Who is this lady? Have you heard about her? You will no doubt have heard of and probably sung ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ and ‘There is a Green Hill far away’ and ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. Mrs Alexander wrote these hymns and has some interesting local connections!
She was born in Dublin in 1818 to Major John and Mrs Elizabeth Humphreys. Her father was invalided out of the Royal Marines following the Napoleonic wars and became the agent for the Marquis of Abercorn. The family moved in 1833 to Milltown House just outside Strabane.
Cecil Frances wrote her only work of prose ‘The Lord of the Forest and his Vassals’ which ran to 5 editions. A year later she wrote ‘Hymns for Little Children’ for which she is best known and intended to explain Church Catechism to children. It included the 3 hymns mentioned above.
On 15th October 1850 Cecil Frances married the Reverend William Alexander and took an active role in parish life.
Points of and places of interest linked to Cecil Alexander:
- Milltown House Strabane
- Strabane Parish church – demolished and replaced by Christ Church
- St Bestius Church Termonamonagan , Killeter near Castlederg
- Derg Lodge in townland of Aghyaran 5 miles from Castlederg
- 1855 William was appointed as rector of the parish of Upper Fahan on the shores of Loch Swilly
- 1860 appointed Rector of Camus-iuxta-Mourne, or Strabane – the rectory overlooked the weir on the Mourne at Sion Mills.
- 1867 William became the Bishop of Derry and the family moved into the Bishop’s palace on Bishop Street Within, close to the cathedral. This is now the Masonic Hall.
- 14th October 1895 Cecil France died aged 77. There was an astonishing display of affection and mourning across Ireland and especially in Derry. She was buried in Londonderry City Cemeteries. Today the Music Room in the grounds of the cathedral is named in the memory of Cecil Frances and on Carrigans Lane off Bishop Street Without, a number of alms cottages completed in 1901. Were named the Alexander Memorial Cottages in her name. The are now in private ownership
- A blue plaque commemorates her life in the Bishop’s Palace, now Freemasons Hall in Bishop Street.
- 1986 William was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and primate of All Ireland.
- He resigned in 1911 and retired to Torquay where he died in September 1911.
Stained glass window in memory of Cecil Frances Alexander, in St Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, Northern Ireland. Dedicated on 20th March 1913
The LH window – depicts Once in Royal David’s City
Middle: There is Green Hill Far Away
The RH window : The Golden Gates are lifted up
The history in and around Finn Valley Cottages is rich and riveting. There’s so many new things to do, see and discover when you choose to stay here.