Our Motto Hymn has been sung at almost every GFS service in Australia for as long as I can remember. It reminds us of our motto Galatians 6:2 and GFS values. I have noticed when we hold a GFS service that for most hymns and songs we credit the person who wrote the lyrics and the composer of the music. I have not noticed this for our GFS Motto Hymn. This got me thinking about who wrote it and when it first came about.
I found the words to our motto song printed in a Sydney newspaper called “The Watchman” on 1 April 1926. I didn’t understand why it said – from “Love” at the bottom.
I then investigated who Fairlie Thornton was. Firstly I found that the newspaper printed the name wrong.
Then I looked for a book by Fairelie Thornton called “Love:poems” in the Australian National Library. It is a rare book. It was published in 1922. I have only found reference to 6 copies of it in libraries around the world. There in that book on page 49 are the words of our motto hymn. So….
The words of our GFS Motto hymn were written as a poem by Fairelie Thornton a.k.a. Florence Thompson Rudge and was first published in 1922.
Florence Rudge nee Thompson was born July 1860 in Camberwell Surrey England. Her occupation was religious poet with the nom de plume “Fairelie Thornton”. She was a Methodist.
Florence Rudge married John Rudge in 1891 in Dursley Stroud England. His occupation was watchmaker and jeweller and his business was in the market place in Dursley in 1900.
Florence and John Rudge had 5 children, all were born in Dursley Stroud England. They immigrated to Australia in 1914.
In 1914 John Rudge won the tender as clock contractor for NSW Government Railways and Tramways. They lived in Cremorne Junction. John passed away on 31 Aug 1917 at age 66
and was buried in Gore Hill Cemetery.
Florence passed away on 23 Dec 1950 at age 90 and was buried in Gore Hill Cemetery with her husband.
The poet – Florence Rudge
Her early literary articles appeared under her maiden name before she adopted the pseudonym of Fairelie Thornton. Some of her poetry was set to music and sung in church services. She wrote several religious prose texts including “Sunset Gleams” (1930), and contributed to a devotional page in the “Grit” magazine in USA for several years. She contributed verses and devotional articles to “The Methodist” in Australia when Dr Caruthers was editor. Her oldest published book that I have found was in 1884 (when she was 24 years old) called “Work for Jesus” – a 121 page book of poems. Many poems were published in books /
booklets and then reprinted in newspapers or magazines. One book called “Love” was published in 1922.
In total she published over 24 devotional books each containing many poems and verses. She had a wide circulation in England, Scotland, America and Australia. Her last book was published in 1946 (when she was 86 years old).
I have not found Florence Rudge personally connected to GFS either in England or Australia. BUT when I told some Sydney GFS members about what I had learned, one member, Alison, informed me that Florence Rudge was her great grandmother.
If anyone would like to read some of Fairelie Thornton’s poems, the State Library of Victoria has some of her books available to download on the internet.
From what I have learnt, Florence Rudge was a remarkable Christian woman with a long life and career.
Her passion for sharing and living her love of the Lord is evident in her poems. Her work is still loved, relevant and appreciated today especially our GFS Motto Hymn.