The hymn Abide With Me is one of the most popular of all time.
As well as being a much loved funeral hymn it was also sung at The Queen’s wedding and it was her grandfather’s, George V, favourite hymn.
The hymn is often sung at remembrance services and is entwined within the sporting world too. Sung at the 1927 FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Cardiff City, the first and last verses of the hymn are traditionally sung at the FA Cup Final about 15 minutes before the kick-off of the match. It has also been sung prior to the kick-off at every Rugby League Challenge Cup Final since 1929.
It was featured in the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, sung by Emeli Sandé as a tribute to the victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks.
The hymn was written by a Scottish vicar, Henry Francis Lyte, who carried out his ministry in Ireland and England.
He had always suffered from poor health and at the age of 54 developed tuberculosis
His daughter, Anna Maria Maxwell Hogg, recounts the story of how “Abide with Me” came out of that context
The summer was passing away, and the month of September (that month in which he was once more to quit his native land) arrived, and each day seemed to have a special value as being one day nearer his departure.
His family were surprised and almost alarmed at his announcing his intention of preaching once more to his people. His weakness and the possible danger attending the effort, were urged to prevent it, but in vain.
“It was better”, as he used to say often playfully, when in comparative health, “to wear out than to rust out”.
He felt that he should be enabled to fulfil his wish, and feared not for the result. His expectation was well founded. He did preach, and amid the breathless attention of his hearers, gave them a sermon on the Holy Communion.
In the evening of the same day he placed in the hands of a near and dear relative the little hymn, “Abide with Me”, with an air of his own composing, adapted to the words.
Weeks later Lyte died and the hymn was sung for the first time at his funeral.
The hymn is a prayer for God to remain present with the speaker throughout life, through trials, and through death.