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Ennever & Enever family history & ancestry. Click here to return to the home page WJ Ennever (1869-1947). From the portrait by J Seymour R.A., exhibited in the Royal Academy.

Albert Midlane, hymn writer (1825-1909)

Albert Midlane (1925-1909)  

Albert Midlane's life and achievements have already been documented so I will simply provide some material from, and links to, that work, together with acknowledgements.

He is featured in the The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, no mean feat because it is reserved for "Remarkable people in any walk of life who were connected with the British Isles".

Midlane, Albert (1825–1909), hymn writer, was born at Carisbrooke, Isle of Wight, on 23 January 1825, the posthumous child and youngest of the large family of James Midlane (d. October 1824) and his wife, Frances Lawes, a member of the Congregational church then under Thomas Binney. After completing his schooling at Newport, Midlane was employed for some three years in a local printing office, then became an ironmonger's assistant, and ultimately was in business for himself as tinsmith and ironmonger. His religious training was in the Congregational church and its Sunday school, in which he became a teacher; he stated that instead of listening to sermons he studied the hymnbook. Subsequently he joined the Plymouth Brethren. Prompted by his Sunday school teacher, he began to write verse as a child, contributing to magazines under the name Little Albert. His first printed hymn, written in September 1842, appeared in the Youth's Magazine in November of that year. His first widely used hymn, ‘God bless our Sunday schools’ (sung to the tune of the national anthem), was written in 1844. The hymn for which he is best known, ‘There's a friend for little children’, was composed on 7 February 1859, and was translated into a dozen languages, including Chinese and Japanese; it was included in the supplement to Hymns Ancient and Modern (1868), when Sir John Stainer wrote the tune ‘In Memoriam’ for it. The hymn demonstrated not only Midlane's winsome religious emotion, but also his passionate love of children. His output of hymns was amazing, amounting to over 700 compositions, with many published in magazines and in very numerous tiny collections; for the year 1908 he wrote that he counted ‘just upon 200 published compositions, which is about the annual average’. This total, however, included verses on national and local topics in the Isle of Wight County Press and other periodicals, as well as historical prose. For some time he edited a local magazine, Island Greetings. He did not accept remuneration for his writing, and having become guarantor for a friend he was reduced to bankruptcy. Admirers throughout the country, in conjunction with the Sunday School Union, raised a sum which enabled the bankruptcy to be annulled and provided an annuity for Midlane and his wife. He died at Forest Villa, South Mall, Newport, Isle of Wight, on 27 February 1909, as the result of an apoplectic seizure, and was buried in Carisbrooke cemetery. He was survived by his wife, Miriam Granger, and two sons and one daughter. 1

The words and music to "There's a Friend for Little Children" are shown below on a postcard sent by Emma Frances (Doll) Midlane to her sister Ellen (Nell) at 9 Ross Road, West Ham in 1908.  Albert Midlane was their great uncle.

Postcard

It is a mark of just how popular the hymn was that it was sung at the funeral service of the 18 children killed in a German daylight bombing raid at Upper North Street School, Poplar in 1917. 2

Other sites recording aspects of the life and works of Albert Midlane exist and I have provided links to a few of them below.

Sources

1 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography http://www.oxforddnb.com/
2 The East End  Then and Now  Ed: Winston G. Ramsey

Other links

Stem Publishing http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/biographies/midlane.html
Christian hymn websites (link removed due to doubts about site ownership)

If anyone has any further information about Albert Midlane that is not available here I would be delighted to hear from you.

Author:  Barry Ennever

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