Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord


THIS hymn, to me, has a particularly lovely tune. It was composed by Benjamin Mansell Ramsey (1849-1923), who also wrote the words.

Surprisingly for someone who lived comparatively recently, there is not much information on Ramsey. He was born in Richmond, then part of Surrey, and the next reference I can find has him teaching music at Bournemouth Grammar School. He was a prolific composer of part-songs, piano pieces, hymns and carols. According to Wikipedia his works for children included Robinson Crusoe: A Cantata or Operetta for Boys (1896) and Clouds and Sunshine: A Fairy Play, though I can’t find out anything about these works. In addition, he wrote books on music theory. He was secretary of the Bournemouth Musical Association, and was involved with the establishment in 1893 of Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, which evolved into the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He retired from active public life in 1916 and wrote Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord three years later, in 1919.

He died at West Wittering in Sussex in 1923, aged 74.

I thought that was all I was going to find, then I came across this entry on the Roll of Honour website concerning the West Wittering War Memorial for 1914-18, which is in the parish church of St Peter and St Paul. It bears 19 names, and this is one:

Ramsey, Lawrence Fairbrother

Rifleman, 5th Battalion, London Rifle Brigade. Born in Bournemouth Hants in the first quarter of 1886. He was the son of Benjamin Mansell Ramsey and Edith Maria nee Fairbrother, the youngest of 6 children – Bernard, Percy, Lilian, Harold and Wilfred. Attested aged 30 on 11 December 1914 an unmarried Poultry Farmer living at White Cottage (later amended to ‘Camacha’) West Wittering. Embarked in France in 1916 where he was wounded in the face and hand by a high explosive shell. He was 10 days in hospital and 3 weeks in a convalescent camp before being sent back to England on account of his nervous disposition. His hair had turned completely white. He was pale and tremulous, suffering from headaches and dizziness. He slept badly and suffered from bad dreams. His memory and concentration were affected and he was discharged on 28 December 1916 as being no longer physically fit enough to continue in the army. In 1918 he is shown living with his brother Wilfred at The Smithy, in Woodcote Village, Surrey, but he died at Camberwell House, Camberwell, London (a mental hospital) on 7 January 1919.

It will be noted that Ramsey wrote his hymn the year his youngest son died, and he called the melody Camacha, which is a village in Madeira. This is the later name of his son’s home. The tune is called The Path Divine in some hymn books, and I don’t know which was the first name.

The hymn is based on Psalm 27:11:

‘Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies’ (King James Version), and a number of other biblical references.

The words:

Teach me Thy way, O Lord, teach me Thy way!
Thy guiding grace afford, teach me Thy way!
Help me to walk aright, more by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav’nly light, teach me Thy way!

When I am sad at heart, teach me Thy way!
When earthly joys depart, teach me Thy way!
In hours of loneliness, in times of dire distress,
In failure or success, teach me Thy way!

When doubts and fears arise, teach me Thy way!
When storms o’erspread the skies, teach me Thy way!
Shine through the cloud and rain, through sorrow, toil and pain;
Make Thou my pathway plain, teach me Thy way!

Long as my life shall last, teach me Thy way!
Where’er my lot be cast, teach me Thy way!
Until the race is run, until the journey’s done,
Until the crown is won, teach me Thy way!

Here it is by the American singer Brooke Lambkin (what a sweet name!)

This is a country rendition:

This is by a Ghanaian choir called The Symphonials:

Finally, two performances on restored reed organs by Canadian Rodney Jantzi. They are quite different so I thought I would give them both.

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