Arabella Katherine Hankey (1834-1911) was born into a family both devout and prosperous. As to religion, they were Anglicans of the Clapham Sect—a group of Christians under the influence of William Wilberforce, one of England’s leading abolitionists and proponents of missionary work.
At age eighteen, Kate moved to London to teach a Bible class for factory girls, and continued that work for more than a decade. Then at age thirty she became seriously ill. She was forced to cease work and endure bed rest for a year. During that time, she wrote a very long poem—one hundred verses.
After she recovered from her long illness, the speaker at a large convention quoted parts of her poem. William Doane (1832-1915) happened to be in the audience and was entranced by the poetry. Doane was a successful businessman who happened to love Christian music. During his lifetime he composed the music for hundreds of hymns, and edited a number of hymn collections.
Upon hearing Kate’s poem, Doane was inspired to use part of it as the basis for the hymn, “Tell Me the Old, Old Story.”
Later, William Fischer did something similar with another part of Kate’s poem. The result was the hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story.”
After recovering from her illness, Kate resumed her teaching ministry with factory girls. Toward the end of her life, she began a prison ministry. Her life bore testimony to the fact that she loved both to hear and to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
Copyright, 2014, Richard Niell Donovan