James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker Samuel Beckett Sam Hanna Bell William Carleton John Hewitt Rosamond Praegar Bernard (Barney) Hughes

Cecil Frances Alexander (1818 - 1895):
Hymn writer and poet


Cecil Frances Alexander

Cecil Frances Alexander was born in Eccles Street in Dublin in 1818 (the precise date is not recorded), the second daughter of Major John Humphreys and his wife Elizabeth Frances Reed. At the age of fifteen on her father's appointment as agent to the Marquis of Abercorn she moved to live at Milltown House, Strabane. It was at this time that she began to display her talent for writing poetry which explained in a simple but memorable way the core of the Christian faith.

In 1848 she published Hymns for Little Children, which includes three which have retained their popularity to the present day: "Once in Royal David's City", "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and "There is a Green Hill Far Away". Charles Gounod, the composer of the famous nineteenth-century Grand Opera, Faust, said that some of her lyrics "seemed to set themselves to music".

In October 1850 she married the Revd. William Alexander who had just been appointed rector of Termonamonagh, near Castlederg. Born in Derry he was six years her junior. Thereafter Cecil Frances put much of her energy in to parochial work, particularly with the deaf, helping to set up the Derry and Raphoe Diocesan Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb. She and her husband moved to the parish of Fahan in county Donegal in 1855 before returning to Strabane in 1860. In October 1867 William Alexander was made Bishop of Derry and Raphoe and thereafter Cecil Frances and their four children lived in the Bishop's palace close by St Columba's Cathedral in the city. She died on 12 October 1895 and is buried in the City Cemetery, Londonderry.

A further selection of her works - hymns, tracts and poems - was published a year after her death. In the following year her husband was translated to the Primatial See of Armagh which he resigned in 1911. He died in the same year and is buried beside his wife in a grave which was restored by the Friends of St Columba's Cathedral in 2006.

An Ulster History Circle commemorative Blue Plaque was unveiled in her memory on 14 April 1995 at Bishop Street in the city.



Born: 1818
Died: 12 October 1895
Wesley McCann