Angels, from the realms of glory
Source: Singing the Faith: 190
Words: James Montgomery
Music: “Iris” Trad French harmonised Martin Shaw
Metre: 87.87. and refrain
Four hymns by James Montgomery are included in Singing the Faith, including another familiar text associated with the Christmas season: Hail to the Lord’s anointed (StF 228).
James Montgomery wrote around 400 hymns altogether. He was born in 1771 into a Moravian family (his father was a Moravian minister in Irvine, Ayshire). He was sent to the Moraivan seminary at Fulneck near Leeds, to train for the minsitry, but abandoned this and became an apprentice baker and later a shop assistant. Aged 21, he moved to Sheffield and became assistant to as Mr Gales, editor and owner of the Sheffield Register, a radical newspaper. Gales fled the country in 1794 to avoid a political prosecution, and Montgomery took over the paper, renaming it the Sheffield Iris. He was subsequently imprisoned twice in York Castle, once for printing a song celebrating the Fall of the Bastille, and once for printing an account of a political riot in Sheffield. Less controversially, “Angels, from the realms of glory” also made its first appearance in the Iris – whose name was also attached to the traditional French melody now associated with these words.
Montgomery became a well-known figure in Sheffield (a memorial statue stands in the cathedral grounds); he was outspoken in his support for foreign missions and the Bible Society, and fearless in his denunciation of the slave trade, child chimney-sweeps and state lotteries. In 1809, he wrote an epic anti-slavery poem called ‘The West Indies’. He also associated himself with the Wesleyan Methodists, particularly in their Sunday School work.
Read more about James Montgomery.