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Happy Birthday “Amazing Grace” Guy

July 24, 2017



John Newton was born on this day in 1725.  The most famous of all penitent slavers.  He it was, of course, who wrote most of the Olney Hymns (1779) and who befriended and supported William Cowper.  He was an important source and support for the late eighteenth-century anti-slavery movement.

He did not, of course, write the tune.  That stirring theme beloved of massed pipe bands was not Newton’s.  The exquisite melancholy of Scottie piping adieu to Spock’s coffin at the end of Wrath of Khan (1982) was not the work of the gnarly old maritime preacher.

The tune – or something like the tune – had been knocking around under the title of “New Britain”, before it was crafted into a shape that would better fit Newton’s words by one William Walker in the mid nineteenth century.

Now here’s a strange thing.  William Walker was a Baptist singing-master from South…

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