Above: St. Mary Woolnoth Church, London, England, United Kingdom, 1900
Image Source = Library of Congress
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-50412
WILLIAM JOSIAH IRONS (SEPTEMBER 12, 1812-JUNE 18, 1883)
Anglican Priest, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator
GENEVIEVE MARY IRONS (DECEMBER 28, 1855-1928)
English Roman Catholic Hymn Writer
With this post I add two saints–a father and a daughter–to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.
Joseph Irons (1785-1852) had been a priest in the Church of England and a friend of John Newton (1725-1807), also a priest thereof. In 1808, however, Irons became an Independent, i.e. Calvinist, minister. He, a High Calvinist and a hymn writer, served at, among other places, Hoddeston (1812-1815), Sawston (1815-1818), and Grove Chapel, Camberwell (1818-1852). He seems to have been strongly anti-Roman Catholic, especially at the end of his life. His second son was our saint, William Josiah Irons (1812-1883), born at Hoddeston. The son became a High Church Anglican. The son’s daughter became a Roman Catholic.
William Josiah Irons (B.A., Queen’s College, Oxford, 1833; D.D. from the same institution, 1854) took Holy Orders in the Church of England. He served as the following:
- Curate of St. Mary, Newington (1833-1837);
- Incumbent of St. Peter’s, Walworth (1837-1838);
- Vicar of Barkway (1838-1840);
- Incumbent of Brompton (1840-1870);
- Prebendary of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London (1860-1883);
- Bampton Lecturer (1870);
- Rector of Wadingham (1870-1872); and
- Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, London (1872-1883).
The last assignment made our saint a successor of John Newton, who had held that post.
William Josiah Irons cared deeply about ecclesiology and liturgy. He was also an advocate for the poor and free public education. The prolific writer thus blended liberalism with ecclesiastical conservatism. He argued against laws which harmed poor people and for the continued establishment of the Church of England. Our saint supported profound social and political changes while arguing for the continued union of church and state.
A partial list of his published works follows:
- On the Whole Doctrine of Final Causes: A Dissertation in Three Parts, with an Introductory Chapter on the Character of Modern Deism (1836);
- On the Apostolical Succession: Parochial Lectures (Second Series) (1838);
- A Manual for Christians Preparatory to Confirmation and Communion (1844);
- The Judgments on Baptismal Regeneration (1850);
- Metrical Psalter (1857);
- Brompton Metrical Psalter (1861);
- Proposed Surrender of the Prayer-Book and Articles of the Church of England: A Letter to the Lord Bishop of London, on Professor Stanley’s Views of Clerical and University “Subscription” (1863);
- The Bible and Its Interpreters, Its Miracles and Prophecies; with a Conspectus of the Argument and Notes (1865);
- Hymns for Use in the Church (1866);
- Christianity as Taught by St. Paul (1870);
- Psalms and Hymns for the Church (First Edition, 1873; Second Edition, 1875; Third Edition, 1883); and
- New Legislation for the Church: Is It Needed? A Letter to His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England (1874).
Irons also wrote and translated hymns. He, for example translated the Dies Irae from the Roman Catholic requiem mass and wrote “Sing With All the Sons of Glory” and “Father of Love, Our Guide and Friend.”
A daughter by Sarah Albinia Louisa Shadwell (died in 1887), his second wife, was Genevieve Mary Irons (1855-1928). She, a convert to Roman Catholicism, wrote hymns, which she submitted to magazines, which published them. Her signature hymn was “Drawn to the Cross, Which Thou Hast Blest” (1880), which appeared in various publications, such as Corpus Christi (1884), a Roman Catholic manual for Holy Communion. Published information about her life has proven scarce, but that which I have located indicates that she was a devout Catholic and a capable poet.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 16, 2015 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN
THE FEAST OF HEINRICH THEOBALD SCHENCK, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER
THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS
THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM FIRMATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT
Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,
thank you for those (especially William Josiah Irons and Genevieve Mary Irons)
who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.
May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Chronicles 25:1-8
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR
THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN