Above: View of Inverness, Scotland, from the Castle, 1890
Image Source = Library of Congress
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-07611
MARGARET MACKAY (1802-JANUARY 5, 1887)
Scottish Hymn Writer
Details of the life of Margaret Mackay seem to be scarce. We know that she, a native of Hedgefield, Inverness, Scotland, was the only daughter of Captain Robert Mackay of the Royal Army. We do not know the date of her birth, just that the year of her birth was 1802. We also know that, in 1820, our saint married one Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) William Mackay, a distinguished officer of the Royal Army and a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. We also know that he died in 1845. Our saint’s religious affiliation remains uncertain, beyond the general category of “Christian.” I have attempted to discover or discern that detail. The best I can do is to rule out the possibility of Roman Catholicism as Mackay’s spiritual home, based on her comments regarding sentimentalism (on pages 85 and 86) in “Thoughts Revealed:” or, Lays of Leisure Hours (1854), a volume of 72 original poems and hymns.
Mackay also wrote prose in the realms of fiction and non-fiction. Those books were the following:
- Sabbath Musings (1844),
- The Wycliffes, or England in the Fifteenth Century (1846),
- The Family at Heathdale (third edition, 1854), and
- False Appearances (1859).
Mackay wrote at least three hymns. “Asleep in Jesus! Blessed Sleep” (1832) has become her most popular hymn. “Gracious Spirit, From on High” (1854), also an excellent text, has fallen into obscurity. A reference (but no text) to the hymn at hymnary.org provided the necessary clue to lead me to archive.org, where I found an 1871 hymnal containing the text, which I copied by hand. (I adore the Internet!) Archive.org also provided the text of a third hymn, published in The Psalms of Life: A Compilation of Psalms, Hymns, Chants, Etc. Embodying the Spiritual, Progressive and Reformative Sentiment of the Present Age (1857), edited by John Stowell Adams (1823-1893).
Saints above hold sweet communion
With the loved ones yet below,
Blending in unfettered union
Thoughts that none but angels know.
Oft when weary hearts are aching,
Star-light glimpses of their peace
Angels bring us, sad ones making
Sharers of their blessedness.
When o’er all soft slumber reigning
Chases sordid cares away,
Then the sorel from earth unchaining
Seeks the light of upper day.
Guardian angels vigils keeping,
Sing in gentle strains the while,
And the burdened heart and weeping
Often of its griefs beguile.
Guide us, angels, oh, instruct us,
Gently chiding if we roam;
When our change arrives, conduct us
To the blissful spirit-home.
One might also profit spiritually from reading “Thoughts Redeemed.”
Mackay died at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, on January 5, 1887. She was either 84 or 85 years old.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
SEPTEMBER 1, 2015 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST
THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON
THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT
Dear God of beauty,
you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to
Margaret Mackay and others, who have composed hymn texts.
May we, as you guide us,
find worthy hymn texts to be icons,
through which we see you.
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK
THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR
THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH
Revised on November 13, 2016