Perpetual Curate of Lwr. Brixham, Devon; Poems of Henry Vaughan with a memoir (1846); Poetical works, Poems Chiefly Religious (1833, enl. ed. 1845); The Spirit of the Psalms (1834, enl. 1836); Miscellaneous Poems (posthumous, 1868, being a rep. of Poems, 1845, with the add. of ‘Abide with Me’; Remains (1850); 1845 ed. contains 81 psalms; Lyte’s versions of the psalms are full of sadness, tenderness and beauty ... and rearely swell out into joy or gladness.

Enniskillen Impartial Reporter (Sept. 1993) records that Portora Ryal School's Music Faculty was dedicated to Lyte and records Bishop Hannon's remarks: ‘Lyte’s poetic talent was recognised by Portora’s headmaster Rev. Robert Burrowes, who educated the young Henry as part of his own family after the child was virtually abandoned by his father when he started boarding at the age of 10’. Further, Lyte entered TCD at 16 and won the [Vice]-chancellor’s annual prize on 3 successive occasions; his hymns set to music by different musicians’. A great-grand-daughter, Eve Maxwell-Lyte, was represented by her husband. A seated waist-length port. is shown.

Seamus MacAnnaidh, ‘Shpayke ... &c.’, in The Spark [Fermanagh/WEA] (Spring 1992), cites Henry Francis Lyte, connected with Enniskillen, orig. from Scotland.

[ top ]

Church of Ireland Hymnal (1960, 1987): hymns by Lyte incl. Nos. 417 [“God of Mercy, God of Grace”]; 462 [“Sweet in the solemn voice that calls”]; also 481, 481, et al.

Dictionary of National Biography, bio-data: born Ednam, Roxburgshire [Scotland], ed. Portora, Co. Fermanagh, and TCD. ordained, 1815; curate of Taghmon, Co. Wexford; m. dg. of Rev. W. Maxwell DD, of Falkland, who wrote 24th chap. of Boswell’s Life of Johnson; curacy in Hampshire and Devonshire; his hymns include ‘Abide with Me’ and Jesus, I My Cross have Taken’; secular poems include ‘On A Naval Officer’; Spirit of the Psalms (1834) is a metrical version of the Psalter; Remains (1850); Poems, chiefly Religious (1833), reprinted as Miscellaneous Poems (1868); Biographical Sketch of Henry Vaughan (1847).

[ top ]