Houghton, Frank

Author

b Stafford, Staffs 1894, d Pembury, nr Tunbridge Wells, Kent 1972. He was writing both sacred and comic verse by the age of 13; at 17, with his brother Alfred (‘Tim’), he had a dramatic escape from drowning in the sea at Boscombe, both boys being dragged ashore unconscious; cf the entry for W W How. Univ of London (BA 1913); London Coll of Divinity from 1914; ordained (CofE) 1917. He was a curate in Everton, Liverpool (1917–19), and at All Saints’ Preston (1919–20), where he eagerly devoured the biography of Hudson Taylor. In 1920 he sailed for China to serve with the CIM. He worked successively at Liangshan, Suiting and Paoning in W China before becoming the mission’s Education Sec, 1928–36. From 1937 to 1940 he was Bishop of E Szechwan, then General Director of CIM until 1951, when the communist regime began to expel all non-Chinese Christian workers. Weakened by the many burdens he had carried in times of invasion, civil war, persecution and martyrdom, he reluctantly stepped down and returned to England to be Vicar of New Milverton, nr Leamington Spa, Warwicks (1953–60) and of St Peter’s Drayton, nr Banbury, Oxon (1960–63). His latter years were spent at Cornford House, the OMF retirement home at Pembury.

Houghton also wrote several books about China, a biography of Amy Carmichael (qv) in 1953, and The Fire Burns On (1956). He first jotted down many of his verses, in note form for poems, as he travelled by difficult or dangerous tracks through the hills of W China; but their rhymes, rhythms, syntax and biblical content are meticulously crafted. He often quoted James Denney, ‘No-one can give the impression [at the same time] that he is clever and that Christ is mighty to save’. Some texts have remained as verse to be read, while several have been used or adapted as hymns; he also composed tunes for some of his single-stz verses or ‘choruses’. Christian Praise (1957) includes 4 of his texts and Hymns of Faith (1964) 3; the 1965 Anglican Hymn Book, on whose committee he served, has 5, while GH (1975) has 8. Many of his hymns have a missionary theme; not surprisingly, like James Seddon’s (qv) they are found very largely in evangelical books. Together with other poems, they were collected in Faith Triumphant (OMF, 1973); 100 items in all. Nos.366, 618.

Hymns and songs by Houghton, Frank

Number Hymn Name
366 Lord, you were rich beyond all splendour
618 Facing a task unfinished